Cheeseburger Gothic

The Hero's Journey explained by trash talking muppets and Happy Gilmore

Posted June 28, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

I watch this before every writing session.

via i09

7 Responses to ‘The Hero's Journey explained by trash talking muppets and Happy Gilmore’

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted June 28, 2013

That's the best sammary of The Hero’s with a Thousand Faces I have ever seen.

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Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted June 28, 2013

I do like Gloveandboots, 10 Things on the Internet That We Don't Understand. The above item needed more dancing gorilla.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted June 28, 2013

The Hero's Journey = Straight to the poolroom.

Brig Barnesm's link = Don't make eye contact, be noncommital & edge towards the door.

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Darth Greybeard asserts...

Posted June 28, 2013

We can't all be the hero. NBlob is clearly a Guardian of the Threshold (no you idiot, you can't sail to NZ in that) while I'm more of a wise Mentor. Obviously. Anyone else want to put up a hand?

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MickH is gonna tell you...

Posted June 28, 2013

That!

that...was awsome!

just say'n

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CathieT mutters...

Posted June 29, 2013

I think I would have to be the sidekick/comedy relief

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David Bofinger mumbles...

Posted July 1, 2013

Is the monomyth so common in these stories because the monomyth makes the best story? Or is it, as a Greg Egan character suggested, because the monomyth is a strange attractor in human neurophysiology that reduces original stories to cliches? Or is it just because every one of these movies was written by people consciously trying to follow the monomyth? Or is it because if you stare at any story long enough you can make it fit the monomyth by sheer force of will? Who knows.

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John Ringo's zombie solution

Posted June 26, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

A suprisingly eco-focussed strategy from somebody writing what I imagine will be a very splodey zombie book. From his FB page:

"This is the answer on ships and boats: Carrion Beetles"

"They are fast reproducing beetles that only eat dead flesh. Depends on how many you start with but open all the water tight doors to areas that have human remains, dump some in, wait a couple of months and what you have is picked clean skeletons. Oh, and decks covered in beetles. Which can then be vacuumed up and in many cases reused."

They look like the beetles in the first Mummy movie and act much the same except they only eat dead flesh. They would, in fact, be MY answer to mystical zombies. Breed large numbers of carrion beetles and drop them on the zombies from helos. Wait till you've wiped out that patch, vacuum up and reuse.

30 Responses to ‘John Ringo's zombie solution’

insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted June 26, 2013

Aren't you just opening yourself up to a "Jason and the Argonauts" type scenario where you end up fighting skeletons, or will that be a different problem?

Dino not to be confused with has opinions thus...

Posted June 26, 2013

insomniac,

My thoughts precisely.

Only what if the carrion beetles zombified and in turn became living flesh eaters and another vector of zed tranmission.

Bring out the insecticide?

Repellant maybe?

Jacques Stahl ducks in to say...

Posted June 26, 2013

I am showing my age, but Jason and the Argonauts was the very first film I saw 'at the movies', taken there by my mother.

Those FKN skeletons scared the shit out of me - are there any bone eating beetles we could follow up with? Or is this another cane toad type issue?

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Barnesm asserts...

Posted June 26, 2013

THATs BRILLIANT THINKING.

Its own of those ideas when mentioned you wonder why didn't I think of that. It was like when I first heard of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. Its obvious but only after some one else mentioned it.

To recompense the author I now resolve to go and buy/read his books.

Are there many?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted June 26, 2013

I have particular affection for his Looking Glass series, although I feel it rushed to competion.

Rhino ducks in to say...

Posted June 27, 2013

Mr. Barnes ... there are VERY many.

Barnesm puts forth...

Posted June 27, 2013

Best get to it.

Anthony swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 27, 2013

His right wing libertarian politics will annoy the crap out of you.

but you'll enjoy them anyway because his stories are good..

And you can get some free copies of his work as e-books (legally) from Baen Books at

http://www.baenebooks.com/c-1-free-library.aspx?__utma=222178315.312902220.1365482230.1365482230.1371959882.2&__utmb=222178315.2.10.1371959882&__utmc=222178315&__utmx=-&__utmz=222178315.1365482230.1.1.utmcsr=google|utmccn=(organic)|utmcmd=organic|utmctr=(not%20provided)&__utmv=-&__utmk=215665428

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted June 27, 2013

Neat thanks

I think I can tolerate some Rigth Wing libertarian crap since I still enjoy reading Ender's Game even given Orsen Scott Card's IMO batshit crasy stance on homosexuality.

Rhino has opinions thus...

Posted June 28, 2013

If you use a Kindle device or app the free Baen ebooks are available on Amazon.

Barnesm puts forth...

Posted June 28, 2013

and I do thanks, will check it out. Now that I finished all the Revelation Space series.

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Dino not to be confused with reckons...

Posted June 26, 2013

In 'Breaking News' they have discovered some of these beetles in Parlaiment House Canberra!

Run for your lives Politicians!

Run like the wind...

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TeamAmerica ducks in to say...

Posted June 26, 2013

JB-Off-topic, but have you announced a US publication date for Stalin's Hammer: Cairo?

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Matthew F. swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 26, 2013

I thought about this back when I went to see the Dawn of the Dead remake. I was thinking of an improvised version that the survivors in the mall might be able to come up with. It involved getting spoiled meat from the mall butchery (and maybe some cadavers and slops), filling buckets with them and letting the flies at them, and then once the buckets were full of maggots, tipping same over the zeds around the walls. Saves time on waiting for them to rot since the maggots eat away their muscle before they turn into flies themselves and lay more eggs in the surrounding zeds.

But because nothing's supposed to be easy, I then realised the next dramatic beat would be flies carrying the zombie taint swarming back into the mall and spreading the infection in all sorts of exciting new ways.

I can also think of some lovely macabre ways for zombie humans and zombified maggots to achieve symbiosis and become something bigger than their parts. So to speak.

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Rhino mutters...

Posted June 27, 2013

JB ... you are correct ... it is a very, very 'splodey book ... not to mention slashing and smashing as well.

Good take on the whole Z thing and I'm looking forward to the next one.

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Barnesm asserts...

Posted June 27, 2013

Is the book you refer to JB 'Under a Graveyard Sky'

Rhino puts forth...

Posted June 28, 2013

Mr. Barnes ... that is correct. Ringo has finished the 2nd and I believe that he is almost done (or recently completed) the 3rd as well. He says that is all that he is going to do at this point in that universe. But, who knows.

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she_jedi mumbles...

Posted June 27, 2013

I find this premise intriguing, but I have some questions/concerns about the feasibility of the beetle solution. At which point does a zombie stop being a zombie? Is the zombie infection restricted only to tissue, or does it infect the skeletal system as well? Once all the tissue has been consumed, including the braaaains, is just a non animate skeleton left, or does the skeleton remain a zombie as Insomniac ponders? And if this is the case, will destroying the skull kill the skeleton zombie, the way we need to destroy the brains of a flesh zombie?

We know that being bitten by a zombie will in turn zombify you, but will the consumption of zombified flesh do the same? Would we just be transferring the zombie state from the zombies to the beetles? What level of brain activity or sentience is required in order to be turned into a zombie? Would the beetles have sufficient braaaains to become zombies themselves, or is it just humans and mammals at risk? And if you zombify millions of beetles, how on earth would you kill them?

Plus, how fast do these things consume flesh? Ideally you'd like a zombie skeleton picked clean in a matter of hours, or at the very least have the beetles focus on destroying the braaaaains first in order to kill the zombie before consuming the rest of the body.

Personally I'd like some controlled tests done before I deployed this solution in the field.

Dick is gonna tell you...

Posted June 27, 2013

I would have thought, given the beetles would eat all the cartilage, tendons etc, that the remaining bones would have a hard time remaining in a useful state to do anything much.

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Lulu swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 27, 2013
she_jedi makes some excellent points above. Also, can we guarantee that the carrion beetles won't evolve rapidly and develop a taste for living flesh? Because then we'd be up sh!t street.

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted June 27, 2013

Ooh I hadn't thought of that one Lulu. Great point!

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted June 27, 2013

Evolution doesn't work that rapidly. Millions of years of evolution programmed and engineered those beetles to eat dead flesh. Can't even speculate on the thousands of years needed for even a minor change.

Unless some mad scientist type deliberately meddles with their genes.

Lulu asserts...

Posted June 27, 2013

I think if we can accept the existence of zombies scientically then we can accept rapid evolution - courtesy of a mad scientist, if you want.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted June 28, 2013

For obvious reasons I insist on mad scientist involvement to explain rapid genetically determined behavioral and biochemical change.

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Matthew F. mutters...

Posted June 27, 2013

This came up in Mimic, if anyone remembers that film. The monsters start out as gene-tweaked roaches sent into the sewers to eat other roaches who are spreading an infection. It's not too much later before bad shit starts happening. "But it's only been a couple of years!" says one scientist. "Don't think years, think generations," points out another. Although they had the aforementioned mad-scientist help, of course.

she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted June 27, 2013

I took my best friend to see mimic, not realizing that the monsters were 6 foot tall flying cockroaches. She has an extreme horror of cockroaches. I've not been allowed to pick films for us to watch ever since.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted June 28, 2013

What a shame. You might have persuaded her to see A Clockwork Orange. Now that will never happen.

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Jayanthi's Atomic Cat swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 27, 2013

For all you hard-core mathematics people out there, you gotta love this...a few years old now: When Zombies Attack! Mathematical modelling of an outbreak of Zombie infection. In a proper Infectious Diseases journal, no less. Maybe it's a bit like the CDC using the Zombie Apocalypse to promote the preparation of disaster kits?

http://mysite.science.uottawa.ca/rsmith43/Zombies.pdf

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 28, 2013

I like that the best strategy was modelled to be immediate extermination. No containment, not treatement, just DEATH.

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In Conversation with Raymond E Feist

Posted June 24, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

Just did back to back gigs with Raymond Feist at the city library on Brisbane Square. The Writers Festival, who ran the show, sent me a copy of his latest, Magician's End to read but I decided not to go there because it's the last in something like a 29 book cycle that I've always meant to read anyway and it'd be a shame to start at the end. Also, of course, you want to avoid spoilers.

Was sort of wondering how we'd go backing up for two shows right after each other, but there was nothing for it after the first one sold out so quickly. I can see why. Dude knows how to put on a performance. Shrugging off any jet lag he was funny, focussed and incredibly engaged with the audience even though he had to repeat himself on at least half a dozen topics.

There was one advantage to the double header; it let me follow up discussions we had in the earlier session with longer, more involved conversations in the second. I was particularly taken with Feist's explanation of how his stories are investigations of character first and foremost. He started the Riftwar Saga with a lot of the series backstory already gamed out – literally, since it was set in a world developed for a table top RPG. He tended to know where the stories would end up, but not necessarily how they'd get there. What fascinated him as a writer wasn't the clockwork mechanics of moving story parts, but the motivations and conflicts of his actors.

Gave me some things to think about. If you get a chance to catch him on tour, do so.

QWC recorded the event and I'll link to it when it's available.

23 Responses to ‘In Conversation with Raymond E Feist’

Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted June 24, 2013

Really looking forward to the video. Magician works well as a standalone. The saga does go on through a large number of books, but it's the first one that has always stuck in my mind. He did a revised version of the book in the early 90's where he added a lot of stuff he cut out of the first published version. I was surprised to find out that it was published as two separate books in some markets.

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Legless ducks in to say...

Posted June 24, 2013

Magician. Just read it. It's a magnificent book. Then I'd highly reccomend the Empire trilogy by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts. - it's the companion series to Magician and an absolutley belting read. As a JB bonus, the story is told from the heroines perspective. I normally hate collaborative writing as it's almost always wank (look at the bollocks put out by Tom Clancy) but this really works.

After that you can get into the rest of the sage but, while I enjoyed them all, nothing comes close to Magician or the Empire trilogy.

I'm actually a bit jealous of people who haven't read Magician yet. You're in for a treat.

Cheers

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted June 24, 2013

That collab was really interesting, Legless. I collected questions from the audience and got maybe half a dozen about that so I put it to RF and he regaled us with a kinda fucking fascinating sotry about how you get two imaginations working in the same imaginary space. He credited Janny Wurts with teaching him how to write younger female characters.

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sibeen mumbles...

Posted June 24, 2013

Magiacian...the book that turned my then 25 year old brother from a shunner of books into a bookworm. It's definitely in my top ten reads of all time. I tried to get sprog #1 ( 11) into it last year but she couldn't get past the first twenty pages or so. I may have to threaten to beat her if she doesn't read it all.

BTW, onto the brother, the prick borrowed the WoC series from me about five years ago and I haven't seen them since. I rue the day I got him to read.

Bangar would have you know...

Posted June 25, 2013

Sibeen I've got spare copies of two and three you're welcome to grab.

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microbe74 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 24, 2013

Recently (6 months or so) reread Magician after initially reading in my teens, it surprised me how it was still such a pageturner for me.

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CathieT has opinions thus...

Posted June 24, 2013
/shifts Magician from the "Probably should" to the "Definitely Should" list.

Thanks all.

JBtoo mutters...

Posted June 25, 2013

Me too

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she_jedi mumbles...

Posted June 25, 2013

I stumbled across the Empire series first, and only after that discovered Magician. Was tickled pink to realise how the Empire trilogy intersected with Magician, it blew my teenaged mind a little bit.

A friend of mine was forcibly addicted to Feist by introducing her to the Empire series when she baulked at Magician; after devouring Empire she went back and devoured the entire Magician series and haughtily gave all of us Feist fans who'd told her to read Magician in the first place the finger when we then went on to say I told you so.

I think I'm on to my 3rd copy of Magician since I keep lending it to people and I never get the fucking book back afterwards. Actually that also happened to my first WoC novel too. I'm going to have to chip in to JB's royalties and buy another one.

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Tchor has opinions thus...

Posted June 25, 2013

I saw him at Pulp Fiction about 10 years ago now and it seemed like he had a thousand funny stories back then. I can only imagine what 10 more hectic years have added to his repertoire. Devastated that I missed the oppourtunity to catch him again. Maybe he can be convinced to do Supanova Brisbane....

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Brother PorkChop puts forth...

Posted June 25, 2013

I have had to read and certainly enjoy Magician again in the last month so I could discuss the details with my 10 year old son. He absolutely loved it and references it constantly. Books certainly do bring he and I together very much and for that I thank the authors.

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted June 25, 2013

I recall when I was in conversation with Raymond Feist he said Stephen King's 'Cell' would make an excellent choice for a bookclub to review.

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Surtac asserts...

Posted June 25, 2013

A few years ago, when I still had the long school drop-off and commute each morning and the reverse each afternoon, Youngest Daughter (then 9) and I went through all of the Riftwar saga and the Serpentwar saga on audiobooks. We enjoyed them all, but I haven’t continued on with the series since then.

Maybe it’s time I took another look …

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Timmo asserts...

Posted June 25, 2013

How did I miss this? I was a massive Raymond E. Feist fan 15/20 years ago, and read the whole Magician series - Magician/Silverthorn/A Darkness at Sethanon - as well as a number of a later series "Rage of A Demon King" etc. but haven't really kept up with his work since.

I'd put it on the list for a re-read, but there's too much good unread stuff for that (Mr G.R.R. Martin's stuff for a start).

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SZF has opinions thus...

Posted June 25, 2013

Every year watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart I get a teensy nerdthrill when they mention perennial entrant, Valheru - it's a great name for a yacht.

Loved the first 6-7 books (and still bust them out occasionally) but haven't read much of his stuff post Shards of a Broken Crown. I think I read one standalone novel in the late 90's and it seemed he was just going through the motions. Happy to be corrected if the later books are worth it.

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pi asserts...

Posted June 25, 2013

I only ever read four books by Mr Feist, and they were the original riftwar saga when they first came out. You know it has an effect when you can remember, some 25-30 years later, the names of the two main characters (Pug and Thomas).

Very entertaining books, and I think he was one of the authors that came out of the 80's that started lending a gravitas again to fantasy story-telling. I still even have my original copies. I suppose it's no surprise that it just kept on going.

A good read.

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Shifty Tourist is gonna tell you...

Posted June 25, 2013

I became a huge fan back when I read the Magician back in primary school, and was in a regular re-read cycle all though High School. Also enjoyed many of the sequels, but began to get a bit of big bad enemy fatigue.... or what I have come to call, Buffy Syndrome. With no disrespect to Feist, I began to get the sheets with the whole "Yay!! we've just defeated the big bad enemy, who was behind everything from the begining, Peasants rejoice!... eh... what.... no, sorry false alarm, it seems there was an EVEN BIGGER enemy behind the who thing all along... lets defeat it, then we can rejoice.... unless there is an even bigger enemy behind that one, of course"

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 25, 2013

Ahh Magician. Still have fond memories of that one - didn't read more than a couple more books past that though. It gets a bit expensive and libraries don't cater to massive series sometimes.

Even though it is the typical "farm boy comes good" type trope it's in my top five. Martin gets in there, as well as Tolkien, but at the moment just about through the Steven Erikson series. They may steal away the number 1 spot.

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Spanner mutters...

Posted June 25, 2013

I'll bust out Magician and then read all of the Riftwar, Serpent War and Empire series. Love em.

I now see Guy Du Bas Tyra as Tywin Lannister. Trope?

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Blarkon reckons...

Posted June 25, 2013

The "sequel sprawl" did eventually get to me. It's funny that with the release of a "final book", I'm far more inclined to go back and read through from the beginning (I think I only missed 5 of the more recent ones).

Bangar is gonna tell you...

Posted June 25, 2013

I know that feeling as well. With an end in sight it'll be worth catching back up.

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Bondiboy66 is gonna tell you...

Posted June 25, 2013

I'll add my name to the Feist Fanboy list - I just not long finished Magicians End, having read the lot from the start. Wish I'd known he was out here, that would have been very worthwhile hearing him speak.

I'll admit some of the books became a little formulaic as mentioned above - big enemy, prevailing against the odds yada yada..but the stories are very enjoyable and rollick along wonderfully. And like GRR Martin, he isn't afraid of bumping off the odd main character (albeit without Martin's gay abandon). You can tell he is a gamer at heart too, I still think some of the long running D&Desque games my mates and I played back in the day would have made good stories (damn shame my memory can't recall the details).

Whilst the latest book does wrap things up after such a long story, I note that it would'nt be impossible for Feist to wrtie still more stories in the same universe should he choose to.

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Peter Bradley mumbles...

Posted June 26, 2013

Walked past Dymocks in Rundle Mall today. A line out of the shop went about 100 metres down the street with people lined up for Raymond E Fiest the book signing. Very impressive.

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Seven writers on failure (From The Guardian)

Posted June 23, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

The Guardian's US edition has been having a cracking time of it recently, what with all the spy stories and leaks and so on. But I thought they really knocked it out of the park with this piece asking seven great writers about failure.

Failure is the raven at your shoulder when you write. It there in the quiet room when you are alone, laughing at you as you stare at the empty screen, or even worse at the screen full of half baked, wretched prose. And it is there with you when you step out into public with whatever piece of work you foolishly thought ready to expose to a wider audience.

Writers, artists and sports people, they all live with failure as a real thing, a weight constantly pressing on them. As does everyone, of course. But the strange public/private nexus of a writers failure (or a sportsman's or womans too) makes them worth listening too about the topic.

The writers, naturally, express themselves a little more eloquently.

Besides the four scribblers below, who wrote much longer pieces than the simple paragraphs I've copied in here, The Guardian feature also has Anne Enright, Howard Jacobson and Lionel Shriver.

I had a great book extract set up for today, but we're waiting on a British newspaper to run their excerpt first. They have, ahem, failed to do so yet.


Diana Athill

From the age of 22 to that of about 39 I knew myself to be a failure. For many of those years I was not positively unhappy, because I was doing work I enjoyed, was fond of my friends and often had quite a good time; but if at any moment I stood back to look at my life and pass judgment on it, I saw that it was one of failure. That is not an exaggeration. I clearly remember specific moments when I did just that. They were bleak moments. But they did lead to a subdued kind of pride at having learned how to exist in this condition – indeed, at having become rather good at it.


Margaret Atwood


Failure is just another name for much of real life: much of what we set out to accomplish ends in failure, at least in our own eyes. Who set the bar so high that most of our attempts to sail gracefully over it on the viewless wings of Poesy end in an undignified scramble or a nasty fall into the mud? Who told us we had to succeed at any cost?

But my own personal failure list? It's a long one. Sewing failures, to begin with. The yellow shortie coat with the lopsided hem I crafted when I was 12? It made me look like a street waif, and caused my mother to hide her eyes every time I ventured out the door in it. Or maybe you'd prefer a few academic failures? My bad Latin mark in Grade 12, my 51 in Algebra? Or my failure to learn touch-typing: now that had consequences.

But such adolescent slippages come within the normal range. Something more epic, perhaps? A failed novel? Much time expended, many floor-pacings and scribblings, nothing achieved; or, as they say in Newfoundland, a wet arse and no fish caught. There have been several of those.

Julian Barnes

When I was growing up, failure presented itself as something clear and public: you failed an exam, you failed to clear the high-jump bar. And in the grown-up world, it was the same: marriages failed, your football team failed to gain promotion from what was then the Third Division (South). Later, I realised that failure could also be private and hidden: there was emotional, moral, sexual failure; the failure to understand another person, to make friends, to say what you meant. But even in these new areas, the binary system applied: win or lose, pass or fail. It took me a long time to understand the nuances of success and failure, to see how they are often intertwined, how success to one person is failure to another.

