War. It gobbles up fresh young lives and resources and hope and happiness, blasts apart homes and cities and forests, and in return, it gives pain and suffering and death and blitzed landscapes and shattered families. I know some wars have to be, I understand there are often valid moral reasons for embarking upon the wholesale slaughter of other humans, I can comprehend the ingenuity that goes into developing amazing new weapons or strategies to maim and kill others before they maim and kill you, I can admire the stoicism and courage and heroism of those who obey orders for a greater good, and I can honour the memories of those who have died in so many campaigns throughout history, but really, the very heart of the matter, the incontestable truth of war is that millions upon millions of unique individuals die horrifically in terrible conditions far from their loves ones. War is humanity at its most contradictory and perverse.
I’ve just been to see Beneath Hill 60, hence my tirade. In the theatre, I kept wanting to shout at the screen, "Keep your head down!". Each death was gut wrenching. And on the drive home, I saw people preparing for tomorrow’s ANZAC Day events.
So I baked a couple of cakes (it was supposed to be just one cake but...). Soon, I’ll watch the pilot episode of Stargate Universe as I eat a slice or two, and try not to think about mud and corpses and stupid wars.
My horizons were broadened, expanded, and generally widened today when an Arvo Job conversation led, via an op-shop book purchase (The Greatest Generation by Tom Brockaw) and reminiscing about an old movie (Jet Pilot, 1957, directed by Josef von Sternberg, starring John Wayne and Janet Leigh), to a discussion about World War II female pilots, which resulted in the revelation that there was a women-only combat regiment of the World War II Soviet Air Forces that was nicknamed the Night Witches by the Germans.
Of course, being women, they naturally got the best war equipment available - ancient wood and canvas biplanes designed to be used as training aircraft and for crop-dusting. The Night Witches turned the slowness of their obsolete aircraft to their advantage and exploited the extraordinary maneuverability of the old planes. Their technique was to idle their aircraft's engine near the intended target and glide to the bomb release point. Only wind noise then revealed their location.
Night Witches. Nachthexen. Ночные ведьмы.
An idea for a story is now bubbling inside the cauldron of my head. I have a core scene. It will be a sad story, a supernatural war story, and it'll probably take a few years to put together (I can always tell when it's one of thosestories). But one day...
Rover and I are bonding – this morning I worked on story, transferred it, then did a spot of editing and added a few new paragraphs to it on the train. I was very pleased with our progress.
On the way to the train, I noticed it is well and truly autumn now. Scenes like this always put me in a Ray Bradbury frame of mind, and as I walked, I pondered two stories that I've really enjoyed, perhaps precisely because they are homages to the great RB. One was Homemade Autumn by Shane Nelson in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #36; the other was October in the Chair by the one and only Neil Gaiman (is it even possible for that man to write a bad story?)
And on the way home, I finished Summer Rain by Marguerite Duras, which I bought for $1 at the local library sale last year. It’s an odd book with odd characters written in an odd style, and I enjoyed it, but in an odd way. As with all translations, you can’t help but wonder whether you’re missing a certain essential something. I’ll definitely read more of her work though.
My new, nifty notebook computer, henceforth known as Rover, has been out and about for 2 days now. I’m still learning to navigate it, so I’m mostly just editing at the moment, but I have high hopes of accelerating my typing speed and turning significant amounts of train time into sellable stories. My cats, as you can see, are ecstatic that there is another keyboard in the house for them to walk all over.
Yesterday, I finished an easy on a tired mind nonfiction book – Dewey. The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron – which my sister Cindy, professional dog trainer and pet-minder extraordinaire, passed on to me a few weeks ago. I was expecting unmitigated fluff with copious tears at the end, so it was a nice surprise to discover it was also about life in Iowa, about farming communities weathering the financial crisis of the 1980s, about small-town politics, small-town planning, architecture, libraries, hard luck stories, medical malpractice stories, pulling up socks and emerging victorious stories, as well as cute kitten and cat tales, with the expected tears at the end.
I’m soooo excited – today I bought a nifty notebook computer so I can work while I’m travelling on trains during the week. My days of stopping a story to head off to the Arvo Job with a warmed up brain and then furiously writing notes en route are over. It can also serve as a backup so that I don’t lose years of work if my designated writing computer suddenly dies.
After that bit of consumerist happiness came The Book of Eli. This isn’t a film that I was particularly planning to see, feeling The Road had already covered my ration of post-apocalyptic desolateness for the year, but due to a technical hitch (me incorrectly reading the cinema website and announcing that Iron Man 2 was already showing) it was the only movie on around the time we fronted up that we hadn’t seen already (we saw Kick Ass last week – enjoyed it enormously). Anyway, as post-apocalyptic, Western/Samurai flicks go, this one was serviceable. It was a lot better than I thought it would be, but far from as good as it could have been. In some places, it downright didn’t make sense, especially when it insisted on setting up familiar Western images and settings at the expense of post-apocalyptic survival sense. The denouement was most muddled, and the finale, another hail-the-Western shot, was utterly irrational.
All in all, I was analyzing the scenes as this movie played out, giving stars for good points and finding flaws as I watched it. Needless to say, I was not transported to another world.
Messy week finished - I'm looking forward to a nice homey weekend and getting back into a writing routine again. Three MSs for the Year of SF and Fantasy workshop are also finished - all highlighted and circled and underlined and footnoted. Only nine to go.
