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March 27, 2006

Writing Memes and Hal Duncan

Two writey-like things:

1. Elizabeth Bear rather unintentionally started a "10 Things I Know About Writing" meme, which has prompted folks like Hal Duncan and Meg McCarron and Jay Lake, among others, to drop in their own thoughts on the matter (and Nick Mamatas to snark on the whole lot of them). I'd jump in myself, but I already did this a couple years back, so rather than repeat myself, here's 10 things I'd tell you about writing. Bear's original 10 specified fiction writing, but these 10 things work perfectly fine for fiction and non-fiction writers.

2. Speaking of Hal Duncan, I've finally had a chance to start reading his novel Vellum, which will be out here in the states in about a month, and I have to join in on the chorus of people who've found it to be really excellent dark fantasy, on the same thematic street as you'll find the work of fellows like Neil Gaiman, Jeff VanderMeer and China Mieville, but with its own distinct voice, which if I had to sum up in two words, might be called "skankily elegant." And of those two words, the emphasis would be on "elegant," written as if by someone who picked up his pen after a certain fall from grace (which is not to presume anything about Duncan, whom I've met only briefly).

Vellum works on its own, but I've also noticed that certain strains of dark fantasy hit the reading pleasure button in my brain, and I don't doubt the book benefits from that as well. I'm trying to figure out why that is so. One thing simply might be some latent gothiness in me; I've never been able to pull off the goth thing myself (I'm just a little too chipper for that), but I've got the Siouxsie and Fields of the Nephilim albums to suggest a certain fascination with the ankh-and-kohl lifestyle. What can I say. I guess I like ankhs.

But I think the other more relevant thing is that I like writing that does things with words in ways I don't and possibly couldn't. Duncan's relationship with language is different than mine, more argumentative and pointed and crafty, in more than one sense of that latter term, and that's something he shares with the previously-mentioned writers, although each exhibit it in their own way. This is a non-jealous admiration, mostly, since I don't particularly want to write like Duncan (or Gaiman, or Mieville) does, and there are places I want to take my own writing voice they don't go. But this is not to say I can't appreciate or even learn from them, and this is my point with Duncan: His style is strong enough that as I'm enjoying the story as a reader I'm also paying attention as a writer, trying to see how he's put together his edifice. I don't do this with every writer, mostly just the folks who do things I don't. So on that level, it's interesting to watch him work.

In any event, I imagine fans of dark fantasy have already been twigged to Vellum's upcoming US debut (it's been out in the UK for some time). If you didn't know about this book yet, well, now you are, and if dark fantasy rings your bell, this book's going to set you ringing.

Posted by john at March 27, 2006 06:53 AM

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Kevin Q | March 27, 2006 08:31 AM

On a nearly completely unrelated note, how do you pronounce "Mieville?"


John H | March 27, 2006 08:35 AM

I would guess "Me"-ville (not a reflection of the person since I don't know anything about them - just my guess as to the pronunciation)...

Chad Orzel | March 27, 2006 08:51 AM

I've never been able to pull off the goth thing myself (I'm just a little too chipper for that)

A little too chipper?

elizabeth bear | March 27, 2006 09:39 AM

If you are chipper and gothy, you can be a perky goth. *g*

We are legion.

John H | March 27, 2006 09:45 AM

perky goth

Now that's an interesting thought - you could start a whole new trend!

anghara | March 27, 2006 12:22 PM

There's an accent on that first E in Mieville, so it's closer to "miYAYville", I think. Or at least that's how I've heard it pronounced.

M.A. | March 27, 2006 12:49 PM

I suspect only somebody Athena's age could get away with being a perky goth, really.

Jason Erik Lundberg | March 27, 2006 03:39 PM

Yup, it's mee-YAY-ville.

And I can second the awesomeness of Vellum. I picked up a copy in Hong Kong, and finished the whole thing on the plane rides back to North Carolina.

sxKitten | March 27, 2006 04:16 PM

perky goth

Does that mean you wear glitter eyeshadow with your kohl? And add smiley faces to your ankhs?

Regan | March 27, 2006 10:21 PM

I imagine elizabeth bear (whose stuff I still need to read) was referring to the perky goth type captured by John Kovalic in his Dork Tower comic strip (Gilly the Perky Goth).

I am occasionally one myself. When I'm on my meds.

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