Notes from New Sodom

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

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.


Blogger paul f cockburn said...

Relax. Go with the flow.

There's no way you can back out now.

6:44 pm  
Blogger Jay said...

The work speaks for itself in my opinion - enjoy what will hopefully only be the first novel that lives up to the hype from you.


*waits for 'Ink'*

11:13 am  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...


Bless yez. I am actually having a whale of a time. Tis funny; today, having swung back to the Big Giant Ego end of the spectrum, yesterday's post reads like a sad insecure cry for moral support. But it's more of a weird "standing outside your own head looking in" thing. Sorta "Hey, so that's what insanity looks like! Cool!" I just like poking at my own neuroses, I think.

Wiggly wiggly flashback to an internal conversation many many moons ago (with my equivalent of Jeff's Evil Monkey, I guess -- my Inner Toe-rag, Puck):

Look at the Crawling Chaos! Look! Look!

Yes, that's very squamous, Puck.

Can I play with the Crawling Chaos? Can I?

Well, OK, but play nice. Don't pull its pseudopodae. The Crawling Chaos doesn't like that.


{{Piercing eldritch shriek inside my head.}}


{{Hal goes back to writing, finds himself being poked with stick.}}


Can we keep the Crawling Chaos? Can we? Can we? Can we keep the Crawling Chaos? I'll look after it. I'll take it for crawls, honest, I will, and I'll feed it and everything... and we can call it Jack!

And so my lifelong partnership with madness was born. Hell, if I went with the flow, I'd probably never have written the book in the first place.

12:33 pm  

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