Book finished - Skinned by Robin Wasserman, a great YA novel about a rich, beautiful, shallow, popular girl who dies and is downloaded into an artificial body. And none of this indistinguishable-from-the-real-thing nonsense - she looks like a counterfeit girl. Lia Kahn, when she was human, was the ultimate, teen queen bitch - a real Heather. As a skinner, she is reviled and rejected. Death, one suspects (though this book is a stand alone, it is the first in a trilogy) will be the making of her. And what better way to explore teenage matters like the importance of being an insider or an outsider, peer pressure, appearances, alienation, sex, life, death etc than by making our antiheroine a big, plastic doll?
This book was a let's-take-a-chance impulse buy - I was attracted by the subject and (oh, the shallowness of it) the cover - but now I'd like to find more by this author.
MSs from the Year of SF and Fantasy workshop are starting to roll in. It's time to get critiquing so I can pace myself and do it properly, and time to send off my own contribution to be sliced and diced.
After a fortnight of waffling and tinkering and editing and generally faffing around, my brain finally kicked into top gear again this morning and produced a goodly quota of new words strung into reasonable sentences for the Egyptian Tart story. My grey matter also came up with a short story idea and the beginnings of a poem by the time I got to the Arvo Job.
Note to brain : the Easter break would have been a good time to stage a comeback.
Today I finished reading Nation by Terry Pratchett (purchased for a pittance - $1). In the author's notes at the end, Terry finishes off with : 'Thinking. This book contains some. Whether you try it at home is up to you.'
Driving through Bendigo last night, we noticed bright lights and crowds gathered in the main street, so we stopped for a look. The sound of marching bands tipped us of to a parade in the offing. This being the Goldfields Area, and home of the Dragon Museum, you’d expect:
Now that's an Easter Parade! (Love the bloke wearing a telephone box and pushing a Dalek pram.)
The supermarket was unbelievable today – people madly careering around with laden trolleys, adults yelling at each other and screeching at their kids, the little tykes throwing tantrums and screeching right back at them. The chocolate stacked everywhere seemed to have saturated the air with sugar, and everyone was agro on the stuff. I parked my trolley at the end of an interminably long queue, and the only thing to do was to zone out, look upon the scene with a beatific calmness, think happy thoughts and smile at the madness of modern life. So I did.
The next thing I know, a lady with pink bunny ears leans close to me and whispers “Go to the next checkout,” and then she literally bounded away. Honestly. I blinked, instinctively did as I was told, and lo and behold, I got a just opened checkout all to myself. I said thank you, and mumbled something about winning the supermarket lottery. The lady with the pink bunny ears said, “I picked you because you were smiling.” We then had a jolly time while putting my stuff through.
It’s true. It really happened - a genuine, bonafide Easter miracle.
After that, it was Clash of the Titans, anno 2010, in 2D, or traditional print. This version you can watch without cringing - sorry, Harry Hamlin, a.k.a Perseus anno 1981.
It’s a true Saturday afternoon movie – quests, sword fights, adventures, daring-do, inevitable outcomes - and a prime example of CGI used for Good rather than Evil. There are no creaky monsters or dodgy, glued together beasts in this film to jar the senses. The giant scorpions coming over the dunes and scrabbling awkwardly on narrow ledges, Charon’s bloated, cadaver-like barge, and the way Pegasus uses his hooves to push off cliffs and is unbalanced when he has to fly with a rider are the kind of details that an anal retentive like myself appreciates.
I also enjoyed playing ‘who is that actor?’, as the movie is chockablock with familiar faces. MadsMikkelsen *sigh* as Draco, of course was a no brainer.
I've spent a nice, lazy Good Friday sleeping in, pottering about the house, reading, and messing around with a couple of SF themed prose poems, one a horror piece about alien sex, the other about the love between a married couple of different species growing stale.
This is my new, fun thing to do, or rather, it's an old fun thing that I loved doing as a kid and which I've started doing again recently. There's something about train travel that seems to be conducive to the assembling of a poem, and working on one perks me up more than a cup of coffee. I love the playing around with delicious sounding words and rhythmic sentences and amusing ideas, and since I have no illusions about ever becoming a Poet Laureate, or even a Poet Averageate, there's no self-imposed pressure of creating something publishable.
However, that said, following Heinlein's Rules of Writing (send out everything you finish) I did submit my first effort, and it was - knock me over with a feather - accepted!!
This piece was conceived 18/8-09 on the train as a Very Dark and Serious Short Story, but once I sat down at a keyboard and the first line came out, it changed to a much lighter poem. I submitted it the first time 15/9-09, but it was rejected. I sent it out again 4/10-09 and it was accepted seven weeks later. I hope you enjoy it. I was certainly mightily entertained by the writing of it.
Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY Hans Christian Andersen. You were a huge influence on me when I was a child, both because of your stories and because of your Danishness. Danny Kaye had something to do with it as well.
These pictures are by Anne Anderson, an art nouveau illustrator of children's books. She illustrated more than 100 books, some with her husband, Alan Wright, whose style is somewhat similar.
Writer. Reader. Rider.
My speculative fiction has featured in Aurealis, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, The NSW School Magazine, The Year's Best Australian Horror and Fantasy 2010 and many other publications. I'm a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association, and am currently a judge on the Short Works / Collections / Edited Works panel for the 2013 Australian Shadows Awards