Checking the Spill

Spelling.  I’ve always regarded myself as a good speller.  Certainly adequate.  But converting The Weird Colonial Boy from an old pre-PC manuscript to downloadable format (see prvevious rash promise) has convinced me that Gollancz did me a great service with their copyediting.  It’s taking ages!  Who knows what state my mss go out in?  How asleep am I at the wheel? 

Get a Free Read Here!

I’ve decided to post my earlier work under a Creative Commons license. First up, The Weird Colonial Boy. Will upload asap! Stay tuned for other novels and some short fiction online as soon as I get the copyright sorted with original paper publishers and get time to upload and lay it out. So come and get it!

Fictional Tension

Some might have heard that Jill Sparrow and I are writing a novel. (Don’t ask me what it’s called.) Friends often ask us, “But how could you write a novel that way?” Behind this is the assumption that there is something completely individual about the novelistic art. Well, that may be so. Or it may not. There is a long answer involving collaboration and commercial imperatives, bourgeois art and individualism, and “trash” and literature of ideas, but the short answer is, she and I have complementary strengths.

The novel’s getting toward readable now (though perhaps that’s a value judgement) and I suppose I’m reaching the point where I can reflect on how my thoughts have been exercised by what Jill’s brought to it. A broad and deep knowledge at her fingertips of what political movements eat and drink – and what may poison them. The people living their activism, the trajectories of their lives, and the reasons they rebel or otherwise. The slog. How much of a person’s stance is an accidental collision of history and sensibility; and seemingly in contradiction, how little of one’s relationship to the greater history is untouched by manipulation, how choice can be at once illusory and a matter of conscience. Jill also advocates a fierce naturalism, which I guess is a product of quite an evolved materialism since it eschews the clichés devised by both markets and teleology, no matter whose.

She and I have always argued. About other things! The novel has produced little in the way of fierce disagreement, perhaps because both of us are confident in our areas of strength, mine in the craft of fiction and scientific speculation and Jill’s in historiography and activism. And lack confidence in the other’s areas. We have, however, filled many pages with notes driving characters and situations in electronic chat format and email. We’ve also got years of experience as work mates in other fields, so there’s trust.

And it’s much of that common experience, I now see, out of which we’ve written ourselves. Our old workmates joke with us that they’re in the novel, or that others from our common workplaces are in the novel, and of course we’ve drawn situations and colours from the raw material of our lives, as all writers do, but even if you consciously tried to copy somebody from life, to set them in another context – in this case an ageing, climate changed future, where the nature of political representation reaches discontinuity – renders such alleged portraiture or caricature irrelevant. In any case, what interests me about this process is that Jill and I emerged straight from a bitter industrial battle, during the depths of the Howard government’s exercise of power.

We’ve come from this place emotionally. This is a great deal of the truth of what we’ve depicted, not personalities.

At one stage, Jill asked me what point there might be in attempting an intervention in the form of writing such a novel, when so many things were so bad. I replied that this was the very time people needed this kind of effort. Now, when things may be a little different, and Howard seems not quite so invincible, we see that what might beat him still provides us with the reason for such a project. What it takes to beat Howard is distressing to watch, at times.

Fiction of the future often comes with a Best Before Date. Not only do the dates date, as it were, with people living on Mars in 1999 and everyone wearing Lycra without riding bicycles, but also the social situation provoking the satire or drama of the novel moves on. However, I suspect that it will be a long time before the sort of dire situation provoking the actions of our characters comes about. We mess around at the edges of reform. It seems that once we reach a level of affluence, all hope of assisting ourselves beyond our problematic form of representation – assisting anybody else in other countries with their more clear-cut problems either – is watered down. The ownership of a house, car, mobile phone and computer, aircon, and the treadmill necessary to keep it all going for ourselves and our families, takes the will to change from all but a faithful few, who sacrifice something else to the struggle.

