Notes from New Sodom

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

Monday, January 30, 2006

Talking of research and writing about other identities, I started work on the historic thread of FUR last weekend, and damned if I didn't hit paydirt straight off while having to completely relocate the entire thread. See, initially I'd planned on setting it on the East Coast in that period of puritans and pilgrims, all buckled hats and black suits; however... I wasn't sure if that location had an appropriate Native American tribe in the region -- totemistic with proper totem poles and all, dominant over their neighbours, and fierce enough that a five-year-old from another tribe could be orphaned and go feral (also... in area wild enough that the kid could hide for over a decade without being discovered). So I'm basically looking to figure out the where and when of the frontier culture I want to use. I start with the East Coast and gradually move out to Fort Detroit (fur trade, hmm? that might work), but I have this sneaking suspicion that I'm looking for a time and a place that doesn't exist.

Actually, I should have known (and I did sorta suspect it) as soon as Jim C started muttering that, well, weren't totem poles largely a West Coast thing? My advisor in all things historical, military, and military historical, Jim's my first stop for historical authenticity. (His one fault, perhaps, is a tendency to see the historical and the military as entirely inseperable, being a tad too fond of those Confederates-go-back-in-time-and-win-the-War-of-the-Roses kinda books. If I want to know what rifles Turkish troops would have been using in 1929, I ask Jim. I just have to bear in mind that I may have to steer him away from a two-hour conversation about an alternative history scenario in which Attaturk died during the First World War while trying to capture the German gunboats guarding Istanbul, and how that might have impacted the etc., etc..) Anyway, the point is, it's after my brief chat with Jim on Sunday afternoon. I've gone home, fired up the interweb, and found out that he's right. As far as I can see without digging my way through a thousand New Age web-sites aimed at dream-catching, crystal-fondling pseudo-shamans, the Pacific North-West is really the area where totem poles belong.

Bollocks, says I.

But all is not lost. Far from it. As I discard any idea of basing the thread in an East Coast settlement, and begin checking out the tribes who come up when you google "totem" in the vague hope of finding some clue, things suddenly start to click together, and a new picture emerges. The Tsimshian and Tlingit tribes of British Columbia seem to fit the bill nicely... As Wikipedia has it: "The Tsimshian and Tlingit shared a common way of life, and while this allowed for a great deal of trade, it also led to the two peoples ferociously battling for the best lands, the best fishing grounds, for slaves and plunder, or revenge for last time." They build totem poles and better still they build them out of Western Red Cedar. The Western Red Cedar isn't actually a cedar but that don't matter; what matters is that Gilgamesh and Enkidu slay the giant Humbaba in the Cedar Forest of Lebanon and chop down the biggest tree to take home. What matters is that the terrain and culture of that region is perfect for my 18th Century (Tlingit, I'm thinking) Enkidu to lose his clan at an early age, go wild in the wilderness, hiding from the hostile (Tsimshian) tribes around, too young to know that other clans of his tribe could be found outside the Tsimshian-dominated territory. What matters is that killing a tribal chief and cutting down his totem pole is a sacreligious act in the way that Gilgamesh and Enkidu cutting down the sacred cedar is, that I can maybe, by making that sort of connection make sure that the reader doesn't see that episode in the Epic as just yer standard fantastical heroic giant-slaying. What matters is that there's a fucking perfect book available over the interweb which includes excerpts from the early records of Fort Simpson, a trading post perfectly positioned for my story. Hell, there's even journal entries dealing with the fortifications which, fictionalised, will map perfectly to the early discussions of the walls of Uruk in Gilgamesh. And, and, and, and...

Ach, I'm not going to go into any more details. I'm just going to wait for the book to wing its way to me and enjoy getting stuck into Strand 2 as much as I'm enjoying the current process of adapting the source text.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

I Ain't No Other

Hurrah! VELLUM made the Locus Recommended Reading List .

In other news, I've been mulling over the excellent Pam Noles essay, "Shame", and the various responses and thoughts it's kicked off around the blogosphere. There's lots of links collated here by Matt Cheney, along with his own thoughts about writing "other identities". Weirdly there's been another couple of synchronicitous news items and features over the last few days that have focused my attention on this. So, in that strange way where you're considering an idea and everywhere you turn you see "signs", as if Fate is telling you, "Yup, that's the right idea" (do other writers get that, I wonder or is it just latent schizophrenia on my part?), I've decided to make the main character of the near-future thread in FUR black.

I have to confess, I have some cowardly reservations. Given that the book is so much about our ideas of what's "civilised" and what's "primitive" I really don't want the race of the protagonist to be a part of that theme. I don't want to it be seen as some kind of earnest message about racist assumptions about culture, as if it's a radical idea that the middle-class academic who represents civilisation is -- *gasp* -- a black man, because that strikes me as, well, condescending. Add to this the fact that this character is going to be, at the start of the book, something of a voraciously sexual philanderer -- playing with that contemporary realist trope of the lecturer in trouble for shagging his students -- it seems to me there's a risk of this being taken some sort of comment on the racist white obsession with black male sexuality (worse still, Christ knows, it could be taken as an example of that sort of racism). But if there's any statement being made in this choice I want it to be simply that, in this day and age, this character could be black, white, asian, bloody anything.

Unfortunately this may not be how it's read.

I mean, I think that's part of the fear that prevents writers from writing about the "other", about minorities that they themselves are not a part of. On the one hand, you run the risk of tokenism by throwing in a subsidiary character in a stereotypically supportive role (the Magical Negro, the Black Partner Who Dies). In fact even if the character is not stereotypical, isn't there a certain prejudice inherent in minority characters being so often, cast in minor roles? I mean it's OK to have yer hero's best mate black (or gay, say) but the hero themself? We can't hae that! On the other hand, the very nature of this prejudice is such that, simply by making your protagonist a member of a minority you run the risk of what you could, I suppose, call "symbolism", treating that character as some sort of universal representative of their race. As long as it's "unusual" to have your main character from a minority, that "unusual" choice of character will be seen as purposeful; the character will be seen as an "other", maybe even "The Other". I mean, obviously you must be making an Important Point if you make your main character black.

Feh. It doesn't matter a fuck that I'll be making my protagonist American, which is as much an "other" to me as black. It doesn't matter a fuck that I'll be making him an academic, or middle-aged, or a thousand different types of "other" to me. He could be a fifty-year-old, ginger, cigar-smoking Irish-American from Boston, New York or Chicago and not one of those attributes would characterise him as "Other". No, what makes him "Other" is the prejudice based on skin colour. Its a fucking vicious circle. If your protagonist is black you must be talking about "being black". Why? Because a protagonist's "being black" is unusual. Why is it unusual? Because of prejudice. Well then, let's tackle the prejudice, let's break it down, let's make the character black and treat it as essentially unimportant. It doesn't matter that he's black any more or less than any other attribute; it's not a defining characteristic; his "being black" is no Big Deal. But, hey, surely it is a Big Deal. Why? Well, if your protagonist is black you must be talking about "being black".


Being gay is a similarly "othering" attribute to give a character, but you know what? When I write a gay character I'm not writing about the Other. I'm gay and I ain't no Other, thank you very much. So I'm not writing, as if for the edification of some heterosexual reader, about Gays! or Gayness!, Gay! life, Gay! culture, Gay! identity, like there's some great universal experience all us Gays! share in our day-to-day, Gay!-to-Gay! existence. I'm not waving the rainbow flag and standing up as spokesmen for the Gay! cause, for all my Gay! comrades-in-arms. I'm writing about a fukcing character, a gay character, this specific gay character, their life, their culture, their identity, their personal experience. The assumption of generality, of universality -- that in giving a certain attribute to a character the writer is thereby talking about all people in the real world who just happen to share that attribute -- is, to my mind, itself a product of prejudice. You can give a character a moustache and nobody thinks you're bloody well talking about "the moustache-wearing experience". The idea that by making a character black and/or gay you must therefore be talking about "the black and/or gay experience" is, not to put too fine a point on it, utter bollocks.

