Monday, September 15, 2014
My Mollies have been coddled — and now they’re sprouting fluff.
This is what happens when you leave fiction in a drawer to marinade for a tad too long. It’s what we’re told to do as writers (usually by other writers — the captains to our privates or serfs) and the idea goes something like this:
Assuming our grammar is perfect and our first draft is typo free, the main problem our bold new prose is likely to suffer from (beyond incomprehensibility and Embryonic Maladies All) is zeal. And why not? All first drafts should be overegged by our egoes. After all, don’t we have our inner editor tied up in a trunk for the afternoon?
At first glance, what we wrote is a mess; it’s OTT, it’s the embarrassing slapdashness of a would-be genius — all of which is precisely why it should never be mailed, published, broadcast, yodelled or manifested as an all-body tattoo at this stage.
As the sage advice has it, material like this goes in a drawer, there to be forgotten until such time as we can look at it again with fresh eyes (and subsequently decide to shoot ourselves).
(That’s a metaphor, btw.)
With fresh eyes, we can separate the zeal from the prose like Gordon Ramsay peeling skin from custard with his bare teeth.
Now, the non-essential elements of our writing become perfectly visible — everything from an inappropriate image or line of dialogue to eruptions of real world narrative wrangles that somehow made it through the illusory barrier between fact and fiction. It’s amazing just how influential are the books we read the night before we wrote. Even worse: TV documentaries about paralysed acrobats or the reproductive lives of cephalopods.
Once you have everything from your drawer innerly edited, you’ll see how your material is all the better for having been tucked away for a while.
My beef at the moment is how long is an ideal while?
It’s true that the products of zeal can be cheffed off á la Ramsay chomp after a relatively short time secreted in the darkness, but if you leave stuff in a drawer for too long, it’s like the thoughts behind the words embed themselves into every serif and sans with the permanence of bloodied urine staining a silk tablecloth.
Leave stuff in a drawer for too long and it becomes incomprehensible.
The words make sense only to yourself as you were a year or more ago, and because a whole seventh of your body cells have been replaced in that time (and Smartphones are now available for the tips of your nips) — this means that pretty much everything will need to be rewritten from scratch unless you are prepared to be committed to an asylum. Sure, you get an inkling about what you were thinking, but the meta-thoughts behind the moment you wrote things down — the colour of the day, the acrobats, the state your cat’s ears were in (and the mush this day-to-day Instant Hopping makes as it rolls along) — all of this is gone, and you are left with words half-formed from thoughts you couldn’t half remember if you tried.
This is not to say that nothing can be recovered from such arcane expositions. If your inner editor can be tied up in a trunk and forced to remain silent while you zealpuke, then it ought to be perfectly possible to convert your outer Gordon Ramsay into a sort of literary vacuum cleaner (complete with narrative suction attachment) for snorting off raw material for use elsewhere.
But such archaeological sub-resurrections are no substitute for pouncing on a half-baked idea at the perfect 50/50 moment between full formation and full-on gestation. At this time you can pluck the crispness of the sense from the crassness of the waffle and know full well what you are doing.
I’ve found two weeks to a month to be my perfect drawer while.
A time span shorter than this allows my inner zealot-with-potential to be fooled by my pan-self total bloody wanker.
Give me two months, and I’m bored; six months, and I’m angry with myself for procrastinating; any longer, and I am left holding gibberish where once there was promise of a baby with a rattle and a clutch of banana yoghurt vouchers from Sainsburys.
How long is YOUR ideal WHILE?
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Monday, September 8, 2014
It’s like the flora and fauna of the world took a lead from the Terracotta Army and thought hey, let’s make ourselves discoverable, while the dinosaurs (long dead, and petrified) carried on playing the long game.
All of which makes me wonder — how much other stuff is lying heaped up at the bottom of the ocean or tucked away in some Himalayan hidey-hole? Buried civilizations, missing links joined at the hip, fossilized alien spacecraft — who knows how many tantalizing seconds away we are from discovering the next unbelievable miracle? Speaking personally, I’m still holding out for the cave where Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin are shacked up with Elvis and a bunch of Roswell nutzoids.
The truth, as they say, is out there.
Great — but what about the fiction?
The problem with plotting and putting words into people’s mouths and generating those people in the first place is that it’s sometimes such hard work making everything up.
As writers we get glimmers of scenes and snippets of dialogue, and unless we’re writing anything contemporary and devoid of fantasy or -fi, every single inspiration invites endless world building and justification.
