Saturday, May 13, 2006

Apostrophe Apocalypse

Never mind red spots. Today I have been mostly taking out commas.

Tomorrow I’ll probably be mostly putting them back in.

Later on, I’ll be heading into town, to see the more-famous-than-me SF writer Stephen Baxter. I want to give him a DVD copy of a marvellous Russian faux documentary, The First on the Moon. It’s a very clever and enthralling mashup of existing and faked material that creates a Secret History of the Soviet manned Lunar program, with a lovely, poignant coda. Given Mr Baxter’s interest in alternate space programs, I’ll be intrigued to see what he makes of it. The DVD was passed on to me by Kim Newman, who was given it at a film festival, and as far as I know, the film hasn’t had a theatrical release in the UK or the US, although it was shown at the recent SF film festival here in London. But if you do get a chance to see it, don’t miss it.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A Little Spot Of Red

This week I received the edit of my crime novel Players (Simon & Schuster are publishing it in February 2007), and I’ve been busy ever since correcting the embarrassing errors in continuity and consistency that my aimiable but eagle-eyed editor has spotted, and also giving the text what I call its final polish.

Now you may think that when I or any other author submits an MSS it should be letter perfect. In my case, if only. As far as I’m concerned, writing a novel is a bit like painting the Forth Bridge - no sooner have you finished, than you spot loose rivets, the odd patch of rust... But this polishing business isn’t only about correcting bloopers. I’ll be doing that in earnest after the copy editor gets through with it. It’s also something like what used to go on in the Royal Academy in the nineteenth century, during the Varnishing Days set aside for Academicians to make the final touches to their exhibits, toning down or heightening completed works before they were displayed in the public arena of the Exhibition room. John Gage gives a marvellous account of an instance of Turner’s competitive fine-tuning of his painting Helveotslyuys, which was shown with Constable’s Opening of Waterloo Bridge:

[Turner’s work was] a grey picture, beautiful but true, but with no positive colour in any part of it. Constable’s ‘Waterloo’ seemed as if painted with liquid gold and silver, and Turner came several times into the room while [Constable] was heightening with vermilion and lake the decorations and flags of the city barges. Turner stood behind him looking from the ‘Waterloo’ to his own picture, and at last brought his palette from the great room where he was touching another picture, and putting a round daub of red lead, somewhat bigger than a shilling, on his grey sea, went away without saying a word. The intensity of the red lead, made more vivid by the coolness of his picture, caused even the vermilion and lake of Constable to look weak. [C.R. Leslie] came into the room just as Turner left. ‘He has been here,’ Constable said, ‘and fired a gun.’ . . . The great man did not come again into the room for a day and a half; and then, in the last moments that were allowed for painting, he glazed the scarlet seal he had put on his picture, and shaped it into a buoy.

That’s what I’m trying to do (but much more modestly) right now.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

That Hugo Thing

Last year in Glasgow, at Interaction, the World Science Fiction Convention, Kim Newman and I introduced and hosted the Hugo Award ceremony. And hey, our little double-act received a nomination for the Hugo for best short dramatic presentation:

Battlestar Galactica: "Pegasus" (NBC Universal/British Sky Broadcasting; Directed by Michael Rymer; Written by Anne Cofell Saunders)
Doctor Who: "The Empty Child" & "The Doctor Dances" (BBC Wales/BBC1; Directed by James Hawes; Written by Steven Moffat)
Doctor Who: "Dalek" (BBC Wales/BBC1; Directed by Joe Ahearne; Written by Robert Shearman)
Doctor Who: "Father's Day" (BBC Wales/BBC1; Directed by Joe Ahearne; Written by Paul Cornell)
Jack-Jack Attack (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation; Written & Directed by Brad Bird)
Lucas Back in Anger (Reductio Ad Absurdum Productions; Directed by Phil Raines; Written by Phil Raines and Ian Sorensen)
Prix Victor Hugo Awards Ceremony (Opening Speech and Framing Device; Written and performed by Paul McAuley and Kim Newman; Directed by Mike & Debby Moir)

If, for whatever reason, you’re interested in seeing what we got up to, the organisers of Interaction have made a video of the introductory speech available at the convention’s web site. You can even compare it with the script.
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