Sunday, April 10, 2011

They return at evening…

… but I won’t.  I don’t post here any more – nothing personal, it’s just I found a platform that suits me better.  I am facebookable, Brendan David Carson, and I do post at brendandcarsonsfiction dot blogspot dot com.

Thanks for listening,


Posted by Brendan in 12:47:01 | Permalink | Comments Off

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Assistant under-secretary to vice-deputy Ludd

And an update.  Why so long between updates, I imagine I hear you ask? 

Because I am so staggeringly, nay, convulsingly inept with technology that I have managed to lock myself out of my own blog for a few months.  Or however long it’s been.  I managed first to forget where the blog was (there’s a link to it on my facebook thing), then I forgot how to log on (I was looking at the wrong hosty thing), then when I worked out how to do that I couldn’t remember the email I used (I think I have about twelve because I keep losing them as well), and I also couldn’t remember the password (of which I have only three). 

Pathetic.  And not pathetic in the old “affecting or moving the tender emotions”pathetic, the way in which Wordsworth would have used the word.  Nope, pathetic as in evoking the scorn and derision and contempt of my peers.  Luddophilic.  Neophobic.  Tres ridiculous. 

Anyway – I will post this and then see if I can read it. 
See you soon,

Posted by Brendan in 06:02:17 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Take two

And don’t expect a lot of length or sponteneity in this post – whoever lives behind this screen ate one of my posts.  You’ll just have to take my word for how amazingly brilliant what I wrote was.  All I remember of it was one word:  “merlotdramatic”, which refers to the my sudden onsets of alcohol-fueled determination that everyone really wants to hear my definitive opinion on [insert topic here]. 

So – older and wiser, and somewhat confused as to what I was actually writing about – what’s been going on? 

Firstly – I have written a short story.  It’s not glittering prose.  But it was begun, it was finished, and it was sent off, and as we speak, it is being critiqued by some of my keener fellow writers.  In revenge, I am critiquing them.  If part of being a writer is that ability to actually do the task, then to that extent it’s a success. 

Secondly – other things have slowed down a tad.  The novel – it’s going maybe less well.  It is going more slowly than I had hoped.  I spent a few hours flapping and mewling to my wife about how difficult it was to find the time to write, and how nobody had ever had it as bad as me.  Eventually I worked out a few things. 

Firstly – I’m male, I speak the dominant language on the planet, I have all my limbs – I’m probably among the most fortunate people one percent of the planet. 

Second -  nobody’s holding a gun to my head.  The things that get in the way of my writing – I chose them.  God did not descend from on high and say “Thou must BLAH”.  In the end I’m freee to write instead of BLAH, or and I’m free to BLAH instead of write, and I’m free to try and arrange my time so I can do a bit of BLAH and a bit of writing – and if I want I’m free to do neither of them and just piss and moan about how somehow things just haven’t worked out for me and how come I never got a chance in life? 

See, somewhere in the back of my head is the lurking fear that one day I’ll look back on days like today and think “I remember- I used to think I could write a book”. 

Anyway – I have an abundance of spurs.  Terror.  Anger.  Envy.  Pride.  All the good things.  I have a sleeping beauty kind of story, a novel, a haunted room horror story that came to me in a dream, and I have just had one of my characters arrested. 

I will go now and get on with it. 

Thanks for listening,

Posted by Brendan in 05:06:00 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Full frontal nerdity

Well, the bibiliography is up.  It’s in the wrong order, and there are still one or two stories that I do recall I had published in various places that I have completely lost track of, and I have not listed and will not list the Deadly Death-Dealing Story of Death, the un-named story that I have sent to three (three!) publishers, all of whom have accepted it and all of whom ceased business less than a month later.  It is clearly the literarty equivalent of a suicide pill or a fomite, and I cannot in all consciousness allow anyone in the spec fic community to read it. 

Because I’m submitting it to the Australian tomorrow.  Hated that rag for years. 

Anyhow, the bibliography is up, and I am happy. 

So – the writing life.  I was standing naked in the kitchen this morning, staring down at my external genitalia in the cool light of dawn, and thinking about writing, research and life. 

Why is this so, the few of you still reading may ask.  See – there was a reason for this.  I’m writing a story.  One of the characters in the story is a woman who comes to life as an adult.  She can see her partner, she knows what he looks like, but she doesn’t know what she looks like.  She goes down to the river, scoops up a handful of water but all she can see is her hands.  She looks down and -

And what?  I thought.  What does a woman see when she looks down?  Obviously, it depends on her build, her position – even the light, I suppose.  Men seeing and describing women’s bodies tend to describe them differently to women seeing and describing their bodies – at the extreme you get that porno-style checklist where everything is taut and full and spends its time either straining perkinly, stiffening and pointing or poking out inquisitively – more like a pair of three month old bulldogs than any part of a human being. 

I looked at the line I’d written, frowned and stood up.  Katy was asleep, she has a number of health conditions.  None of them would protect me if I rushed into the bedroom at six AM and woke her to ask what she saw when she got out the shower.  I took my coffee-cup, wandered into the kitchen, turned the kettle on, and took off all my clothes and looked down. 

Well, she definitely didn’t see that. 

This was the moment when the entire process, the entire idea of researching your writing began to seem very very funny.  I grinned.  I thought of Jehovah’s Witness’s knocking on the door, or a passing pervert.   peering in, and I giggled and I cackled and I snorted for quite some time. 

Then I put on my clothes and made the coffee and went and decided to wait until Katy woke up. 

The whole experience did get me thinking about the “write what you know” idea.  Write what you know, like all ideas, only works in certain environments.  Wells, for example, did not know about tripods and fantastically intelligent Martians,

… he imagined. 

“Write what you care about”, “write what you fear”, both of those work just as well but differently to “write what you know”. 

But there are times knowing what you write about is the single most important thing.  I remember reading as a child about some intrepid sailors (actually, one of them was trepid, but he was the traitor, none of the others were trepid at all) in a submarine beneath the North Pole.  There was an earthquake or something similar, everyone was tossed about and great chunks of ice broke from the ice-caps and crashed down upon the submarine. 

“But ice at zero degrees has a density of point nine two grams per cubic centimetre”, I thought, being a friendless nerd.  “Ice floats.  This is crap.” 

And that was the end of that.  I have, sadly, an entire mental portfolio of stupid literary mistakes like that (made by other people, thank God).  People who stand on a nail and die of tetanus two days later (it takes longer).  People who need someone who knows about medicine and send for the mendicants.  People where their Bronze Age characters chat to each other like Cosmo girl.   

So – you don’t want to make mistakes like that.  That was why I was naked in the kitchen. 

Note – not actually me, I have less hair on my head.

What does this mean for my writing generally?  One of the pieces of writing I particularly admired at Clarion was a scene where someone went gliding in a hang-glider.  The description worked on pretty much everyone in the room – you got the kinetic, the olfactory, the taste of the air, the feeling of terror.  That’s the kind of writing that comes out of knowledge, either first hand or good second hand.  It makes the writing live.  The closer we bring the reader to what’s going on, the more we can grab them by the hair at the back of the head and smersh their face into what we are describing, the better our writing can get. 

So – for me, there is a hang-gliding club twenty kilometres away.  I am going to go there and I am going to fly.  There are various mediaeval re-enactment people around, I am going to put on chainmail and carry a shield and spear and see what if feels like when I try tro run.  There is a boxing gym near work, I’m going to go and have a look and maybe put on the gloves and get the pixels beaten off me.  I am going to know.  

And then, everyone else gets some. 

And lastly – Jeff Vandermeer and the Conjoined Twins – sounds a bit like one of those boys adventure series adventure, doesn’t it?  Jeff Vandermeer, boy detective… anyhow, the twins.  Failure and remarkable success are like wrestling conjoined twins, you can’t seize one without running the risk of seizing the other.  Unremarkable success, competency, your basic, bland, plodding prose – that’s less of a risk.   

It’s sort of like those gymnastic competitions on the mat.  The gymnast wants to get from one place to another.  She can walk, anyone can walk.  It’s doable, and it’s safe, she’ll never fail, she’ll never even break a sweat.  But it won’t be that exciting, it won’t be memorable, it won’t be the best she can do. 

But good writing – that’s the double back somersault with half twist and a handspring.  It’s spectacular, it’s mesmerising, you can’t take your eyes away.  It’s The Shipping News, it’s Through a Scanner Darkly, it’s Bruce Dawe and Ted Hughes and it’s practically every word of The Sea Lady by Margaret Drabble.  It’s what it’s about. 

Well, it won’t be me today unless I finish the plastering and plant the mango tree

and the black and red chillie bushes Katy bought and get on with it. 

Will speak soon and reply to comments sooner. 
Thanks for listening,

Posted by Brendan in 22:59:50 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In which I schmooze


Well, I’ve been thinking. 

I am going to write about the Great Grand Glorious Five Year Plan, but that may be next week.  First a bit of gloating, and then I’d like to take a few moments to talk about my own stupidity.  I’ll try to keep it short. 

 First, the gloat.  I have a story coming out in Aurealis.  It’s in issue 42, it’s called Yellow Mary or Yellow Mary’s Lamp – to be honest, I’m still a bit too gleeful to recall.  Aurealis is probably the best spec fic magazine in the country,  I have been trying (see below) to get in for ten years.  Very big news.  They are sending me a cheque, I am taking Katy out to a fancy restaurant.  Get your order in quick – I will probably buy pretty much all the copies. 

Now – the stupidity.  I want to be a professional writer.  It’s not so much I want to make my living from it, it’s that I want to go to the bookshelf and be able to pull down my book.  There are stories in me I want to get out. 

If you look at professional writers, there are (sortof) three things they need to have.  

They have talent – a love of language, stories running through them. 

They work hard.  That’s less of a worry for me.    

They have – I don’t know what to call it.  It’s the social aspect of the job, it’s the getting on with people, it’s the being professional, the being in and contributing to the community.  Some people call it schmoozing (and more on that later), but it’s more than that.  It’s the bit, I think, that trips most people up, and it’s the bit that’s been tripping me up. 

I think some people think of the whole social side of it as some weird combination of Masonic handshakes and esoteric sexual practices.  I haven’t seen a lot of that.  But I have seen professional writers who are courteous, and hard working, and approachable, and reliable, and treat other people as if they are human beings.  I’m not saying all of them are like that, but I am saying it’s sufficient. 

There’s nothing wrong with Masonic handshakes, and I’m actually all for esoteric sexual practices, but I don’t know that that’ll get you published in Weird Tales. 

 If it does, of course, I would like to point out that I retain much of the flexibility of my younger years, I can roll, furl and oscillate my tongue and I can still fit into my chicken suit.        

So – I’m going to find out as many of my previous publications as I can and list them.  

I’m going to meet people in the field. 

I’m going to read. 

I’m going to write-revise-submit-write again, which is the one thing short story writers who succeed all do. 

I’m going to excitify this blog – I’ll be posting here pretty much weekly.  Also, pictures.  I am setting my novel in England, 990 AD.  Residents of England, 990 AD did not have access to refridgerators and would have been at risk of food poisoning, most often caused by Salmonella typhi, a Gram-negative enterobacterium commonly found in contaminated foodstuffs.  It is important to be able to recognise the causative agent of salmonella poisoning, so I have included the following educational image: 


I am also Facebookable – Brendan David Carson. 

I’ve found an anthology I like and I’m going to write something for it – first time I’ve done this in years. 

 And I will schmooze.  At Clarion I was terrified of schmoozing, preferring instead to get drunk and pullulate in the dark with other consenting adults and bang on about interesting things.  It turns out this counts as schmoozing – who would have thought?     

 Anyway – more soon, either the conjoined Vendermeer twins or the Great Grand Glorious (by this rate) Four And A Bit Year Plan. 

 A list of publications soon.    

Thanks for listening,

Brendan David Carson

Posted by Brendan in 10:32:47 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Jiggety jig.

And two days after Clarion I am here, throat-deep in the troubles of my patients and wondering when I’m going to be able to do all that wonderful writery stuff I learned. 

That’s not exactly true.  I did write this morning.  I got up and found a scene from “the novel”, where my heroine and her unattractive but deeply loved brother sit on the parapet of the castle and witter, and I tried to fix it.  I think I ended up with fewer words but better, but only time will tell.   

I don’t know if I dare look at the rest of the novel.  If I don’t look I may have written forty thousand words of half-decent stuff.  Once I do look, like Schroedinger says, all those potentials will collapse.  I will open up “Novel Chapter One.doc” and find not only is it not good prose, it is bad:  dead animal bad.  And if I look, and it’s bad, I have to fix it. 

What I may do at the moment is wimp out and just press onwards – get the thing finished and then revise.  A lot of writing, I am finding, is like suspension bridge building – you throw out a line, ensure it’s fixed at either end, and that’s the arc of the story.  Everything else you can add on to that. 

We shall see. 

The thing is, there are many non-writery things I wish to do as well.  My garden looks like a blasted heath.  The house needs gastroplasty.  I have to take to the kitchen with a chisel and change lightglobes and dig trenches and do all that kind of stuff.  There is plaster to be smeared on the kitchen wall and friends and family to see and work to be grasped.  

But this morning, two days out of Brisbane, I got up at five.  The house was dark.  Outside the birds were silent.  Cats blinked from the sofa and were still.  I opened up my laptop and made myself back coffee – strong and dark.  The coffee warms your hands when you carry it in from the kitchen and set it beside the computer. When you look at the surface there are miniscule island galaxies slowly rotating on the surface. They coalesce and separate over the space of a few minutes, as if I am watching billions of years of stellar evolution in minutes.

All this will come.  Writing is a long term thing.  But I am grateful I have started today. 

Next post – I think I still have to write about the conjoined twins – next post may be the Glorious Five Year Plan. 

Thanks for listening,

Posted by Brendan in 09:50:53 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It’s all about… something

For the last few hours I have sat in front of an open screen, staring at some of the seventeen thousand words I must critique before nine AM tomorrow.  I have sat here, intending to crit, thinking about critting, allegedly critting, but critted I have not. 

I must, it is clear, crit or get off the pot. 

But in the meantime, a brief post about what Jeff Vandermeer has been doing.  Jeff is our tutor in residence at Clarion South, which means morning sessions from nine to about one where we crit each other’s work, and then one on one sessions with each of us.  It also means he squeezes teaching sessions in wherever possible, about the how and why and whence of writing.  

He is an excellent teacher, and I am saying that during a six week period in which I have had extreme superlative fatigue.  Excellent teachers don’t so much teach as stand there and move their mouth while amazing insights detonate in your brain.  I can’t say he is the best teacher I have ever had, because it’s not a fair fight – he’s talking writing, the other guys had to talk about the pathology of the kidney. But I feel I could make a case that this is amongst the most valuable teaching I have ever had.  Obviously the proof of that will only begin to emerge over the next few years. 

And obviously the following is my understanding of what he was saying – I could have got it all wrong and he could have been saying “The building is alight, flee for your lives”.  All errors are my own, as they say. 

One thing that I got out of what he was saying was about selfishness, and the reason it was so important for me to hear it was because for me a lot of other people have said close to the opposite. 

Writing is a fundamentally selfish career, and I think writers either turn to face that fact early on or are blindsided by it in later life.  There is a continuum that stretches from being attentive to the inner voice all the way out to pathological narcissism. 