Fuck that shit.

So in the same way that my near-future Gilgamesh is going to be American, in the same way that he's going to be an academic, an anthropologist, upper-middle-class and a whole bunch of other things I'm not, he's going to be black. Because Pam Noles is right. Because it's a chickenshit cop-out to let the prejudice sustain itself, to surrender to the fear of failure and in doing so help perpetuate a state where its unusual for the main character in an SF novel to be black. Christ knows, I'm not a Sumerian king either. I'm not a Mesopotamian wild man. I'm not a European settler in Eighteenth Century British Columbia. I'm not a Native American of the Tsimshien tribe who grew up feral in the wilderness. I'm not a furry. And I'm not black.

So fuck? That's what research and imagination are for. It's what us writers do, ya know... this "making stuff up" malarkey.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Last Week's Apocalypse

You are Shopping at the End of the World

If you want to understand how the disorder

spread from the Lloyd Center Mall to the rest

of the city of Portland, how the blood in our

Orange Juliuses became a radioactive haze in

the streets, you should start with what

didn't happen.

Nobody got hurt; like reverse neutron bombs, the

blasts only destroyed the architecture. Sure,

people died in the riots, people were

trampled to death, there were gunshot wounds,

lacerations from broken glass, and heart

attacks, but the explosions themselves didn't

produce even one casualty. There was

absolutely no destruction of organic life at

all. Even the moss on Portland's sidewalks,

the planted oak trees and pines, the weeds

and grasses in vacant lots, were spared.

Death was missing and so was smoke. There was no

smoke. Somehow Portland burned without


Last Week's Apocalypse is available for



What Apocalypse are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Locus 2005 Feature

Just noticed that VELLUM made Matt Cheney's Best of 2005 list over at Locus. Blogger seems to be playing funny buggers though so the link below may not appear as a link. Hmmm. Let's see...

Anyhoo. As you were.

Monday, January 23, 2006

To Read

So I just made it back from the sorting office with my haul of books from last year's WFC, sent snail mail with the kind assistance of Gavin Grant and Kelly Link (who spotted me wandering around the dealer's room with a precariously balanced pile of books that would cost an arm, a leg and my firstborn child to ship home by courier service). Ignoring the fact that I should have bloody well owned most of these books a long time ago, how's this for a list?


Leviathan 3, edited by. Forrest Aguirre & Jeff VanderMeer
The Years Best Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy, edited by Bill Congreve & Michelle Marquart
Polyphony 4, edited by Deborah Layne & Jay Lake
All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories, edited by David Moles & Jay Lake
Adventure Vol. 1, edited by Chris Roberson
Album Zutique, edited by Jeff VanderMeer


Horses Blow Up Dog City & Other Stories, Richard Butner
Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang
The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories, Jeffrey Ford
The Course of the Heart, M. John Harrison
Dogs in the Moonlight, Jay Lake
As The Sun Goes Down, Tim Lebbon
Stranger Things Happen, Kelly Link
Foreigners and Other Familiar Faces, Mark Rich
Other Cities, Benjamin Rosenbaum
Bittersweet Creek & Other Stories, Christopher Rowe


R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness That Comes Before
Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land, John Crowley
Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, Cory Doctorow
Blood Follows, Steven Erikson
Mortal Love, Elizabeth Hand
One King, One Soldier, Alexander C. Irvine
TWOC, Graham Joyce
Tainaron, Leena Krohn
Move Under Ground, Nick Mamatas
Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
In the Palace of Repose, Holly Phillips
Here, There & Everywhere, Chris Roberson
A Handbook of American Prayer, Lucius Shepard
Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams, Catherynne M. Valente
The Labyrinth, Catherynne M. Valente
London Revenant, Conrad Williams

