lots and lots of novel researching

The Tiny Anthropologist's Advice for College:
  • 8 AM classes really aren't that bad: It may take some willpower (and coffee) to get there, but really, 8AMs aren't that bad. Get a decent amount of sleep the night before and you will be okay. If I can get myself and my 4 year old out of bed, get ready, drop her off at preschool and arrive on time for an 8am, you can too!
  • Taking classes that meet once a week for long blocks: If your learning style is such that sitting in a long lecture once a week is something you can handle, then these are the best classes to take. Personally, I have done 3 semesters of these and they have been my favorite and the ones I have gotten the best grades in.
  • Scheduling back-to-back class periods: These can be beneficial if you're the type of person that just likes to get everything out of the way at once. However, the downside is that you will not have time to eat between classes, and you may have to grab something and eat during lecture. If the buildings for your classes are far apart, this may not even be an option. Having breaks between classes is important to allow yourself mental relaxation and to eat, or catch up on work.
  • Don't be afraid to change your major: I've changed my major a lot, like maybe 8-10 times. The downside is that I am graduating a year late, but I took A LOT of fascinating classes and became a much better rounded student. Colleges know that student change their minds. If you switch majors 2-3 times, you won't end up behind. I'm a special case.
  • Take long-hand notes: You may feel strange taking long-hand notes while everyone else is typing away at their MacBooks, but long-hand notes are MUCH more beneficial as far as long-term memory goes, and you don't run the risk of being distracted by Facebook.
  • Dress appropriately for class: The college stereotype of everyone attending class in their pajamas isn't true. At least make the effort to throw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Your professors will notice if you look like a slacker in class, and dressing nicely (or at least not in your pajamas) shows them that you value your education and respect their lectures. People wear anything from casual clothes to ties to class, and everything inbetween. Don't be afraid you'll be overdressed, being underdressed is much worse (in my opinion).
  • Cultivate relationships with professors: ATTEND OFFICE HOURS. Close relationships with professors are massively helpful! Professors are much more willing to write letters of recommendation, look over rough drafts, or help you out via email at 10pm for students that they know than ones that they don't. Additionally, professors can be some of the most interesting people you will ever meet.
  • Attend class: Along the same lines as above, attending class is very important. You (or your parents) are paying for you to be there. You should try to get the most out of that by attending lectures that you have signed up for. Additionally, when it comes finals time and you need to boost your grade, no professor is going to help you if you haven't attended their lectures.
  • Invest in a water bottle: Nothing is worse than sitting in a lecture dying of thirst.
  • Invest in a messenger bag, tote bag, or backpack: You don't have a locker in college and chances are your dorm will be far away from your classes. Make sure you have something to carry anything you'll need, from books, to pens and pencils, to a laptop, or even snacks like granola bars.
  • Take notes: Do it. Your professor knows more than you, that's why they are at the front of the room. Listen to them, and write down what they say. Then study it. This is how you learn.
  • Utilize the library: Other than during finals week, the library is pretty much a guaranteed quiet place to study. Additionally, college libraries have databases for research papers, printing services, and a whole lot more for students.
  • Eat alone if you want/have to: No one will judge you. I promise.
  • Annotate your books: Especially if you are an English/literature major! It is a lot easier to simply take all of your notes in the novel than to copy down page numbers and quotes into a notebook. Textbooks (like science ones) can be annotated too!
  • Don't let anyone shame you about your major: Each major is difficult in its own way. Don't let anyone make you feel like you're taking an "easy" major or that they are more intelligent than you because they are in a "hard" major. STEM majors are not better than Liberal Arts majors, and Liberal Arts majors are not better than STEM majors. Ignore anyone who says otherwise. Ignore anyone who says your major is pointless. This does not only apply to fellow students, but family, friends, and the world in general.
  • Prepare for advising periods: Class offerings are usually posted before registration is open. Take an hour to become familiar with the requirements of your department and the individual college it is in (if applicable), as well as University/institutional requirements (IE at UMass, my "college" is the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, while my department is Anthropology. The university itself, SBS, and Anthro all have different specific requirements I must meet to graduate) and make a list of classes you would like to take that satisfy these requirements. Advisors will appreciate it.
  • Take advantage of campus resources: Many colleges and universities have numerous extremely helpful resources, such as employment services which will help with resumes, or counselors for when you're having a hard time. Use these. They are there for you.
  • Keep yourself organized: Notebooks, highlighters, a planner, flashcards, an expandable file, binders, folders, literally whatever you need to keep track of all your papers, assignments, due dates, and what you need to help you study is important for you to have. If you don't know what helps you study or what keeps you organized, try some different systems or do some research.
  • Keep your syllabi: Every semester I buy a different notebook for each class I am taking, and I always keep my syllabus folded in half in the back of each notebook. It has saved my ass numerous times.
  • Check your email or the course website before class: Nothing sucks more than being the only kid who didn't know class was cancelled, especially if you're a commuter and you drove in/took the bus to a class that isn't happening.
  • Give yourself plenty of time: Whether its getting to class, doing homework, or writing a paper, make sure you give yourself enough time. This is especially important for commuters. I can promise you that you will need more time to drive to class than you think. I live less than 40 minutes away from UMass and I still leave 75-90 minutes before class starts.
  • Understand your learning style: Do flashcards work best? What about mindmaps? Answering questions at the end of the chapter? Understand what allows things to sink into your mind the best, and utilize that method of learning.
  • Honestly, you can get by with SparkNotes: I was an English major. We had to read, a lot and I didn't always read the novels. I used SparkNotes and skimmed chapters. While I wouldn't recommend relying on this entirely to graduate, it can help in a pinch.
  • Skipping class: I know I just told you to go, and I do mean that. But sometimes you need to skip class and be lazy or frivolous, and that's fine. Don't make it a habit. I usually allow myself 1-2 "mental health" days per semester. HOWEVER you should be VERY clear on the absence policy of your professors. Some don't take attendance, and others will kick you out if you miss 3 classes. It's always in the syllabus.
  • It's okay to withdraw from a class: Getting a W is better than getting an F. If a class is too much for you, then it's best to step out of it. Most professors will understand, and most grad schools and jobs will too.
  • Be kind to yourself: It's easy to only value yourself through school, as in what grade you got on a test, or how your GPA stacks up against others but we are all human and sometimes we fuck up and sometimes we do poorly and thats alright. Learn from it and move on.
  • Take care of yourself: !!!!! This is very important. Eat as well as you can/enough, sleep enough, don't become addicted to or dependent on drugs/alcohol, exercise (even if its just walking to class), take showers, etc. Sometimes taking care of yourself takes a back seat to taking care of your grades OR to having too much fun, and neither is a good strategy. Yes, college is a time to assert your independence and have fun and party, but if you do too much it will begin to affect your grades and your health.
  • Try to get internships or research assistantships/independent studies: These will look great on your resume and a lot of them are quite interesting/enjoyable. It shows initiative, drive, and motivation! Professors usually have independent studies and career/employment services (if your campus has that) can help with internship placement.
  • These are basic things that I have learned during my college career. I'm sure I could come up with more, but I hope this is helpful!
By the end of my first full day with Dorothy Evans and her customers, I had come to realize that although the Smithton women are not accustomed to thinking about what it is in the romance that gives them so much pleasure, they know perfectly well why they like to read. I understood this only when their remarkably consistent comments forced me to relinquish my inadvertent but continuing preoccupation with the text. Because the women always responded to my query about their reasons for reading with comments about the pleasures of the act itself rather than about their liking for the particulars of the romantic plot, I soon realized I would have to give up my obsession with textual features and narrative details if I wanted to understand their view of romance reading. Once I recognized this it became clear that romance reading was important to the Smithton women first because the simple event of picking up a book enabled them to deal with the particular pressures and tensions encountered in their daily round of activities.

Radway, J. A. (1984). Reading the romance: Women, patriarchy, and popular literature. Univ of North Carolina Press.

Before Joanna Russ or Patricia Frazer Lamb and Diana L. Veith had tentatively started writing about Kirk/Spock slash, and before Henry Jenkins or Camille Bacon-Smith had begun their ethnographies of fandom, before fan studies was even a thing, Janice A. Radway sat down with a group of women who avidly read romance novels, trying to understand why. As the quote above indicates, Radway’s initial interest was in romance novels as a textual form: how do they work, what stories do they tell, what messages do they send, and just why are they so damn popular? What she didn’t expect was how deeply romance novels were intertwined with her research participants’ day-to-day lives. She found she couldn’t just focus on the texts - she had to look at the practices of those who read them too. While Reading the Romance isn’t a fan studies work as such, it marked a key shift in cultural studies, from looking at texts alone to looking at what audiences did with texts, from viewing audiences as entirely passive to recognising their agency. This in turn enabled others to start asking the kinds of questions that eventually established fan studies as a field.

(Oh, and the book helped establish popular romance studies as a field too - talk about overachieving! Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some more quotes from popular romance studies research, partly because a lot of it is fan-centric, and partly because fanfic and romance have quite a lot in common, so understanding one helps with understanding the other.)

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of Radway’s research participants on what happens when she picks up a romance novel: “Because I think men do feel threatened. They want their wife to be in the room with them. And I think my body is in the room but the rest of me is not.”

A Writer’s PSA

Firstly: I just saw an interesting post made by @caplanbuckybarnes (who I can’t tag, but that’s okay), that inspired both anger and relief in me at once. I was compelled to type out this PSA.

Secondly: I am tagging everyone who has asked to be tagged in The Irrelevance of Napoli SO YOU CAN SEE HOW GODDAMN AWESOME THEY ARE BEFORE I START THIS. 

@thecrownedrose @persephone-is-here-omg @find-me-here2 @captainamerotica @redgillan @angryschnauzer @ursulaismymiddlename @rebelslicious @kittykitty-mewmeww @erisjade @siren-kitten-his @buckyappreciationsociety @kozmicrock @aingealcethlenn @rachelle-on-the-run @thewinterswimmer @vaisabu @inside-lizzys-head @angryschnauzer @melconnor2007 

Thirdly: I am doing this more for the sake of my upcoming fic, Cherchez la Femme, which I have been working on for MONTHS–probably since Septemberish–than I am for Napoli. Also doing this for the sake of other authors who may feel this way, but don’t want to say anything for fear of making people mad. I personally am tired of dealing with my own anxiety about this subject, so I’m getting this off my chest. 


 I am exceedingly frustrated by the majority of attitudes (or non attitudes) I see towards anything that is not a one-shot on here. ESPECIALLY if it’s smut.

I like smut. I love smut. I’ve read some really good smut on here. But… that’s not all I’ve read on here. When I first got on Tumblr, I found some really unique and interesting fics, and I got very invested in them. But lately, the majority of what I’ve been seeing on this site is the same damn thing, over and over and over again. Smut one shots, no plot, no character development, no nothing. Those fics I was invested in were discontinued (temporarily, I hope) in favor of smut one shots, which, like I said, I don’t mind, but ya know… I also do.

Authors are capable of writing more than smut one shots. 

Authors are capable of writing more than smut one shots. And many of them do write more than smut one shots. But I have seen two (2) of the multi-part fics I follow being seriously reblogged. That’s out of A LOT that I happen to read and like. One of my favorites got put on hiatus because there were no reads on the most recent chapter at the time.

Tumblr, seriously, what is going on? Like, I recognize that we all want to imagine ourselves having sex with some version of Sebastian Stan (ME TOO, I AM NOT EXCLUDING MYSELF FROM THAT GROUP) but some of these people have worked ages, ages on these fics. With well-developed characters and plot and settings and serious issues that are worked through. THESE PEOPLE I READ SHOULD WRITE ORIGINAL CONTENT AND GET PUBLISHED. In my world, they would. Because they are that good.

