Cheeseburger Gothic

MUP

Posted January 30 into Writing by John Birmingham

So, I have a calendar entry for a phone hook up with Melbourne University Press on Feb 11 to discuss a book I was going to do with them, The City and the Tribe, a sort of Leviathan-like study of tribalism and modernity. I'm not sure that meeting is even going ahead now, since the entire board of MUP and the head publisher, Louise Adler, resigned today.

The Herald has a report here.

There have apparently been disagreements with the University over the direction of the house. Odd, because MUP is one of the most successful publishing houses in the country. Although, allegedly some in the University disparage its output as 'airport trash'. (A pretty grotesque slur in my opinion).

Anyway, I'm not as unsettled by the shenanigans as you'd imagine. I've been staring at the Commitment Matrix on the white board next to my desk and wondering whether I truly have the time to invest in a big prestige non fiction project. I know from Leviathan how much work is involved and I have a couple of other projects that would likely pay a lot more for much less demanding work. Airport novels, by way of coincidence.

I tried hashing this out with Dirk de Jager on Skype last week. I really want to avoid over-committing myself, but on the other hand I do have some financial damage from the last few years to repair and, just as importantly, I feel myself challenged to write this book.

Think I'll put my head down and lean into the other projects for now. Maybe have a look around next week.

13 Responses to ‘MUP’

insomniac puts forth...

Posted January 30
JB needs to be like Vegemite. You need to spread what you have thick and goodly. To spread yourself too thin - well, all you get is tasteless and awful.

Respond to this comment

jason puts forth...

Posted January 31
Airport trash - I think what we choose to read on the plane defines our true love. 10 hours lost in another world or 10 hours cogitating the meaningless of existence (with footnotes). Give me mayhem any day.

Respond to this comment

she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted January 31
I was deeply shocked by the MUP dust up yesterday, and ESPECIALLY by the "airport trash" slur; have these ivory tower snobs actually READ any of the 'ON' books that MUP produced (much less any of their other great books)? Katharine Murphy's On Disruption and David Speers' On Mutiny were brilliantly pithy and accessible treatises on events that are affecting us deeply but we as pleb airport trash readers may not necessarily be able to grasp, not having a conduit into the inner workings of these subjects. I'm also hanging out for the release of Paula Matthewson's On Merit, which should be a forensic tour de force on the LNP's woman problem.

It's sad that you may not end up with a publisher for the City and the Tribe straightaway, and I do understand the dilemma of producing more 'airport trash' to pay the bills vs challenging yourself on a big non fiction piece like this. I can't imagine the slog that went into researching and writing Leviathan, but can i just say that book is a fricking MASTERPIECE? Especially in the sense of a journeyman finishing his apprenticeship and producing his masterwork kind of way? You really earned the right to write airport novels after that one.

I am very much in favour of more 'splosions and 'airport trash', but would also very much like to devour a big non fiction treatise from you as well. Very few do blistering social commentary like you do, and I gave up the Boob to support the City and the Tribe and feel invested in it now (because it's all about me). But as I said when you pulled the pin on ASB, you have to do what works for you, and I'll buy whatever your publish anyway! xx

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted January 31
I still haven't spoken to MUP, but I assume there's no way this idea of mine fits into the academic monograph plan. It's the sort of book you buy in an airport, after all. (But you still feel superior to the Dan Brown readers).
I could send an email this arvo and sell it somewhere else, but I really have been looking at my white board and chewing my lip worrying about whether I had too much on.

she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted January 31
Yeah I can't see it fitting into their new plan of cutting off the revenue stream that would have helped fund the publishing of their monographs, which is very sad. The only good things that can be said about Dan Brown readers is at least they're reading, and that they exist to enable readers like me to feel superior.

Knowing nothing about the publishing process as I do, is it worth putting feelers out to see if you'd be able to sell it at all this year? If no one shows an interest then that's your answer and you can focus on the airport fiction instead of the non fiction. Or is the dilemma that someone will throw a wad of cash at you (in lieu of a truckful of cash backed up to your door) and then you'd be stuck having to deliver? I'm leaning toward the challenge/personal growth project simply because I've flagged 2019 as my year of doing stuff I've been making excuses about forever, but that's my narrative, not yours.

