FIVE FOR FRIDAY: EARLY GODS WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG

http://battersblog.blogspot.com/2017/10/five-for-friday-early-gods-when-world.html


Way back when I first started out to be a writer-- no, not back in 2001. Before that. Nope, before that. before that-- yep, back in the late 80s, when I began University and first set out to myself the idea that I might do this writing lark for actual monies, I was a simple boy from a working class background with a very mainstream and staid set of cultural influences.


Except in two regards: one was music, because I had my own boombox and could absorb the late night programs on the FM channels that were still fighting for ascendancy with my parents' easy listening AM mainstays, and using progressive programming and an aggressively contemporary-- still mainstream and radio friendly, but at least up-to-date-- playlist aimed at attracting a younger audience.


The other was reading. My mother was a keen reader, and although we didn't have many books in the house, she was an avid user of the local libraries, and our house had pretty much an 'if you can reach it, you can read it' system in place. Consequently, I was exposed to a wide range of what passed for literature in Rockingham libraries in the 80s (lots of Zane Grey and Jackie Collins, maybe not quite so much Don De Lillo and Jorge Luis Borges...) So I read Lord of the Rings at ten, was openly reading Erica Jong before I finished primary school, became a lifelong fan of Dick Francis and Robert Ludlum at a time when my peers were still reading Roald Dahl and John Marsden, and generally had the run of the local libraries. At a time when you could get a maximum of 2 books out if you were under 15, and 4 if you were over, I had a "how many this week?" relationship with the staff at the little library in Safety Bay that worked wonders for both my imagination and my biceps.


And then there was science fiction. SF was the genre that gave me the hunger, the one that opened my mind to not only what was being done in literature, but just what could be done. When I first started to write, seriously, with intent, in those early years of University, when all my horizons were limitless and my ambitions stretched light years beyond my abilities, I wrote science fiction. And when it came to influences, these were the gods I carried in my back pocket, whose words shaped the style of writer I wanted to be. Earlier on, I discussed 5 writers whose work I love and who influence my current ambitions. Now it's time to look backwards, and talk about those who influenced my early steps.




Five for Friday: Earliest Influences

1. Isaac Asimov

For readers of my vintage, it seems that Isaac Asimov was a nearly ubiquitous gateway drug. It's hardly surprising: he wrote umpty billion books, and his straightforward prose, liner plotting and classic structuring make his short stories particularly easy to assimilate for a reader still learning the dictates of the genre. By the time I reached University I was an avid collector-- the second-hand bookstores were thick with well-thumbed, cheap copies of his work. I soon moved on to more sophisticated exponents, but for a while his industry, work ethic, and ability to mine seams of thought were a template for what I wanted to achieve.



2. Ray Bradbury


I first read Bradbury in primary school. The Golden Apples of the Sun was the book that captured me, A Sound of Thunder and The Golden Apples of the Sun the stories that sank their hooks into me and refused to let go. Bradbury was SF's first great poet, with a style and lyrical simplicity that has rarely been equalled. No other writer of my youth could entrance, frighten, seduce and horrify me simultaneously the way he did. Even now, very few writers can. There was something special about him, something I could not define but that I wanted to capture. Several of my published stories (Murderworld-- about a man trapped in a murderous reality show who chooses instead to walk naked amongst the heavily-armed combatants and persuade them to help him plant a garden-- is the one that springs most immediately to mind) have tried.



3. Harry Harrison


I've blogged before about the SF collection I received for my 8th birthday, and which changed my life. One of the stories in that collection was an excerpt from The Stainless Steel Rat. Once I understood what an excerpt was, I sought out the book. And the next. And the next. Because, dammit, while they were simply told stories, and never pretended they were nothing more than good old-fashioned pulp fun, they were fun. Those stories were the first time I understood the power of voice, of having a distinct and understandable style that could provide a context greater than the simple progression of words on the page. I've dabbled in humour all my life. This was one of the earliest of my influences in that direction.



4. Roger Zelazny

I read Eye of Cat when I was thirteen, and I was never the same again. Zelazny was one of those rare writers whose works never seemed to duplicate what came before. Isle of the Dead and Lord of Light are masterpieces. His collaboration with Philip K Dick, Deus Irae, is delightfully insane. And his short stories, particularly A Rose for Ecclesiastes and The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth blew the lid of my mind. To my unformed reader's mind he was a fucking wizard, and he remains a seminal influence-- looking back, my Father Muerte stories, in particular, owe a lot to his ability to meld different influences into a narrative. When my story, The Glow of His Eyes, the Depths of his Gaze was published, a friend sent me a text that simply said "Zelazny wannabe :)". It was the nicest compliment I received that day......



5. Brian Aldiss

Very early in my University days, I discovered the extensive collection of New Wave SF works in the Uni's library. I fell in love with the works of Harlan Ellison, in particular, as well as Spinrad, Lafferty, Rucker, and Sladek, amongst others. But it was Brian Aldiss who inspired me as a writer: Ellison's looping, hyperactive anger was such a singular voice that I could never hope to recreate it. The others had shades of what I was looking for (particularly Sladek, who could easily have made this list). Aldiss-- more reserved, more analytical-- produced works as equally outrageous, but there was meat on the bones that I could study. Hothouse and Barefoot in the Head were particular favourites-- I still, in fact, occasionally use the latter title as a way of describing someone I think a bit off-kilter. His peak is shorter and less flamboyant than Ellison's, less intensely personal than Sladek's, less outright loopy than Lafferty's. But for giving me a framework in which to start critiquing myself, and tying outrageous flights of imagination to a clear narrative structure, I have Aldiss to thank.

