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Saturday March12

Justina Robson

I'm doing a signing in Leeds Waterstones from 11am with other genre authors, please come along if you can :)

A post about my short story anthology will be coming up soon.

Meanwhile I hope everyone is well and enjoying some spring weather :)


Signing

Justina Robson
I'm signing books tomorrow in Liverpool Forbidden Planet, just around 1pm.  Quantum Gravity 5 : Down To The Bone came out yesterday.    I'm now 'between' contracts, although I'm still writing, rather slowly, on other things.

Playlists

Justina Robson

Several people have asked me what my playlists were for Quantum Gravity.  The most recent of these was from Sanna, at SF bokhandeln in Stockholm.  She and I shared a lovely afternoon of sightseeing and delicious dinners there a few weeks ago and I promised to post her the list.  Then, when I got home, I realised what a scattered thing it had become and that there was only a current list, not a definitive one. So, for all you musically inclined readers who might like to know I'll be collecting up the tracks and marking them to tell you what the connections are then posting a link to it shortly.  If you have suggestions of your own do let me know.

Sanna asked what Zal's song was and after a thought I had to answer, Ace of Spades.  But Zal's very eclectic.  He has done disco and would totally sing S Club 7 songs and probably by the end of Book 5 is merrily mutating into a male version of Lady Gaga.  I can see him doing a great version of Monster (Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster).

I know that a lot of writers like to write to music for various reasons.  I can go strongly either way and have to have it on, or have to have silence.  Often I will use it to 'cue up' the right mood for certain scenes but this is tricky as the lyrics can wind their way into your head too much.  Mostly I put it on because of the beat and I usually use dance music or higher energy classical, including movie soundtracks, to boost my energy.  I also tune into the 'flow' of the song (I have no musical jargon to explain this with here although I'm sure it exists), the way the melody rises and falls, its basic shape, and ride that along...it keeps me going and can help to provide a structural form for the scenes I'm writing.    I also like to wear headphones because it gives me a greater feeling of being cut off from the world so that I can really immerse myself in my imagination.

Does anyone else out there use music in more interesting ways?

Also, Sanna, if you read this - I can't find your email address!

Don't forget to nip across to Babel Clash at bordersblog.com/scifi/2010/07/06/mark-chadbourn-and-justina-robson/keeping-it-real/



Writeathon

Justina Robson

Just a quick entry to kick start a more regular blog schedule for the next few months. I am presently 'doing' the Clarion West writeathon in which I promised to finalise editing on the last QG book and get that chapter done for Keith Brooke, which is kinda overdue now but...sooo close to being finished.  I'm stuck on the reference checking because I totally hate it.  I can do one horrible job a day and it's been overlooked as I've been doing other horrible jobs in a slow, tortured manner, but it's up on the top of the list now, after the tax return which has only been on the list since April.  I used to be a PA and very sharp, did you know?  Sadly as my own PA I'm so fired.   Oh wait....

In a couple of days I will be over on the Borders (US) site doing Babel Clash with Mark Chadbourn, which should be fun.  We'll be discussing bringing magical things into contemporary settings for a kick off and then no doubt meandering into stranger territories.  Hope so anyway.

Today's Totals so Far:

Writing Done: this blog, creeping through edits of QG5 fighting Toxic Terror of Being Rubbish all the way...(some)

Research Done:  watched Dr Russell Ackoff video on Systems Thinking (kindly referred by Tricia Sullivan) link below

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJxWoZJAD8k&feature=player_embedded

Playing Done: World of Warcraft, one dungeon, RP twenty minutes good fun

Dancing Done: about to do that!

Likelihood of achieving CWest Writeathon Target: fair


Justina Robson

Surprisingly Good is the last book I finished, Demon Bound by Meljean Brooks.  Good, Not Surprisingly is the previous book I read, which is the third part of the brilliant regency fantasy trilogy from Stephanie Burgis, which you will all have to wait years for as the first part is not even out yet...mwahahah! 

I got Demon Bound during the last three minutes of Borders' existence in which everything was 5p.  I entered the shop, not realising it was all closing, grabbed a basket and ran.  I was surprised to find there are still books which even at 5p I don't want but even the cover of this wasn't enough to put me off although in ordinary times it would have.  It is a paranormal romance cover featuring a sweatily oiled ex squaddie whose head is smaller than his neck.  He has an expression as if a poker is up his ass all the way to his eyeballs.  Hawtfailure.  (OMG have picked up word smushing habit from reading Adam Roberts' blog.  Bah.)  Anyway, I had to go the Minor Injuries clinic a couple of days ago, which has a notorious waiting time, so I grabbed it on the way out and stuffed it into my pocket.

To cut a long review short: this is what romance novels should be like, good characters with decent backstories, amusing and witty narration, great structure, well drawn tension arcs, a more than decent plot for a fantasy novel running in parallel and good writing throughout.  The eroticism is beautifully handled, rooted in character, setting and story very nicely.  The pace never falters and if the actual worldbuilding and macguffinery of the setting are zany, verging on ludicrous, she handles it so well that this doesn't matter a bit.  
Fallen angel demons with pocket black holes and individual talents for telepathy plus hallmark weapons, eternal youth and lots of demon fighting to flash around in paying superheroes...what can go wrong with that?  I admire that kind of verve a lot.  Meljean Brooks could write anything, absolutely anything, I'm sure of it.  Her cover picture makes her look about 25 so I will be very interested in seeing what she does in the future since she's already done this with romance.  Glad I didn't miss the book, though if it weren't for emergency I would have.  I wonder what other little treats might be hiding behind those godawful smouldering covers in that section of the store?

And then there's the engimatically titled Kat3 by Stephanie Burgis...but I can't tell you anything about that or I would be savaged to death by border collies.  And that could take a long time.  Kat1, or A Most Improper Magick, as it is properly known, has 3 covers so far and is having another one made for it now, so delaying its appearance but all you YA fans will be in for a treat when it arrives.  Think a young Jane Austen with magic and musketeering.

And now Shara Saunsaucie White was kind enough to ask me to participate at Calico Reaction, in May, so I am going to compose my entry.

Things are starting to grow in the garden at last - eveyrthing feels like it's getting better!  Apologies for font change...can't figure out how to get rid of it :( 

A Tentative Return

Justina Robson
Hi, I'm back.

I finally finished (draft but not final version) Quantum Gravity 5: Down To The Bone.  I'm figuring out what to do next.  I've spent a long time not doing much reading or TV watching so I feel quite out of things.  I have to catch up! 

Every room in my house needs tidying.  There seems nowhere to put anything.  Argh.

:)  I hope spring finds everyone feeling renewed.

The third thing...

Justina Robson
I've been overdosing on other blogs, and articles and books recently.  It's been great.  I'm in awe of the great blogsters out there (Charlie Stross, Justine Larbalestier and you others...) and getting spun around by all the 'research' (ie sitting at my computer surfing idly) I've been doing into women who write SF and that whole gender deal.  One article that hit home was http://www.memdir.org/video/ben-barres-dearth-of-women-in-science.html     So my head is spinning with opinions but I keep coming back to a central wonderpoint, which is: 

clearly there are differences between the genders which exist at a biological level
and these express themselves physically, mentally, emotionally in everyone
and they express socially in everyone's behaviour

the first is biochemistry
the second is the nature/nurture cocktail and how it worked out for you
the third is a cultural construction

It's the third one that causes me the most trouble.  I think this is the least visible of the 3, and the most difficult to handle.  No, there's nothing overtly obvious about the first two that would suggest that men be taken more seriously than women in a million daily situations: buying tickets, waiting tables, eating dinner, talking to colleagues...  and yet, I know from studies and my own behaviour that it is so. 

If I'm not concentrating I can hardly help myself deferring very pleasantly to any damn man, no matter how unsuited, in any situation, for example.  I just tend to do it regardless.  I can't tell you how that sticks in my throat when it happens, though the resulting burst of shame and anger don't help me gain much ground.  And if I, a verifiable geek girl pro-woman sort of person can be like this (unless I am struggling hard inside and 'correct' myself, which, incidentally, makes me experience a horrible churning sensation in the gut like the floor is about to drop out of the world), then it's some powerful juju, it is. 

So, what the hell is that all about?  Is it biology, hardwired into my mammalian brain or even the reptilian bits?  Is it something that happened to make a natural female character into a particularly spineless form of pinky goo?  Or is it the invisible smite of culture coming at me all the time through everyone else's behaviour?  Because clearly if you ask me straight out in a blog I'd say that we are all, men, women, children, to be taken seriously and given the opportunities to express ourselves equally.  Obviously.  And that would cover race.  It goes without saying.  I'd just assume that I was unshakeable on the subject.  And then I watch my own behaviour from the inside and...poof!  I'm like a double agent for the bad side, spurred by anxiety (very palpable) and what I can only describe as a kind of calculated overpoliteness intended to keep my head safely below any enemy-style radars.  Yuck!

But the primal kind of responses it evokes in me lead me to think it can't just be a cultural thing, or even a personal thing.  And its ubiquitousness also suggests it must be rooted in the infernal relation of biology and environment (I mean social environment).  Because it leads to inequalities, present political thinking suggests it ought to be eliminated or rooted out, but how do you do that?  Should I prosecute myself for being a silly girly or would I be stupid to change my behaviour according to a plan?    There's oodles of work to be done before we can find answers or explanations that really match the reality here, even though we must all be experts because we live it every day.  I've yet to see a study on how male and female styles of behaviour mesh with each other to create benevolent wholes though, in spite of their many different strategies and plays.  I'd like to see that but it's prob'ly because I'm a girl and want everyone to get along nicely....

Clarion End

Justina Robson
Thanks to everyone who joined in with the Clarion Write-A-Thon games.  I will make  a final count and post a check off later this week for those who successfully came up with proto-titles for the book.  In other news I didn't manage yet to include the two character suggestions, but I will.  I'll let you know when.  They'll have to appear much later in the text because I am still fighting through Chapter Three and a ton of set up material.  I didn't manage to write every day, sadly, but I post the school holidays as my excuse.  At least I did get something done. 

Reality Check Vent Moment

Justina Robson
I listened to this week's Beyond Belief on Radio 4.  It's a debate show, about religion and faith and their relationship to some bit of contemporary life.  This week they were talking about the internet and virtual worlds.  A range of views about the usefulness and social desirability of these things were expressed, as one might expect.  Some said how lovely to be connected and that a virtual church could provide similar emotional comfort and awe as a real one.  Others said what a waste of time internet life was and how horribly dangerous and threatening it was to the world of physical meetings and the types of communication only possible in person.  They talked about avatars, noting the word's root meaning and getting in a kerfuffle about that (an avatar is the earthly manifestation of a god: are these avatars making us play at being little gods:  OMG that would really be bad for our crumply little egos and mad desires etc.  One can only sigh at the repeated and endless terrors that the world of religion has inflicted by implying that humans are essentially bad maniacs who want to run riot given half a chance.  Anyway, that wasn't my main point.  They went on to discuss addiction to computer gaming, MMOs and porn.  And then someone (the philosopher) had to drag Jean Baudrillard's Simulations into it.

If you're lucky you don't know this piece of work.  It makes a lot of statements, from a philosophical perspective, on how human beings manufacture and interpret reality in their minds.  At least on the good side it recognises that every part of reality that you experience is a manufactured experience, down to you.  However, it expresses it at great tedious length and overcomplication.  You'd be better off reading Dorothy Rowe's Guide To Life, as that deals with it from a psychological and day to day point of view that makes much more overt sense.  Anyhoo, Baudrillard makes a statement about hyper-realities (his term) which are composed of components that have no real world referents.  These things have a weird life of their own in the fervid imaginations of the chattering classes.  For example, The Simpsons.  They are cartoon entities who do not refer to any actual real person (not talking about the special guest spots).  And any characters in any work of fiction.  and etc.   My memory of his point here fades into obscurity but I got the impression from the chap on the radio that this was a Very Dangerous Kind Of Thing that might lead to Personal Delusions and A Fall Into Perfidy and Sin and Losing Touch with Reality.

No mention here of other hyperreal objects which are apparently Beyond Question:  god, nations, culture, social norms to name but a few on the top of the charts.  No.  Only some hyperreal objects are threatening and scary - the ones that individuals are mostly in control of (albeit within highly restricted limits most of the time).  Mostly people only get their knickers in a twist about the ones which threaten to show that the chart toppers (above) might be less than real, or merely fabrications one could choose to believe in, as compared to say believing in the lore of World of Warcraft and spending hours a day trying to save Azeroth by being a paladin who smites evil and aids the needy.  At least in Azeroth you can see the futility of your efforts very speedily (world state never changes, bad guys today, bad guys tomorrow, same old scripts because none of them know that they're just hyperreal avatars - at least the computer generated ones don't).

And to drag back from another digression they made a further point about the crafting of avatars, implying that the internet is a dangerous place where people could hide behind created facades to fool each other.

What world are these people living in where that doesn't happen every day?  Human beings are a constant stream of constructed facades, which is the chief cause of all their psychological agonies (pushing them towards religion, drink, MMOs and etc to escape).  Some say there even is no You, just the little engine that makes up the story of you and the world.  Yes, religion at its best does offer a genuine freedom from the pain of inauthenticity by providing a safe context in which to be oneself, but nothing can free you from living in a world which trades on appearances and confidence tricks (or genuine confidence of course).  Relgions and MMOs and Facebook are full of the stuff.  The best thing about the latter is that this is entirely the point and therefore obvious, and therefore to anyone with two braincells, rendered rather harmless.  The insidiousness of making claims to be above roleplays and egogames, social norms and to be presenting a hyperreality which is anything but a construct isn't nearly as well observed when it's done face to face in the apparently healthy (correct/pure/well intentioned) world of normal physical human contacts.  Or in academic canons.  Or in institutions.  Or in any place where lots of people have all their status invested in a hyperreal world which has been reified (made into a real thing, like the Velveteen Rabbit) by common acceptance of the dorks, sorry, general public, of whom I'm expected to be a member.

I'm just amazed.  Context Blindness Much?

And now back to writing about impossible worlds...





  What amazes me continually about

Jul. 14th, 2009

Justina Robson
Just a note to let any interested parties know I am still with the Write-a-thon although very glad I didn't set a better target than 'will write every day'.  Hope you others are all doing well.  Meanwhile I am dithering over a decision about what to write next as this looks as if it will be the last QG book for the time being.