Luna Press Publishing are soon to be publishing A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’ve got an essay in the collection entitled ‘Embodiments of evil and reflections of social change in second-world fantasy’. You can read about it here: https://www.lunapresspublishing.com/single-post/2019/04/14/C4P-A-J-Dalton—Embodiments-of-evil-and-reflections-of-social-change-in-second-world-fantasy
With 2019 fast approaching, a quick review of 2018 is duly due.
There was a whole host of good tv series that I enjoyed, including Killing Eve, Star Trek Discovery, The Americans, Manhunter: Unabomber, The Alienist, Frankenstein Chronicles, and Sabrina, to name but a few. But top prize must to the alternate reality series Counterpart! It’s just a shame that people have to pay an extra subscription through Amazon Prime Stars to access it – as that means its exposure to a large audience isn’t really gonna happen.
We should then ponder the various Marvel series on Netflix – some real turkeys there, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones 2, and The Defenders (mainly because of the Mighty Cheese Fist again) included. Luke Cage 2 was okayish, and there are good reports of Daredevil 3, but I’m not surprised there are rumours of the Marvel franchise leaving Netflix in the near future.
When it comes to the movies of 2018, I really can’t think of many standout efforts really. It’s been a thin year. On balance, I’ll have to give the top prize to Avengers: Infinity War. Looking forward to the next part as well.
Writing-wise, it’s not been a bad year. I wrote an essay for a Luna Press publication entitled ‘Gender Identity and Sexuality in Science Fiction and Fantasy’ and that won the BFS award for non-fiction! Hurrah. Also, I published my PhD with Luna at the start of the year (‘The Sub-genres of British Fantasy Literature’). But I spent most the year writing ‘The Satanic in Science Fiction and Fantasy’ – and I have now finished and submitted that. Luna reckons it might be out as soon as 2019, various things depending.
Yes, the ol’ scribbling has been far more academic of late, cos I’ve been trying to build my CV to get a proper university post teaching Creative Writing. And (breaking news), I’ve finally secured a senior lectureship to start in Jan. I’ll be relocating to Cornwall! At last I will be free of teaching Efl!
But I’ll be doing more creative scribbling come 2019. I’ve been asked to write a short fantasy movie for a Manchester-based film-maker. It looks like my science fiction novel ‘Lifer’ is finally being picked up. And Gollancz are currently pondering deeply over my ‘Detective Beyond’ book. So, that’ll keep me busy.
In more sober news, my cat Cleopatra got a spindle cancer on her leg and had to have an operation. It’s very rare in cats and dogs usually end up with a leg amputated. But the vet removed the growth (not the limb) and reckoned he got the lot. Cleo is now back to her full-on naughty self, dumping a live mouse on my bed on a near nightly basis. I guess that’s good then.
PS ‘The Book of Dragons’ was short-listed by the BFS for best short story of 2018. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, then you’re barmy.
So I’m now announcing that the follow-up to the troll-infested Book of Orm is an actual thing and gonna be released around Dec 2016 or Jan 2017. It’s called the Book of Angels, and contains a good number of the universe’s secrets. I’ve got 7 stories in the collection, and there’s also a tale each from Matt White (doing a follow-up to his tale in the first book), Sammy HK Smith (of Kristell Ink fame), Andrew Coulthard (of Eibonvale Press fame), Caimh McDonnell (famous stand-up comedian) and Mike Bowman (soon to be famous too). Please, please, please, if you haven’t yet done so, go pick up a copy of Orm to aid the cause (and to keep the trolls well supplied with goat-meat)!
So, now all the short-term hype and reactionist fuss has died down, it’s important to take a more considered, longer-term view of The Force Awakens. Does it matter that the movie is a rehash of New Hope, Empire SB and Return OTJ? Does it matter that the character of Maz is just Yoda? Kinda. It means the movie lacks originality and the world-changing impact of the first movies. BUT it means the movie takes on themes about how crimes of the parents are visited on their children, only for those crimes to be repeated by the children, and about how human history often repeats (because we are the same as we ever were – we are not developing or we have fairly essential values). Arguably, then, The Force Awakens has a better sense of its own place within history and time than the other movies – it is more self-aware. And the audience isn’t being patronised really, because the audience is more self-aware these days (look at movies like Dead Pool, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc). More than all of that, The Force Awakens isn’t just a rehash – it makes important changes to the original three movies – including updating gender roles and removing the racist midichlorian bloodline explanation for the power of the Force.
Where does all that leave us in terms of a final judgement then? Sadly, due to its derivative nature, I don’t think The Force Awakens will really stand the test of time (despite its superior understanding of time). Far worse movies have of course successfully stood this test, mainly because they demonstrate true creative originality. That does not mean The Force Awakens is a waste of time though – it may turn out to be a crucial adjustment and forerunner for a movie that does then change the world, a movie that might not have been possible otherwise. Let’s damn well hope so. The Force Awakens, then, is a crucially important ‘holding’ movie. And it’s a lot of fun too, which is important. In and of itself, it’s 7/10 as a movie, but in the larger scarier scheme of things, it’s potentially a 10/10 (which ain’t too shoddy).
Consider the sentence below and decide whether (taken in isolation) it represents ‘good’ or ‘bad’ writing:
He spoke to the rebarbative guy.
Answer: it’s awful. Our question of course has to be what makes it so bad. Well, it’s bad in a whole variety of ways, ways which it is important for any developing writer to appreciate and understand, ways which I shall attempt to describe below.
Last month I wrote an article for my site about how e-publishing doesn’t really work. In response, Susannah J Bell (Writing from Alter Space) 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.