Its been a while. Over a month, in fact. Oops. I went back to Chicago for a week to sit what I fondly refer to as The International Latin Exam of Certain Doom and to defend my prospectus. Caught up with my peeps. Wandered the streets of Chicago again, took some good photos of the Loop to use as reference for shots for my novel. Then I came home and had, quite literally, no thoughts for four weeks. Total brain fry. I’ve been doing a lot of administrative tasks that I keep lying around for occasions like this. Translating wills, cleaning up Zotero so that it functions like an actually useful research tool and writing grants on the work side. Doing plot and character development on the not-work side. I don’t even have the concentration for my current leisure reading pile. Which is not entirely surprising considering I am simultaneously slogging through as if they were written in quicksand rather than ink reading Anathem and Red Mars.

My present to myself for successfully defending my prospectus and surviving the ILEOCD was The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, which I purchased at my newly discovered local comic book store, Hi De Ho Comics (Great little comic book store if you’re ever in L.A.).

I’ve been dipping in fairly haphazardly, reading pieces contributed by some of my favorite authors – China Mieville, Garth Nix, Lev Grossman – and becoming acquainted with some new names. This collection of short stories and art, the editors explain, is based upon Thackery T. Lampshead’s collection of oddities and curios and includes sections on Holy Devices and Infernal Duds and Microbial Alchemy and Demented Machinery among other delights.

Aside from being a delightful diversion, Thackery T. Lampshead’s collection has me thinking about the question of starting points for writers. I’ve noticed that the myriad writing blogs sprouting in the blogosphere pose the question in terms of plot versus character and ask writers which comes first in their process. Neither of these options really jumped out as the starting points for my writing.

For me, the initial spark of inspiration for a piece of fiction has always been either an object or a place. Which will surprise people familiar with my academic interests not at all. The last few weeks I have been mentally wandering through a subterranean library, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and the site of the World Columbian Exposition and thinking about peepshow souvenirs, mandrake roots, astrolabes and fifteenth century maps. I wonder how many other speculative fiction writers, given the genre’s emphasis on world building and love of MacGuffins, are also place and thing writers?


~ by medievalness on October 12, 2011.

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