Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Thank $£%& for Lemonjuice...

I recently wrote a brainsplat-article all about the dangers of research for TANGLED WEB's Crimescene Site. They seem to have set it up with the wrong link, so it's reproduced below:

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THANK $£%& FOR LEMONJUICE


Crime, to a writer, presents a fascinatingly sleazy little paradox.

The problem is, no matter how much we’re all supposed to fear and loathe crime: it’s just so bloody entertaining.
The problem is, frankly, the way you feel about crime – if you’re a writer – has all to do with context.
Crime outside your house: Bad.Crime all over your hard-drive, notebooks, fevered imaginings and daydreams: Good.

The spooky note here is that the distinction isn’t always as clear-cut as it seems. For instance, halfway through writing Contract – in the course of which I was obliged to spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking like a real, plausible, not-like-in-the-movies hitman – I began to catch myself sizing-up the people around me as targets. No, really. I’d walk down the street clocking entry points and exit routes round my neighbours’ homes. I’d find myself looking for viable ammo-stashes in my office; scanning the Lonely Hearts pages for coded messages; peering down from high places and wondering – say – at the relative effects of wind-shear on a .30 hollowpoint travelling a fraction above Mach 1 towards him or her or…
You get the idea.

And yes, of course, all that predatory analysis stuff is always a little tongue-in-cheek. It’s always idle musing; gone as soon as it’s noticed. But it’ll freak you out, even so, when it shows-up uninvited. You can’t dunk your enquiring senses into the sweaty armpits of Unpleasant Illegality and not go home smelling a little ripe. You can’t spend all day every day writing about criminals without – just occasionally, just dreamily – wondering if you’d be any good at… well…
Being one.

One way of looking at crime writers is, at least some of the time, they’re essentially Hypothetical Criminals.

Listen. Out there, right now, crime novels are enjoying a larger share of the fiction market than ever before. Cue all the usual dangers of overabundance: cliché, homogeny, stagnation… So in order to keep audiences on the edge of seats and protagonist-supersleuths suitably challenged, crime writers find themselves obliged to nudge that shady Hypothetical Criminal inside to ever-higher levels of realism, of originality, and of creatively-breaking-the-law...

For Contract, that meant busting a few preconceptions. That meant letting people know – don’t shoot the messenger – that, sorry: Hollywood lied. Silencers don’t really make that asthmatic little ffft. People don’t really get up and keep running when they’re shot through the leg. Organised crime isn’t really all that organised, E-Fit pictures aren’t really that worthwhile, and that expensive sniper-rifle with a scope like something off the Hubble satellite, really: it can’t bullseye-a-baddie from a mile away after all.

For Contract, it also meant winkling-out a few curious little truths. It meant discovering that – say – the micro-creases in those black leather gloves sported by the Hollywood Assassin du jour are every bit as unique, every bit as identifiable, every bit as give-you-away, as human fingerprints. It meant knowing all the best ways to dispose of a body according to where it is, how long you’ve got, and the strength of your stomach. It meant knowing how to buy an illegal gun, how to launder cash, how to avoid being recognised, and how… well… To get away with murder.

Hypothetically speaking.

Of course, for the writer, so long as he's not actually intending to put any of them to the test, it’s tricky to confirm the veracity of all his underworld revelations. But there’s a danger here, because while it’d be all-too-easy to think none of the readers are going to know either – or at least aren’t going to admit it – the truth is that there’s always someone who knows.

My nemesis was a nurse. See, there were several little hypothetical criminal tricks I came up with for the benefit of Contract that I was really rather proud of. One had to do with bullets.
Conventional mercenary-killer-wisdom – such as it is – suggests you should fill your hollowpoint rounds with poison, then seal them with wax. This means that even if something goes wrong and your shady antihero’s killshot doesn’t quite do its job, there’s still a solid gram of liquid lethality glomming-about in his victim’s circulatory system. Clever, right?
Except “poison” is a tricky thing to define at the best of times, and – obsessive research or not – it doesn’t take long to start discounting possibilities. The truth is that pretty much every deadly substance out there is either too expensive, too tricky to get hold of, or takes too damn long to work.