The thing is, you rarely hear anyone in the writing community saying “It’s got to be all about you, it’s you, you, you all the way”, but you do hear people say the same thing in code.  They don’t say it’s all about you, they say it’s all about the writing. 

I could find half a hundred examples of this fairly easily.  Writing must be the central focus of your life.  You have to make space for your writing.  Your partner will have to be supportive of your writing.  You have to be a writer first and foremost.  You have to dedicate everything to writing.  Writing has to be the first priority.  If you’re not writing every day you’re not a writer.  If you want to succeed, you have to do this, and everything else will have to move out of the way. 

The thing is, some of this is true, it’s basic work ethic.  Some of it is just sensible. 
But some of it does tend towards the selfish. 

And I’m not saying all selfish stuff is bad, and we all need to heed our dreams, and even if we don’t follow our dreams to the ends of the earth (because we’ve all had some pretty fucked up dreams, like that one with the singing dinosaurs) – if we dont follow out dreams to the end of the earth we at least hang with them for a bit, have a chat, get to know them, maybe go for a wander.  And it may well be if Shakespeare was a saint we wouldn’t have all that wonderful lust and rage and betrayal and all those look-at-me-girls iambic pyrotechnics. 

But accepting that writing is to a certain extent selfish behaviour does allow you to understand what can go on in your life when you write.  I don’t know how many writers divorce, I don’t know how many divorce between the first completed novel and the first published one. I know it’s more than a few.  And I think that asking someone to either work longer hours or accept a precipitous and possibly permanent drop in income while you sit around glowering at the inside of your head is a big thing. 

That’s why hearing Jeff Vandermeer was important.  He has a subtly different approach.  He is one of the two most professional writers I know personally.  He is one of the two most successful.  He seems a deeply decent man and he looks to bench press 180lb. 

He is happily married.  He seems to feel this is important.  And he tells us that there are things we cannot expect our spouses to do.  He says that there are ways in which we must support and continue to support other people.  He tells us we can’t lie around being too tortured and languid to take out the rubbish. 

It was almost inexpressibly comforting to hear probably the most successful writer I’ve been face to face with talk about marriage and morals in a way that made sense to me.     

Because if always putting writing ahead of absolutely everything is what it takes to make it, if the only way forward it making writing the sole centre of my life, then I won’t do it.  That’s not an option.  It is not the life I am going to have.  I have and will keep a beautiful wife.  I have and will retain a good relationship with my kids and my family and friends. 

And if that means I am destined never to achieve what I could have achieved if I’d only had the courage of my convictions, so be it.  I’ll be someone who could’ve but didn’t.  I’ll stay back here with the rest of the failures who didn’t have what it took to really follow their dream, who never really made an impact in spec fiction.  Me and Jeff Vandermeer. 

Anysway – next post is Jeff and the conjoined twins, which souonds a bit like an odd version of Tintin. 

Thanks for listening,

Posted by Brendan in 08:37:46 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Using the Canopener of Writeryness to open the Can of Wrong


Have just returned from a fellow writer’s lounge-room, a small room that I am starting to believe conceals a cauldron and a fire of holly, and I have some Deep Thoughts. 

One of the writers in my unit wrote something four weeks ago.  What happens is someone writes stuff, we get the file on a USB stick, take it home, read it, critique and submit the critiques.  Once a weekish it’s our turn to submit and the other writers’ chance to help us as we have helped them, or exact a hideous and painful revenge, depending on the circumstances. 

Four weeks ago one of us wrote something upsetting.  It was a story – I don’t know how it ended – of a girl, growing up in post-war Germany, with a caring, decent, kindly mother who had worked as a death camp guard.  Essentially the narrative consisted of the author weaving her fingers into our shirts and dragging us down under the water, and swimming down and down and down.  My notes started conventionally enough, with comments about sentence structure and verb selection, and quickly deteriorated, scribbled “My God”‘s and exclamation marks, and cryptic and probably useless references to the nature of the materials with which she was working.  I think the last coherent sentence was “You are building this, brick by brick, with fissile materials”. 

