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jeff
Posted on Thursday, February 06, 2003 - 07:12 pm:   

Liz: Hi. Picked up a copy of your Poison Master the other day. I'm just a little way in as of now, but I'm very much enjoying the cool brew of history, metaphysics and flowing prose. Dee is a figure I've been interested in since reading Francis Yates work about memory palaces, but I only really knew a little about him. Hope the writing is going well.

Best Wishes,

Jeff Ford
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liz williams
Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2003 - 09:34 am:   

Thanks, Jeff!

Yates' work is fascinating ( a lot of it turns up in Mary Gentle's work). I've had an interest in Dee for a long time and wanted to use him without going into great depth (I'm not _that_ interested in him!). Poison Master makes fairly superficial use of cabbalism, since this wasn't my main intent in the book (I wanted background rather than analysis). However, I gather there is another novel out at the moment which focuses strictly on Dee and Kelley - it was reviewed very favourably in Locus but I can't remember the author's name.

Liz
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Des
Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2003 - 09:49 am:   

Any thoughts on Peter Ackroyd's treatment of Dee (if I'm thinking of the same Dee (the Elizabethan Dr John Dee)!)
Actually, any thoughts On Ackroyd's fiction and semi-fiction. Long been an inspiration of mine. Particularly: London (a Biography). Plus some of the greatest 'literary horror' (did someone talk about 'literary fantasy' on another thread here?) such as 'Dan Lemo and the Limehouse Golem'.
Des
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MikeSimanoff
Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2003 - 10:55 am:   

Liz, I believe it's the Alchemist's Door by Lisa Goldstein. Heard some pretty good things about it all around but haven't read it.
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Jay Caselberg
Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2003 - 03:50 pm:   

Yep, I have a copy of it in front of me. Published by Tor. 2002. ISBN 0-765-30150-4

Just about to start it.
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Liz Williams
Posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 09:28 am:   

Des, I read Ackroyd's novel but did not take to his characterisation of Dee - I'd just read Dee's bio and thought A's treatment was off base. No doubt I am being way too literal, but I thought he would have done better not to select an actual historical figure. Pity, because I love Ackroyd's stuff and have the London bio staring at me from the shelf.

Liz
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Colin Brush
Posted on Thursday, March 27, 2003 - 02:53 am:   

I’d be interested in hearing other people’s thoughts on Ackroyd. For me, he is one of the most interesting writers putting pen to paper in Britain today. I am particularly interested by the direct imaginative way that he approaches his subject matter. It seems to me that he isn’t interested in his subjects as objects of study, but rather as the kernel or the complete embodiment of an idea from which his imagination can leap from. That is not to say he’s not rigorous – anyone that’s read his Dickens tome will appreciate that!

Whether it is fiction or biographies (do you mean his biographies or his biographical novels, Des, by your ‘semi-fictions’ – or both?), he teases out an idea, usually of a visionary aspect and pours his own ideas of resonance (or English music as he calls it), time’s circularity, how landscape (human or physical) affects us, the persistence of the past, into the alchemical melting pot.

Ackroyd’s vision of Englishness is both general (i.e. some of it will be readily accepted by many English people) and particular (what some people see as his belief that the reformation buried the true spirit of Englishness (which found its expression through Catholicism) beneath austere Protestantism). I like to think if it in less overtly religious terms, which I think is the way it finds its expression in Ackroyd’s work, as more of a pagan tradition – i.e. the way the environment finds its own expression through the people; and in particular through English visionaries.

His Albion book, which I finished recently, gives a full expression of his views on the English imagination. And that is the key to his work, I feel: that in our capacity as human beings, the only way to truly interact with the world around us is to imaginatively engage with it.

I see him as a very modern alchemist – but of the better sort, i.e. not following the dogma of the past, even the stated facts at face value, to come up with lead. But instead taking ideas, notes, words, even people, and remaking them in the crucible of his own mind and producing something new and fascinating: imaginative gold.

Liz: just bought on Amazon.com your novel The Poison Master (it’s coming along with Jeff’s Veniss Underground) as I’ve been reading (and writing) about alchemists of late. Intrigued that you used the idea of alchemists separating themselves from the rational world, something central to my own stuff. Have you read Alan Moore’s Promethea? He’s using alchemy to explore the workings of the imagination, creating a place called the Immateria, which is like a kind of ancestral and cultural sink for the human mind – which we can all tap and draw our thoughts from as well as contribute to. Reminds me of Rupert Sheldrake’s ideas of morphic resonance.

Hmm, I’m rambling. Think I’ll shut up now.

Col
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liz williams
Posted on Thursday, March 27, 2003 - 03:10 am:   

Colin, please ramble away. I think you're right - Ackroyd is definitely a transformative kind of writer. In his fiction, he's always struck me as extremely mutable: there's a fluidity to the way he approaches historical record which strikes a chord with me (but not with the book on Dee - perhaps I'm a bit close to the subject matter or simply disagree with the nature of the transmutation in question).

My background, academically, is in history and philosophy of science, so I'm always intrigued by these nexus points (or paradigm shifts, if one follows Kuhn) at which different ontologies begin to diverge. With PM, I had Newton more in mind than Dee, and as I say, Dee was the springboard for the story rather than being its focus. I would love to do something on Newton one day: torn between world views, crazy as all get-out.

I admire Alan Moore but have not read Promethea - must look out for this. The Immateria sounds a bit like the place known to 19th century occultists as the Akashic Records: it's exactly the same idea (check out the writings of people from the Golden Dawn for more info). I ripped off Sheldrake shamelessly for a lot of the plot devices in Ghost Sister.

Anyway, back to work, ahem.
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Nancy Jane Moore
Posted on Wednesday, April 09, 2003 - 05:36 pm:   

Liz Hand gave Poison Master a nice review in the June F&SF. Here's her last sentence: "The Poison Master is a kaleidoscope in which our own world is transformed into a place of strange irradiated beauty." That oughta make a few readers pick it up.
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Liz Williams
Posted on Friday, April 11, 2003 - 12:19 pm:   

Thanks, Nancy!

I've also just been sent the following, from SFCrowsnest:

****************************

...Williams' book is of a rare breed and should not be passed over lightly. It enters your system like cocaine sniffed from the
thighs of a virgin and leaves you coping with far fewer debilitating social
consequences....

************************

I think that's the nicest thing anyone's ever said about my work.

Although the reviewer does go on to say:

*************************

Ghairen often runs the risk of appearing as a little too gallant
and attractive, as if his murderous tendencies are just a minor foible of
his, like smoking cigars or not donating to charity. Maintaining a social
calendar that leaves room for only the briefest of friendships (say for
instance the time it would take to say, 'Whoops! Sorry I seem to have placed
a remarkably large hole in your chest') would not seem to me to be a
contender for the number one slot in the 101 of things women find sexy.

**************************

Now there, he's just plain wrong. Or there might be something the matter with me. History will determine which.

The full review is here: http://www.sfcrowsnest.com
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Nancy Jane Moore
Posted on Friday, April 11, 2003 - 01:52 pm:   

Well, actually, he makes your character sound appealing. Which may mean there's something wrong with me. Or, at least, that I'm your target reader.
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Liz Williams
Posted on Friday, April 11, 2003 - 03:42 pm:   

We are becoming the Dark Sisterhood, Nancy...Bwahahaha!

News to no one, probably.
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KJ Bishop
Posted on Tuesday, October 21, 2003 - 05:52 pm:   

Hi Liz,

I've finished reading Poison master (a few weeks ago, actually, but I've been slack with my correspondence). I enjoyed it very much - and, I must say, liked Ghairen quite a bit. I even liked Genever Thant. Actually, I really liked Genever Thant. I thought he was quite fascinating.
We may like nice men in real life; but in books, bring on all the rakes and demon lovers, I say. (Basic attractiveness and gallantry non-negotiable.)

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Liz
Posted on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 10:59 am:   

Many thanks, KJ. I'm glad you liked it!

Genever was going to play a bigger role in the book but for various reasons I decided against it. I have a very soft spot for Ghairen.

Thant may appear in something future. I don't know yet. I can't see that marriage lasting, somehow...

The dodgier the better, in literature at least. Oh yes.
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Neal Asher
Posted on Friday, April 30, 2004 - 04:53 am:   

I've got my copy of Poison Master now! Beautiful looking book. I'll read it next (currently wading through Byron's biog)
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Rajan Khanna
Posted on Thursday, May 13, 2004 - 10:00 am:   

I just finished Poison Master a week or so ago and I really loved it. One of the best things I've read in recent months.

I was wondering if you had any other stories written in the same universe. I can't recall the name of your upcoming short story collection, but it seemed to have connections. Is that the case?

In any event, thanks for a great book.
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Liz
Posted on Thursday, May 13, 2004 - 11:26 am:   

Rajan, many thanks! I'm delighted that you liked the book.

The Nightshade books' collection is entitled THE BANQUET OF THE LORDS OF NIGHT, which was the original title of the ASIMOV'S story that led to this novel. There are no further short stories in this world, but I wouldn't rule out a further visit to it...
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Rajan
Posted on Saturday, May 15, 2004 - 08:33 pm:   

Thanks for the information. I'll have to check that one out. Also, I just read your interview in Locus and I'm adding Empire of Bones to my list of Books to Read.
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Liz
Posted on Monday, May 17, 2004 - 04:02 am:   

Hope you enjoy it!
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Neal Asher
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 05:02 am:   

'Ghairen often runs the risk of appearing as a little too gallant and attractive, as if his murderous tendencies are just a minor foible...' I guess the same could be said of Severian in Gene Wolfe's books.
Much enjoyed The Poison Master. Drugs personified - I wonder if Nicotine is that greasy Dickensian character in a top hat, or those mobile fags the woman karate kicks in recent adverts?
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Mastadge
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 09:44 am:   

If you're interested, Matt Cheney just talked about Poison Master on his blog:

http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com
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Liz
Posted on Sunday, June 06, 2004 - 03:07 pm:   

>as if his murderous tendencies are just a minor foible...

According to him, they are! I think I was influenced by someone's description of Dracula: "A charming, cultured gentleman, but he has a little problem..."

Cool about the review. Thanks, Mastadge!

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