Funny on purpose by accident

There’s a film called Planet Terror (well half a film really because it’s one half of Grindhouse). In it there’s a character called Cherry Darling played by Rose McGowan. She’s a go-go dancer who wants to be a stand up comedian, not because she thinks she’s funny but because guys find her hilarious when she’s being serious.

I’m funny deliberately, or at least I try to be, but sometimes I feel like her (only fat and old and with two crap legs instead of one good one and one machine gun prosthesis).

I try really hard to be funny but I know that there’s a lot of people in the world who are far better at it than I am. Both my younger brothers are funnier than me. I have a few friends whose Facebook posts are properly, laugh until you can’t breathe, funny. I know people who’ve done stand up. But still I try.

I try so hard to be funny because for me humour is a lifeline. A lot of the time I’m laughing to keep from crying. When I write about my life I try to make it funny because otherwise it would be unbearable. If I just whinged about how much my life sucked no-one would read it and writing it down would make me feel worse instead of better.

When I’m writing fiction I try to be funny because the writers whose work I most love – Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Warren Ellis – are all funny, though in very different ways. I want to be funny because that’s the writing that gives me the most joy to read.

But the thing about writing humour is that you can’t tell if it’s actually funny till other people read it. You can’t even tell if people can tell it’s meant to be funny till other people read it. Sometimes you can’t even tell then. It’s not telling a joke to an audience that will either laugh or not laugh. You write something and send it off out into the world and even if people like it you can’t tell if they find it funny unless they take the time to tell you and you can’t tell which bits they found funny.

Sometimes I’m writing humourously about stuff that is not funny. In my fiction, because most of what I write is some species of thriller, I find that I’m often writing about the worst day of someone’s life. Terrible things are happening and I’m writing gallows humour because that’s how I deal with terrible things but is it really funny? When I’m blogging about what it’s like to be in pain all the fucking time that is not funny but I’m kind of trying to make it funny so people will keep reading.

I’ve spent so long trying to be funny that sometimes the funny just kind of happens. Sometimes I’m not sure if I meant it or not. Sometimes it’s just how I talk, or how I write, or how I am. So is funny something I do or something I am? Or neither? When people laugh are they laughing at me or with me? Does it matter?

I shall stop now. I’ve tied myself up in enough knots.

Still not feeling it

Sadly I am still not feeling like writing anything constructive or useful. I had planned another commentary on a film or another post full of advice for young writers but I’m on strike.

I am on strike because the world continues to be unfairly messed up.

In the United States politics continues to be a shit show. The ongoing argument about the extent to which the Trump administration is corrupt, incompetent, or in the pocket of Moscow may distract people from the attempts to ninja a terrible new healthcare act through the Senate.

In the UK our Prime Minister risks restarting armed conflict in Northern Ireland in order to hold on to power. She’s trying to do a deal with the DUP – a party with longstanding links to loyalist terror groups; a bunch of climate change denying, creationist, homophobes who hate Catholics.  There are just a few massive problems with this.

  1. It risks breaching the Good Friday Agreement.
  2. It’s pissed of Sinn Fein so much that there are rumours the might take up their seats in the Westminster Parliament.
  3. The DUP will resist the hard Brexit demanded by much of the Conservative base because they don’t want to reinstate the border with the Republic of Ireland.
  4. So will Sinn Fein if they do take up their seats.
  5. The only genuinely popular Conservative politician in the UK, and leader of the Scottish Conservatives, is a Lesbian who’s engaged to an Irish Catholic woman.

The British media has spent most of the last five days telling us that a second Scottish independence referendum is dead because the SNP only won a clear majority of the votes, not the overwhelming landslide they won last time. Both the Scottish Conservatives and the Scottish Labour Party are claiming a victory. Even though both of them put together have just over half the seats of the SNP.

Every day the news is full of stuff that makes no sense. I have had enough.

 

I don’t have anything to say.

I should have something to say. I normally put something on the blog on a Monday. I’ve usually written in over the weekend. Normally writing something isn’t a problem. I planned to say some more stuff about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 but I’m really not feeling like it.

I’m worried. The election solved nothing. Brexit still lies ahead and there’s no plan to deal with it. Politics, both globally and in the UK, is still all messed up. I’m still broke. I still don’t know what to do with my novels.

I just want some sort of hint about where to go and what to do. A great big quest marker in the sky. Even it it’s only so I can decide to head in the exact opposite direction because screw quests.

I don’t have anything to say. I don’t know what to do. I’m worried about the future. So instead of doing anything constructive I’m going to blow up some (virtual) tanks.

Genre Woes

Today’s displacement activity is obsessing about genre. Again.

I should be writing or querying. Instead I’m obsessing about which genre I should be describing my completed novel as.

I know that the books that it most closely resembles are usually described as urban fantasy or contemporary urban fantasy. Except for when they’re magical realism but there’s at least two contradictory definitions for that. The urban fantasy thing isn’t quite right because the magic in my books is too subtle and I also have some weird science. There’s some alternative history but it’s not alternative history because it’s set in the present. There’s some advanced technology but not enough to make it science fiction. It’s quite dark but I don’t think it’s dark enough to call it horror.

The opening paragraph of a query letter should tell the agent you’re querying what genre the work is. How do I describe my weird, dark, slightly magical, detective thriller so that the right agent will actually read it?

