Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hyperspace glutton

Pretty much every writer of fiction craves an idea or setting that they can make their own - their signature dish. They want such a world of their own so they can stamp o

Sandra Dee as Gidget in the 1959 film, (VHS cover)Image via Wikipedia

ut their territory, stretch their arms and sign multi-book deals to keep themselves in pizza and jellybeans. I know I do.

I've long been jealous of Charles Stross' use of abstruse mathematics as a way through to other dimensions where man can truck with named and nameless horrors. I really enjoyed The Laundry series of books that update the Mythos (so peeved by that use of Lake Vostok) and add in Turing's well-known paper "Phase Conjugate Grammars for Extra-dimensional Summoning" to give it a modern twist. How I'd love to have such an idea for myself. Oh, mustn't forget that it all first appeared in A Colder War - though that is much bleaker than the subsequent books.

It's not entirely his own though because, even though he did not perhaps realise it, HP Lovecraft made use of such an idea in Dreams in the Witch House. Keziah Mason escapes jail by using mathematics to reach other dimensions enabling her to reach the modern world and kill again. Fritz Leiber pointed out that this was one of the first uses of hyperspace. A term coined by John W. Campbell and that first arose as a concept in the 19th century.

Mention of not the "spaces we know, but between them" crops up in other stories too - including one of my faves The Dunwich Horror. The whippoorwills! Here's something I didn't know - it was turned into a movie - twice. Looks like neither was any good. Though the 1970s one has Dean Stockwell and Sandra Dee in it. Dean Stockwell pops up in the second too but as the good guy rather than one of the Whateleys. The Wikipedia page lists lots of times it has been turned into media of one sort or another.

I first read that story in a book of classic ghost stories. Lots of MR James, HH Munro et al - all very staid and Edwardian. In that context HP Lovecraft's story stuck out a mile. To this day I'm still struggling to picture what the Horror looked like but can remember parts of it clearly. How old must I have been when I read that? 12? 13? No wonder I ended up playing so much Call of Cthulhu. Shapeless congerie of protoplasmic bubbles anyone?
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Character notes

Hmm. I'm getting back into writing pretty well and have a few stories bubbling up. But, sigh, most of the rejections I have been getting have to do with character. Either the characters are not well enough drawn for people to sympathise with or there are too many of them or

Character MapImage via Wikipedia

yadda yadda. It's all about the character. This worries me.

In some senses I don't think it should. Part of that is because I know that often the editors of many of the magazines I am submitting to are looking for reasons to say "no". They will seize on any deficiency so they can reject a story and clear a space in the slush pile. I've realised that it is not the best stories that get published but the ones that the editors like the most.

Plus I am not getting rejections on the basis of character from the pro-mags. Perhaps those smaller mags have higher standards. Perhaps.

Now that I have extracted the upside from this I need the downside. What I also worry about is that there is something that needs fixing. What?

Well, it has to be said that the last few stories I've written have been done in a more ad hoc fashion. I've avoided doing all that thinking and note making and just plunged in. The results have not been great. I realised today that the story I've written has almost no conflict, no resolution and almost no peril for the main characters. Not good. Maybe that is what needs fixing. The story I am about to write feels better already because I've done lots of thinking beforehand.

What I might try to do for the next story after this one is make sure that it is a character piece. Explicitly ensure that I know the main character and do all the things the book says to do.

Though this is tempered by the thought that if I do fix this lack then it may not lead to more acceptances from those mags.