Saturday, May 23, 2009

Twas In Another Lifetime

This past week I have been mostly commuting to Kingston University, to give a four-day intensive workshop on writing science fiction and fantasy (kudos to Adam, Chloe, Gary, Ian, Loraine, Luke, Melanie and Ruth for their patience and enthusiasm; tip of the hat to Steve Jones for his motivational talk), and reading the proofs of the paperback reissue of Red Dust, due out in September. I wrote it in 1992. I'd been in St Andrews for almost three years. I'd moved out of the bleak university flat to a cottage on a hilltop overlooking the Eden Estuary, and I was insanely busy with research and teaching. As I remember it, the bulk of the writing was done over one summer, working for an hour or two every evening at a big desk in a big study with the windows boarded up; the builders who'd been putting in replacement windows had made a mistake measuring up the ones for the study, and it took a while to get new ones made. It's a fast-paced manga-style story of a revolution on a terraformed Mars that's slowly dying, and dominated by a capitalist version of mainland Chinese culture. All kinds of stuff went into its making: Elvis and his movies, westerns, yak lore, weird ecologies, totipotent viruses that unpacked memories and posthuman abilities into those they infected. Those viruses would reappear in Fairyland, but first I had to write Pasquale's Angel, which I'm just about to start proofing.

16 Comments:

Blogger xtyalis said...

Hi Paul, Iain here, from the Kingston writing course. Thanks again for the advice and inspiration, and to Steve for the publishing reality check. Thoroughly recommend it to anyone for next time.
I've just arrived at a cottage in Dorset for a week's holiday. There's an unusual tower room, so I'm hoping to hide away up there with my laptop for an hour or two each day, and put your teachings into practice. Cheers!

May 23, 2009 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Nathan Duck said...

Fond memories of 'Red Dust'. I clearly remember picking it up from the now defunct Andromeda Books in Birmingham after work and being hooked as soon as I opened it on the bus...didn' t put it down for the entire weekend. Yet another of your earlier works I now think I need to re-read- the power you have, ha ha ha!

May 24, 2009 8:55 AM  
Anonymous Sergey said...

Such bright and interesting book - and so prosaic ;) is the story of its writing!
Spitit is flowing everythere...
By the way, it was one of your first books mentioned in Russin press.
It was always interesting for me - why did you choose China as model of human-Martian civilization?

May 24, 2009 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Sergey said...

P.S. Of course "Spirit"...
Sorry for mistake :)

May 24, 2009 10:25 AM  
Blogger Keith Ferrell said...

One can't help wanting to say to Gollancz for this, "Thank Yuh. Thank Yuh vurry much."

May 24, 2009 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Mel said...

Really enjoyed the course -- packed a lot into those twelve hours. Now I just have to make the time to put some more of it into practice...

May 24, 2009 1:09 PM  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Hi xtyalis - I'm envious of your tower room. And Mel - it's very definitely the aunt.

Nathan - that you remember buying your copy of Red Dust is a huge compliment.

Sergey - as I remember, I was interested in Tibet first, and from there it widened to China, using China's occupation of Tibet as a model for its conquest of Mars. As my research deepened, I became more and more interested in the traditions that persisted under Communist rule. And I managed to anticipate the present pragmatic synthesis of raw capitalism and centralised government (and I wanted a centralised government because it made what little overt politics there are in Red Dust suitably simple.

Keith - I'm certainly grateful to Gollancz for the reissues!

May 24, 2009 4:52 PM  
Anonymous M said...

'Red Dust' was the second of your books I bought (From a library in Bristol, complete with “Withdrawn and offered for sale” stamp on the first page! And of course, badly laminated paperback cover), which I came across just a few weeks after picking up 'Fairyland' in the Waterstones on College Green. I was amazed by Fairyland, and being fairly poor at the time, was very grateful to find! That started of my on-going love of your work, and now I have a copy of (I think) all of your books. Now I need to go order a copy of the new edition…

May 24, 2009 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Sergey said...

Thank your for the answer, Paul!

May 24, 2009 9:46 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Thank you for the course, Paul. I found it enormously useful and feel really invigorated about my writing and encouraged to press on with the story. My characters and world are already feeling the benefits.
Cheers.

May 25, 2009 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Nathan said...

I can remember lots of instances connected with your work (and most authors) over the years- I can remember vividly the sequence from 'Four Hundred Billion Stars' I read on a Greek ferry, 'Fairyland' on a weekend in London. It was the great Jim Burns cover for 'Red Dust' that helps it stick in my mind, and the delight at all the themes (Mars, Elvis, cowboys- it was written it seemed just for me). It is interesting how we remember reading books- my wife rarely remembers anything about where she read something, and I have colleagues who similarly don't link text with context. For me they are inextricably linked- so 'Consider Phlebas' by Iain M. Banks will forever be linked in my mind with Butlins at Bognor Regis. Anyone else out there who finds the context of the book they are reading a powerful element of their memories? How about you Paul?

May 25, 2009 6:07 PM  
Anonymous Sergey said...

Of course, Natan.

May 25, 2009 7:09 PM  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Hi Gary - Keep up the good work.

Nathan, That Jim Burns cover absolutely nails a scene in Red Dust as far as I'm concerned. It won a BSFA Award - rightly so. He also nailed Pasquale, of Pasquale's Angel (of which more later this week, I hope).

Specific memories of reading certain books? Mostly from my formative years, when I was a very heavy library user (ie up to around age 24). I associate one cold wet winter in Bristol with The Gulag Achipelago, for instance. Charles Dickens novels associated with the past half dozen years' worth of air travel, as that's what I read on planes.

Butlins in Bogner Regis! I have family associations with the town - used to stay at my great-aunt's guest house on Canada Grove when I was a kid. One thundery summer's fortnight I read through the town's library of UFO books. A formative experience.

May 26, 2009 6:34 PM  
Anonymous M said...

I associate one cold wet winter in Bristol with The Gulag Achipelago, for instance.Not your intention, I know, but that made me laugh out loud.

Reading Kim Newmans Bloody Red Baron brings up memories of laying in a tent on a dank, gone-on-holiday-by-mistake week-end in Devong, which then leads to memories of looking at the remains of Brunels atmospheric railway.

Reading Orwells letters and essays invikes images of the library.

May 27, 2009 11:29 AM  
Anonymous M said...

I also seem to have lost the ability to spell...

May 27, 2009 11:32 AM  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Pappa Freud taught us that nothing's unintentional.

June 04, 2009 11:47 AM  

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