It’s like Hamlet, but with anthropomorphic lions….

As promised — because I never break a promise* — I’m going to talk type about the inspiration for the setting of my dream the other day. (Unlike some TV shows that shall remain unnamed, the Golden Gate Bridge will not become a filler shot for my dreams.) In this book is the floating city made of ships that prompted one of the stranger dreams with recognizable people that I’ve had the pleasure to subconsciously think up.

Pirates, vampires, mosquito people, cactus people, and a whiny bitch of a main character. What's not to love?


The Scar by China Mieville is what I call an in media res sci-fi book, which means it just throws you into the middle of everything and leaves little time to sort it out. Other examples include: Dune, anything by Philip K. Dick, or even Star Wars, but that gets all of the Hero’s Journey references too, so I try to share the love. I adore this sort of literary convention because I do it to my readers all of the time. Personally, I love being confused, so trying to figure out how things worked in this universe — like, how the hell can a cactus talk? — was right up my alley. It’s the second in this world by the author — who kind of looks like if beefy Trent Reznor** and Howie Mandel had a kid — with the first being Perdido Street Station, so maybe that has more explanations, but I like to do things the hard way.

Let me just start off with saying that there are pirates in this book and seeing as how I dress up as a pirate wench for the Renaissance Festival every year, the only way this book could have gotten better was if there were vampire pirates. Oh, wait. THERE TOTALLY WERE VAMPIRES IN THIS BOOK. This happens to me every once in a while, where I start reading or watching something without vampires in it — you know, to cleanse the palate, if you will — and they just randomly appear. Like Ultraviolet or Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

It takes place on Armada, a floating city made of ships that the Armadan pirates have stolen. They gangplank people by capturing their vessels, assimilating them into their maritime fortress and making the passengers work without ever a chance to see home or escape. Bellis — yon fair maiden whiny, heartless main character — has been captured by the pirates and is forced to work in the library on Armada, but soon discovers a plot that the rulers of her district — aptly called The Lovers — are unfurling, which may place all of them in danger.

The thing kind of unravels like a bunch of tarot cards, with titles being thrown here and symbolism about trying to control the world as measly humans discarded there, but what I truly loved was the originality. Bellis goes on many adventures and finds ex-prisoners and slaves who have undergone a process called Remaking that has left them genetically mutated; a bunch of ravenous mosquito women who will literally suck you dry in a matter of seconds; an anthropomorphic lion voiced by Jeremy Irons and a fissure in the world that can be mined for Possibilities. Everything pops out of the book as fully formed ideas, a world rich with imagination that barely leaves you time to get your breath before moving onto to something just as new and wondrous.

So, you’re thinking, because I imagine that you are now ready to blow this popsicle stand and read this masterpiece. So, you think, it has creativity, an elegant writing style, and, most importantly, bloodsuckers. Why isn’t this the best book ever?

Well, I respond, because I’m more critical than Michael Bay when he’s choosing between Victoria’s Secret models, there are still many, many things wrong. The dialogue is so-so, and I’m a dialogue chick. I love me some artsy and witty talkin’. The way people talk should inherently be different from the narrative parts, and I found myself enjoying the spectacular and descriptive narration, before cringing whenever someone opened his mouth. One character in particular — a ninja-like badass who may or may not hunt vampires (boo! hiss!) — is supposed to speak like Shakespeare with a Cyrano de Bergerac chaser, but just sounds as awkward as anyone else.

I also hated Bellis. She was rather annoying and incapable of feeling any emotion other than remorse, guilt, or longing. Her last name is Coldwine, obviously meant to evoke her coldness towards other characters, but I couldn’t sympathize with her. It was like reading Anna Karenina for me, meaning that halfway through that book, I couldn’t care less if everyone got their faces eaten off by bunny rabbits. In fact, that would have made that book so much better.

I won’t give away the end, but it suffers from a serious case of show-don’t-tell-ism, which left it ending on a rather flat note.

However, the book was spectacular, despite most of its flaws, and I will be reading Mr. Mieville again, though it’d be sooner if he wore a fedora. I still highly recommend this book, and I’m picky, so it may be your slice of 3.14159.

*Except that one time in Mexico with the noodles…but I don’t want to talk about it.

**As compared to Snape-looking Trent Reznor.

Advertisements

Frangipani

I don’t know what a frangipani is. At least, I didn’t until earlier this morning. See, I woke up from my somewhat restless 4-hour limbo between waking and sleeping that happens every Saturday night to Sunday day because I have to get up at 5:30 when I usually go to bed at 2:00, and had that word stuck in my head.

Have I heard this word before? Maybe, but not in recent memory. However, I knew how to spell it and that it actually existed somewhere, despite the protests of others who dismissed me as making yet another neologism, sort of like going into a coma and waking up speaking a completely different language. I looked it up and it’s another name for a plumeria, a rather beautiful flower I associate with Hawaii. Was I thinking about Hawaii? Nope. Not even a Snakes on a Plane reference within the last month — which sure has made my co-workers happier than usual as of late.

My only logical conclusion is that it was put there by Mr. Fedora. (My incessant chattering about fedoras, however, has maybe taken the luster off of the Snakes on a Plane quietude.) “Who’s that?” you may ask, thinking that this is a character from Lost or something. (May I make a side note about how over Lost I am and everyone’s incessant chatter about that? See, it works both ways.)

Mr. Fedora is my ghost. Yes, like Phantom Dennis haunts Cordelia, the young child whose hands got cut off in an industrial accident in the early 20th century at my coffee shop haunts my co-workers, and like Annie haunts the sets of Being Human, Mr. Fedora haunts my basement.

