Break one, thousand will rise

Lucille Clerc

Viewster Online Film Festival

Lola and Taro, two lonely children, live in the fairytale world of an abandoned attic, hidden from nameless danger. Despite her own needs, Lola looks after her small brother. One evening, when Taro begs her to play a game of hide-and-seek, the situation careens out of control. Lola takes out her biggest fear on Taro. Merry-Go-Round exists in an internal universe in which the relationship between two children becomes the mirror of the world at large.

My daughter Esther’s film Merry-Go-Round has been accepted at the Viewster Online Film Fest:

Please watch, like, comment, and especially send this on to as many people as possible. Prize money will be awarded on the basis of audience voting (i.e. LIKES), which would help Esther to make her next film.

To vote, you need to register or sign in (via Facebook is possible, for example), then watch and like a minimum of three films.  It’s not necessary to watch each film in its entirety: there’s a countdown which runs — often for 60 seconds — after which you can ‘like’ the film. Liking is the way you vote, and again, you need to like three films before they count as votes. It sounds complicated, and isn’t well explained at the website, but it’s actually quite easy.

Do try to spread the word around. Thanks!

Women in Film

Esther wins the Best Women in Film Award from the Manchester International Short Film Festival for Merry-Go-Round.

Meanwhile, back on Kearth…

Arast was accompanied by two of his own people, and though they seemed uncomfortable about dining with him, Tilka not only insisted but went out of her way to include them in the conversation. On his home worlds, Arast would be used to elaborate ritual, formal attire, haute cuisine, power-jockeying innuendo, and deference, yet he was all affability at the meal, praising but not overpraising the natural beauty of the estate, the simple food. If he noticed that meat or fish wasn’t served, he gave no sign of it. His trace of an accent would be deemed charming by most women. The few times he addressed his companions directly, he spoke as if to equals with an ease that many diplomats took years to acquire, the wet bite of his mother tongue unnecessary to his purpose, his fluency in Kearth Standard a given, the disarming lilt and tease of the vernacular demonstrating that he had no need to assert the authority of a man who, all knew, controlled the workings of an entire planetary system. Luc didn’t trust him.

A tactless offworlder might have asked about their wings. Kearthers were the only humans to have evolved them-—the only intelligent winged species yet encountered, though Luc sometimes felt that birds were decidedly smarter than people. There were several theories to account for the origin of flight, none fully backed by empirical evidence, and only the sketchiest hypotheses to link human and avian lineage. Most evolutionary biologists preferred a convergent evolutionary model but still could not answer such fundamental questions as why here? why us? Origin myths seemed almost as satisfactory, and rather more entertaining.

Another taster from Over Which Scavenger Angels, my new novel.

OWSA, a small excerpt

A short excerpt from Over Which Scavenger Angels, my current novel-in-progress.* Lily, one of the main characters, is a photographer, at least on this world.

After ringing her cleaner, Lily packed an overnight bag, some sandwiches, and a bottle of decent Merlot. And then went back to the kitchen for a packet of prunes. Recently, she’d begun to read about ageing, the ‘never again’ of Simone de Beauvoir an antidote to Pilates porn. It felt important for an assessor to take with her an understanding of what it means to grow old, and frail. It felt as if it would make her a better assessor, though she wasn’t sure why. You could only mine an experience if you actually, well, experienced it, and hers would always be a pseudojourney into decline, however stiff her gait on rising. At least her vision was still sharp, or sharp enough, though she needed reading glasses now. For years she hadn’t left her house without a camera, but no longer, another sign that her time here was coming to an end. It was her way of readying herself, akin to the leave-taking from a slowly dying companion: rehearsing the irreversible, what people here call the incomprehensible, as though by dismantling the scenic elements one by one, detaching the lift lines, they could face the final curtain. And yet, here she was, trying to accustom herself to the loss of this wrinkled face, this draughty tower, this script. She had come to acquire a taste for irony. She fetched her Hasselblad.


Children’s writer Nick Green hears strains of My Way accompanying Lily’s rather ironical voice:


*Regarding my progress: I too have a taste for irony.

Hallberg’s Early Humans

There’s been quite a bit of hype lately about Garth Risk Hallberg’s forthcoming debut novel City on Fire, and since million-dollar deals are a grand way to inspire envy in the breast (or maybe belly) of lesser mortals, and make the day’s work impossible for writers plagued by doubt and uncertainty (who, me?), yesterday I dug out my copy of Best New American Voices 2008 to read his story Early Humans. And guess what? It’s good. The narrator’s voice is spot on, undiluted 21st century West Coast American, so exasperating that you’re soon hoping for a really monstrous quake to hit California and sink Stan along with every one of his fellow agents—writers will know what I mean.

Except. Except that Hallberg pulls off the wonderful (and extremely difficult) task of making this already sinking agent sympathetic to us. It’s the sort of balance between repugnance and empathy that satire aims for, or at least ought to. I’m always skeptical about narration in the first-person present tense, but in Hallberg’s hands it’s Stan’s sad bulwark against his quaking world. Hallberg gets it just right. He gets us.

Swimming in gravy

My favourite ladle (from a Cape Town craftswoman)!


A friend sent me this quotation from Paul Klee, which I’m thinking of using as the epigraph to my new novel, Over Which Scavenger Angels.

In any case, it is thoroughly appropriate!


Bragging rights hereby claimed! My daughter Esther’s short film Merry-Go-Round will premiere at the world-renowned São Paulo International Short Film Festival in August.

Here’s the trailer:

New German Directors’ Showcase

I’m terribly proud of my daughter Esther, who was recently awarded one of the New German Directors’ Showcase Awards.

Here’s a still from The Egocentricity of Desire, Esther’s ‘impressive and intelligent own production’- the short film which won the prize:

And here’s Esther in Hamburg clowning with the other winners:

You’ll note she’s the only woman amongst them. There are still too few women directors. Or perhaps too few who are getting noticed?

Over Which Scavenger Angels

I’ve revised the excerpt from Over Which Scavenger Angels, the novel I’m working on.

James Bradley’s The Flats

I’m always pleased when a good writer offers a short story online, and James Bradley, Australian writer and critic, is better than good. On his website he has just posted The Flats, well worth your time to read. And then reread, for it’s the nature of the short story to require several readings. A powerful and elegant piece, marred only slightly by the occasional melodramatic touch (‘And then they see the girl.’) and – perhaps – a gimmicky final line, The Flats will introduce you to a writer you ought to be acquainted with, if you aren’t already – even though he uses my detested c-word (‘conversation’) from time to time in his, ahem, conversations.