Fans

Fans

Fans

First of all, it is genuinely a privilege and an honour to have fans.

And how do I know I have fans?

Well, Literotica, Stories OnLine, Smashwords and the other places where I submit fiction all make it fairly evident whether you have any repeat visitors and whether those who do read your fiction have a high opinion of it.

It’s a phenomenon which in normal life makes no sense whatsoever. Nobody is a fan of the real-life me in the usual sense of the word nor are any of the people I meet in the general round people I could claim to be fans of.

But when there is sufficient distance between you and the object of your adoration somehow it now becomes possible to be a fan.

I guess I should know.

I am and have been a fan of many people, both individuals and artists, over the years. It’s not an at all debilitating thing to be. All it means is that I have more than the usual amount of interest in them, even when what they do isn’t actually very good.

So, who am I a fan of at the moment?

Lots of things, but here are some that are particularly rocking my boat this week:

  1. The Roller Trio
  2. Hilary Mantel
  3. cellar-fcp
  4. Nicholas Jaar
  5. Nicola Adams
  6. Polly Toynbee

Next week, it will probably be a different list. I don’t promise to be anything but fickle and I don’t really expect my fans to be any different.

But I also feel a peculiar sense of responsibility towards my fans. I’ll just have to hope that it doesn’t cloud my judgement and make me tailor my fiction towards what my fans demand rather than towards what I believe is actually worth printing. (Unless, of course, the two things are exactly the same).

The Present Day, Only More So

It’s fair to say that my current novel No Future hasn’t really attracted nearly the number of votes or readers as did The Anomaly,  but I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t anticipated this. The novel isn’t as easy to read and it doesn’t use the tried and tested method of maintaining interest by throwing in lots of hints of mysteries to be resolved. However, like the similarly disregarded Alif, I think it’s still worthy of attention particularly (it has to be said) in the later chapters.

However, amongst the comments I’ve received is that my vision of the future isn’t really much different from the present. Well that’s absolutely true.Indeed, I find the present day so weird (and indeed any period from history) that I wonder just how far I have to go to write about a future that could never happen without breaking the laws of physics. In fact, one of my dreads is that some of the dystopian predictions I make actually comes true before I finish posting the novel. Then I’d have to do some rewriting to keep all this stuff some time in the near future.

For those who care, the truth is that I think the future will be pretty much like the present day, only more so. What I fear is that the malign trends which, for instance, make it plausible that the next president of the United States will be Mitt Romney, that Israel will launch  nuclear weapons against Iran, and rather than arrest climate change that the foot will be pressed ever harder on the pedal as we head towards irreversible environmental catastrophe. And if the perfect storm happens with no moderation then all bets will surely be off that the period of relatively gentle decline that I project in No Future will become significantly more precipitous and maybe even more lethal.

And with that thought, here’s a tribute to the Republican Party and its candidate Mitt Romney, about whom and his sterling work at Bain Capital there is an interesting article in Rolling Stone (and he is still considered electable): http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/greed-and-debt-the-true-story-of-mitt-romney-and-bain-capital-20120829.

London in the Future

London in the Future

Several Shades of Grey

I guess there’s so much written about the novel by E L James that there shouldn’t be much more to write, but since the milieu from which she comes from isn’t that dissimilar from the one that I contribute to I thought I’d make a few observations.

As we all know by now the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy originates from the genre of fiction known as “fanfic” and especially from that flavour which takes a famous novel or film (in this case the Twilight series) and eroticises it. E L James then changed her pseudonym and cleaned up the references to Stephenie Meyer‘s characters, to produce the best-selling novel in a number of categories, which are:

  1. The best selling novel by a British writer
  2. The best selling novel to have come from the self-publication world of the internet.
  3. Best selling erotic novel ever.

All these are huge achievements and cannot be taken from her.

However, I have to confess that I’ve not read any of her books and, to be honest, I’m not likely to. I’m not a huge fan of BDSM; I’ve not been drawn by her prose style; the reviews haven’t been very good ; the synopsis of the story is too much like supposedly better novels about erotic adventures such as The Story of O that I have read and still didn’t enjoy that much; and I’m afraid that its origins in the world of on-line erotic fiction is actually a turn-off for me given the quality of the majority of stuff you find there.

I suppose the last assertion makes me some kind of a hypocrite, even as I wonder whether this might actually herald a new golden age from which my fiction might even benefit.

Well, whatever you think about Fifty Shades of Grey might well be irrelevant. There are lots of reasons why people might hunt out erotic literature on-line and in the age of e-book readers, easy downloads and (in the context of ASSTR and Stories OnLine) almost totally unedited for content, there must be many who’ve now been alerted to the presence of easily available and even free fiction with a sex element.

And it’s just possible that some of them might quite like some of the stuff I’ve written. I’m aware that I write for a relatively small niche of such readers, but I’m also aware that a small proportion of a very large number is itself a large number.

And with that thought, here’s a dirty picture by Stefan Gessel:

Feed the World

Feed the World – Stefan Gesell

 

No Future

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve started submitting chapters for a satirical novel, No Future.

Like The Battle for the Known Unknown, I’ve been having trouble choosing a title. It had to be something that evoked England, and I’d thought of “Green and Pleasant Land” and “Hope & Glory”. However, the title “No Future” also comes from a quintessential English song, which is God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols.

I can’t claim to agree with the actual content of the lyrics, however much I sympathise with the sentiment. Whatever you think of Her Majesty it’s just not true that “She ain’t no human being”. And despite being in general agreement with the views of pundits like Noam Chomsky, Naomi Woolf and George Monbiot, I just don’t believe that England is or ever has been a “fascist regime”.

