Friday 3 December 2010

Friday Flash - Man Flu

Franklin rolled over and groaned for the third time. He buried his face under his arm to blot out the light. He thought he'd read somewhere that photosensitivity was a sign of something incurable. Was that true, or did he just overhear it on the bus? It didn't matter. He was sure he was dying. Franklin risked a look at Eleanor but she kept her back to him, ignoring his plight. She always did this. She never believed he was ill. Franklin tried another groan.

"Oh would you pipe down over there? All this moaning and groaning - it's enough to drive me mad," snapped Eleanor.

Her hands worked across the wall, smoothing the thick paste in place. Franklin forgot he was sick for an instant while he admired her decorating skills. A tickle in his throat forced him to cough and he remembered his illness.

"Don't you care I'm dying?" asked Franklin.

"I don't care what you do, as long as you're quiet about it. Can't you see I'm busy?" Eleanor turned around.

"What's so important that you can't tend to your sick husband?" asked Franklin. He coughed again to emphasise his point.

"You're not sick, you're just too lazy to help with the housework. This mucus doesn't rearrange itself, you know!" replied Eleanor. "Anyway, what's wrong with you?"

"I think I've caught a human. A nasty one," said Franklin.

"Oh not again! You always-" began Eleanor.

"I tell you, there's far too many of them at this time of year! Cousin Pneumonia caught one last week when she was minding her own business on the bus and Measles down the road got four on the trot," said Franklin.

Eleanor rolled her eyes at him.

"Franklin James Influenza, you never cease to amaze me. You should learn to pull yourself together - you've only got man flu!"

* * *
This flash was inspired by a random Twitter conversation with Monica Marier, in which I asked what I should write about, and she suggested the cold and flu season - with a twist!

Wednesday 1 December 2010


I came across this post by Matthew Delman over on his steampunk blog, and having dipped a toe into the waters of the genre myself, I felt I should perhaps clarify my own position on the subject. After all, a writer should preferably know what it is that they're writing, yes?

Steampunk is one of those strange genres where people often know the name, but aren't entirely sure what it entails. In its simplest form, steampunk is usually set in Victorian London, but as it's a form of alternate history, the protagonists have access to all kinds of technology not seen in the history books - the only proviso being that is powered by steam.

According to Matthew's blog, "Steampunk, in its most simple definition, is a type of fiction that places contemporary technology in the Victorian Era with Coal (and thus Steam) as the primary power source instead of Gas or Electricity." If you check that goldmine of information (sic), Wikipedia, they define steampunk as "works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used — usually the 19th century, and often Victorian era Britain — but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy."

I agree with Matthew that historical accuracy isn't a major aspect of steampunk due to its inherent nature in the same way that much science fiction isn't strictly scientific in nature. Even the setting of steampunk can be fluid - it doesn't have to be London, although the period is pretty firm. Personally, I'd be fascinated to read steampunk set in 19th century Paris or Moscow. I believe the single 'fixed' point of steampunk is that it IS set in the past, and that the only technology available should be that which could conceivably be driven by steam. So you couldn't have electronics as it would be pretty difficult to power them with steam, but cars, airships, and other forms of machinery are all possible. The first internal combustion engine was designed in 1807 and Karl Benz began selling vehicles in 1888 so automobiles aren't entirely out of place.

However, I would argue that a book or film can have steampunk sensibilities, without necessarily being hardcore steampunk - China Mieville's Bas-Lag trilogy would be a good example. This is how I explain my own work, The First Tale. I chose a rough steampunk setting for my Tales from Vertigo City project, and Vertigo City is based on Victorian London, down to its brick-lined sewers and bizarre emporia. Transport comes via omnibuses and trams, although cars make a rare appearance. The clockwork automatons and antiquated weaponry are a nod to steampunk, while protagonist Philip Wiseman favours the frock coat fashions of a 'dandy'. It only really deviates from true steampunk in that a) it is not set in London, b) the fashions are not strict Victoriana, c) I got zombies and even steampunk mecha in there and d) Liss has the ability to throw energy bolts at people.

To me, the most important element of steampunk, besides the technological constraints and time period, is that is is fun. Alternate history has the potential to be fascinating and thought-provoking, but the nature of steampunk lends itself well to adventure stories, and personally, I think there just isn't enough adventure in mainstream fiction these days.

I'd be fascinated to hear what people think of steampunk!

* * *

The image for this post is by the stupidly talented Tom Brown, the artist behind steampunk web serial comic 'Hopeless, Maine'. More of his art can be found here, while Personal Demons, the current book in the serial, is here.

Don't forget, The First Tale is still only 99c on Smashwords. At the time of writing, that's just 63p!

Tuesday 30 November 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010

It's November 30th, the last day of NaNoWriMo, and I'm pleased to say that I broke the 50,000 word mark on Sunday evening. Boy, am I glad! After being really excited by my story back in those halcyon days at the start of the month, I rapidly grew bored with it. Doing my daily words became a chore, and I was finding that I was writing as much as I could, not to meet the target or because I couldn't stop myself, but because I wanted it over and done with.

We Should Be Heroes is set in Vertigo City, my fictional metropolis that has already spawned a steampunk serial, The First Tale, and a mini-serial, Quantum Steam Theory. I decided to move 130 years into "the future", putting Vertigo into a twilight world akin to 1940s noir. Superheroes stalked the streets of the city. Sadly they didn't do much with their powers and it turned into a detective story.

Now, I'm proud of myself for having written another novel, and in the process I've found out a lot more about my characters. Two of them are actually from the steampunk era (there is a reason why they're still around over a century later) and they've given me a lot more back story through We Should Be Heroes. The problem is, I don't really want to use the novel as part of the Vertigo City universe.

There are three major problems with it. I could probably fix them, if I wanted to, but right now I don't. I want to focus on other things (an announcement about one of them is coming soon). The first problem was that I'd written myself into a hole by choosing to write it in first person present tense, which was annoying as secondary characters had far more interesting things to say. The second problem is linked with this, in that I couldn't maintain the "voice" of my main character beyond the opening scenes.

The third problem is perhaps the biggest, since no amount of rewrites would solve it. Basically...I don't like writing noir. There. I said it. The steampunk tales are like adventures stories, and they've a lot more fun to write. Liss gets to shoot things (or beat people up) and the automatons get more to do. Vertigo City is a more interesting place to write when it's a spiritual descendant of Victorian London, as opposed to 1940s New York.

So while I'm proud of myself for having written it, I'm not going to use it. I'll be keeping Vertigo City for my steampunk work, so there will be more adventures from Liss and the gang over the coming months. Just not any superheroes.

Monday 29 November 2010

Photo Prompt 09

Ninth prompt, ready and waiting.

If you want to use the prompt, all I ask is that you include a link to this entry and a credit to me for the photograph, and that you post a link to your story in the comments box below so I can see what you've come up with! I promise to comment on any story that comes from this photo.

The ninth prompt is Rings.

If you want more prompts, check out Walt White, Eric J Krause and Jen Brubacher!