First off, temp work is actually agreeing with me more than I thought it would. It helps that I’ve found a pretty cool firm that actually matches me up to the kind of jobs that I like, and there is a certain casual attitude that seems to prevail the Australian workplace – at least in comparison to the last few American ones I worked at. It’s nice, and it’s fairly flexible to let me do writing outside of it.
I’m not sure that it will give me enough time to do writing, reading, blogging and everything else, though, and the first one of those I should probably cut back on is blogging. I had a feeling I was going to end up doing this once I started nailing down longer contracts and working 9-5 most of the week. I think there’s a trap that a lot of writers fall into where you end up writing more about writing than actually working on your stories, and I recognize that this is my personality type to a T. What I will probably end up doing is paring it down to a lengthy weekend post – probably about writing and any cool events – and a few scattered book and movie reviews during the week based on what I’ve seen recently. I’m going to try to set up a schedule for those, but I’m not quite sure what it will be yet. Definitely like the whole “having a deadline” thing, it keeps me in line.
Okay, all that out of the way, I will write up a longer thing today because I got to go to the Sydney Graphic Festival this weekend past, and it was awesome.
We went to the Gaiman presentation, which featured a couple of episodes of his Likely Stories show, the Dream Dangerously documentary, and then a Q&A session. The episodes were fun little jaunts, as usual (Closing Time and Feeders & Eaters), the documentary was a lighthearted piece about his final signing tour and some interviews over the last few years with both Neil himself and some of his friends and coworkers.
I will not lie, I choked up a bit when Sir Terry Pratchett was on the screen talking about some of his collaborative work, after which it cut to a brief message about how Pratchett passed away partway through filming the documentary and then had a short segment where Gaiman spoke about how he has a phantom Terry on his shoulder now, who tells him to stop being daft when he tricks himself into thinking he has writer’s block or some other obstacle in his way.
I enjoy watching authors talk about their work. Especially big name authors who, as it turns out, share a lot of the same doubts and neuroses as I do. Hearing someone talk about how they look back at their most beloved works and go “damn, I could do that so much better if I had another crack at the final revision” soothes me and lets me know that I’ll still have the exact crippling… doubts… if I make the… big time…
Anyway, he also said something that I’ve really been turning around in my head over and over for the last few days, because it perfectly sums up how I’ve felt about a lot of things in my life. I’m fundamentally an introvert and feel a certain level of disconnection from things, and it’s not because I don’t care about them – there’s a lot of stuff I care incredibly deeply about – but because there’s about a quarter of my brain hanging back in reserve and taking notes on how I would put those feelings into writing, what a character of mine would do in the situation I find myself in, how I want to steal my own experiences and translate them into plot points or events for a novel. When I go to a bar with friends, even if I’m having a great time, I am very much having 75% of a great time because the remaining 25% is chugging away like crazy noting:
- cool speech patterns and turns of phrase happening around me
- that potential bar fight over in the corner and the amazing posturing and body language going on between about five people
- the folks hitting on each other in new and creative ways
- what this new drink tastes like
- how the changes in music are having an effect on the people beyond dancing, how the faster rhythm is causing them to talk and move faster in general
Stuff like that. It’s great, and I love it, and it’s very hard to describe to anyone who doesn’t experience it in a similar fashion. I know it’s one of the reasons I tend to come off as very aloof or cold in person; about half my friends have a “I thought you couldn’t stand me until we actually started talking 1 on 1” story involving me by now, but it’s really because I tend to hyperfocus on observation so that I have a deep brain-folder of cool stuff to search through when I’m trying to fill up a page with fiction.
In a few words he really described it perfectly, and it was great to hear someone that I admire talk about something that, at times, has felt like a bit of a character flaw in myself.
He also spoke at length about his older works, and I love that he’s still fond enough of them to remember all the little details 10, 15, 20+ years after he published them. I think it’s part of what draws me to his work for countless re-reads; his characters feel fundamentally real to me, like they are people who told him their stories and he just happened to write them down with great skill.
Great, now I need to go back and re-read both Neverwhere and American Gods again on top of my new stuff reading list.
Speaking of new stuff, I finally got around to reading The Corroded Man that I picked up a couple of weeks back. You know what? It was actually pretty great. I try not to be down on licensed fiction or video game tie-in novels but there is a certain, possibly well-deserved stigma again them and an assumption of their quality levels. Corroded Man is probably not going to be picking up any Hugo nominations anytime soon, but it took a universe that I love and told a new story in it, hopefully creating a seamless bridge between the original game and the upcoming sequel. It falls prey to probably my least favorite video game novel thing ever, which is trying to wink wink nudge nudge the audience over and over with characters using skills and spells from the game in a very… shall we say mechanical way. I don’t want to read soandso used blink, and then blinked again and was on the roof, I want to read something a little more flowery about how she feels the air around her expand and contract and yank her through the frozen world to her new perch, you know? But that didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the story, which was like someone had taken a cold war Russian spy thriller and plunked it down into a dystopian steampunk and whale oil nightmare world. I loved seeing the setting expanded beyond what the game was able to show, the characters who showed up in the original game were translated very well to the page (although Corvo is a bit more sardonic than I ever imagined when I played him, that’s to the individual player’s taste) and there’s some genuinely cool and twisted magic that they play around with. I hope that a lot of it shows up in the second game, because it piqued my interest.