Notes from New Sodom

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

Friday, December 18, 2009

Should Gays Be Ex- SHUT THE FUCK UP!

I'm not even going to link to the BBC "Have Your Say" thing on Uganda. Seriously, that shoddy-ass gutter-press bullshit ain't worthy of anyone's eyeballs. Should blacks be lynched? Should women be raped? Should Jews be gassed? Should BBC employees be forced to watch their loved ones being tortured to death?

For fuck's sake.

Have this instead, a link to a news story about how fucked-up those ex-gay nutjobs are.

And better still, this, an interview with the survivor mentioned in the article:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Notes on Worldscape

So, after an entry by Larry over at OF Blog of the Fallen in which he referenced this discussion of setting and worldbuilding, I got my theoretical hat on again. Setting and worldbuilding are both nebulous, so it's no suprise they get conflated, it seems to me. While the latter term was coined as a descriptor for distinctive approaches of the secondary world fantasy writer in the largely pre-literary stages of (sub)creation (map drawing, etc.), enough of this process also takes place visibly in the text that the term has come to be used -- the gerund working as a noun -- for an epiphenomenal construct that overlaps with setting, not the act of creation but the end result considered as a quality of the text, like voice. If we want to understand the relationship between setting and worldbuilding, we need to break them down.

Note: I'm going to try and not reiterate stuff I've gone through before, so if terms like "mimetic weft," "credibility warp" and "quirk" don't make sense to you, go read this entry. Don't worry, if it uses even more poncy terms like "alethic modality," it does so with lemurs. And it's really quite short for me, honestly.


Staging: At the scene-level there's staging written into the text, a construct of glimpses offered in words and phrases like "in the kitchen," "out on the marsh," "under the bed." In the reader's imagination these shards of place and time woven into the mimetic weft cohere into a sense of location, layout of objects, orientation of characters within that immediate frame -- at night, on a street corner, where a side-street joins a wide thoroughfare.

Dressing: Framing in time and place is seldom enough to generate a sense of "setting" though. Cultural signifiers will also largely be required -- e.g. street-urchins, a horse and cart, a gin-sodden drunk -- to dress the location and render it an effective locale -- e.g. a street-corner in Victorian London. Even dialogue or the voice of the narrative itself may double as dressing -- "Gor, blimey, guvnor!" and all that.

Locale: Staging and dressing together constitute locale and their absence will render it "vague" or "vapid" -- though a writer might, of course, pare away the requisite details deliberately, in the same way they might pare away features distinguishing voice. Locale is immediate. Other locations may be referenced or implied but until they are represented they are unrealised locales.

Locale Layout: Different locales may be laid out as we see a character, for example, driving along a road through the mountains, stopping at a motel, parking in the lot, entering the reception. At the scene-level, locale layout may be continous and fluid or a matter of integrated but discrete locales. As we scale up and encounter the disconnected locales of different scenes, the reader constructs a mileu.

Milieu: Separate locales cohere across the suturing of scenes -- e.g. in one scene the character is on the road; in the next they are booking into the motel. As they do so a fictive milieu is constructed. While references to and implications of off-scene locations are not part of the layout, they effectively pencil in an exterior framing of (as yet?) unrealised locales; this is part of the milieu. Dressing also creates milieu from the offset -- e.g. the Victorian London that steet-corner is in. Milieu is sufficiently abstracted from locale layout, in fact, that dressing and general staging may override specifics -- e.g. the milieus of two contemporary realist novels could be functionally equivalent despite the fact that one locale layout is mapped closely to Liverpool while the other is mapped closely to Glasgow.

Setting: The ambiguity of the term "setting" rests in the fact that it could be applied to locale, locale layout or milieu. A distinction can and should be made between locale layout as figure and milieu as ground.

Mimetic Milieu: The reader could be said to have an experiental milieu, constructed from their life rather than fiction. Where a fictive milieu is sufficiently consistent with this that no credibility warp is introduced, it can be classed as mimetic. In terms of consistency, whether locales and locale layout map to real-world locations is irrelevant, since we are mapping fictive milieu to experiential milieu, not to reality itself; hence the milieu of Thomas Hardy's Wessex is mimetic, despite the non-existence of key locales.

Milieu Recognition: With different specifics of comparable locales elided, a fictive milieu may be recognised as essentially matching the experiential milieu of the reader -- e.g. where the fictive milieu of a novel set in Liverpool resembles the experiential milieu of a reader living in Glasgow. Even where the same reader finds, for example, a South American village milieu foreign rather than familiar, that very unfamiliarity indicates gaps in the reader's experiential milieu into which the fictive staging and dressing can be inserted as an imaginative surrogate for experience -- recognised in the sense of accepted.