In order for this to be fully explained, however, you have to learn one thing about me and remember another. I get night terrors, or the cooler-sounding pavor nocturnus, which means that sometimes I’ll partially regain consciousness whilst dreaming so that my dreams are projected onto real-life and scare the complete and utter be-jeezy-creezy outta me. I had one two nights ago where there was a man standing at the bottom of my bed with a bear’s head, turning his head from left to right and being as creepy as a David Lynch movie. Next to him, though, was a dude in a fedora, pale as a black-and-white movie, leering at me like he wanted to eat my soul.

Fast-forward to my pseudo sleep last night and I had a dream where I was in a 60s convertible Buick, going down the aisles of a hardware store and who should be there in the back driver’s side seat, but Mr. Fedora, all sepia-colored whereas everything else was vibrantly colored. (Charlie “Detective Kumquat” Crews from the brilliant-yet-cancelled Life was there, which is, surprisingly, not the first time I’ve had a dream about him, and his hair was as ridiculously red as ever.) He was still staring, but this time more concerned with the lady in green to his right than devouring my immortal essence.

What you have to remember about me is that there were, until recently, four dudes in my basement, two feet from my room, cleaning out my crawl-space and disturbing things that maybe shouldn’t have been disturbed.

I’ve got a theory. Construction guys — totally ruining my moment at a romance novel and turning it into a Stephen King horrorfest — dug up Mr. Fedora’s unhallowed remains and now he haunts my dreams, telling me to write him into my novel holding a bunch of…really pretty….flowers. Lamest. Horror. Novel. Ever.

Nevermind.

Wait, wikipedia to the rescue again? Frangipani are associated with death, funerals, and ghosts? And even an Indonesian vampire? I am both incredibly heebie-jeebied out and suddenly inspired to add a little fedora’d frangipani to the mix.

Round Two. *Ding Ding*

I finished reading The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco the other day, and as usual, what I read affects what I write. There was once where I stayed up the entire night to finish The Road by Cormac McCarthy, only to be unable to sleep before my shift at the coffee shop and writing a rather visceral scene in which our heroine, Gwennie, beats up some rival vampires, eats a young French aristocrat and then goes into a stupor from her poisoned blood. Another time I read a novelization of the second Care Bears movie and proceeded to write a scene in which our one-legged hero, Doc, goes to summer camp and finds out that there’s an evil camp counsellor possessing kids, or something. I might have blocked out the ending to that movie from my childhood because it was rather traumatizing, though I was totally cool with seeing Se7en when I was eleven. Except I can’t eat SpaghettiOs anymore.

Achnyway, Mr. Eco sort of has the same problem I do. And I quote: “The dialogue created another problem for me. In other words, as I was writing the book, I realized that it was taking on an opera-buffa structure, with long recitatives and elaborate arias….but the dialogue? At a certain point I feared it would sound like Agatha Christie, while the arias were Suger or Saint Bernard” (Eco 517). Well, strip me naked, send me to the past and call me Kyle Reese! I have the same problem as a respected Professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna. (Just call me Professor MK Sauer. I teach Vampire Literature at the University of Blogna.) I don’t even know what semiotics is, but that’s unimportant. What’s important is that a dude who wrote an entire book about monks murdering monks, who then goes on to say that if you read his book solely because you want to read about monks murdering monks then you’re stupid, had the same problem as me. Wait a tic…I think that kid might be the Avatar.

What problem is this, you ask, because you’re astute, not unlike Brother William of Baskerville, the Holmesian hero of our holy, yet hugely highbrow history? We both like fedoras. No, I mean, really like fedoras.

That fedora really IS ruggedly handsome!

Well, where doesn't it hurt? HERE!

Think of Indiana Jones in Temple of Doom when he almost loses an arm trying to get his fedora. Almost there. Now replace Ilsa from the Last Crusade with that same fedora, and then you catch my drift.* No, I jest. At least about Mr. Eco, as I’m sure any relationship he has with that really good lookin’ hat is purely Platonic.

No, the problem we both have is that our dialogue and our narration have seemingly two different voices! My blog post about polyphony covered that and I just wanted to let you know that this is a legitimate concern for writers and that the first step to overcoming voices in your head trying to fight for the narration wheel is to admit you have a problem. Hi, my name is MK Sauer — (Hi, MK) — and I’m constantly trying to reconcile two completely different moods for my novel.

(Hey, wasn’t there an episode for Forever Knight where Nick the Vampire was trying to treat his blood-drinking like an addiction and he went to an AA-type of meeting and met Ms. Trinity-before-she-was-Trinity-and-all-impaled-and-junk and she was a sex addict? Is that a stretch? Well, I guess vampires are the recurring theme, so we’re clear. )

*I can only say a German accent when saying, “This is how we kiss in Austria.” Unfortunately, I have to play out the whole scene and continue macking on air and then say, “And this is how we kiss in Germany,” and the smack the air, and then become rugged and handsome and tired and say, “I liked the Austrian way better,” and then do my best Sean Connery accent and say, “So did I.” Usually by the time I’m done, if there are witnesses who don’t know me, I’ve accumulated a few stares and/or phone calls for help.

On a somewhat related note, Brother William is played by Sean Connery in the 1986 movie version of The Name of the Rose with a very, very young and very naked Christian Slater, who was in Interview with the Vampire. So that just goes to show that everything in my blog is connected. EVERYTHING. Which is why I have a game called Six Degrees of Count Dracula. Now all we need is Kevin Bacon to play Dracula.

Eco, Umberto. The Name of the Rose. Harcourt, Inc, 1984.

God, I’ve been out of school for two years now and I still have to quote properly. What’s next? Taking notes on a Dostoevsky novel when I don’t have to? Wait, I’ve already done that. What’s next, next? Reading up on my 17th century New England history by watching The Libertine? God, that movie’s only good if you want to see someone die of syphilis.