Well, ’tis November 1st (here in Tokyo, anyway) and my novel One Hundred Years of Vicissitude has been published and out and about for almost two weeks now, collecting some absolutely brilliant reviews like these from Katy O’Dowd at the British Fantasy Society, reviewer-extraordinaire Elizabeth A. White, and Zoe Kingsley at Farrago Magazine. All I can do, really, is thank whatever lucky stars hovering overhead right now, as well as the people like Elizabeth, Katy and Zoe who have read the novel — and luckily liked it.
Right now I’m wrapping up novel #3, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?, which at 82,000+ words is the longest one I’ve written thus far. It’s a double-homage to 1960s Marvel comics and 1930s/40s noir, as well as bearing a dystopic edge since it’s partially based in the Melbourne of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat. More news over the next few months — I have a lot of editing, rejigging and rewriting to go.
In the meantime, over the past day or so, I’ve been lucky enough to get included in two new anthologies: Horror Factory, from the Crime Factory crew in Melbourne (Kindle version, or free download PDF), and Weird Noir, compiled by the great K.A. Laity.
In Horror Factory I’m alongside people like Patti Abbott, Matthew C. Funk and S.J.I. Holliday, while on Weird Noir the other writers include Richard Godwin, Carol Borden, Paul D. Brazill, Katherine Tomlinson and W. P. Johnson, so I’m feeling rather bloody chuffed!
What are both stories about?
First up, the one for Horror Factory.
‘Revert to Type’ was the third story I wrote in 2012 that featured my new duo (Roy) Scherer and (Suzie) Miller, Investigators of the Paranormal and Supermundane, and it was the one I had the most problems getting accepted.
When I pitched it to Liam José @ Crime Factory in Australia — for Horror Factory — he suggested as follows:
“Love the characters and the banter, but… it just feels like there is no weight to it, there aren’t clear enough stakes, and no real feeling of conflict. I love the fun breezy tone, so I’m not suggesting that the first three quarters be changed, but I think it should have a slightly darker ending. Just an idea, but have you considered the typewriter landing on someone when it is struck out the window? The idea is already seeded in there, and it would tie everything together, make the piece feel stronger, and would be really effective in contrast with the light feel. It would almost undercut that slightly self-assured cockiness that Roy possesses.”
Liam was spot-on. I nipped and tucked the end along these lines, and the tactic works better, methinks. This also empowers Suzie a fair bit — about time too.
For Weird Noir I tried something different… with one of the same characters from Horror Factory.
I started writing ‘East of Écarté’ as a background piece for Floyd Maquina, my narrator from Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, intending to address a comment he made in the pages of TSMG: “Turns out they were Seeker Branch reps and were recruiting me because of my experience as a private investigator (I don’t know why — I was a hack — but that’s a long story for another day and another book).”
But by August 2012, when I decided to steer the unfinished yarn into ‘weird noir’ territory to suit K.A. Laity’s upcoming anthology (fittingly called Weird Noir), it stood to reason I needed to ditch Floyd — who’s rooted in a real if surreal, dystopic/dystrophic world — and induct my other detective character Roy Scherer (again).
Aside from the fact he dabbles with the supernatural, Roy is most things Floyd is not. Floyd is more I: self-doubting, addicted to movies, a lush. Roy is the rumble-and-tumble type, cocky and cynical.
Here Roy is younger and fresher than in the other stories I’ve written about him and his partner Suzie. He hasn’t reached the pinnacle of sarcasm and cynicism but he’s started the trek.
Mocha Stockholm is a wink at my daughter Cocoa, six years old when I put together this story (she’s turning seven in two days’ time). While I write, she often entertains herself dancing ballet beside me in our tiny Tokyo apartment that’s 33 square metres.
She accompanies DVDs of performances by Aurélie Dupont, Gillian Murphy and Dorothée Gilbert. Like Mocha, Cocoa adores ballet and creates her own choreography on the fly, with touches of comedy, so of course I glance her way and it’s had its influence. In the happy-snap here (taken by Yoko a couple of weeks back) we were at the Ghibli Museum. Under a big robot.
The character of the male dancer in ‘East of Écarté’, Bruno Lermentov, is heavily based on Bruno the “Slobokian Acrobatic Bear” from Robert McKimson’s Bugs Bunny cartoon Big Top Bunny (1951) — a favourite for me and Cocoa — while the artistic director of the ballet company, Murray Helpman, is a loose nod to the great Sir Robert Helpmann, the Australian ballet dancer who choreographed The Red Shoes (1948) and played the evil Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).
Finally, there are some subverted quotes and character names buried in here from a wealth of ballet-oriented movies, everything from Dario Argento’s Suspiria to Center Stage.