Cheeseburger Gothic

George R.R. Martin interview

Posted May 15, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

In response to a twitter request from Vince Burns, here is the interview I did with Mr Game of Thrones 'imself, just before Season One of the TV show and his book tour for A Dance with Dragons.

Apols to those who've seen it before, but Vince was right. It was worth dropping in here for the record.

JB: So, you happy with the TV series?

Martin: Oh yes, I love the TV series. I've been involved since the beginning. I'm an executive producer on it. And I write one script per season, so my involvement has been very active. Not like many novelists who simply sell the rights and then take a hands-off role. I've been intimately involved in the casting and of course I've written my own scripts. I talk constantly with David and Dan the executive producers and show runners. They've done an amazing job and stayed very faithful to the story. There've been some changes, but that's inevitable on a project like this. It's been a great ride so far and I hope it will continue for many years to come

JB: Did you always want to be involved, given that most writers don't.

Martin: Well I have done a lot of work in Hollywood myself. I work in television for roughly 10 years, from the mid-80s to mid 90s. And I was on staff at a couple of shows. I did some feature films, including originals and adaptations. So I knew the process from both sides, and yes, I wanted some involvement. I knew I could not be heavily involved, because I still have more books to write. And the books are long and daunting and time-consuming. There was no way I could join the staff as a full-time member. But I didn't want to just take a cheque and walk away either. For me it's worked out to be a perfect situation.

JB: Does adapting the story for the screen make you see it in different ways?

Martin: (long pause) Well you have to think about different issues. Thankfully most of its been done by Benioff and Weiss. They're the ones who face the challenge of adapting it. The books were written, starting in the early 90s, and almost as a reaction to my 10 years in film. My scripts were repeatedly–all my first drafts anyway–were long and too expensive. I was always having to deal with the fact that on the budgets we had we couldn't possibly produce everything I put in the scripts. So I would combine characters, delete scenes, cut down the battles and so on, but I preferred my first drafts which had so much more good stuff in them before I have to start taking the practicalities of budgets and production into account.

So I write the books, limited only by imagination. Even David and Dan face the challenge of how they can possibly do this on a budget within the shooting schedule. All although we have a generous budget for a television show, it's still a television budget. It's not even close to what the feature budget would be, but on the other hand we have considerably more time.

JB: One of the advantages of doing long form narrative on television is that you don't have to compress as much as you do with a feature. Is this what drew you back to TV?

Martin: Yes, before this HBO project came along, there were many people who contacted me trying to acquire the rights to do it as a feature film. I had a few meetings with them, a few discussions, but it was never anything I wanted to pursue because I simply did not think that the story could be done in two hours. To do it as a feature film you would have had to take out 90% of the characters and the story. To just choose one thread and make that story, and I really didn't want to do that. I think the way we're doing it is really the only way it could be done.

JB: It is an amazing multithreaded narrative, that you say you wrote in reaction to the frustrations of not being able to get on the stories up in script form. When you sat down to write it, did you write from just the germ of an idea or did you have much of the story already worked out in your imagination.

Martin: The beginning really came out of nowhere. I wrote the first part of it in the summer of 91, when I was still doing a lot of Hollywood work. I had a few months off and I was writing a novel, a very different novel, a science fiction novel. And in the first chapter just came to me, and it came to me so vividly that I put the other books aside and I wrote that chapter. That led to another chapter, and another chapter. So the world building and other stuff like character development really grew together with the story. But it was the story and the characters that form the seed. They came first. They're still the most important things, I think.

JB: So this is a story you allowed to tell itself rather than sitting down and blocking it out in the manner of a screenwriter.

Martin: Yeah, to some extent. I've always said there are–to oversimplify it–there are two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. The architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running, and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up. I think all writers are partly architects and partly gardeners, but they tend to one side or another, and I am definitely more of a gardener. In my Hollywood years when everything does work on outlines, I had to put on my architects clothes and pretend to be an architect. But my natural inclinations, the way I work, is to give my characters the head and to follow them.

That being said I do know where I'm going. I do have the broad outlines of the story worked out in my head, but that's not to say I know all the small details and every twist and turn in the road that will get me there.

JB: It's such a richly realized space. How much research is involved in making it all fit together?

Martin: Although the world is imaginary, it's based heavily on the Middle Ages and medieval Europe. I've done a great deal of reading of history, and biographies, and historical fiction from that era. I wanted to get the feel right, the details right, and give it as much verisimilitude as possible. I read a lot in particular areas that are modeled on, things like the war of the roses, the hundred years war, the Crusades, knighthood and so on. All those things I've researched quite heavily.

JB: It seems a much darker place than most fantasy realms. A lot of fantasy, indeed a lot of genre writing, presents as wish fulfillment. But you wouldn't necessarily wish yourself in Westeros or Winterfell. Was the darkness of the story apparent from the start?

Martin: I have always been a dark writer. If you look at the stuff I was writing before. I prefer the term realistic. I prefer to work with gray characters rather than black and white. I have an instinctual distrust of conventional happy endings. The best fantasy does have a thread of darkness that runs through it. If you go back and look at Tolkien, the master of them all, there's definite darkness in Lord of the Rings. There's a sadness to it, the passing of an age, the elves are leaving, magic is dying, these kingdoms of men are fading. There's a sort of twilight sensibility. He had the scouring of the Shire, even after the great victory over Sauron. It's not all happiness and dancing in the moonlight. Things have been lost, and Frodo is never quite the same. I responded to those elements in it, even when I read it at 13. I think there's a lot of similar elements not only in Ice and Fire, but in all of my work.

JB: There’s a meme current about idea of tragedy as natural, and happiness as something for which we should be grateful when it comes along. (He laughs at this). Is this one of the reasons fantasy appeals to people?

Martin: All fiction, if it's successful, is going to appeal to the emotions. Emotion is really what fiction is all about. That's not to say fiction can't be thoughtful, or present some interesting or provocative ideas to make us think. But if you want to present an intellectual argument, nonfiction is a better tool. You can drive a nail with a shoe but a hammer is a better tool for that. But fiction is about emotional resonance, about making us feel things on a primal and visceral level.

These are some complicated ideas we're touching on now. I hate to make sweeping statements about fiction in general. Every writer does his own thing. But my own view of the world… I don't think I'm a misanthrope, or gloomy. I think love and friendship are very important parts of what make life worth living. There is room for happiness. But that having been said, there are some basic truths. One of them is the death waits for all of us at the end. Whether it's the Middle Ages or today, sooner or later we are all going to be ashes to ashes, and dust to dust. I think that colors things. Any happy ending where everything is resolved, and everything is jolly, maybe rings false because of what is coming for us.

Another thing that is maybe not so big a part of Ice and Fire, but certainly a huge part of my early work, is the existential loneliness that we all suffer. While we interact with other human beings, we can never really know them. I think these things, that we feel on some deep instinctual level, make us feel the resonances in fiction. Historically, tragedy has always had more respect the comedy. I have a great deal of respect for comedy, and I like to do the occasional funny scene, but, he doesn't get respect. Even Shakespeare we teach as tragedy. We enjoyed his comedies, but if you ask what are the greatest Shakespeare plays, people are going to talk about Hamlet and Macbeth. They're not going to talk about Midsummer Night's Dream or As You Like It. What does that tell us?

JB: So genre can ask the same questions of the human condition as literary fiction?

Martin: Oh I agree completely. I've often said the same thing. My hallmark as a writer has always been Faulkner's statement, from his Nobel Prize speech, where he said, the human heart in conflict with itself is the only thing worth writing about.

I agree with that, regardless of genre. The genre stuff is just furniture. You can have a science fiction story with aliens and starships, you can have a mystery story about a private eye walking the mean streets, you can have a fantasy story with dragons and kings and swordfights, but ultimately any of these genres or the other genres are all about the human heart in conflict with itself. That's what makes fiction worth reading.

JB: Some of the critical reaction to the television show was writing about the furniture, rather than about the hearts of the characters.

Martin: I hated those two particular reviews. (Slate, New York Times). They were very controversial. My readers hated them too. In the New York Times one, which said women wouldn't like fantasy, they had so many responses that the Times had to close down the comments section. My tens of thousands of female fans were very annoyed to be written out of existence by the Times reviewer. (Laughs).

18 Responses to ‘George R.R. Martin interview’

w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15, 2013

I'm going to be sexist, but I observe that male and females have a tendency towards differing tastes in fiction. Not an original thought.
Then you see fantasy, certainly LOTR and GoT, have such strong female followings.
Blokes, to some extent, I think enjoy these as action adventures.
I propose, to some extent, females see them as particularly exciting family sagas.

