Notes from New Sodom

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

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Homosexual Agenda

Another one of those news stories in the blogosphere -- brought to my attention, in this case, by John Klima of Electric Velocipede -- has got me thinking. It's a story about how some bugfuck crazy fascist loon of a Senator in Alabama tried to pass a bill banning books by gay writers (or even just containing gay characters) from school libraries throughout the state. An All-American version of Section-28, this is another example of the idea that us evil faggots are out there "promoting homosexuality", preying on the kiddies, trying to twist their little minds and make them perverts, inverts... converts.

Yeah, I remember Section 28. I remember before it was passed, when I was a teenage faggot, growing up in Kill-me-fer-the-love-of-God-NOW (aka Kilwinning, Ayrshire, thirty miles South-West of The-Fuck-Out-Of-There, where I now happily reside). I remember that brainchild of the Iron Lady Thatcher when it was called Clause-28, and how fucking bitterly twisted it was that, you see, I was reading Catch-22 as the bill was going through, and, well, you remember that scene where Yossarian goes back to the raided whorehouse, and the old man's sitting alone? The American soldiers have been and taken all the whores away.

Why? asks Yossarian.

Catch-22, says the old man. All they said was Catch-22.

Did they show you this Catch-22?

They said they didn't have to. The law said they didn't have to.

What law?


See, myself and this girl called Alana (if I recall correctly), we were on this debating society and muttering between ourselves, we thought, hey, we could debate this hot topic. I mean, I'm not gay, oh no, not me, says I, but I know people who are mutter mutter mumble mumble cover tracks and look shifty and embarrassed. So we go to the teacher who's running the society and we suggest it.

Now he was a great guy, Mr Olaf Olaffson (great name too). He was one of the first people to encourage me at writing; took me aside one day to talk about how good he thought one of my compositions was, took the time to give the kind of encouragement that might just have changed my fucking life. I was to later submit that very story to a writing competition judged by one Duncan Lunan of the GSFWC, and though I didn't even come close to winning, I got a letter back from Duncan inviting me to join his evening class in SF Writing. As far as I'm concerned, if it hadn't been for those early words of encouragement I might never have took the plunge, might never have actually thought of writing as a serious option, might have never learned the discipline, the skills of critique I got from the Circle. Hell, I just might never have been bitten by the bug the way I got bit, just from hanging with a bunch of guys all serious about being pro writers rather than just hobbyists.

So my point is, I got a lot of respect for Mr Olaf Olaffsen. I don't blame him for turning round and saying, no, sorry, you can't debate Clause-28. It might be seen as an infringement of Clause-28, you see. Promotion of homosexuality funded by the Local Authority. All it would take after all, would be a few angry parents to put his job at risk. I don’t blame him at all. There's a point to anger but it should be pointed in the right direction. No, that’s just what you get when the bigots make the laws.

So we can't debate Clause-28? says I, a faggot Yossarian in the face of this absurdity.

No. That's the law.

What law?


As Yossarian might say, "That's some clause, that Clause-28."

So hearing about pretty much the same thing happening in Alabama makes my spleen rise. Frankly I don't care that the law got booted out because not enough legislators turned up to vote on it. Christ, that makes it worse. They didn't have the spine, the backbone, the fucking ethics to fucking turn up and say "No fucking way, Jose!" They were happy to just abstain, to stay neutral, to be complacent, complicit fucking cowards. Angry? It makes me fucking furious. I mean, I'm not into the poor-me oppressed minority attitude. I'm not yer rainbow-flag-waving, nipple-clamped, marching gayboy with a whistle in his mouth, tooting along to I Am What I Am. Really, I'm not the most community-minded person when it comes to the whole gay sub-culture thing. When I hear the words "gay village" I picture myself as Patrick McGoohan, running down a beach as a big white super-inflated condom comes bouncing after me.

I am not a disco number; I am a free man!

But now, oh yes, now, brothers and sisters, I can feel the fucking outrage, the fucking Relight-My-Goddamn-Fire burning bright and bolshie in my Big Gay Heart. This makes me want to carry the severed fucking heads of these fascist bastards down the streets, never mind sodding Gay Pride placards.

So Senator Gerald Allen thinks there's a "homosexual agenda". OK, motherfucker, you want a fucking homosexual agenda? I'll give you a fucking homosexual agenda.
I am faggot. Hear me snarl...

We declare ourselves opposed to YOU. Yes, YOU, Gerald Fuckwit Allen. You and everything you stand for. You and everyone who stands with you. You and your whole sad and pathetic excuse for a philosophy. Your time is past. You are old news, old man, and we are the shape of things to come, the shape of things to cum and cum and cum again in the great big circle jerk that is the future. You are the past, old man. Step aside for us. Step aside for the 21st Century Bois.

Because we will not just stand against you, Gerald Fuckwit Allen. We will not just draw “a line in the sand”, batten down the hatches and defend our way of life in craven terror, bigotry and paranoia as you do. No, we will hunt you down and take the fight right to your fucking doorstep. We will unleash the full force of our fury in a hissy fit the like of which you've never seen. Handbags at dawn, Gerald Fuckwit Allen. We challenge you. We call you out, if you’re man enough to face us. Don’t worry. We don’t want to fuck your scrawny ass. We just want to kick it into next year.

But, no, we will not hurt or threaten you if you are too fucking chicken -- though we would dearly like to bash your fucking head in -- but we will humiliate you, working on your own fears, dancing around you in provocative fashion, leering and jeering. We will wave ithyphallic dildos in your face. We will drive you mad as Pentheus. We’ll see you walking through the streets of Alabama in your mother’s dress, your sanity smashed by this world you do not, can not, understand. You are mad already, Gerald Fuckwit Allen. We will simply show you this.

We will raise allies amongst the feminists, the anti-racists, the radicals, the liberals. All the voices of the Ethical Egalitarians will be raised together to drown out your Moral Minority with its vitriol and hate. We will shout over you when you are there and we will whisper when you are not. We will conspire against you at every fucking opportunity. We will plan and plot against you. We will steal the moral high ground and drive your no-good cant and rhetoric of righteousness right out of town.

Then by the power of our tongues we shall corrupt your sons. We shall whisper sweet obscenities in their ears, seduce them to our sins of the flesh. We shall show them that the body is a temple to be worshipped in, that all the joys and sorrows of mortality must be appreciated in the knowledge that we are the flesh, that we are creatures, living things which breathe and bleed and fight and fuck. We’ll turn them gay in all senses of the word.

We shall become prominent in the arts and media, offering role models to the young and impressionable, flouting your fucked-up, neurotic, anal culture of repression. We shall strut across the world stage, spreading our message of freedom and equality and shameless sensuality. We will recover the sexual idyll of our race, restore the heathen hedonism of ancient days.

We will create fierce faggot warrior heroes in our fiction, vital and virile as the gay gods and great queers of the old myths - Apollo and Dionysius, Adonis and Heracles. Yea, even as the oldest of them all, great Gilgamesh, had his little furry fuck-buddy, Enkidu, so shall our characters sashay across the stage, the silver screen, the small screen, through the very subtexts of our books and plays and movies, tongues in each other’s ears, hands down each other’s pants. And your sons will see them and want to be like them.

We shall sing to your breeder boys, give them gender-bending stars to slink across the dance-floor to. We’ll have them dancing to David Bowie, singing along to 'Oh You Pretty Things' in their lip gloss and eye-liner, pouting and mincing with the best of us. And you won’t have time to disown them, Gerald Fuckwit Allen; before you know it, they’ll have disowned you.

We will make a New Sodom of this world, and if your God tries to destroy it, we’ll damn well fight back. We’ll raise every buttfucker now burning in the fires of your Hell, and we will march on Heaven with the Devil at our side, tear down its golden walls. Your Christ is a weak copy of our pansy-prince Tammuz, motherfucker, Tammuz, who the woman wept for in Jerusalem long before you nailed your sacrifice to the cross so you could wash your souls clean in his blood. You have your Shepherd. Well, we have our own, Gerald Fuckwit Allen. We have Matthew Shepard, who died for his own "sins" on a fucking Wyoming hillside, you cunt, beaten to death by the ignorants you condone.

We will slay your Moral Absolutes. These dumb, petty taboos, these cretinous dichotomies of Righteousness and Sin, these mere mimicries of enlightened ethical judgement, have killed our boyfriends, our lovers, our friends, and we'll exact our vengeance on them. We will murder your Divine Decrees and drag their bloody bodies round the gates of Troy ten times. Then we will bring the very walls of your fucking philosophy down. Remember. Achilles was one of us, Gerald Fuckwit Allen.

One of your fuckwit buddies in the Right-Is-Might Brigade once said that Scotland was a dark land ruled by homosexuals. And if we have our way, Gerald Fuckwit Allen, we will prove him right. We’ll take Scotland first, and after Scotland, we’ll take Alabama. We will conquer the known world, as the greatest Muscle Mary of history, Alexander The Great, once did. We will take your citadels of education, put your small town mentalities to the torch. We will burn your preconceptions to the ground and fuck our boyfriends in the ruins. Queer Nation? We don’t think so small, Gerald Fuckwit Allen. All your bases are belong to us, motherfucker. One day soon.

So that’s my “homosexual agenda”. Fuck them... these Nazi fucks better ban my books because if I can be any sort of threat to their precious way of life, I’ll be doing my fucking damnedest. They better fucking burn them along with Gore Vidal and Truman Capote and William Burroughs before I (shock! horror!) undermine their vicious little hate-spawned lies. And while they're at it they can put Federico Garcia Lorca to the torch beside me; I’d be proud to burn beside him. But then, would Gerald Fuckwit Allen even know about a not-terribly-famous gay writer shot by the Spanish Fascists?

After all, he’d have to read a book on the faggot to learn about that.

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Listen To...

Brighter Than Sunshine by Aqualung

Followed by

God Only Knows by The Beach Boys

Trust me.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Who Will Buy... ?

Hey, I've made it!

I'm on eBay!

Friday, April 01, 2005

On The Ups And Downs And On The Up And Up

I rather expected this blog to be a chart of the ups and downs of getting from the sign-on-the-dotted-line contract stage to being a proper bona fide author with yer book launch behind you and looking to the future -- you know the sort of thing, the trials and tribulations of a starting-out writer. But bollocks to that; I'm getting scared now because I'm waiting for the downs.

I mean the reader's report that was given to me at the first stage of editing was pretty complimentary overall -- a few clarifications needed, this could be tightened here, here and here, but generally speaking I didn't crawl away from it drenched in my own blood and tears (as I remember my first experience of getting a story critiqued at the Glasgow Science Fiction Writer's Circle). Instead I came away thinking, Somebody's read this more fucking times than me and they still bloody like it.

Keen, as my dear friend Jack would say.

Then there was the visit down to Pan MacMillan's London office, to meet my editor, Peter Lavery, and Rebecca and Steph and the design chap and the foreign rights people and a few editors from other imprints and the Grand High Poobah and the ship's cat and a bottle of very nice red wine. Some people might not like getting whisked around London for a photoshoot, writers being supposedly the quiet, sensitive type. Me, I used to be the quiet, sensitive type, until I realised at a too fucking early age that life is too fucking short and the phrase "Fuck that shit." became the mantra seared into the lining of the empty hole where my heart used to be. I like the limelight almost as much as the moonlight (on the trees of the wee park round the corner where I walk my dog last thing at night), the sunlight (streaming from a blue sky on the lounging layabouts on the Big Slope of Kelvingrove Park on a hot summer's day), or the streetlight (carving out the West End's sandstone buildings in a fiery chiaroscuro after dark).

So I fly down to London just after Bonfire Night, the plane coming down through fireworks blossoming below like sea anemones glittering with bioluminescence at the bottom of an ocean, and on my last day there it's the flash, flash, flash of a camera pointed at a childishly delighted me.

Peachy keen, as my dear friend Jack would say.

Then came the line-edits, and again it was a relatively painless process of corrections and amendments to try and get the spelling and date format consistently inconsistent. Vellum has American, English, Scottish and Irish characters who all get POV in various sections, and I wanted those POV's to be right, even in little cultural differences like realise/realize, October 19th / 19th October (I pity the poor copy-editer who deals with my work). But the thing is, that was mostly it. A few alterations here and there but none of the wholesale slicing and dicing of my prose that I was expecting. No cherished sentences taken apart and put back together again in a new order. No whimpering to myself, but it was better before, it was, I know it was. I know I've been fucking lucky. As I say, I'm getting scared now in that paranoid way. It has to happen sometime. Something bad has to happen sometime.

But, no. What happens is I get a continued level of involvement with the book as it goes through the cover design process. I swear to God, I know why Jeff VanderMeer is published through Pan MacMillan in the UK -- because Peter Lavery is either a saint or a madman in the way he treats his writers (not to mention his role as current champion of literary SF/Fantasy); I know how well Peter and Pan Mac in general responded when Gary Gibson had some qualms about a proposed cover for his book. At the end of the day, I know how much of a formality it can be when a writer gets a look-see at the proposed cover. But from an initial meeting with the design guy through to the other day when I received the newest .jpg I've been asked for my opinion every step of the way. And I know I've been listened to.

I mean, scroll down a little. Yeah, right now. Just scroll down a little and have a look at the cover for the bound proofs, or click on the linky to the left. I'll wait for you to come back.

Yeah. That's what I thought. Fucking downright gorgeous. When I got my copies through, man, I fucking knew just how lucky I am, how much Pan Mac are getting behind Vellum. I don't want to think about what that means. I can't help thinking about what that means. Fuck it, I'm a fucking writer -- imagination on overdrive. Four months to go before the actual beast gets released into the wilds, and Pan Mac are taking real good care of it. Protein shakes, high fibre diet, constant grooming -- they're making Vellum the most beautiful, powerful, fucking panther of a book. And my baby's growing up fast. As I say, I can't help thinking about what that means. I don't want to think about what that means. Fuck it, I know how good I think the book is; the last thing I need is fucking validation. I'm already far too good at my impersonation of John Lithgow as Dick in Third Rock From The Sun. I have a whole four months in which to become utterly unbearable. Maybe I'm unbearable already. Nah. Fuck, you ain't seen nothing yet.