And yet, they get almost no recognition. And it frustrates me, and scares me, and makes me really, really sad. Some might say, “Tumblr is more (something else) than fanfic for me”–which is fine. Please engage in whatever joy may have brought you to Tumblr. But also remember that for others, it IS about fanfic, and they enjoy doing that just as much as you enjoy doing whatever you do. So hit the like button every once in a while. Read more fics of your favorite characters. Some might say, “I have –something that gives me a shorter attention span–, I can’t remember what happened before this chapter/can’t concentrate enough to get through a whole fic in the time I have”–in which case, you are fine, don’t worry about it, not a big deal. Some of you may say, “Works in progress are annoying, I hate waiting for new parts to come out”–and trust me, I’m right there with you. I’m waiting on a few new parts for fics myself (I’m also waiting for Diana Gabaldon’s next Outlander book, goddammit), but that doesn’t stop me from reading and commenting on the parts that are there! Tell the author that you have something to look forward to until the next part comes out! Also, TELL THE AUTHOR IF YOU ARE WAITING FOR THEM TO COMPLETE IT, or ask to be tagged in the final masterlist! We won’t mind if you do it that way! Some of you may just hate longer fics and there’s nothing anybody can do to change that. In which case, whatever floats your boat.

I’m not getting on anyone in the above paragraph to suddenly change your preferences and start reading fics with more than two parts. What I am saying, though, is if you consume, but don’t comment AND reblog (or at least tag and reblog), or if you don’t consume at all and blatantly ignore what authors are putting out there… come on, guys. We put our heart and souls into this stuff. Some of the stuff we write is taken from real life. Some people don’t have anything but their writing to help them get through what may be a really bad stage. Likes, comments, reblogs–writers need these. We don’t all have to be JK Rowling here, but we do hope to see that someone smiles or laughs, or cries, or feels in some way with our fics. 

One of my friends on here was very sad a couple of days ago because she was getting very few notes on even her one-shots, or reblogs with no comments. She has 700+ followers and a taglist that’s a mile long. It made me sad for her, and I can’t even hug her because she lives far away from me. Readers, you don’t have to comment or reblog every chapter of a fic that’s been written, it’s really okay if you don’t, but let the reader know that you like it and acknowledge the work that’s been done. 

I’m still relatively tiny on here, and I definitely need to follow more blogs, so I will now go looking. But, indulge me for a second: If, when I publish Cherchez, I deem it as not getting enough notes, I will make a goddamn video of myself deleting the thing off my computer and burning the damn notebooks. I started by writing this stuff for me. Napoli ended up being about someone I know who recently died. Cherchez was what I wrote when I was coming out of a breakdown. So yes, I write for myself. But as soon as I put it up here, it becomes yours. You consume it, you feel because of it. So really, guys, read all the smut you want. I know I’m going to. But read more than smut, too.


Someone who is a teeny bit oversmutted

(If you want to, you can check my tags for more info)

Things people who refuse to watch FMA 03 are missing out on, as chosen by someone who actually thinks 03 is terrible and swears by the manga:

  • The music. God, it was all so good! The OST, the openings, everything. Especially l’Arc~en~Ciel, the band which did the most songs for FMA out of any artist (with a total of 4), but only one of which was used outside of 03 (Good Luck My Way from Sacred Star of Milos).
  • Bratja deserves a special mention of its own. Bratja was a song from the OST originally in Russian, sung from the perspective of the brothers. A fan made an incredibly beautiful and poetic set of English lyrics, which quickly spread through the fandom and were even sung by Vic Mignogna, Ed’s English voice actor.
  • A lot of old fandom memes, such as “I love dogs”, “Tiny miniskirts”, “Colonel Mustang is dead sexy”, short rants, etc. Basically the precursors to the Flame Alchemist rap, in a way.
  • The origin of a lot of fandom tropes and ships. Like regardless of whether or not you like them, I think it’s important to understand where these things come from and why. R/oy/Ed, Ed/vy, El/rice/st, Pride!Ed, Envy’s popularity in general, Ed’s birthday, “real world counterparts”, and brown hair Al all have their roots in 03. It’s also the biggest reason for Hohenheim hate; 03 Hohenheim was an absolutely terrible person, and since he wasn’t shown to be a good person right away in Mangahood, a lot of us had a deep-seated mistrust of him.
  • Reole/Liore residents had dark skin!
  • More development for the Ishvalans, including actual names for some of them, and an entire episode about Al bonding with a pair of young Ishvalan boys who hold misplaced resentment for their dead mother. Ever wonder why that one kid who saved Scar from the sewer is sometimes called Rick? 03 is why.
  • The Tringham brothers! There’s an episode (very loosely based off one of the light novels) where Ed and Al encounter a pair of alchemists about their age using their identities to do some… less than responsible research. Fletcher is my son.
  • Aaron Dismuke, Al’s original dub voice actor. He was fantastic, but he was also an Actual Prepubescent Boy who hit puberty just after the series finished, hence the recast for Brotherhood. Aaron returns in Brotherhood as the voice of young Hohenheim.
  • A lot more comedy. While the manga was full of funny scenes, Brotherhood cut out the majority of them. 03 had a lot more jokes, including episodes 13 and 37, which were fucking hysterical.
  • Adaptations (albeit not the best) or some bonus content from the manga, such as extra chapters and one of the light novels, as well as a lot of early chapters that Brotherhood left out. Meaning Youswell actually gets an episode!
  • A lot of early “villain of the day” type episodes, which although weird and nonsensical, were a lot of fun and are great if you feel like watching FMA but don’t want to jump in at the middle of the plot or rewatch Reole for the gazillionth time.
  • I’m going to be completely honest with you, as an Al fan who’s very picky about visuals, Al’s armor looked way better in 03 than it does in Brotherhood. (Aside from the inconsistencies with his eye color.)
  • Winry and Sheska’s alien witch hunt. No, I’m not making that up.

As someone doing an English degree, I know how hard it is to read efficiently when you have 50,000 books and only a few weeks to read them (i’m exaggerating a little ofc). I also know that not everyone enjoys reading and I know how easy it is to leave reading to the last minute because ‘it’s only a short novel’. Well, here are some tips to make the most of your time and read efficiently, when you don’t really want to, don’t have the time to or would rather be doing something else.

I regularly see tips that say to get the most from a book, you need to read it at least twice. Ignore that. If you’re like me and have 3 books a week (minimum), you don’t really have the time or the patience to read them twice. Instead, read them once, but slowly. Take your time with the first read and actually understand it, instead of reading it once as quickly as you can and trying to find time to read it again in a futile attempt at actually understanding what you’ve read.

A key part of reading efficiently is actually reading the book. So set yourself daily targets of how many pages or chapters you need or want to complete. Set a target that is manageable and set them to cater to the events that occur in your day. Say if the book is due Friday and you start reading on Monday, but you have a lunch date with your friends on Wednesday and you really need to study for your biology exam which you care about more - set yourself reasonable targets to accommodate those things rather than pushing the reading aside completely because you’re ‘too busy’.

These are good for remembering details of the book when you are finished. After each chapter, spend a couple of minutes writing a chapter overview. Note down any important events, characters, themes and settings. Lined post-it notes are good for this, but you can always put them in a notebook too. I usually put the post-it notes on the last page of the chapter, so I can flick through the book after and know which chapter it is for, but again - do whatever feels best for you. If your book doesn’t have chapters or very few, maybe do overviews every 20-50 pages, depending on the length of the book. These are just to make your life easier and so you don’t have to remember every single chapter. You’ll have the overviews to refresh your memory.