Of course, strong female characters help.

AuntyLou swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15, 2013

Hi...long time lurker...& I am going to start off on a poor note by disagreeing with w from brisbane. Being of the female persuasion I can state that my favourite parts of the GoT books were the battles & the political machinations. Now I know one woman liking action does not totally negate w's observation regarding tendencies along gender lines - just that it is always dangerous to presume such. Lovely interview, by the way.

w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted May 15, 2013

Aunty Lou, you start on a great note!* You disagreed with me, honestly, but without nastiness. Thanks! I was genuinely looking for female feedback.

* Not that I am a spokesman for this blog, If I had a blog, I would only be talking to myself.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 15, 2013

You've both done very well.

AuntyLou asserts...

Posted May 16, 2013

Awww shucks! Thanks so much to you both. Wonder now why I have been too chicken to post for the past bunch of YEARS! I may summon up the courage to do it again!

Respond to this thread

Randall Flagg ducks in to say...

Posted May 15, 2013

Dear George,

Hurry up and finish the fucking book.

Yours with love,

everyone.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 15, 2013

I wonder, given the 'speed' with whcich the various arcs are progressing, how the TV series will go when they catch up, as they inevitably must.

Respond to this thread

Sas Battine ducks in to say...

Posted May 15, 2013

Nothing controversial to add, but what a fucking great interview. Well done JB!

Bunyip would have you know...

Posted May 15, 2013

Yeah. Ta for the repost, regurgeration, or whatever the appropriate term is.

pitpat ducks in to say...

Posted May 16, 2013

Add my thanks to those above and below

Respond to this thread

Bunyip reckons...

Posted May 15, 2013

JB, would you call yourself an architect or a gardener?

w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15, 2013

And does deadline hell affect where you sit on the architect/gardener slider?

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted May 15, 2013

This is worth a whole entry on it's own. By natural inclination I'm a gardener, but I have had to learn some architectural skills along the way.

I might blog about this one Friday.

Bunyip mutters...

Posted May 15, 2013

Cool. And I suspect some light may be cast from the open door of the KC garden shed. Murph having an insiders seat and all...

Respond to this thread

Legless is gonna tell you...

Posted May 15, 2013

Great interview.

I think what made Game of Thrones, the TV show, such a success was the absolute brilliant casting. How the hell they found a dwarf with the ability to play Tyrion Lannister - probably the most complex character in the story - is just mind blowing. Peter Dinklage is *is* Tyrion.

Khal Drogo - somewhere they found a giant body builder who could carry off that part. Ygritte - Jon Snows bit of stuff - is played superbly by Rose Leslie. Not conventionally attractive with her snub-nose and red hair - but that throaty "You know nothing Jon Snow" - somehow turns her into a sex kitten.

I could on. And on. Jamie Lanister, that little turd Joffrey, Daenerys Targaryen, Sansa Stark, Catlian Stark. The Red witch, Arya (there are just so many great parts for women in GoT) - whoever cast Game Of Thrones deserves the Nobel Prize for Awesomeness

Cheers

"You know nothing John B...." :)

Respond to this comment

Once Was Moko reckons...

Posted May 16, 2013

Good interview. Good read.

As for the female bit ... blah blah blah. Gross generalisations by silly little men with vagina issues.

Respond to this comment

Brother PorkChop swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 16, 2013

Thanks John. Really good read. My wife is amazed that she is a bigger GoT fan than I am however I do have to go through who is who before each episode. She cannot seem to follow the political structure and I think that comes from not getting into the books well.

But I did very much enjoy the interview and look forward to your thoughts on Architect or Gardener.

Respond to this comment

Shifty Tourist ducks in to say...

Posted May 16, 2013

Good interview JB.

On a related point.

Finish the damn book George!! .... but, you know... don't rush it... (scratches head).... I mean, finish it quickly, but.... not so as to make it feel rushed..... (scratches head again) .... you're an evil man George!!

He is a writer who inspires both great respect of his fans, and a deep deep desire to beat him with a blunt instrument (but carefully, so as not to damage the bits he needs to write with).

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'George R.R. Martin interview'

The Festival of Charlie

Posted May 13, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

Every writer dreams of taking back every book they ever wrote. There's always one more line to be tweaked. One more character to be fleshed out. One subplot to be eased into place to fit that much more snugly. Every book has a directors cut that you never see. If I had the chance I would totally rewrite Weapons of Choice, cutting back on the number of POV characters, smoothing out the narrative arc, which runs at warp speed in places, and drags along in others.
Meeting Charlie Stross for the first time in Perth I was fascinated and a little envious to discover he had done just that with his Traders series. I've had these books, a sort of alternate history portal jumping series, sitting on my must read shelf for a while now. A recommendation from the boys at Pulp Fiction. I love a good portal jump, but the cheap looking fantasy covers chosen by Tor and the implication there would be unicorns, or unicorn analogues, on the other side of the portal put me off.
I think they put Charlie off too because he spent a lot of time rewriting and repackaging this series to be published in the way he originally envisaged them as sci-fi driven alternate history techno-thrillers. (Sound familiar? He was writing these books at the same time as I was putting together Weapons).
The story of how they more from one genre into another is over at Tor. It's a marvelous tale of the way that old world publishing sometimes shoots itself in the arse:


Back in 2002, an eleven-years-younger me had just sold his first two SF novels to Ace, an American imprint of Penguin. As is usually the case, the contract for the books gave Ace the right of first refusal on my next SF novel. ‘But they won’t be interested in seeing your next until the first two are in print, which will take a couple of years,’ said my literary agent. ‘So why don’t you write a big fat fantasy or alternate history series, something which isn’t SF, so I can sell it elsewhere?’ (I love my agent: she’s got all the cold-blooded business sense that I missed out on at birth.)
One thing led to another, and I came up with a plan for gigantic parallel-universe techno-thrillers about folks from another time-line who have the ability to visit our own, and the toppling domino-stack of terrible consequences that unwind when their existence is uncovered. Then I wrote the first book. It weighed in at around 500 pages, and my agent liked it and made some suggestions, and I re-drafted it at 600 pages, and then she tried to sell it.

That's when everything turned to unicorn poo.

A marketing edict determined that the technothrillers would become fantasy epics and everything went a bit odd.

Longer story short, he's since had the chance to redo the books as he intended, and he took it. Even though I've bought the original series, I'm going to get the new ones and read them instead.

Below I've extracted a passage that that covers my favorite part of a 'portal' story. The first jump.

13 Responses to ‘The Festival of Charlie’

Dilph has opinions thus...

Posted May 13, 2013

The urge to rewrite is a very strong one...

I remember when i was still a kid, I had the urge to write The Great Fanatsy Novel.. which was, of course, a horrible half-chewed regurgitation of whatever I'd read recently - I recall it being heavily R. A. Salvatore flavoured. But I was never able to get past the first chapter before going back to the start and revising/rewriting/editing... how much worse must it be when you have a whole novel to change?

I've always just been impressed that people manage to finish things without the whole editing paralysis thing kicking in.

Respond to this comment

beeso would have you know...

Posted May 13, 2013

Can you get this electronically yet?

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted May 13, 2013

Hang on! I've been waiting for Charles Stross's promised book "The Sparkling",
A book that he said would be the first in a series of books in the Unicorn School™ about a girl who fall in love with a Sparkly Unicorn™.
Where is it!!
He promised it in his statement in 2010.
Yeah, here's the proof! It was on April the first, 2010.

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/04/psa-new-book-deal.html

Respond to this comment

Murphy asserts...

Posted May 13, 2013

I read the first three of those in the series at about the same time I was reading the Weapons of Choice triology. In fact, I might have been reading the last of that batch at the time time we were editing Final Impact.

Definitely worth the time, John. That said, I couldn't be bothered after the third one though for the life of me, I can't remember why.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Respond to this comment

Surtac mumbles...

Posted May 13, 2013

I've read pretty much all of Charlie's stuff apart from this series. Something kept me from it - it must have been the unicorns.

Guess I'd better rectify things with the new versions ...

Respond to this comment

Brother PorkChop has opinions thus...

Posted May 13, 2013

And here I was getting all excited about a festival of Charlie.... Cleaned off the mirro, sharpened the blade and did some starw maintenance. Bugger.

Brother PorkChop mumbles...

Posted May 13, 2013

Clearly excited as spelling went to shite - mirror, straw. Will now add these books to my book list.

Respond to this thread

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted May 13, 2013

"Every writer dreams of taking back every book they ever wrote."

So true. I've written only one book - Sex Slaves of the Congo. I wish to hell I never allowed it to be published. Yes, the money was good. But at a terrible personal and professional cost.