Semiotic Milieu: A fictive milieu may be mimetic in part because a writer has drawn directly on their own experiential milieu, but much of the collage of staging and dressing will likely be clipped from sources or created from whole cloth. The writer being also a reader is likely to be working with an experiential milieu partly constructed from imaginative surrogates. As a construct of staging and dressing, even the most mimetic milieu remains a system of signs; it is always already also a semiotic milieu. Where mimesis is breached and the figurative function of the semiotic milieu foregrounded, the result may be a radical schism from reality.

Alterior Realities: With some works, staging situates the narrative beyond the range of any practical experiential milieu. The fictive milieu is expressly ulterior: "existing beyond what is obvious or admitted; intentionally hidden; beyond what is immediate or present; coming in the future." The ulterior milieu is an alterior reality. Even without quirks, credibility warp is introduced here; the narrative is itself a quirk, asserting an incredible status as a narrative of the beyond. Its artifice made blatant by this unequivocal alterity, the semiotic milieu is offered as an overt act of figuration rather than representation.

Pre-Modern Contextual Dewarping: Historically, with the reader's experiential milieu limited, ulterior mileus (alterior realities) could be situated as spatially exterior to the audience's known world (as with the traveller's tale,) or as temporally exterior, beyond the known past (as with folklore & myth.) The foreign staging and dressing could be afforded a mock-recognition as an imaginative extension of the experiential milieu; the dislocation becomes a justification for credibility warp -- the use of quirks that challenge suspension-of-disbelief by contradicting facts and principles of the experiential milieau -- and thereby a mechanism for countering it.

Modern Contextual Dewarping: Such conventions persist, but with the increased scope of post-Enlightenment experiential milieus, such mock-recognition is less likely to be afforded in the face of credibility warp; the unknown world and the unknown past are expected to conform to the same principles. The beyond has therefore been reformulated: sf situates the ulterior milieu in the future, positing it as an evolution of the experiential milieu; alt-history situates the ulterior milieu as temporally parallel to the experiential, positing it as an alternative track of causality; secondary world fantasy situates the ulterior reality in an ordinate reality, entirely out of the plane of the experiential milieau, not "grounded" in the same metaphysical principles.

Interstitial Realities: A special case is found where staging situates the narrative within the spatio-temporal scope of the reader's practical experiential milieu, but beyond the capacities of their experience. The ulterior milieu is situated as a system of alterity dispersed throughout reality, hidden in the interstices between what is known. The reader's willingness to insert fictive staging and dressing into gaps in their experiential milieu is exploited to posit events that contradict facts and principles of the experiential milieau but do so covertly -- e.g. conspiracies operating secretly throughout history.

Worldscape: In these sort of works, the collage of staging and dressing must construct a (distinctly semiotic) milieu on the scale of the world, one characterisable by the significance (extent and meaning) of its difference(s). The more deliberately this type of milieu is fashioned from the foreign, the more the process of composition can be considered a craft in its own right. The term worldscape seems apt for a milieu which has, to some extent, ceased serving simply as ground and come to function as figure in its own right.

Worldblazing: A bottom-up process whereby the writer constructs the worldscape in the process of writing, generating the milieu from staging and dressing improvised as required, with the implications of a conceit being explored through that milieu, the alterity generated often feeding back into the narrative, functioning as trigger and/or key to resolution. Any flavour of quirk -- novum, chimera or errata -- may be exploited in this way.

Worldblocking: A top-down process whereby the writer constructs the worldscape prior to writing as a basic conceptual framework of key facts and principles. The basic topography of the milieu may be designed -- e.g. in a map -- even before the first scene begins locale layout. Dressing may be methodically developed, independent of staging, in a meticulous specification of the alterior reality and its culture. Adherence to theories of how our world and various systems in it work may imbue the worldscape with a sense of authenticity.

Worldbolstering: Where dressing is familiar to the reader, recogniseable from an experiential milieu, this adds to the mimetic weft of a narrative. Exhaustive detailing of locales and mundane actions of narrative agents in those locales may therefore be used to compensate for credibility warp with a sense of verisimilitude.