What other works would you have to delay in order to deliver this one? Maybe we can vote a book off the island? :P

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted January 31
"Or is the dilemma that someone will throw a wad of cash at you (in lieu of a truckful of cash backed up to your door) and then you'd be stuck having to deliver?"

This.

she_jedi would have you know...

Posted January 31
Ah. Yep that would do it. I guess you have to decide how badly you want to do it vs your other stuff? :(

Respond to this thread

Rob has opinions thus...

Posted January 31
Academic writing. The stuff only read by undergrads because they have to? I've read some utter trash in my new degree.(mostly it says Marxism good, capitalist hegemony bad)

Give me the clever snark and gold plated hovercrafts any day.


and 'splosions.

Respond to this comment

Dirk is gonna tell you...

Posted January 31
From my ivory tower near the summit of mount Olympus, I have only one question:
Did you burn enough ink today?

Respond to this comment

Brother PorkChop puts forth...

Posted January 31
Shame JB. I would have been keen to read this type of study. I did some courses on sociology and anthropology which I found really enjoyable. Since then (long long long ago) I have often thought of the tribal nature of societies and how football plays a role in continuing the tribalism BUT without the larger scale warfare. Yes, I know all about Chelsea headhunters (a friend of a friend was handed the knife) and lets not forget Millwall Bushwackers or FTroop.
Football can replace tribal warfare as an outlet for that aspect of our nature and I believe that over time this will prove to be true in Africa.
Thoughts?

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted February 1
I'm in two minds Porky. I really did want to write this book. It still fascinates me as a topic. But I also have to some debts to pay off and airport novels will do that.
As to the topic, there's a great book called The Professor in the Cage, which I'll write up here in a week or two. Middle aged English Lit professor takes up cage fighting. It's hella entertaining, but also goes deep on the same issues.

Respond to this thread

HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted February 1
"I tried hashing this out with Dirk de Jager on Skype last week. I really want to avoid over-committing myself, but on the other hand I do have some financial damage from the last few years to repair and, just as importantly, I feel myself challenged to write this book"


I guess the hover must need a new polish or cut or whatever it is you outsource to some plebes etc...

Respond to this comment

thetick would have you know...

Posted February 1
You gotta make your own decisions about how much work to do and stuff, but as an aside, I'd read the FUCK out of a book like that.

I mean, I'm gonna read all the rest of your stuff, but that sounds really interesting.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'MUP'

WW 3.1 sample

Posted October 11 into Writing by John Birmingham

I get a lot of questions about when the next Axis of Time book is due out. Soon, I say, very soon. But that's only because I've been gettng a lot of help from Dirk de Jager and Jason Lambright.

If you're interested in what sort of help, there's a sample scene written by Jason over at his blog, The Interstellar Valley (still one of the greatest blog names ever, I reckon).

Brilon-Wald was not going to be cheap.

Artillery started to fall around him; the Russians were probing. Jochen remained where he was, standing in his turret, binoculars in hand. To catch the prey, he thought, one had to wait like a hunter. Both sides wanted the same thing; for someone’s nerves to break, for the prey to flee and catch the eye. That’s when the real killing began.

Boosfeld spotted movement along the road to the south. He lifted his binoculars slowly while shading the lenses. He felt the old surge of the blood, the taste of iron. There they were- BTR scout cars, coming slowly. They would surely sense they were being watched, he thought. They would also pick up on the lack of civilians in the streets if they had any experience at all.

He had four tanks in his forward position, counting himself. No one fired. This did not surprise him; he had been very specific that he would initiate the ambush. The BTRs came to a halt; their little turrets swiveled back and forth. Jochen controlled his breathing, he willed the scout cars to go away and call in their big brothers for an“easy”march toward Brilon proper.

10 Responses to ‘WW 3.1 sample’

Dirk asserts...