Bunyip ducks in to say...

Posted May 13, 2013

These are surely the sacrifices that all true artists have to make, in order to placate their muses...

Anthony would have you know...

Posted May 14, 2013

You mean all those years of intensive personal research were wasted?

Respond to this thread

Blarkon mumbles...

Posted May 13, 2013

At least it wasn't like Havock's "Karma Sutra". That's a book that needs a rewrite.

Worth checking out is Nobel laureette Paul Krugman on this series: http://crookedtimber.org/2009/01/27/stross-on-development-economics/

(If I've been reading the tea leaves correctly, the upcoming Neptune's Brood is heavily influenced by Debt: The first 5000 years)

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted May 13, 2013

Krugman's NYT blog is often as entertaining as it is edumacational. The chap's got an understated writing style that often slips some real zingers into superficially modest words. Not sure about his fascination with Arcade Fire though - they always seem to me like a great musical idea that doesn't quite work in practice.

Respond to this thread

S.M. Stirling is gonna tell you...

Posted May 14, 2013

My first novel, in 1984 (really) was a fantasy because the editor said my original post-apocalyptic setting "needed magic".

OK, at that point I would have pulled myself to New York by my lips, naked, over broken glass. In goes an evil shaman and 10,000 extra words.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'The Festival of Charlie'

Charlie Stross on Failure

Posted May 10, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

A couple of years ago I was on a book tour and missed Charlie by a couple of hours in western Sydney. He left a treat for me at the bookshop, however. A signed copy of Singularity Sky. I enjoyed it very much. So it was a surprise to read this entry at his blog about the 'nightmarish mire of despair' that the book became for him. I'm more a slough of despond guy myself, but I can relate to a good mire of despair.

Rewind to 1996. I was living in Edinburgh, working for a web consultancy that was in the process of going bust. The year before, I'd handed in the way-overdue manuscript of "The Web Architect's Handbook", a non-fic get-rich-quick scheme originally proposed in 1993 which crashed and burned in the market because folks who weren't working 60-80 hours a week as CGI app troubleshooters got their how-to books out first. I was writing about an article a month for "Computer Shopper" (the British mag, not the Ziff-Davis title) and I'd sold one short story that year — a reprint. I was 32, I'd sold about a dozen or two short stories, signally failed to sell a novel while everyone else I knew who'd begun selling short fiction through Interzone at the same time had become a household name (Pete Hamilton, Steve Baxter, Paul McAuley ... do I need to continue?), and was having a crisis of confidence.

I totally get where he's coming from. So much of writing is a confidence trick. Like 'form' for a sportsman. You can go through the motions in a textbook fashion, but if you don't feel like you're killing it, it's gonna kill you.

I've struggled with and buried more than my fair share of projects over the years. Released a few into the wild that should never have made it as well.

"What do you do when you have a crisis of confidence in what you've seen as your vocation (write science fiction) since age 15?" asks Charlie. "You either give up completely, or you double-down".

(My thanks to Murph for the link).

13 Responses to ‘Charlie Stross on Failure’

Surtac mumbles...

Posted May 10, 2013

Remarkable timing or spooky coincidence?. I've just finished reading Charlie's post, jumped back to Google Reader to continue my daily blogwalk and find you've linked to it too.

And I agree - it's a fascinating read.

Respond to this comment

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted May 10, 2013

I realise you wouldn't put these up on a Bluntie, but maybe at a burger get together I'd love to hear which projects you think "should never have made it as well". I bet if you asked the burgers they would have a compeletely different take on this.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted May 10, 2013

Version 1 of How to be a Man. Before Flinthart rescued it.

Respond to this thread

Bunyip ducks in to say...

Posted May 10, 2013

Reading that, just disappeared down a TOS-1 Buratino shaped rabbit hole.

As you were...

alexmac would have you know...

Posted May 10, 2013

I too went down that rabbit hole.

Respond to this thread

Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted May 10, 2013

Getting a personal response from Dozois is like hitting the top ten percent.

I've got those laying around here. If only I'd moved a little faster.

Sometimes . . . it is luck. Bad and good.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Respond to this comment

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted May 10, 2013

About ten years ago I suffered a serious crisis of confidence when a case I worked on for years ended up a great disappointment. Adding insult to injury, my failure was discussed online by anonymous people, many of whom did not think very highly of me due to my representation of a controversial investigative journalist. In the middle of the comments from all those experiencing the ecstasy of schadenfreude one commenter, claiming to be a farmer, attempted to console me. He said “we’ve all experienced crop failures.” I’ll never forget that simple kindness from a complete stranger.

But there is no feeling quite like the one that envelopes you when all available evidence seems to indicate that the lens with which you tried to view the future was flawed and the muse you were following wasn’t.

Matthew F. mutters...

Posted May 10, 2013

Very eloquently put, Paul.

I've been in that place a few times over the last couple of years, with both the crop failure (when every sign pointed to a bumper season) and the broader crisis of self-definition. I've watched friends go through it too. It's ugly and scary, and no matter how many common elements there are in the experience there never seems to be a universal answer or path forward.

Respond to this thread

Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted May 10, 2013

Point well taken, Paul.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Respond to this comment

Ashar has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2013

Funnily enough my crisis of confidence happened after becoming "well."

Prior to my early 30's I had been writing a number of short plays, usually for university students and friends, occasionally poetry and improvised performance for open-mic nights at some cooler pubs in Perth, WA. I was, if I may say so, fucking brilliant at play-writing. I could pour out a 20min short play in a weekend, with little to no revision except grammar and spelling.

Then I found out I lived with bipolar and PTSD (and all the crap that comes with that in a late diagnosis and from repeated trauma), which made a lot of sense looking back on my teens onwards. When I finally found medicine to alleviate the daily struggle with a body betraying the self, my ability to think around corners seemed to go up in a puff of smoke.

While the power of positive thinking can be great for mild depression, it can be outright dangerous for those with psychiatric illnesses. For me, and others, it is a very slow process. Certainly the confidence is returning, and I look forward to punching out some more scripts in the future. It certainly shaped my views of success away from concerns of monetary wealth, and more towards the role art has played over the history of humanity.

NBlob mumbles...

Posted May 11, 2013

Yeah yeah, you just want to make us jealous that you're in Fiji and We are not.

Ashar ducks in to say...

Posted May 12, 2013

It's not that I want to make you jealous, but I must say it does make the stay here all the more lovely - oh another palm tree and gorgeous sunset...ahhhhhh

Respond to this thread

damian reckons...

Posted May 11, 2013

Fark. I remember reading a lot of David Weber about the same time and having a very similar set of objections. Crisis of confidence since age 15? Check. Seems I took the "give up completely" approach though. Cyclone-force sigh.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Charlie Stross on Failure'

You can’t eat artistic integrity. It tastes like sawdust.

Posted May 3, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

Another piece I wrote during the Sydney Writers Festival. Fucked if I remember where. Maybe Time Off.

Kim Scott, Roger McDonald, Shirley Hazzard and Alex Miller all have Miles Franklins. You’ve never heard of any of them. J K Rowling, Tom Clancy, Stephen King and Dan Brown steal plots from vintage Scooby Doo cartoons, and construct characters out of processed cheese — but if you haven’t got one of their books, you’re probably dead.

As the deadline for submission to the Nobel Commitee approached, JB knew he would have to get serious if he was to finally take down his bitter rival Vargas Llosa...

Remember when reading Literature was interesting? Hemingway, was literature, you know. He had to be. They 'teach' him now. And Hemingway would shit hedgehogs if he saw the state of the Art these days. Back in Earnesto's day, you couldn’t bang out an Art novel and spend the rest of your life necking wine and cheese on the festival circuit. Back in his day, you weren’t a writer unless people actually wanted to read your stuff.

We can’t ask Clancy, King and Rowling to help out. They’re too busy rolling in mountains of money. This problem has to be solved by the people who created it. By people like Gail Jones, for example.

Jones is an Aussie literary lion. Twice shortlisted for the Miles Franklin, she wipes her talented bottom with literary awards. Her most novel Sorry, is an “exquisite story of ... troubled childhood” which “ ...explores the values of friendship, loyalty and sacrifice....... ad;flk;lkjlkjjjjjj

What? Oh. Apologies — I dropped off for a moment there.

Success! Your hairless arse is mine VARGAS LLOSA!!!

Okay, Gail. Cred is good, but coin is better. You can’t eat artistic integrity. It tastes like sawdust. So the first thing we need to do is figure out what genre Sorry belongs in, because genre fiction is the stuff that sells. Luckily this is a no-brainer. Set in Western Australia in the ‘thirties, we’ve got a story about white men clashing with the natives. So, if you’re looking forward to the ching-ching-ching of major cash at the local Book Barn, Sorry should be retooled as a Western.

