The Masque of the Red Death

It’s not usual to read a young adult book and be most fully reminded of a gore-strewn rock opera, but in the case of Bethany Griffin’s The Masque of the Red Death I found that I was. The underlying premise of a city racked with contagion is lifted from the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name; while Griffin’s story has parallels, it is as an evocation in its own right that Masque stands true.
Much like The Hunger Games, which it’d inevitably draw comparison with, the setting of the story is thoroughly dystopian. However, rather than the oppressive Orwellian society that Suzanne Collins creates, Griffin’s is subtle and wasting – indeed like the contagion that holds it hostage. Masque is true steampunk, though much more subtly shaded and much less clunky than a lot of the genre can be. Indeed, Griffin is consistently subtle with her writing and it particularly suits the intended audience – though I do expect it to garner readership outside the intention like Potter and THG have done. What resonates most strongly is the briefly lingering image of a girl lying in a doorway: a less mature reader understands more of the disregard and abandon of the setting, while one more mature can pick up on the implied rape.
The character of Araby is much more streetwise than a lot of her parallels – indeed my largest frustration with Collins’ Katniss is her naivety – and despite the close first person narrative, she is similarly subtle in her thoughts. That said, her awkwardness can draw the same parallels between countless other texts in the field, likewise with the two love interests with very different backgrounds and modus operandi; however, rather than being derivative it lives up to the expectations of the genre.
What I found most interesting was that the more I read, the more I was reminded of the mood and themes of the tragically little known Repo! The Genetic Opera: a young girl troubled and sequestered in a dangerous world ravaged by biological concern. Griffin plays the difference between high and low society well, and the moods of the seemingly unimaginatively-named Debauchery District echo with the trappings of Repo! 
I felt the pace lagged in the final act and the conclusion felt a little unsatisfying in that it insists upon a sequel rather than invites it, but overall I was really impressed with the book. In fact, I’ve already begun looking for The Dance of the Red Death and I’ve personally recommended Masque to two people. You can’t get fairer praise than that.
The Masque of the Red Death

Rejection, onwards!

Today, I received a letter from Black Static, the address written in my fair hand. Of course, the first response was a flutter in my chest and a quiet, upbeat, “Ooh!” The second response was to lever the edge of my keys under the flap and tear the aperture apart. I’m not sure if I directly expected the form rejection slip within, but I think part of me always did. (Another, more optimistic part, thought that the bulkiness of the envelope was caused by a lot of cheques rather than the advertising leaflet within.)

I’m not surprised, and I’m not saddened. I have read far too often that rejection is the most common bedfellow of the early writer. Conveniently, I seem to have internalised that straightforwardly enough – but I think I’ve always been oddly good at this: somehow mildy impervious to rejections from Oxford and UCL, much to the annoyance of my then lady.

There’s nothing more that can be done, so onwards.

Two paths beckon.

The first is the most simple. Keep on writing, keep on sending. Rejection slips are proof that work is getting finished and read. A readership of one is better than an unfinished manuscript, and I’d be more arrogant that I’d humbly admit if I expected 100% of my readers to enjoy my work. To that end, I need to finalise “Phage” and I need to actually write that steampunk Macbeth.

The second is a forked path, and where my dilemma lies: I could send “The Trees” and “Not a Bedtime Story” to another market and hope for publication and success. (I’ve been told by people whose readerly opinion I trust that they are of publishable quality, even if they’ve yet to be sold.) Or, I could save time submitting to markets that I’d need to find and spend that on new creation. Really that makes the most sense.

So what to do with these finished stories? I’m loath to let them rot in a digital fortress until they gain sentience and lose sanity. I don’t want to self-publish them, because I’d have to spend creativity time on making a good looking e-product. I had thought of combining a few of my similarly mythosed stories together. I still may.

The most likely option is to give them away, but the precise howness I have yet to decide. Really I ought to use the opportunity to gain a proper mailing list like Writing Magazine keeps telling me I should. That would require the software and the investment in actually writing a newsletter of sorts beyond the intermittance here. Is it worth it? Or shall I polish them into simple PDFs, put the download links here and elsewhere, with the links back to the site and the suggestion that people pass the e-papers onwards?

Either way, onwards.

Rejection, onwards!

Steampunk Can(n)on, Fire!

Most importantly, you should read this entry whilst listening to this.

It could be as a form of procrastination, but I often buy Writing Magazine. Recently, they’ve started putting Writer’s News in the middle of it, and until very recently I had always ignored it.

That’s changed.

In this month’s edition, I came across this call for submissions, and became worryingly excited and excitable.

I’ve been toying for a long while with the concept of the discovered text – specifically discovering a manuscript of Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy that tells a tale of steampunk (if you’re unfamiliar with the term, I’d really recommend reading at least a bit of the definition). The concept of retooling Shakespeare into the genre massively interests me.

Unfortunately, I’m not as versed in the genre as perhaps I should be. It’s always been something I’ve been interested in, although I’ve always read more of cyberpunk. Most of my conscious understanding of the genre comes from games and films (and these are a bit off, as those who understand this title’s reference will comprehend).

That being said, I am highly familiar with Victorian fiction, and the work of H.G. Wells is of particular interest to me. Really ought to read more Verne, mind.

In order to more fully understand the canon, I am reading through Extraordinary Engines, which is giving me some more tropes of the genre. Otherwise, I imagine I’ll head back to my formal training in English – and draw on Victorian literature and my study and tutelage of The Scottish Play.

The archaicism I might handle with ease.

I’m doing Macbeth.

Steampunk Can(n)on, Fire!