Now Zero – September 2022

It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.

– Philip K. Dick, Valis

The Writing

Been a busy month on the writing front, actually. I wrote the first draft of a flash piece I’ll submit to an anthology (submissions close in November from memory, so plenty of time to hone it still), and then wrote a SYTI prequel story that takes place immediately before the opening of the novella.

My thinking is the story could be used as a sort of teaser prior to publication of the novella, kind of inspired by the way Peter Watts has stories related to his longer works available to read on his website. Had the prequel idea kicking around for a while and decided to just write it – otherwise I might have lost steam by the time I was finished with the next draft of the novella.

Speaking of, the rewrite of the opening chapters went well. Difficult work, but the book will be much better for it. I thought that was going to be the hard part, but the next section which I also want to overhaul (but not quite to the same degree) is even longer than that first chunk, so still got a bit of a slog left. After this section, I think the rest of the edits on this draft should go quite quickly. SYTI is the first book I’ve written (or, to be more precise, edited) where the first quarter needed the most work – usually it’s the ending that starts off as a placeholder in the first draft and needs a couple more drafts before I nail it.

Hoping to have a “final” draft and a pitch ready before the end of the month so I can send it out and still have time to finalise my outline for TD before the beginning of Octowrite. Paraphrased from my twitter:

Join me this October for Octowrite!

  • 8 weeks
  • 40k words or 8 short stories, whichever suits your writing aims.
  • Take weekends to do whatever
  • Nah, it’s all good
  • No hashtag, fuck that
  • You’re more than a words machine.

In case you couldn’t tell, it’s a minor stab at Nanowrimo. I think it can be useful, but I also think it can encourage unhealthy writing habits and give you an excuse to beat yourself up for not hitting completely arbitrary goals. And plus, even if you can write 50k words in a month (and even if they’re reasonably good words), it’s still not a novel. Unless you’re working in the literary sphere, 50k is a very awkward length that you’re going to find difficult to sell.

So yeah, hoping to do Octowrite, and hoping to get about half of TD written in that time, but we’ll see. My brain might decide it’s time to work on something completely different.

Nothing Here Newsletter

And all the rest

I finished reading Virginie Despentes’ Vernon Subutex III the other night. Across the trilogy, Despentes proves she’s adept at creating and giving voice to distinct and three-dimensional characters, swapping POV with each chapter across a large ensemble cast. They aren’t all likeable (indeed, some are repugnant), but they’re all well-realised and that’s probably the first book’s greatest strength. It’s greatest weakness, for me, was how fucking bourgeois most of the characters are, but by the end of book I that’s addressed in a matter of speaking, and book II explores an interesting and odd new status quo, and is probably my favourite of the trilogy.

Book III is the darkest of the three, and precisely how dark it can get shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve seen her 2000 film Baise-moi, but I’d be lying if I said the ending didn’t leave me feeling depressed. Not only for what happened, but because that’s the way it had to end. It’s a story about the real world in so many ways, so not only do the bad guys win, but they get rich and famous thanks to their villainy. I’m being deliberately vague and reductive because the books are worth reading and I don’t want to spoil the ending here.

I will say though that the epilogue is needlessly SFnal, and didn’t read as though it belonged to the rest of the series at all. But maybe that’s just me – for obvious reasons I get irritated by well-known, highly-regarded, best-selling, and wealthy literary authors fumbling with SFnal ideas.

They’ve started adapting the series for television, but if you’ve read them all you’ll know why I feel dirty just thinking about watching that…