I appear to be thirty-two years old. How the hell did that happen?
My birthday this year fell on Thursday, and was most pleasant. Despite this being the first birthday of my thirties which I’ve actually spent in the UK, therefore potentially something of an anti-climax, it was pleasant enough. Wine was flowing, Kirsty whipped up the most amazing rack of lamb to feast on, and I even had a Spongebob Squarepants birthday cake to follow. It was a quiet affair – I spent most of the day writing – but a good way to ease into another year. Of course, a traditional gloom of reflection fell over me at points, which I’m finding to be the way of things as my twenties fall further behind me. It’s much easier to look at your failures than your successes, but isn’t that always the way? When you achieve something, it’s done, and it slips into the ordinary structure of your life after some initial delight. When you fail to achieve something, it stands out.
All of that was offset considerably by my looking forward to a very exciting year, which is off to an excellent start – more on that below.
And, if you must know, the presentation of a Spongebob Squarepants cake was only slightly tongue-in-cheek. I love the Sponge, and delighted in feasting on his spongy carcass.
Because Kirsty and I had a rare day free together, we also caught a movie – Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. I’m not one of those who mixes up a person’s politics with their art (I would be denying myself too many pleasures, were that the case), and am a bit staggered by the way the film’s been reviewed in various places. I thought it was superb, although it is being misrepresented on two fronts. The first comes from Gibson, the producers, and the publicity machine, all of whom give the impression that this is a movie about the end of Mayan culture. It isn’t. While it’s set during a period in which ancient Mayan culture was in decline, and the environment gives several suggestions about why the culture may have died out, the story itself has no such epic intentions. Rather, it’s a pretty simple story about a simple man who is captured for sacrifice, escapes, and has to race home to save his wife and kids from death. Simple. A chase movie, with an entirely refreshing, non-westernised cultural setting. On that front, it’s bloody brilliant. While there are several ideas we have seen before, they’re handled so well that you don’t mind.
Whatever you think of Gibson, he’s an extremely talented director, and the film is beautiful to behold (whether in the jungle, or atop a Mayan temple). The pace is blistering, the characters convincing (including the nominal villains), and the story told with a fine eye for detail. Yes, it’s bloody, but no more so than Braveheart was, and there was nothing I found to be gratuitous (i.e., everything flowed from the story, rather than existing just to shock). Yes, there are historical inaccuracies all over the place, but no more so than Braveheart.
And no, there’s bugger all anti-semitic about it, sub textually or otherwise, except in the way that people who really want there to be will probably find clever sounding ways to manage to do so (if anything, the closing notion that the coming of Christianity spells doom for the people Gibson’s just spent two and a half hours and enormous effort making you feel for completely contradicts many of the gibbering arguments that this is somehow a Catholic propaganda film. This, of course, is the second major misrepresentation of the movie.
I would say it’s well worth seeing, but take an open mind and see what’s there, rather than what other people tell you is going to be there. Discuss that sort of thing when you’ve made your own mind up.
The year is also off to a good start for my fiction. Not only is Choices now available and starting to ship (UK or US), but last night I had an acceptance on a second novelette, that could see print as early as March/April this year. More news on that when contracts are signed and the publisher is ready to announce, but here’s hoping this initial sales momentum continues for a while.
There are also publishers waiting for first look at a three novellas, all of which could make exciting sales for me, and reading for you, if things go well (it’s far too early to be getting excited about those yet, though at the same time it’s really nice to be having these conversations at all, most will have an outcome by the end of the first half of 2007, I suspect). I could do a lot of teasing about those three novellas, but I’d hate to work you up and then have everything fall through, so you’ll just have to wait.
Right now, I’m working on one of those novellas and three short stories, all of which should be done and under submission by the end of January. I also have the first novel of 2007 well underway (which is cheating somewhat, as much of it was written at the end of 2006, but there you go). If you remember my insane wish list of what I want to have complete by the end of the year (four novels, twelve novelettes/novellas, twenty-six short stories), then it’s not a bad start.
Oh – I’m abandoning the wordometer for the year, for two reasons. Firstly, it will make no sense to anybody who missed that post, and I can’t be bothered explaining from scratch every time I show it. Secondly, it’s all based on averages, which isn’t very helpful in assessing where I’m at. What I’ll do instead is close each month with a summary of what is complete, and you can keep an eye on me that way.