Will Self

To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one. It follows that to continue writing is to accept failure as simply a part of the experience – it's often said that all political lives end in failure, but all writing ones begin there, endure there, and then collapse into senescent incoherence.

37 Responses to ‘Seven writers on failure (From The Guardian)’

Dave W mutters...

Posted June 23, 2013
Makes me think that it is vitally important, then, to accept the judgements of other rather than rely on one's own view. Who do I trust to provide an honest opinion of my work? My own view will always be too harsh or too naive.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat ducks in to say...

Posted June 23, 2013

I think with the hope, Dave, that over time we learn from these others that we trust to walk the middle path, where we recognise when our judgement is extreme, and perhaps come to a more balanced view of what we write?

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Murphy mutters...

Posted June 23, 2013

Ira Glass has a fair bit to say about the assessment of one's own work. I believe it is floating about on YouTube.

I sold my first story when I was 36, which seemed reasonable to me if somewhat delayed by events at a different publication. In some alternate history I got the story to the editor a week before he retired and I made my first story sale in 2005 instead of 2007. I followed that up in the following year with my second sale.

And then it all stalled out.

Why? Teaching is part of it. The Woman I Love was having a lot of trouble and so was I. The American SF Community seemed/seems to have consumed some crazy Kool-Aid that keeps it in near constant witchhunt mode. I found that if I paid too much attention to it that the Muse on my shoulder simply shook her head and wandered off. Not having a quiet place to write where those in my life understood that I NEEDED to write and NEEDED to be left alone was another problem.

So failure?

LOL. The lifeguards which are half my age at work talk about Plan B or Plan C. I tell them they should come back when they get further down the alphabet because I'm on Plan X which doesn't leave too many letters left.

Failure, at the end of the day, is how you judge it. The way I see it, my main failing is that I can't quite figure out how to make money. Yeah, I could go be a Paralegal and probably eat my gun in a very nicely appointed home a year later.

Would my father consider me a failure? Definitely. He didn't see the sense in the writing but fuck that bastard, he is dead. Does my mother consider me a failure?

To be brutally honest, I think she probably does. I never married. I didn't have kids and don't plan on doing so. I live in her home, work in her basement and generally struggle to pay the bills.

On the other hand, I teach history, write science fiction, do research for a friend's novels, work as a lifeguard and generally love all of the things I do.

All depends on what your metrics are.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted June 23, 2013

I was widely considered a failure for the first ten years I was writing.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat mumbles...

Posted June 23, 2013

You're always going to fail by someone's standards...reference the Dan Brown thread, lol...but seriously, someone will always see you as a failure. As you get older, I think you realise that there are only certain (and very few) people's opinions which really matter in your life. And I think the people who really love and respect you and know you intimately will judge your success by your happiness or satisfaction on your chosen path. People can love you but still measure your whole life by their standards (thinking of parents here) and see you as failing.

Could too much success too early be a danger to a writer, JB? And how much did those opinions matter to you in those first ten years?

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted June 23, 2013

Cat, that is worth a long response, and it's late here. I might return to it tomorrow after I wrap up my Ramond Feist gigs.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat reckons...

Posted June 23, 2013

Yep, get some rest...catching up Burgerland after a bit of an absence and it sounds like you could use a beer and a kip!

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Barnesm mumbles...

Posted June 23, 2013

Wasn't there something about soviet spies and bridges here not too long ago?

Dino not to be confused with mutters...

Posted June 23, 2013

Looks like you missed 'the drop' Barnes.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted June 23, 2013

Auto launched and self destructed.

sibeen mumbles...

Posted June 23, 2013

I'm fairly sure there wasn't, Barnsey.

Especially not hidden behind a radiator in a dark and dank foyer.

Dino not to be confused with would have you know...

Posted June 24, 2013

Is it just me or do other people find 'Snowden' an interesting name?

Remember 'Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?' from Catch-22.

He 'spilled his guts' as well.

Barnesm mutters...

Posted June 24, 2013

Who is Spain?"

"Why is Hitler?"

"When is right?"

"Where was that stooped and mealy-colored old man I used to call Poppa when the merry-go-round broke down?"

"How was trump at Munich?"

"Ho-ho beriberi."

and

"Balls!"

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w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted June 23, 2013

"Writers, artists and sports people, they all live with failure as a real thing, a weight constantly pressing on them."

and parents.

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pitpat has opinions thus...

Posted June 23, 2013
Every time I collect a sample it is in effect a mini experiment. For every 100 samples I collect about 1 in 100 will have a successful result, Of those successful samples about 1 in 10 will have significance beyond a very local area. Of those 1 in 10 about 1 in 5 will advance to more advanced activity. In my line of science failure is the norm not the exception and thank goodness it is or else I wouldn't have a job.

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ali would have you know...

Posted June 23, 2013

Hahaha, awsm.

I was just about to write a lovely, heartfelt response to Murph, but pressed submit before typing said response. Computer said, "That failed, you can't post nothing."

So easy to fail.

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MordWa mutters...

Posted June 23, 2013

Lesser known follow up to Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory?

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DiddyWrote asserts...

Posted June 23, 2013

Failure is intrinsic in learning. It's how we learn and improve.

I sometimes wonder that we over emphasise what it is to be an Artist and that this means that person has an innate talent I.e genius.
Meanwhile the humble Artisan merely learns his or her trade and their skills are somewhat pedestrian for that reason.
The reality is no one steps fully formed from the egg, the greatness comes from producing something, looking at it and how it was produced and thinking I can do better than that!

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat reckons...

Posted June 23, 2013
And it's very noticeable, in my experience, that people who do things as naturally as breathing, so to speak, often cannot teach others to do the same thing. If you have had to learn it, you're more able to help others learn it too.

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Matthew F. ducks in to say...

Posted June 23, 2013

+++Failure is the raven at your shoulder when you write.+++

Incorrect. Ravens are awesome. Failure is not.

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Peter Bradley mumbles...

Posted June 24, 2013

That raven sits on most people's shoulder. I remember reading a quote from Jack Welch, ex CEO of GE, As he walked in the front door every morning "Is this the day I fuck it up?"

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted June 24, 2013

Different cultures have different attitudes towards failure. Americans tend to be willing to roll the dice and take their chances, risking failure. Our bankruptcy laws are designed to encouage business creation; if you fail, you can "reorganize" and start again, or your debts can be forgiven completely, allowing you to start a different business.

Most I've met around the world fear failure because, in their worlds, the consequences of failure cannot be undone. If a student in South Africa does poorly on college admission exams, that will alter the course of their lives forever. I've seen SA greeting cards reading "good luck on your exams!" Nothing like that exists in the USA. If a small business owner in England fails, they are likely to never be able to reopen their doors again either as the same business or as a new one.

It is the consequences of failure that matter. Not failure itself.