With a bit of guidance from cowboy opera legends Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey, a writer like Jones should be able to tickle this turkey ‘til it crows like a rooster.

First, though, we have to fix the writer. Zane Grey was a rogerer and roisterer. Louis L’Amour travelled the world as a merchant seaman and fought as a tank commander in WWII. You're a lecturer in cultural studies, Gail? Hmm. You should think about driving big trucks full of sweating gelignite for a day job. Zane woulda done it. Just for fun. Louis woulda smoked few sticks as novelty cigars.

And that title? Nothing turns off the punters like a limp, ambiguous title. Zane and Louis never said sorry. They were too busy beating back Apaches and gunning down rustlers in Riders Of The Purple Sage or The Quick And The Dead. Sure, Sorry sort of reflects the theme of the novel. But how about: A Man Called Sorry.

I smell gunsmoke, saddlesoap and a Clint Eastwood movie spin off already.

Then it’s just a matter of swapping out all that character development and exquisitely layered narrative you wasted so much time on, and replacing it with some gun fights and horse riding. Maybe throw in a dynamite duel too. Dynamite is always an excellent narrative choice.

But Gail Jones can't carry the revolution by herself. Yes, I'm looking at you, Helen Garner. How many years have you been the righteous front-persyn of rational academic Feminism in Oz? You've got more cred than a whole netball squad of Germaine Greers armed with crutching irons. So what do we get from you? The Spare Room:a searing drama of a woman taking up space on someone else's fold-away futon so she can die – very slowly, for sure – of cancer.

Dammit, Helen – you got leverage. In Australia, Feminism is whatever the frock you say it is. Take a couple-hundred pages from Danielle Steele. Peek through the saggy vinyl blinds into that spare room, and show us some serious boobage! You can still do all that deep affirmation-of-life and acceptance-of-death stuff, except you make sure your female lead has bodacious taa-taas and a string of swaggersome boytoys with whom to make thunderous rumpy-pumpy.

And lingerie. You're gonna need lingerie for the cover art, plus a whole bunch more to splash around the storyline. Can't remember the difference between a bustier and a merry widow? Your audience won't care anyway, so long as it's lacy and silky and tears away easily in the hot, sweaty hands of the hero. And the villain. And the main girl's best girlfriend too.

Of course, the really big bucks come from the US market. Luckily, the Yanks have sent us an author for the SWF. Junot Diaz is a nerdy Dominican-American from the East Coast, whose Pulitzer-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is (kind of unsurprisingly) about a nerdy Dominican-American from the East Coast and his quest for love. And, um, stuff.

Oscar Wao is big on the fan-boy SF scene, and for some reason, confuses his homeland with Geek Country: "What more sci-fi than Santo Domingo? What more fantasy than the Antilles?"

Nice try, Junot, but it won't wash. Science fiction is good, and fantasy pays like a mint run by Swedish hookers, but everybody knows the Dominican Republic isn't science fiction territory. That's Clancy-land down there.

Tom Clancy, that is: a world of drugs, guns, spies, killer satellites, terrorists, assassins, and hard-bitten American special forces. Writing a Clancy novel is easy. All you gotta do is start every new scene with a dateline, like this – San Cristobal Beach, April 22nd, 0035hrs. Those twenty-four hour time-stamps just ooze the militaristic authenticity that Clancy's readers really dig. Other than that, you gotta remember the Americans are the good guys, drugs are bad, and Clancyland characters never go anywhere without a silenced 9mm fully automatic Grunder-Schloss microgun packed with HEAP ammo stuffed into their undies.

Stick to those rules, you can have Oscar Wao do pretty much whatever the hell he wants and the techno-thriller crowd won't care. They'll be too busy emailing you with details of how you got the safety catch wrong on the left-handed model of the Skorpion submachinegun featured on page fifty-six.

Not that it matters, because ultimately the goal is to spin up the zeroes on your bank balance. You can do it with horses, hooters, guns, spaceships, dragons, or any mixture of the above. The only rule you really have to remember is this: five sequels and a movie deal trumps a Miles Franklin every time.

21 Responses to ‘You can’t eat artistic integrity. It tastes like sawdust. ’

Dave W has opinions thus...

Posted May 3, 2013

I've never understood why it's better to read something because it's Literature. I've tried reading Literature. It's shit. If the reader has to work that hard to understand the similes, metaphors and allusions then how hard has the author worked to get those suckers in there. If they've worked that hard on those types of things, generally I believe that other stuff will have suffered, like plot and readability. But how important should plot and readability be? Why would an author want their novel to be read? That would go against the grain of anyone serious about being a Literary author, right?

Respond to this comment

mark russell puts forth...

Posted May 3, 2013

Luv it! You ripped into the literati and the mainstream pulpsters at the same time. If it's in the limelight rip it apart. Just wish I had some fame so I could do the same.

Respond to this comment

Therbs reckons...

Posted May 3, 2013

Big 'L' scribbling is fine but we need 'Splodey as well. Anyone venturing to a Sydney Writers Festival note that a shuttle bus runs from near the Fortune of War pub in The Rocks. I found this out quite happily after getting bored by lit wankerdom a few years back. My SWF advice is go to the Fortune of War, get your SWF cred in by nodding at some turtleneck wankbadger, have a few beers then go see Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Darth Greybeard reckons...

Posted May 3, 2013

I want a Turtleneck Wankbadger action figure. Do they sell them at Dymocks?

Respond to this thread

w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted May 3, 2013

I think I have read every western novel of note, and quite a few that are not remotely noteworthy.

Zane Grey's 1912 novel, "Riders Of The Purple Sage", is a moral meditation and an action adventure. The enemy is the religious and gender intolerance employed by the Church of the Latter Day Saints at the time.
I kid you not.
It is an enjoyable read. The central character is a woman.
Possibly a demonstation that genre fiction can have a serious theme, and be a popular fiction page turner.

Respond to this comment

JG would have you know...

Posted May 3, 2013

I guess it's what you become used to. I feel like I *should* like more literary literature, but I find it too boring. It bogs me down in too much detail. Sure, I like abstract ideas, but not to the point where there's no story.

I'm too used to reading popular fiction. It's nice to read a good literary work now and then, but my preference is to read what interests me. I guess studying Latin all those years in high school many years ago was a waste of time. Not to worry. JB's writing is beautiful and lyrical at times. Good writing is good writing: it doesn't matter if it's 'literary', 'trade commercial', or whatever. I read writers who write well, but they're not considered literary.

Respond to this comment

pi would have you know...

Posted May 3, 2013

You crack me up JB.

Respond to this comment

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted May 3, 2013

"Back in his day, you weren’t a writer unless people actually wanted to read your stuff" I have heard this title given t some writers who are

more reviewed than read.

Didn't get nominated for the Miles Frak-lin again this year JB? Don't feel bad I believe it's a complete sausage-free field this year.

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted May 3, 2013

Speaking of popular culture,

“this exquisite story of ... troubled childhood which ...explores the values of friendship, loyalty and sacrifice."

That basically defines the quintessential sports narrative, except it is real people.
It is funny when literary saga promoters spurn sports as a field of interest, when what makes sport interesting is so similar to what makes literary sagas interesting.

Respond to this comment

Daniel Young swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 3, 2013

Comparing (so-called) Literary fiction and genre fiction is like comparing (so-called) Arthouse films with big budget Hollywood films.

One serves to entertain. The other makes you think and feel. I'll let you decide which is which.

There's room for both, if you open your brain up.

Respond to this comment

Legless is gonna tell you...

Posted May 3, 2013

Clancy wrote some awesome 'splodey books and then lost his artistic integrity and started to churn out absolute crap. His last decent book was The Bear And The Dragon. Since then I wouldn't use one of his books to wipe my arse.

Oddly enough, Clancy's place in my library has been taken by none other than yourself, Mr B.

Cheers

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 3, 2013

I can't recall the last of his I bothered with. I think the war with Japan one.

He is much better when writing about things, rather than people.

damian ducks in to say...

Posted May 3, 2013

Yeah I think the Japan one was the last I read too. I think I read the precis of the one after (President Jack after all) and thought either 1) "you've got to be joking", 2) "sod this for a game of soldiers", 3) "wasn't that a chuck norris movie" or 4) all of the above.

Respond to this thread

Brian asserts...

Posted May 3, 2013

Hmm . . . .in 50 years time Lit students will be de thesis on Clancy, Rowling etc and the Big Award winners will be footnotes.