And that's not including the ones I managed to cart back in my luggage. Or the books I picked up at WorldCon and still haven't got round to reading. Or the ones I picked up at Eastercon for that matter, which are also still sitting on my To Read shelf (or on te floor under it now, actually). So much to read. How do I choose? Fuck, how do I choose? Actually what am I talking about? Having just finished Jeff VanderMeer's Shriek: An Afterword (and bloody brilliant it is too), and currently working my way through M. John Harrison's Viriconium, which only took over from Anna Tambour's Monterra's Deliciosa & Other Tales because Harrison's a guest at Eastercon (so I thought I should actually read his, um, groundbreaking classic, you know, in case I actually run into der meister), and with Tamar Yellin's Genizah at the House of Shepher, which also had to get put to one side for Ink, also waiting patiently for me to go back to it, and a proof of Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamorra which looks like excellent fun from the first few pages, and... FUCK!!!! How will I ever get time to read all of this?

Thank fuck I'm quitting my job.

I did mention that, didn't I, the resignation thing? Can't remember. Was it more than a minute. Well... anyway... yes, I finally decided to jack in the day job after swithering about it for months. It's not quite the dramatic, grandiose "For I shall be an Author!" declaration it might sound at first, given that I'm a programmer who's been working with VB.Net since the beta and should therefore, if necessary, have the requisite experience and skill-set now to crowbar my way into contract apps development (3 months working, 3 months writing sorta thing) or even (eek) back into a full-time job if, after a couple of years, things don't look too healthy.

Thing is, for now I'm just looking at the various instalments of the advance and payments for foreign rights that will be coming in from VELLUM & INK over the next couple of years and, well, I reckon I can survive for a good wee while. So I had a wee talk with my boss a week or so back, did the nice guy thing, told him that rather than give a month's notice and leave the team high and dry during a six week development push which will be critical to the project, I'd stick around till the end of that development, and then give them a few more weeks on top to get a replacement in and trained, so as to make the handover as smooth as possible. But as of Easter it's adios, amigos. Hasta la vista.

Still, even with the fallback of a return to programming, am I shitting myself about the risk? Is it way too early to make that kind of decision? Isn't it a foolish gamble, dangerous risk, yah de yah, blah de blah, yackety schmackety? Well, sure. I know the realities of writing, that making a full-time career out of it is, for most of us, the sweet-smelling smoky stuff of pipe-dreams.

But fuck it. There comes a time, I think, when you have to just lock & load, wrap yer lucky rubber band around yer wrist, pull tight the straps on the parachute, and take that leap out of the plane into the roaring gulf of sky. And right now seems to be that time for me -- with a good response to VELLUM, with INK coming out this year, with translations and whatnot -- seems like its time to stub the cigarette out, give a thumbs-up to the pilot, and sky-dive into the luckosphere.

Might not work, but in the words of Achilles, in that classic of 80's cinema, ROBOJOX...

Crash and burn, my friend. Crash and burn.

And at least I'll have time to catch up on my reading.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Weird Habits Meme

So La Gringa has tagged me with one of those evil meme things. The rules?

Five weird habits. Post them, then tag five others to do the same.

1. I twiddle my hair constantly, gathering it into locks and twirling them round a finger. Have done since I was a kid (when I played with the hair on top of me head so much I'd be told that I'd make myself bald if I kept doing that). Do so even more now that it's long (and hangs down in front of my face, right there in front of me, just begging to be twirled). Fuck it; I only grew my moustache and goatee to give my fingers more hair to play with.