While you’re reading, highlight - or tab if you’re uncomfortable with or can’t highlight the book - in different colours the different things you need. Usually this is themes, characters, settings, literary devices etc, but also highlight or underline things that stand out to you. Even with highlighting, it’s good to tab the pages so you can find them again. If you aren’t comfortable with marking a book, you can do this in a notebook, but it might take a little longer writing out the quotes. Remember to make a key of these colours, because you will need remember what each colour is for.

It’s very easy to get comfortable when reading and not take in anything. You need to be on your game the whole time, no matter where you’re reading. Feel free to put on study or relaxing music, but don’t get comfy. Sit at your desk or on your bed with your back against the wall, so long as you tell your body that you’re studying and not just reading for pleasure. You don’t want to be reading and miss important things, not when you’re short of time. You can get comfy when you’ve finished!

You never truly realise how much you understand a book until you talk about it. When you’re finished reading, you’re not finished studying the book. Discuss the book with someone. Even if they haven’t read it themselves, talk to parents or friends. Tell them that you’ve been reading X and you found this, this and this interesting, but that one scene confused you. Discussing the book helps and sometimes people can help you grasp a clearer understanding of your text.

SparkNotes and Smoop are useful study aids and will be a life saver. Please don’t rely on them. Just using them instead of reading won’t work and your teacher will know. But they will help your understanding and will help you pick up bits you might’ve missed. They will also help with contextual information and they’re good for an overview when you’ve finished. Don’t use them before you’re done reading though. Trust me, it’s for the best.

I don’t mean re-read the book. Re-read your notes the day before the book is due so you can fill in any blanks in your notes and understanding. Anything that is missing can be filled in during that day before the book is due and you’ll feel super accomplished on the day. You can compile your notes into one notebook and prettify them now, if that’s what makes you happy or helps you. Make them useful for your understanding is the key part, of course. But just reading through everything will put it fresh in your mind.

You can choose to do this before or after reading, but don’t do it during. Contextual research is generally boring (at least for me) but it is super useful for understanding or just to sound clever in an essay. It can also fill in a lot of blanks and help you get knowledge of what is happening. Literature and history have a lot of connections and knowing the history of literature and of your novel is super useful. Always attempt some sort of contextual research, even if it’s just reading those little intro bits in the classics or whatever.

So you’ve finished reading, research and making notes? Relax! Reward yourself. Get a cup of tea, pat yourself on the back and get an early night. You deserve it! Reading can be exhausting and if you’re gonna remember anything in the morning, you need some good sleep and to feel good about yourself.

And with that - HAPPY READING!

I hope this was helpful for everyone and if you need any more advice, don’t be afraid to ask me, your teacher, your parents or even your friends!

anonymous asked:

Hi! I'm currently writing a story in which the protagonist is blind. The story is set in a fantasy world, and I've found that it's difficult to find advice on how to write a blind character in a fantasy setting. Most articles I stumble across are about blind characters in the modern world. Do you have any tips on writing a blind fantasy character? I want to make sure my story doesn't sound super ridiculous (a huge part of the plot is that she can kick ass).

This is actually a topic that sits quite close-to-home with me. I’m not blind, however, I’m partially sighted. My left eye has no sight, and have reduced vision in my right. I don’t know things from a blind person’s perspective, but I’ll do my best from what I know and what I would do. 


If you are writing this story from a first-person perspective then you will need to think a novel way to include descriptions of your world. It’d actually be quite interesting, relying solely on sounds and the imagined landscapes of your protagonist. If they have not always been blind, then you could include things from that perspective too. 

Also, you must do a lot of research into how blind people cope doing simple every day tasks. A lot of tasks will be the same in a fantasy world as they are in a modern setting: getting dressed, washing pots, etc. But also blind people who, say, take archery classes or anything like that. A lot of cool RNIB groups take blind people out for activity days where they might do a lot of things your protagonist might end up doing.