It could be argued that this something is what disables the struggle itself. One must remove oneself from the values that create a society of any kind in order to see how it might be changed. Jill and I have touched upon this process in the novel, as well as a great number of other things. There have been novels about people who want to change the world before, and there have been novels of despair about how fucked things are – there have even been novels of hope about ordinary people who make a difference. Ours is a big novel, about a great number of things, perhaps all of the above things – we tried not to have any one character who could be called the most important. We have written an entertainment, full of drama and comedy, but one which we hope will entertain people we know are not easily captured by the economic imperatives of the lowest common denominator, one with a tension between identification with what gives us the values we wish to change and the objectivity of having removed yourself from those values enough to see what must be changed.

And that creative tension is what you get writing a novel with two people. Hopefully it’s more than either of us could do on our own.

[also posted on Leftwrites]


Well the novel’s finished. A draft, anyhow. It took almost exactly two years to write the draft and a couple more to research it. Still haven’t thought of a good title! I’ve been thinking of Menace to Society: a political adventure. I’m sure none of my friends look at this blog, but if anyone else does, let me know what you think. You could win a chocolate frog.

a science fiction convention

Covered the Natcon for Radio National. Is it me or is it SF fandom? A bit of both. We have both changed. I have never felt so at home at a con before. In fact it has been quite the opposite; that although I might have a lot in common with the people at such an event I could never really talk to them. Well, I still have the trouble talking, but I’m not too worried about that now. Before in some sense it was like not being able to talk to myself, and so distressing. Now?

More later.

Old Friends

Got an email from my old friend Donald in Mallacoota wrote the other day. What it must be to live there! Less than 400 people in the off season. But also very limited in what is available to you. I don’t mean in entertainment: the entertainment must be the same as here; I mean we we have a band, we watch movies, we drink and we fall about. No, it’s just that if you want to change your life you can just go out and get another job – perhaps not easy, but they are here, unless you have one of those jobs that there is only a handful in the whole country.

I suppose it sorts the wheat from the chaff as far as your priorities are concerned; you cannot just up and take some piece of crap on a whim. Also, the consumer society doesn’t grab you the way it can here. It adds some time for thought – and I guess you can obsess about some piece of rubbish much more successfully, on the other hand, without the means to confront yourself with the foolishness of actually laying your hands on it immediately!

clever stuff

Writing the latest chapter (24, the fourth Bianca one), I have been wondering if the references to research about utopian fiction must be submerged, or if people will enjoy them for what they are.

Why in fact did I put that bit in there? What in fact are they? I suppose I thought it was a rather neat way of thinking about existence. It could have been because I wanted to show off my erudition, I suppose. I was looking for an impersonal way of making an introduction to the chapter, because it was supposed to be a bit mysterious, it was a plot that had been mentioned but not described and should unfold in a leisurely fashion because there is already a sure element of suspense involved.

(Mind you, we haven’t written all the previous Bianca chapter yet.)

It occurred to me that the description of life as a corridor, with blinding windows beside it, mirrors behind and a trapdoor ahead, was picture of mortality we wanted our readers to fear on behalf of our valiant revolutionaries.

It is also a poetic image which is striking, the vulnerable inside the invulnerable. The elderly person in the robot.

The question is, do you mention the source or ask people to figure it out for themselves? I suppose if you do not put people off, there is no harm in it. It is a chapter of action, and can stand a little freight.

Naturally, this post will make more sense if you read the chapter. Come back in about a year; I hope it’s published by then! We’ll see if the bit about Erewhon makes it.

computer depending

Yes, hung from our computers. Mine had problems with its power supply, which I was told might cost more than a new laptop to repair. Fortunately, Lenny was able to fashion a new pin and solder it, saving me about $1600. Yes, and although I had avoided that sickening feeling of not having backed up my work, I was very much put out by having to use another computer. I had to use it elsewhere, nothing was where I wanted it; I suppose all this was fairly wussy, but I spend so much time on the laptop and I am a creature of habit.

pictures of george

I’ve begun a gallery for George Turner and asked Bruce Gillespie to put in comments, but he has declined, I think. Who can blame him. So little time in his life, and lots of old pictures. What to say? Anyway they’re on the gallery site.

grey river

Went to Grey River with Natalie. Thanks to the Sparrows. Natalie loved
searching in rockpools most of all, I think. I got some writing done,
we ate well and slept like crazy. 9 hours a night, when I have been
getting 4, plus the odd afternoon nap. There are about 8 houses strung
along the road on the slope, with koalas in the back yard. Heaven!
Have a look at the pictures in me gallery.

