The Nameless Horror



ONE PAGE: The Petals Fall Twice by Chip Zdarsky.

(The One Page Series is where I post a single page from a work-not-in-progress.)

Chip Zdarsky is my role model for my new career in erotica.

Bad News

Bad news from the wide world of publishing, which I found out on Friday (leading to a particularly eloquent bout of swearing on Twitter). It seems that sales of THE LEVELS have been lower than expected (or returns higher; it amounts to the same thing) and consequently Headline - who’ve been great with the books and me throughout - aren’t too optimistic over the prospects for THE RAZOR GATE. Which means that an offer on a third book in the same vein is highly unlikely - if TRG somehow sells like hot cakes when it hits paperback in August it’s possible, but since the theoretical market for what was always a tricky commercial proposition turns out to have been even harder to find than expected, the odds on that happening are low.

So I have to scrub several months of work on MURDER PARK, with the book two-thirds done and about a month from completion (and looking good), and write something else, in some sort of different genre (or some sort of actual easy-to-define genre), that will be a nice, straightforward sell. And it’s got to be double-plus awesome because second chances are hard to come by. (And I’ve already had one of those, for those who remember the Penguin third book debacle.)

Hence, fuckery. In particular since the timing, on top of other unspecified stuff last week, was especially unfortunate.

I’m now pitching ideas to my agent like a baseballer trying out for the majors. In the meantime, you’d be doing me a great favour by each buying about 500 copies of both books. Unless you’re happy with me and my family starving to death in poverty, selling our organs for food coupons, etc. etc. etc.

The Killer

You oohed and aahed when I showed you the size of the front room. Your husband said something about how light it was in there, and how much noise from the street would filter in through the windows. I told him, none. Double-glazed glass, casements shut tight. No noise, and it was a quiet neighbourhood.

That works both ways, of course, I said. And we all laughed, though I’m not sure you understood the joke.

When you saw the kitchen, you asked me whether the appliances were included in the price. I told you, of course they are. Brand new, too. The tiles from Tuscany and are guaranteed against cracking or chipping. Because you want to know that the home you’re buying won’t fall apart the moment you move in.

Your husband adored the view of the back yard through the French windows from the dining room, and all those trees swaying beyond. I knew he would. He loved his gardens, didn’t he?

The bedrooms were ever so spacious, and you were crazy about the ceiling beams. They didn’t look at all out of place, which they sometimes can with these newer properties. The closet space wasn’t vast, but you thought it would be more than enough for the two of you.

I made the usual remark about how the two spare rooms could be used for almost anything, unless the two of you wanted to bring another little life into this world. All realtors say that when they know you don’t have kids.

We all laughed again. You blushed a little.

You both followed me into the bathroom so I could show you the extensive modern fittings and the beautiful, large, circular bath. Just the thing to relax in after a long day’s work, I said. You asked me if the tiles in here were like the ones downstairs, from Tuscany. I said I didn’t know, but Tuscan or not, it was important to have a wipe-clean bathroom.

You agreed, and I shot you in the face.

Your husband opened his mouth in shock, and I planted a bullet through the back of his throat.

Then I closed the bathroom door and left the house.

I have no idea why I did it. I don’t know why you had to die. What you’d done, or not done, to deserve it. All I know is that someone gave me your name and a large sum of money, and that’s how it happens.

(by me, c. 2004, I think)


Saw Tron: Legacy on Boxing Day, fearing it would be awful. In actual fact, it’s a good movie. Putting Sam in “the games” as he first arrives in the computer world is a pretty thin excuse to throw in the disc fighting and light cycles that everyone knows the first film for, almost like the writers figured they’d best get it out of the way, there are a few iffy lines, especially early on, the Castor character is 100% ham, and when one of the villains has a change of heart, and side, in the climax it’s a moment handled with little in the way of drama, impact, or even a particularly good reason. “I fight for the USERS!” indeed.

However, these are minor gripes, and only really occurred to me (aside from the ham, which is extraordinary; Michael Sheen really does chew the scenery as a sort of impresario nightclub owner) after the event. The cast is very good, the pacing was fine - I’d heard it sags in the middle, but for the son-regains-father story to work you need the quiet in the mid-section - and the story makes (enough) sense. I’m not a fan of 3D, and certainly not for 3D’s sake, but it’s done very nicely here; for most of the film, the use of it as an effect is very muted and subtle, used more for small details than for everything under the sun. It also retains a very high depth of field; unlike Avatar, where backgrounds were blurred and out of focus if you tried to look at them, Tron’s crystal sharp from front to back, which suits the design aesthetic. This isn’t James Cameron’s “look at all the pretty shit I can think of” plastering of everything in 3D, but someone thinking, “what would the technology add to this particular shot?” And where the answer is “nothing”, they don’t use it; the movie carries a warning at the start that some scenes are entirely 2D, that this is as intended and that people shouldn’t take off their glasses.

Crucially, while it’s not the greatest or most original story ever told, it is a decent one, and the characters, including the villain, have actual arcs. They change and develop over time, and, aside from the flip in loyalties that one supporting baddie has, the changes are handled well and flow nicely. There’s no unwarranted melodrama, no “NOOOOOOOO!” or chest-beating (which, given the ending, there could have been). There’s a decently light touch on the tiller in that respect throughout. And this very much sets it apart from Avatar, in which no one really changes, there’s no reason to give a shit about anything, and people do stuff only because that’s what the script says they do.

It’s not an all-time great, but it’s well worth a watch, and a cut above a lot of the shit that comes from Hollywood these days.