My family, by the by, are German Jewish.  My great uncle was a Rabbi, my Opa was on the other side. 

At page five I went up, apparently visibly distressed, and spoke to the author.  “This is terrifying,” I said.  “It’s awful.  These are deep issues. This is painful stuff.  It’s about hideous fucking things.  I can’t read this.  It’s too much.” 

Our tutor that week was Margo Lanagan.  From one point of view, Margo Lanagan’s “job” here, during Clarion, is trying to fit her size twenty two ideas into our size ten heads.  I am not very knowledgeable about the Australian literary scene, but my understanding is she is among the most respected authors in this field, and in this country. Charles de Lint loves her writing, John Marsden finds her dazzling. She is lauded and awarded.  She wrote a story a while back that was included in Year’s Best, and every time anyone mentions that anthology, people say “Oh, that was the one with ‘Singing My Sister Down’ in it”, and everyone who’s read it will remember it forever. She was beaten to a Hugo by a story that was not as good. 

Margo Lanagan read the work.  It was, she said, truly brilliant.  The following is paraphrase, and I’m not saying this is what Margo Lanagan said, it’s me saying this is what I think when I think about what Margo Lanagan said.  This is what I understand to be a truth, or an idea worth chasing, after three weeks of remembering and turning things over in my head.  But anyway, Margo read the story, and she told us it was wonderful.  I went back and tried to understand.  It was almost as if, I thought, Margo was saying it was terrifying, and aweful, and was about deep issues, and it hurt, and was about hideous fucking things, and therefore she could not stop reading it.  It was not too much. 

See, I have been thinking about writing, and what goes wrong, and how it does not work.  It’s like the physiology/pathology thing – some things you learn from watching how things go right, some things you learn from watching how things go wrong.  Karenina’s Law (there are infinitely many ways things can go wrong and only one way things can go right) does not hold in writing, but still, it’s instructional to look at what we all do wrong. 

Writing, I have worked out, is hard. 

It’s hard because there is a natural tendency to flinch, to look away.  That is why so often in our stories we skirt the issue, talk about rather than show the conflict, pull the camera back or smear the lens when the terrible thing happens.  There are things it’s easier not to talk about, things it’s easier to move around than reach out and grab and hold to your heart. There are things that hurt. 



Deaths and losses. 

Realised fears and unfulfilled desires.  Things gone wrong.

We’ve all had that. 

Not dinner table conversation, but close and real and true.   That is what the good writers here do.  The stories I will remember, the stories whose authors I will seek out in the future – often they’ve done this.  Things don’t have to end badly, but things have to matter.  At best you have to feel like there are losses that would be unbearable.  There are images from these six weeks  – mutilated angels, women bartering unborn children, girls pushed under the water – that stay with me. 

Hurting is not enough, or every fourteen year old’s blog would be a masterpiece, but it is essential. In some way the reader wants to bleed and see you bleed. 

Years ago I read about wound healing.  Bleeding stops, new tissue forms, things get smoothed over.  Pain recedes and function is restored. If we’re lucky, and the wound is minor, it’s like it never happened. 

There is an element of writing that depends on those wounds. Naturally things scab over, but writing is going back and tearing apart the stitches, pulling away that scab.  It is facing things where the natural, easy sensible thing is to turn away from them.  It is the difficult, dangerous, crazy, stupid, necessary, wise, smart response.  This is why writing hurts, and is difficult, and is necessary. 

This is a size twelve idea.  I do not fully understand it.  The inside of my head is stretched, and I know I may have got everything wrong. All errors are my own, as they say. 

But I have two more stories to go, maybe only one.  I have a wounded character, I have half a plot, I have no real idea of how to finish my story, and I have thirty odd hours to try to work out how to take my readers into Hell, and hold them and hurt them there before I let them go. 


My writery blog:

Facebook (Brendan David Carson)

Novel coming soon!!!