2. I rail against the Swiss with utter venom and hatred with little need for incitement. There are those who will tell you that this is not serious, that it is merely an amusing affectation or a form of "sacrificial prejudice" (whereby one picks an arbitrary hate-figure that no rational mind could reasonably justify hating, thereby focusing all potential bigotry towards a singular and ultimately silly straw man, ensuring that you are yourself quite aware of just how nonsensical such prejudice is). This is not true. Let's face it. Hoarders of Nazi gold... who didn't give women the vote till 1971... who decided that, when the rest of the world had pegged Hitler for a megalomaniac madman bent on world domination, they'd just, you know, give him the benefit of the doubt... all of them armed... with their cuckoo clocks which are clearly a form of torture... their Tobleron designed to break your teeth... I see through their evil schemes. You know every one of those cuckoo clocks sold to tourists is a time-bomb. Just wait for it, I tell you, wait for X-Day, when they all hit the specified time and EXPLODE all across the world. The Swiss banks lock down. Society collapses and when we're crawling through the rubble, you know, that's when they air-drop the Toblerone... then we'll be crawling through the rubble WITH NO FRONT TEETH. How we gonna stand up to them then, eh? When they come pouring out of their mountain strongholds, everyone of them armed to the teeth and trained to be a supersoldiering KILLING MACHINE by their National Service. You can laugh now, but mark my words, those Alpie goat-fiddlers will have you laughing out of the other side of the mouth when they make their move!

3. Occasionally, when drunk, I will impersonate a monkey. To be fair, it's actually part monkey, part chimp, part bonobo, all of which any right-thinking primatophile should know the bloody difference between. However, once I have entered "monkey mode", any concerns about such taxonomic trivialities are irrelevant. I WANT BANANAS! Or as Kanzi would put it:

Banana banana me me me me banana banana banana me want want want banana!

I will thereupon: clamber on top of chairs, pound table-tops with slack-armed fists and shriek loudly in the absence of bananas; go on stooped, arm-dangling, shuffling expeditions in search of bananas; peer mournfully/quizzically in the windows of shops where embarassed friends are trying to ignore my monkey gesticulations as they purchase tobacco, crisps and other sundry goodies (but not bananas); give my happy-chimp grin (mouth wide, bottom teeth bared, upper teeth covered by top lip) when presented with a banana; reward banana-giving benefactor with a good nit-removal / grooming session to demonstrate my banana-inspired cupboard love.

4. Having no memory to speak of whatsoever (it's all RAM, I say, no ROM -- processing power, you know?), I will generally answer "Was it more than a minute ago?" to any question which begins with the words "Do you remember...?". I cannot remember how this habit came about.

5. I always wash the taps (faucets, for US-ians out there) in the process of washing my hands, on the anal/OCD logic that having just handled aforesaid taps in the turning-on, any germs on my hands will have cunningly leapt from my hands to those taps and will, with Machiavellian malevolance, then simply leap back onto my hands in the turning-off, thus rendering said hand-washing entirely futile.

So there you go... my five weird habits. I'm not gonna tag five others, cause I'm an anti-chain-letter kinda guy but if any of the GSFWC read this and can be bothered, well, put a link in the comments.

Friday, January 20, 2006

They Call Me Mad

So I noticed I was getting a shitload of hits from links on LiveJournal. Looks like the furry community has noticed my crazy scheme for writing Gilgamesh & The Furries (daft pretend title) aka The Wild One (more serious (but a bit cliched) title) aka FUR (current (one-word, just like VELLUM and INK) working title). I don't know if I should be worried about this or pleased about it. Interest is good. But I imagine the first reaction from that quarter may not be entirely positive.

I mean, given the whole "geek hierarchy" Scott Westerfeld linked to in the comments section, you know, undertandably there might well be some shaking of heads over at the furry convention, FC2006, which (weirdly, coincidentally, as I found out from one of those LJ links) is running right now (It's a sign, a sign, I tell you, a propitious synchronicity; the gods want me to write this book). I imagine it could be a bit like an SF reader/writer hearing that some poncy middle-brow contemporary realist is going to set a novel around an SF convention -- yes, it'll be all Spock and Kirk and adults obsessing over Star Wars toys, and, oh, look at all the freaks in silly costumes! Smashing, we'd think. An outsider doing a hatchet job without even knowing it. Yes, I remember the headlines during WorldCon 1995: Sci-Fi Fans Beam Down To Glasgow.

So, I'm probably doubly bonkers, I realise. Most non-furries will think I'm utterly insane to write about furries. Most furries, on the other hand, will expect me to be crassly exploitative, capitalising on the superficial and sensationalist potentials of the scene. Non-furries will raise their eyebrows in incredulous amusement because of their preconceptions. Furries, on the other hand, will furrow their brows in suspicious consternation because of their expectations.

I can't really blame them.

But fuck it. I don't care it. I'll prove them both wrong or explode my mind trying. Because I do honestly think there's a fucking monster of a book in this idea, a book about humanity as flesh and humanity as mind, about death and life, with a healthy helping of sex and drugs and rock'n'roll. And bio-engineered monkey-tail body-modifications! I mean, come on. Monkey tail body modifications -- how cool would that be? You know you want one.

They call me mad, you know, mad!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Glutton For Punishment

I couldn't help it. I tried. God knows, I tried. I said to myself, I'll have a nice wee break. I'll catch up on some reading. Maybe I'll keep my hand in with a short story… a novella at most. But no. Within two days of finishing INK, what do I end up doing but throwing myself straight into the next novel? Fuck R'n'R. Fuck recovering from the mental mindfuck of INK (you thought, VELLUM was fucked-up? Heh. You ain't seen nothing yet). So, man, I already have 18,000 words of the next one done.

Actually, OK, those 18,000 words aren't really mine; they're the public domain translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh which I'm currently rolling my sleeves up to go through line-by-line, phrase-by-phrase, with an aim to cut, fold, splice, dice, graft, torch, weld, distress and generally fuck over until it's entirely my own, being, as I am, an unrepentant myth molestor. So all I really have right now is the bare skeleton of one thread of the text, hacked up into bite-size chunks which will be maniacally -- sorry, lovingly -- tweaked and teased into those, um, whitespace-separated sub-sub-chapter things I do and interwoven with the two other threads of the narrative.

Which is where the fun starts.

Cause, yes, the next novel is, in part, a retelling of the Gilgamesh Epic. Sure sure, I know, it's been done before, and by people like Robert Silverberg no less… so it's kinda old hat and all… and after redoing Inanna and Tamuz in VELLUM it might sound like I'm on some mad quest to rewrite all the ancient myths from the Year Dot onwards... but listen -- no, no, listen -- honestly, I've got this stonking idea as to what to do with it.

Right so.

It's a classic tale and all: boy meets hairy boy; boy loses hairy boy; boy goes mad with grief and goes on quest for magical plant of immortality; boy fails and mopes off home to Uruk. It's timeless, I say, timeless! So it's just begging to be updated, and what I wanna do -- and I know this sounds bugfuck crazy, but bear with me, really, bear with me -- is add two other threads to the story. OK. Fair enough. Not exactly a blinding newsflash for anyone who's read VELLUM. But here's the thing: one of these threads is fairly sensible, transplanting the action to pilgrim America, so the Gilgamesh character would be mapped to one of those uptight buckle-hatted settler types, while the Enkidu character (aforesaid hairy boy, wild man of the woods, and Gilgamesh's close-and-cuddly companion) would be mapped to a Native American. It's the other strand that has the tendency to raise eyebrows when I tell people about it and which gave me the first working title for the project…

Gilgamesh And The Furries.

Cause what I wanna do, see, is set the third thread in the present / near future, with Enkidu -- Gilgamesh's fuzzy fuck-buddy -- being a member of the furry community -- furries, for those of you who don't know, being fans of anthropomorphic animal art, some of whom (though not all) like to dress up as animals, and some of whom (though not all) like to dress up as animals and have sex… or yiff, as they call it (although I understand yiff also applies to petting that ain't really heavy at all). So I'm thinking that the modern-day Gilgamesh character is an academic, an anthropologist, sociologist or something, some kinda intellectual studying totemism in primitive and modern societies, ya know? I mean…

You're not listening anymore, are you?

You're thinking, "Hang on… you're going to rewrite the first known epic of written history and you're going to make it about people who dress up as animals and have sex."

