It’s been too long since my last post, and I’ll have to apologise, once again, for being so slack at correspondence. At the end of last year/start of this one I took another break from drawing, as I’d done the year before, to start another renovation project. The last one saw me – and the woman I love – turn a house with a bad past into something habitable. This time round we got to turn a comfortable but dated house into something more in line with our tastes. Frances had a very clear vision of what she wanted from the start, and as a team we made it real – I generally did the messier work while she saw to finer details. For too long my idea of a home was the cheapest room for rent I could find with a bed, desk and power point, so I’m glad I had a bit of help from someone who desires more. Among other changes, the old colour scheme – pastel pink and powder blue – was replaced with black satin and gunmetal grey and an old floor got retiled. This might sound thoroughly bourgeois, but if you can do it, why the hell not?
The whole city of Hobart’s seen some big changes. As some old comrades may recall, my first impressions in 2014 were of a quiet, laid-back place, and while it’s still that way compared to larger mainland cities, it’s seen a lot of growth this year. Cranes have gone up all over town but the new construction work hasn’t met the demand for new housing. There’s also been some friction between new arrivals from the mainland and locals who are struggling to find vacant and/or affordable homes; meanwhile, on the city fringes, obviously empty buildings still get torched with depressing frequency. A brief xenophobe’s guide to state capitals: vacant buildings in Sydney are quickly surrounded by razor wire. Vacant buildings in Melbourne are quickly covered in dazzling street art. Vacant buildings in Hobart quickly attract petrol bombs. Apart from that it’s been great here!
Moving on to stranger things, I’ve read a lot more books this year. Instead of just going to secondhand shops to find the odd diamond among so much coal, we’ve bought books online as well. I’ve always been a fan of Chris Bunch for beer-and-pretzels entertainment; his writing clearly benefits from his time as a US Army Ranger and outlaw biker correspondent, but besides a lot of fast-paced action his books contain some surprisingly thoughtful and even enlightened views of the sort you get from someone who’s known a lot of very different people. Walter Jon William’s Dread Empire’s Fall was (despite its title) a light and fun space opera; Chris Wooding’s The Fade was set in a richly detailed, well-imagined, mostly subterranean world, but I felt it had some pacing issues, and I never really warmed to its oh-so-badass but not-so-convincing narrator/protagonist. Ed McDonald’s Blackwing was by contrast the best piece of grimdark fantasy I’ve read in the last ten years. Most of the action takes place in a heavily fortified border city on the edge of The Misery, a nightmarish no-man’s land from which even greater horrors come. The almost constant sense of dread is occasionally lightened by the mordant humour of a similarly tough and resourceful, but for me much more relatable, narrator/protagonist and excellent supporting cast. I’m still neglecting non-fiction to a greater degree than I should, but O’Connor’s Resurrection Science should be an interesting read. There’s still hope for the thylacine!
As far as my own projects go I’ve spent a lot of my free time mapping an alternative world (as opposed to an alternative Earth) and outlining its history. It’s going to provide a backdrop for a new dieselpunk series called Blood and Oil, which could be viewed as a Warbirds reboot – but unlike my old Scorched Earth series (which could be set in the same world at a later date) it won’t be grimdark through and through. I’ve been paying more attention to the way history’s been influenced by populations, resources, culture and environment. It owes more to Jared Diamond (especially his Guns, Germs and Steel) than any recent fiction I’ve read!
Going on what I’ve posted so far, reactions have been positive, though in a regrettable first I’ve blocked a user on DA. When I’ve poked fun at pop culture I know I’ve often come across as insensitive or even offensive; but there’s a point at which I draw a line, and this guy crossed it many times. Anyone with a lot of spare time and a high pain tolerance can follow the whole wretched business under my Gb-16 Falchion pic. For those who don’t know me so well I’ll add a disclaimer first: although organised religion isn’t for me personally, I know it’s a great source of strength and inspiration for some, and I’m not here to take that away. I just can’t let some statements go unchallenged. If someone’s going to be that offensive – not to mention just plain wrong – I’m going to hit back with hard facts. If I upset anyone else, so be it.
In much more edifying news, I’ve been almost overwhelmed by the often funny, often smart and nearly always positive feedback I’ve had in the last few months. I owe lots of people lots of replies, but I’m slowly catching up. It’s even better when comments have started conversations between viewers – my recent Social Justice Wars has prompted some related talk which I’ve learned a lot from too. As a wiser man than me once said, it takes all types to make a world – and on DA we’ve got them all!
Thanks again for your time, and good luck with your work,