Things That Are Happening: A Szal Story

I start almost every blog with: it’s been a while. I should blog more. So that’s what I’m doing.

As some of you know, I finished a novel last week. It’s sitting aside while I work on other projects, including polishing up my query letter and chapters for my previous novel. Again. But that’s the way it is.

I did allow myself a small break, though. I binge-watched True Detective (Season 1) and 13 Reasons Why, the latter of which I have one more episode to go on. Both are phenomenal shows. True Detective gets better on the second watch once you know where everything is heading. 13 Reasons is a show I would have adored when I was in high-school, and wished I’d gotten my paws on the book back then.

But on the subject of actual work: I’ve had a few things happen. I’m now writing for the awesome Fantasy-Faction! They saw my Tor.com post and asked me to join the team, which I did with my debut publication by way of a review.

raw

A review of the French teenage cannibal film Raw, to be specific. It’s good and gruesome and full of tasty food for thought. Not for everyone, though. Obviously. You can check out my review here.

My story “System Reboot” landed itself a Polish translation in the magazine Szortal alongside Jarosław Grzędowicz, who’s (almost) the Polish George R. R. Martin. Nice to know folks in other countries are reading your work. You can check that out here.

And finally, I sold another story to Nature, which should be appearing this Thursday, I believe. It’s dark, as most of my stories are, and deals with some pretty heavy imagery that I wasn’t sure would pass my editors by. I’m not a horror writer, but this comes pretty close. I do hope you’ll check it out when it comes around.

I’ve also got two invitations to anthologies, one of which is paying pro-rates, so I’d best be working on that one. Ain’t no rest for the wicked.

The Novel is DOOOOONE

Oops, I screamed that, didn’t I?

finishednnovel

But yeah. My spacepunk novel about drug cartels, alien narcotics and fanatic cults is complete at 113,000 words. It’s The Wire and Narcos meets Mass Effect with a snarky Russian-Japanese protagonist who wears an exosuit out of titanium bone. Also includes cults, three-dee printing, alien drugs, and an asteroid filled with million of people and a college of cultures, both human and alien. And food porn. Lots and lots of food.

It’s the first adult novel I wrote in first-person, and it’s also the very novel where I put the characters first. I’ve always included character arcs and backgrounds (how could I not?) but this is the first time where the characters and their voices drove the story. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write another way. Whereas my last novel taught me about world-building and scene-setting, this one taught me so much about characterization and voice and agency. I learn with everything I write, and this one certainly has, too.

I wrote the novel I wanted to write. It took six months because of editing my other work and restructuring, but it’s done and I love the end result. It’s gonna need edits, and beta-readers. But I haz another novel and I am very excited about it. I almost didn’t want to finish it, because I love these people and this world so much, but that’s what a dozen rewrites and rounds of edits are for.

But for now it’s done and I hope to bring it to you guys someday.

Get Out: Thinking with Film

Teaser_poster_for_2017_film_Get_Out

The fact that I’m taking the time to write my a whole blog on this film instead of on paying gigs or my novel should say it all.

I’ve been interested in Jordan Peele’s debut since I first saw the spoiler-y ass trailer. I got myself to an early, packed-out screening (it doesn’t come out until late May in Australia). This may be the best horror film since The Badadook.

Since it deals with race and culture and erasure – subjects of discussion that have never, ever, ever gone badly on the internet thanks to nuance and calmness and understanding – it could have easily ended up a confused mess of “Creepy White People: The Movie”. Instead it’s a nuanced hyperblend of horror and comedy with an uncomfortably sharp message.

Being neither white, black or American it was interesting to watch this film as a passenger from a third person perspective. America is just as foreign to me as India or Brazil, and the issues of race and culture existing there so far removed from other countries and what I’m used to, it almost came across as a culture shock. “Are ultra-white, WASP Americans really like this? Is this really the sort of nonsense African Americans have to deal with? Can people really be so moronic and selfish in 2017?” These folks aren’t even your minority white, like Polish, Swedish, Italian, Greek (whether Mediterraneans are white depends on who you ask), whatever. These are McWhite, Anglo-Saxon, Get-Off-My-Property white to the core, and watching them stumble through the notions with Chris is both hilarious and painful.

From a writing level the script itself was spot-on (yes, here be spoilers). There’s so much to unpack in themes and foreshadowing. The deer’s head, the cop at the start, the dad’s mini-rant on animal “ethnic cleansing”, the grandpa’s running at night because he wanted to be like Carl Lewis, the symbolism of the silver spoon, the way the son would physically size Chris up. It’s incredible that Jordan Peele managed to pack in as much as he did, let alone compile a narrative, let alone one that’s dripping with utterly thrilling horror. And speaking of horror, the mix of it and humour was spot on. It’s not easy to craft an atmosphere taut as guitar strings and then break into jokes about white folks and sex slaves and drunk dogs, but it was done right. My audience was cracking up one minute and collectively holding their breath the next. It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions and very calculated plot points that build up to an crescendo that’s both super smart and horrifying. How many folks have laid on both operating tables because wealthy, privileged people are willing to utilize what is essentially modern day slavery.

There’s so much more food for thought in here. The token Japanese man at the party asking questions that were just as awkward and engaging in the bidding as well (with a “yellow” biding pad, too), how the single person at the party who spoke to Chris like a human being was blind and literally could not see his ethnicity. Jordan Peele knew exactly what he was doing, and shows with every prop. Oh, and we all cheered when the bitch got blown away by the end.

The film wasn’t perfect. The cinematography could have been much sharper and more deliberate with their shot placements and camera angles, and the humour felt forced at times. I don’t agree with everything the film was trying to say – being non-USian means I’m definitely going have my own stance on race and culture (I personally couldn’t care less if someone “saw” my ethnicity or not as long as they didn’t treat me differently). But like the best films: Jordan Peele isn’t trying to provide answers. He’s raising questions and portraying a subject matter through his world-view and his lens, and he does it brilliantly.

Get Out is very possibly the best film I’ve seen this year and is the best cinema experience I’ve had in a long, long time. I can’t wait for the endless barage of essays and articles this will inspire on race and America and I can’t wait to choke on the bile flooding in from the comments section.