Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Overheard At Breakfast.

Several months ago. A couple at breakfast in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

He's having waffles with cream and maple syrup for breakfast.

"Honey," she says, and reaches over to take his hand. "I'm scared that one day I'll find you dead from heart disease."

He glances at her fruit and yoghurt.

"I'm scared that one day I'll find you've taken up jogging."

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Mystery Of Writing.

Nothing we do is as mysterious as we like to pretend.

I'm paraphrasing, because I can't remember the exact words. But it's close enough to something Amy Espeseth said at a writers' workshop I recently attended. It struck a chord with me because it's something I'd recently been thinking about anyway.

There are a number of writers who seem to play up the apparent spirituality of writing, speaking of muses who won't leave them be, words that seem to have been received from some ethereal place beyond our physical universe. Writers as alchemists, turning the 26 letters on a keyboard into something much more. And I suppose non-writers may see writing that way. "Where do you get your ideas?" is an extremely common question.

Of course I get ideas and inspiration, and I make notes as soon as I can. And if they won't leave my mind, then I push them forward in the queue and start work on them.

Dean Wesley Smith offers a different approach. They're just ideas, just words, and he has hundreds of them. No pataphysical explanations, just a mind at work. I guess this is how I see it as well. When I don't have enough ideas for a particuler story, I make them. I create them. Over the past few years I've learned some exercises that help me do this.

But there are those times when I'm writing, when I'm in the 'zone' and the words just seem to pour out, and I wonder. Maybe, just maybe there is a muse watching out for me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Vale: Robin Williams.

I woke to learn Robin Williams was gone.

I was a huge fan of Happy Days when I was a kid. We all were. I can recall the episode with Robin Williams. He made an appearance as Mork, the first time I'd even heard of him, which later was the basis of the TV show, Mork & Mindy.

That was a great show, at the time. I tried to watch some last year, and it was enjoyable enough in a nostalgic way. But that era hasn't aged very well and neither has the show. It was widely reported at the time that Williams ad-libbed much of the script, and I seem to recall hearing that the scripts often had 'Robin say something funny here' in place for many of Mork's lines.

In the mid 80s I watched Robin Williams Live At The Met, a film of his stand up routine. It truly was funny. I remember being in tears with laughter. And this one has aged well. Later I saw Good Morning Vietnam which I had to watch several time because I missed so many of his lines the first time, both from the speed they were delivered and from my own laughter. And then there was more comedy, but some great dramatic roles too. The Fisher King, Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting are a few that leap to mind.

I didn't love everything he did, particularly later in his career, but if I saw a teaser that he was being interviewed on a TV program I made an effort to watch, simply because you never knew where he was going to take it.

My wife literally bumped into him many years ago in San Francisco. Another family member once had dinner with him. They say he was as charming as the twinkle in his eye suggested.

He will be missed.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I've Been Snapshot 2014.

Every few years, a series of short interviews with members of the Australian SpecFic community is conducted and published online. The purpose is to get a 'snapshot' of the state of Australian SpecFic. Ben Peek started it all, way back in 2005 when he interviewed 43 people in a week. By 2007 the number of participants had almost doubled. The Snapshot has since been undertaken in both 2010 and 2012.

Now it's time for Snapshot 2014, and I feel completely honoured to have been interviewed by Sean Wright.

You can find it here.

I was also invited to write a tribute to my friend and fellow writer, Gitte Christensen, who sadly passed away a few months ago.

A team of bloggers has daily been posting interviews with the participants of Snapshot 2014 across the following links:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Overheard On A Plane No. 2.

A few months ago. A young professional woman seated directly behind me. She was speaking to someone she had just met, and speaking loud enough for people to have heard this ten rows away.

"I have to go back to work on Tuesday. I work in a school. I can't really complain, because I've just had six weeks holiday, but I will complain because I'm not ready to back yet.

I work in the western suburbs.

They're not as bad as people say they are, so don't listen to them.

I grew up in the south-east, on the peninsula, so I'm kind of like a refugee from there.

My school has about two thousand kids and I don't know half of them.

Oh my God! Two thousand kids? I mean, I don't even know how I manage half the time."

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Moogs, Tinfoil And Velour.

I'm listening to the 1973 BBC radio adaptation of Asimov's Foundation series on my daily commute. It's wonderful, a great radio play that is a lot of fun.

But in some ways it's so dated, and I wonder whether it was dated even then. Every device that is operated, every machine that is switched on, is portrayed by noisy synthesisers. Did the producers really think everything would make noise in the future?

A girl wears a chain around her waist, and with a flick of a switch she is cloaked in a nebulous, shifting cloak of light, and accompanied by a high pitched whine. Meanwhile, another character walks into a room with a portable force shield protecting him, and that is completely silent.

I know in a radio play you need sounds to convey actions that can't be seen. And I know synthesisers had only been commonly used for a few years at that time. It reminds me of all those 70s TV shows I love, the ones where people obviously thought that in the future we would all be wearing clothes made of velour and tinfoil.

They're nostalgic. They're a throwback to the age of SF I first started reading, the type of SF that made me fall in love with the genre. And I really enjoy them.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Winter Writing Workshop 2014.

I recently undertook a writing workshop at Trinity College. Two days of classes with Kate Forsyth and Amy Espeseth.

Both these writers have great publishing credentials, and although they took different approaches to their teaching, their sessions worked off each other to create a fantastic experience.

They covered some ground I had previously learned, but I didn't mind that. It reinforced those aspects, and reminded me of some I'd forgotten. Most importantly, however, I learned lots of new tricks, exercises and methodology that I intend to put to good use.

The focus of the weekend was on writing a novel, something I've yet to attempt but it's something I've recently been thinking about doing. Everything I learned on the weekend made me feel a little more confident about tackling a longer work.

Thanks  Kate and Amy, it was a fantastic weekend.