UNLESS we treat our fiction like the oddly musical amoeboid molecules lurking at the heart of every Terracotta soldier.
Because maybe they’re in there, those crazy globules — pulsating away and humming to each other in C flat, just waiting for someone to trash a clay commando with a mallet.
So if you’re stuck today, try presuming your next story or novel is already written, its punctuation marks clustered around words like globs of undiscovered amoeba in a Terracotta soldier (or, if you’d prefer, harmonizing the name of your favourite brand of anti-constipation suppository up the rectum of a petrified Anonymosaurus).
Presume your fiction already exists — then don suitably IndianaJonesified exploration gear and quest for it, starting at the bottom of your garden.
“Sometimes, invention is mere discovery.” Marie Curie
Marie Curie never said that, of course — I just made it up.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
As I take a momentary break from parsing my 3245 AD edition of the Necronomicon it occurs to me that a great many things have changed since I started this blog.
Back then, it was April 1st 2008.
Aspects of the world now gone forever evidenced themselves like flashers practising before the mirror, while monstrosities and angelcast now aswirl in the world right down to the molecules of our blood cells lacked even the minimal existence of whimsy, fancy — or fear.
No one can fly backwards in time (nor should they) (and nor should they presume to own the future, the wankers) (No! No! No! I will not clamber down from my current Hobby Horse du Jour!), but if I were permitted a moment or two to re-review the evidence, I have to admit that I still agree with the sentiment racking the limbs of that very first post like a life-or-death battle between the on/off switches of rickets and exuberance.
I have no claim over either the easy life or the difficult one. Like most people, I am blessed equally by riches, challenges, curses — and all the rest.
Any post I could write here about being successful in any way would have to be edited to dis-include (even as inspiration) all those moments when I could quite easily have thrown myself off a cliff. The Midlands may not offer an especially good sea view, but on the cliff issue, it wins hands down.
Dittoesquely, any post I could write here about being a miserable wasted wretch would have to be edited to dis-include (even as desperation) all those moments when I could quite easily have thrown myself at the moment like a Now Zealot. The Midlands may not offer an especially good array of extremes, but in that respect it wins hands down on effortless ordinariness.
Like Whitman said, we contain multitudes. Problem/solution is, we never contain them all at the same time.
So that’s why this blog is called ABYSSWINKSBACK.
We all want the good life, but we have to do battle with monsters from time to time.
That’s a difficult one for everyone, irrespective of the nature of the monsters.
The only certainty is that at some time or another we will all confront the hostility of a monster’s dark and unforgivingly narrowed iris of the Abyss.
Gaze here in fear and you are lost; gaze here in hope and you are dumber than an April fool.
Blink, and — well, you know how it is with Weeping Angels and all.
Glad I winked in 2008.
Monday, September 1, 2014
This is why people sign up with the AA, the RAC — or Bat Patrol.
Even if your big end goes the way of Alan Carr’s spazz box — in a Nostradamus meets the Sod of Sod’s Law in a punctured hot air balloon plummeting towards a Sharknadoid tsunami kind of a way — you can rest assured that your hero will save the day (especially if your otherwise buggered car has operational reclining seats).
After a brief five minute wait on the hard shoulder, your fully equipped hero arrives, his cape fluttering in the breeze with the unflustered bravado of a monkey wrench spinning across ice.
UNLESS, that is, your summoned hero turns out to be...EAR MAN.
Let me be clear from the outset that this isn’t his real name. Like Mr Do Something and Mrs Waiting To Be 47 before him, his name derives from the chance collision of his existence and my whimsy du jour, and because this all took place on a Saturday, said whimsy bordered on the Lear-like.
So: guy with BIG EARS.
But: not immediately evident as a hero.
Prior to the arrival of Ear Man, hero duties were taken up by Cheery Yorkshire Bloke. He took an age to arrive but once he’d skidded his rescue vehicle next to my stricken conveyance he diagnosed a buggered gear box scenario within seconds, all the time looking wonderfully slick in his pan-body cocktail of hair gel and swarfega. To round off a perfect afternoon he announced that because he’d been on duty since 2am he couldn’t help any further and would have to call on...another hero.
Cue Nice Young Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair.