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY SAYS SCREW YOU, PERSPECTIVE!

http://battersblog.blogspot.com/2017/10/thumbnail-thursday-says-screw-you.html



Not a straight line in the whole thing, not an angle that matches any other, but I have an overwhelming fondness for this cartoon. It's one of the first truly good ideas I ever had, and one that requires more than an appreciation of nob gags to get. I've been writing these sort of righteously-deluded characters ever since.



0093



Time was quantum, as Professor Smedley well knew. It didn't matter if he got dressed now or later, he would still be dressed...

THEY CALL ME...... THE WHITE RAVEN!

http://battersblog.blogspot.com/2017/10/they-call-me-white-raven.html

The International Youth Library is the world’s largest library for international children’s and youth literature. Founded in 1949 by Jella Lepman, it has grown to become the internationally recognized centre for children’s and youth literature.

Each year, the Library awards the White Ravens – an annual book catalogue of book recommendations in the field of international children’s and youth literature. This year’s White Ravens catalogue contains 200 titles in 38 languages from 56 countries.

The print catalogue will be launched at the 2017 Frankfurt Book Fair, and all 200 White Ravens books will be on display at the International Youth Library’s stand at the 2018 Bologna Children’s Book Fair.


FIVE FOR FRIDAY: PROJECTS AMONGST THE SAVAGES

http://battersblog.blogspot.com/2017/10/five-for-friday-projects-amongst-savages.html


So, if you read my post earlier in the week, you'll know that big changes are afoot in the New Year. You'll also know why my writing world has been so moribund lately, and how my career has slowly diminished to the point that its sliding off the rails looked pretty much exactly like the train set fight in Ant-Man, with about as much impact on the surrounding landscape.


This is also a partial explanation as to why Five for Friday posts have been on hiatus for the last 3 months: Real Life (tm) has pretty much eaten everything away.


Still, here we are. With the revelation that, all being well, I'll be full-time Batthaim admin staff come February next year, it seems only fitting that the first Five for Friday post since that particular discussion be on the subject of just what I'll be aiming to achieve in my two-year tour of duty amongst the housebound of outback Western Australia.


Five for Friday: Full Time Writing Projects




1. More Children's Books


A bit of a no-brainer, this one. With Magrit doing well, and Ghost Tracks on the way to being submitted by the end of this year (all the issues I've had in the last 18 months having dented, but not destroyed, progress on this project), it makes sense to dust off some ideas I've had kicking around since my first post-Magrit-sale flush of enthusiasm and see them through to completion. In particular, I'm looking towards the following two:


The Boy From G.O.B.L.I.N.-- a runaway and perpetual troublemaker is forcibly inducted into the Guild Of Beings the Lurk In the Night, a society of monsters tasked with ensuring the supernatural and the ordinary remain separate; and


Antimony Lavage: All Antimony wants to do is drive the train that clatters past the back of her house every day; the one that takes the newly dead and their grieving families from the Necropolis to the magnificent garden cemetery at the edge of the City. But the job is hereditary, and the family who owns it isn't sharing.




2. Bear Hunts


A crime novel. Edward 'Bear' Burrage got out of the game when his mother fell ill. He moved them away from the city, settled in a nice, harmless, seaside town, and dedicated himself to keeping his nose clean and looking after her as the dementia slowly claimed her. When he loses his licence after foolishly celebrating a lottery win, he's blackmailed into helping with a heist on a local Council. And when it goes wrong, and the pieces of his carefully constructed safety start shattering, Bear starts hunting down those responsible.




3. Tales of Nireym


Many years ago, I sold a fantasy story about a young scribe in a strongly patriarchal society, who stumbles across the story of a girl called Nireym, and how she escaped her role and started an underground movement of resistance among the women she met. It's an okay story, and it makes a few points along the way, but I always felt there was more to it than the 4 or 5000 words I committed: the world-building had greater depth than the narrative, and I always felt it deserved more-- there are stories and themes to be explored, cultures to be compared, a deeper and wider narrative to be unearthed. It would take a novel, and now it might just be time to write it.




4. The Canals of Anguilar


Similarly a story I wrote a couple of years ago for the Review of Australian Fiction, featuring a city entirely inhabited by cowards, which could only be reached when all other bolt holes had been dug out. Part dark fantasy; part crime story; part examination what exactly counts as cowardice and bravery, and how the two can be confused, the original story ran a shade over 8000 words, but never really explored the themes and setting to my satisfaction. Like Tales of Nireym before it, I came away feeling that I could have done so much more, given a longer framework. The difference is, I made a start on this one, before everything when splooey-- there are nearly 12,000 words waiting for me to return to them.




5. The Claws of Native Ghosts and Other Stories


I've been chipping away at this one for a few years now: a linked collection of short stories, connecting events throughout the history of Western Australia by revealing a hidden, supernatural  history running alongside, and affecting, European occupation. To date, 3 stories have seen print in magazine format: the titular tale, which concerns itself with the Pinjarra Massacre; Comfort Ghost, which intersects the current Fremantle Arts centre with its past as an asylum; and Disciple of the Torrent, about the Batavia Mutiny. A further story, centred on CY O'Connor's suicide, is in the editing stage. Two years of uninterrupted research and writing should be enough to put together the 8 other events I have listed to work with, as well as any others my research might lead me towards.