Notes from New Sodom

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

Friday, August 27, 2004

"Philosophy With A Hammer"...

... and literature with a full set of fucking power tools.

I was working on Ink last night and I've realised what I need isn't a PC but a bloody custom motors garage-workshop. I need monkey-wrench and car-jack, power-drill and chainsaw, hammer and nails, a ratchet screwdriver and gaffer tape, crowbar and welding torch. I feel like those guys on the MTV show Pimp My Ride, taking some clunky old jalopy totally apart, rebuilding it from scratch. I'm not complaining, mind. I'm not saying this out of some creeping horror that what I've got is junk that "must be fixed". Oh, no. This is just the way I work and really, honestly, I love the demolition derby approach where writing is as much about destruction as creation.

I love old stories, you see - ancient myths, epics and tragedies. You take an Aeschylus play in some translation from the 18th Century and it's clunky as hell, all obsolete "thee"s and "thou"s and "thy"s. Man, the engines of these things are clogged with rust. They chunter and shriek and splutter into life, only to die again just as you pull the handbrake off, gears grinding on some convoluted passage of so-turgid prose. What the fuck does that mean? you think, slamming the steering wheel in frustration. But I fucking love them. Because under all the rust is this timeless classic, only 20,000 careful owners. Fuck, is that a Prometheus 660? They don't make them like that anymore. But so many of these stories seem to be hidden away in the literary museums of Academia. You just don't see an Oresteia cruising down the road, or a whole chapter of Virgil's Eclogues gunning along a freeway through that modern pastoral idyll of biker bars and diners. The hell, I say, the hell with that hoary old "1% inspiration, 99% perspiration" maxim. What about restoration.

So the first part of Ink is basically Euripedes' The Bacchae, pimped big-style. I'm totally rebuilding it from the core story up, replacing all those rusty panels of text with brand new steel and chrome, respraying it in the gauche and gaudy colours of a Harlequin play performed by terrorist mummers to a mad tyrant in a nanite-manufactured dreamtime. Multiple narrative threads woven through it like an onboard stereo system. TV screen on the dashboard, sub-woofers under the seats, flame decals down the side, I tell you this fucker just wants to roar out of the driveway, wheelspins blowing up dust behind it, with the reader laughing like a madman in the driving seat. These old bangers have serious horsepower in them, if you're willing to devote a little TLC.

But there are times when you're up to your arms in grease and oil, and all the finishing touches of the text are still to do - still, you fire up the engine just to test it, and you step back from it, listen to that throaty purr, and there's a part of you that's thinking:

OK. Right. I know that sound. I fucking know that sound, that little noise almost drowned out in the deep growl of a classic engine tuned just right.

Ah, fuck, you think. We've got a fucking screw loose here. Somewhere.

And then you find it and you tighten it.



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