Notes from New Sodom

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

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Scotia Goes Nova

T-6 days and counting.

Keith Brooke at Infinity Plus has -- wonderful man that he is -- put up a special Worldcon Issue, guest-edited by Neil Williamson (yes, that self-same Neil Williamson who just the other day was snapped up by the John Jarrold Literary Agency, hurrah!). It's packed with goodies such as: a wee retrospective of the ten years since the last Glasgow Worldcon (which of course has a brief mention of ME); an overview of the Nova Scotia anthology (which has a story in it by ME); an interview with Michael Cobley, Gary Gibson, and ME; extracts from Mike's latest novel, Shadowmasque (also reviewed) and Gary's latest novel, Against Gravity; and an extract, of course, from Vellum... by ME!

Am currently perfecting my irritate-all-and-sundry Happy Dance.

Who's coo-ool? Who's coo-ool?
I'm coo-ool! I'm coo-ool!
Who's great? Who's great?

I've notice those word counter things on other writers' blogs or journals. You know, I'm gonna have to get one for my Insufferability Quotient. Hey, it's OK. I'll be out of my face on absinthe much of the con, so you'll have plenty opportunity to tar and feather me.

T-6 days and counting.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Une Saison en Enfer

T-7 days and counting till Vellum hits the shelves.

It's the calm before the storm. Well, actually, it's the mind-numbingly bleak, grey and miserable before the storm. I'm down here in Kilwinning -- Hellwinning as I like to call it -- looking after my parents' dog Che (Yes, he's named after that Che; just like the first dog we had was named Nye, after Nye Bevan... nil paserand, brothers and sisters, nil paserand) while they're away for the weekend. It could mean peace and quiet and a chance to work like a Trojan on Ink, but sadly it's more likely to mean Guiness and crisps and a chance to settle down and watch DVDs on my Dad's widescreen surround-sound home cinema system. Hurrah! In a house that I can't smoke in. Boo!

Man, I hate Hellwinning. Most of it is made up of 60s / 70s housing estates built as part of the New Town projects that gave Scotland such wonderful places as Cumbernauld and Livingstone. Decentralisation, ye see, some bright spark thought. What we do is we take everybody out of run-down inner city Glasgow and ship them out en masse to a new life in the rural colonies (or as Bladerunner would have it: "a chance to begin again, in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!") Yes, let's hybridise Glasgow's inner city razor gang culture with the small town mentality of Nowheresville, Ayrshire. It'll be swell.

On the road sign as you're entering Kilwinning, vandals once painted Welcome To Hell in red paint, like something straight out of High Plains Drifter. It wasn't me. I did the life-size scarlet demon on the bridge between the Catholic secondary school and the Protestant primary school with the words "I AM YOUR GOD" above it.

Ahhhhh. The happy days of my adolescent sociopathy. How I dreamt of electrified tripwires and chickenwire garottes. It'll be such fun to relive that blissful psychosis over the next few days. You know, I'd love to go back to my old high school for one of those end of term assemblies where they bring back a local-boy-made-good to spiel some shite about the best days of your life and all the great opportunities there are to look forward to -- where there's at least one, maybe two, maybe three, maybe a lot more freaky, meek geekboys in the audience, sitting there thinking "DIE, MOTHERFUCKER, DIE!"

"Go." I'd tell them. "Get the fuck out as soon as possible. I know you want to blow their fucking brains out, rip their heads off and piss down the bloody shreds of their gullet, but all you gotta do is go. Fuck them all; just walk away. You don't have to stay anywhere forever."

I was watching The Haunting the other week, the classic black and white version as opposed to the shitey, schlocky remake. At the end of it, one of the characters turns to the other and says "They should burn this house down and sow the ground with salt".

That's how I feel about Hellwinning.

But hey!

T-7 days and counting till Vellum hits the shelves.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Rendezvous With Ramblings

T-8 days and counting till Vellum hits the shelves.

I had my interview this morning with the Major SF Magazine (which I'm still not naming due to jinxophobia; I'll say they're planning a 2 page feature, and then it'll all go tits-up, and I'll cry, I will, I'm sure of it!). Nice feature writer phoned me up at the pre-arranged time of 10:00 am. I, of course, being an inveterate slackabed had to stumble out of slumber and beg indulgence ("Five more minutes, Mum.") to go fix meself a cup of coffee and a cigarette (coffee and cigarettes, O, Jim Jarmusch, you are so right, go so well together it cannot be put into words) and straighten out my thoughts. Not that my thoughts are ever really straight (You know those gayboi t-shirts that say "I can't even think straight"... that's me. I remember my old tutor at Uni, Professor Philip Hobsbawm (a great man, who I was shocked to hear had died) , I remember him thinking I was completely unsuited to the academic world -- "Perhaps you should have gone to Art School", he said -- for six months until I finally handed in an essay whereupon he told me that my febrile firing-on-all-cylinders approach to conversation was to do with "thinking too fast". Since then I just decided, fuck it, run with it)...

Anyway... so I got to ramble and rant and rave incoherently for a while and can only hope to hell Our Man At The Magazine can actually slice and dice my disjointed meanderings into some semblance of sense. Hell, if I was good at answering direct questions like "What's the novel about" with clarity and concision I probably wouldn't be a writer. It's great this writing malarky, for letting you cut and paste those random acts of explication into something that starts at A and goes to C by way of B. I don't have a stream of consciousness, you know. I have a lake with a wee fisherman in a boat dropping grenades over the sea, holding on for dear life as they go boom and then gathering the dead fishies that float to the surface. So I pity the poor man trying to deal with my conversational gear-shifts and sharp-turns and dead-ends and constant bloody back-tracking. Oh, yes. If you're reading this blog, you'll probably know by know that one of my most oft-used words is anyway.

Anyway... one nice example of how I can kinda sorta keep to the point if you email me a list of questions (and then wait a few weeks for me to edit my own blatherings into linearity (and then do a bit more editing yerself to cut it down to something shorter than War And Peace)) is now online at The Ottakars Website. Here you'll find an interview almost entirely free of tangential explorations of Sumerian mythology and Modernist techniques. Hurrah! And a corker of a review for Vellum, which is, according to Steve Birt...

"... an extraordinary feat that combines a rush of ideas with a style that produces gems of language and scene on every other page..."

And -- ooh! ooh! -- it's also in their rejigged-for-this-very-issue, full colour, glossy in-store newsletter, Outland with my name on the cover and the review and interview taking up the first two pages after the Editorial. Peachy keen!

Me likee Ottakars lots!

T-8 days and counting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Countdown To Combustion

My head is going to explode.

T-9 days and counting till Vellum hits the shelves next Friday.

T-8 days and counting till WorldCon begins next Thursday.

T-7 days and counting till Nova Scotia launches at Borders next Wednesday.

The Wednesday thing is especially cool, as it means the GSFWC mob get to start the con style partying a day early. Naturally, anyone who's arriving early enough should come along, buy the book, and partake of the celebrations with all us notoriously friendly (or is that "drunken") Glaswegians in some nearby local hostelry afterwards. It will also be, I suspect, a bit of a celebration of the fact that Neil Williamson, one of the editors of the aforesaid anthology, just signed to the John Jarrold Literary Agency. Yay, Neil!

Tuesday would normally be a Circle evening but we've got nothing to crit. The inimicable Jim Steel has a novel waiting on my laptop for me to read but everybody is kinda "argh! no time! no time!" right now, so Jim is having to wait fer feckin ages, poor bastard; I may still try and squeeze some reading in before the con so I can pimp it bigtime, of course; and I have to ask him if Baby Boom is online anywhere so I can point to it and say "look! look! brilliant sodding writer!". Anyway, normally no story for the Circle would mean straight to the pub, but I think the rest of the Glasgow mob are all a little bit daunted at the idea of a full 7 days of drink. Pussies.

And then of course, Monday coming I've got a photoshoot for a feature article in a major SF publication (name not given yet for reasons of jinxophobia, but Watch This Space), just to add to the "what the fuck is happening here? are these people insane?" excitement, and that growing tension between overweaning arrogance and paranoid angst I'm getting from all the buzz around the book. I mean, Cheryl Morgan at Emerald City just gave it a superb review. A lot of people in the biz are getting really stoked. The lovely lovely people at Ottakars have given me some totally head-spinning support. The pre-orders and pre-publication sales subscriptions are looking, well, really rather good apparently. I just heard the other day -- though I can't actually confirm this because ye can't search archived stuff on eBay -- that one of the bound proofs went for 273 quid. I can't believe that, but that's what I've been told.

Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

Thing is, I'm sure this is a book ye'll either love or loathe, and the problem with hype is it's bound to generate a backlash. One man's "ambitious" is another man's "pretentious". There's a scene in the documentary "Hearts of Darkness", covering the making of Apocalypse Now, where Francis Ford Copolla is tearing his hair out, in the midst of a crisis of faith, ranting about how "people will hate this! They'll say it's the worst film ever made! They'll say it's pretentious nonsense! Nobody will understand it! WHAT AM I DOING?!?!" I suspect every writer has that self-doubt in the back of his head. And, shit, man, I don't do anything by halves.

Every other day I swing between that insane paranoia and the mad quixotic delusions of grandeur. "How could they NOT understand that this is more than poncy lit-wank? Ten years in the writing! Born from the ashes of my brother's corpse! I did NOT do this just for some lit-crit backslapping over pretty prose. This is important to me, goddamn it! This is important full stop!" Ego and blind faith are requirements if you're doing something (perhaps foolishly) ambitious. You can second-guess, deconstruct, self-critique and listen hard to the readers and the editors, but at the end of the day you have to think you can fucking do it, even as that other part of you is screaming somewhere deep inside "YOU ARE CLEARLY BONKERS".

Anyhoo, I know there'll be those who like Vellum and those who don't, and because it's become so high-profile, I'm gonna have to just buckle in and let some extreme reactions from both camps crash right over me. People have already said it's profound. People have already said it's shallow. If it was coming out as a wee Print On Demand this whole experience might actually be comprehensible in anything other than a strange, distanced way where the only way to keep your sanity intact is to say "this isn't happening to me, this is happening to someone else entirely". Instead, it's coming out from a major publisher at a Worldcon in my home town, with a fucking dizzying level of backing from Macmillan. By the wings of Icarus, we're flying for the sun, motherfuckers. We're after the White Whale. And those windmills over there... fuck it, they might just be giants, after all. Full speed ahead.

T-9 days and counting.

My head is going to explode.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Great Books of the History of SF/F Movements

Just recently we've had movements bursting out all over the place, some serious, some ironic, some flippant, some even a sort of strange combination of all three. The latest is New Edge, a back to basics approach to Sword & Sorcery which seems to have been the straw that broke many people's backs. Personally, I felt the New Edge editorial of Flaming Swords reads more as submission guidelines than anything else, prescriptive only in the sense that it says "our favoured type of writing features X, Y and Z, and this is what we want to see and do"; fair enough. However it did get me thinking about just how many movements there are and how we define them. And it struck me that perhaps the best way to define these movements is simply to point at the definitive texts, the "benchmark" works whose impact changed the shape of the genre forever.

Now usually people think "benchmark" means "groundbreaking", but "Nay!" I say, "Nay!" The truly definitive books of any movement, I submit, are those that come well after the ground has been broken. Those that do not break the ground but rather mark out the boundaries, raise the walls, run the flag up and arm the gun-turrets! It is with these great works, these exemplary acts of formulation that any genre or sub-genre truly comes into its own. To that end, I hereby offer this celebration of the Great Books of the History of SF/F Movements. If you think I've left any particular sub-genre out, by all means, please do let me know…

Classic SF:
Voyage To Infinity: A Rationalist Romance (Scientifiction)

In which the intellectual and somewhat aloof Professor Calculus and the intrepid-but-naive young man of action, Douglas "Doug" McClure, embark on a journey through time and space, encountering Cephalons, Brutii and all manner of concretisations of 19th Century social theory.

Escape Into Space (Juvenile SF)

In which intrepid-but-naive young man of action, Tom Kidd, dreams of escaping his mundane life on Earth for adventures in the stars, and - by a Twist of Fate - is then thrust headlong into a sequence of events which involves him escaping his mundane life on Earth for adventures in the stars.

Equation (Hard aka Mundane SF)

In which Professor Calculus is faced with a fascinating quandary arising from the practical ramifications of an entirely plausible scientific speculation, and solves this problem using all his skills of plausible scientific speculation. The plausible scientific speculation is explicated at great length.

The Goshwau McGuffin (Space Opera)

In which intrepid-but-naïve young man of action, Tom Kidd is thrust - by a Twist of Fate - headlong into a sequence of events which involve a life-or-death dilemma arising from the practical ramifications of a not particularly plausible but really neat scientific speculation… and solves this problem by having an adventure in the stars.

