Istanbul Malarky

It was the dawn of the 2nd age of mankind,
Ten years after the Axis-Allies war.
Constantinople was a dream given form,
Its goal; to change its name to Istanbul and cause mayhem and malarky to travellers everywhere.
It’s a port of call, a home away from home to busters, minstrels, bards and troubadours.
Friends and foes brought together by the jewels of the orient, a precious gem all alone in the night.
It can be a saucy place, and you’re unlikely to find any peace…
This is a story of this last remnant of Byzantium.
The year is 1953,
The name of the song is ‘Istanbul’.

More Productive Than Alexander the Great on Holiday!

I like editing my stories.
     Taking a story, punishing it to a large extent and forcing it from crap to mediocre is very satisfying.
     I think of myself as a good editor; I am ruthless with my work, asking whether each paragraph plays any role in the story. I can cut a thousand words from a story and weep only a little (well, like a babe in swaddling cloth rather than as a comic geek whose favourite title has been pulled and replaced by a Grant Morrison revamp).
     Actually, the editing process is an interesting one. I write crap first drafts; often I feel compelled to insert an exciting new idea into a story which then fails to play any important role in the tale. Removing said ‘idea’ then proves difficult because I assure myself that no matter how useless the plot point is, the idea is so new and novel that the world will grant me an extra five hundred words.
     Because I’m great.
     Great, but still unpublished in any meaningful way.
     Editing takes a long time; my current story ‘Towards End’ (which I am having serious doubts as whether it says anything interesting) is on to revision 10. I thought I had it down pat with version 9, but then I realised that I could excise sections and restructure other paragraphs and so it probably needs another two edits to bring the current version into readable copy.
     It takes about an hour to edit a three thousand word story. It took about two hours to write it, and another thirteen hours to edit it.
     Fifteen hours, and I’d be lucky to get an hundred for it if it ever sells. So that’s about seven dollars per hour.
     This is not a glorious business. And as I haven’t sold a single story it will turn out that my first story sold will proably ned me something close to fifty cents for all the hours needed to write something publishable.
     (I have a kidney for sale, if anyone wants it…)

The Sequel Game

No real news to relate; I still be waiting for replies on two stories and I’ve not been writing much in the way of fiction recently (discounting my day job and the papers it produces…) but I feel the need to update so this site keeps its core readership of a cocker spaniel and the three dwarf pygmies of East Anglia.
     So… Sequels.
     I have always maintained that writing sequels is a very bad idea; few single stories support them (and do not mention the dreaded ‘trilogy’ to me, because I have never been convinced that you need three books to tell one story (don’t quote me since I do have a few multi-storey… story ideas, but they’re different. DIFFERENT I tell you.
     What is wrong with the concept of the sequel? In part it is because sequels tend to need to be revisionary; single stories should tell a complete story; sequels tend to tell you that said story was not complete in and of itself.
     What I am saying it is not true of everything, but I would say that it’s true of most sequels out there in the market (where the market is the screen, the page or the broadcast…). Sequels are the needless addition of extraneous material to otherwise fine stories. But the market, you and I, seem to love them.

Proviso Number One: Series

This species of sequel can be planned (say, for example, series such as B5 or Buffy; each season tends to be somewhat self complete since the market never guarantees absolute that another will follow). Some series have a definite end (B5) while others make it up as they go along (Buffy); the former presents itself as a full story, the other leaves itself open for further development.
     Are these sequels? But of course, but its a special kind of sequel, often done incredibly badly (The X Files), sometimes delightfully well (Babylon 5). But in the latter case it is a sequel in the same way that chapter two is a sequel to chapter one; the story is not yet over (but the publisher can’t guarantee that chapter three is forthcoming); in the former case the sequel season is additive. This is the classic serial technique of Dumas and Dickens.
     TV is a domain unto itself; these examples aren’t the best in the business, since the TV world encourages single servings in mammoth allotments. Written fiction, on the other hand…

Let’s look at some books instead…

Jonathan Gash, writer of the Lovejoy series of books (a character quite dissimilar to the lovable TV rogue of the same name) wrote an award winning mystery novel called ‘The Judas Pair’ about a mysterious antique and the depths to which people will go to get it. Wonderful piece of prose, mostly because Lovejoy is so despicable yet the most lovable character in the story.

And then Mr. Gash wrote a host of sequels.

Some are good, some indifferent Each one, however, diminishes the character of Lovejoy in some small part. Lovejoy was a careful mix of a despicable rogue and a lovable ne’er-do-well. Each subsequent book has had to play with that 50/50 mixture, making him, in parts, more vicious and less amoral.
     Lovejoy is now a cartoon of his former self.
     Pity really.
     Mike Ripley, writer of the ‘Angel’ (completely unrelated to the TV show of the same name) novels, seems to have an agenda for his Lovejoy-lite stories. He presented a character (of somewhat fluctuating age) who undergoes a certain amount of change so that in the last book ‘things’ happen. A planned series (or so it seems), seeing that Angel changes, bit by bit, and ends up doing something unnatural to his character in the first book but quite logical in reference to the last in the sequence.
     Then he wrote another book in the series and revoked it.
     All that careful work gone astray for the sake of a little more money (but also quite understandable if you want to support an exotic beer habit).


Proviso Number Two: Thematic sequels

If there is one author I always rush out and buy, it is Iain (M.) Banks. Nearly all of his books are unrelated, aside from his ‘Culture’ novels. None of the latter are straight sequels; instead they often explore similar themes. Only one book follows up events from an earlier tale, and it features none of the same characters.
     As sequels go these are good; the more he writes the better the idea gets (and this leads to some pretty exciting theorising about future themes to be explored). Are these sequels? Well, yes, but no. They are sequels in so much that the stories could well have worked as stand alone stories, but they might not have had the same impact. They aren’t sequels because it is the ideas they follow, not the characters…
     Perhaps I am making false distinctions here to save some series and to dismiss others.

This all pretty crap theorising.

He Slumbers Not but Lives in Frightful Form

Evening all.
     Those fearing for my health can rest easy in that I have awoken from a deep sleep and am back chasing fiction submission statuses.
     I had actually started a piece for this little column based upon the idea that sequels are very bad ideas, but I found myself finding far too many exceptions for the argument to run anything other than ‘I don’t like sequels and if I start writing them there had better be a good reason; really, really good; epicly good, in fact.’
     So, yes, I have been thinking of you all.
     And not, might I add, in a good way.