• Gunpowder, Reason and Plot

    Posted on by Kim

    The nights are drawing in, there are plenty of leaves to swish through when taking Drake the big fat lab out for a walk, and those beautiful golden days of the summer are but a memory. This time of year has always been special to me because it reminds me of my husband Del and our first few heady, icy weeks together after meeting in Nottingham. To my father, an ex-market gardener, autumn is a time of gloom and inertia and dying. To me though, there is something magical in the clean, crisp air, the fire coloured leaves, and the sense of winter creeping in but not quite here yet. It all feels poignantly Pagan, perhaps due to the obvious celebration of Halloween. December brings with it the blatant commercialism of Christmas, a feeling of faint hollowness and longing for those no longer with us. Halloween and Bonfire Night have a greater emphasis on Nature’s fun house – pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, fireworks, cinder toffee, and the hypnotic blaze of the sparkler. The moon sits fat and silver in the sky, the heating is quick to take the edge off, and thoughts begin to turn to hot chocolate, hot water bottles, and hats, scarves and gloves.

    This sense of bedding in has extended to my new novel. So far, the plot and theme share a sense of layering which is making my head ache. Having written 10,000 words of the story and lost my way, I decided to swallow hard and start again. As a result, one of our kitchen walls is now home to a spider-gram made up of index cards. This approach may seem longwinded to writers who don’t need to plot in such details (you bastards ;-)), but it’s an experiment to see if I can find freedom from plot worries as a result. Recently I have heard a lot of opinions on ways to combat writer’s block, and while I believe the answer is always to write through the block, I am willing to hold my hands up and say I do have a tendency to lose faith in the narrative. Weirdly, I don’t tend to lose faith in the book – or should I say the original concept/title. This is why I am taking time out to structure this new book, and hopefully give it a sense of depth as a result.

    In-between long hours spent staring out the window and racking my brains, I have escaped my mental prison for a couple of great conventions. I was so over the moon that Del and I were able to attend Bristolcon last minute. We have a real soft spot for Bristol and a number of very dear friends live there. In fact its fair to say the city is on our hit list of future places to live – Bristol, you have been warned. One of the greatest things about Bristolcon is the organisation. Jo, Meg and the gang do an amazing job and pull off something unique in genre convention land – they run the event seamlessly and seemingly without any stress, reminding me of magic elves albeit clothed. I caught up with folk like Gareth L Powell, Raven Dane, Gem and Neil Bynon, Martin McGrath, Martin Sketchley, Forbidden Planet’s Tim, and other wonderful souls. A particularly spectacular aspect of the weekend was spending time talking to Philip Reeve, the blinding talented author of the Mortal Engines series of books as well as others. Philip is a real hero of mine and I was so overwhelmed to spend time with him, even more so when Philip asked to read Cyber Circus and has since let me know he enjoyed it. A wonderful weekend and some very precious memories.

    Unfortunately after Bristolcon I was struck down by some despicable germ and fell ill for a couple of weeks. As a result I missed the official launch of the Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse ebook (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pandemonium-Stories-Apocalypse-ebook/dp/B00624EIBK/) at the Tate Britain. Pandemonium is published by Pandemonium Fiction and includes my short story ‘Deluge’. The collection plays homage to the breathtaking paintings of John Martin, on display in the Tate’s John Martin: Apocalypse exhibition.

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=814ll2oPevo&w=500&h=385]

    A limited edition run of hardbacks will also be available to purchase from the Tate in the next couple of weeks. My fellow contributors are Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Lauren Beukes, S.L. Grey, Jonathan Oliver, Sophia McDougall, Chrysanthy Balis, David Bryher, Jonathan Oliver, Scott K. Andrews, Lou Morgan, Tom Pollock, Den Patrick, Archie Black, Sam Wilson, Osgood Vance, Charlie Human, Andy Remic, and Magnus Anderson. The collection is edited by Pornokitsch’s Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin, with a foreword by Tom Hunter, director of the Arthur C. Clarke Award. A portion of the proceeds also goes to the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

    After missing out on the Pandemonium launch, I was determined to make it to Novacon this weekend. Thankfully my health bucked up and Del and I enjoyed a great evening in the company of Ian Whates, Terry Martin, Ian Sales, and others. It was great to be back in Nottingham for a night. I was even struck by a sense of nostalgia this morning when Del and I were driving out from the city. There was something wonderfully familiar about Nottingham on an autumnal Sunday morning, and it reminded me again of why I find this time of year so appealing.

    Back to reality, and I have some new projects on the go including the release of a YA novella (announcement soon). In-between working on my new novel, I’ve written a couple of blog posts – an SF Song of the Week for writer and future beer-sharing buddy, Philip Palmer at http://www.philippalmer.net/2011/10/09/sff-song-of-the-week-kim-lakin-smith and my favourite five gunslingers for the inimitable Pornokitsch at http://www.pornokitsch.com/2011/11/friday-five-gunslingers.html.

    I am very excited to be taking part in two future events. The first is ‘A Steampunk evening’ at Blackwells Charing Cross on the 8th of December 2011. You can read all about the event here http://www.thekitschies.com/kitschies-steampunk.html. To quote “All shall enjoy a TOASTY HOLIDAY EVENING with tasty samplings of THE KRAKEN RUM and the very top AUTHORS. There will be a selection of fantastical and historical LITERATURE, astounding ARTWORK and the delightful company of one’s fellow enthusiasts.” It doesn’t get better than that now, does it?

    I am also delighted to be taking part in The Haunting #3, a ghost story telling event from Un-Bound, taking place in March 2012 – http://unboundve.blogspot.com/2011/10/ubve3-in-planning-with-newcon-press.html. The idea of filmed ghost story tellings in an isolated country pub by an open fire sounds tantalisingly terrifying. I can’t wait!

    In the meantime, I am going to get busy with my index cards and enjoy autumn and all of the wonderful memories it evokes. Then it will be time to heat the mulled wine, take up pen and paper, close the curtains and settle in for the winter.

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