My computer is getting a new brain which means that I will be offline from Wednesday noon until Friday noon, roughly. Tentative huzzas!?!
paratti and dolores came with me to see 'Mirrormask' yesterday. It was visually stunning, as you would expect from Dave McKean - by turns hilarious, terrifying and gorgeous. Gina McKee was especially fabulous - if there were justice, she would be a famous star as well as an actual one. The script was Neil Lite, in a sense - perfectly OK, more than OK, but doing Neil riffs in the service of Dave's vision. Also, in the realistic sections, the legacy of Angela Carter lay heavy on him - almost inevitable when a man his age, who loved her work, writes about a teenage girl feeling ambivalent about the circus.
Lesley and I also went, after lunch, to see 'Underworld Evolution', which was as bad, and as much of a guilty pleasure, as we had anticipated. At the climax, when Selene shoves the bad guy into the rotors of a crashed helicopter while simultaneously stabbing him through the tongue and brain with his severed tentacular wingtip (not a phrase I ever expected to write) I leaned over and whispered, in bad Glaswegian ' Weel, stitch that, Jimmah'. Ah bliss!
And now, by vague request from some of you, several ways in which you know you are reading a fic by rozk
1. Titles. I have a tendency to terseness in titles, which is a mannerism copied from Joss. Lots of one worders like 'Honour'. ' Sister', 'Bedtime', 'Girl1'. I see no reason to say more than the story needs and three worders like 'Bed of Bones' and 'Dawn in Rome' are wordy, for me. One of the very few exceptions is 'Five Lovers Cordelia Chase Never Had', but that was because it was vaguely a challenge story and at least its actual sections have short titles...
2. I have always been a believer in the hook sentence.
Few of my stories go as far as 'There are pursuits conducive of relaxation, Charlotte thought to herself, but principal among them is not making love with an over-eager female werewolf, in the back seat of a stolen White Russian army staff car, while her five sisters prowl outside, slapping arms against sides in the steely cold of the high Mongolian plain' but I did write that, and I stand by it..
Even my unfinished stories have sentences like 'There is strange weather in the heart of Desire' or paragraphs like 'It was like sleeping in the cleanest of cotton sheets, soft and yet somehow the faintest scratchiness of weave and starch sang into your skin like dawn and songbirds. You did not need to wake yet, but waking was there as something that there would be in your future and seemed likely to be no more unpleasant than sleep. And both sleep and that future waking were bliss at the brink of the unendurable'.
Basically, I am a big tease.
3. My pairings tend to the perverse - I started off with Faith and Cordelia, which is almost ordinary, but I have written Willow/Darla and Cordelia/Glory and Adam/Riley in my time.
4. When I write sex, it tends to be less naming of parts than evocation of feelings. If it comes across as hot, well, that is because sensuous intensity is how I experience sex and I write what I know.
'Sometimes, when love is good, you lose track of the details. There is not my hand, or her hand, or my breast, or her breast; there is Hand, and Breast and Lips and you and she somehow aren't there any more. It's not being lost in the moment; it is being so perfectly there. We were golden, for a moment then - bitch queen of Sunnydale and psycho betrayer - we were better than we were.'
Or 'Kissing her was a rush like fast cars with the top down and wind slapping your face almost hard enough to bruise, or champagne biting at your throat and behind your nose with tiny bittersweet teeth, or dancing in your best tightest new dress with your feet slamming the floor to a beat that was precisely that of your heart.. She was everything I knew I loved and everything I had never had and never known I'd missed.'
I really don't name parts and admire people like thete1 who can do it well. One of the nicest things that ever happened was that Te and I were discussing this and I praised her and said I wished I could do the same, and she said I did, and I pointed out that actually my sex scenes are remarkably non-specific. But if people don't notice that, and get caught in the moment, that's neat too.
5. I have my kinks - there is a lot of stroking in my stories and some of it is with sharp things, though not generally with teeth.
'He reached up with his maimed left hand and stroked her cheek, making sure that she felt his largest scar against her cold flesh.