Worldgilding: Where dressing is foreign to the reader, not recogniseable from an experiential milieu, it may be imbued with a sense of the strange that adds to the overall warp of the narrative. The use of quirks purely to create an aesthetic veneer to the fictive milieu is a complement of worldbolstering and may be used in conjunction with it, in the aim of furthering reader immersion. (c.f. Roberts's "worldbling".)

Worldbumphing: Faux documentation incorporated into the narrative, (as in a song,) or into the text, (as in a quote from a fictive scripture within the fictive milieu,) adds to the mimetic weft where such documentation is in a familiar form, (e.g. song or scripture,) but also serves to elucidate the milieu.

Worldbuilding: The ambiguity in the term "worldbuilding" resides in the fact that it was coined for the craft of creating ordinate realities in the manner of Tolkien's highly methodical "subcreation," largely a matter of blocking, bolstering, gilding and bumphing, but has come to be applied not just to worldscapes generated by worldblazing but to any sufficiently foreign and/or complex fictive milieu, even to milieus that are largely mimetic. While it might well be interesting to examine historical fictions in terms of worldscape and alterity, (do they use worldblocking? if distant enough, do they function as alterior realities?) the term "worldbuilding" is entirely inappropriate where we are simply talking about an effective locale layout.

Intrigue: Worldblazing requires the specifically literary skill of developing milieu from staging and dressing, and where it binds milieu back to narrative action at a basic level it renders it the root of intrigue. Where the narrative is aimed to function mainly as a conceptual exploration of a quirk's implications, we may expect to see less bolstering as the alterior reality is argued via that exploration; in some cases -- some future and ulterior realities, for example -- the fictive milieu may be argued directly from the start point of a recognisable mimetic milieu. Which is to say, the milieu only becomes alterior as we read. Where gilding and bumphing are employed, we may see a deliberate thematic import to these, with the former used to imbue the worldscape with a relevant aesthetic, and the latter used as intratextual commentary.

Immersion: The skills involved in worldblocking, on the other hand, are largely organisational, and the narratives that takes place in a milieu generated by worldblocking are often quite separable from it, structurally speaking, reiterable Romance with a straightforward epic/adventure/mystery/thriller/noir/horror narrative grammar, played against an estranged but interchangeable backdrop; the most central quirk may be functionally no more than a MacGuffin. Where the narrative is aimed to function mainly as an immersive Story, authenticity and verisimilitude may be held more important than even basic literary skills. The substance of the text is only a means to an end and may be so sublimated into the imaginative experience that readers ignore craft deficits irrelevant to their experience. Meanwhile, bolstering, gilding and bumphing that would be considered extraneous by a worldblazing writer may be valued for enriching the immersive experience. Since bolstering and gilding only require the addition of dressing, they also involve little in the way of literary skill; clumsy description will still bolster, while clichéd tropes will still gild. Ultimately, an obdurate insistence on the capacity of the worldscape to function as an imaginative playground and an indifference to the actual craft of writing may lead a writer to coin a term like "the clomping foot of nerdism."


Sunday, December 13, 2009


Still a while till INK comes out in the Czech Republic (February next year) but the cover is so pretty I had to share:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fergus Bannon

Just thought I'd give a bit of pimpage to some-time member of the GSFWC, Fergus Bannon. As Gary Gibson describes him:

"Fergus Bannon, when not performing neurosurgical interventions with the aid of a hacksaw, dowsing rod and amphetamine-soaked surgical mask, has been known to write for publications such as Interzone, Territories, West Coast Magazine and Shipbuilding. He has written one novel, Judgement, and presents it here in a final heroic gesture towards achieving absolute anonymity.

He would also like to assure you that when the zombie apocalypse comes, he'll be much too busy saving himself to watch your back."

I gave him a wee testimonial on his blog too:

"I may never have been a writer if it hadn't been for Fergus Bannon. I don't recall exactly when we first met, back in 199_, when I was a young student at Glasgow Uni, drawn into the seditious sphere of the GSFWC; but I know I was only an innocent lad at the time, newly arrived from the small town of Kilwinning, a wide-eyed naïf in my chicken-bone necklace and green face-paint. (Iraq War protest or one too many viewings of Apocalypse Now? You decide.) Just as one leather-jacketed, slouching renegade by name of Jim Steel took me under his musical wing, to open my ears to the glories of The Stooges, The Ramones, Radio Birdman and suchlike, it was one surgical-gowned, growling reprobate by name of Fergus Bannon who opened up my eyes, searing his scribblings on the inside of my skull -- right at the back, by the medulla oblongata, the snake-brain.