Half an hour later I found myself in the presence of a roadside emergency duo as Cheery Yorkshire Bloke hung around to help Nice Young Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair haul Dead Conveyance Central onto the back of Hero Rescue Vehicle of Wonder. Those boys sure knew how to harmonize their grunts, and if fate has done playing cruel tricks on my soul, I hope to see them romp through the coming series of X Factor and emerge as triumphant winners following a nailbiting final belting out Motorhead classics against some wankily embryonic boy band and a blind fat woman from the Isle of Wight.
In an ideal world, we’d have thundered towards the horizon there and then, but Cheery Yorkshire Bloke (now sopping wet after the sweat of his labours had transformed his gel/swarfega coating into a kind of Blumenthal inspired semen jus) spotted a problem:
Nice Young Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair’s rescue vehicle wasn’t equipped with a long enough cable to operate Now In-tow Dead Conveyance Central’s indicator lights!
I suspect that if the first hero in this trio (and remember: this post is about EAR MAN — and he hasn’t even showed up yet...) had been Uncheery Yorkshire Bloke, the scenario would have ended with NiceYoung Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair having to throw in the towel and bugger off back home. But the camaraderie between the Cheery and the Nice knows no bounds, and Cheery Yorkshire Bloke offered his younger companion the cable from his own rescue vehicle, adding (cheerily), “me boss’ll fookin’ kill me tomorrer...”
So, let’s get up to speed. I’m in a rescue vehicle driven by Nice Young Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair, mentally calculating that — yes, I can still be home in time for the new series of Dr Who — when the heroic sporter of ludicrous locks pipes up with er...yeah...so I can only take you as far as Sheffield, mate.
Clearly, vehicle rescue heroes have finite orbits. In this respect they are like the knobbly husks of rock circling planets as moons.
I hate Sheffield.
Of all the cities I’ve never visited for any good reason at all, Sheffield tops the list.
Always, always, always, shit things happen to me in Sheffield.
And now it was time for EAR MAN to add his surly self to that list.
To recap, I refer to Ear Man here as Ear Man because he had big ears. What he didn’t have was a connector cable for the indicator lights on my hapless conveyance — a grim fact that only dawned on him after Nice Young Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair had sped the fuck off from Sheffield’s scarred backside of a landscape with Cheery Yorkshire Bloke’s badly needed item of kit.
Ear Man scratched his ear. “We’ll ‘ave to guh back to headquarters...”
If facial expressions could be likened to luxury desserts in a five star Michelin restaurant, mine at that moment would have been a Marco Pierre White inspired dolphin cream and Peruvian strawberry Eton Mess upon which no less than sixteen terminally ill mules had squirted their plumes of bacteria-swamped rectal effuse.
On the way to “headquarters” I discovered three telling nuggets of information about Ear Man.
1) He deemed Nice Young Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair to be so young looking as to warrant the observation Christ, I thought he’d nicked that fookin’ rescue truck or summat.
2) He’d been recently marooned in a broken vehicle himself “down Spain way”.
3) In the remaining 45 minutes of the trip he said no more, adding nothing to his ruminations about Nice Young Boy With Unduly Spazzy Hair’s single digit age and clarifying no further precisely where he broke down in Spain, all of which led me to conclude that the mental effort required to maintain a pair of BIG EARS must be as astronomical in kind as the jar used by Cheery Yorkshire Bloke to store his gel/swarfega supplies.
Needless to say, when we got to Ear Man’s headquarters, the indicator cable he retrieved from the dingiest warehouse known to mankind didn’t work.
In my Always Searching For The Ultimate Dream Scenario kind of a way, it might have made more sense if the conversation had panned out like this:
Ear Man: Hold on a second while I fix up the cable.
Whirl: A second? Shall I time you?
Ear Man: No need, pal — it’s working.
Whirl: That’s ideal beyond belief! Thanks to your fully functional cable, I shan’t miss a second of Peter Capaldi’s debut as the new Doctor!
Instead, the conversation went like this, half an hour later after the miracle recovery of a second cable:
[Car speeds by, horn papping, driver shaking fist]
Ear Man: They’re fuckin’ mad, some of these buggers.
Whirl: Yes, that’s the third one like that since we left your headquarters with your fully functional cable operating the indicator lights on my stricken conveyance!
[Ear Man’s ears twitch as he thumps the dashboard]
Ear Man: Ey up — I don’t think it’s fookin’ workin’...
By the time we left headquarters for the second time I knew its layout, its decor and its aroma like the dungeon in which my parents incarcerated me from the age of four months.