Sawmill Website

Did the Sawmill site for Jill and Gerard today. It’s tempting to write a script that will set up WordPress for me and copy all the plugins and themes I want. But I won’t. Better to spend my time learning new songs. Good site for Sawmill, though. It’s a great idea for people to record all the birds and animals they saw.

More on Songs

They are, aren’t they? I mean there are lots of embarrassingly bad
songs. And also there are no bad songs. I mean it is the fact that
people get out there and sing them, in car parks, shopping centres, yes,
on stages, swimming along on the left hand of the lane – or the right,
as Frank Sinatra did – and the song that moves you comes later.

The reason I’m looking up songs is that eight other guys are as well,
and a few other people I suppose. The Five O’Clock Shadows were the
support act for the kids at my children’s school concert, held at
Darebin Arts Centre. People seemed to like it and now the band – “the
band”, it’s perhaps less than six rehearsals – are looking all over the
place for songs. It’s funny! Some of us are going with what they
already knew, some of us what they always wanted to play, some of us
what they could not sing with other bands and some are just going along
with the thing because it’s all pretty good, all music, really.

Sorry if I offend your particular religion!

How’s the Writing Going?

It’s always hard to say how things are going with a novel. *I* reckon
it’s going well. So does Jill. Anyway, one can talk about what one has
read and how it relates, at least a bit. This is a good thing. I mean,
it’s fun. There is a rather out-of-date link to the research on the
right hand of this website, under Latest Novel.

What sort of thing am I reading now? Well, my mate Damien sends me bits
and pieces to read that no longer convince me that I’m totally ignorant
about AI, just bloody-minded. I’m not reading a lot about AI. I am
reading about revolution. We are Everywhere has some moving stuff
about the police brutality at Genoa. And Despatches from the
Barricades by the BBC editor John Simpson has some good stuff on what
it was like Czechoslovakia in the days before the Communist fall. And
I’m still reading To the Finland Station which when I get going is
bloody great.

Songs 2

None Of Us Are Free

(barry mann, cynthia weil, brenda russell)

You better listen my brother
’cause if you do you can hear
There are voices still callin’ from across the years
And they’re cryin’ across the ocean
And they’re cryin’ across the land
And they will until we all come to understand

That none of us are free
None of us are free
None of us are free if one of us is chained
None of us are free

Well there are people in the darkness
And they just can’t see the light
And if we don’t say it’s wrong then that says it’s right
We got to feel for each other
Let our brothers know we’re here
Got to get the message and send it out loud and clear

That none of us are free
None of us are free
None of us are free if one of us is chained
None of us are free
Well it’s the single truth
We all need to see
That none of are free if one of us is chained
None of us are free

Well i swear to you salvation isn’t very hard to find
None of us can find it on our own
We got to join together. spirit, heart and mind
All the are suffering, knows they’re not alone

None of us are free
None of us are free

If you just look around you
You’re see what i say
’cause the world’s gettin’ smaller each passin’ day
Now it’s time to make some changes
Now it’s time all realized
That the truth is shinin’ right before our eyes

’cause none of us are free
None of us are free
None of us are free if one of us is chained
None of us are free

Well it’s the very heart of humanity
’cause none of us are free if one of us is chained
None of us are free

None of us, none of us
None of us, none of us
None of us, none of us are free

None of us, none of us
None of us, none of us
None of us, none of us are free

None of us are free
None of us are free
None of us are free if one of us is chained
None of us are free
’cause it’s the very truth
We all need to see
That none of us are free if one of us is chained
None of us are free

Songs 1

Take Me In Your Arms

(Isley Brothers)

I know you’re leaving me behind
I’m seeing you, darling, for the very last time
Show a little tenderbess before you go
Please let me feel your embrace once more