Posted by Brendan in 07:32:55 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Dole Queue My Destination

We are four weeks through Clarion South, two weeks to go, and it is on occasion a little bit upsetting.  Four weeks is a long time away from home.  If things are good at home, you get homesick, and if things are less good home, you realise it.  Either way, it’s a fairly emotionally stressful time. 

And this is inherently stressful as well.  My Dad worked down the mines.  My brother welded lengths of steel together.  I sit on my bum all day and wiggle my fingers, but it’s knackering.  It’s reading between five and twenty thousand words a day, it’s researching and writing a decent short story a week that has to have improved on last week’s, and it’s actually all the networking kind of stuff which I am beginning to realise is essential.  And I’m not saying “Woe is me, another grueling round of cocktails and chatting to friendly people about things I like”, but adding it up it wears you out. 

Plus there’s the whole emotional roller-coaster side of it.  Writing is personal, Clarion South is public.  Writing is intimate, this is impersonal.  Writing is about your fears and hopes and needs, critiquing is about whether or not you bored people.  You write an adventure with a hero based on yourself as you’d like to be, a heroine who derives at some level from someone you love and a struggle that evokes what is important to you, and the group says he’s a whiner, she’s a flake, and for God’s sake make them do something besides whimper and piss about. 

For all of us some of the time, and for some of us all the time, it’s like you go into the crit room, put your heart in one of those clay pigeon thrower things, and let it go, while your friends and room-mates stand squinting through rifle sights. 

What this means is we go through lows.  I don’t know that there is a formal clinical definition, but there is a bit of that “long dark tea-time”, that “November of the spirit” about this.  Ten days ago – I can quite clearly see where it ended and began – ten days ago I knew I was a hack.  I knew I couldn’t write.  I knew that everyone here knew more, wrote better, I knew that my acceptance into this workshop had been due either to my documented ability to appear to be better than I am, or an episode of contagious temporal lobe epilepsy amongst the convenors.  I had fooled myself and my wife and my family and friends, I had brought too little too late, I had little style but more style than substance, and it would be best for all if I just collected up my biros and went home. 

When I sat down to write, nothing came.  Nothing worked.  My characters lay on the page like so many jellyfish, cast up by a receding tide, their lack of internal organs visible to all.  Protagonists are meant to act, to struggle, protagonists are meant to protag.  I poked my glistening characters with a stick, they wobbled.  Wobbling isn’t protagging. 

My situation may not have been aided by the fact that the other four people in the unit are really, really good.  Steve makes you laugh, hitting the spot consistently, like a boxer who knows you drop your right hand when you’re tired, but he also did a damn fine line in creepy a few weeks back.  Amanda makes you go wow and stare at the screen, and then go out and look about in a wow kind of manner.  Liz started out with one of the best Australian ghost stories I have read, and is writing a better fantasy novel than most of us will have seen.  Tracy wrote something that was unreadably good – if you think that’s not a compliment, you haven’t read enough good stuff.  Good stuff hurts, and her stuff is good. 

Anyway – I had seven to ten days of “I, Moron” and then about five days ago it “got better”. 

I had an idea about a man in a library, cataloguing books.  It’s mid afternoon, the sun shines through  the high window onto an oaken table, decor late thirties, early forties.  He is going through books and sorting them into three piles – suitable, able to be made suitable, unsuitable.  By his side are scissors, paste, and some inkpads and stamps.  The inkpads and stamps are to make those almost suitable books suitable.  The inkpads are red or black, the stamp is an eagle, or a swastika.  

He is feeling the inside front cover of a particular book – he is someone who loves books, and is probably as decent a man as any of us – and he finds a bulge, an irrregularity, beneath the end-paper of the book.  The end-paper has been glued to the inside front cover, he can feel something hidden there, beneath the surface.  Sometthing has been concealed.  He gets a knife, the same knife he uses for removing Jewish names from lists of authors – and slips it between the endpaper and the cover.  