Kurtz's Corps: Space Marines (Military SF)

First of a long running series of books in which intrepid-but-naïve young man of action, Tom Kidd, has adventures in space as a raw recruit under grizzled veteran, Colonel Kurtz, in his corps of Space Marines, encountering hive mind Bugs, Feminazis, and all manner of concretisations of 20th Century right wing paranoia.

Classic Fantasy:

Krud, Barbarian of Yore (S & S aka New Edge)

First of a long running series of books in which grizzled warrior, Krud, wanders the wilds of a pre-feudal world and finds himself thrust headlong into a sequence of events which involve life-or-death dilemmas, encountering the wicked Mages, Amazons, and all manner of concretisations of 20th Century macho neuroses. Krud ends up marrying a princess and being made king.

Jack Hunter, Hero of Aerth (Sword & Planet)

First of a long running series of books in which intrepid-but-grizzled warrior, Jack Hunter, wanders the wilds of a pre-feudal (alien) world and finds himself thrust headlong into a sequence of events which involve life-or-death dilemmas, encountering wicked Mages, Amazons, and all manner of concretisations of 20th Century macho neuroses. Hunter ends up marrying a princess and being made king.

Chronicles of the Object of Power Saga, Volume Umpty Ump (Epic Fantasy)

In which intrepid-but-naive young man of action, Tom, dreams of escaping his mundane life in the village for adventures in the wilds, and - by the Hand of Fate - is then thrust headlong into a sequence of events which involves him escaping his mundane life in the village for adventures in the wilds. Tom ends up having been a prince all along. Tom gets made king.

The Boy Who Would Be King: Book ∞+1 of the Camelot Cycle (Arthurian)

In which intrepid-but-naive young man of action, Arthur, dreams of escaping his mundane life in the village for adventures in the wilds, and - by the Hand of Fate - is then thrust headlong into a sequence of events which involves him escaping his mundane life in the village for adventures in the wilds. Arthur ends up having been a prince all along, and so gets made king. But not a very good one, since he dies. Never mind, someday he will be king again... when the exact same story is retold in the exact same book with a few adjectives changed.

Princess of Shania: My Little Unicorn (High Fantasy)

In which intrepid-but-naive young princess, Shania, dreams of escaping her mundane life in the castle for adventures in the wilds, and - by the Hand of Fate - is then thrust headlong into a sequence of events which involves her escaping her mundane life in the castle for adventures in the wilds. Shania finds a nice boy called Tom who is handsome-yet-sensitive. She also gets to ride a unicorn.

Dragonfuckers of Porn (Science Fantasy)

In which intrepid-but-naive young girl of action, Shania, dreams of escaping her mundane life in the village for adventures in the wilds, and - by the Hand of Fate - is then thrust headlong into a sequence of events which involves her escaping her mundane life in the village for adventures in the wilds. Shania finds a nice boy called Tom who is handsome-yet-sensitive. She also gets to ride a dragon.

The New Wave:

The Wasted Earth (New Wave)

In which Dr Calculus is faced with a post-apocalypse scenario arising from the practical ramifications of an entirely plausible scientific speculation, and wanders the wilds, encountering death, delusion, despair and other such manifestations of 20th Century ennui. The plausible scientific speculation is explicated at great length. As is the ennui.

The 80's On:
Neofile (Cyberpunk)

In which smart-but-dumb young loser, Loser, has a mundane life in the city which is made to look cool and exciting because it's full of neat technology. Loser - by a Twist of Fate - is then thrust headlong into a noir plot involving neat technology. Loser resolves this noir plot by playing with really neat technology.

Nekrofile (Splatterpunk)

As above. Substitute 'violence' for 'technology'.

Albion's Engines (Steampunk)

As above. Insert 'Victorian' before 'technology'.

Singularity Beach (Singularity… um… punk)

As above. Insert 'really really fuckin weird' before 'technology'.

Where Now?

Unfortunately, I think it's still too soon to try and define the current trends and relatively recent movements with such clarity. Perhaps this wariness on my part is simply down to ignorance of the various strains of Alternate History, for example (outside the inimitable 1860: Nukes Of The South, of course), or of the fine distinction between Vampire Fiction, Goth Slash and Horror Chick-Lit in the face of novels like Letwat: Ponce of the Damned which flits so daringly back and forth across those boundaries. Nor am I sure whether Dark Fantasy is best defined by the wonderful Evermore and Urban Fantasy by the equally wonderful Bones Of The Night Museum, or vice versa (there is a part of me quite convinced that 'Dark', 'Urban' and 'Contemporary' exist in a sort of Three Card Monty of signification, whereby we can pick any label but will invariably find we have not picked the correct one). How, for that matter, can we even begin to define the sprawling, gargantuan, gothic phantasies of Gothamsgeist - which must be seen, surely as the archetypal work of New Weird?

And frankly I'll buy five pints for anyone who can point to such an obviously definitive work -- with a clear and simple formulation of its essence -- by which we might similarly concretise our understanding of Slipstream (aka Infernokrusher) as a rigorous, bounded genre.


Egoboo A Go Go

Thought I'd link to the reviews as and when they come in. Well... the good ones, obviously... *ahem*.

Anyhoo, there's a very nice review here at Fantasy Book Spot. Joe Gordon, over at Forbidden Planet International has also been saying some very nice things about it. And there's a Divers Hands review in the July Locus which, being in that strange olde worlde medium of print on paper, I cannot, alas, link to.

More soon.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

I Am Pimp, Hear Me "YO!"

Yo! I say, Yo! Check it out, muthafuckas! You want some story? Man, we got the finest story you ever gonna taste. We got some Scottish story, sweet and tight and --

Right! That's quite enough of that.

Now that the world and its pet oyster seems to be aware of Vellum I thought I should make sure this other little beauty gets some pimping. Also available in just three weeks time at WorldCon will be the spiffing Nova Scotia anthology edited by fellow GSFWC member (that's pronounced "gesifwic", btw, like some strange Old English verb -- þuhte me þaet Ic gesifwic syllicre treow on lyft laedan!), Neil Williamson and Edinburgh-based Writer's Bloc stalwart Andrew J. Wilson.

It's got some Scottish bigwigs with serious lit-cred -- like Edwin Morgan and Ron Butlin -- and some SF/F bigwigs with awards and shit -- like Charles Stross, Ken MacLeod and Jane Yolen. There's the dynamic duo, Phil Raines & Harvey Welles, with a couple of Year's Best appearances under their belts. There's just lots of creamy goodness in there.

Oh... yeah. And it's got a story by me.

So just buy it, OK. If ye can't make it to WorldCon, well then ye can even get it from Amazon. Go on. You know you want to.

What Country Am I?

You're Mexico!

While some people think you're poor and maybe a little corrupt, you
know where it's at, enjoying good food and nice beaches. You like to take things a
little slower than those around you, and you really wish the air were cleaner, but sometimes
compromises must be made. For some reason, Chevrolet keeps trying to sell you Novas
as well, even though they don't really go.

the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

Well, duh. Of course I am.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Oh, You Pretty Thing

It's here!
It's queer!
It's pretty as a deer!

I got the first hot-off-the-press, sexy-as-hell, roaring-red hardback copy of Vellum sitting beside me on my desk right now.

I am, officially, a happy pup.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Duh, Tell Us About The Rabbits, George

Jay Tomio of Fantasy Book Spot recently posted his reaction to a message board thread on his blog. His reaction is, to my mind, perfectly sensible but not nearly vitriolic enough, not as far as my id -- or Jack, as I like to call him -- is concerned. So Jack and I thought we'd supply some more vitriol.

So what was Jay reacting to? Well, I won't quote the full shebang of philistine fuckwittery here -- just go and read Jay's quotes from it --but the basic argument is that Fantasy is intrinsically shallow vacuous pap that neither requires nor deserves the critical engagement of the reader, and that that's a good thing, hurrah! I'm not gonna beat up on the source here by tearing into the argument, because, frankly a) it's not much of an argument, b) some of it is tangential to my point, c) either I'd be downright rude or Jack would, and d) at the end of the day it would feel like kicking a sick puppy. However… there is one statement that I want to pick up on, because I've heard variations of this used widely, by fans and writers alike. I think Jay's Font of All Stoopidity puts it just perfectly in their very first sentence:

I do believe that sometimes, one can read to[sic] much into things

Yeah, that's right. Lemme run that past you again:

I do believe that sometimes, one can read to[sic] much into things


Sound harmless to ya? Well, I don't get it.

