Who am I today?

April 1, 2020

1st April and I believe I may be a reincarnation of Doc Savage!

Clark Savage, Jr. – Doc to those in the know. I don’t have any special powers (unlike Superman who was created by Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, obviously heavily influenced by my early adventures!). I’m strong as an ox, with a brain like Einstein’s, I have martial arts abilities that put Bruce Lee’s to shame and a photographic memory which makes me an almost perfect man. The only downside is this strange bronze tinge to my skin. But what-the-hell, you can’t have everything (although another inch or two on the willie would be nice)…

On the other hand, I might be mistaken. I’m often delusional. Only last week I thought I was Spiderman –

And in the stars, in the silence of that silent world,
Sky-stretched above me as I stretch in sleep, Earth pillowed, The small, much dazzling gleam of eternity, the infinity That embraces the wide-eyed wonderer, The wanderer in the void of thought; There, yes there! There is the moment; there the dream.

I lie on earth. Soon earth will lie on me. Will I see through chalk, clay; through the finger’s dusting On the wood; Through the small whisper of parting; the salt drop?

Will I see the trip I need, I wonder, Find it among those rusting Fire-rustling echoes of eternity? Some so old. And some so new. New words. New worlds of stars, Where thoughts, like and unlike ours, perhaps begin to queue, And radiate, Hoping to be heard! Night sky, wrap me round Hold me in your fire, your future, the memory of fire. I do not need the sound of fury to be in your embrace, Only the transport to your echoing, soundless space.

Robert Holdstock

There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book.

The reason for that is that in adult literary fiction, stories are there on sufferance. Other things are felt to be more important: technique, style, literary knowingness. Adult writers who deal in straightforward stories find themselves sidelined into a genre such as crime or science fiction, where no one expects literary craftsmanship.

But stories are vital. Stories never fail us because, as Isaac Bashevis Singer says, “events never grow stale.” There’s more wisdom in a story than in volumes of philosophy. And by a story I mean not only Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk but also the great novels of the nineteenth century, Jane Eyre, Middlemarch, Bleak House and many others: novels where the story is at the centre of the writer’s attention, where the plot actually matters. The present-day would-be George Eliot’s take up their stories as if with a pair of tongs. They’re embarrassed by them. If they could write novels without stories in them, they would. Sometimes they do.

But what characterizes the best of children’s authors is that they’re not embarrassed to tell stories. They know how important stories are, and they know, too, that if you start telling a story you’ve got to carry on till you get to the end. And you can’t provide two ends, either, and invite the reader to choose between them. Or as in a highly praised recent adult novel I’m about to stop reading, three different beginnings. In a book for children you can’t put the plot on hold while you cut artistic capers for the amusement of your sophisticated readers, because, thank God, your readers are not sophisticated. They’ve got more important things in mind than your dazzling skill with wordplay. They want to know what happens next.

Philip Pullman
Carnegie Medal Acceptance Speech, 1966

disguising it

April 1, 2020

“Fatty! You’ve got a different voice! It’s a grown-up voice! Are you putting it on — disguising it, I mean?”

“No,” said Fatty, pulling Bets’ hair teasingly. “It’s just broken, that’s all.”

Enid Blyton
The Mystery of the Missing Necklace

Nagging or silence…?

April 1, 2020

I was 23 when I wrote both of them (his first two novels). Back in about ’74 or ‘5, Roger Elwood, who had been doing millions of anthologies in the field, convinced the Harlequin Romance people in Canada that they should branch out into science fiction, and so for a couple of years they did. And K.W. Jeter, a friend of mine I had met in college, had sold a couple of books to them, and he told me and Jim Blaylock, “You should write for these people. They pay virtually nothing, they’re brand new, they have horrible restrictions on length and bad language, and so there’s no competition. Just write three chapters and an outline, and you’ll get a contract. I did it.” And so both Blaylock and I did do that. Blaylock’s was not bought. Elwood said that Blaylock was making fun of him with his outline. But I figured, “Okay, I can do this.” Because throughout my high school and college career, I’d always been writing on the top of a page, “Book One. Chapter One.” And then I’d write a page and a half, and get sick of it, and put it in the drawer. And then the next night I’d write, “Book One. Chapter One,” and start another story, and get sick of it. Sometimes I could finish short stories. And so I thought, well, gee, three chapters and an outline, what’s that, seventy pages maybe. I can do that. And then if I get a contract I’ll have the threat of a deadline, the hope of on-completion money, and so forth, to nudge me along and get it done…

…But I was real scared of the idea of a novel. I thought, “This is sixty thousand words! That’s a lot of words! You’d better start really slow.” So I wrote about ten thousand words of my characters just making lunch and talking and trying to get their cars started and doing nothing, having dinner, as I recall. And I brought this to Jeter and said, “Look! I’ve got ten thousand words!” And he read it and said, “Throw this in the trash. This is no good. You have to start where the action starts.” I thought, Okay, though that seems awfully profligate. I’ll use up the action way too quick.

But I did throw away that ten thousand words, and started within a few minutes of when the action started, and sent the three chapters and outline to Laser Books, and they said, “Well, do us a fourth chapter, ’cause we’ve never heard of you.” So I did a fourth chapter real quick, and then they said, “Okay, you have a contract; go.” So I started writing like crazy. I did get the contract before it was published, finally, but I kept not having the contract when I was writing it. I thought, God damn it, they’re not gonna like the finished book, and then they’ll say, “Don’t even write a contract for this thing.” Which was just paranoia; they did eventually buy it. Of course, it was like twelve hundred dollars. And as soon as I sold it, and actually got the twelve hundred dollars, or half of it, or whatever, I quit school and quit work because I was just going to be a writer from here on out. I think I was making through Laser Books around maybe twenty-five hundred dollars a year. And I can’t imagine how I lived on that, but I did. I’m sure it went a little further then than it does now, but I didn’t have a phone, I remember that. Then I was 24 when they were published. The first one was not bad. The second one, though, was extensively rewritten by a copy editor, and though I had tried to change it back in the galleys, they ignored the galley corrections and published it as it was.

Tim Powers
Interviewed by Fiona Kelleghan, 25th June 1997