But, hang on… Cheap… Easy to get… Immediate effects…

A gram of pure heroin’ll O.D. a sumo-wrestler. Hell, it’ll O.D. a hardened junkie if it’s followed by grams 2, 3 and 4. With this realisation my Hypothetical Criminal, I thought, had excelled himself.
Enter The Nurse.
The nurse who’s seen the effects of overdose more times than she can remember. The nurse who knows – only too well – that smack won’t stay in a liquid suspension unless it’s hot. The nurse who gently suggests that a hitman who keeps all his bullets at high temperatures is destined to have no fingers, and the nurse who – in one fell swoop – wipes the big stupid grin off my Hypothetical Criminal’s face.

There’s always someone who knows.

Crime works best, in fiction, when it bears all the hallmarks of reality. The trick is to check all your facts, to verify all your cliché-busting creativity, to make sure it really works, without ever having to test it yourself. This is a lot harder than it sounds.

Just for the record, a little dribble of lemonjuice will keep a gram of highgrade rendered diamorphine in a liquid suspension for as long as you want. Don’t ask how I know this, though to the best of my knowledge I didn’t break any laws finding out. Either way, it saved my bacon.

So thank %$£# for lemonjuice, and thank %$&# for nurses; because as long as that shady criminal lurking inside remains purely hypothetical, it’s a lot more fun killing clichés than killing anything else.

Listen: it’ll startle you something rotten, halfway through all this research malarkey, when you begin seeing the world in terms of criminals and victims. This is because, as you stop yourself from sizing-up all those Potential Targets in the street, it begins to dawn on you that – maybe – some of them are sizing you up too.

And they can’t all be over-immersed writers.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Comics Vs. Novels = Mac Vs. PC

Some ridiculous geekificated analogising, from an interview I recently did with SFX magazine. The following rambly guff wasn't used in the printed article. This was probably wise.

The question that prompted all this was about the difference between writing comics and novels. I got carried away. Sue me.

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In full auto making-it-up-as-I-go ramble mode, here’s a glib bit of pop-culture analogy for you: “Comics Vs. Novels” as “Mac Vs. P.C.”

Comics are the Macs, of course. There’s something fluid about them; a user-friendly interface which relies on an intuitive understanding of what’s in front of you. They appeal to the inner-artist, and even if you’re completely lost about what the fuck’s going on they’ll always look pretty. You can do stuff with them that you simply can’t do anywhere else. And, lest we forget, they also have a terrifyingly dedicated following.

Novels are the PCs. They tend to be more complex, more involved. They require a lot more time-investment and effort from a user, though (some would argue) the pay-off is often more satisfying. Of course, a lot more can go wrong – that’s probably because there are so many of the bloody things out there – but they’re still destined to remain the most popular format for Johnny Everyone in the foreseeable future. Oh, and they’re dominated by a colossal super-rich empire whose public face is a speccy geek with bad hair.

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Evidently some metaphors can be extended beyond all sensible stresses. In your face, Hooke’s Law of Elasticity.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Feedback and Puppy-Poo

Any of you folks ever owned a dog?

Okay. Without dipping into the whole "Cats/Dogs = Best" debate, I was mooching about last night in a wonderfully abstract state of mind, when a beautiful analogy popped-up:

For a writer, feedback is a lot like a puppy's arse-soup.

Allow me to explain.

When you own a dog, there comes a time when toilet training Just Doesn't Work. Normally it's when the dimwitted beastie is quite young, and the whole concept of "Don't Crap On The Carpet" is still wriggling its way into Behavioural Normality. It may instead be when the mutt is too old and senile to control its Bits. Or perhaps you've simply been away, and came home too late to let the poor sod out. Whatever. The scenario is: you've stepped into a particular room to find Pooch sat next to his Guilty Brown Offering.

He knows he's done wrong. He sits there looking up with his big goofy eyes, waiting for you to shout and stamp and curse his lack of opposable thumbs (with which, if he had them, he could clean it himself).

But you don't shout. Or stamp. Or curse, or even tell him off. Why? Because he looks so fucking wretched. You know that no matter how much you rub his nose in his own Soggy Doings, no matter how much you spit and gag whilst tidying up, he already feels precisely as miserable as it's possible to be.

Now.

You're a writer. You're sat in the office of someone who represents a lot more power, money and influence than you. Maybe a P.A. just brought this guy a cup of coffee, and may or may not have been thanked in return.

This boss, maybe he's just flopped-out your manuscript onto his desk. You can see from all the way over here: it's covered in red ink. Or maybe you've just finished stutteringly presenting those Amazing Ideas You've Been Working On, which nonetheless sounded (in this one environment) crappier than a sewage-calamity, and he's rocking back in his chair and steepling his fingers.

He's about to open his mouth to tell you what he thinks of your work (your soul! your vital outpourings! your literary bowel-movements!), and in this one moment of crystal clarity:

You
Are
The
Puppy.

Welcome to my world.



-s

Monday, 12 November 2007

Give us a Snarl...

Just done a photo-shoot for a feature in SFX magazine.

As I'll often catch myself griping, the big challenge with getting people to buy your product isn't to make it any fucking good (although it helps), but to let them know it exists in the first place. Since Contract’s release I’ve been filling up the gaps in my schedule with odd little interviews and idiosyncratic columns on all sorts of crazy subjects for various newspapers and magazines. I'll dig a few out and post them here some rainy day.

The obvious upshot of doing this sort of thing is that, occasionally, you'll need a "this is me" picture to accompany your wordsplat. Up until now I've got-by with the little freakshot on this very blog, or one of the hideous home-made horrors cluttering my hard-drive. They tend to fall into one of two categories: Gittishly-Smiling-While-On-Holiday, or Moody-But-Shit-Cos-I-Took-It-Myself.

So today was a real departure: going out into the great unknown and having to - shudder - emote on demand. The photographer was a top bloke, happily, who didn't get too flustered when his repeated entreaties for "a snarl" or "a glare", or whatever, were silently steamrollered by my profound inability to be expressive. Maybe it's writers in general - or more likely it's just me - but it's hard enough summoning even a quietly-arched eyebrow on this pasty, sunlight-dodging, social-interaction-starved mug, let alone a full facial workout of gurns, lip-curls and sinistrations.

I made that word up. Hands off.

Anyway, he seemed to think he got what he wanted, so I await the results with bated breath. The feature should appear in SFX's December/January issue; so if you're wondering what it looks like when an awkward keyboard-chimp tries to do “menacing”, that's your chance.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

"The Desmond Elliot Award"

Quickie: Just heard from my publishers they're putting forward Contract for the "Desmond Elliot Award". It's a long way off - no results until June '08 - but the eventual winner should be:

-- a novel that creates a “buzz”

-- a book with “word of mouth” appeal

-- a novel which is a page-turner but which makes you pause for thought

-- an intelligent book with broad appeal.

Now, at one time or another various people have indeed described Contract as all the above, so it's not as insane a proposition as my neurotic InnerMe wants to think. True, the criteria doesn't mention anything about zombies, pervy sex or bullets filled with heroin - but I'm sure they would've if they'd had more space.

Seriously: it's a pretty huge longshot, but I'm choosing to see it as a little vote of confidence from my publisher more than anything else. In the eerie quiet after a book's been released it's easy to start feeling like everyone else has moved on: your publishing overlords have switched their godlike gaze onto some other title and you have no more excuses to demand attention. Things like this are a pleasant little "we're still with you" handjob for the ego.

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Elsewhere, the WEBSITE is live!

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Elsewhere elsewhere, The Silver Surfer: In Thy Name is on shelves now. The first twitterings of blogrant from the Interweb have uniformly been along the lines of: "Unexpectedly good."

More as and when.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Webs and Surfers

A quick update:

The website draws inexorably nearer. To those who know me well, my lack of technoskill is Legend. This whole "web-presence" malarkey has done little to derail the myth.