You're thinking, "Are you off yer fucking trolley, mate? Are you a complete fucking mentalist? You're going to rewrite Gilgamesh and make it about FURRIES?!?!?!"

Trust me. Just put your preconceptions to one side, lift that dropped jaw back into place and come with me for a wee stroll through the crazy logic of my mind. I swear to God it makes sense. And I swear to God this could be a fucking stonker of a book if I can pull it off.

I mean, what's Gilgamesh about? Ye've got the Big G, who's King of Uruk, and Enkidu, the wild man of the woods who becomes his, um, close companion (it's one of those David and Jonathan, "closer than brothers", "like husband and wife" relationships where, OK, maybe it's not explicit but it's so goddamn suggestive that… well… fuck it… they're gonna shag like bunnies in my book). Anyhoo, it's the "civilised man" versus the "noble savage". What distinguishes a "man" from a "beast"? Those sorta questions.

Gilgamesh clearly represents the whole neolithic culture of kings, priests, scribes and so on, anthropomorphic and sociomorphic deities. He's part man, part god and in terms of the "civilised" religion of Sumer that god part of him can be understood in fairly modern terms -- spiritual, divine, "higher", immaterial, blah blah blah. Enkidu, on the other hand, is the wild man of the woods. He's paleolithic culture, animistic, totemistic religion. The fur that covers his body, the way he hangs out with the animals at the waterhole -- this is humanity as animal, man as not-so-naked ape, at one with nature. So the European Settler / Native American thing is a no-brainer. "Civilised Man" with aspirations to fleshless eternity meets "Primitive Man" whose whole belief system focuses on animal spirits. Simple.

So thread 2: the journals of aforesaid European settler, detailing his friendship with Native American Enkidu character, interwoven with the original, rewritten epic.

But think about that whole totemism thing. Aren't furries basically identifying themselves with animals in a manner not too unlike the totemism of nomadic tribes. Hell, there's a lot of furries (from the brief (and sometimes scary) interweb research I've been doing) who seem much closer to proper totemism than any of the New Age wind-bags wanking off about dream-catchers, crystals and what-not. I mean, the New Age tossers always have wolves for their spirit guides, or maybe stags. Something cool and powerful which serves the old compensatory power-fantasy nicely. Ya don't hear these people saying that their animal spirit is a squirrel, do ya? Well, cracked as it sounds, a lot of furries do go for animals like that -- squirrels, voles, badgers. "My furry self is a marmet." WTF?! Point is, if ye can look into yerself and see a marmet, yer probably a damn sight closer to totemism than the twat who thinks he's Grey Wolf Bloggs.

Anyhoo my point is just that if you happened to be an anthropologist, looking at the whole animal-as-identification-figure, as-metaphor-for-personality, looking at the clash between modern religion and totemism from the neolithic (as evidenced in, say, the Gilgamesh Epic), up through Native American cultures (as evidenced in, say, the letters of a European Settler who got rather chummy with a totemist dude), well, furry culture is an obvious modern day area of investigation. And if you take an academic, an intellectual, and dump him in at the deep end of this culture, in the more extreme, the "wilder", parts of furry fandom where the "yiffing" ain't just a wee tickle under the chin, then bingo-bongo and hey presto, you've got the "civilised"/"primitive" theme right there and ye've got thread 3: the journals of an academic doing a study on totemism, looking at the Gilgamesh Epic and the journals of European settler man as material for his thesis about the transition to "civilised" religion, and gradually getting dragged into a futuristic world of living fursuits, fetishistic fandom and hedonistic excess.

I mean, what -- if we wanna fuck with this and make it more interesting -- if yer animal self is an ape, or an apeman, homo Habilis or somesuch? Enkidu as a chimp furry. Enkidu as a dope-smoking, hard-drinking, mosh-diving monkey-boy. Meeting this academic character -- this intellectual Gilgamesh analogue -- who would be likely, if asked , to say his furry altar ego was, well, I guess, a human being. And being a monkey-boy, a fuck-like-a-bonobo, fight-like-a-chimp, bona fide, balls out, banana-in-hand monkey-boy, dragging our hero into scenes of sordid abandon.

Ye see where I'm going now?

(Update: I've noticed this post is getting a shitload of hits through LiveJournal links. If yer a furry reading this: don't worry. That initial jaw-dropping "Furries?!" reaction is not the point. Sure, I can't say I don't relish the gopsmacked reaction from folks who generally think that no-one in their right mind would treat furry culture as a serious subject... but this isn't, I assure you, a freaksploitation book I'm talking about. Fuck that shit. Yes, the Enkidu character's going to be a wild one, into all sorts of crazy shit, but he'll be treated as exceptional, not an exemplar of furry culture as entirely composed of scary weirdos. Yeah, I know. I'm an outsider. Yeah, I know. I've seen *that* episode of CSI. Just trust me, OK? I don't do cheap laughs. I do the human condition and all that poncy stuff. Like this:)

But there's more. The whole turning point of Gilgamesh is the death of Enkidu. People die. People are animals, whatever bullshit smokescreen we throw up between "Man" and "Beast" (and, man, it pisses me off, annoys the fuck out of me when some fuckwit fucking asswipe motherfucking brainless eedjit comes out with some line of crap which works on the assumption that there's human beings over here and there's animals over there… makes me wanna smack them upside the head with a rock and jump up and down on them, pissing on their face and shrieking like a goddamn chimp… but ANYWAY…), so the single, central, thematic fucking CRUX of the epic is Gilgamesh's realisation that, just like Enkidu, he is gonna DIE. Two-thirds god don't matter a fuck; it's that one-thirds mortal man that's the killer. We're all animals. We're all monkey-boys when it comes down to it.

So I think we got us a whole heapload of interesting material to explore now. The civilised and the primitive, the human and the beast, the domesticated and the wild. Seems to me like that first ever story has a pretty cool grasp of the human condition at the core of it… with an idea, basically, that humanity, maturity, civilisation is predicated on an awareness of mortality. As Gilgamesh stands on the walls of Uruk at the end, knowing he's going to die, the one thing that comforts him is the legacy of the great walls he's built. He's gonna die. We're all gonna die. It's understanding that, it's the sorrow, the empathy, the insanity, the raging against the dying of the light, and even plain old acceptance that makes us human.

So, anyway. That's the new project. Gilgamesh and the Furries. I'm not gonna go into it any further as I'll just expend all my energies. And, yes, I do know that it sounds seriously cracked. But, come on. Ye can see it, can't ye?

I'm gonna fucking love writing this book.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


It's 05:50 in the morning and I just finished INK, which means I just finished THE BOOK OF ALL HOURS, which means... holy motherfucking mother of fuck, it's... done.

Thank fuck for that. Christ knows, I'm sure my editor(s) will be happy to (finally) see it. Until they do the word count, that is. Eek.

Anyhoo... just thought I'd share.

But hey, I might actually have time to blog again soon.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, btw. I wish I had the time to recount my saturnalian season of excess over the last two weeks, but ye see that gorgeous bloody cover down below? I've gotta put the words behind it. I'm almost there now, but for the final stretch I'm basically closing all the doors, battening down the hatches, not answering the phone, not ranting on the web, not answering emails unless urgent, and so on. My poor bloody editor's been waiting far too long as is.

And the bugger is I've got this huge rant about Indie Fiction just waiting to be finished off, see, and it's all about how the barriers between literary fiction and genre fiction are breaking down because -- no! Stop right now, Duncan. Bad Duncan! Naughty Duncan! No ranting till you finish INK.

So , yes. Happy New Year. I will be back presently but in the meantime, just look at that pretty picture down below. Isn't it a beauty? Isn't it every bit as gorgeous as the cover for VELLUM, something which I never thought possible? Isn't it just?

Happy New Year? Fuck, yeah.

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