So I don't want to think about the two page splash in the Pan Mac catalogue. I don't want to think about how those ARC's are going out there and kicking up a storm, it seems. I don't want to think about the Russian publishers Eksmo who just picked up the translation rights yesterday. Or Rick Kleffel's Agony Column, which just gave it a wonderful preview/news feature today. I mean, I shouldn't be backward in coming forward, right? I'm trying to sell my goddamn book, so I'd be an eedjit to play the bashful ingenue, to say, why gosh, that's lovely of you to say, but honestly, it's too much. And worse, I'd be dishonest because when you spend 10-15 years on a book, it goes without saying that you have a certain degree of faith in it. Sort of a fundamentalist zeal degree of faith. But faith scares me. Zealots scare me. And most of all, I really don't want my pride in Vellum to turn into fucking asshole arrogance just waiting to get punctured by critics and readers who might decide that the book doesn't fulfill its bonkersly big ambitions.

So maybe there is a down in all the ups, in the fact that so far, fingers crossed, it's all been pretty much up and up and fucking more up. Too far up and you end up up your own ass. Too far up and it's a long way down. Nec Spe, Nec Metu as one of my favourite fags of history, Caravaggio, had carved on his knife. No Hope, No Fear. But the flipside of that is what I'm living with right now. Blue sky fucking elephant's eye high hopes, and not just mine, it seems.

So I was almost fucking relieved last night, when one of the guys doing up the shop downstairs, converting it into a flat, comes up to tell me I have a leak, a leak which we finally trace to an almost completely inaccessible lead pipe in my crumbling tenement flat (with its dysfunctional toilet cistern and huge cracks in the wall where the previous set of builders down below knocked out a wall and then scarpered sharpish). I'm almost relieved that the only way to get access to the leak looks like being by dragging my washing machine out into the poky kitchen and completely deconstructing the units under and around the sink. I'm almost relieved that these guys downstairs really need the leak fixed so they can put the ceiling up, that I need an emergency plumber and a fucking joiner and my kitchen's going to be fucked for fuck knows how long and it's going to cost me fuckloads. It's the bad luck I'm building up. It's my karmic balance restoring itself. Thank fuck for that.

But no. After running up and down stairs to borrow torches, saws and whatever in my attempt to get at the leak, the guys realise my utter ineptitude as regards all manner of handymanual work and so one of them comes up, takes a single panel off in about twenty seconds and says, There you go, there's your leak. And this morning he fixed it. At virtually cost price. Ripped out the old lead pipe and replaced it completely. The whole fucking length from under my kitchen sink, down through the floorspace (which they have access to right now, there being no ceiling and all) and all the way along to the main water supply. So no more problems with that hundred-year-old pipe, now or ever again. For virtually cost price.

Oh, and he's coming back to fix the cistern in my toilet. The cistern in my toilet hasn't worked for about three years, the valve in it being completely fucked and refusing to do anything even remotely resembling pumping water up and over to flush the toilet. I've kept a bucket in the bath for the last three years and it's almost become a symbol for me, a latter-day symbol of the hermitic, ascetic lifestyle of the stereotyped writer. A deliberate lowering of dignity, a prick to false pride. Ha, you think you're something special, Duncan? Ya still gotta flush the toilet with a bucket. It's a lesson in humility. Or it's just an example of my ability to prevaricate and put off till tomorrow what should have been done three fucking years ago. Have you got your toilet fixed, yet? they ask me, my friends. Look, it's the Goodyear Blimp, I say, pointing out the window. But no more. The guy's coming back to fix it later today and my toilet will flush once again. It feels like the end of an era.

Maybe he won't come back. Maybe the plumber chap's going to rook me for that extra tenner (a whole tenner) and just never come back. Or maybe I'll become an alcoholic so I can flush it all away down my newly functional toilet. But I suspect that neither of those things will happen, and I'm just going to be left with a spanking new pipe and a functional toilet along with the rest of my current good luck. Christ, I even got a letter in this morning from a nice chap called Varun Chadha who wants to turn the shop downstairs-next-door into an organic vegetarian cafe that'll do poetry readings, evening classes and acoustic bands. He came round to the door to talk about it a few weeks back -- nice guy, wanted to sound out the residents before putting in planning permission, make sure nobody had any objections. Fuck, says I, go for it. Sounds fucking superb. A fucking socio-politically conscious, literary venue right outside my flat. How fucking cool is that? I'm just about to email him and express my whole-hearted support, soon as I finish this blog entry.

But, hey. Wait a minute. I got the letter beside me and there's one little thing. Thank Christ Almighty, there's one little spot of cloudy ink on the whole drapery of silver lining...

It's going to be No Smoking.

Thank fuck.