This is only an observation of course, as most of the biggies Dickens, Shakespeare, Milton were all pretty popular and populist in their time. Society favourites? You have to Google to work out who won what prize, when . . .history has all but erased them. Simply put . . .some people's leave lasting monuments others don't. The ones that do, make a buck.

Respond to this comment

Surtac asserts...

Posted May 3, 2013

I just scared my workplace LOLling at this one, JB.

It's all true though - you nailed it.

I'm reading a big L literature book at the moment- yes it's all a 'coming of age' story and a 'you can't go home again - the past is a different country' type of story. I can see all that coming at me. But what keeps me reading is the humour: the love of language, the sly puns and weirdness of schoolboy humour, the image of the young teenager defiling a snooty golf course by 'laying some cable' in the cup on the 11th green and so on ...

What is this strange book, you ask? It's Stonemouth by Iain Banks.

Respond to this comment

Brother PorkChop reckons...

Posted May 3, 2013

All true but very very funny. Hooters and shooters to live like a king.

Respond to this comment

Graham ducks in to say...

Posted May 3, 2013

People today seem to confuse "literary fiction" with big-L "literature". When I was young, a work didn't get to be called literature until it had been around a long time and still had a lot of people who loved it (or it had acquired them). Literary fiction is just another marketing category that includes all those maundering (because they're almost plotless) novels about adultery, coming of age, finding yourself, etc., etc.. In fact, people are so confused between the two that they think the awards for literary fiction are actually for literature.

The notion that literary fiction has any kind of monopoly on exploring ideas or making people think is patently wrong. In fact, the endless turning over of rocks and navel gazing that goes on in literary fiction strikes me as sterile in the extreme, perpetually "exploring the human condition" in the same way that Mills and Boon has explored the nature of romance.

Respond to this comment

Dino not to be confused with ducks in to say...

Posted May 3, 2013

"Remember when reading Literature was interesting?"

Says it all JB.

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted May 3, 2013

Yep, Dino,
Books that have a literature style, good english, but just aren't much good.
There are exceptions e.g. Rohinton Mistry 'A Fine Balance'. A cracker. It gives one faith.



Respond to this comment

tqft mumbles...

Posted May 3, 2013

I dont think I have ever read "Literature".

Watched "films" &/or "cinema" yes as opposed to movies or flicks.

But literature looks like work and not entertaining. Sorry not interested, if I want to explore the inner life of people I can loo around me. I read to escape not relive, And happy to pay for it.

Respond to this comment

Rhino would have you know...

Posted May 4, 2013

Here's what I want to see ... I want a book with scrappy heroes and splodey goodness where the bad guys win. Period. No sequels. No do-overs. No matter what the heroes do they cannot overcome Competent Evil Nemesis.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'You can’t eat artistic integrity. It tastes like sawdust. '

Where is my gold? Where is my glory?

Posted May 1, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

I had planned to be on my yacht at this hour, rolling naked in the pile of gold dubloons that were a righteous certainty to pour upon me within moments of the announcement that the Burger had trounced the competition for Blog of the Year. And yet, here I sit, in my underpants, picking dried barbecue sauce from my chest hairs and scratching my nuts in wonderment.
Because. I. Did. Not. Win.
I know, I know, inconceivable. And yet, not. Not when I foolishly allowed my hopes and dreams to take flight on wings feathered by the likes of you worthless galahs. Oh, how could I have been so foolish? I should have run the lot of you off years ago. I hardly know where to begin apportioning blame. So let's start with who's not to blame, and that's me. Not when there are so many others to whom I can sheet home responsibility for this disaster.
You, Havoc, I am looking at you and the poorly executed icing on the cupcakes with which you were to bribe the judges. What made you think that overly dramatic renderings of your genitalia would lead me on the first steps up the happy staircase to success? Well? I'm waiting.

And you, bearded Greyman. Put some pants on for God's sake and cover up those tattoos. And the next time a representative of the judging committee passes by this way, should they ever do so, try so very hard not to insert a ferret into them.
Dino, did it ever occur to you that your impenetrable ramblings look like poetry, and poetry never wins anything, anywhere. Certainly not friends. I blame you along with Lord Bob for not losing those extra 10 kgs he promised, by which means to draw the interest of the lady judges. I blame Murphy, for sitting in a corner, drinking distilled spirits from a pickle jar and muttering about philosophy. I blame Lobes, because Lobes.
I blame you all.
I could've been something. I could've made something of myself. I could've been a contender. Instead, all I got was this lousy "Finalist" sticker that I wouldn't even slap on the dog's arse during a bout of explosive diarrhea.
Damn you all. Damn you all to hell. I was meant for glory and all I got was a plate full of stale cock cakes.
Oh, and congratulations to that Stephanie girl who won. Her blog is quite good.

108 Responses to ‘Where is my gold? Where is my glory?’

Brian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 1, 2013

Seconded! Only because I know he has clean underpants - when he chooses to wear them.

Dino not to be confused with ducks in to say...

Posted May 1, 2013

Yeah I blame Lobes too.

Lobes AND his Chickybabe.

I just got home from the Four Pines Brewery(second time I've been ther this week and I met a French girl called Fabienne(ChickyBabe extrordinairre) and the Muso was Tre` Bon. Any way I come home and log on and am sad.

We let the team down. Lobes in Particular.

Did I mention how good the Muso was?

HAVOCK21 asserts...

Posted May 2, 2013

OH YOU are sooooo fknlucky I';ve fkn been working for a living old scribe, fkn me part..I had the bastards up against teh fkn wall and even shot one in the foot for good fkn measure...and yet.....I fear, its the engineering , the structure that fkn let us down...LOBES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted May 2, 2013

Lobes has a Chickybabe? How odd. For reasons I now find mysterious I've always envisoned Lobes as asexual.

Murphy puts forth...

Posted May 2, 2013

Omnisexual maybe.

Lobes reckons...

Posted May 2, 2013

Oh have you guys not met my Chickybabe? Her name is.... STEPHANIE!! Mwahahaha

Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted May 2, 2013

Man, I hear Steph is a real bitch. :)

Murphy reckons...

Posted May 2, 2013

I should offer an apology. It just dawned on me that Lobes was referring to the blog which actually won the competition.

My bad. I have no idea if she is a bitch or not.

Respond to this thread

Terry Frost reckons...

Posted May 1, 2013

*doubloon

Apart from that, you wuz robbed.

Respond to this comment

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted May 1, 2013

"at overly dramatic renderings of your genitalia" shouldn't the ones on the cupcakes be bigger then?

Do we need to go and 'explain' to the judges their error? What if somfing were to happen to Ms Stephanie's blog, like a fire?

Respond to this comment

DrYobbo asserts...

Posted May 1, 2013

Fuck this. Everybody out. Imma blow up the intergoogle

Respond to this comment

tqft has opinions thus...

Posted May 1, 2013

1) I wasnt named so don't blame me.

2) No payments for services were delivered so the person who failed deliver said payments may bear some of the blame.

3) there is no 3

Respond to this comment

Spanner ducks in to say...

Posted May 1, 2013

I still get my beer right?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 1, 2013

You'll get the back o' me 'and!

Respond to this thread

melissasavage ducks in to say...

Posted May 1, 2013

I do feel your pain. My wee little site was up for Best Blog Under 6 Months old and I was beat out by a bloody commercial bridal blog. A rort, I say, a rort!

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 1, 2013

Brides? I hate brides.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted May 2, 2013

Oh, I adore brides! What is the url, Melissa?

Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted May 2, 2013

Brides are a dish best consumed before the ceremony.

Respond to this thread

Quokka mutters...

Posted May 1, 2013

I blame those bastards in Emu creek that sold me the ferrets.

Nobody told me they bite.

Respond to this comment

BobGrrl asserts...

Posted May 1, 2013

Clearly you needed more lesbians. Everybody loves lesbians.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 1, 2013

Fuck! Yes! Can't believe I forgot to add lesbians.

JG swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 1, 2013

And thespians. Not that I'm treading any boards.

NBlob mumbles...

Posted May 2, 2013

Or Lesbian Thespians. Anyone seen Man Clumsy?

JG swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 2, 2013

Where have they all gone? A few ladies and gents have departed these shores in the last couple of years, or they post so infrequently that they turn up out of the blue like ghosts.

Respond to this thread

BigWillieStyle reckons...

Posted May 1, 2013

Yeah, but Stephanie's blog has got a link to a website where you can buy Hooded Cable Knit Cardigans. I've gone over your blog with a fine tooth comb...no sensible knitwear available anywhere! Must. Try. Harder.

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted May 1, 2013

Can we also blame Random House?

