Frankenstein: Cause for Complaints

I’m revisiting this review in time for Bristol Book Club’s Meetup next week. Over two years ago 49p in one of those discount bookshops outside Bideford got me a copy of Mary Shelley’s classic and, to some folk, the first science fiction novel. I could have bought David Copperfield for the same price but felt that Frankenstein would be less challenging for a post-holiday read.

How wrong can you be? I can cope with the wordiness and convoluted sentences of that era, so I didn’t struggle at first. But Victor Frankenstein, he goes on and on about how miserable he is and what tedious company he must be for his friends and family; and when he’s done going on about it, he goes on some more. Well, yeah, you’re tedious to the reader too, buddy. Just get over yourself.

Pages and pages of it. One long, persistent complaint. Don’t we all know people like that? And don’t we all wish we could make our excuses and leave at the earliest opportunity? “Me, me, me, me, me.” They dominate the conversation; they dominate your life. Jesus, I don’t want to read about it as well.

And then that gives them another complaint: “you don’t care about me.” Oh, my God. The fact is: they’re gonna complain about something.

I dropped the book at the point where Frankenstein was about to create Mrs Monster. I was sure that’d turn out badly too.

BristolCon ’11

But first a reminder that this website has a calendar, where events like this are posted, if I know about them. If you know about any, I can set you up to post as well.

So, yesterday a couple of hundred science fiction and fantasy types descended on the Bristol Ramada for a day of panels, signings, art, readings, interviews, up close and personal groups and… books, of course. Way too much to cover here but the programme should still be online. I particularly wanted to catch Alastair Reynolds, Eugene Byrne and Gareth L. Powell‘s launch of The Recollection, which I’ve come away with.

In fact I’ve come away with tons and my book pile now contravenes all Health and Safety regulations (not helped with Middlemarch teetering on the top but that’ll go back tomorrow). Among them is a copy of B. John Shaw Liddle’s Suncaller if anyone fancies reviewing it for the website. I also chatted to Wayne Simmons, author of Flu. Hmm, I’ll probably have to check that against my Let the Time Come. He has more zombies in his though.

Emma Newman was there too and she’s launching an intriguing looking website at Split Worlds. It appears to be for local people but see what you make of it. Big, big hat tip to Jo Hall and team for putting the show together.

I had to leave before the end because of a small matter of the Championship leaders (Southampton in case you didn’t know) playing at Reading. It was hard to find a pub not showing the Liverpool game but BSB at Harbourside obliged and I supped £3.60 pints while, frankly, the second best team nicked a point with only ten men on the field. That’s what champions do.

Champion footballers and champion writers. I’ve pencilled in BristolCon ’12 already.

Bristol Literature Festival

This is in full swing and yesterday the Writers Group did their thang at the M Shed. Stories of the Sea competed with the ambience of a Saturday tourist attraction and didn’t always win but we took another step forward. Lunch at the Watershed, after, recharged batteries and cemented the team spirit.

Coming up, Mr Mike and Helen Hart will discuss self-publishing on Wednesday – a topic dear to yours truly. If it was good enough for Milton, Jane Austen and Mark Twain, it’s good enough for mere mortals.

On Tuesday the Bristol Short Story Prize will launch with Tania Hershman, also at Foyles, which is fast becoming the literary hub of Bristol. Then next weekend, and not part of the Festival but a happy coincidence, the Ramada hosts BristolCon for the SFnal among us. It’s an exciting few days.

Online Membership

The real, live physical group is actually full at the moment but feel free to subscribe to the website (left). This will put you on the mailing list and you will receive whatever gets posted here.

Your friendly Webmaster will then promote you to a contributor. This means that you will be able to post to the website and we intend these posts to be pieces of writing that you want critiqued. Then visitors will be able to leave their comments on the pieces. The concept here is a sort of second-tier membership of the group while it is full. (Note that you don’t even have to be in Bristol to take advantage of this!)

The Shortest Story

What’s the shortest length a story could be? Could it be three words to give the beginning, middle and end? Or acts one to three? Something like: no-one, birth, death. Or: nothing, bang, universe. That’s two examples opening with the empty state but I’m sure it’s not the only start point. Any takers? (One person had a go on my old blog.)

Don’t Freak Out

I’ve changed the look and feel of this website again to bring the software into line with the other outposts of my burgeoning empire. One day I’ll achieve total domination – heh-heh-heh! Indeed, mwah-ha-ha!

Sorry, I’ve just taken the tablets and will be OK in a minute.

Things should operate pretty much as before but if you notice any ugliness, you’re looking in the mirrorI mean, let me know. I’ll be bedding in and ironing out in any case over the next few days. In fact this change should fix some old bugs and add some must-have features (check out the whizzy Posts icon top-right for an easy RSS feed). And if any arty type would like to contribute a banner, or banners, to replace the one up above, that would be fab.

The Wednesday Group

A reiteration of the About BWG page for the only group at the mo, here are the intention and general rules. Any of this can be changed through discussion in a group meeting, and is given here just for clarification.

Purpose
  • The main purpose of the group is to critique writing submissions each week.
  • Each meeting critiques two members’ writing, one submission apiece. These are sent by email or through the website by the Sunday before the meeting.
Rota
  • Each member is slotted into a rota.
  • One of the members in the slot hosts the group meeting at their own home (and provides some basic refreshments).
  • Group size consists of about 9 regular members. This means that each member can expect to submit a piece of work every 4 or 5 weeks; however, some members will be naturally more active and, where opportunity and agreement arises, they will submit pieces more often.
Submissions
  • The main focus of the group is towards general fiction, and each submission for critique consists of between 1000 and 2500 words.
  • There are no specific rules regarding the type/style/content of submissions, however it is possible that the skills of group members may not be sufficient to provide appropriate critique on anything that is not ‘general fiction’ (e.g. life writing, travel writing, poetry, erotica, journals, etc.). If you are unsure, please ask the group in advance if anyone is able to provide relevant feedback.
  • When submitting your work, it should be 1.5 or double-spaced to allow comments to be written on them. Submissions should be in Microsoft Word or Rich Text Format and sent as an email attachment.
  • When submitting your work, it is recommended that you specify the type of critique that would be most helpful for you (e.g. grammar, story arc, characterisation, all of the above, etc.)
  • When a member’s rota slot is due, they are asked to submit a piece of their own writing for critique NO LATER than the Sunday prior to their slot.
  • If a member does not have a piece of work to submit when their rota slot arrives, they can: 1) arrange another activity instead, 2) still host the group but with another member’s submission, 3) agree to swap their slot with another member, 4) talk to the group to work out a viable alternative.
Confidentiality
  • All communications and submissions of work amongst group members are to be treated as strictly confidential.
  • Individual writers/authors retain full copyright and intellectual property rights for all original work submitted for critique. No parts of these works are to be copied, distributed to third parties, or used by existing or former group members for any reason whatsoever without express written consent from the author.
  • Members of this group, through their participation and submission of work, expressly agree for all other members to print one or more copies of any submitted work for the purpose of allowing that work to be critiqued.