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted June 24, 2013

and it stood America well. I remenber this was a central thesis of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America

"In the United States a man builds a house to spend his latter years in it and he sells it before the roof is on. He plants a garden and lets it just as the trees are coming into bearing. He brings a field into tillage and leaves other men to gather the crops. He embraces a profession and gives it up. He settles in a place which he soon afterward leaves to carry his changeable longings elsewhere. If his private affairs leave him any leisure he instantly plunges into the vortex of politics and if at the end of a year of unremitting labour he finds he has a few days' vacation, his eager curiosity whirls him over the vast extent of the United States, and he will travel fifteen hundred miles in a few days to shake off his happiness."

This concept of moving on is a great strength.

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted June 24, 2013

He also speeks very highly of you prof.

NBlob puts forth...

Posted June 24, 2013

Hm. Is there a sociologist in the house.

I wonder if there is any common root between this acceptance of failure as an intrinsic part of Any enterprise, rejecting "socialised" medicine, education etc and fully 1/3 USAnians having a personal Born-Again faith.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted June 24, 2013

Barnes: If de Tocqueville was somewhow aware, I would not be worthy of his notice.

NBlob: No. No common root exists between those items. Once they themselves are forgiven their sins and are born again, Born Again protestant christians are often the least forgiving of failure. And Born Again christians tend to be poorly educated social conservatives who uniformly oppose "socialized" anything.

American bankruptcy laws have nothing to do with kindness. They exist to encourage business startups. Although American bankruptcy laws didn't casue the American tendency to take chances, it does feed into an American tendency to take chances and risk failure.

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Brother PorkChop mutters...

Posted June 24, 2013

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." Bill Cosby.

PNB, was it here or elsewhere that someone said US financial institutions will often offer more when the application is supported by one or more bankruptcies? As this implies experience and a greater likelihood of success, given that those applying are kosher.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted June 24, 2013

I've never heard that. Although bankruptcy isn't the end of the road here as it is elsewhere, there is a powerful stigma associated with resorting to bankruptcy protection.

NBlob puts forth...

Posted June 24, 2013

So why is it called Chapter 11 protection?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted June 25, 2013

"Chapter 11" is a quick reference to Chapter 11 of Title 11 of the US Code. It is only one kind of bankruptcy. These are the most common kind of bankruptcy:

Chapter 7 - Liquidation (sell the business assets, share the proceeds with creditors)
Chapter 11 - Reorganization (the business continues "meaner and leaner" with a plan to pay off debts)
Chapter 12 - Adjustment of Debts of a Family Farmer with Regular Annual Income
Chapter 13 - Adjustment of Debts of an Individual with Regular Income

Ultimately bankruptcy protects a debtor from the unfettered reach of creditors. And these are just the federal laws.

NBlob mutters...

Posted June 25, 2013

Fascinating.

So hypothetically (presuming it was in US territorial waters) I were to install a "fricken laser" in a volcano lair for Evil.inc and present an invoice with 90 day terms for $1 MILLION !

Evil.inc (A USA registered, but not listed on the market company) claim that they don't have the cashflow and fob me off for another 90 days. They then try for another 90 days. I have suppliers and contractors to pay, Evil.inc are jeopardising my cash flow and business so I set my in house attourney on them with a demand to make with the moolah. They refuse. I then take an action in Court demanding Chapter 7; sell the island pay debts. Evil.inc's attourney would argue for Chapter 11. Which might be interpreted as "Fk off, you'll get paid, if you're lucky, when I'm good and ready."

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted June 25, 2013

Presuming you are playing the part of the creditor in that last narrartive, you are procedurally incorrect (can't blame you for that). A creditor cannot "demand Chapter 7" or any other form of bankruptcy. Only a debtor has the option to seek bankruptcy protection. Creditors can file a lawsuit to collect on the debt, and satisfy the judgment by garnishing wages, attaching accounts receivable, or conducting a "debtor's exam" to locate property that can be sold and the proceeds devoted to satisfying the debt.

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robW would have you know...

Posted June 25, 2013

I always like Samuel Johnson's take on his success or failure as the author of dictionaries. This is the opening of his preface:

It is the fate of those who toil at the lower employments of life, to be rather driven by the fear of evil, than attracted by the prospect of good; to be exposed to censure, without hope of praise; to be disgraced by miscarriage, or punished for neglect, where success would have been without applause, and diligence without reward.

Among these unhappy mortals is the writer of dictionaries; whom mankind have considered, not as the pupil, but the slave of science, the pionier of literature, doomed only to remove rubbish and clear obstructions from the paths of Learning and Genius, who press forward to conquest and glory, without bestowing a smile on the humble drudge that facilitates their progress. Every other authour may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach and even this negative recompense has been yet granted to very few.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat would have you know...

Posted June 26, 2013
Oh, that is gold, Rob. Pure gold.

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Solid gold creativity mumbles...

Posted June 25, 2013

Will Self is the one who comes close to the real failures, the failures that matter: "... just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one." I love him for saying this, for allowing us to see his vulnerability. He never fails to be honest and rigorous.

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Respond to 'Seven writers on failure (From The Guardian)'

A Protocol For Monsters. [Extract]

Posted June 21, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

Below you'll find the first scenes in Chapter Two of Protocol. Chapter One introduces us to Dave, the safety boss of the Deepwater Horizon, and not someone you turn to when you're looking for a conventional hero. He's hungover, returning to the rig from blowing his leave bonus on hookers and hooch, just to spite his ex wife, even though it will hurt his two boys. There's a lot more lack of character information squeezed into a couple fo thousand words, but I don't want to go full spoiler.

The Gresh, by Matt Taylor

The column of dark, oily smoke was rising high above the absurdist metalwork cube of the Deepwater as Juliette brought the nose of the chopper around, giving Dave a clear view forward through the plexiglass windshield. His heart seemed to stop for a second. Everything, all of his organs seemed stunned into paralysis before spasming back into life at double speed. Malevolent blooms of bright orange fire fed the dark tower of smoke as it climbed away from the platform, but within a second or two of the initial shock Dave Hooper frowned at the… wrongness of the scene. The seat of the blaze appeared to be down in the living quarters and hadn’t spread from there. The critical areas around the drill works were still clear, for now. So was the helipad.

“Two minutes, Dave. I’m wheels down and gone in thirty. Jonty says they got wounded. Gonna cross-deck ‘em to Thunder Horse.”

“Okay,” Hooper replied, only giving her half his attention while he leaned forward and studied the fire. It was bad. It was always gonna be bad on a rig, but it wasn’t the hellstorm he’d been expecting.

“There’s more, Dave,” said Juliette, as a secondary explosion blew out a cabin on the southern side of the platform. Dave watched as flaming debris fluttered down towards the deep blue water churning around the pylons. “I’ll patch ‘em through,” the pilot shouted. “Put your fucking cans back on would you. And your harness.”

“Sorry,” he said, still distracted, and not bothering with his safety belt. He wanted to get as far forward as could, to get a better look at the unfolding disaster. He did fit the headphones back over his ears, however, even though the short cord kept him tethered in the rear of cabin. The intercom crackled and popped just before he heard the guttural South African accent of the day shift supervisor, Jonty Ballieue through the static. He sounded panicky, almost hysterical, which frightened Hooper a lot more than the fire. Ballieue was one of the more unflappable yarpies he’d ever met.

“… attack… fighting them… coming up from the pylo…”

“Jonty. D’you read me? It’s Hoop. I’m less than a minute out. You’re breaking up, man. What the fuck is going on down there?”

“… ooper? … acking us. … We need…”

But the interference washed any sense out of the few words that could break through.

“Dave?”

It was Juliette, jumping in on his channel, sounding even more worried than before.

“I got the Navy on my case now, man. They’re telling me we’re now in restricted airspace. They’re warning us off, telling me not to land. Talking about terrorists or some rubbish.”

“Bullshit!” he said in amazement. “Are they fucking crazy? Why is it restricted to us? We gotta get casualities off. I have to get down there and get to work. Where the fuck are terrorists gonna come from out here? What’d they hijack a submarine or something? Look down there, J2. There’s nothing there. Fireboats haven’t even made it out yet.”

“Dave…”

“Get me down, Juliette,” he said, talking over the top of her objections. “You put me down and get the wounded to Thunder Horse and you’ll be back at the depot before that Navy asshole you’re talking to’s even tied a slipknot in his little pecker to stop himself wetting his pants.”

She opened her mouth to try one more time but Hooper cut her off with another harsh bark.

“Just do it.”

The helicopter pilot tugged at the bill of her Era Helicopter ball cap, as though saluting him. She pushed forward on the stick and took them in.

# # #

Juliet threw them into a tight, corkscrew descent that crushed him into his seat, where the broken spring now speared into his butt with a vengeance. The pressure on his back and neck cranked up the pain of the hangover, turning the dial to 11 on the Spinal Tap amp. Dave Hooper ignored it, along with the need to dry wretch again, and the feeling of having his eyes gouged out by the pressure of high-speed deceleration. He gritted his teeth, still slimy from the night before, and tried to pick out as much detail from the hellish scene as he could.

It was almost impossible. Rig monkeys and fire teams ran everywhere. Secondary explosions shook the lower levels of the structure as thick, black clouds of smoke poured into the sky. He caught the briefest glimpse of a rainbow formed in the mist drifting off a water jet, before the skids slammed down on the helipad, sending a painful jolt up his backbone.

The chopper doors flew back as evac teams wrenched the handles and wrestled wounded men into the cabin. Dave was about to start shouting directions, imposing some sense of order on the scene, when he was struck dumb by the sight of a couple of Vince Martinelli’s second shift guys trying to scramble in over the top of the casualties. They looked terrified, with huge white eyes bugging out of oil stained faces. But they didn’t look injured in any way. Dave shouted at them to get the hell back, but the pounding of the chopper blades, the roar of explosions and the hoarse shouts and screams of a dozen other men drowned him out.

He tried to push the first of the interlopers out of his way, and was surprised when the man suddenly flew sideways, the victim of a stiff arm jab by Martinelli, who followed up with a series of vicious rabbit punches to the neck of the second man.

“Sorry, boss” yelled the shift supervisor, who looked on the edge of panic himself, “Figured this might happen when you showed up. Some of these fucking idiots even tried to throw themselves over the side to get away from the things. Got at least one life pod away as well.”

“From the what?” Dave yelled as Martinelli threw the other man to the side of the helipad like a bag of dirty laundry. He waved his thanks at J2 as he clambered out of the helicopter, but she was too busy prepping to unass the area to pay him much heed. Martinelli grabbed his boss by the elbow and lead him through the chaos on the pad. There were bodies everywhere. Burned, mangled, horribly disfigured. And at least a dozen walking wounded waiting for their turn to be evacuated. Everyone looked frightened, which was only to be expected, but what Dave didn’t expect was the crazed, almost animalistic terror that seemed to be driving some of them.

They had trained for this. He had trained them for this. They shouldn’t be losing their shit.

“You gotta come, Dave, this way quickly,” Martinelli insisted, all but dragging him along by the arm. “Fucking things are down this way.”

Heat from the fires came at them in waves, tightening the exposed skin on Hooper’s hands and face, making him wonder how long any of them could hope to survive on this gigantic, ticking time bomb. He recognized three kitchen hands, still wearing their stained, greasy chef’s whites.

“What the hell,” he muttered to himself as the men screamed and raged in frustration, and something else, something more elemental, when the chopper spooled up its engines and lifted off before they had a chance to board.

“This way, down this way,”Martinelli repeated. “Come on, Dave, I don’t know how long Marty and the others can hold them back.”

They cleared the area around the helipad just as the down blast of the rotors tried to push them off their feet. Dave followed the shift supervisor around the corner into a slightly sheltered corridor between two prefab huts. He put the brakes on, almost stumbling to his knees as Martinelli continued forward dragging him along.

“Vince,” he shouted. “Would you slow the fuck up and tell me what’s happening? J2 said the Navy was talking about this being restricted airspace. Terrorists. But I don’t see Osama around, do you?”

Martinelli didn’t look happy to be stopping, but he looked even more unhappy at the question, as though Dave was crazy for even asking it.

“The fuck did anyone say anything about ragheads? This ain’t that. It’s worse. You gotta see for yourself, Dave. These things, these fucking animals, they just come out of the water. Up the fucking pylons, or the drill shaft or something.”

The space between the prefabs was narrow, and someone slammed painfully into Hooper’s shoulder as they ran past, mindlessly fleeing a danger they couldn’t hope to escape.

They were on a drill rig. In the middle of the Gulf. Where the hell did they think they were going?

Dave stood back against the wall of the small, prefabricated building unit that housed the flight operations center for the rig.

“What, Vince? What things came up the pylons?”

Martinelli’s face dropped.

“They didn’t tell you? Jesus, I asked them to tell you. You’re going to think I’m fucking crazy.”

“Try me,” said Dave.

“Monsters,” said Vince Martinelli, without hesitation. “There are monsters on the rig, Dave.

39 Responses to ‘A Protocol For Monsters. [Extract]’

Microbe74 would have you know...

Posted June 21, 2013

A delightful way to delay my departure to work - thanks JB, hooked already

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NBlob asserts...

Posted June 21, 2013

Ok, despite my reservations That's pretty Fking AWSM and you know I'll be cueing up to buy it. Damn you.

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w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted June 21, 2013

Very exciting! A couple of typos, I think.

"But the interference washed any sense out of the few words that could break though." through?

"vicious rabbit punches to neck of the second man."

Very minor point,
"fed the darktower of smoke" I would prefer dark tower, but maybe you are making an artistic choice.

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Darth Greybeard mutters...

Posted June 21, 2013

Say, I know where you can get a proof-reader really cheap. In fact free. In fact he'll pay you to, um, correct the typos. On his second read through.

CathieT is gonna tell you...

Posted June 21, 2013

And I'll faithfully check for any that Sir Greybeard may have missed!

And I'll read it forward and backward .... (backwards is best - makes the typos stand out!) Not so good for the grammar.

That's just awsm.

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Jan Darr has opinions thus...

Posted June 21, 2013

Not fair!!! Got my heart racing then...... Wait 'til 2014!!! You are a tease JB

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damian has opinions thus...

Posted June 21, 2013

Nice, hooked already.

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Anthony asserts...

Posted June 21, 2013

You miserale teasing sod! I dont want to wait that long!

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Dave W ducks in to say...

Posted June 21, 2013
How many days until release?

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted June 21, 2013

Love it. Want more. Want more soon.

