Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Poor, Down-trodden Teratologists

Taylor - by email - asked this recently:

"I have a question that has been rankling at me for a bit as I've become immersed in Monster Blood Tattoo, and it is this: In a world as monster-ridden and monster-phobic as the Half-Continent, why do people tend to have a negative view of lazhars, skolds, scourges, and any kinds of terotologists? I realize people might be a bit afraid of them due to their powers, but, for example, why does Felicitine refuse to allow Europe to stay at the Harefoot Dig? Or why, when Europe comes to see Rossamund at Winstermill, do most people "habitually disapprove of her trade"? It always seems that people are disdainful of those who have altered themselves for the protection of the Half-Continent, and in a land where showing the slightest bit of sympathy for monsters gets a person exiled or worse, this seems a bit narrow-minded of the population. What do you think?"

To which I responded:

I think you have hit the nail firmly on the head - people are inconsistent, and no less so in the Half-Continent. I found this very tension an excellent vehicle to quietly explore this inconsistency, which is essentially: people do not want the problem but neither are they happy about the solution.

What-is-more, while we certainly have Madam Felicitine being snobbish, Master Billetus is not; Madam Oubliette has established an entire wayhouse for the patronage and support of the teratologist (albeit because they are generally not wanted in the towns). There I go again: Why are they not wanted in the towns when they do such a service? Teratologists with their much-needed yet dangerous powers are seen as the "necessary evil", like a rat catcher or a garbage collector. They kill the monsters but have to have contact with them in order to do so, placing them in a kind of half-way status.

Skolds will receive the best reception (indeed in some parts of the H-c they are truly revered), then pistolleers, laggards, lurksmen, peltrymen, tractors - your more unaltered types; followed by scourges (who, while appreciated for their efforts are mistrusted for the deadly power of their chemistry and that they look so odd wrapped so completely in their fascins) and then falsemen (no one likes to think that the person they are talking to knows what they are thinking).

Of lahzars, the disapproval goes much deeper, for there continues a rigourous debate as to what exactly they are - some hold that through the surgeries they have become a kind of gudgeon - and no one likes gudgeons - something other, whose capacities make them hard to control, place them outside the existing caste system, therefore upsetting the status quo, and very few in the H-c appreciate this (especially those of the higher situations, or with aspirations of social climbing).

So what we find in the Half-Continent is a lot of ignorance riddled with rumour; add to this "classists" snobbery - like Felicitine with her airs and graces - and the fact that a large proportion of the population are naivines (ie: never seen a monster) - and I reckon such inconsistency is valid (and a bit fun too - for me at least).

And never fear, there are those who are indeed fans of the lahzars - the obsequines, some of whom you might meet in Book 3.

Thank you Taylor!

... to this I might add (more in response to the query from Ben Bryddia) that the strange status lahzars have - the position of needful and powerful outsider - is an excellent mechanism for women to improve their lot in the commonly more patriarchal H-c / Haacobin society; hence there being a greater proportion of girl-lahzars. Never-the-less there are still plenty of boy ones too (the black-eyed wit, the Boanerges, the Knave of Diamonds - all in Book 2), it is just that they have not become the focus of my tale yet.

A question to the lady readers (if I may): how would you feel about changing your eyes by becoming a leer?

Breakfast = Vita Brits [TM] with Milo [TM] sprinkled on it and a cup of free-trade tea.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Monster-Blood Tattoo & YouTube

Well, it has finally happened - a YouTube [TM] book trailer of MBT!

Made by the skillfully deft and technically versatile Courtney Wood over at Putnam (my US publisher). (A bit of trivia about Courtney; she set up this blog in the first place for me to go on with - if you go right back to the beginning of it all you will find a test post from her...)

I must say it is rather odd to see MBT out there in "That's what they - those other people do" computer land.

Also: for an extra bit of linkage fun here is a post about the panel I joined at the Sydney Writers' Fest. a couple of months ago, written by the most excellent Judith Ridge.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monsters & Music

Do you know (in response to a couple of posits last post on the titular notion above), my firsts thoughts about the monsters is that musically they are largely quiet. They sing softly to themselves, to Providence, in sympathy with the cosmos, in sorrow; perhaps some of the more feral might gather together to spontaneously hoot and jabber at Phoebe, while others might chortle off some rhyme or ditty they heard once when secretly watching children at play or people at a dance or stalking some unwary band of happy, vigil-day picnickers.

Monsters' own music will be impromptu, vocal, rolling, raw yet often oddly complex, wild and disconcertingly alien unless informed by everyman tunes previously encountered.

My sense of it is that the making of structured musics is the domain of everymen, based on the notion - the historied order of things - that monsters make life, everymen make things.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Europe and Sebastipole fall in love?

Well, that was a (tongue in cheek) offering last post. Could it be possible? Would it be probable? If ever they married I would expect Sebastipole to get eaten at the end of the wedding night like some poor male praying mantis.

Monday had a question (similar to one I received via email from Nick Nitsch of Nashville):

"What kinds of music are most prevalent on the h-c?"

Such a topic is indeed not distracting but fundamental to my conception of the H-c - there is a beautiful piece by Strauss (the younger I think) Invitation to a Dance which though actually truly too new, has been an abiding inspiration to me. Monday rightly deduces that there are regional and social differences, but in the main when I think music for the Half-Continent I think late Baroque (as it is called in our world) and early Classical - Handel, Vivaldi, Bach, counterpoint and the private chamber ensembles merging with and developing into Boccherini, Mozart, Haydn - essentially what is sometimes called a Rococo style. (I have as yet to come up with the H-c names for some of these music styles - an interesting and I hope rewarding diversion!) This of course would be the more citified musics, out in the parishes it would more strident, the instruments more antiquated, the pieces more folk style or popular balladry. Hero of Clunes for example, in her tour of Sulk End and the Idlewild (as seen in MBT Book 1 & 2) would be doing a combination of popular shanty (albeit taking it to a more sophisticated and sonorous level) and high-brow choral numbers written by the current and more popular/fashionable composers (such as Stumphelhose of Witzingerod, Cappelluto of Seville, or Attic Nehme or Brandenbrass).

Oh, and as requested, for breakfast I had Vita Brits with sultanas and a cup of tea sweetened with honey.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Shouldn't I be Writing?

Two possible thoughts for further Half-Continent stories:

- roving the vinegar seas hunting pirates and kraulschwimmen and any other tasks required in the Emperor's service = sea battles, vinegaroon life, wider politics;

- some kind of expedition (ala. King Solomon's Mines H. Rider Haggard - a most excellent book!) for lost and longed-for secrets in monstrous places = monsters, history, more monsters.

Should I be telling you all this?

Given certain revelations of admiration for a certain leer and lamplighters' agent, should he have a story of his own, too?

Maybe I should just get on with finishing Book 3 of MBT - enough with this presumptuous whimsical dayfancying! Back to ADWC (see previous post)...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Average Daily Word Count

... or AWDC - as I have just cunningly coined it.

I am going to reveal this knowing full well there are many authors out there who do a goodly bit more in a day - and my publishers will be crying "Write faster, dang it!", yet since fellow word-wrestler R.J. Anderson has asked I shall dare to admit:

1000 words/day


I have had brilliant days of 1500+ (even 2700 one day) but when all is averaged, time searching through all my notebooks for the right snippets of information and periods a.f.k. (away from keyboard) are included (including several trips interstate) it works out to the above.

If you want to go on the usual word count I achieve on the days I actually write it creeps up a little to about:

1300 words/day or so.

I feel a bit better about that.

I hope this helps Ms Anderson - how does it compare?

Dare I ask what ADWCs do you other writers achieve?