"(When I say "growling," by the way, I mean literally growling, his years as a bona fide seadog -- Norwegian trawler? African gun-runner? Chinese pirate? he never specified -- rendering his voice as rough as a barnacle-crusted boat. And when I say "opened my eyes," I mean literally opened my eyes. He said something about an experimental development of the Ludovico Technique that he needed "control" subjects for. I was young. I didn't realise what I was in for.)"

So, if you want to read about the Experiment that made me the man I am today, go follow that linkee. It's 101% true, I shit you not.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Scruffian Christmas

So I just sent out a wee bonus story, "A Scruffian Christmas," for anyone as has supported the Scruffians Project with donations up till now.First off then, this here's a heads-up to yez all, in case I missed anyone off the email. Give it a sensible time for any aetheric shenanigans as that email might get up to on its way, then if it still ain't through, drop us a line from whatever address yer Paypal is linked to, and I'll say "D'oh!" loudly to myself and fire a copy out to yer. Secondly, though...

Well, see, this story won't be going up for download, I'm afraid, as it's a pressie and all, but I'll be including new donors up till Hogmanay, so if yer donates for the current story, "An Alfabetcha of Scruffian Names," yer gets "A Scruffian Christmas" alongs with it yeah? But since it don't seem very Christmassy to make it all about the money, I figured in the spirit of the season, I'd allow for them as ain't got no dosh what they can afford to donate, and for them as would rather donate that dosh to a worthier cause than some scallywag fabbler like meself. Like a charity for littl'uns, eh? So, I reckons as anyone what gives summat on me Christmas List, gets a copy of "A Scruffian Christmas," yeah? That Christmas List being:

  1. Guinness. Obviously yer has to be in Glasgow for this to work.
  2. Linkage on yer blog / LiveJournal / Twitter / whatever. Don't need to be nothing special -- I ain't bribing yers for a rave review -- just enough to get the word out. Email or comment below to point us at it; and don't forget tell us where to send the story.
  3. Terry's Chocolate Orange. Cause it ain't Christmas without a Terry's Chocolate Orange.
  4. Guinness. What? I likes Guinness.
  5. If yer can draw, why, an home-made virtual Christmas card, on a Scruffians theme, like -- that'd be peachy. We likes pictures, us Scruffians. Especially with us in em. Just stick it up on them interwebs or summat and send us a link.
  6. If yer can write... well, ye've read at least the preview of the Alfabetcha, ain'tcha? So tell us your Scruffian name, and a little bit about yerself. Ye've gotta play the game right, thoughs -- one hundred words 'xactly, else the cracks in the pavement'll open up and the crackodiles as lives in em will get yer!
  7. Guinness. What? I told yers I likes Guinness.
  8. A Paypal donation to yours truly, for the Alfabetcha. Natch.
  9. A donation to a charity as we thinks would be appropriate. Forward me that confirmation email thingy what they sends when yer donates to either Great Ormond Street Hospital or Barnardo's. The confirmation as I got through meself from GOSH didn't have no card details or nothing, so there shouldn't be no worries with privacy. Barnardo's ain't set up for me debit card, the silly sausages, so I can't check; but if there's any details as ye don't want me to see, just delete em.

Anyways, yer gets the idea, right? If yer going for the charity thing -- or ye wants to know where's to send the Chocolate Orange! -- ye'll find me email if yer clicks on the "view profile" link under me mugshot. And if yer skint as a scamp's knees in Summer, remember there's always 5 and 6. So yer can't draw or write for toffee? Well, it's the thought that counts, ain't it?

That's what Christmas is all about!


Friday, December 04, 2009

Upcoming Events

Read Raw Website

In my general busy-bee-ness over the last week or so, I completely forgot to mention the Read Raw Website, where I'm the Featured Author.

There's an interview up there, but there's also a story -- "The Toymaker's Grief" for any as hasn't already read it.

Tis the Season to be Merry

Want to get even with the Salvation Army
for discrimination in Jesus' name?

Click here to find out how!


Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Lucifer Cantos

Remember that limited edition from Papaveria Press, I was talking about a while back?

It's taking shape right now, and man it's looking good.


New BSC Review Column

Down in the ghetto of Genre, in the SF Café that is our literary salon, in this scene of zines and forums, conventions and clubs, there’s a Great Debate that kicks off every so often. The diversity of the clientele maps to a diversity of opinions — convictions, even — and few of these are as contentious as those addressing the differences or lack thereof between science fiction and fantasy...