Take me in your arms, rock me, rock me a little while
Hold me darling, rock me, rock me a little while
We all must feel heartache sometime
Right now, right now can’t you see that I’m feeling mine

I tried my best to be strong, but I’m not able
I’m like a helpless child wrapped up in a cradle
Let me know joy before I grieve
Hold me, darling, before you leave

Take me in your arms, rock me, rock me a little while
Oh, darling, rock me, rock me a little while
I’m losing you and all my happiness
My life is over, I got to confess

I’ll never see your smiling face no more
I’ll never hear your knocking on my door
Before you leave me, baby, leave me behind
Please let me hold you just one more time

Take me in your arms, rock me, rock me a little while
Oh, darling, rock me, rock me a little while

Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby ……

I said I never would beg, and I said I wouldn’t plead, no
But here I am, baby, baby, baby, please
Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby please
Please, please, baby, please

Take me in your arms, rock me, rock me a little while
Hold me, darling, rock me, rock me a little while……

S.Y. Agnon

music: Solomon Burke

Reading The Bridal Canopy which all new to me. And gently funny. Taking my time with it, but at the same time I’m eager to get onto the other books I have out of the library. I can’t help thinking there is a story in this stuff somewhere, but I’m not pushing it.

Fred Vargas

music: Josh Ritter
mood: yes

Yep, I’m reading Have Mercy on Us as well, which Jill and I agree is not profluent, but it’s likeable for that very reason. I like the village-y Paris, the town crier, which my theatre group once did, at the Williamstown Summer Festival (the first one). Who is this “Fred Vargas”?

Reserved at my Library

You can only reserve 15 at a time. What I recommend, they seem to say they’ll order, but in practise it’s a mystery as to why it takes so long. Perhaps what I order is so good it does the rounds of all the librarians before it goes out. Anyway, it’s like a little Christmas when they get one. Of course, it’s not always like this, I try to reserve stuff on their website that I know they’ll have, or I wouldn’t get much to read at all.

Band of gypsies /
by Jones, Gwyneth

I read the other two of this series, recommended to me by Rosaleen Love. She’s good, but Jill didn’t get into them. I can see why.

The blue mountain: A Novel.
by Shalev, Meir.

Highly recommended by Keren Rubinstein

Considering Aaron Sorkin
by Fahy, Thomas

Who is of course author of The West Wing and I have all the eps. It’s the closest thing to Shakespeare on the Romans – not that I’m comparing Aaron to Bill, but this is the most powerful person on earth and the problems are big, with lots of room for – stuff.

Elsewhere, perhaps /
by Oz, Amos

Always been curious about him.

Ferocious minds
by Broderick, Damien

A mate – his latest.

Inside job
by Willis, Connie

Read everything I can of hers. To Say Nothing of the Dog is great.

Looking for Jake : and other stories /
by Mieville, China.

Been borrowing this from Jill – ordinarily not a great short story reader, but he’s very good and some are long, I think.

by Disch, Thomas

The master.

Quest for consciousness
by Koch, Christof

This was ordered so long ago I think they’ve forgotten. This looks good though, as more research for “”>Chain

Rushdie, Salman, Standing Order Fiction author : pre-purchase record.
by Rushdie, Salman.

Shalimar the Clown

Science in the Capital: Science in the Capital /
by Robinson, Kim Stanley

Sequel to Forty Signs of Rain\\ I think, which my friend Glenda did not like, but Jill did.

The secret river /
by Grenville, Kate, 1950-

Very good reviews. 30 people want this book at the library. I am number 4.

Sports night (DVD)
by Sorkin, Aaron

Nuff said.

Spy kids (CD-ROM)

For Oscar. Been on order for 8 months and seems to be there now. But we’re third on the list.

First Post

music: Ravi Shankar
mood: Hm.

I’ve just installed this software and it’s not bad. It would be good to see if we can get other people to use it.

As usual, I’m going to list what I’m reading and watching right now. A little S.Y. Agnon: THE BRIDAL CANOPY, which is pretty funny as well as full of love. Just seen SEAN OF THE DEAD, which was pretty funny too, but of course just a little more crass than Agnon.