Posts Tagged ‘Old man mumbling’
As the frequency of blog posts reveals, time is not a commodity in great supply in the Kristjansson/Hood household. And that’s a shame, because I quite like time. I like time to cook, time to chill, time to read and all manner of other times. Good times, bad times, you know I’ve had my share, sang Robert Plant. I suppose that holds true for me, but to be fair I struggle to remember the bad ones. Instead I kind of waft through life feeling vaguely ashamed that I’m moaning – because essentially what I’m moaning about is the result of doing too well*.
On the 1st of August I’m going to be a published writer. Getting my head around that is already task enough – but there’s other stuff going on as well, other projects and other possibilities, all geared towards the magical Shangri-La of becoming a Full Time Writer**. These days? I’m almost nearly living the life of a full-time writer (Book 2 of the Vikings, [censored], [censored], sent off [censored] to [censored], waiting to start [censored] and need to write a play in the summer, not counting an embarrassing amount of ideas (or possibly an amount of embarrassing ideas – hard to tell)) – on top of being a nearly-full-time teacher***.
Which, in effect, means a fair amount of pushing.
Pushing to get another 200, another 300 words down. Adding another page. Taking 3 hours on a Sunday to chuck out a work proposal to get more work. It’s exhausting – but there’s a fundamental and fierce joy in it, too. Sometimes you meet people who wonder what they could have been if they’d just…
Ultimately, the reward for the pushing days is that I know. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter all that much whether I break on through, make it into Dreamland, write the seminal and age-defining piece of axe-murdery Viking Fiction romantic fantasy comedy horror thriller escapade or not – I know that when I look back, I really went for it.
And that’s worth it.
* This may be a humblebrag. I don’t know; I can’t rightly summon up a) the shame or b) the common decency to care.
** And moaning about how hard it is to not be allowed to leave the house, need to do chores and whatnot. You have been warned.
*** Which I thoroughly enjoy and is tremendously rewarding (unless you’re one of my students, in which case none of that is true and it’s barely tolerable and I don’t really like the kids at all).
1. Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.
2. Strength of emotion or an unpleasant or destructive natural force.
Disclaimer: I am quite willing to accept that I may be wrong on any number of points. I am a school teacher by trade; it is closing in on end of term. Intellectually I am somewhere between “Corgi” and “Fern” at this point.
Short synopsis: Adam Callaway wrote two pieces on violence in Fantasy on his website.
He references an article on Kotaku about Bioshock:Infinite, the most recent big name game launch. The core point of the Kotaku article seems to me to be one of diminishing returns. In short, a priest dropping an F-bomb in a sermon would get a big reaction. A stand-up comic dropping his thirty-seventh in the first five minutes would become background noise.
This also applies to violence in computer games. We seem to need more, louder, more inventive, more shocking. My theory (#283) is that it takes three repetitions to go from miracle to boring:
1) Holy amazing donkeyballs! Did you see that?! That’s impossible!
2) No! No it isn’t! He did it again!
3) Wait – he did it again? He’s just doing the same thing now. Bored! Feed me cake!*
… or something of the sort.
Fast forward (or backward? I get so confused) to Twitter last night, where two of my favourite authors and Sam Sykes** were having a conversation of varying degrees of good-naturedness, concerning violence and the new label of ‘Grimdark’ fantasy.
(Side note – I was going to be all kinds of cool and Storify the tweets, post screenshots and what have you – and then I went online and tried to find the start and end of that conversation. About 38 seconds later I’d chosen the three appropriate swearwords, formed a sentence that bookended them with ‘oh’ and ‘no’, and so this is what you get – a very informal retelling. If you must, go look up @samsykesswears and @lordgrimdark around midnight on 07.05.13)
I’m not entirely sure how to turn the thoughts in my head, so we’ll start with the notion of Grimdark. The Urban Dictionary*** gives this definition:
“An adjective taken from the root words of grim and darkness, both of which are featured in the tagline for Warhammer 40,000: “In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war.” It is usually used to describe a setting that would equal poor living conditions and life expectancies for those actually living in it.”
This has now become a sort of label to denote a G.R.R. Martin-influenced trend towards gritty, ‘realistic’ Fantasy that has more ‘real people’ and less floofy wizardy-dressy damsel-in-distressy stuff. To whit, Abercrombie’s Twitter handle is @lordgrimdark****.
In this kind of fantasy, violence is no longer confined to the bit where you stab the dragon with the stabby thing; it is everywhere (and as such possibly meant to mirror how we imagine times-gone-by). Callaway’s argument, which Sykes then brings to Abercrombie’s doorstep, is that the persistence on a violent setting renders the violence meaningless.
Among many, most if not all good, Sam poses the question: “…does the violence need something to be weighed against to have impact?”
And I’d say – well, yes.
In short° my thoughts on this are as follows.
I think Callaway/Sykes have a limited take on violence. If you take violence to mean only fist-in-face, then yes. It is ubiquitous and the only artful application is in the positioning of nouns vs. adjectives. “Oh – he cut off his own shin to stab himself in the eye with? Inventive. Not… productive, but certainly inventive.” This renders us detached connoisseurs of gore, which is, for lack of a better word, ‘meh’.
However, to my mind ‘violence’ is a perfectly viable backdrop. It denotes author choice, it is a statement and it deconstructs the element that the genre used to glorify. You want heroes? Well, guess what. Heroes smack shit up. And historically they’ve not proven to be the most well-adjusted people once they stop smackin’ and heroin’. °° Furthermore, I think that if you create a world with people-hurt in it, you set yourself a task. That task is to make your world consistent, make pain and misery your characters’ reality and have them act in a way that is consistently logical. Then – you can bring in violence – but it won’t be fist-in-face. It’ll be something different. It’ll denote the same thing that violence denotes in our world – it’ll be an extraordinary event, but within the logic of the world that the author has created.
