Notes from New Sodom

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

Friday, April 30, 2010

Escape from Hell!

Oh, man! Check out the eye-scorchingly awesome cover for the French translation of Escape from Hell! (éditions Folio SF) by Daylon and Lasth:

And click through for some great shots of the stages of development.

This is gonna look so fucking good in the flesh. And with Florence Dolisi translating, I know it's going to rock just as much on the inside, in the text. Don't know when it's due yet, but I'll keep you posted.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Those People There

So, this weekend I've been working on an English-language adaptation of Jacques Brel's Ces gens-là, cause it's currently one of my favourite songs, and I think it would work pretty well in English, but all I can find is literal translations that don't scan worth shit. With a bit of tweaking here and there, I think you can get something pretty singable. Now if I can just find a latter-day Alex Harvey...

First, first, there’s the old man
Like a useless ball of dough
Like the nose that fills his face
Like the name he doesn’t know, my friend
So much does he binge
So much does he booze
He fumbles with his thumbs
His fat fingers are no use
He’s pickled in his drink
But he thinks himself a king
He’s drunken every night
On wine fit for the trash
But come the morning mass
He'll look slick
Tired and sick
Swollen as a prick
And Easter candle white
Who blabbers when he talks
With an eye that drifts across

I have to tell you this, my friend
You see those people there
They don’t think, my friend, don’t think
They pray

And then…
One more…
With tangles in his hair
That hasn't seen a comb in years
Of being wicked as his sneers
Even if he’d give his shirt
To a beggar in good cheer
He married a young flirt
A girl about the town
Not this town though
Oh, but there’s more
He makes his little deals
With his little hat
With his little coat
With his little wheels
He'd love to flaunt his flair
But he can’t play that game
How do you play the millionaire
Without a penny to your name?

I have to tell you this, my friend
You see those people there
They don’t live, my friend, don’t live
They don’t play fair

And then…
The rest…
The mum with nothing to report
Or nothing of import
And evening or morn
Beneath the statue of her saint
There in its wooden frame
Is the moustache of her dad
Who fell and broke his head
She watches as her brood
They swallow their cold soup
With slobberings and slurps
With slobberings and slurps

And then there’s the old maid
Who can’t control her shakes
And for her death they wait
Cause the money’s in her name
No-one listens to the tales
Her trembling hands recount

I have to tell you this, my friend
You see those people there
They don’t talk, my friend, don’t talk
They count

And then…
And then…
And then there is Frida
Whose sun of beauty shines
In love as true as mine
Who loves as I love her

And always we'll swear
We’ll have a home one day
With windows everywhere
We'll rip the walls away
And we’ll be happy there
And life will be so fair
And if it’s not ordained
Well maybe still one day
Oh, but the others don’t want this
Because the others don’t want this
They say that it will never be
They say that she's too good for me
They say to cut the throats of cats
They say I’m only good for that
I never killed no cats!
Or once upon a time
Or I forgot the crime
Or they deserved to die
In the end they don’t want this
But sometimes when we meet
And honestly it seems
Her eyes are full of tears
She says that she will leave
She says she’ll follow me
Then for a while
Just for a little while
I believe it and I smile, my friend
Just for a little while
Just for a little while

Because with those people there, my friend
You never go, oh no
You never never go, my friend
You never go, oh no

But it is late, my friend
It’s time for me to go
Go home


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Snark of Our Elders

By way of The Speculative Scotsman, I came across this most enjoyable collection of the 50 best putdowns of one author by another, collected in two parts here and here. Some are just plain fun, like Nabokov on Hemingway: "As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early 'forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it." Some are kinda shooting fish in a barrel, like Bloom on Rowling: "How to read 'Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone'? Why, very quickly, to begin with, and perhaps also to make an end. Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do." Some just make the snarker look like an arse to me, like Shaw on Joyce: "I have read several fragments of 'Ulysses' in its serial form. It is a revolting record of a disgusting phase of civilisation; but it is a truthful one; and I should like to put a cordon around Dublin; round up every male person in it between the ages of 15 and 30; force them to read it; and ask them whether on reflection they could see anything amusing in all that foul mouthed, foul minded derision and obscenity."

One I find particularly interesting for its use of "un-literary" is Bennett on Dickens: "About a year ago, from idle curiosity, I picked up 'The Old Curiosity Shop', and of all the rotten vulgar un-literary writing...! Worse than George Eliot's. If a novelist can't write where is the beggar." Where Bennett's book Literary Taste: How to Form It seems terribly concerned with standards in literature, as the title would suggest, in a quick glance through, I can't see him using the term "literary" anywhere in other than its literal sense -- of or pertaining to the domain of written works. In his snark though, "literary" has become a qualifier signifying propriety in contrast to vulgarity; only the properly written work is truly "literary."

Think about this for a second. Surely it's as strange to talk of "un-literary writing" as it is to talk of "un-culinary cooking" or "un-agricultural farming." The use of the term in this way indicates, I think, a shift in meaning.

It's as if food critics started dismissing badly-cooked food as "un-culinary," dig? Such that properly-cooked food becomes "culinary" in contrast. Only, of course, it's not just about competence versus incompetence, not just about a perfectly-cooked burger versus an inedible duck a l'orange. Because greasy spoon café fare and good old-fashioned pub grub, even soul food from a simple bistro -- these cheap and populist dishes aren't the haute cuisine that really qualifies as "culinary" to the critic. This is the food of fry-cooks rather than master chefs. It's rotten vulgar un-culinary cooking. Unless of course it aspires to satisfy someone applying the culinary aesthetic, to become "culinary soul food" much as a work might be described as "literary SF" or "literary fantasy" -- terms which I increasingly abhor.

I'm really curious to know the roots of this usage, at what point the word becomes a marker of a particular aesthetic, paving the way to the present-day opposition of "literary fiction" and "genre fiction." Is Bennett's use early or had critics been talking of the value of "literary" works over "un-literary" works for a while? My instinct is that it's a Victorian development, a response to the "sensationalist" approaches of Dickens, the popular "sensation novels," Gothic fiction, penny dreadfuls and dime novels. Sadly, I'm nowhere near well-read enough in the criticism of the day to be able to trace the historical emergence of the term in its discriminatory meaning.

Anyway, I can't resist adding my own snark to the linked article. For me, it would have to be on Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust, which would be better titled A Mouthful of Shit, to my mind, given the taste left in my mouth by this technically accomplished but execrable work of self-righteous snipewankery in the name of satire. For what's supposed to be a caustic critique of society it strikes me more as the author hacking crudely at straw men of his own construction, with a scythe of pious spite. Petty agitprop.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Unwinding Hours

I got a promo copy of the CD a wee while back from Andrew at Chemikal Underground, having got to know him via the Ballads of the Book project. This is the new band of Craig and Iain from Aereogramme, the group that did such an awesome job on "If You Love Me You'd Destroy Me," and I'm so fucking awed by the development of their sound that is The Unwinding Hours. So I thought I'd give them a little pimpage, seeing as the first track from the album, "Knut" is up on YouTube. Enjoy.


Monday, April 19, 2010

A Public Information Video

On Batwoman

Over on recently there was a wee article on DC giving Batwoman her own ongoing series (subsequent to her recent role as lead character "Detective Comics".) This is a pretty cool move given that the character is lesbian, so I don't disagree with the positive comments Matt Staggs gathered for the article itself, but I find myself echoing Caitlin R. Kiernan to some extent, in being a bit skeptical. Anyhoo, I didn't get my response back to Matt in anything remotely resembling a timely manner, but he posted it anyway:

To be honest, I think lesbianism is the go-to sexuality for these sort of corporate creative ventures — comics, TV series — when they want to make an effort to be cool with Teh Gayz but not take too much of a risk... [read on]

Coincides, funny enough, with a debate on Mark Charan Newton's blog, where I reiterate my segregation argument. And, come to think of it, the guest post on Charlie's Diary I linked to the other day.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Record Store Day

Today is, in case you didn't know, Record Store Day. So here's my love song to record shops everywhere.

This is from Nowhere Town, of course, the number that introduces Puck in Act I. It should really be done with four voices at least, including or plus Jack, with each verse sung by a different "Regular" at the Vinyl Fix Record Shop (in Nowhere Town, population: zeros). And there's actually additional lyrics written for Puck to sing in harmony with the later verses, to try and build the song a bit more to that big ensemble finish. Sadly, we didn't have the necessary voices or the time to thrash out that sort of layering in the demo version for Beth and the rest of the University of Chicago Theater Group, but Neil and Francis have a grand stab at the basic song.

In terms of the Record Store Day thing... the original lyric of the song, in the bit just before the ensemble finish was "Cause I'm a junkie for the sound, and the record shop / the local Fopp / I'll never stop / the record shop's my man," Fopp being my personally beloved Temple of Music. That wouldn't really make sense to anyone outside of the UK though, who'd be wondering why the fuck Puck was singing about his "local fop." But, yeah, this one goes out my Holy of Holies, Fopp, and to all those wee indie record shops out there -- past, present and future -- supplying us junkies with the purest high in the world.

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's Not Sloth

Honestly. I'm just juggling a good few things at the same time. Again, while yer waiting for normal service to resume, there's a guest post over on Charlie's Diary, though it's about the high school movie, so it's probably nothing new to you.

But, yeah. As Pooh would say...


Thursday, April 08, 2010

New BSC Review Column

So Science Fiction is dead; but the death of Science Fiction is not the end of the story. Rather it’s the beginning of it. Torn apart in the struggles of its factions, deserted by the blood and breath of its most explorative writers, the carcass of that old Genre still sits in the SF Café, a leg here, an arm there, novitiates of this cult or that gnawing on its bones, sucking on what’s left of the marrow. It’s a grisly scene, but if these devotees only looked around them they’d see the ghost that dwells in every corner of the diner.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Not-So Sekrit Projekt

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may remember "Flions and Meep," my Edward Lear-ish poem, written for my cousin Kerry's kid, Jack, with the aim of maybe, hopefully, one day becoming an illustrated children's book. Well, by the wonders of Twitter I came across the awesome talents of Eric Orchard, who has a blog on which you'll find some truly tasty sketches, mainly of work in progress, and a portfolio of full-colour painted illustrations that got me thinking. Go look at the portfolio, where I'm loving, in particular, the top-right painting, "Rat Pirates."

Go on.

So, anyways, I got in touch. And we got to talking. And while it's really way too early to be excited, given that there's no guarantee a publisher will bite on the proposal that's not even put together yet, we both seem to be as fervently keen as the other to combine my words with his images. And since he said he didn't mind me blabbing about it, I couldn't resist pointing at his work and saying, Look! Look! We're going to try and sell "Flions and Meep"! My text, Eric's illustrations, all wrapped-up in one dark, dreamy kid's book.

Which I think would be just plain awesome!

Right now I'm wetting myself at the thought of even just the sketches.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Not a Blog Entry

A blog entry.

What? I told you I was busy.


Too busy to post! And I'm meant to be posting on Charlie's Diary too! And I still have a column for BSC Review to get in! Oh, go read that extract from "The Beast of Buskerville" again and see if it persuades you to buy it. It's just passed the halfway mark.