I've been reading quite a lot lately. Recently, I finished Octavia Butler's Wild Seed - do you know it? It's quite an old book, having been published in 1980 (the year of my birth, coincidentally). The great thing about this book is that there is no waffle, no expedition. Everything is told in a very manner of fact way, everything relevant to the incidents of the scene you are reading. Butler knows exactly where her story starts, and doesn't preamble to set tone, universe, etc. That doesn't mean that the writing isn't lyrical or the world is lacking in some way - it is a very absorbing story. It feels like a very honest way to tell a story, and something that I'm going to try with my own writing.
I've also just finished reading Orson Scott Card's Hart's Hope. The narrative unfolds as a series of stories told by a mysterious narrator to one of the title characters, going over events that have shaped his life in order to persuade him not to kill his son. At first I found the conceit a little trying as the stories were not perhaps as engaging as they could have been. But by the middle section, I was hooked, and I'm not sure why - perhaps it was when, finally, we were given a hero to root for. Aside from Point Fantasy and the usual children's classics, I think this is actually the first alternative world medieval-esque fantasy book I have ever read,which is quite depressing when I think about it.
I'm now reading Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. I am enjoying it so far, although I think I can tell it's for a younger audience, as a lot of the world-building stuff about the politics of the universe is presented to the reader on a plate. But aside from that, as I said, I'm enjoying the story, though I'm only about a quarter of the way in.
I've been reading Christopher Booker's The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories which I've had for a while but haven't tackled before. I've only just finished chapter two so far, but already it has proved insightful when analysing my own work and the plotting problems I've encountered. The chapter I've just finished explains the plot Booker has named "Overcoming the Monster" which covers everything from Star Wars, Little Red Riding Hood, The Magnificent Seven, the James Bond films, and, obviously, Beowulf. The hero/heroine gets "the call" - he/she must defeat some sort of monster that is threatening their home/mankind/the planet, and, equipped with "magical weapons", he/she goes off to face them. There is a stage where the hero first mets the monster/bad guys or their associates, and they win. Then they get captured/face the monster again, and it all looks like it's over for our hero until by some superhuman means, they overcome the monster at the last minute and save the world/get the "princess"/get the treasure. It's interesting, to me at least, because my own failed Inter Vivos sort of followed this story pattern, and comparing it to this very basic formula it's easy to see some of the places it went wrong (of course, to say this is it's only fault is being extremely simplistic!). My heroine Nox set out to defeat a monster that wasn't particularly threatening. Big fail.
So I've been enjoying reading lately, trying to write around it, think about the things that I want to do. I have been working more on my Corrie Flint-inspired novel, which is set in London and focuses on many different supernatural creatures that live there (the Banshee story sort of fits into this universe). It's been fun reinventing the troll and the leprechaun into 21st century London, and I just wish I had a little more time coming up to really be able to work on it more, rather than having to steal an hour here or there.
So things are looking up at the moment. I'm at Alt.Fiction on Saturday, so if any of you happen to be there, please come and say hi! The Speculators newspaper is free in the goodie bags apparently, so you can read my short story in there too!