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted May 1, 2013

Pfft. That goes without saying.

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted May 1, 2013

You really have been just left with a bag of dicks.

DrYobbo puts forth...

Posted May 2, 2013

Yes, but an expertly iced bag of dicks. So that's something.

Murphy mutters...

Posted May 2, 2013

With cream filling.

Respond to this thread

NBlob puts forth...

Posted May 1, 2013

The day you rely on me for lady bait...

But let's explore the "it's GreyBeard's fault" theory further;

  1. It says Right there over the hearth "With pants come dignity."
  2. Cat hide moccasins, while inarguably toasty are not for Company.
  3. His 1st hand stories of and possible partial responibility for the Cretaceous-Paleogene event are felt by some to be ghoulish and macabre. In either case all agree they are just plain creepy.
  4. His "welcoming smile" reminds me of skull cave. Artificial, Lithic and no-one's home.

I put it to the members of the Membership Committee that The Time has come. The old fool has snapped. The recent arrival of GrreyBeard 3.1 has finally exhausted his meagre resources of sanity. Your compassion and pity are admirable, but think of the upside of a simple scapegoat or ????? if you prefer. None would be simpler a quick toss over the back of the troika. The snow will cushion his fall and I'm sure those doggies just want to play.

tqft mumbles...

Posted May 1, 2013

Nah keep him around for the humour value and to blame for further erros of our ways

Darth Greybeard swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 1, 2013

Now I wonder if "erros" was errors or eros. If I'm going to be blamed I'd think Eros would be more fun.

Slight correction to NBlob's otherwise excellent rant - those weren't cat-hide moccassins, it was a live cat. They're so warm on my poor old feet.

Spanner mumbles...

Posted May 1, 2013

It's so cute when Greybeard thinks he is people.

NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted May 2, 2013

Curiouser & curiouser said Alice.

I copied & pasted the Hebrew for Azazel. When composing the Gothic displayed it, when it did its " you just posted" thing it showed it, but now in the cold light of morning it has translated it to ?????.

Perhaps it is time to leap to an unfounded and baseless conclusion:

IT'S DAN'S FAULT. *

If he can't enable a simple right justified, ancient, largely extinct for 200 years, then rekindled, letter set, what chance did we have?

* Self evidently GreyBeard still retains some culpability.

DNABeast mumbles...

Posted May 2, 2013

Usually these decisions are made to avoid script injection but in this case it was to prevent anyone summoning a lesser demon. It should also auto-censor the names of the lovecraftian terrors, the ancient evils and The Doctor.

NBlob mumbles...

Posted May 2, 2013

Horse. Gate. Bolted. GreyBeard has been here for 5+ years.

damian would have you know...

Posted May 2, 2013

In the 21st Century, don't we just use placeholders, stored procedures or other API mechanisms to obviate the need to be paranoid about the content of strings of text? I mean, some day everyone is gonna be called little Bobby tables and all that...

Darth Greybeard puts forth...

Posted May 3, 2013

Oh god, I love "little Bobby Tables".

Respond to this thread

pitpat mumbles...

Posted May 1, 2013

Hope you don't take this the wrong way in the depths of despair but I for one is glad you didn't win.

This is a super dooper blog and if you'd won then it would all change. Fame and fortune changes people and not for the better. We've all been there on the cusp of greatness only to draw back in horror as we look in the mirror to see the monster we have become. And no my name is not Clive.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 1, 2013

I dunno. The doubloons woulda been okay.

JG mumbles...

Posted May 1, 2013

You're a lady aren't you, pitpat? Yes, this blog is so much fun. It would be a pity for JB to spoil it with notions of grandeur and for him to go ching-chinging to the bank with the title of Australian blog god. He still is though. Yes, the man's a marvel. He writes like a demon, and he's funny, so funny, but don't tell him that.

This is the only blog I follow, so be grateful for that, JB. Whingeing bastard.

Joanna, incognito. ;)

MickH asserts...

Posted May 1, 2013

Yeah I was rich and famous once but I gave it all away because i hated it

pitpat puts forth...

Posted May 2, 2013

Hey Joanna, Fraid I am a bit of a bit of a beardy bloke. Thanks for the compliment, though I am not sure my wife will belive it till I show her the thread. Cheers Pat(rick).

With ya Mick, I mean apart from power, possesions, and a penchant for somewhat illegal substances which are all easily obtainable with a bit of corruption and larceny what does fame and fortune really do for you. Sure the chalet on the Swiss french border was good fun and snorkelling in the Caribbean was raking in the life savings of Mum and Dad investors is a job well done. But really what about the inner Chi, at the end of the day only you can allign the Charkra to lie strsight in bed.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted May 2, 2013

I thought you were a woman, too, but a very masculine woman.

JG would have you know...

Posted May 2, 2013

That's strange, pitpat. I envisaged you as Patricia: a sweet, reticent on-the-elderly side woman. A woman who has a husband, a lovely flower garden, and one who enjoyed a homely existence.

So now I find out you are randy Patrick with a wife. CBG doth intrigue me.

pitpat is gonna tell you...

Posted May 2, 2013

Well some might consider me sweet, definetley reticient around strangers, Had a quite beautiful flower garden in the glasshouse mountains and although my life revolves around continual travel am very hard to prise from home. So all in all not a bad insight Indigo:) and really what's one chromosone between burgers.

PNB a Very masculine woman indeed, made my day

Respond to this thread

Bunyip asserts...

Posted May 1, 2013

I suppose I'll just have to get rid of these kidnapped pets and grandparents then...

Respond to this comment

JG mumbles...

Posted May 1, 2013

Hahahaha. What a sight to behold. Havock, you do cake decorating too? You're a marvel. Anyway, funny, funny, funny.

Too bad, JB. You're stuck with us now.

JG :P

Respond to this comment

Barnesm reckons...

Posted May 1, 2013

Wll Next year

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted May 1, 2013

I think I see the problem. There were 5 categories. You were in "Words and writing".

The winning blog is good and it is exclusively about certain genres of popular fiction. Great. Your blog however, doesn't neatly fit into any of the categories. In fact, unlike all the other entries, you cover all the categories.

Let's check.

The Categories
Commentary - Yep. You bitch about stuff all the time. Tick.
Parenting - Yep. Those bloody kids. Tick.
Lifestyle/Hobby - Did you not just have a blog about beer? Tick.
Business - You are always on about money. Tick.
Words and writing - Double tick. Book Club. Stuff about POV etc etc. I almost understood some of it.

There you go. It's your mindscape, man. They couldn't handle it.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 1, 2013

You're right. Those small minded bastards. But I still blame the penis cakes.

Respond to this thread

MickH swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 1, 2013

So no placings?

Second?

Fifth?

Worst?

(I wasnt named so it wasn't me)

Respond to this comment

MickH is gonna tell you...

Posted May 1, 2013

ROFL

That photo of the penis cakes is going to scoll around in the header for FKN weeks!!

Brian mumbles...

Posted May 1, 2013

Bet there's a few ladies who'd really take a bite out of those CUPCAKES!

MickH swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 1, 2013

bring water to your eyes just thinking about ti!

Respond to this thread

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted May 1, 2013
In the universe where you won we're all completely pissed now and really no-one knows how that goat got in the pool.

Bangar swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 1, 2013

Damian, I don't know how the goat got in the pool but I do know who brought it. I don't think anyone else will want to eat the jello from the pool this time, the goat has rather ruined the flavour, well from the expression on the jello eaters mugs anyway.

Dave W mumbles...

Posted May 2, 2013

I do prefer that universe. Sweet, sweet victory.

Much better than this miserable existence.

Respond to this thread

Darth Greybeard has opinions thus...

Posted May 1, 2013

This was clearly the greatest literary miscarriage of justice since Moses failed to win the Parchmenter Prize for the pentateuch. But it weren't us loyal Burgers who were to blame. Our eloquent and thought-provoking responses to every possible topic could not have failed to impress any fair and balanced panel of judges. But were they? Really? Or were their pockets lined with the escudos, cruzeiros and powdery Columbian pesos of ... Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa?

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 1, 2013

<i>VARGAS LLOSAAAAA!!!</i>

Respond to this thread

w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted May 1, 2013

Anyway, Cheeseburger Gothic has the bigger tick.
It has been preserved by the National Library of Australia. Since 2006!
That means, as well as JB's blogs, every comment made has been preserved as part of the cultural treasury of this nation.

That's right! Every Havock, Boylan and Indigo. The nation says thanks, we'll keep that.

Just a darned pity there isn't a buck in it.
http://pandora.nla.gov.au/tep/55673

JG puts forth...

