Geeky Book Chat Club 4: Into Chatness

Hello all! It’s Friday and I’m feeling particularly indecisive today (really, you should have seen me trying to decide which t-shirt to wear this morning, and I only have one clean one left) so rather than forcing myself to decide on a topic I’m inviting you to another geeky book chat. As ever, answer whichever questions you like and please do get chatty in the comments!

Name a book or a short story that still haunts you. Why has it stayed with you for so long?

Speaking of short stories, any favourite short stories of all time?

Is there a character you wish you’d written?

How important are editors? (this might be referencing a certain blog post that was doing the rounds this morning)

Fanfiction – good thing, bad thing, don’t care?

14 thoughts on “Geeky Book Chat Club 4: Into Chatness

  1. – Name a book or a short story that still haunts you. Why has it stayed with you for so long?

    My two favourite books would qualify here – Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin and Veronica by Nicholas Christopher. They’re both very different but both beautiful – two very rare books that I would have been happy to have started to read again from the beginning as soon as I had finished the final page.

    Winter’s Tale because the prose is so dense and lyrical – it’s a work of art. Veronica because it is mysterious and emotional and has the most perfectly interlocking plot. No matter how weird it gets – and it does get weird – every single thing comes together by the end.

    – Speaking of short stories, any favourite short stories of all time?

    I love Stephen King’s The Mangler

    – Is there a character you wish you’d written?

    Not really – my brain doesn’t work like that when it comes to fiction. A character in a book might be amazing, but it belongs to that author. Why would I want to have written them?

    To answer the question in another way, there are plenty of characters I would love to *write*, mostly in comics – Hawkgirl and Superman are my top two!

    – How important are editors?

    Essential. You can’t self edit, and everything needs to be edited, and edited, and edited, and edited again. And then again. An editor is more than just someone who picks a great book to buy – the work they put into a book and into an author’s career cannot be underestimated.

    As for that blog post… well, I stopped reading after the second sentence. Parasitic agents? Well, there’s someone with entitlement issues.

    – Fan fiction – good thing, bad thing, don’t care?

    Well, the first fiction I ever wrote was Doctor Who fan fiction, when I was about 7. The first fiction I had published was Doctor Who fan fiction (in fanzines). So that’s kinda where I started. If you love something so much you want to write in that world, then that can’t be a bad thing. Maybe that’ll start you off on a career, or maybe you just like writing LOTR fan fiction.

    • I think if I’d been online when I was a kid and had any idea what fanfiction was, I’d have been all over it. I certainly made up plenty of “self-insert” fanfiction in my head, for things like Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Lord of the Rings, Good Omens, Discworld, Red Dwarf, Star Trek… oh my goodness, Star Trek. I would have been the queen of the self-sacrificing, awesome-and-yet-modest Mary Sue.

      Looking at it as a writer, I think it’s quite flattering – you have to really *love* that world to want to go and play there yourself, and to spend time thinking of how that would work exactly. As long as no one is making any money from it, obviously.

      • Fan fiction is not an online phenomenon – my stories from when I was 7 are in school exercise books, and the Doctor Who fanzines I had stuff published in were in print, long before the internet was ubiquitous (1991-1994ish).

        • Oh aye, but when I was a kid I had no real exposure to anything like it. I suppose the closest would have been some bits and pieces in ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, but I wouldn’t have known there was an entire community.

  2. A couple of short stories have stayed with me since I was a kid (and, I suspect, always will): one is “A Christmas Pudding Improves With Keeping” by Philippa Pearce, which is about a family who find an old Christmas pudding in the walls of their flat and is far more disturbing than it sounds – particularly for a children’s story.

    The other is Robert Bloch’s “That Hell-bound Train” – about a man who is given a watch that can stop time. It’s not the watch, or the man, that stuck with me there – but the person who gives it to him: a train conductor who gives me the creeps even now (and rightly so). I read it when I was pretty young – 8 or 9, maybe, and I never forgot it.

    As for characters I wish I’d written? The easy answer is Stark from “Only Forward”, for reasons which will be obvious to anyone who’s read the book. Because he’s *awesome*. The less obvious answer is Scripps from “The History Boys” because he’s adorable and kind and clever and so very real.

    Editors? Vital. They make books better, they make writers better.

    And fan-fiction… well, I guess it’s tricky. Some authors love it, some hate it. Most writers have started off writing fan fiction at some level, I think, and if it keeps them entertained and doesn’t do any harm to the person who actually created them, I don’t see the harm. It might be a little odd for their originator, but I suppose it’s a way of showing affection for the characters, the world and the story…

    • Ah, I LOVE Only Forward. Glorious book.

      Aye, I think fanfiction can certainly be tricky. I have heard that legally it is probably a good idea *not* to read fanfiction of your own work, thanks to cases where similar ideas have turned up in later books and fanfiction writers have tried to sue, accusing authors of stealing their ideas (this may all be entirely apocryphal, though).

      And then there’s the situation where someone write a huge stonking pile of fanfic, changes the names and gets it published. Hmm.

      • Funnily enough, I was thinking of exactly that situation – the “names of characters have been changed, but we all know who they are really…” one. And when there’s truckloads of money involved… yes. Well.

        Also, I can no longer talk about fanfic without going back to the Ruffalo / Science Bros thing. Granted, it’s not *technically* his creation that’s been remixed / shipped / whatever the cool kids are calling it these days, but his reaction to it was genuinely fantastic. Would everyone have responded the same way, I wonder?

        • Yeah, I find what happened in *that* particular case to be quite morally dubious – and I suspect if it happened to me, I’d be spitting wasps over it. But then it’s certainly not the only case of that happening, and I haven’t heard of anyone being successfully sued over it yet…

          You know, I haven’t seen the Mark Ruffalo thing, but that doesn’t surprise me ’cause he seems like an utterly lovely chap.

  3. There are several books (The Name of the Wind, Perdido Street Station, Shogun, 1984) that haunt me in the sense of being so amazing I feel I’ll never be able to come close them in my own work, either in terms of the poetic language or intricate plotting.

    Short stories…I love The Sound of Thunder (Bradbury).

    I’ve not yet had the joy of an editor but what’s not to like? A fresh pair of eyes, trained for the sole purpose of making the story better. Yes please!

    I see fanfic as the highest form of flattery. In fact I’d see that as a mark of success if I ever produced characters and a world that inspired others to get creative. Not sure how I’d feel if they made a ton of money from it though…

  4. The Reapers are the Angels. With so many great books being published lately, I rarely, if ever, re-read something. I only read this book a couple of years ago and have re-read it already. It’s an increble book, haunting, disturbing, horrifying, wonderful, bleak and both it, and the main character Temple, stayed with me for a long time.

    I don’t really read short stories, so can’t answer that one.

    Hmm, an easy character I wish I’d written would be Druss, who is probably David Gemmell’s most famous character.

    Editors, well I’ve not personal experience, but from those I have spoken to, plus authors who have worked with them, I would say they are absolutely invaluable.

    Fan fiction can be a fun thing and an interesting way for fans to experiment, try to find characters’ voices, see if they can translate their love of a character into something that sounds similar. Could be a useful skill for tie-in novels, but it’s also interesting to see whacky ideas, or what if stories, or what comes next, like those Season 8 TNG tweets which always make me laugh as there’s an element that rings true. I wrote some myself back in the day, and even wrote a Firefly story for fun. Slash fiction, well I just find that creepy, and it often involves putting two characters in bed together who can sometimes be related, or even siblings! (Supernatural slash fiction, eew!)

  5. Apart from the books I have never finished, which loom in my mind constantly making me feel inadequate… apart from those, I always find myself thinking of Roald Dahl. His books and short stories made a lasting impression on me – from reading Matilda as a bookish child, to the dark short stories I discovered when I was older, like Henry Sugar, and The Hitchhiker – mainly due to his attention to the grotesque and macabre, and the darkness that seeps in even in the happiest of places. Man From the South actually gave me nightmares. It is, therefore, one of my favourite stories of all time. Mind you, Royal Jelly comes a close second. I think it/they stayed with me because in some ways they are quite simple stories so they are easy to remember, but also because of the emotional grip they have. The feeling of discomfort, or fear, or disbelief and curiosity is reawakened every time I think about them. The man was a genius.

    A character I wish I’d written… Vianne Rocher from the Chocolat series by Joanne Harris. Or Sand dan Glokta from Jow Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy. The man is a former hero who gets captured, tortured and maimed, and when he’s released he becomes the most feared torturer in the country because he completely understands it from the inside. He’s desperate to die because he’s always in pain and his body is ruined (and he hates what he has become), but he refuses to let his enemies and detractors have the satisfaction, and he’s weirdly proud of surviving and being the best at what he does. The conflict of his own character versus his job and his emotions is amazing.

    Editors can be very useful in some ways because from inside your own work you can’t be objective. Something that makes perfect sense to you might not to anyone else and if you want others to read and enjoy it then you need a helping hand to tweak things for an audience that isn’t your own brain and closest friends who know all the in-jokes. They can also be a pain if they don’t understand what you’re doing, or if they want your work to fit a particular demographic etc. Not worked with any pros, so I can’t really say any more.

    FF can be a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, you get Fifty Shades of Grey, but on the other, there are always things you would have done differently, resolved differently, relationships you hate… FF can be a way for fans to express alternate endings, revive loved characters who died, etc. The extremely weird and sexual aspects can be a bit OTT. Especially mpreg stories. If you want to write about a couple expecting a baby; go for it. Does it have to be House and Wilson? Sometimes characters seem to be used really randomly when it would be a perfectly good story about terrorism even if the characters weren’t the Teletubbies. AU stories can be good or bad. TLDR? It depends, and whatever floats your boat… And yes, I’ve written some. No, you can’t read it. But the first story I ever wrote as a child would probably be classed as Little Grey Rabbit fanfiction.

    • Roald Dahl really was the king of the short, disturbing story. The Landlady was always one of my favourites – the crawling sense of growing horror combined with some very dark humour is just perfect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *