Now Showing – The Writing Process Blog Tour.

<Dear Human,
If you are reading this, then it is 12:01 am, June 23rd, 2056 in this timestream and I have failed in my mission to save mankind from the evil Mecha-Dreadnaut Armies of Mars. All is now lost in this reality. I am hastily transmitting this message to you from the future through a proto-gap in the space-time continuum in the desperate hope that you will heed my words and do what is necessary to stop the invasion, alter the course of the timestream and save humanity from the terrible fate of grey ash and death that awaits it when the… >

I’m sorry. I got a bit carried away. It happens. 

Anyway…

A few weeks ago, my e-friend, wordweaver and generally excellent human person Osemhen did her part in sprinting with and eventually passing the electronic word-baton that is the world writing process tour on her blog. I found her run interesting. I admitted as much. She asked if I would take the baton from her. I said yes. So here we are. In her post, Osemhen broke the baton in two and handed the pieces to the excellently mysterious character known to me only as nexia29 and  of course, yours truly. Like Osemhen, I usually don’t like talking about what I’m writing because 1) I’m not a writer. I’m just an engineer that like to write 2) I’m a private person. Those of you (you  brave, special few) that still read this blog will notice that I haven’t posted anything about my own life or even my thoughts on anything in a long time. Even my fiction is mostly on TNC, not here. So why am I doing this? I don’t know. Why are Thursdays? Why is red not blue? Why is Water? Why would a human risk his life to resist the alien invasion? Why would he send a message through a temporal gap to humans in past, desperately trying to stave off the impending extinction of our race? I don’t know. But he probably would – if he was asked, if he could. So here we are. Because I was asked, because I can. (Or maybe just because I need to organize the clutter that is my brain cupboard and this will force me to commit to this). Let the show begin. 

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1. What Am I Working On?

I’m working on several things right now but for this, I will focus on the novella I just completed and am currently editing. Its a science fiction drama about what it means to be human. In many ways, its standard-issue science fiction – there is a group of scientists doing sciency things with some questionable technology at the behest of an egomaniac billionaire in a secret facility. I cant tell you what they are working on because that would spoil the surprise if you ever read it but I can tell you that it doesn’t matter what they are working on. Not really. The story is not about the technology. Its about the scientists, the people and how they react to the new technology. How they interact with it. The things they do to each other. What they learn. What they lose. What it means to the rest of us. Its mostly character drama (I think, I might have mucked it all up in the end) about human nature.

2. How Does My Work Differ From Others In Its Genre?

Well, the primary protagonist is Nigerian. Because of course he is. If I’m being honest, that’s all that makes it different from any other ‘soft’ science fiction novellas you may have come across. But I think that’s enough, as you’ll soon see. Also, the idea of the technology I propose in the novella is based on a pretty unique way of looking at life, even if I do say so myself.

3.  Why do I write what I do?

I like to write science fiction and fantasy. I can write anything (results may vary), I think, if I try hard enough (And I have actually, under several aliases and in several places over the years) but I only really, really enjoy writing(and reading) when its 1) experimental in style or 2) grounded in science fiction and/or fantasy. That is my main reason. There is also another reason though: Very often in science fiction and fantasy, Sub-Saharan Africans are not represented at all. Aliens usually don’t go to Lagos (Its almost always New York isn’t it?). A Ugandan is never the head of a research team about to unlock the secrets of the universe. There is no great Zulu wizard to guide our hobbit on his quest to slay a dragon that speaks with a south-african accent. There are no Ghanaian mutants coming to terms with their new powers. No Zambian army ever helps wage war against the machines that will inevitably enslave us. I personally resent that. I grew up reading science fiction and fantasy. Especially the short stories and novellas. I had dozens of anthologies (I think I had and read every single volume of The Hugo Winners). I love what science fiction in particular does – it gives us a way to explore our world and our existence by asking what if? It doesn’t limit us to look at the world the way it is now but what it could be, what it would be if we did something, knew something, changed something. It is also buckets of fun. I like that. I like what fantasy does too – it gives us a way to explore our fears and the things that haunt us without calling them by their true names. It allows us imagine a world we would like and send characters we love on a quest that mirrors our own life journey through it. Fantasy is not about escaping from reality, fantasy is about dealing with reality in our own ways. I know Africa and Africans wonder about the world too. We always have, we’ve always tried to deal with what we didn’t understand through stories and myths. We have a rich, fantastic heritage of imagination. Africans are affected by technology too. Africans can ask what if too. Africans should be writing science fiction because we can not only imagine solutions that would make our lives better, but also in telling a story, explore exactly how it could affect us and perhaps inspire someone. I like that. There are a few African writers writing excellent science fiction and fantasy today (I love Nnedi Okoroafor – actually, if I had a spirit animal, it would be a wild, 80-ft tall, fire-breathing Nnedi Okoroafor kaiju) and I’d like to be one of them, even if only as a minor player with the occasional story in the major SF magazines and anthologies.