Posted May 2, 2013

Good to know we're national treasures, by default, w. Thanks, JB. What's that expression? Riding on the back of the golden sheep.

Respond to this thread

sibeen is gonna tell you...

Posted May 1, 2013

I suggest you sic a lawyer onto those bastards on the voting commitee. The utter shits. There's one thing I can't stand and that is bastards who won't stay bought. Was not the offer of a ride in a fucking hovercraft enough?

Now, if only we knew a lawyer, any lawyer. Jeez, they probably don't have to be any good at their craft; just the sight of their embossed business card should be enough to have the result over turned.

Dino not to be confused with reckons...

Posted May 1, 2013

Sibeen,

I have looked at the 'winner' and have noticed an 'about us' link.

But when you clink on 'about us' ther is only a photo of 'us' and no mention on what is obviously a collaboration !

I demand a recount and two of Havocks cupcakes.

Bunyip asserts...

Posted May 1, 2013

I think the cupcakes have got goat flavoured jello on them. Something transdimensional portal something Greybeard something bellyflop in pool something.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted May 2, 2013

Sibeen - I would be happy to draft a demand lettter.

Respond to this thread

Murphy mumbles...

Posted May 2, 2013

I farted.

Just sayin'.

Respond to this comment

Jacques Stahl reckons...

Posted May 2, 2013

I hope it had nothing to do with my last post being sent from Tasmania. Do the judges have a way of tracking our cyber whereabouts?

I do have some nice honey from Yolla which could go on the cupcakes.

Respond to this comment

DrYobbo asserts...

Posted May 2, 2013

Right, so can we stop pretending this is a words and writing blog now? That was a fucking weird week or so.

Respond to this comment

HAVOCK21 ducks in to say...

Posted May 2, 2013

its fkn quite obvious, I should not have used fkn BURGERS as me models for the fkn cupcakes, to many required to fill the fkn space!

JG mutters...

Posted May 2, 2013

How did you make them, Hav? Just asking. They are most realistic. I hope nobody was hurt in the making of your penile cupcakes.

Respond to this thread

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted May 2, 2013

I, for one, am relieved. It was just too much pressure avoiding referring to others as fuckknucklers and otherwise self-censoring myself in a doomed attempt to look respectable.

Winning would have ruined you, John. By losing, you win peace of mind and freedom of thought and action.

Respond to this comment

Mayhem's Mum would have you know...

Posted May 2, 2013

I made you two dozen new doilies AND a fresh batch of lemonade scones with hardly any rat in them. If you didn't win, Mr Birmingham, Sir, it wasn't my fault.

By the way, has anybody seen my goat? When I got up this morning, I found I had mistakenly tethered Lobes to my gatepost instead. Indeed he looks just like my goat, but is much harder to milk. I'd rather have the goat back thanks.

Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted May 2, 2013

Farming tip: a goat will not chew through a link metal chain.

JG reckons...

Posted May 2, 2013

What's with the goat? What's goat got to do with it?

Respond to this thread

HAVOCK21 is gonna tell you...

Posted May 2, 2013
we seem to have a real posse of pillocks about at the mo!

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted May 2, 2013

In my defense, I'm not at my best due to jet lag.

Respond to this thread

DrYobbo swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 2, 2013

I still think we should have tipped Van Over. That's comedy fucking gold and those pre-soiled wankbadgers on the committee can go root their boot if they opine otherwise

Respond to this comment

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted May 2, 2013

I just noticed (not that I was looking or anything) that the photo at the top of this post depicts a multicultural penis ensemble. Wasn't that thoughtful?

JG puts forth...

Posted May 2, 2013

Politically correct, Paul. It's only right to represent a cross section of the community.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted May 2, 2013

Politically correct penis cupcakes. Yep. That's about right.

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted May 2, 2013

That's it! That is why the gifting failed.
It was the hegemonic masculinity expressed by the gift that offended.
Or, as the judge remarked, "Where's the vag?"

Lulu puts forth...

Posted May 2, 2013

w, no, it failed because there wasn't enough of a 'journey' or 'story' for the judges to milk TV-ready tears.

Respond to this thread

Lulu reckons...

Posted May 2, 2013

Did we cuss and drink too much? Or not enough?

Respond to this comment

Brother PorkChop is gonna tell you...

Posted May 2, 2013

JB, you have taken this the wrong way! These days, as we all know, there are no losers. Just by competing, you are a winner! It is not appropriate to have a first prize, and it should be shared amongst all those that humbly put forward their product for consideration. And in this , we all win.

Brother PorkChop mumbles...

Posted May 2, 2013

Alternatively, you was robbed and I know some people that know some people that might be able to right this wrong. And get you your gold, or maybe some ears instead?

Respond to this thread

AgingGamer is gonna tell you...

Posted May 2, 2013

Can we put a hat around and collect some money to buy JB a couple of bottles of BBQ sauce and a fresh pair of underpants.

Lobes ducks in to say...

Posted May 2, 2013

If he wants fresh undies he can get them off the floor at KMart like he usually does,

Respond to this thread

Rhino ducks in to say...

Posted May 2, 2013

ARE YOU FKN KIDDING ME!

You are all SOFT and PITIFUL.little socialists.

Do you know what second place is? FIRST LOSER, that's what.

All of you should be ASHAMED of yourselves. FAFFING and FLOUNCING about in the comments when your LEADER has been HUMILIATED by a LITERARY WENCH. WTF kind of behaviour is that?!?! PATHETIC, that's what. PATHETIC. She doesn't even have a proper moody author photo on her page - it is a FKN CARTOON for FKS SAKE. You made JB lose to a CARTOON.

Get your shit wired tight people. I do NOT have time for cry babies and sad sacks.

Dr. Rhino's diagnosis is that all of you are too soft and the medicine is a tablespoon of cement every day until you HARDEN THE FK UP.

Oh, and with respect to the penis cakes. That biggest one near the center. I'm not braggin or anything but, you know, I was the model for that one. Just sayin.

A FKN CARTOON GIRLY.

Respond to this comment

Rhino mumbles...

Posted May 2, 2013

AND she gives stuff away.

AND she asks for donations.

This just keeps getting worse.

Respond to this comment

Therbs asserts...

Posted May 2, 2013

So can we now get back to behaving like vibrating butt-faced goats? Fuck the wanksocks off and get back to what we do best.

Barnesm puts forth...

Posted May 2, 2013

Get back to?

Respond to this thread

TC ducks in to say...

Posted May 2, 2013

I told you you needed a fucking intern. This all could've been avoided...

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted May 2, 2013

Hang on, Rhino. We have all been very supportive of JB in his sour grapes crisis. We have even been happy enablers to JB's wild finger pointing.
But, today is day 2. Time for a little honesty.

When the Australian Writers Centre tweeted to JB that his blog was a finalist, this exchange occurred:

JB - "So, what's it for?"

Australian Writers Centre - "Oh dear. You entered your blogs in the Best Australian Blogs Competition. Cheeseburger Gothic is a finalist."

JB - "hahaha. Holy shit I'm hopeless."

Australian Writers Centre - "This is excellent. I've never had a finalist forget they've entered before. "

Aaaah JB, do you think you may have made a tactical blunder there?

Respond to this comment

yankeedog puts forth...

Posted May 2, 2013

I voted twice. What the hell more do you want?

Murphy would have you know...

Posted May 2, 2013

To be fair, I gave YD my proxy so he really only voted once.

Respond to this thread

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted May 2, 2013

93 comments, can we make the Ton.

I set up 43 different online identities so I could vote, admittedly 22 of them decided to vote for Stephanie's blog, but still.

TC is gonna tell you...

Posted May 2, 2013

What's the point of getting the ton if we still can't win anything? And by 'we', obviously I mean JB.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted May 2, 2013

TC makes a good point.

Respond to this thread

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted May 2, 2013

"What's the point of getting the ton if we still can't win anything?"

The point? What is the point of striving even if the goal is insubstantial or pointless? A man or woman's reach should exceed his or her grasp, or what's a heaven for, you fucking philistine.

Respond to this comment

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted May 2, 2013

Sorry about the "fucking philistine" characterization. It's been a difficult day.

Respond to this comment

JG swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 2, 2013
Pushing for the tonne. Hope you found your Lindt chocolate bunny yesterday, John. Not only did JB lose the blog comp, he's got that damn Man Flu again. Not his week, but hey, tomorrow's Friday! Hang in there, JB. It's not over until the fat lady sings. Which isn't me. :)

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted May 2, 2013

When I type
"player of games" iain m banks
into Google,
Cheeseburger Gothic shows on the first page.