If that is done properly, and the creative reader is given enough to immerse themselves and get lost in it, properly violent and death-filled books may be cathartic, may fill us with disgust at death and violence, may make us ashamed of basking in the rosy, arterial-spray glow of the rampaging Barbarian, it may do all kinds of things.
But for that, of course, it has to be good. You know, like Lawrence and Abercrombie°°° .
* Theory #283 does not apply to cake.
** Only because I’ve read a grand total of 2 pages of Tome of the Undergates. So far I very much like the cut of young Sykes’ jib.
*** Today’s research patience is set at +/- 3 seconds.
**** I am no expert, but I am not entirely sure that he takes the label seriously. And he shouldn’t, because it’s shit.
° yeah – fat chance.
°° my puns are needle-sharp.
°°° full disclosure – I am a fan. I don’t necessarily write like them, but I really like their books. Despite this I retain fully 98% of my humanity, show kindness to strangers and helped an old man with his shopping after a book launch once (after which I killed and ate him, of course, but it’s the thought that counts).
Postscript: An embarrassingly quick look ’round the blogs and various writer hangouts that I have now painfully outed myself as not reading reveals, no surprise, that my thoughts on this are not so much ‘original and revelatory’ as ‘pretty much exactly the same thing better writers have already said’. But, y’know. Maybe it’s fun to watch me flail towards my own conclusions, in a cute, housetraining-a-puppy sort of way.
I am not easily stunned into silence, as several people can attest to. I am usually quite quick to find a snappy comeback, a rapid retort or a merciless put-down*. Recently, though, I found my flabber absolutely gasted, my train of thought thoroughly derailed, my metaphorical gob well and truly smacked. So much so that I found myself compelled to pull out my trusty camera phone and take a picture.
I was reading a publication which shall not be named. In said publication there was an interview with an actor who shall also not be named – it was one of those 5-minute jobs you sometimes get to do if you’re promoting something. In that interview there was a question that flummoxed me totally. The question was this:
Let’s recap for the people sitting a bit further away from their screens**:
“You are famously very smart. How does that help in your career?”
It’s hard to know where to begin. My first reaction was one of general apoplexy, but after some discussion with a friend I managed to quantify what I think is wrong with this.
1) The word ‘famously’.
This implies that there are campfires throughout the land where normal folk sit and whisper this actor’s name with hushed reverence but strictly using very short words, possibly also grunts.
2) The phrase ‘very smart’.
Not just smart – but very smart. We wouldn’t want to use something like, say, ‘intelligent’ for fear of losing the knuckle-dragging campfire readers.
3) The question.
I think what finally pushes me over the edge and gleefully jumps on my fingers as I cling on to the last shreds of sanity is the question at the end. It is as if the journalist, having made good and escaped the campfire because he could etch his name on a stone without banging his thumb, has sat around wondering about what it would be really like to be one of them thurr book-learned folk.
I think what bothers me the most may be that the question makes the journalist*** sound like he/she thinks the reader is an idiot. And I do not like people who do that.
* None of this has anything to do with the fact that I like the sound of my own voice.
** None of this has anything to do with the iPhone 3g being relatively crap at photos.
*** Who may be a lovely person who is kind to old people and bakes a mean tiffin
First off, none of this is my fault.
External circumstances of varying coincidence are delaying the news that I’d hoped to throw out there. I still think we might potentially be ready to broadcast something, but the time frame has been bumped up from four to five working days to two weeks from now. Work is ongoing on all fronts, but none is exploding onto the pages of this here blog.
Not quite yet.
If you stay glued to your screens, I’ll try and get you sorted with intravenous tea.
And they’d be kind of right, as it happens.
I’m thirty-seven, apparently. And no, I must say I don’t quite know how that happened.
That being said, life at 37 is pretty darn good. Here’s a couple of things I’ve got:
- A place to live.
- A lovely Lady who lives in the place where I live.
- A place where I go a lot of the time to work. This place is more or less filled with people that range from the Tolerably Annoying (very few) to the Awesome (way over the allocated quota, surely).
- Health. While not likely to make waves by winning a triathlon any time soon or solving Arsenal’s secondary striker and fox-in-the-box problem, I’m still more or less healthy; I can climb stairs, walk where I need to, sleep when I need to and run for very limited distances. My swimming trunks modelling career is probably over, but I’m healthy enough to do something about the, ahem, winter padding as well, should I so wish.
- Schroedinger’s writing career. Nothing might happen – but something might also happen. Swords is now with about 10 publishers, according to my agent, and being deliberated over incredibly carefully in various corners of the world. Harold will also start moving soon(ish) – possibly into its first editing cycle. Time will tell.
- Time. I’ve got it, I’m using it more or less wisely, and the time I’m having is good.
And here’s a non-exhaustive list of what I don’t have:
- Scurvy. I’m very pleased about this.
- A Nemesis. While I’m intrigued about the possibility of a proper, eye-narrowing, throat-growly Nemesis, I think actually having one would be very annoying and distracting.
- A World of Warcraft account. This has improved my life significantly and been the foundation of productive time-spending. I got a lot of fun out of that game for many years, but may have stopped playing approximately a year too late.
- A sense of modesty regarding The Lady’s Work. I am very proud indeed of this – so much so that I turn into a show-and-tell marketing rep with her work whenever we have visitors. This is sometimes frowned upon, but the general positive reception tends to save my bacon.
- Much of any serious problems at all. Basically, as the English would say, I’m a jammy bastard and I know it.
On the whole I’d say year number thirty-seven has been up there with the best ones so far.
Bring on year number thirty-eight!