old man willow singing
a web by the water’s edge
a vision of gold
breathing light into the dark
the old worm slumbers
At the end of July I was in Veliko Gradište in Serbia, entirely without internet access for over a week. Instead of writing for my blog, I was chasing mosquitoes around the house, or enjoying beans cooked over an open fire (they even had a competition for this in Veliko Gradište, dozens of groups clustered about barbecue fires by the side of the Danube), or drinking beer (every visitor to Serbia quickly learns the word ‘pivo’), or reading Lord of the Rings for the nth time (I got all the way to Shelob’s lair)…
Until 1971, Silver Lake (a popular holiday destination near Veliko Gradište in Serbia) was an arm of the Danube.
I have done a fair bit of writing these past two months, but not for my blog and not for publication – although I have also been writing a second part for my ill-fated Alexis 5-1-8. Maybe I can extend it from a novelette to novella. On a related note, here’s an interesting article about sexbot prostitutes: Robot Brothels Could Soon Become A Reality.
In July I had the great fortune to attend a concert in Buxton where violinist Joo Yeon Sir and pianist Irina Andrievsky played Beethoven’s Kreutzer sonata (image/link on right) and Igor Frolov’s Porgy & Bess fantasy (image/link on left). I had often heard of the Kreutzer sonata, but it wasn’t a piece I was familiar with. Joo Yeon Sir played it beautifully and passionately, and I was delighted to find the same pieces and performers on YouTube.
My publisher has given a tentative release date of June 8th for I Like It Hard, and it has been sent to a cover artist. We all have our superstitions, and I’m reluctant to believe it’s real until I have something to see, like a cover… so, fingers still firmly crossed.
Discovery Channel: Large Asteroid Impact Simulation (2008), set to Pink Floyd “The Great Gig in the Sky”. Hauntingly beautiful destruction of the Earth.
There’s something so addictively wonderful about this video of the Earth being destroyed by an asteroid. It’s terrifying from a human perspective, but from a cosmic perspective it’s… spectacular. And the music is a perfect fit.
1896, and All That
There’s a popular belief that the phrase ‘loose woman’ originates in the nineteenth century, describing prostitutes who didn’t wear ‘tight’ corsets and were thus ‘loose’. It makes sense, sort of. The popular image of Victorian ladies with wasp-waists, contrasted with the popular image of saloons in the Wild West wherein lingerie-clad women draped themselves over gunslingers, does lend itself to this interpretation. But the association of the word ‘loose’ with immoral behaviour predates the Victorian era by centuries. The phrase ‘loose women’ was used by Samuel Pepys in the 17th Century, and by John Adams (a Founding Father and later the second president of the United States) in the 18th Century, to refer to prostitutes; and ‘loose ladies’ is used in The Faerie Queene in the 16th Century, although not specifically to refer to prostitutes.
Despite repeated warnings about the danger of tight-lacing, there were always women who would tight-lace their corsets, in much the same way perhaps that women today will wear high-heeled shoes. The corset is blamed for many evils, and certainly the mass-production of cheap corsets combined with poor and ill-conceived designs and over-zealous mothers turned a fashionable article of clothing into an instrument of mass torture, but a well made corset worn properly has its uses. Far worse for Victorian women was the culture of repression that kept women as close to home as possible.
destructive cycle of feminine symmetry and poise
The bicycle changed everything. With the advent of the safety bicycle and pneumatic tyres, women everywhere were riding bicycles, travelling great distances to visit friends, getting lots of exercise in the process, and discarding their corsets for trousers. The demand for bicycles had a huge impact on the economy, much of the spare cash that had previously been spent on a variety of miscellaneous things was diverted to the purchase of bicycle parts. Even doctors felt the impact, their patients curing themselves through regular exercise and fresh air.
The height of the bicycle craze for women was in 1896. This month I have been hunting through newspapers from that year, looking for three specific phrases; so far, I have found only one. The search continues…
- Loose ladies and lascivious boys, The Faerie Queene, and the search for loose women,
- The perilous lack of corsetry, Rational Dress – loose women on bicycles
- Loosing my mind, more definitions and a hunt for a phrase
- Feminine Symmetry and Poise: Marguerite Lindley’s Advice to Wheelwomen, the discovery of a phrase
- Wheeling to Perdition – Rescuing Women from the Bicycle, salvation from the Woman’s Rescue League
- No More Worlds to Conquer, Oh, how the mighty are fallen!
In August’s round-up I mentioned having written a Sci-Fi short story titled Alexis 5-1-8 that I had submitted to a publisher. Alas, this was rejected. The publisher was unhappy that some of the content borders on dubious consent – dubious consent? moi? never! – which is actually a reasonable concern, although it’s an interesting ethical issue in relation to a sexbot designed and built to be used without consent ever being required. Anyway, that has now been submitted to another publisher and fingers are firmly re-crossed.
More exciting is that my other summer story, I Like It Hard, finally came back from the editor… First off, let me say that I think it’s awesome to have my story being looked at by an editor on behalf of a publisher. I usually do all my own editing, and I have my own preferences regarding grammar and so on, so that inevitably there have been points on which I do not see eye-to-eye with my editor. But grammar is a minor issue. I finally have someone to read my work critically and say things like:
This entire section is all telling and no showing. We’re just given an overview of what’s happening (as opposed to being “there” while it’s happening), and it’s interesting but not particularly engaging. You want the reader to want to keep reading, and this doesn’t really do that.
It’s valid criticism, and responding to such criticism can require significant modifications to the text – and I am someone who likes to get things right the first time rather than edit and edit to perfection. But having an editor point out the weaknesses in the story and the writing has forced me to revisit and revise. And, really, there were a number of significant issues, and I struggled with them even while writing. I Like It Hard is an odd story and some of the decisions I took while writing it have bothered me since submitting it.
Version 2 has gone to the editor now, and if nothing else the story has increased from 13000 words to 17500 words, which is a more satisfying length.
Last month I had a cheeky Pride & Prejudice haiku, and I thought you might like another one:
Wickham’s neighbour I
vie for young Lydia’s eye
and her sweet treasure
I feel I should point out that Whickham is a small town close to Newcastle upon Tyne (where I live and where Mr Wickham ends up in Pride & Prejudice).
While it’s nice (pronounced ‘Fantastic!!!’) when a publisher decides your story is good enough to publish, it’s rather unsettling – if you’re used to doing absolutely everything yourself from editing to cover creation – to hand the reins over to someone else and wait in the dark for weeks, even months, wondering what the hell is going on, if indeed anything, and whether you’re really going to get published after all. It’s a little like sitting beside a freshly laid egg and waiting with increasing impatience for the chick to emerge, and wondering whether there’s really a chick in there at all or only a potential omelette. I mean, at what point do you tap on the shell and say, ‘Hello? Is there anybody in there?’
It has been a busy month work-wise. I have been doing some writing, which may go somewhere, but the most interesting thing this month has been a Google+ community for Meta-Haiku, which are mostly 5-7-5 senryu focussed on works of art, for example:
a truth acknowledged
naked Darcy is admired
But art includes poems, and thus includes haiku and even meta-haiku, so it’s possible to write meta-haiku which talk about themselves – rather like a lot of people!
this artless wordcraft
is synthetic illusion
It suits my sense of humour to a T. On the subject of drinks, time for some blood and steam: