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richard
Posted on Thursday, February 05, 2004 - 04:22 pm:   

So I was standing around in this bookshop waiting to sign some stock, and I happened to pick up an Ian Fleming omnibus containing, among others, the novel Goldfinger. I started reading, and, just like that, was *gone*, oblivious to my surroundings until the shop assistant tapped me on the shoulder - I'd forgotten how totally brilliant that opening is - Bond sitting in an airport (Miami, I think) waiting for a connecting flight, flexing a bruised hand and thinking about the man he just killed with it. The backstory to this iconic little injury is sordid, bitter and nasty (and incidentally indicts contemporary drug enforcement attitudes with devastating efficiency - fifty years ago!) It's one of the most brutal and cynical moments in Fleming's ouevre, and a facet of Bond's character that's been sadly obliterated from the movies. A real noir gem, and somewhere in my list of best ever openings (along with the first line of Anthony Burgess's Earhly Powers, for entirely different reasons).

Any other first-page grabbers come to mind?
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Luis
Posted on Friday, February 06, 2004 - 12:06 am:   

Two in particular leap to mind, Cave's AND THE ASS SAW THE ANGEL and Bester's THE STARS, MY DESTINATION. Not that others started badly, but these two exerted a stronger pull on me.
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Lee M
Posted on Friday, February 06, 2004 - 04:40 am:   

Several of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books had the grab effect for me. He often starts a book with Sharpe right in the thick of things.

Off the top of my head i'd have to say that Eric Nylunds 'Game of Universe 'latched on pretty quick as well. So did Neil Gaimans ' American Gods '. Oh and Paul Kearney's ' Hawkwoods Voyage '
after the first few pages.
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Simon
Posted on Friday, February 06, 2004 - 05:03 am:   

Anthony Burgess had a killer opening line for Earthly Powers (which I will now misquote);

'It was half past three in the afternoon and I was in bed with my catmite when the arch-bishop came to call'.

Calculated but hilarious.
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Chris
Posted on Friday, February 06, 2004 - 05:56 am:   

Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House every time. What a beautifully creepy piece of introductory prose.

"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."

Brrr...
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richard
Posted on Saturday, February 07, 2004 - 05:22 pm:   

Yeah, I remember Stephen King quotes that piece of Jackson at the beginning of Salem's Lot and yes, it got me right up the spine too

Simon - close enough: "It was the afternoon of my eighty third birthday and etc...." Yep, ain't noBODY going to ever start a book like that again.

Luis - never managed to buy Ass, I always forget it exists when I'm in bookshops, only remember in music stores... Presumably it reads like an extended version of Tupelo or Papa Won't Leave You Henry...
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Luis
Posted on Sunday, February 08, 2004 - 01:21 am:   

Richard -- ATASTA always put me in mind of "Up Jumped the Devil", and in fact the (awesome) words "the black chambers of a dead nun's heart" also appear in the book. The prose is very dense, but it's a fantastic novel.
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Sunday, February 08, 2004 - 08:50 am:   

Hi,
Goldfinger is my favourite Bond book. I put some great first lines below; although I guess you're talking about good opening scenarios rather than excellent soundbites. My favourite is still 'Fear and Loathing.'


1. ‘We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.’ – Hunter Thomson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

2. ‘It was the day my grandmother exploded.’ – Ian Banks, Crow Road

3. ‘To Sherlock Holmes she is always *the* woman.’ – Conan Doyle, A Scandal in Bohemia

4. ‘Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road.’ – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce

5. ‘It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ – George Orwell, 1984

6. ‘Mandy came out of the late-night Vurt-U-Want clutching a bag of goodies.’ – Jeff Noon, Vurt

7. ‘All this happened, more or less.’ – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse 5

8. ‘Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair.’ – Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly

9. ‘Listen, all you boards, syndicates and governments of the earth.’ – W.S. Burroughs, Nova Express

10. ‘There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.’
~C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

...And I can't resist this one although everybody knows it and it's a far cry from an action scene: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession
of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Sunday, February 08, 2004 - 08:53 am:   

...Just remembered the opening of 'The Stand' where the scientists are racing to escape the lab. That was edge-of-seat stuff!
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richard
Posted on Sunday, February 08, 2004 - 10:09 am:   

Hi Steph

Is that the Stand extended edition? The one I remember begins with Stu Redman and a bunch of good old boys shooting the shit outside a gas station somewhere in middle America - but it's a long time since I read it, so I can't be sure.

Fear and Loathing's great, not only the first line but all that stuff with the hitchhiker too. I laughed out loud at that point, and then couldn't stop...

Another brilliant opening line from my list is Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow - "It's freezing - an extraordinary -18 C, and it's snowing, and in the language which is no longer mine, the snow is *qanik*.." I bought the book, instantly, on the strength of that one line.

And still on cold and noir, Bob Shaw's short story Dark Icarus opens superbly with "The dead cop came drifting in towards the Birmingham control zone at a height of some three thousand metres"
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Steph
Posted on Sunday, February 08, 2004 - 03:05 pm:   

Hi,

Ah! Ah! Miss Smilla! One of my all-time favourites. I was possessed by the idea that she couldn't stand being locked in a cell because she was used to the open snowfields.

The descriptions of landscapes are so fine that when I finished the book I read it again. And all the characters are wonderful, especially Jakkelsen and the deaf child.

Now I want the rest of Dark Icarus.

Yes, it's the extended 'The Stand' although I might be confusing the opening sequence with the film (which I *don't* recommend, in my defence I was drunk).

I haven't read any S. King books for years but I used to devour them. 'The Dark Half' was the most memorable. Unfortunately then I read his fantasy where the man in black fled across the sodding desert and the gunslinger followed.

Steph

Some more good first lines spring to mind:

1. ‘The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel.’ – Neuromancer

2. ‘Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road.’ – A Portrait of the Artist

& of course:

3. ‘It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ – 1984
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Steph
Posted on Sunday, February 08, 2004 - 03:22 pm:   

I did 1 & 3 twice. Oh well, they are good enough.

Obviously if the writer tries too hard for an opening line/scene it shows. The Goldfinger one is so captivating because it's confident and effortless.
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Luís
Posted on Sunday, February 08, 2004 - 09:50 pm:   

You mean 2 & 3. :-) Can't believe I forgot NEUROMANCER, that's a brilliant first line.
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richard
Posted on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 04:45 am:   

Yeah, Gibson's usually a good one for arresting start-up (if that's not an oxymoron):

'They set a slamhound on Turner's trail in New Delhi, slotting it to his pheromones and the colour of his hair' - Count Zero

'The ghost was a parting gift from her father...' Mona Lisa Overdrive

'The courier presses his forehead against layers of glass, argon, high impact plastic' - Virtual Light

And Pattern Recognition opens brilliantly with all that stuff about jet-lag being the result of supersonic flight leaving your soul behind somewhere in the ionosphere and you have to wait until it's reeled back in on some kind of spiritual umbilicus - beautiful image (tho' I confess I got fed up with the rest of the book later on)

Steph - Dark Icarus is a little difficult to get hold of; I read it originally in a collection of Shaw's shorts called Cosmic Kaleidoscope, where it was re-titled 'A Little Night Flying' - CK is out of print at the moment, but you might be able to get it through one of Amazon's second hand retailers - worth it, because the other stories are also excellent. If not, the story also crops up as the prologue to a novel called Terminal Velocity which features the same central character - this is a bit more iffy, because the novel (elsewhere published without the prologue and called Vertigo) isn't really the same kind of writing - it's more a quiet, psychological portrait of illness and recovery in a small Canadian town which you may or may not like.
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richard
Posted on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 04:52 am:   

Re King - it's funny how his books (some of them true works of literary genius) turn so easily into crap Sunday afternoon movies and mini-series. The Stand (well, apart from Laura San Giacomo) and The Shining remake come to mind but there are plenty more (Not that I rated the original Shining movie much either - overblown, irritating and nothing like the book). About the only King screen outing I really liked was Salem's Lot, which really chilled me (but that might have been my relative youth when I saw it - subsequent dredging of my memory recalls that it starred David Soul!)
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richard
Posted on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 05:57 am:   

Steph, btw - how's Untitled Swainston 2 of 3 coming along? Is it tied to Year of Our War, or something completely unconnected?
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Steph
Posted on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 01:20 pm:   

It's coming together. It is set after YOOW, but it is not a direct sequel. There are plenty of Fourlands stories to tell.

At the moment, they're fighting. I keep getting so excited by the scene playing in my head that I have to go for walks around the block. Anyway, walks are beneficial for the back pain.

Even King's short stories are made into films - two hours of the Langoliers, for god's sake, when it was only a couple of pages long. I remember liking Christine, many years ago.

Luis: Hello. Yes, I clearly don't know what planet I'm on. It's only the absence of little robots on the carpet that tells me this isn't Mars.
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Lee M
Posted on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 04:30 pm:   

Richard said >>it's funny how his books (some of them true works of literary genius) turn so easily into crap Sunday afternoon movies and mini-series.<<

Doesn't stop people from making them though. Acording to IMDB about five of his books are in either pre or post film production.

Some of his short stories make good films though. I liked 'The Shawshank Redemption' and ' Stand by Me'. The Dead Zone tv series didn't look too bad either; what we've seen of it down here.
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Chris
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 12:53 am:   

Hey Steph: the Langoliers was a novella of the same kind of size as Shawshank Redemption (if my smog-addled memory serves it was one quarter of Four Past Midnight) and I seem to remember the TV series was pretty faithful to the book... even down to the disappointing and daft ending, which is King all over. I remember being nailed to Bag of Bones all the way through its ninety crillion pages and after the last chapter or so I flung it at the wall in bitter disgust at being so cheated.

My favourite King book of all is Gerald's Game, but somehow I can't imagine them ever adapting it into a movie when the whole book is told from the POV of a naked woman chained to a bed :-(
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Steph
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 02:02 am:   

Chris, you're absolutely right. Apologies. I forgot about it being in Four Past Midnight. I sold all my King books before I went to uni. ('Eyes of the Dragon', 'Tommyknockers', 'It') ...And Pratchett too, a first ed. 'Carpet People' and 'Colour of Magic' -- no student overdraft then :-)

The Dead Zone - I liked that a lot. Will get it hopelessly confused with Twilight Zone if I try to discuss it, though.
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Chris
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 02:32 am:   

Argh, your comment about Pratchett just reminded me of the first ever edition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I had (back when they were just a fairly underground comic) that I seem to remember using as kindling to melt Star Wars figures back when I was ten. Costly mistakes, both :-)
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simon
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 02:57 am:   

Kindling error - Eeek.

Dead Zone was what got me into King. Nervous teenager not convinced he would enjoy having shit scared out of him but intrigued by all he has heard about King chooses the least obviously supernatural of the King books (why I felt the supernatural had the monopoly on fear I don't know - innocence of youth?), The Dead Zone and then buys and reads 14 Stephen King books in 3 weeks.
Haven't read anything by him in five years tho' - not since the one by the lake with the messages from 'beyond' being written with fridge magnets. And to think I used to pounce on the new book the day it was published. And just when he was beginning to learn how to do endings again.
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richard
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 04:05 am:   

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAgggggggghhhhhh - just watched another one (useless King adaptation, that is). Dreamcatcher - don't do it, just don't do it!!! It's worse than bad, it's made just well enough to keep you watching right to the end, even though you know it's crap. Langoliers has to rate as the worst, but other pet hates of mine are Needful Things, Tommyknockers and that awful one about people who turn themselves into cats or something (Nightwalkers?)

Having said that, it's true that Shawshank and Stand by Me were both brilliant and The Dead Zone had Christopher Walken in it, which sort of absolves it of the need for any other decent qualities. Not for nothing is that man pinned up over Simon's desk (under the name Stephen Baxter, oddly enough, which confused the hell out of me).

Like Steph, I too sold all my King paperbacks to finance a student bar bill - then had to buy back the really good ones ('salem's Lot, Shining, Stand, Dead Zone, Firestarter, Different Seasons). In a way it was a good filtering process, but it does lead to the rather dismal conclusion that he's been going steadily downhill in recent years.

Chris - Gerald's Game had something, but I have to agree with the reviewer who said it would have made a good long short story and thus at 670 pages, weighed in at about 650 pages too long.
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Chris
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 04:39 am:   

Oh yeah, Dreamcatcher. And after Damian Lewis' supoib performance in Band of Brothers he did THAT? Apparently he came up with the idea of doing the alien with a jaunty English accent. Top idea that :-( I've never wanted to walk out of a movie so much since Solaris.

Gerald's Game wasn't THAT long, was it? I thought it was only a mid-size book. But I loved the premise, anyway, and I thought he handled the length of it really well. I loved the survival issue (getting water and so on when you're handcuffed to a bed) And those scenes when 'Death' keeps on turning up at night (and the wait as the dusk came) are the only time I can remember being genuinely scared by a book. Or rather, by what is *inside* a book. I had a bookcase fall on me once, and that was pretty scary... almost got killed by my childhood love of epic fantasy.
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simon
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 04:50 am:   

Scared OF books? You should try publishing. Some days I wake up at my desk screaming . . .
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Chris
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 06:56 am:   

Desks? Pah! Desks are for weaklings! I tend to just put a keyboard by each hand and rest a PC monitor on my face when I go to bed so I can get going as soon as I wake up. Cuts down on commuting time across my bedroom :-)
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Tim Akers
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 08:28 am:   

Sleep? Pah! Sleep is for weaklings!
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Chris
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 09:13 am:   

Touche!
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richard
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 03:28 pm:   

Chris - Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating the length of Gerald's Game a tad - but it was a pretty brickish Mass Market Paperback as I recall. It's funny you should mention the being scared thing, because the only one that really did that for me was also SK - the Shining in this case - I used to lend it to all those irritating people who said things like "but how can you be scared of a BOOK, Richard". Most came back whimpering. Ha!

Steph - looking forward to the fight sequences, then - anything that sends you out to walk it off has to be pretty supercharged. I seem to remember Larry Niven saying somewhere that after he'd written a murder scene in one of his Gil Hamilton stories, he had to go round to see a friend and get her to massage his neck and shoulders because he was so tense. (On the other hand that does sound like a pretty good line for getting a free massage as well).
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Steph
Posted on Wednesday, February 11, 2004 - 03:47 am:   

Lucky you, I never have been scared by a book. Only two films managed it: the beginning to middle of 'Lost Highway' and the masterpiece 'Jacob's Ladder'.
Bye for now, Stephx.
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simon
Posted on Wednesday, February 11, 2004 - 04:05 am:   

Oh god yes. Jacob's Ladder. Scared (as opposed to made to feel a little jumpy) by that one. Despite seeing it in a student union bar.
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Chris
Posted on Wednesday, February 11, 2004 - 05:04 am:   

Yeah, Jacob's Ladder was really scary. As was Ring (Japanese vesion obviously), The Others, The Sixth Sense first time I saw it (gets a bit weak on repeat views), The Eye and Dark Water (although they're both basically Ring in disguise). The original Friday 13th still gets me, as does Halloween to a lesser extent.

The things they all seem to have in common is that none of them have massive CG monsters appearing at the end or people dressed up in stupid Buffy-esque latex masks. When will Hollywood learn these lessons and execute the production team behind Jeepers Creepers et al? Honestly, they're all pinko lefty interventionists, they really are :-)
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richard
Posted on Thursday, February 12, 2004 - 04:47 am:   

Well, I'm going to stick up for Hollywood for a moment here (make my movie, guys, pleeeeeeeeeeez...... :-) ) I actually thought the end of Ring (US) was better than the Japanese original. Thing was, the original relies a lot on trad.Jap. imagery - woman with long hair over face equals awful, terrifying ghost, ergo you drop down dead - Hmm, but I was thinking okay that's freaky, she stepped out of the TV, but let's just run away huh, doesn't look like she's moving THAT fast (I mean, after 20 years down a well, who would?). The US movie solved the problem by doing that wonderful flash edit motion and you realise shit, you can't run, she's a piece of TV, she'll just fast forward to wherever you are - THAT was terrifying.

Having said that, I thought the truly disturbing elements of the orginal were contained in all the weird footage of people crawling around backwards, faces twisted in terror and a general sense of menace.... and it's true the remake never really came up to standard in that area - then again from watching the special features, you got the impression there was originally a lot more of that nightmarish stuff in, but it got dumped, presumably because it was over the IQ of the test audiences.

I also love the faceless ghost with hair over her face image in general - you see it used in Audition, Kwaidan and Dark Water to some extent (and under the influence of alcohol, someone I know professionally can sometimes be induced to do it too). I wonder if that's what banshees should really look like too?

Btw - just seen another shite horror offering - Underworld. My God, how to rip the heart out of not one but two iconic horror myths without even trying - have to be the least frightening vampires and werewolves I've ever seen. And yeah, CGI overload to the max. I have to say Kate Beckinsale looked great in black leather, but then that's not really the point...
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Chris
Posted on Thursday, February 12, 2004 - 05:25 am:   

Yes it is, dammit! :-) Anyway, I hear tell Underworld is getting sued by White Wolf for infringing on their Vampire: The Masquerade title; you know, all that stuff with elder vampires etc. Which was the best bit about the movie, I thought: it had hints at depth, but they went sadly unexplored. Still gonna buy it tho.

True, I did love the flash edit on the US version (although in Ring 2 Sadako does a pretty nifty teleport up the side of a well to grab the heroine's hand, and in Ring 0 she kinda scampers around like a creepy spider in an attic... so the girl can move!) but they ruined it (IMHO)by overdoing Sadako's (Samara's?) face-revealing bit. It's not enough for them that she's a terrible undead spirit with the power to kill with a thought; no, she has to be a rotting zombie as well. Just like her victims couldn't just be scared to death; they had to be turned into putrefied corpses oozing pus from their eyes. Just a bit OTT for me. I preferred the understated, creepier version.
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richard
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 03:51 am:   

I thought in Ring 2 she just *climbed* the well really fast (from long practice, I assumed at the time, whilst recoiling from the screen with a yelp). But in general you're right about understated creepiness - viz the end of Dark Water, which chilled me to the bone.

btw, Chris - speaking of chilling, do your Children of the Moons have any factual (well, y'know what I mean) basis in Japanese mythology?
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Chris
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 04:39 am:   

Nope! Not as far as I'm aware. Just another example of my cowboy use of thousands of years of mythology :-)

Nah, seriously, the idea was not to directly poach things from Far Eastern myth but rather to kind of slant off them; I always found the Japanese and Chinese ghosts spooky as anything (women tugging their hair and wailing while their legs were consumed by fire etc), and strangely the idea of female ghosts is more frightening than male ones (make of that what you will...) Plus they had to jibe with the characteristics of other entities who appear in later books in the series. Whenever I brought in anything like the Children of the Moons, the shin-shin and the maku-sheng etc the idea was to make them seem like they *could* be from an ancient real-world mythology; but I don't think any of them actually were. Not consciously, anyway.

Am now 4 chapters off the end of the Braided Path, after which I will have purged this obsession from my system and will never speak of or think of anything oriental again :-) Honest!
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simon
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 04:59 am:   

Hang on a minute the Oriental thing is one of your FUSPs
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Chris
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 05:14 am:   

I dread to think what that acronym stands for...
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simon
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 06:08 am:   

Fairly Unique Selling Point :-)
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Chris
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 06:20 am:   

Haha, I actually guessed that but then I thought it might be Fucked Up Spelling Problem or something so I thought I'd best be quiet.
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richard
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 08:07 am:   

You're right about the female ghosts - Woman in Black, to name but one non-eastern example. It might be the hair (flowing, face obscuring etc..) or it might be that women can get away with screeching, which is a fairly blood chilling sound. A male ghost that screeched, on the other hand, you'd just write off as a big wuss, and once you get into the realm of male ghosts that roar you're also into the realm of big, killable beasts, which ignites a more adrenalising form of fear. Also why it's so difficult to make a genuinely scary monster movie. Cue deep Austrian accent - if it bleeds, we can kill it. If it screeches, on the other hand....
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fur
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 09:20 am:   

What about giant helmets that chase victorian bad-guys round gothic castles with a sort of clanking noise (accompanied by screeching male servants, for added horror)?
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Chris
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 09:34 am:   

Yup, the Castle of Otranto was so ahead of its time. They'd already thought of giant CG effects as bad guys way back then!

Richard: You're dead on. Well put. Screeching is scary. I've seen women fighting in the street back in my beloved *cough* hometown and I can tell you there's nothing more terrifying than the sight of six towny girls hacking a seventh one to bits with their stilettos. Fundamentally disturbing on some very primal level.
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fur
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 09:56 am:   

If you like that idea, read The Bacchae. Really (fantastic) horrible play with screeching women ripping people to bits as a central premise - creepy and nasty and utterly brilliant.
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richard
Posted on Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - 05:47 am:   

Yeah, and Valkyries - forget the burnished armour and Timotei hair - in their ur-format, they were naked women that crouched over the slain on the battlefield and ate their flesh - there's a potential horror novel in there somewhere, I think. And here's one for all those mythology specialists - anyone heard of the Rousalka?
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Chris
Posted on Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - 07:20 am:   

Yeah, but the way I heard it they tickle their victims to death, and the jury was out on whether it was intentional or not or they were just funnin' around with weak little humans. Screaming furies they ain't! :-)
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Lee M
Posted on Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - 04:54 pm:   

They also have a thing for drowning men after they lure ( or in some versions drag by force ) them into the water. I guess that fits with the spirits of drowned girls angle.
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Chris
Posted on Thursday, February 19, 2004 - 02:07 am:   

As long as they go out with a laugh! I'd rather that than getting beaten to crap by a bloody great troll anyday.

And they better not screech while they're tickling...
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richard
Posted on Thursday, February 19, 2004 - 04:56 am:   

Yeah, I guess I could handle the luring okay...
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Tribeless
Posted on Sunday, March 07, 2004 - 03:19 pm:   

Popped back in to say I've just finished 'Altered Carbon'. I enjoyed it very much.

The re-sleeving concept has lots of nice philosophical issues attaching to it ... will this be developed in future novels"?

It's slightly similar to the motif Greg Egan used in his novel, 'Permutation City'. There, as in your story, I never quite grasped the ease with which characters could 'give up' their lives because they had a copy. Whether you're your 'first' self, or a subsequent copy, it still strikes me your particular death (subjective) is still final ...

Loved the Catholic angle :-)

Am I right that this novel, and 'Broken Angels' are the only two Kovac's novels? Do you have any plans at this stage for another based on this character.

(I'm still planning to get back to that other thread (Left Interventionist) over April).
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James
Posted on Thursday, March 11, 2004 - 11:04 am:   

Rousalka - sounds like the Riselka in Guy Gavriel Kay's Titania. Kind of on the edge of the story, mythological sea people. There's a rhyme about what happens when you see them, (and one of the options is death of course). At the end of the novel, one of the major characters drowns herself and as she is drowning, sees a riselka in the depths below her. They kept that edge of mystery that GGK does so well; the kind of stuff that is missing from most S&S.

Going back to the original thread I remember an argument about killing starting lines. Neuromancer , Crow Road, and Love in the Time of Cholera all got a big thumbs up. The jury, however, was out on whether "It was Bilbo's One-Hundreth and Elventh birthday" - apologies if I've misquoted it, I have a terrible memory for this kind of thing - was any good or not. :-]

And regarding "The sky above the port " from Neuromancer, I do like Ken Mcleod's line in The Sky Road "The screen was the colour of the sky above the port..."

J

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richard
Posted on Friday, March 12, 2004 - 12:46 pm:   

Yes, very wry. Ken's always good for baroque little signature touches like that.

Sounds as if GGK's co-opted the Rousalka legends (tho' my recollection was that the original Rousalka lived in rivers and pools rather than the sea)

Tribeless - sorry about the long gap -I've been rushing around a bit. Yeah, there is a third Kovacs novel coming - this one set on Harlan's World and drawing together some of the aspects of his past life hinted at in the first two books. I put this one on hold while I was writing Market Forces (man, you're *really* going to love the ethics in MF :-) ), because it needed time to marinate - but we're getting there now, slowly...
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Tribeless
Posted on Saturday, March 13, 2004 - 06:09 pm:   

Don't ever worry about time frames ... we're all busy.

Looking forward to third Kovacs novel, especially as set on Harlan's World.

You've also got me intrigued about Market Forces ...
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Monday, August 07, 2006 - 03:30 am:   

Remember this thread?

Best first lines -- how could I have forgotten this one:

'No one would have believed that in the last years of the nineteenth century, human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No one would have even considered the possibility that we were being scrutinised, as a scientist with a microscope studies small animals that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded the earth with envious eyes; and slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us.'

Wells still sends a shiver down my spine.

Hello Richard. I'm back. I just finished Castle3. Hope you're doing well.
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richard morgan
Posted on Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - 07:22 am:   

Hey Steph - looooonnnngg time. Must get on to Simon for my Swainston 3 ARP right away.

I'm as well as can be expected. Black Man is on its way to completion, the imagining is all done and now I've just got to ride the whole thing down the other side without falling off. It's like trying to get a well-stuffed suitcase to close. Or - I feel like a snake I once saw in a photo that's just managed to swallow an egg and is desperately struggling to get its mouth closed again. (hmm - maybe I should have save these for the Unlikely Metaphor thread)

Good opening to an otherwise fairly meritless Norman Mailer novel (Tough Guys Don't Dance) -

"At dawn, if it was low tide on the flats, I would awaken to the chatter of gulls. On a bad morning I used to feel as if I had died and the birds were feeding on my heart."

- I've had that hangover!

Oh yeah, and Pete Dexter's Train kicks off with this:

"At this point in the story Packard had never fallen in love and didn't trust what he'd heard of the lingo (forever, my darling, with all my heart, 'til the end of time, more than life itself, with every fibre of my being, oh my darling Clementine etc.) It sounded out of control to him, and messy."

heheheh....

Can we have the first line of Castle 3......?
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 01:37 am:   

'I wake, and lie motionless on my camp bed in the dark tent, listening.'


You can always count on me for a rousing beginning. And end.

Here are two more favorites:

'I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me.'
-- Tristram Shandy

'Call me Ishmael.'
-- Moby Dick


'It's like trying to get a well-stuffed suitcase to close.', you said. Ah, I know the feeling: I've been folding stories into Castle3. To me the Castle world is like a jigsaw that stretches in all directions, and one or two pieces are left to complete it, which I am dying to click in place so I can show you the entire picture.

That doesn't mean I'm trying to fill every gap. These jigsaw pieces are entire stories or descriptive passages. The off-cuts and mishapes left from cutting the pastry are remoulded and come out in a different form, and when they're too small to reuse, even for poetry, they go in the bin.

I've beaten you at the mixed metaphors, but you'll know what I mean.
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richard morgan
Posted on Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 05:34 am:   

That's beautiful, Steph......I can almost hear a night wind blowing through the words - something to do with the repeated ss, maybe the meter, maybe just the way you've conveyed the quiet. Whatever. It's got a real texture to it.

Know what you mean about the off-cuts - I've started keeping a separate file alonside the chapter files, called it ">book title< stuff", and anything I cut out gets dumped in there for later use or just archived for who knows when. I keep meaning to carry around a notebook a la traditional novelist, but I'm crap at remembering to take it with me when I go out.

Been re-reading James Ellroy recently - American Tabloid kicks off with what amounts to a mission statement:

"America was never innocent."

and for stark horror, there's always the beginning of My Dark Places:

"Some kids found her."
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 10:31 am:   

'I've started keeping a separate file alonside the chapter files'

Uncanny. That's exactly what I do. Although for Castle3 the offcuts files are nearly the same length as the real chapters.

'I can almost hear a night wind blowing through the words.'

Thanks. It's Matthew Arnold in 'Dover Beach' who did that the best:

'down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.'

I'd say that after 'Wasteland' that is the poem most borrowed from by weird fiction writers. Wish it wasn't a religious poem. And I think people grow out of T.S.Eliot after their teenage years.

Anyway. The first lines of 'Catcher in the Rye':

'If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.'

That corresponds well to the beginning of your biog on your website!

I've just finished reading 'Crime and Punishment'. It has a good _last_ line: '...This might form the subject of a new story, but our present tale is ended.'

I do carry a notebook, the thing is, you have to remember to consult it again when at home. Not always obvious when there are several versions. I'm very much a pen & paper writer.
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richard morgan
Posted on Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 01:07 pm:   

I really must try to read C&P - I've tried three times so far and failed each time, but it may be a maturity thing - first time I was in my teens, second time at university, third time about ten years ago. I'm dying to see if it can fairly be called a (pre) noir novel or not.

"I think people grow out of T.S.Eliot after their teenage years." Hmm - I can think of one notable SF/F writer who certainly didn't.......ahem. Come to that, one of my two closest friends used part of Prufrock as the quote/salutation for his doctoral thesis on fluid dynamics. I still keep a copy of Eliot's selected poems (ff) around, just to remind myself what you can do with language - though I have copies of Wendy Cope leaning next to it, just to keep things in perspective.

LAST lines....okay, there's a whole other thread, isn't there......
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 01:56 pm:   

'I can think of one notable SF/F writer who certainly didn't.'

Ian Banks?
I used to love Eliot; I know much of his stuff by heart. His early, not so religious poems at least. I'm turning against my own teenage hero: he annoys me now, the poems _sound_ good, and the images are great, but I find it arrogant and pompous. He could have done more research instead of making things up - the tarot cards in The Wasteland, why invent them when the real tarot deck has its own useful symbolism that he could have learnt and incorporated?

The quote at the front of The Wasteland seems taken out of context (It's from the Satyricon but did Eliot know it was spoken by a pretentious fool? Seems apt to me!)

Huh? Prufrock and fluid dynamics? Is that the mermaid bit, or what? Probably best not to answer. Altogether I'm glad he's best remembered by people jumping around on a stage dressed as cats.

You should read C&P. It's incredible! I couldn't put it down! Yes, in my opinion it's the best of thrillers - will Raskolnikov be discovered holding the axe? Can he outwit the law? Will he eat anything other than cabbage soup?
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richard morgan
Posted on Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 02:02 pm:   

Yes, you're substantially right about Eliot - and it would help if he weren't so virulently anti-semitic too.

No, the fluid dynamics was the old men in shirt-sleeves with pipes. Wait a minute....

Here we are:

"Shall I say I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves leaning out of windows?"

Something to do with vortices.....
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richard morgan
Posted on Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 02:07 pm:   

also something to do with the lonely bloke atmosphere of post grad research at Imperial College London, I think...

No, it's not Banks (though him too for all I know) - M John Harrison: Eliot is all over the Centauri Device and Storm of Wings (not without some decent effect, it must be said)

NB - I'm going to fire up a Last Lines thread immediately

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