Posted October 11
Can I tell the Burgers that it's gonna a be a good one, Sire? With more splossions and kissy scenes then the Burgers have ever read before? And that it's not a coincidence that El Goog presented a Slate this week?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 11
My lawyers are talking to el Goog.

Respond to this thread

thetick asserts...

Posted October 12
I wants it. I neeeeeds it.

Respond to this comment

Bondiboy66 would have you know...

Posted October 12
You are a tease JB!

Respond to this comment

insomniac mutters...

Posted October 13
Is this getting the beta treatment?

Respond to this comment

Vovchara mutters...

Posted October 15
Spend 2 hours on Amazon looking for something to read... Is something wrong with me when I don't want to read a time travel romance? Because judging by the number of those, there is a huge market for them %)

Or the stories, where avoiding a paradox is a huge part of narrative... how boring :/ Fuck the butterfly.

Or space opera, where the author doesn't give a shit about space.

Respond to this comment

Vovchara would have you know...

Posted October 15
Oh, almost forgot, LitRPG is also a thing. How delightful, to read a fiction about the virtual world... NOT.

And if the pornhub is not enough, there is a shit-ton of harem/reverse harem crap.

Respond to this comment

HAVOCK21 is gonna tell you...

Posted October 15
mmm yeah baby. GUNNA BE FKN EPIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Respond to this comment

HAVOCK21 mumbles...

Posted October 15
BTW...for duration....thats a PRETTY FKN PISS POOR SAMPLE. Contents great...length fkn SUCKS! JB....MORE!

Respond to this comment

NBlob puts forth...

Posted October 28
I look forward to this very much.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'WW 3.1 sample'

Montana

Posted September 11 into Writing by John Birmingham

I've been learning a lot about Montana, mostly how purdy it is.
For those of you who are following the End of the World Project at Patreon, Montana is my Boulder, Colorado. It's where I've pointed my survivors, good and bad, of civilisational collapse. It's almost Tolkienesque in some respects, but populated by cowboys rather than hobbits.

I won't actually set many chapters in Montana until the second book, since my narrators are busy dealing with the end of all things in the first.

Still, I've learned it helps to sort out a few basics well before you start writing, and so its off to Big Sky country for me whenever I get some down time. One of the geographical features I'm really taken with is the existence of 'island ranges'. These are like isolated, singular outbreaks of mountain terrain, hundreds of miles before before you get to the continental divide. They soar up without warning in the middle of oceans of grassland in the state's east. Think Uluru, but made out of sabre-toothed granite, and surrounded by hundreds of milles of flatland.

It makes for a bit of imagined whiplash though, jumping between this and the research I'm doing on How To Collapse Modern Civilisation Without Really Trying.

That turns out to be surprisingly difficult. I'm having to call on all the Horsemen of the Apocalypse to ride to my help.

5 Responses to ‘Montana’

jl puts forth...

Posted September 12
Man, reading your EOTW stuff on Patreon makes me want to move to Montana... before it's too late.

Respond to this comment

Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted September 18
There's one of those long distance hiking trails goes through Montana, the Continental Divide Trail. Could be worth ferreting around CDT website/blogs for tips about the trail , water sources etc.
Just gave me an idea for a short story in this universe.

Respond to this comment

alfettesfalconer reckons...

Posted September 27
Richard Ford's collection of short stories, 'Rock Springs' is set almost entirely in Montana (with the occasional brief excursion into Wyoming). The landscape's not a central feature but the names of a lot of the features and places are memorable - Deer Lodge Prison, Great Falls to name but two

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 27
I've always meant to read that book! Now I have a reason.

Respond to this thread

NBlob mutters...

Posted September 29
The one Planet Birmo (tm) product/service I'm yet to enjoy. *opens wallet, small tattered moth emerges*

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Montana'

Little brother is watching

Posted September 5 into Writing by John Birmingham

I had a co-worker in the word cave today. Thomas was off school with a tummy bug and... well, he can't really expected to keep his head in the books without a stern disciplinarian standing over him with a cat o' nine tails, can he?