Your intro to the excerpt reflects something that actually happened to me a few hours ago. We were in a convenience story in downtown Newport and encountered a commercial fisherma in line at the register. He actually said:

"I spend most of my money on booze and women, then I squander the rest."

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted June 21, 2013

"story" = "store"

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she_jedi would have you know...

Posted June 21, 2013

OMG that was awesome. More more more please :)

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted June 21, 2013
Yeah, it's a pity I cut the excerpt off there. A few pars later we meet Urgon Htoth Ur Hunn, eating a meat popsicle that used to be one of Dave's friends.

Darth Greybeard puts forth...

Posted June 21, 2013

I guess Urgon needs to keep up his energy?

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 21, 2013

I think you have timed the wave on this one really well, a couple of recent releases Buckell's Arctic Rising, and Charles Stross's launry files in this genre means the public's appitie is wetted and I am one of them.

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Brother PorkChop mumbles...

Posted June 21, 2013

Looks and feels the goods!! Can you get a countdown clock on the page, just to tease us all permanently?

Legless swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 21, 2013

^This!

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Rhino swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 21, 2013

Fuckin' ay ... type faster. That is all I'm saying.

Oh, and that was some good stuff.

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Surtac puts forth...

Posted June 21, 2013

Thanks John. A fine taster, and am now really looking forward to seeing this one come out.

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Logocracy mumbles...

Posted June 21, 2013

The Spinal Tap reference in this chapter turned my respect for you, John, up to '11'.

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Neuronhead has opinions thus...

Posted June 21, 2013

Nice! I hope you have enough whiskey and cocaine to finish it.

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pitpat ducks in to say...

Posted June 21, 2013

Feels good and explodey right from the get go. I think on oil rigs they are drill rods or drill string though not a drill shaft. There is a hole hierarchy of terminology specific to oil people like roughneck but I in the metals/minerals side of things and know FA about the soft rock/oil/gas dudes

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Therbs swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 21, 2013

At first I thought Vince may not last, but I reckon he could end up being Dave's Barney Tench.

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 21, 2013
Really? You think Vince might last? That's interesting.

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Therbs mutters...

Posted June 21, 2013

Thought he'd last the first book, then mebbe get done in by some dreary fucking hobbits in the second, probably by them boring him to death with stories about apple cores or toast crumbs. That'd give Dave another reason to kill all of the smug little buggers.

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Therbs mutters...

Posted June 21, 2013

The blood flowing out of Vince's ears and his glazed, blank stare told Dave all he needed about the horrible truth of these woolly pated little monsters. Dave shipped his M4 and surveyed the ragged pile of stench which formed the remnants of the hobbit horde. A veritable "berm of boredom", or "tomb of tiredness" as he'd later describe it. Still clipped to his deputy's bat belt without being used, Vince's Sennheiser headphones mocked a final agony wrought by the hobbits, The last words Dave had heard Vince scream out over the two-way were,"No! No more! The dull! It hurts!."

Dave thought he saw movement from the hobbits and vented his anger, sorrow and frustration by emptying another clip at full rock 'n roll into the stinking nasties. "That's your starry night Vince. So long pal."

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted June 21, 2013

Then, from out from behind a bullet-pitted stew pot, leapt Lombelia Sweetwine and Thistle Brambleburr. While Lombelia stabbed Dave in the eye with the sharp end of a parsnip, Thistle rendered Dave unconscious with an overhead swing of her award winning cooking utensil.

Thistle looked down at the supine Dave.
”If Vince didn’t want to go to our winter’s cosy stew cooking festival, he should have said.”

“But who could imagine someone not liking winter’s stew?” Lombelia exclaimed.

“Oh, too true” said Thistle. “Too true.”

Thistle and Lombelia skipped down the path.
Hobbits really are amazing creatures.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted June 21, 2013

It's like you're looking over my shoulder as I write.

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Sparty puts forth...

Posted June 21, 2013

2014 publication date - thats another typo isnt it? Should read 2013, NOW!

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Legless asserts...

Posted June 21, 2013

Hobbits? There'll never be hobbits in a JB book. The Tolkien estate would slap the esteemed Mr B with a writ so fast that his head would spin. Orcs, dragons, elves - yes, they're allowed as they existed in folklore and mythology, but hobbits are out.

Which is a shame as I'd love to see one of the hairy-toed litlle bastrds get torn apart by machine gun fire...

Cheers

Anthony swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 23, 2013

You'd like Mary Gentle's novel "Grunts" in which there is a wonderful line from a raping and pillaging orc; "Pass me another halfling, this one's split"

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Chicom Mick mutters...

Posted June 22, 2013

Cracking stuff. Can't wait for it to hit the e-shelves...

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JG has opinions thus...

Posted June 23, 2013

Just spent ten minutes pecking away a response on my phone and then.... Aargh!! When I went to post it came up with an internal server error. So I'll be brief here. Good work. I like the action. Reminds me of a good movie. And I did see World War Z today. Fab. I look forward to the television series of Stephen King's Under The Dome starting on Tuesday on Ten. Loved that book.

Anyway, get yourself a big time movie director and producer, John. Your books are ideal for the big screen. Look forward to the monsters vs tech series in 2014. It'd be nice to chat with you in person some time.

Cheers.

JG

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Dirk mumbles...

Posted June 24, 2013

I second JG, BBC World, Showtime, Netflix or HBO must have some spare change lying around somewhere. Which begs the question: when is what comming out? So what are the dates for 1. Stalin's Hammer Cairo, 2. Stalin's Hammer The Zone, and 3. A Protocol for Monsters part One? *bites another Macaron*

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damian has opinions thus...

Posted June 24, 2013

A bit late, but I thought the mouseover text for this was startlingly on topic: http://xkcd.com/1228/

CathieT mutters...

Posted June 24, 2013

Indeed!

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Samus would have you know...

Posted September 5, 2015
Greetings John.

I just slammed through all the Dave vs Monsters mp3s and I am sOoOoOoO excited for more. The reader for the audiobooks was fantastic. Especially with his handling of 'Threshy.'
Will your future exploits in this world be made into audiobooks and if so can they have the same reader? Also, any further books/shorts involving Dave's World (Party Time! Excellent!) in any format would be greatly appreciated.
Keep writing bro.

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Respond to 'A Protocol For Monsters. [Extract]'

