Friday, 24 June 2011

'..beauty counts. It is the lever by which the horror and violence of existence is revealed.' 
- Jessica Amanda Salmonson

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Five Equally Plausible Rules of Good Writing

Another reply to another post by Ian Sales:


  1. Leave enough room in your prose for the ambiguity that recruits the reader's imagination as a willing collaborator.
  2. Sometimes, it's best if you let the reader map out that last ramification of the ideas in the story.
  3. Leave enough room in the plot for the reader to have something to ponder over later.
  4. Get the details right (and that means research).
  5. The resolution needs to be a natural consequence of your intentions in writing the story. 

Thursday, 16 June 2011

All-Authoress July

I haven't really been following Ian Sales' SF Mistressworks project, because I haven't really been keeping up with the SF blogsphere but he makes some good points here.

He plans to only read books by women in July and considering the fact that my own reading is dominated by male authors I feel I could definitely gain by following suit. I read about 4 to 5 books a month so here is a list of authors by whom I have one or more unread books that could make it into next month's reading list:

Jessica Amanda Salmonson
Jeanette Winterson
Sarah Hall
Angela Carter
Jane Yolen
CJ Cherryh
Minette Walters

That's by no means a comprehensive list, but it covers several books that I was planning to read soon anyway. In every case I've already read something by this author, so maybe I should also add a couple of new discoveries to the mix, but here's the shortlist of authors I will be choosing from.


The Very Slow Time Machine by Ian Watson


This book is full of the sort of mind-bending ideas and narrative experiments that I like best in my science fiction - Watson is very much writing in a British SF tradition, that of Brian Aldiss and JG Ballard I'd say, but his vision is his own. Much as I loved the caliber of Watson's conceits (a mind-meld with an entity within a black hole whose idea of reality is an inversion of our own, a visit to an Earth where impermeable barriers divide various regions along meridional lines, a sojourn among aliens who extend further in time than we do - and what exactly that could mean - and more) and his formal freedom (several of these stories do not deliver conventional narratives but almost fragmentary vignettes), I disliked aspects of his treatment of gender and race. Most female characters are sexualised and people are often characterised a little too strongly according to race or ethnicity. Still a definite classic for all that, and easily goes into my list of favourite SF short story collections. Will be looking out for the new one Ian Whates is publishing.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Reading the scathing user-submitted reviews of Vinyan on IMDB, all written by self-proclaimed horror fans, I suspect that there is something fundamentally different by what I mean when I identify as a horror fan (and sometimes writer) and what these people are talking about.

Vinyan doesn't deal in physical evisceration or torture as its primary currency; it holds back on the gore until circumstances dictate that it cannot be avoided any longer; it grants meaning and narrative weight to the act of gutting a human being, a weight that films like the Saw franchise fail to convey.

Instead of serving as a sort of Sadeopedia, it deals with terrible consequences of loss and obsession, following a couple who are perhaps trying to expiate their own sense of guilt over a lost child, as they journey to the heart of their own particular darkness.

There is a supernatural element: a suggestion that a vinyan, the troubled spirit of one who dies a bad death, may exist even before such a death. Are the couple in this film being drawn into their own darkest hours by the spirit of a lost child or by some sort of unleashed anguish from their own dark destinies?

The supernatural suggestion is weighed against an evocative depiction of the unsettling, perspective-upsetting consequences of strong, perhaps pathological, emotion.

Everyone here has survived a terrible catastrophe; at least, they are all still alive. But it is unclear if their sanity and humanity has survived.

Seeds are sown, a terrible harvest is reaped. We are left to piece together whether it was human nature or the spirit world, or both, that intervened.

I think it's a horror film, using the term 'horror' as a shorthand for any narrative that seeks to unsettle us by exploring the darker potential inherent in things natural and supernatural. I also think it's a pretty good horror film.