Friday, February 25, 2011


Opportunity Mocks!

I still can't draw. No matter! Here's an example of something previously unknown to all botanists, a rendering of the extremely rare Giant Daft-odil. To deter nibblers and grazers, this plant grows one flower in the shape of a man with a club, as a deterent...

I enjoy inventing imaginary fauna and flora. Don't know why. My well-thumbed copy of Borges's Book of Imaginary Beings is one of the very few volumes in my possession I'll probably never give away. Apropos of this, I'm pleased to announce that I'm going to be a contributor to a forthcoming modern bestiary edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer. The bestiary entries will be arranged in alphabetical order and my own monster begins with the letter 'X'...

Following last week's post, someone asked me if I'm really as competitive as I seem to be. I am a competitive person, but not excessively so. Ditties such as "Harpy Talk" are more an example of larking about than anything else. Larking about as an artform seems to be in decline. Where I grew up it was a highly prized ability. We larked about constantly, inventively, remorselessly...

I have been accused of various things over the years: arrogance, narcissism, whimsicality, vanity, capriciousness. I was once even accused of being "too mature". Even more oddly, I was recently condemned as an opportunist. Frankly, I find that charge peculiar. Over the past 15 years I've gone out of my way to make things more difficult for myself, not less. I don't network; I hardly ever attend conventions; I don't make friends with other writers if I can avoid it; I don't flatter editors (quite the opposite, in fact). I have chosen the narrow difficult path, not the wide easy one.

Mind you, I suppose I do my fair share of self-promotion... When I started writing, I refused to self-promote, and I mocked others for pushing their egos too hard. As it happened, the whirlpools of necessity sucked me in. I became a blatant self-promoter. It's difficult to resist when publishers, editors, agents, urge you to plug yourself for their sakes as well as your own. I do make an effort to be entertaining when I self-promote, to treat such occasions as another chance to lark about...

My next major piece of self-promotion will possibly take place at the First Crawley Festival of Words in April. I think I've been invited to do an event there. If all goes ahead as planned, I have to sit in the window of a bookshop writing a short story on a laptop which will be projected onto a public screen and also be available as a live internet link... I'll provide more details if all this turns out to be true!

In the meantime, here are two example of the old Surrealist game, cadavre exquis. The rules are simple. Take a piece of paper and fold it three times. One person draws the head of an imaginary being and passes the paper to another person, who draws the body; then a third person (or else the first person again) draws the legs and feet. No person sees what any other has drawn until the picture is finished and unfolded. Hey presto, a composite monster!

The game can be played with more than two people, of course, and the paper can be folded as many times as you please... The only limit is your imagination! Here we see a Weird Witch and an Octopus General Monster! (With thanks to Adele, my collaborator in both instances).

Now there's a game I haven't played in a while! You've inspired me to start a new game with my work colleagues....we're always on the lookout for amusing games to while away the last hour at work of an afternoon.
Funny you should mention "larking about"; I just wrote a post on that gentle art myself (she said, self-promoting).

I haven't played the game of which you speak in a long time either, though I agree that inventing flora and fauna is a lot of fun.
Thanks Charlotte and Radio! Sorry for not acknowledging your comments until now... I'm a bit disorganised!
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