So he took up position somewhere behind me, gurgling and farting away all day.

Needless to say, I didn't get much writing done.

I used to be able to write long, complicated features in a rowdy newsroom or magazine bullpit. And this was before headphones were invented. I seem to have lost that ability now.

I realised this after an hour of staring at the screen this morning. The whole day could have gone down the tubes, but I had a couple of editing jobs to get done too. I've cranked out some magazine and journal features recently (after a years long drought that'd finish off most farmers) and they needed checking. I also had a ten thousand word essay for MUP to proof, and a monstrous info dump of research material for World War 3.1 to injest. (Thankyou Mr Lambright, Mr de Jager)

So I jumped into that instead. Found I could even do it while listening to music, which I can't have on while I write. Even if I'm not using dictation software, music distracts me.

By the end of the day I'd cleared a heap of work I'd originally thought might take a whole week.

Might have to feed this kid a few more poison pizzas.

5 Responses to ‘Little brother is watching’

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted September 5
were the farts, as you once described the odours I would endure taking a coach between Brisbane and Melbourne "rancid hungarian goulash farts"?

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted September 5
They were... not good.

Respond to this thread

Leftarc mutters...

Posted September 6
Did the dog resent having someone farting away in the Man Cave?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 6
She stepped up to the competition.

Respond to this thread

Bangar reckons...

Posted September 6
Since losing my sense of smell farts are no longer an issue ... apparently though my SBD Hunter Killers are still effective ... so maybe not an issue for me, everyone else is fair game ;)

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Little brother is watching'

Learning to take a beating

Posted September 4 into Writing by John Birmingham

Jason Lambright has published an interesting (and for me very useful) chat with his old CO, Lt Col Howard Pearce, whom he describes as "a good guy and proven combat veteran". They sat down a little while ago and talked through a few things. Jason's published three of the six part interview so far, with the rest to come at his blog The Interstellar Valley. Worth a read on its own merits, but in my case, with a whole raft of military sci fi novels on the go, it's got some very useful insights, often puncturing the received wisdom or establshed narrative about how professional militaries operate. Below is a short extract from their discussion about an escape and evasion training course:

“When you show up for SERE School it’s a gentlemen’s course, everyone is in the classroom to eventually you get to the point where you’re in the prison camp. It’s one of the few Army schools where you sign a form saying that they are going to hit you. You are going to be struck, you are going to be injured, and you sign a form saying that you understand that.”

“You go through interrogations. Without going to in-depth about it, let me say that they were professional and they explained everything that they did- to include that at the end you sat down for at least an hour with one of your interrogators. He would walk you through your interrogation, what you were thinking…how you reacted, where you started going wrong.”

Howard thought he went wrong when the “hitter” came in. The interrogator disabused him of that notion. “No, no, you went wrong before we called in the hitter…”

As an aside, the Army has people who are specially qualified and trained to beat people in these schools without causing permanent damage. Still, the experience is unpleasant at best.

2 Responses to ‘Learning to take a beating’

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted September 5
of as the great Al Swearengen of Deadwood once said "Pain or damage don’t end the world. Or despair or fucking beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man and give some back."

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted September 6
We can still learn so much from Al.

Respond to this thread

Respond to 'Learning to take a beating'

Pour one out for Peter Corris. And for Cliff

Posted August 31 into Writing by John Birmingham

Hang up that .38 and leave the keys to the Falcon on the kitchen table, Cliff Hardy has closed his last case.
I was genuinely saddened to learn last night that Peter Corris had passed away. I didn't see any media reports or mentions on Twitter, but I was scrolling through Facebook when a post from one of his daughters popped up, announcing his passing.
I was a big fan of Pete's writing, especially the Cliff Hardy private detective novels, which I loved without reserve. I spoke to Peter a couple of times over the years, occasionally for work, and sometimes at writers festivals. He was a lovely bloke, very gentle and funny; no more so than when he once compared himself to Cliff, probably his greatest creation. I remember him doing so when I interviewed him for a review essay in The Australian, a long feature looking at his anthology of boxing stories. Hardy had been an amateur boxer, as well as a soldier, and it stood him in good stead as he moved through Sydney's underworld. Corris told me he'd had one fight as an amateur boxer, a skinny teenager, and he had cried the first time he got punched in the face. He was honest about writing Hardy is the sort of male character he'd wanted to be, but could only ever imagine.


