Well, nearly up to 20K words of the new book (The Charnel Child). Will then make a submission to publisher (via agent). Very decent book – should get a deal, but don’t hold your breath. Apparently, things have never been tougher in terms of new acquisitions. Whatever.
Got a signing event for The Book of Orm tomorrow. Waterstones Arndale, 11am-4pm. Not sure why I’m doing the event really. When you make one pound per copy sold, it’s really not worth giving up your Saturday. Oh well. Will have to ponder strategy for world domination some time soon. Maybe I need to declare some Caliphate of Book Readers or sumfink. Yeah, that might work.
Summer school starts next week. Sigh. Fulltime teaching for two months. Gotta do it, to buy Cleopatra’s cat food. The things I do for that moggie. Oh, and I’m saving for the wedding next April, of course.
In terms of the scifi ideas and potential, Transcendence is one of the best scifi films I’ve seen. In terms of viewer engagement with the characters, it’s one of the worst. Johnny Depp plays the whole piece in a ‘depressed’ style – and it just doesn’t work. We are expected to engage with his character based solely on our ‘feeling sorry’ for him when he gets dosed with radiation by a terrorist seeking to prevent his work in artificial intelligence. The irony is, of course, that now he’s running out of time, Depp drives on even harder with his work and uploads his consciousness into a computer. He promptly hooks up with the internet and becomes godlike/maniacal – hence proving the terrorist was right to try bumping him off. Everyone fears him and of course seeks to destroy him. The audience isn’t sure if the consciousness is the original Depp anyway – it might instead be the computer mimicking sentience. ‘Can you prove you’re sentient?’ asks Morgan Freeman of the computer consciousness. ‘Can you?’ is the reply to the human. So, we want the lead character to die! Makes for a big failure as far as a film goes. Is there a twist? Kinda. But not really. The consciousness does ‘infect’ living people and turn them into its drones (robbing them of their free will) – so it is evil. Okay, the consciousness may not kill anyone (meaning that we end up destroying a ‘god’ that has the power to save the world, and that the real monster is our own fear) but there is no denying it is not entirely benevolent. In summary, then, some big questions and concepts are explored, but not in any way that is truly compelling. Not sure what to score it. If you’re a scifi buff, you’ll definitely wanna watch it (7 out of 10). If you’re just an average movie-goer, forget it (4 out of 10). And if you’re a Depp fan, there are other films that make far better use of his skills (2 out of 10).
Once again France shows it makes better films than Hollywood. The Connection is a slick noirish cop movie set in 70s Marseilles. The landscape and the cars are beautiful – and all filmed evocatively. The storyline is far from trite. We see the ‘good guy’ rowing with his wife cos he’s never there for his family. She leaves him, and we think she is right to do so. We see the ‘good guy’ breaking the law because that seems to be the only way to take down the baddies. The film plays with our sympathies. We even end up sympathising with the murderous mafia boss – he’s just a guy trying to run a business and keep people employed. Indeed, the mafia boss and cop end up looking very similar – both are running gangs of thugs with guns and there is precious little to choose between them. It’s a must-see. 9 out of 10
Just seen Live-Die-Repeat (aka ‘The Edge of Tomorrow). Aliens with some time-altering ability attack the Earth. Tom Cruise is a press-ganged soldier who gets covered in the blood of one and then has the ability to ‘re-set’ the day every time he’s killed. Yes, the premise is as daft as anything you’ve ever heard – in fact, Tom’s character has a devil of a time convincing anyone in the film he’s not plum crazy. But it all means we get quite an entertaining problem-solving movie, as Tom and his female sidekick (Emily Blunt) try and get through a horrendous battle over and over, to get to the mega-baddie. Yes, it’s just like watching someone play a video game and learning the patterns of the aliens’ movements.
There are decent jokes, there is decent action (without any real peril of course, cos they can just re-set) and there is even a credible sense of romance between Cruise and Blunt. But it didn’t quite keep me hooked. The plot veers a bit. Some of the minor characters are utterly unintelligible (and horribly, horribly cliched) and there is a strange sense that the film is re-running WW2, and that Tom Cruise is single-handedly winning it for the world. That, to me, is objectionable. So what score would I give it? Hmm. Well, it’s better than a lot of action scifi films, and I enjoyed it more than Transcendence, so 7.5 out of 10.
Interstellar isn’t a movie or story really. It’s just a metaphor. An interesting and intriguing one for several hours, but ultimately a trite one once it’s revealed. The Earth is dying and so the race is on to discover a planet we can populate. We go off into the emptiness of space just as we ‘go into the darkness of death’. This film is about the unknown and the meaning of life. It starts as quite ‘real’ and gradually fragments/collapses. The plot lines literally collapse together at the end, the narrative falls apart and time travel starts happening. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot to recommend this film (Matthew McConaughey is pretty good, the special FX are superb, there are clever directorial moments where the frame of reference is broken, iand there are some nice plot twists), but I can completely see why the most common terms in all the reviews of this film are ‘rambling’ and ‘a brave attempt’. I give it a creditable score of 7.5 out of 10. (Worth a look and genuinely thought-provoking)
The Troll King and his horde are descending upon the Arndale on Saturday 20 June. Copies of The Book of Orm will be signed (in blood), etc. See you there from 11am!
Last month I wrote an article for my site about how e-publishing doesn’t really work. In response, Susannah J Bell () wrote: ‘More and more people are saying this. All the writers out there might as well curl up and die, which is what I feel like doing.’
I feel her pain. And, sadly, Amazon and mainstream publishers don’t need to give a damn about the financial plight of the author. Amazon are making plenty of money from e-books and are very happy with how things stand. Publishers meanwhile are still getting over 100 unsolicited manuscripts a week, many of them of publishable quality, so do not need to offer anything beyond a take-it-or-leave-it 7.5% royalty to authors. Giving a damn and doing something about the situation would mean publishers giving up profits, and that’s the last thing they’re gonna do in the current climate. Publishers treat individual authors that aren’t number one sellers horrendously – all authors I know say the same – and a study was done on it showing authors around the world were being treated similarly.
It is thoroughly demoralising… and a tragedy for genuine fans/readers cos authors can’t afford to be authors. They can’t afford the time to write cos they’re too busy doing other jobs to pay their bills. Certain books will just never be written.
So what’s a writer to do? Here’s my advice: treat your writing as a hobby and nothing more. Do not let it be the focus of your professional life. You can still treat it seriously, but it should not define you.