4. How does my writing process work?

Well, I usually start with a story outline. I write a big overview of what exactly is going to happen in this story – start to finish – in about one page. Second, I try to split the story into sections where the main events happen and try to determine how many ‘scenes’ I need to write. Once that is done, I look for any collection of words – It could be lyrics to a song or even a quote – that I feel captures the tone or the spirit of what I want to write and I write it out on my new word document first because there is nothing worse than a blank page staring at you, accusing you of not knowing what the hell you are doing. So by this point, I have my outline, and a few words from somewhere that I like and which capture the essence of the feeling I want to create as a sort of spark. From there, I pick up and I just start writing. I just go and I don’t stop unless something feels horribly wrong or until I’m done. This is usually the first draft. After that come the edits. And the edits. And the edits. And the edits. Did I mention the edits? There is a lot of editing. Even for some of my shortest stories. I rewrite paragraphs if the tone is wrong or if I feel the character wouldn’t say this or talk like that or if something seems inauthentic. Most of the time I can never quite get it to work perfectly. There’s always something missing. Like I said, I’m not a writer. So I keep editing. And editing. And editing. Did I mention the editing? There’s a lot of editing. And even more editing. And I keep editing until I give up or until the deadline comes. Because as Neil Gaiman once tweeted (paraphrasing Leonardo Da Vinci) – “Stories are never finished, only abandoned and published”

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There it is. We are done. Shows over for now. So what next? Well, the darkly delightful Chioma has gracefully agreed to keep the show on tour. Next stop, her blog.  

Who is Chioma you ask? Good question.

Chioma is a budding Pharmacist by day and a ninja by night. She still finds time to be a writer on her gin breaks, when she’s not busy saving Aberdeen from the evil Overlord Z.
She runs a literary blog and is a contributor to other blogs and a notable website. 
She is currently working on a collection of short stories and her first novella and hopes evil Overlord Z does go on a summer vacation so she can finish soon. She blogs at www.phantompages.wordpress.com

Sex, Desire and Loathing in Bram Stoker’s Vampire Drama.

Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ is a literature classic, and is the mold from which the many varying interpretations of the vampire folklore have been cast. I always say though, that no writer can truly write without pouring some of themselves into their work, no matter how small the measure is. Bram Stoker was born right in the middle of the Victorian Era which came with it two major issues in London – rising population due to immigration and the rising popularity of prostitution. Stoker, as manager of the Lyceum theater (Which is where I saw the Lion King. Huzzah!) was exposed to all these things and it is impossible to imagine they did not influence his mind.  Therefore, while most people see Dracula as a simple horror fantasy, I see it as a social commentary about sexuality, immigration and politics. Something which carries on in vampire folklore till today (I could explain how Zombies, Werewolves and Vampires have been used as political statements and propaganda in pop culture for years, and how Edward Cullen from Twilight helped Barack Obama win the 2008 elections, but I doubt you’d be interested in that fancy bit of nonsense). Anyway, today, I present one of my takes on the way Stoker used Dracula to frame his sociological views as a horror fantasy.  

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Dracula seems to be, in many ways, a sexual novel. The biting (penetration), sucking of blood (exchange of fluids) and its effect of extending life (procreation) bear many semblances to the act of sexual intercourse. Also, the manner of killing the vampires involves driving a stake through their hearts, which in itself invokes imagery associated with penetration, and with a phallic symbol, no less. However, it appears to me that Stoker focused on conflict between the “chaste woman” and the “sexualized woman” and how a man should respond.

In the novel, Stoker projects his idea of what ideal sexual behaviors are, presenting Dracula’s brides as evil, sexualized temptresses while extolling the virtues of the reserved women. He also presents Jonathan Harker’s reaction to these sexualized (and thus symbolically promiscuous) women as one of both desire and loathing1. This motif of a man both recoiling from and being attracted to sexually open women is present in most of the novel.

Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra are the women upon whom Stoker initially projects his own ideals of womanhood, with comments like “…there are good women still left to make life happy”2, “So pure, so sweet, so noble, so little an egoist –  and that, let me tell you, is much in this age, so skeptical and selfish”2. Stoker later shows the difference between the two types of women by allowing Lucy to become corrupted, a temptress, and only then he begins to describe her in sexual terms – as “voluptuous.”3 She is then killed (through penetration) by the men who initially wished to wed her in a scene filled with sexual symbolism3. This establishes what I think is his motif of “Good men rejecting sexualized women despite being physically attracted to them”.

Stoker’s novel Dracula may be seen from this point of view as a rejection of both sexual liberation in the form of Count Dracula4 (who himself is the wolf-figure, the instigator of sexual desire and can be seen from a certain vantage point, as a diseased, bisexual figure – he ‘penetrates’ both male and female, spreading his ‘ailment’) – and sexual overtness (especially in women) in the form of Dracula’s brides.

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  1. Dracula – Bram Stoker Chapter 3
  2. (As above) Chapter 14
  3. (As above) Chapter 16
  4. The Fear of Sexuality in Bram Stoker’s Dracula – Irene Rose De Lilly. http://www.msmc.la.edu/PDFFiles/humanitas/de-lilly-paper.pdf