This novel is going to infuriate readers more than The Battle for the Known Unknown. There are a lot of chapters, a lot of characters, a lot of switches of time and place, but the intention is less to tell a story of individuals but rather a kind of future history of England and a straightforward linear narrative just wouldn’t work.

So, I apologise in advance.

If you haven’t got the patience for a story that will surely try your patience, then don’t bother with No Future. I’ve written plenty of other stories which may be more to your taste which you may be able to find on my website.

And in keeping with a tradition of including apposite pictures, here’s one by Sidney Goodman:

Sidney Goodman, Figures in a Landscape, 1972-3

Sidney Goodman, Figures in a Landscape, 1972-3

 

Future Religion

There have been some comments about the presence of fundamentalist Christianity in the Anomaly. It is a legitimate question as to whether any religion, let alone an ascetic version of the Presbyterian Church, should survive for another fifteen hundred years.

Obviously I don’t really know what the answer is. As the Anomaly is more satire than science fiction, my concern is less with the actual feasibility and more to do with religious faith, or any other belief system. being perverted and used for other purposes. There is a very long history of this, and it’s by no means limited to religion. The twentieth century is famous for how the relative benign and benevolent ideology of socialism became so distorted that its bastard offspring in the Soviet Union, Kampuchea, Maoist China and elsewhere exceeded even the excesses committed in the name of charity, compassion and eternal life.

One of the advantages of using a variant of Christianity to satirise is that most readers of English are relatively familiar with what the religion is about and many may even have been exposed to the Bible. Another advantage is that at the moment, it’s a rather safer target. The Archbishop of Canterbury is unlikely to decree a fatwa on me for my wilful blasphemy (although I can’t be certain of the tolerance of several religious leaders in America or Russia). Since my intention (as made clear in Chapter Twenty Three) is less to show Christianity as an evil religion or even a faith followed only by fools and idiots, but rather as a faith with good intentions that even a millennia or two into the future can still be perverted towards quite un-Christian ends.

And for those of you who like this sort of thing, here’s a picture of a girl at prayer by Mazzam:

Mazzam: Girl at Prayer

Mazzam: Girl at Prayer

 

The Anomaly Trilogy: Volume One, Final Chapter

So I guess I’m at the point I should make some kind of comment about the first volume of the Anomaly Trilogy.

Well, first of all, what happens next?

My intention is now to upload the first volume as an e-book (in various formats) and as a PDF file to my own website and also to Smashwords. I may even upload it to Lulu, although I may not be alone in getting a little frustrated by my attempts to navigate around the site. At that point, the novel will be available to a pretty wide audience in a wide range of formats.

Of course, being a trilogy there are two more volumes to come. I’m still unsure as to what titles to give them. The title “The Battle for the Known Unknown” wasn’t my first choice, but it’s no worse than my original ideas. If this novel should ever be published by a proper publisher, then I think I’d need a discussion about titles. (Although I suspect there’d also be discussion about having too many protagonists, about having a confusing narrative, and whether there wasn’t just a little too much explicit sex).

I think that the most likely outcome is that future titles will also be related to Donald Rumsfeld’s sole positive contribution to philosophy and culture. I sincerely hope that no one would believe that the reference to his press briefing of February 12, 2002 indicates that I have any affection for the man and his policies. In fact, his verbal contributions to world culture would be hilarious (at least in terms of their content) if so many Americans, British, Iraqis and Afghanis hadn’t perished in pursuit of his neocon fantasies.

And now it’s all done and dusted, how is the novel faring?

Well, it’s had different responses in the three places I’ve posted it.

ASSTR.ORG

I’ve had a lot of downloads from my website on asstr.org but no feedback. As I don’t believe that the number of downloads are at all related to the number of contented readers,  I’ll just have to hope that one or two readers did actually enjoy the novel.

Literotica 

This is a website that has given me the immense satisfaction of seeing various chapters rank very highly in their list of Top Lists, but admittedly from not very many votes. I imagine it will soon vanish from sight as it hasn’t gained the momentum to gain a lot more votes to keep it in the public eye for very much longer.

Stories OnLine

This is a website that doesn’t usually award my fiction very high marks, but as I’ve noticed that there’s almost an inverse relationship between quality and popularity on this site I’m not too downcast. However, I have gained a lot of downloads and nearly 300 entries in readers’ library lists, so perhaps I should be more generous to Stories OnLine readers than I generally tend to be. I’ve also got more feedback from them than I have from Literotica or ASSTR.ORG and (as usual) it’s very mixed but most of it is favourable and most of that is thoughtful and insightful.

So, now all that’s left is to see what results I get from Smashwords…

And for those readers who like pictures, here’s another fun one from DeviantArt that’s only tangentially related to my novel:

Sand Dunes by Azazel 1994 (Wu Shuang)

Sand Dunes by Azazel 1994 (Wu Shuang)

Literotica and Browser Hits

Like a humourless manager who wants to show how cool he (most usually) or she is, here’s a Dilbert Cartoon:

Dilbert Cartoon

Dilbert Cartoon

However, in the case of Literotica the whole point of this cartoon, which is that those who try to do something about the relative ranking of queries in (for instance) Google is a total waste of time that only idiots fall for, seems to be refuted.

By the word “refuted”, I don’t mean the commonly used meaning which is “strongly denied”, but its actual meaning which is “proved logically incorrect”.

Quite clearly, Literotica know what they’re doing.

Whenever I search on Google for my own fiction (which all but a statistically insignificant number of authors periodically do), it’s my contributions to Literotica that rank by far the highest.

Manipulating search engine ranking isn’t something I’ve ever done nor (to be honest) something I’d really know how to do.

But clearly Literotica’s search engine tweaking guys know what they’re doing.