She looked down at him with a patronizing respect and turned slightly, leaning her face firmly into his hand, so that he felt her gum and teeth behind the lip that suddenly pecked delicately at him.'
6. I am pretty totally ruthless with characters. People die in my stories and they get their hearts irretrievably broken. I do write fluff - 'Dawn in Rome' was mostly fluff. Even quiet little stories of mine have teeth though.
Here's a Kill Bill fragment to show you what I mean...
TRICKS FOR KIDS
'And we don't know that they're like that, at all.' said Miss Ekkers. 'When I was young, my mother would often point out good Christian women who shared living expenses and say that some people just had dirty minds.'
'Yeees,' said Reverend Jones. 'But we have to think of the welfare of the child, after all she has been through. And they are not ideal parent material, whatever goes on in their bedrooms.'
'Pish-posh' said Miss Ekkers.'The child loves them. She hadn't spoken since it happened, and they came to see her, and they whispered a message in her ear, and she danced and sang. They say they were good friends of her poor mother and that they were acquainted with her father - also dead, it appears - and I think it would be very very wrong to separate her from them, now they have turned up.'
'Well,' said Reverend Jones. ' We don't normally place African American children with white families, especially not same-sex couples. And there is the other issue.'
'I think,' said Miss Ekkers. ' That it is our Christian duty to give her to them, and not break her heart again. After she saw her mother killed by a home intruder, and all. And they are rich, so the other issue won't matter. After all, with servants, it doesn't matter that she is going to be brought up by a blind woman and a woman with one arm.'
And wondered what it had meant, the sentence that changed a little girl from a dead-eyed zombie to a happy dancing child, the sentence 'If you're good, we'll take you to meet her.' '
7. And, while I do subtle, nightmarish horrid brutality is in the mix too. I did not used to think I could write action scenes, but there is the odd one I am quite pleased with. The thing my scenes of violence have in common with the sex scenes is that I try and block them out in my head so that I know where people are in relation to each other, and I try and know how things feel. I agree with the late Poul Anderson about trying to evoke several senses in any scene.
This is a god-killer fighting a giant Aztec god.
' It is the moments before battle that make victory, as often as not, when you stare into your enemy's soul and he into yours and you see which of you will doubt victory first.
By making me wait for that moment, he thought to make me hurry or mis-step.
I stepped with exaggerated care, making each stride a meditation and feeling the ground beneath my sandaled feet as if every paving-stone were a world of rock that I must cross to my goal.
The waiting for a destined battle is its own field of contention, if you are thoughtful and make it so.
Of a sudden, as loud as a fanfare, each dead gaping jaw opened further and from each dead mouth there emitted silvery laughter.
And then ten thousand voices spoke as natural as they had been alive, and said, 'Welcome to the place of your death, Huntress.'
Tricksters, they do it every time. They have to show off power.
And, in the process, squander power that they took from the deaths of ten thousand. Aside from the evil, consider the waste.
'Perhaps,' I said, because my death is always a possible outcome at such moments and I would not go into battle with an entire untruth on my lips.
And then I said, 'Are you a coward that will strike me from ambush? As you struck dead these people who trusted you and lived in your worship.'
'They were cattle,' their ten thousand voices answered me. 'Born to be eaten, what does the date of the day of feasting matter to them.'
'It matters,' I said, ' to a child that was expecting a doll for its naming day, and died on that day's eve. It matters to the bride who died a virgin. It matters to the old man who hoped for the breeze of one last day's dawn. It matters to me that they lost those things, and I will kill you for them, as for all those others whom you robbed.'
'Liar,' the voices said. ' You feast on them every day you live. Your strength is taken from the gods who killed them or were born in their deaths.'
'I am the protector of the weak,' I said, ' and these are stale words. If I let my years come upon me, or starve myself of those whom I kill, who is there for the weak save those who do as I do?'
I am, like Jehovah, what I am, in a world I did not make, and with work I chose unknowing of how long the task would lie before me.
