by Sandy Auden
Carol E Barrowman talks about writing a new Captain Jack story with her
brother John for Torchwood magazine, plus a free Torchwood
story to read online; Ricardo Pinto reaches a significant milestone with The Stone
Dance of the Chameleon; and we look into the future to see what's up and coming as
Robert Holdstock returns to Mythago Wood and Serbian writer Zoran Živkovic
goes loopy for PS Publishing.
Captain Jack Keeps It In The Family
Entitled 'Captain Jack and the Selkie' the story, featuring in the first 100-page issue of the bi-monthly magazine, sees Captain Jack facing a deadly threat on a remote Scottish island, where people are disappearing one by one. To his horror, Jack starts to suspect he may know who -- or perhaps more specifically what -- is responsible...
Getting to this final printed stage has taken time. The brother and sister team first decided to work together on a Captain Jack story when Carole, a Professor of English at Averno College Milwaukee, was in the UK working on John's autobiography, Anything Goes. After that, an inspirational piece of artwork at ComicCon 2008 in San Diego -- a poster of Captain Jack's face super-imposed over the Face of Boe by Tommy Lee Edwards and Trevor Goring -- gave Carole and John all the elements they needed for the comic strip story.
With the project finally completed, Carole has the chance to reflect on what she enjoyed the most about collaborating with her brother. "There are lots of things. The first is probably the mushiest one -- so forgive me for getting a bit sentimental -- but I have to say that as adults in our, em, forties, it's wonderful to find our relationship deepening. We've always been close, but sometimes when siblings get older they tend to drift apart. We're drifting closer and I'm really very thankful for that.
"Also, in many things John and I think a lot alike so working with him is really easy (that sounds a bit narcissistic, doesn't it? Oh, well, it's true). With this particular story, we were never far apart in terms of our vision for Jack."
With a united vision of Jack, splitting the workload was straightforward. "I did all the writing; however, not until John and I talked through the story, the character development, how the tale fit into Jack's history etc. We had lots of conversations very early in the process about whether or not our story should take Jack into new territory or it should develop a plot detail from his past. We decided on the former."
So they both bought their own strengths to the story. "John has access to Jack's psyche… He's also a very creative thinker so we play well together. Our brainstorming sessions always generated way more material than we ended up using." And what did Carole bring to the mix? "My stunning beauty… my great intellect…. my amazing capacity for tolerating my wee brother's silliness… the fact that I'll do anything for Maltesers. Need I say more?"
Torchwood magazine Issue #14 will be on sale in the US on March 17 2009 and is out now in the UK.
Free Torchwood Story Online
To celebrate the second series of Torchwood showing on Watch (Saturdays 9pm), the UKTV channel has teamed up with the official Torchwood magazine to present an exclusive web comic strip, written by the show's co-producer Brain Minchin.
The story, entitled 'Ice Monsters', sees Captain Jack and the Torchwood team battling creatures who have the ability to change the weather.
Ricardo Pinto's Stone Dance of the Chameleon Takes Its Final Step
After a gap of six years since volume two, Ricardo Pinto's final volume in The Stone Dance of the Chameleon trilogy will be published this month by Bantam Press. The Third God concludes the fantasy story of Carnelian and Osidian, still on the run after the evil Empress Ykoriana tried to have them executed.
It sounds like a straightforward story premise but life and writing often have ways of throwing unexpected developments in the way. "One reason why it took so long to finish the final volume was because my home was gutted by fire," explained Pinto. "This required me to move out for more than a year while it was being rebuilt. Though I didn't lose anything critical to the completion of the Stone Dance it was, as you can imagine, a huge disruption -- what with adapting to a new house while also overseeing the reconstruction. Also around this time, I had some pretty difficult family problems to deal with.
"Though these problems took their toll, the major explanation for the length of time it took to write The Third God is really the sheer amount of work that it entailed. Never mind that it included a large chunk of what, originally, had been planned to be part of [book two] The Standing Dead -- even on its own, the third volume was always going to be on a monumental scale. If I had attempted to write it with the level of skill I had when I wrote [book one] The Chosen, it would have ended up thousands of pages long and I'm not sure if I would have lived long enough to ever finish it!
"When I conceived The Stone Dance, I envisaged it being a single volume of perhaps 600 pages. Once I actually began to write it, I knew that it was going to take longer -- and in the interests of actually making any kind of a living while writing it, I decided to separate its three sections each into its own volume. I began writing without any realistic idea of what it was I was embarking upon.
"On completion of the first book, it seemed to me to have been a mammoth undertaking. The second book was at least twice as hard, but my improved skill allowed me to bring it in within a decent time. Though it's impossible to measure, I would say the third book has at least two times the scale of the first two combined. As such, the surprise is not how long it took, but that I managed to do it so quickly."
"Writing The Stone Dance has been like following a map compiled from hearsay -- I knew where I was going, but I have never been entirely sure how I was going to get there. The strange lands I have passed through on the journey have always been as surprising as distant parts of our own planet are, even once you have read the guidebooks.
"For many reasons, the third book turned out to be far more terra incognita than the previous two. Indeed, it turned out to be a revelation. While I laboured through it -- which was an intensely emotional experience -- I was totally consumed by it.
"Now that it is finished and I have been able to move away from it a little, I can appraise it, and the whole trilogy, more objectively. I have no doubt that the third book is more technically accomplished than the previous two; more dynamic; of vaster scope; deploying much greater forces. It also carries the great majority of the punches of the trilogy. In some ways, The Stone Dance is like a fireworks display with all the big bangs held back for the finale.