I still remember reading my first Hardy novel, The Dying Trade, and then The Empty Beach which was later turned into a film starring Bryan Brown. It was a bit of it dud film, which was disappointing because Brown was a great pick to play the lead role. The book, However, I recall fondly. More than that. I remember it going off inside my head like a word grenade. Peter Corris made me want to write like that. I was immediately hooked on the narrator's point of view and I eventually bought every Cliff Hardy novel and short story collection that Corris released.
The very last title in the Hardy series, Win, Lose or Draw, sits unread on my bedside table. I picked it up a year ago, and felt a bit ashamed because I hadn't set aside time to read it. I bought the trade paperback at full price, because I liked to support Peter's work, but my eyes are going and I just don't read as much print media as I once did.
I have conflicted feelings about that now. I am desperately grateful that I have one more Cliff Hardy adventure to read, but also incredibly sad knowing that as every page turns I get closer to having to say goodbye.
I will pour one out for Peter Corris tonight. And another one for Cliff, too. I feel like I have lost an old friend. My sympathies to his family and friends.

8 Responses to ‘Pour one out for Peter Corris. And for Cliff’

sibeen mutters...

Posted August 31
John, I saw the news come up on the ABC newsite yesterday afternoon and like you was saddened at the news. I had a look and realised that I haven't read the last two Cliff Hardy novels, so I'll have to go out and rectify that.

A funny thing about the novels and keeping things straight within them. Cliff has a godson, the son of his best mate and a women who used to share a house with Cliff. The godson never actually appears as a character in any of the novels and is only referred to. Funny thing is that his name changed at some stage during the series of books. I was having a reread binge of the series a few years ago and it stuck out like dogs balls. Annoyed me a bit as well, and I have no idea why, as it had absolutely no relevance to the story. Just thought it was lazy editing.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 31
Thats exactly what it was. A copyeditor should have picked that up.

Respond to this thread

Bondiboy66 mutters...

Posted August 31
I too was saddened to read this news recenty. I got a start on the Cliff Hardy books a few years back whilst mooching around the local library, and I found the story that is set around Bondi (can't recall the title), anyway I was hooked and read every title the library owned. He gave meaning to the expression 'hard boiled' for sure! I'm no fan of crime/detective books usually, but these were great. He'll be sorely missed.

Respond to this comment

DarrenBloomfield puts forth...

Posted August 31
Yeah , I came late to these novels (saw them referenced here as a matterof fact) and then binge read one after the other. I too noticed the godson went from being named Cliff to Peter. Still. That happens.

Might even have happened here at the Burger - wasn't the novel that was made into the Bryan Brown film "The Empty Beach" not "The Dying Trade"?

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted August 31
Yes! But in my defence I have a terrible migraine and have self medicated with codeine and red wine. Cliff would approve.

DarrenBloomfield would have you know...

Posted August 31
Indeed he would!

Respond to this thread

Therbs asserts...

Posted August 31
Was sad to hear about Corris. Got into a bit of Cliff whilst going through RGB's Les Norton stuff. Luckily for me I've still about a third of the Cliff Hardy books to nab and consume.

As Darren points out, I think it was in "The Empty Beach" that Brown played Hardy. Also, Robert G Barrett had a bit part as one of the bad guy's goons..

Respond to this comment

happy buddha would have you know...

Posted September 1
I''ll miss Corris, and Cliff. Good writer, great books.
I got into the Cliff Hardy books when I first moved to Sydney. Even did a bit of a tour of the Glebe and Redfern pubs he mentioned.
Cheers to them both.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Pour one out for Peter Corris. And for Cliff'