I think that is pretty awesome.

JG swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 2, 2013

Loved that book. Glad we read it for the last CBG book club meet.

Respond to this thread

Surtac would have you know...

Posted May 2, 2013

Lolz so hard it fkn hurts. Mwahhahahahahaaarrr.

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted May 4, 2013

Two topics today.
Spicy Beef Soup and Australia's Defence White Paper.
Yes, it's all about pho and ...errrrrr...foe.

As I said before JB, judging-wise, your blog has niche issues.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Where is my gold? Where is my glory?'

The theory of bad ideas first

Posted May 1, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

Daring Fireball linked to a short brilliant blog post by Jon Bell about how to take the first step on a journey of a thousand miles. Like a novel, or a screenplay, for example. It's simple. Don't wait for the best idea, just the first one. Even if it's utter shit.

This seems to be the same as my 'Get it writ then get it right', motto.

Bad first drafts (Sorry, Murph) done as quickly as possible. Rewritten at liesure. Bell used a lunch time analogy. When his co-workers can't think of somewhere to go for lunch he suggests McDonalds. And instantly half a dozen better ideas get shook free in the horrified push back. He calls it ''the McDonald’s Theory: people are inspired to come up with good ideas to ward off bad ones."

The theory holds for creative work, which can often be still born just because it seems like too much effort to push a little harder. All that blood, All the screaming.

Hmm. OK. I'll let that analogy go.

Bell explains it much betterer.

Projects start in different ways. Sometimes you’re handed a formal brief. Sometimes you hear a rumor that something might be coming so you start thinking about it early. Other times you’ve been playing with an idea for months or years before sharing with your team. There’s no defined process for all creative work, but I’ve come to believe that all creative endeavors share one thing: the second step is easier than the first. Always.Anne Lamott advocates “shitty first drafts”, Nike tells us to Just Do It, and I recommend McDonald’s just to get people so grossed out they come up with a better idea. It’s all the same thing. Lammott, Nike, and McDonald’s Theory are all saying that the first step isn’t as hard as we make it out to be.

18 Responses to ‘The theory of bad ideas first’

Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted May 1, 2013

I tell people, "The first draft is always crap. Write it then work on polishing the turd."

It is good advice, actually. This blog post you cited.

Of course, my advice isn't too shabby either.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Barnesm reckons...

Posted May 1, 2013

the 'polishing a turd' to which you refer Murph could be considered Dorodango which is a traditional Japanese art form in which earth and water are molded to create a delicate shiny sphere, resembling a billiard ball. Hikaru is the art of then bringing a high shine to anything, such as the dirt sphere, perhaps 'editing' in your analogy above.

One of the most memorable examples of this was performed on Tiger poo by Savage and Jamie Hyneman of mythbuster. The segment is available on youtube and easily found. The link is here

Murphy mumbles...

Posted May 1, 2013

I have seen the episode you speak of and frequently refer to it in class, Brigadier Barnes.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted May 1, 2013

Dear Murph

Things you do in class:

  • You use 'potentate' at least once a week.
  • You use 'Walking Dead' as a touchstone for many historical themes.
  • You frequently refer to the Mythbuster polished turd experiment.

Just what sort of crazy class do you teach and can I sign up?

Murphy puts forth...

Posted May 1, 2013

I teach American History at the freshman college level to community college students. The concepts I frequently cover include the evolution of the original thirteen colonies into the United States of America, the concept of the Republic, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, Hamiltonian Finance, slavery, the industrial revolution, a bit of guerilla Western Civ, etc.

I also make them write essays which account for half of their score, which leads to the polished turd comment.

In any case, anytime you want to fly to Missouri for a sixteen week stay, feel free. That said, I have a feeling my days are numbered. If you want to know why, hit me up for a lecture on how I was taught about communism by my one and only Philosophy Teacher.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted May 1, 2013

Murph
Sounds like a good course.
"Hamiltonian Finance"; that is a new one for me.

Essays, I like them. However, my daughter's do my head in. The whole anti-plagarism thing. In the old days, you could happily write something like, "Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States". Now, in my daughter's school, you can't. You have to reference that. You fail if you cite Wikipedia. Arrrgh! Sentence after bloody sentence. Fun, zero.

Missouri, for a traveller, would be great. When I think of Missouri, I think of the Civil War (horrible for your state), then I think of Big Joe Turner, Charlie Parker, Jay McShann, Ben Webster etc. A surprising number of my favourite recordings have musicians from Kansas City. However, I don't travel much for a variety of reasons so, sadly, I suspect I will never get there.

"How I was taught about communism by my one and only Philosophy Teacher". That sounds like a very interesting story.

Respond to this thread

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted May 1, 2013

A couple of good quotes:

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one." (Mark Twain)

"I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning." (William Faulkner)

Respond to this comment

pitpat mutters...

Posted May 1, 2013

My maxim for the week is " Good enough is nearly always good enough" which I overheard on a promo for an ABC program. Probably not that applicable to the final product but might be useful for first drafts.

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted May 1, 2013

"Good enough for government work" is another version I haev heard

Respond to this thread

Murphy mumbles...

Posted May 1, 2013

I started reading No Easy Day today which follows a Navy SEAL up to the point where they kill Bin Laden. He describes getting through training as akin to eating an elephant. When asked how one does it, the answer is, "One bite at a time."

Writing is like that.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Respond to this comment

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 1, 2013
I listened to that book on Audible a while back. It was a great story. Was interesting watching Zero Dark Thirty a short time later.

Respond to this comment

BigWillieStyle puts forth...

Posted May 1, 2013

I am encouraged by your trust-in-your-first-idea theory. I've got this idea for a book, see, wherein I write episodically about the unusual habits of my former housemates from back in my student days. My working title is "He yielded the final spark of his life while holding in his hand a traditional Arab foodstuff".

Yeah?

Respond to this comment

TC reckons...

Posted May 1, 2013

<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml><w:WordDocument>
<w:View>Normal</w:View>
<w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom>
<w:TrackMoves/>
<w:TrackFormatting/>
<w:PunctuationKerning/>
<w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/>
<w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>
<w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent>
<w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>
<w:DoNotPromoteQF/>
<w:LidThemeOther>EN-AU</w:LidThemeOther>
<w:LidThemeAsian>X-NONE</w:LidThemeAsian>
<w:LidThemeComplexScript>X-NONE</w:LidThemeComplexScript>
<w:Compatibility>
<w:BreakWrappedTables/>
<w:SnapToGridInCell/>
<w:WrapTextWithPunct/>
<w:UseAsianBreakRules/>
<w:DontGrowAutofit/>
<w:SplitPgBreakAndParaMark/>
<w:DontVertAlignCellWithSp/>
<w:DontBreakConstrainedForcedTables/>
<w:DontVertAlignInTxbx/>
<w:Word11KerningPairs/>
<w:CachedColBalance/>
</w:Compatibility>
<w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel>
<m:mathPr>
<m:mathFont m:val="Cambria Math"/>
<m:brkBin m:val="before"/>
<m:brkBinSub m:val="--"/>
<m:smallFrac m:val="off"/>
<m:dispDef/>
<m:lMargin m:val="0"/>
<m:rMargin m:val="0"/>
<m:defJc m:val="centerGroup"/>
<m:wrapIndent m:val="1440"/>
<m:intLim m:val="subSup"/>
<m:naryLim m:val="undOvr"/>
</m:mathPr></w:WordDocument></xml><![endif]-->

I like those ideas - get started with your kernel and worry about the salty, buttery pop-ness of it all later.

I don't remember when or where I heard it, but I've always thrown out the line that there's nothing more overwhelming than a blank canvas; slap some mess on it and then see where it takes you. Of course, arty types with abundantly more talent than I always reply that there's nothing more exhilarating that a blank canvas. Smartasses.

TC mutters...

Posted May 1, 2013

Oh yeah... I forgot about the ban on pasting out of MS Word. Can anyone fix that?

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted May 1, 2013

Nope, there is no facility to polish that turd away. We're working on it, but.

DrYobbo swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 1, 2013

Notepad/Textedit (depending on your side of the PC/Mac divide) is your friend

Respond to this thread

DrYobbo ducks in to say...

Posted May 1, 2013

Close enough for government work is one I use and enjoy. I will definitely be adopting, adapting and improving the McDonalds Approach though. Right up to the point someone says 'Yeah Maccas sounds great!' and I will have to beat them to death with their own shoe

Respond to this comment

Surtac puts forth...

Posted May 2, 2013

Yep. The good Doctor has the right of it, but Id use something harder than their shoe. Maybe a cricket bat.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'The theory of bad ideas first'