And in about ninety minutes I go in and we hear what went wrong. 

But some of it, I know, went right.

Anyhow, enough of this.  I have to crit the zombie boyfriend story from the woman who hsn’t really done anything wrong in the last four weeks and is unlikely to start now.  Will write soon, 

Thanks for listeing, 

PS:  I am on facebook.  I don’t know how you can find the address, my wife set all this up, and the bar thingy at the top has some other address in it.  I think if you search for Brendan David Carson it comes up.  If not, I will find out and post it. 

Thanks again,

Posted by Brendan in 21:27:01 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In which I shizzle

Su Lynn came around today.  She is one of the younger people at Clarion, and remarkably talented – I think she wrote her first short story when she was a fetus.  She was talking about facebook and other recent developments in the fast-moving field of electro-kinematography. 

“I really love netface” she shizzled, or words to that effect.  “I was browsing, and I found Neil Gaiman.  My friend twittered his blog.” 

She mentioned netfacing, and friendsurfing, and how as a writer you had to make your RSS accessible to everyone, which alarmed me, and she talked about other things. 

I crouched in the corner, my dorsal fin angled to catch the sunlight, waiting until I was warm enough to move, and watching the shadows move across the cycads.  Perhaps, I though, I will go down to the water’s edge, and watch the ammonites sail past, majestic and silent in the shallow Permian Sea.  

“It’s pretty much essential,” she popped, or locked, one or the other.  She said how pretty much everyone she read, everyone she knew who wrote, was on My/Live/Face/Space/Book/Journal, or something of the kind. 

And I felt the cold, unyielding shape – the bull-bar, I believe, of Time’s winged chariot – pressing into my lumbar spine, and I realised that I cannot indulge myself any more, and me and the twenty first century are going to have to love one another or die. 

See, for a number of sincere but self-evidently stupid reasons, I have not done this up to now.  I don’t write with a quill, I don’t go to the barber to have my teeth pulled, I don’t vote for the party of small government, but I am a case of arrested cyber development.  It’s the byte version of those radio stations that play Starship and, if they’re feeling edgy, Billy Joel with all of the biting social commentary left in.   

My reasons for this are as many as they are bullshit.  My wife is computer literate, which has allowed me to get away with being helpless (imagine one of those books where it’s all big outliney pictures, and you dip a paintbrush into water and sloosh it on the page and the colours magically appear.  That is my computer reading age.  I have a cyberliteracy of ages three and up.  I find this kind of stuff hard).   

Facebook and so forth in my head are still associated with demographics “with which I don’t want to associate”.  It’s not them, as they say, it’s me:  I worry about things.  I imagine myself having one of these things and then I think about a forty three year old men friending someone calling herself Sexymeowth who has an icon of herself as a kitten in miniskirt, and it fills me with a mixture of contempt and despair.  

Without wishing to go on about it, there are the worries associated with unprotected social intercourse.  

But I know my reasons can be reduced down to a few simple, unpalatable things – fear, stupidity, self-indulgence.  I like to think of this as a charming archaicism, something that evokes Montaigne, or at least Wilde, or maybe of something fusty and Old World and endearing – but it’s neither of those things.  It’s disabling, it’s getting other people to do work for you, and it’s embarrassing.  And it’s stopping people hearing about my work.   

So – my wife, a few months back, has put me on facebook.  I’ve never  looked.  In my absence I hear that vandals have broken in and have written things on the wall – that’s going to have to be fixed.  But seriously, I have asked Kate and Rob, two of our almost manically helpful convenors, to tell us how to facebook or whatever, and I am going to find my own facebook thing, and I’m going to do it, and make it interesting, and friend, or at least aquaintance, lots of people.  Writers and readers and people I know and people I want to know and poeple whose work I admire and so on.

But not Sexymeowth.  She’s on her own. 

Anyway – watch this space for more information. 

Thanks for listening,

Posted by Brendan in 12:00:51 | Permalink | Comments (3)