None of which solves the problem of finding the right agent in the first place. They say that if you think an agent is right for your novel you should query them regardless of their stated genre preferences. Ok. I could do that. How would I find that out? I only have so many hours in the day. I’m not stalking every agent in the English speaking world until one of them expresses a fondness for ghosts and detectives and demons and magic and artificial intelligence all in the same book.

So, obviously, I should employ the scattergun approach and just query every agent in the English speaking world because I’ll eventually find the right agent that way. Right? Except you’re supposed to tailor the query to the agent. And tell the agent what genre you’re querying.

Why can’t I just be a sensible writer and write in a sensible genre?

Pointless filler post.

This post is just to let you all know what kinds of things to expect in the coming weeks. Unfortunate I am currently deep in negative spoons so this might be gibberish. Good luck making sense of it.

I’m going to start a series of posts offering advice to young creatives. The posts are mainly aimed at aspiring writers but I will try to make them useful to people pursuing other arts.

There are more Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 posts coming. Sorry but I am not nearly done with talking about that film. It’s just too good. How dare it be so good.

I also intend to write some stuff about Doctor Who. Because I love Doctor Who, that’s why. It’s my blog and I will blog what I want to. Even exceptionally geeky head canons about peculiarly British scifi.

I will almost certainly continue to whine about how hard it is to get published. Eventually I might try to crowd fund self publishing since I can’t afford to professionally self publish properly.

Also if the Conservative party wins the forthcoming General Election in the UK then you can expect more salt that the dead sea from me. There will be language so foul that if you read my blog while drinking milk it will instantly turn sour.

I also have an idea for some stuff I want to write on modern witchcraft. Not airy fairy new agey kind of witchcraft and not the ‘I don’t actually know the difference between witchcraft and satanism’ stuff either.

I may even get my finger out and finally write some steampunk psychiatry stuff.

Anyway. If any of that seems interesting or intriguing to you then leave a comment. Preferably on the actual blog rather than via twitter or Facebook or Tumblr. If you comment on the blog then other people who read the blog will see it. If you comment via social media the only person guaranteed to see it is me. Which is great for me but less likely to start a conversation.

A writer is always writing

The thing about writing is that there is no down time. Regardless of what they’re doing with their hands or their brain or where they currently are a writer’s imagination is always at work. Once you get into that mindset there’s no getting out of it.

I took my son in to see Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2 this weekend. I’m not going to talk about the film yet. All I’ll say now is that if you even slightly enjoy action movies, family movies, superhero movies, or soft sci-fi you should go and see it at the next opportunity. Also stand by for spoiler heavy posts about it in the coming weeks. If you’re a writer you should definitely go and see it even if you don’t usually like the kind of thing that it is. I will be talking about why in future posts once more of you have had the chance to see it.

After we saw the film we went for coffee. Well, I had coffee, my husband and son had some milkshake type thing from Costa. We got to discussing the details of the film and what we liked about it and what were its narrative components and my son did something that made me very proud and also reminded me that a writer is always writing even when they think they’re parenting.

My son, who is only 12 years old, broke out the word hubris. I wasn’t even talking about the classical flaws but he correctly identified a fantastic example of that one while I was still talking about how people sometimes behave like dicks because they’re afraid of losing themselves. I can’t wait to see the kind of critical essays he writes for his English classes.

Growing up.

This weekend I spent some time around people I haven’t seen in years. I’ve known many of them since they were teenagers and it made me think about growing up and how it’s done.

When you’re a kid you look up at adults and you assume that they actually know what they’re doing. You assume that they have everything easy and they can do what they want and that they’re free. Growing up is slowly realising that you were mostly wrong. Adults are mostly making it up as they go along. Adults are weighed down with responsibilities and commitments. Adults do have the freedom to choose to do what they want but they mostly have enough sense not to use it to do all the stuff they wanted to when they were kids.

Spending time with people that I’ve known for so long, seeing the ways in which they’ve changed, and the ways in which they haven’t, set me to thinking about how some people grow up and how some people don’t. I’m probably going to come back to this subject again but I think I’ve come up with a way to define the process of becoming an adult.

Growing up is an ongoing process of learning the correct amount of fucks to give and then putting that knowledge into action.*

The correct amount of fucks is almost never zero. People who give zero fucks can be intoxicating to be around. For a while. They start out entertaining and exhilarating, like a fairground ride, but there’s a reason that fairground rides are short. Exhilaration soon turns to exhaustion. People who give too few fucks are prone to dickish behaviour. They leave things undone. They’re careless with the feelings of others.

People who give too many fucks make themselves miserable. That misery inevitably spreads to everyone around them. They often fall victim to procrastination and indecision because they care too and everything seems too risky. They’re too raw, too easily hurt, too fragile.

It’s hard to put your finger on the correct amount of fucks. That’s why growing up is a lifelong process. It’s learning to care what your loved ones think of you but not to tie your sense of self worth to it. It’s understanding the difference between a valid criticism and a personal attack. It’s knowing how to cut toxic people out of your life but still being able to reach out to help a friend who is in a bad place or going through a bad time. It’s giving of yourself when people you care about need you but still being able to hold onto what you need for yourself. Most of all it’s about forgiving yourself when you inevitably fuck all of the above up.

I can’t tell you how to do any of this. I’m still working on it myself. But maybe I’ve helped define the problem a tiny bit.

 

*I’m defining ‘fucks’ here as both caring about stuff and being patient with people about that stuff.