As we headed south at 18½ miles per hour, my infant-born claustrophobia gripped me anew. Being trapped in a moving vehicle with a connoisseur of the In-Yer-Face Life Story may constitute one of the worst forms of living hell, but being trapped in the same moving vehicle with a paragon of deathly silence and understatement is far, far worse.
In desperation I offered Ear Man a chocolate eclair. It’s an ice breaking trick that has worked superbly down the ages for everyone from Joan of Arc to Morrissey.
“No thanks,” he said. “I’d love one, but I find ‘em too moreish.”
Hey, auricular rescue patrol HONCHO (yes — I figured by now that ‘Ear Man’ didn’t cut the mustard as a monicker), who said anything about the offer of a subsequent eclair? You get ONE — and then we talk about something, ANYTHING!
In the constipated silence that followed, my only consolation was that we didn’t get lost and end up in Sheffield again. I gasped for air and bit my nails down to my elbow joints. I gazed upon the sorrow etched onto Ear Man’s face, a sorrow mirrored in the Rorschach grease stains splattered on his rip-resistant utility trousers, the glum expressions worn by the clouds and the puddles in the road, and O Satan, save me please from this unending torture!
When I finally crossed the threshold of Whirl Towers and waved Ear Man on his way with the force of alien planet-rearranging bellows, only five minutes remained before Peter Capaldi’s dramatic entrance as a Doc Marten sporting Time Lord extraordinaire.
I slugged at whiskey, bit at Yorkie, tossed myself off into an easy chair.
My Ear Man ordeal was at an end.
And my Dr Who ideal had just begun...
Monday, August 25, 2014
Our light bulb moments are as ping pong balls of illumination bobbing occasionally above the surface of the Shibbolethular.
It’s true that the light seems ON for most of our waking moments, and it’s truer that from time to time it seems ON enough for us to consider that we have been sufficiently illuminated so as to proclaim to one and all of our eurekae. But in reality we exist and persist in a kind of frothing soup, a swirl of gloopy, half-done / half-begun, half unknown spickle spockles of wift, waft and whobbicle.
I suppose what we long for is a perpetuity of distinctness — clear cut emotions and thoughts like the kind our fictional heroes and heroines experience.
Oh to be HAPPY or EXCITED — even ANGRY or SAD if you know it and you really want to show it and clap your hands.
But the world is more “in progress” than even the most speculative WIP, and the Here and Now demands that we surf mainly on a wave of the Shibbolethular. Our fictional heroes and heroines resemble us more than we resemble them. Their lives have distinct beginnings, middles and endings, and their journeys are all plotted out according to rules laid down in a multitude of HOW TO MARKET YOUR FICTION ebooks and tattoos. Better still, their motives are so clear as to be worn on a sleevitude of cover illustrations and tightly written blurbs.
Play Shibbolethular with your characters, plots and motivations, and you’re sunk as a writer. The ONE word, the ONE thought, the ONE action: these are what your final edits demand.
I begin to wonder if we have been hoodwinked by the image of the light bulb as a metaphor for creative voila. It’s undoubtedly the case that when all of the pieces of a conundrum drop into place, all is c’est la voila vie, but this can only ever be the result of much swimming around in the Shibbolethular. When you’re in THAT place, it does no good to try to race ahead to Miracle Inspiration Land — to desire the ONE word, the ONE thought, the ONE action. Here, you must be free to drift as no fictional hero or heroine is ever permitted to do — unless you’re in some kind of slipstream novel drawing heavily on Joyce, Burroughs, Gazza and that hapless drunk from The Pogues.
But that’s today.
My swirls of thought are as swamps, when tomorrow they will be electron storms or fire crackles, possibly hurled doughnuts.
Nonetheless, the distinction between the qualities of fact and fiction remains the same: both are entirely made up, according to differently similar rules.
You want serious philosophising on a Bank Holiday Monday?
Try His Divine Munificence, The Yeged-Godi...
Saturday, August 23, 2014
OK, so we’re all still waiting for the Whotastic Capaldilistic Spectacular as trailed from the moment Matt Smith threw off the wrinkly mask last Christmas.
Had we been Time Lords like the good Doctor we could all have hopped in our Tardises and flipped ahead to today moments after vacuuming the Brussels sprout gas from our combined Whovian digestive tracts.
The BBC has made many mistakes over the years — especially when it resurrected Basil Brush as a cuddly toy — but no more colossal a catastrophe has it heaped on its Beeblings than to interpose an eight month hiatus between the initial Capaldi-induced salivations of a nation and the opportunity to bite deep into tangible and evident regenerated Gallifrey rusk.