Solving a Point of View problem

Posted June 20, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

Those of you familiar with my airport novels will know how fond I am of ensemble casts. I like to start big and winnow them down as we go. Often a character who started out as a scene filler or a spear carrier can grow to become one of the main storytellers. Frederyck Milosz in the Disappearance trilogy is one who comes to mind. Slim Jim Davidson in Weapons of Choice is another.
The books I'm working on at the moment are very different because they have only one point of view. Well, mostly only one. Dave Hooper. Dave tells the story with occasional shifts in POV to the monsters he ends up fighting. But they're only very occasional shifts. Mostly it's Hoop all the way.
That's cool, I find him interesting as a character. But the problem I've hit again and again in the first draft of the first book was the supporting cast. There are some interesting characters there but because I'm not writing from their points of view I've found that I don't have the same understanding of them that I would if I had to get inside their heads.
There are no structural problems in the first draft, but there are some real character development issues I need to work through before I can ask people to hand over the money.
I've been pondering how to do this for a while now. It's not just a character issue there are narrative consequences too. For instance unless Dave is there in the middle of a scene, narrating it, or we've cut away to one of the monsters – who are really cool to write POV for, incidentally – I literally cannot tell you what's going on. I know what's happening, but unless Dave is there to have the experience and tell us about it I'm left with reporting action at a distance.
I'm currently rewriting the battle scene at the end of the book because of this. But in the end that's just moving pieces around on a board. The bigger problem is not understanding the supporting cast. Solution? Write them anyway.
I've taken three or four of the most important secondary characters and written chapters for them which will never make it into the book. Sometimes it's just a matter of rewriting the chapter I've already done, but from the POV. Sometimes I've had to write whole new episodes just to get inside their heads.
It's working, but I was worried at the "waste" of time involved. I know there are literary authors who do this sort of thing, but I have Playboy bunnies to feed and hovercraft to polish, damn it. So what I think I'm going to do is spend even more time on these unpublishable chapters, and then I'm going to publish them. But not in the main books. Instead I'll release these as short stories, probably free, shortly after the books are published.
I suppose if I ended up with sufficient material, say thirty or 40,000 words, I could probably do a standalone e-book. But at the moment, I'm thinking short and free.

20 Responses to ‘Solving a Point of View problem’

yankeedog is gonna tell you...

Posted June 20, 2013

I'm a big fan of short and free. Especially the 'Free' part.

"There are no structural problems in the first draft, but there are some real character development issues I need to work through before I can ask people to hand over the money."

Which is why I enjoy reading your books, JB. More than a few authors have given up worrying about such trifling things. They still want to sell books, though.

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stephenwho has opinions thus...

Posted June 20, 2013

Love your books. I'd recommend using a screen-writing tool like Mariner's "Contours". It is great for character development that you can go back to and tweak as you write.

It is also good to go back to and confirm that the character would actually do what you have writen them to do - saves confusing motivations in long storylines - and you write some really long storylines ;-)

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Murphy puts forth...

Posted June 20, 2013

Do you remember in Final Impact the scene with the Kamikaze pilot?

I think he has, literally, one scene. Maybe he has two, I'd have to go look. It is a pretty touching scene, gives him sympathetic qualities even though he is about to take a rocket powered plane and bury it deep in a Soviet carrier.

I think you need maybe two or three minor POV characters. Red Herrings who can serve to provide that additional info anyway and one Red Shirt. Build sympathy for all three of them.

Then kill one of them during the battle. Or kill them all.

I figure maybe 5000 words to 7000 words max.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Maddoug puts forth...

Posted June 20, 2013

Reminds me of David Gerrold's "War Against The Chtorr" series which had a global war told from the perspective of one man.

Andy Dent ducks in to say...

Posted June 20, 2013

Let us all hope that JB doesn't suffer a Gerroldian death spiral into his own navel. Sigh, still waiting for A Method for Madness. Roll on Jan 2014!

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w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted June 20, 2013

Writing character back stories
About 12 years ago, I admit it, I used to watch CSI. The original Las Vagas series. It was in the early days, there hadn't been a lot of exposition of the characters, and they seemed interesting and a little puzzling. Tooling around on the web, I found a site that had the back stories of the characters. It said, this were the character sheets handed to the actors at the start of production. It was quite revelatory, as to characters, for this interested viewer at the time. That site is long gone, but the text lives on at various websites. The main paragraph for each character, on this webpage, is what I read all those years ago. I thought, at the time, they were good models on how to write a short character back story.

http://toireasamoore.tripod.com/id7.html

Lulu is gonna tell you...

Posted June 20, 2013

I remember when CSI was like that. Every so often there would be a one-line bit of dialogue which would shed a bit of light on the characters. My favourite was when Greg & Sarah were working an ice hockey case, Greg complaining about jocks etc. Sarah: "You didn't play sport in high school, did you?" Greg (defensively): "I played chess!"

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Neuronhead would have you know...

Posted June 20, 2013

I'm not anyone but sometimes I write things for fun. Something I do when I have a character I don't understand is to write an interview with them, with me as the interviewer and the character as the interviewee. I let them waffle on a bit and tell their story but try and have them stick somewhat to the programme.

It's not bad as a character reference and I can go back and ask more questions later.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted June 20, 2013

That's a surprisingly common technique

Neuronhead is gonna tell you...

Posted June 20, 2013

That's a surprisingly common technique

Aww. Oh well, I guess I'll take heart from knowing that I thought of something that someone else also thought of. Independent duplication is validation in the hive-mind.

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RobertL would have you know...

Posted June 20, 2013
Can't you get the bunnies to polish the hovercraft?

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted June 20, 2013

The bunnies are making valued professional gender-neutral input, each in thier field of expertise. Nothing so gauche & phallocentric as bikini hotties gettin' soapy. That's a more a cheerleader thing. The bunnies are more crisp-tailored-lab-coat, heels, glasses & hair up in a bun gear.

NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted June 20, 2013

Or so I've read.

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CathieT ducks in to say...

Posted June 20, 2013

If it makes for an even better, more cohesive, more gripping piece of writing, is it a "waste of time"?

Disclaimer: I type for a living

CathieT swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 20, 2013

And who the hell polishes a hovercraft anyway??

I always thought you owned one of them so that you could fill it with eels??

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Dave W reckons...

Posted June 20, 2013
As a reader, I think that short and free as a follow up to the real book is a great concept and makes use of your hard work (beyond what the actual writers have said re the value of this exercise).

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Sparty would have you know...

Posted June 20, 2013

Peter Brett comes up a little against that proble in the second Daylight war book with monster POV (being somewhat different and unrelatable to human POV).

Personally I find the incidental charcters with POV in Birmos airport novels add real depth to the stories and world- very natural and not forced (perhaps as they emerge organically out of the story rather than having to further plot function / exposition.

And I agree, I've never wanted a kamikaze to suceed befor,e but I did in Final Impact....

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Brown_Note is gonna tell you...

Posted June 20, 2013

These chapters of which you speak... enugh of them and they could be post book purchases for the readers who want more of the world. Keep us going while you write up the sequal.

Say $1.99 each from here. Put your shop to work. I'd buy them.

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Rhino mutters...

Posted June 21, 2013

<//Engage HAVOCK Mode//>

FREE?!?!?!!! WTF ARE YOU GOING ON ABOUT?!?!?!? TOSSING THAT COMMIE WORD AROUND LIKE YOU ARE A U.S. SENATOR ON A REELECTION CAMPAIGN. WE WILL HAVE NONE OF THAT KIND OF TALK.

YOU WILL TAKE THIS WORK PRODUCT AND YOU WILL SELL THEM AS EBOOKS FOR $.99 OR, BETTER YET, $1.99.

<//WARNING - keyboard meltdown is imminent. disengage HAVOCK mode or prepare to engage warp core ejection sequence//>

DAMN!!!!

<//HAVOCK Mode disengaged//>

Ok, Birmingham, make these munters pay for that stuff. Think of it as a revenue stream for the hovercraft embellishment fund.

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Madam Morgana mutters...

Posted June 21, 2013

Yeah, that's how it always goes with the pusher man. "Try a little taste, babycakes. The first one is free."

JB, think of Patrick White. He used to burn entire drafts in a 44 gallon drum, than start from scratch.

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