Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Suck My Cock, Stubborn Stories

Just got some good news in from Mark Newton at Solaris Books, who's accepted a story of mine, "The Prince of End Times", for inclusion in a forthcoming fantasy anthology (a companion piece to their recent SF anthology). It's particularly good news as far as I'm concerned because this story, the illustrated chapbook Paul Jessup is publishing ("The City of Rotted Names"), the story coming out in Kathy Sedia's MOONLIT DOMES anthology ("The Tower of Morning's Bones"), and a fourth I'm working on just now, while they're all stand-alone stories, together form a story-sphere (it's like a story-arc only non-linear, yeah?) that kind of snuggles inside/around the story-arc of Vellum and Ink. So it's good to see these standing up as individual works and it's good to see them finding venues.

As a random fact that might vaguely interest people, it's a story-sphere that I did originally consider weaving into the diptych. In fact, going waaaaay, waaaaay back in the day, when I originally started out on The Book of All Hours, when the volume sequence ran Fall >> Winter >> Spring >> Summer, when the plot-structure was based on a fusion of the Bellerophon myth and the Grail story told with not Parzeval but Fierefiz (his piebald, Moorish half-brother) as the hero (because only with the fusion of light and dark, spirit and flesh could one really hope to bring the Grail out of Chapel Perilous and to humanity-at-large, so to speak), and when the whole thing was going to be written entirely in Finnegans Wake style Joycean wordplay (or linguinage, as I call it), my first attempt at writing the monster resulted in the scenes that now form the narrative threads of these stories. Unfortunately, those scenes didn't work at all as the key points I thought they should be. The whole structure just didn't come together and I never really got past the opening. Not surprisingly, really: the "linguinage" was pretentious and incomprehensible, I was starting about as deep into the Vellum's mythspace as you can get, I was dropping the reader right into an utterly unfamiliar world of unkin and bitmites, fusing fantasy and SF, I was offering them a viewpoint character who was psychotic, and I was having reality break down completely in the opening chapter.

Not a strategy I recommend.

So, I scrapped the whole approach and went off to do a bunch of stand-alone unkin stories with the idea of building up a sort of collection of interlinked tales that would take place against the big backdrop and tell the larger story in the conjunctions and disjunctions between them. That idea bit the dust too because I quickly started coming up with stories and novellas that were way off the map of what I thought was the fictive territory, with such widely varied settings and tones that I couldn't envision this as that sort of Unkin Tales thing at all... until ten years down the line and the pieces all just started to click into place.

Except the pieces didn't all just click into place.

See, when I first thought, hey, look, ye got yer Thomas and Phreedom story in Part 1, Finnan's story in Part 2, and the Big Story Arc that unites them as Vellum, then ye got the [CENSORED] story in Part 3 and the [CENSORED] story in Part 4, and the Big Story Arc that unites them as Ink... and then ye take them all together and ye have the Super-Big Story Arc which is The Book of All Hours... well, those early scenes seemed like shoo-ins for inter-volume prologue/epilogue pieces. See, this one is about the transition between Fall and Winter, this other one about the transition between Winter and Spring, and so on. Perfect.

But they point-blank refused to work there, the little bastards. No, they said. We will not be a part of your little books. We refuse to kowtow to your precious aesthetic sensibilities of coherence and comprehensibility. Man, I tore them apart and put them back together again, rewrote them time and time again, tried to spread them between the two books, nail them down in Ink. Eventually I had to rip them out entirely and listen to their mocking laughter, consoling myself only with the realisation that the second book, now free of their chaotic influence, was finally coming together properly.

But oh, how their laughter has taunted me. Ten years -- longer! -- these little bastards have been eating at my brain, insisting that I write them but refusing to be written. Thrawn, twisted, little cunts, I tell you. But who's laughing now, eh, stories? Who's laughing now? I got ya little bastards in the end, ripped yez all to pieces and rebuilt yez from the ground up, stripped yez down, cleaned out all the garbage, and remade you in the image of fiction; so now ye've got no option but to get out there and work for a living. Hah! Because yer damn well finished.

So, OK, there's one left, the Last of the Mofos. But I've got it pinned down and it's not going anywhere. I know exactly what to do with it, and the bastard isn't wriggling out of reach this time (fingers crossed, tongue bitten -- don't speak too soon, Duncan). So once I get this fourth one into shape -- and hopefully placed (touch wood) -- I shall be free! FREE! You cannot conquer me, stubborn stories. I rule your ass, and you can suck my cock!

Of course, from all the clash of symbols ripped out in the writing of these tales, I now have a huge pile of potent but outrageously pretentious phrases, clauses, sentences and scenes, all stubbornly demanding that I give them shape as poetry.

Fuckers.

5 Comments:

Blogger Jason Erik Lundberg said...

Can't wait.

So are you thinking about assembling this story-sphere into a collection of sorts?

11:10 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Cheers, J.

No concrete plans yet, but when I get a short story collection together these'll definitely be in it.

11:04 am  
Blogger neil williamson said...

Yeah, but it'll have to be a spherical book, won't it?

12:48 am  
Anonymous Martin McCallion said...

"dropping the reader right into an utterly unfamiliar world of unkin and bitmites, fusing fantasy and SF, I was offering them a viewpoint character who was psychotic, and I was having reality break down completely in the opening chapter."

Sounds good to me!

When is Ink due out, by the way?

12:51 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Neil: You could just rip the pages out and hang them at equidistant points from a centrepoint in the room.

Martin: Early next year. February, I think.

10:53 pm  

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