That said, casting an older Doctor is a masterstroke. Brilliant as he was, Matt Smith sadly came bundled with one or two scripts that were a tad too jokesy and YA novel for my liking, but now Moffat and Co have hooked the American audience with our very best weirdsily eccentric Brit fayre (and thrown in Benedict Cumberbatch as a kind of luxury after dinner mint) maybe we can expect a return to a more gravitas-based imaginary weightlessness.
I just hope the budget extends to pressing a few new monster masks. All those cybermen, Sontarans, Silurians and (especially) weeping angels have hogged the galaxy by the same kind of default as Apple holds its customers to ransom with its childish products:
“We made ‘em, so now you’re gonna have to stick ‘em”.
I’d like to see a few Draconians in series 8. How well they’d suit the times! With their penchant for unopposable leadership and their ‘weirde heades of myriad bobble’ they’d be winners. Wouldn’t mind seeing another (and better) airing for the Ice Warriors too. The Troughton incarnations very definitely had me behind the settee as a kid with their scary wheezing, though I have to confess that it’s so long ago maybe I went looking for my Grandad a few times while those icy beasts marauded. His coal-riddled lungs induced many a post-Grandstand collapse — and it was always warmer in our old house behind the settee.
Ok, ok — monsterwise, I’m up for anything but the Tractators.
As I understand it, the Master is back, and if truth be told I’d have him over the rest of the rubbery hordes any day. Shame he’s rumoured to have moved on from being John Simm. I have no idea why the Beeb is trawling Hollywood for a replacement — how many better actors in the world are there than John Simm, after all? — but if we know anything at all about this fab sci-fi show it’s that it owes its longevity to the regeneration trick first pulled when William Hartnell got de-Docced back in the mid-60s. My guess is they’ll go for Will Ferrell or Beyonce.
Whatever — the main event is Capaldi himself, and as I mentioned in a previous blog post, I’m more excited by the prospect of him assuming the John Smith mantle than if James May turned up on my doorstep in an impossibly unfashionable jeans ‘n’ shirt combo and offered to cook me a no-expense-spared sherry trifle.
Capaldi’s was the blade of thespianery that cut through the travesty of The Musketeers like an X-rated Wilkinson Sword ad at a kids’ Finding Nemo matinee. Stick that in a pair of Docs and a Crombie and you’re winning. Throw in a ‘rediscovered Gallifrey with a conundrum’ plot twist, and your sensation of winning becomes more pulse-pounding than a Dalek Rel countdown commencing at a figure less than their customary zillion thousand. Layer on a copious splash of Mystery Boosted 12th Doctor Regeneration Effect, and the goosebumps rising on your flesh like Menopteran hives have the capacity to blot from the horizon any of the disused quarries masquerading as mountainous wastelands whose JCB-scarred surfaces played host to innumerable curt off-camera Pertwee remarks such as, “fuck this for a game of soldiers — I dream only of playing a talking comedy scarecrow.”
I can only hope that the eight month wait for Capaldi has not been in vain. How tragic it would be if the opening scene of series 8 induced that same unnerving sensation deep within me as when I first saw the cover of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance...
Clara backed against a hexagon array. “Doctor? Is it really you?”
“Indeed,” said Capaldi, padding his face with his fingertips, “but now it’s time to ring a few changes.”
“New costume? New villains? New opening credits?”
Capaldi shook his head. “Sorry. New companion.”
A Dalek food processor attachment rose from the Tardis console, its superimposed death rays frazzling Clara in an instant. Her ashes lay still for a moment before a mistimed flash of theatrical smoke consumed them.
Moments later, Capaldi stood face to face with Elaine Paige. And Bonnie Langford.
“What are we doing?” said Paige, her grin wider than Matt Smith’s mysterious crack.
Capaldi whipped out a cane and threw on a top hat. “Let’s start with a few tap routines and meander our way to Oklahoma! After that maybe we can tackle Grease and Phantom.”
“Any chance I can high kick my way across the Tardis set like a pair of ginger scissors while you and Elaine hum the chorus from Evita?” said Bonnie, winking like her ocular muscles had been replaced by a Cyberman's stroboscope.
Capaldi’s head flipped back as he guffawed. “Natch, baby.”
Images sourced under the influence of fan frenzy. If any are copyrighted, whup my ass and I'll take 'em down.