'And,' I said, 'my ears are deaf to sly words from blood-rimmed mouths.'
You ensure you get the last word because they always assume that an attack while you are speaking is an attack that will take you unawares.
And the trouble with choosing a form twenty foot high is that the paving stones beneath sandalled feet announce your presence and direction to those of us who listen as well as talking.
Talking liches take power that would be better spent on silence.
He rushed at me from the shadow of his pyramid, his mill-stone teeth bright as opals, his eyes green emeralds, his hands and claws those of a great cat. He held a stone club, whose spikes were longer than my forearm.
I moved aside as he came and cut him, delicate as paper lace, in the strings that bend the knee.
He turned as he stumbled and caught himself leaning on one great arm, while the other swiped at me with his club.
Even its wind sent me staggering and its return almost caught me. Almost, though, is a way of saying that it did not.
I leaped high and smashed down hard on the wrist of the hand that held that club.
I once watched when an executioner took a forger's hand apart a bone at a time, and was amazed by how many bits there are, how many tiny shards. No matter how gaudy a god's armour, or how much they have rebuilt themselves into half-cat or titan, their great wrists still have the small bone like a ship that shatters at a decided touch, the strings of sinews that flex and bend.
And hands hurt when kicked and slashed, hurt more than the damage.
Gods mend themselves, but the bigger they are, the bigger the wound and the more power and concentration mending takes. And the more time, time I did not propose to give him.
He staggered upright leaning on his good leg, and I slashed behind that knee as I had its brother.
Twenty feet of height towering above you ready to stamp you to jelly is one thing; twenty feet on the ground is merely the lengthy of a ball-court filled with wounded enemy screaming the way gods do when they rediscover that pain hurts. A rediscovery I take pleasure in teaching to them.
That pleasure is my grim wages for my work, the only wage I allow myself to take.
He had an emerald for an eye and I hacked it from him. He had millstones for teeth and I picked up a paving stone his feet had loosened and I struck him so that he spat splinters from his mouth.. And all the while his corpses mocked at me as if he had rather hurt me with their words than survive.
'You failed to save us' they shrilled at me, 'and now you come to dine on him we died for.'
All true. In a sense.
And so I struck him harder to make them stop.
He had been quite beautiful as he charged me, a thing of lethal menace and no tactical skill at all. So clever, I thought, at plotting and planning and killing from behind, and so lacking in the one skill he now needs.
I stood, finally, looking down on a face that was now purple with bruising like rotten fruit, holding the claws I had torn from his hands one by one.
'I will not kill you,' I said. 'Because I scorn to dine on meat so poisonous. You will, though, crawl from here and starve in silence before I am done with you.'
'Finish him,' Malinche said from behind me.
'I cannot,' I said. 'I cannot risk being poisoned by his power. I will have my work to do on other occasions and my life is not my own.'
She walked to my side and pulled the smallest of my hand axes from its quiver.
She knelt by the wounded god and struck again and again at its neck, like a woman desperate from cold who tries to chop a great oak for her fire, a chip at a time.'
That's from the novel I work on from time to time, but there are parallel scenes in my fanfic, occasionally. I am not nearly as nice as I seem.
8. All my characters talk in sentences, and most of the time they talk with an aphoristic articulacy that is only plausible in some of my viewpoint characters or voices if we assume that they are recollecting in tranquillity after spending a lot of time talking to me. My Americans sound quite English even when I try really hard to get Americanism right - there will always be the telling English phrase.
9. Oh and there will always be jokes. One of the reasons why I write Cordelia a lot is that she is impossibly glamorous, and another is that she has good one-liners of her own. I love characters that are smart and witty, and aspire to be those things myself.
10. I write from who I am. This is why there is class and sexual politics in my fiction, and religious scepticism, and perverse sexuality, and at least some charm. If I have a besetting sin, it is that people who know me never forget my speaking voice when they read my prose - I regret this and suspect it is why I will never be a great writer, but at least it is a voice.