"For these reasons, I have had many moments of disquiet about the work as a whole. I cannot help being aware of the flaws in The Third God, never mind the previous two books. The pacing could have been a lot tighter in the earlier trilogy; if I had written The Chosen with the skills I threw at the third book, it would probably have been half the length.
"But in wiser, more centred moments, I realise that these criticisms are unjust. The Stone Dance is a journey from childhood innocence to the bitter-sweet mixture of hope and regret that is adulthood. As such, the writing style throughout reflects the various stages on that journey. If The Chosen shows Carnelian with a childlike innocence lost in the dreamlike world of the Masters; The Standing Dead depicts the fractured struggle within him that leads to such terrible consequences.
"In The Third God, Carnelian resolves his conflicts though, in spite of his achieving greater self-possession, still the world is too great a thing for him to control -- and ultimately its forces are too powerful for anyone to master. Thus my writing skill mirrors Carnelian's journey and the books have ended up being true to themselves. I can't really ask for more than that."
The Third God arrives on March 27 2009.
Holdstock Goes Back Down To The Woods
Twenty-five years after we first enjoyed the adventures of the Huxley family in and around the locale of Ryhope Wood, author Robert Holdstock has delivered a brand new Mythago Wood story to UK publishers Gollancz.
"Avilion is the story of a brother and sister, forced, by circumstance, to literally follow their childhood dreams," said Holdstock. "They are the now-grown children of Steven Huxley and Guiwenneth of the Green, who are the main characters in Mythago Wood. They are therefore half human and half 'of the wildwood' and their passions take them in different directions. Avilion follows the first book many years later, but twists the tale."
Holdstock is teasingly brief about who will be returning in the new book. "Steven and Guiwenneth will be back and there will be one other; but except for that third character, they are now of less importance. More of Huxley's notebooks, and the shape-changing Jaguth also take a bow." And he's equally coy about the new characters: "You'll meet the three queens who took Arthur to Avilion, but in a shape that I hope will surprise and entertain; and a boy called Won't Tell, though what he 'won't tell', I 'won't tell'. There's a touch of H.G. Wells and a four-hundred-year-old but ageless beauty called Silver."
It's been a long time since his last visit to the wood so how did he find the experience and what enticed him back? "I've enjoyed exploring the dual natures of my hero and heroine and finding new twists in the Mythago tale. And as ever, designing the language of the book was a pleasure, though it's in a different style to Mythago Wood.
"As to why I went back -- the central idea occurred to me three years ago and I realised I was missing that invented location. A whole bunch of new characters had come to mind and, as ever, I spent ages thinking them fully into my head. But mostly, I believe you should always follow a new dream."
Be ready to re-enter the Wood in July 2009.
Zoran Živkovic Runs Rings Round Everyone
Serbian Zoran Živkovic has sold novel Escher's Loops to PS Publishing. While the book is fantasy only in its broadest definition -- no swords or sorcery but more about strange happenings with ordinary folk -- it's an elegant achievement in terms of story-telling and structure. Like one of Escher's drawings, the narrative threads lead you through a dizzying labyrinth of recurring themes, images and characters, all of whom are linked with mathematical precision: God and suicide, food and poison, monks, athletes, soldiers and soccer players all take their places in the circle-dance.
Perhaps one of the most unusual aspects of Escher's Loops, and the author's creative processes in general, is way the stories arrived in Živkovic's head: "Whatever fiction pops out of my subconscious -- a dark and impenetrable region where all my prose thoughts originate -- it is fully formed. No revising is ever needed, apart from inevitable typos. That's how my mind works."
And, typically for Živkovic, the fiction is inter-linked. "I assume my subconscious is fond of creating fictitious jigsaw-puzzles. There is a very privileged satisfaction in building a literary structure the shape of which can't be recognized until the very last building-block is put in its place. What happens then is a sort of revelation. I am a fundamental atheist, but nevertheless what I experience in that moment of revelation is very close to a kind of epiphany..."
Reaching that moment of revelation involves a pleasant journey through the 'Loops' within the story. The first of those 'Loops' is populated with cleverly entwined flashback memories that: "emerged equally easily, simply following each other," said the author. "This quality of fluency was essential in the structure of Escher's Loops. In order to achieve a maximal inter-connectedness of a highly fragmentary composition, I had to provide smooth fade-ins and fade-outs of the episodes, so that in readers mind they create, ideally, an impression of the integrity of the narrative whole."
It may sound like serious, complex writing but in execution the prose is actually light and fun. "I enjoyed writing all of them. The act of writing is always a source of joy for me. In Escher's Loops it was accentuated by the humorous context. I found a great pleasure in creating comical episodes, particularly in their 'dislocated', absurdist humor. I am, of course, the very last person supposed to evaluate my own fiction, but if I were not, I would dare to say that the humor is probably the main stronghold of my prose."
And when you enjoy your writing so much, it's hard to stop. Needless to say that Živkovic has already finished his next book, The Ghostwriter. "It tells the story of a writer who receives an 'indecent proposal' -- to write a novel for an anonymous purchaser. But it is also the story of an extraordinary tomcat, Felix. It was just about time for me to introduce a cat as a protagonist..."
Watch out for Escher's Loops in late 2009. The Ghostwriter English language version is released in late April 2009 by Serbian publishers Paideia.
Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic interviewer/reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; and a diligent interviewer/reviewer for Interzone magazine and SF Site. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. For background information, visit www.sandyauden.co.uk.
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