In a nutshell: I spent three days diligently creating a lovely little website - surprising myself at how easy it was - before discovering I'd been using a DTP package all along. All my efforts were therefore wasted (though if you happen to need a business presentation all about yours truly, do let me know: you might be in luck).

Thank the dark and pagan gods, then, for dedicated webheads. The folks who hang-out on the 2000AD Messageboard are a uniformly decent bunch, and my gloomy whinges swiftly brought aid. Michael Carroll is a sterling chap who - in this age of swanky web-design packages - has rebuilt my baby from scratch using only his HTML skills.

This is not him.

Nor is this.

Nor is this.

Despite the plethora of people he isn't, I'm reassured by his frequent emails that the site will be with us imminently. Huzzah.

Watch THIS SPACE.

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In completely unrelated news, my first (proper) foray into American Superhero Comics arrives in shops this week. And there's not a scrap of spandex in sight.

Behold:

Yep, that's Norrin Radd; sentinel of the spaceways; the cosmic guru; the mercurial messiah; the herald of Galactus; th--

Fuck it. It's the Silver fucking Surfer, people!

This is the first episode in a 4-part miniseries titled SILVER SURFER: IN THY NAME.

It's drawn by the astonishingly good Tan Eng Huat, with covers by the likes of Michael Turner (see right), Gabrielle Dell'Otto and... wait for it... Paul Pope.

Plenty of detail, interior artwork and shillbaggery right HERE.

Ish 1 hits shops on the 7th of November.

BUY FOURTEEN. And a half.

That's it for now, I think. Lots more coming soon... Big things afoot in other areas of the Spursphere...


sx

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Aaaaand we're off...

All righty then.

First posts on brand-new-blogs are sort of tricky. (Not that I've ever had a blog before... One of the great things about the Internet is that you can automatically sound like an authority on something you have no experience about. See? I just did it again.).

Like the foreword of a particularly lengthy book, a Blog's first splat of brainwrongage is meant to achieve all sorts of high-faluting stuff. It's meant to introduce and inform the casual browser. It's meant to give some shiny insight into the goals of the writer, and to set the tone for the material that follows (though, you've gotta hope, it'd also be forgiven for going just a little over-the-top: it is, after all, supposed to draw-in readers for the long haul).

Mostly, let's be honest, your typical First Post is just there to take up some space. It simply wouldn't do to have the place all stark and chilly when the WEBSITE (another first for me... I'm getting all my netcherries popped in one go) goes live, and starts pointing people in this direction.

So.

The Intro:

This is the blog of Simon Spurrier: author (of, say, Contract) and comics writer (of, for instance, Gutsville). I (for I am he, and all that third-person bollocks is jiffying with my head) will be updating this frosty-white void with news, reviews, updates, rumours, and various pointless rambling brainfarts as and when they occur.
There's a bit of a bio section on the Website if you're at all interested, but for the terminally inattentive the USP of this Blog looks something like this:
I'm 26, I just had my first Big Serious Novel published by a Big Serious Publisher. I'm working on Novel #2 right now. I'm greener than an ecofriendly frog and I have absolutely no idea what to expect. Welcome to the world of prose, publishing and procrastination. The ride starts here.


The Manifesto:

I'm too young and too neurotic to get away with pretending this blog exists solely to provide vitally-craved nuggets of information for my legions of fans. For one thing, my legions of fans are already pretty well-informed, and tend to have more self respect.

For another, they don't exist.

But I'm right at the start of a career as a novelist and writer, which - with a decent wind and a bit of canny captaincy - could just lead in an exciting direction. It could also lead straight down the toilet. Either way, I figure it'll be interesting to document the ups and downs as we go.

Setting the Tone:

I just bit off an otter's head. Really.

Taking Up Space:

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.
.
.
.

Aaaaand we're clear.

So there you go. All First Blog objectives fulfilled, right?

Over the coming days, weeks, and months I'll be aiming to pop-along here to chime-in with... well... with Something Worth Saying, I hope, so please do keep an eye out.

For now - with the white space not looking quite so white any more - I'll say g'night.

-s