I mean, I've always wondered how you define "too much" in those sort of statements. Is it "too much" in the sense that the majority of meaning a reader (for some strange unfathomable reason) thinks they've just gleaned from a novel is not in fact there? You know… you read a book and you think it explores some really interesting questions about the human condition, but, hah! Gotcha, sucker! You've been duped. It doesn't really. Yeah, so it looks like an intricate pattern of mirrorings and parallels and recurrent symbolism, whereby the individual actions and general development of different characters, the metaphoric language used to describe settings, and generally all those things what them literary types kinda like to put in their books -- whereby all of those kinda sorta seem to combine as kinda sorta explications and /or explorations of an abstract concept, offering multiple perspectives, contrasting or contradictory reflections on the general topic, and maybe even some sort of resolution into a basic statement on the core idea which all of these different takes somehow pivot around. Well, newsflash, buddy. It only looks like a pattern. Like the weaving in that Persian rug looks like a pattern, but it's not really. No. Even if it's all symmetrical and intricate, like. With, like, repetitions and reflections and shit. No. No, no, no. The meaning isn't actually there. You're reading too much into it.

Riiiiiiiight. Pardon me for skimming over the philosophical complexities of whether the meaning of a book lies within the book itself or within the mind of the reader, but, gee George, if da pattern is a pattern den is it really a pattern? If da book is all patterny and stuff den does dat mean da book got a meaning, George? Are we gonna have rabbits and raise alfalfa and live off da fatta da land, George? Huh, George, huh?

Or is it that, yes, those patterns which are blindingly obvious if you actually look at the text are there, but, you know, that doesn't mean the author meant to put them in? Or that we should actually be extracting them. Like that subtextual racism you get in some High Fantasy whereby the hordes of Evil largely consist of ugly, brutal savages with coarse features, flat wide noses with flaring nostrils, and dark skin covered in primitive daubings of white war-paint (you know, like in LOTR?), whilst the defenders of Good largely consist of attractive, noble sophisticates with refined features, flowing locks of fine hair, and white skin under their silken tunics and shining armour(you know, like in LOTR?)? I mean, I'm sure the author didn't mean the implicit racism so it doesn't matter, does it? It's only a story, after all. No, that's an unpalatable meaning which one should simply gloss over, sweep under the carpet, in order to properly enjoy the book without it leaving a nasty bad taste in your mouth. I mean, for God's sake man! You don't want to notice a subtext that might actually disturb you, when you could be innocently enjoying the glorious victory of the Aryan Knights over the Nigra Horde. You're reading too much into it.

O-o-o-o-o-o-kay. I mean, I wouldn't want to come over all politico and radical here but FUCK THAT SHIT! You wanna jerk off over some kiddie porn while you're at it? Can I getcha a snuff movie or three. Yes, let's all hold hands and traipse off to the movies together to see Birth of a Nation in the late night, bring-yer-own-bedsheet, audience participation show where you get to boo and hiss every time a n*gger comes on screen and cheer for the KKK! Wanna come to a Skrewdriver gig with me? Hey, don't bother with the lyrics, man. The music rocks. Just don't read too much into it.

Fuckin breeders.

Or is it that the meaning is there -- because after all, every author puts meaning into their books whether they intend to or not, if not in the form of an implicit metatext then at least in the form of an implicit subtext -- but you know, well, you're not really meant to go digging too deep into the book for that meaning. After all, it's only pulp. But see, some readers tend to get a little more meaning than others, right? Maybe they've read the book twice, maybe they've read it slower, maybe they've read it with more concentration, hell, maybe they've just read so many other things that they've developed this uncanny ability to glean meaning from books on more than a surface level without too much brow furrowing and mouthing of polysyllabic words. Anyway, the point is, there's a correct level of intellectual effort to be applied here when it comes to, well, certain kinds of pulp book. And you're not measuring down to it. Damn you, you're putting far too much effort into your reading! You're trying too hard! Read it once rather than twice. And read it fast. Skim some chapters. Have the TV on in the background. Try drinking a few beers beforehand. But for the love of God, don't waste your precious time and energy trying so hard. Don't you see? It's pulp. It's not meant to be read like that. It's not meant to be enjoyed for anything more than the most superficial, readily apparent features. You're reading too much into it.

Ye-e-e-e-e-es. So someone puts a steak in front of me and I'm meant to lick the barbecue sauce off it and chuck the meat away, because once you've got past that surface flavour, well, why would you go to the effort of actually chewing? After all, it's just steak in a barbecue sauce. Or chicken in a barbecue sauce. Or pork in a barbecue sauce. Anyway, it's the barbecue sauce that matters. I mean… WTF? If I want to put more effort into reading a book in the hopes of getting more reward, then who, pray tell, has the right to tell me that I shouldn't be bothering -- not on the basis that the book doesn't contain the meaning I'm looking for, nor on the basis that I'd best not pay attention if the book raises some thorny issues, but because it's pulp and pulp isn't meant to be read in that way. Which is to say, with half a fucking brain, an ounce of critical faculties, and an iota of fucking attention to the meaty goodness fucking sitting there in front of you just begging for you to get yer teeth into it God forbid we actually treat any pulp book with such rigour; we might start to like it, and then start to expect it, and then realise it's not there sometimes, and then stop enjoying all our My Little Unicorn and Dragonfucker of Porn and Battlefield Mid-West and Chronicles of the Objects of Power Saga, Volume Umpty Fucking Ump.

Yeah, cause that would be a real fucking tragedy. See me weep.

Thing is, all of this sorta begs the question, anyway: How much is too much? Is there an upper limit on central themes? A quota on metaphors per chapter? Will something terrible happen to me if I notice too many instances of foreshadowing? If I detect a parallel between the hero's background and the villain's does that mean I should ignore hints of parallels between the hero's and the heroine's? Sorry, mate, I've done all me parallelism detection for this book; don't want to be reading too much into it. Ah, fer fuck's sake, now, we're backed up to here with insights into the human condition. Sorry, no. That doesn't count as satori; it's quite clearly a moment of apotheosis and ye've had yer fill of them. I'm going to have to expung that from me meory with a knitting needle up the nostril now. Oi, you, what's that yer trying to sneak in there? Perspective, mate? Too much bloody perspective! And as for symmetries, they're bloody fearful. Best keep well away from them entirely.

Or is "too much" measured in relative terms rather than absolutes? Like there's a perfect mid-point between too little and too much, a middle-brow approach somewhere between an academic treatise and bibble, bibble, bibble, pllrrrp? Come on, man. How much is too much? Is it more than a university professor, more than a literary critic, more than the average Joe Schmoe? Is it more than Random Cretin # 12 will pick up if he has the book read to him by a dyslexic with a stutter while they're sitting in a bar watching the WWF? Is it more than an eight-year-old child with Attention Deficit Disorder will pick up from their teacher shouting it at them while they run round the classroom screaming "I'm an aeroplane! I'm an aeroplane! Vrooooooom!"? Is it more than a chimp will pick up if you translate the book into "Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Ah! Ah! Ooh! Ooh!" and emphasise just how important a message this is for apekind by writing it on a wall with your faeces? Or is it -- is "too much"-- and here's an idea -- is it just that little bit more than any fucking brain-dead moron who uses that fucking phrase?

Does "reading too much into it" translate as, "getting more meaning from the book than me and therefore showing me up for the imbecile I am"? Cause, baby, that's what I hear under that phrase. You're reading too much into it. You think there's thematic complexity there? Well, you're wrong. I read the book. I don't see no stinkin complexity. You just gone and intellektshulized it, rashunalized it, doggone just plain thought about it too much, when in fact if you was self-righteously, arrogantly pig-ignorant like me, you'd clearly see that thut there book is just pretending to be complex. Nossir, there ain't nuthin in there but smart-ass ideas put together in no sorta real sense whatsoever, and you can join up the dots for me all day long and point to how, no, actually it really does make sense, but, heck, it's clear that you're just reading too much into it, man, it's gotta be that, it couldn't possibly be that you're right, and I JUST DIDN'T FUCKIN GET IT.

Beats me why anyone with a modicum of self-respect would make this argument. I don't mind someone telling me that they think a book is shallow if they can substantiate that argument by pointing out its flaws. But they have to read the book at a certain fucking level to be able to tell me that those flaws are real flaws and not just the blind spot caused in this particular reader by the crayon jammed up their nostril and pressing into their forebrain. If it just comes down to me saying this book is gnarly and interesting for X, Y and Z reasons, and the answer is that I'm "reading too much into it", well then, mes amigos, that's the answer of a mindless dweeb who projects their own intellectual inadequacies onto others, plastering over their own lazy vapidity with a self-serving delusion that nothing is really beyond their understanding, and if it appears to be so why then that must be an illusion. And I say unto them, brothers and sisters:

You are the weakest link. Goodbye.