Research How Blind People were Treated in Different Cultures

A lot of fantasy draws upon different cultures laws, traditions, etc, and plays with them to create a completely different world. 

Add a lot of historical cultures, too. Because in the modern day many cultures are bound by the UN and Geneva Human Rights conventions, but some practises, right or wrong or simply tradition, might have gone on beforehand. 

Here’s some to start you off;

The Human Condition is Still The Human Condition

I’ve often heard it said about fantasy and sci-fi that, all though the worlds are different and strange, the characters must be human. (Well, unless they are aliens—that’s another topic.) But they must feel things, think things, work things out. And, all though your protagonist lives in a world that’s not like our own, they will still no doubt have a lot of the same feelings. Especially if they are young. I don’t know how old you are going for here, but here’s some things that really effected me as a partially blind person and some people I knew from various projects who were actually blind. 

Being independent: A lot of us really wanted to be independent above all else, even when it made things harder for us. I was offered the chance to do exams in a separate area and be able to leave when I was done but I wanted to do them in the Hall and have to sit there for hours. We had teaching assistants who sat with us and most of us used every opportunity to ditch them or go without, half to prove we can do things by ourselves but half so we could join in. 

Joining in: This brings me happily onto my second point. A lot of that first point was solely just to be able to join in. Yes, in the modern day it’s more of a… ‘Man, I was I could play games well,’ thing, but in a fantasy world it might be some great Tourney or Hunt, or simple childhood games in the woods that the protagonist wishes to join in with. 

More than bullying, it was the people who tried to tell me I couldn’t do anything that hurt me. Bullies got told off sometimes, or came and went, but people like my mom or teachers saying what I couldn’t do; that sticks. 

TL:DR: It’s the circumstances that change, not the emotions. 

Avoid The Badass Blind Monk Who Can Kick Your Ass Trope

Yeah, unfortunately being blind can be a problem. As a half-blind person myself, and knowing how lucky I am to have any sight at all, I do find it annoying the amount of blind characters who seem to only be blind so that the audience can be amazed when they start pulling off amazing martial arts moves, or knowing exactly where things are to pick up, etc.

This isn’t to say your character won’t be able to learn martial arts, or maybe some magic that helps them with placement, etc. That’s fine. But please include drawbacks of actually being blind, things that blind readers would identify with and that readers with sight would learn a lot from. 

For example, yes, it can be quite scary, when you are alone, and you can’t open your eyes. You don’t know who’s around you, friend or foe or terrifying monster. The protagonist never has to admit their fears or problems to others if that’s their character, but they can admit them to themselves. And, in that way, they can hopefully overcome them, too. 

Finally, It’s not the best movie ever, but I’d also give The Village a watch, especially the scene in the forest. It handles the protagonist being blind quite well in that regard. But you’ll need to try and read some books that describe the situation, too.


Education time!  So as a writer I want things to be as accurate as possible and do a lot of research.  I know I’m not the only one.  As this is a topic on which I am very familiar I often see blatantly wrong things when people talk about firearms in their novels or fanfics.

So I chose these diagrams because they tackle the need to know parts.  Are there a lot more?  Yes.  But unless you’re going into major detail- say, your character is cleaning their weapon or trying to fix/modify one- than this will cover your needs.  I didn’t want to overwhelm with a more detailed diagram.  My only complaint is on the pistol where it says barrel?  That is pointing out where you can see part of the barrel but the majority of it is inside the gun.  That whole black section on top- the part that will be rocking back as the gun is fired to eject the casing- is called the slide.  Other than that potential mix-up, the rest of it is made pretty clear.

Wanna get clear some other gun facts? Check out my other reference posts to learn the difference between clips and magazines, and the parts of a “bullet.”

Five books you should read to learn more about creativity

What five books should you read if you want to learn more about creativity but have no idea where to start?

I’ve read a lot of books centralized around the concept of creative thinking over the last ten years. Everything from the psychology or creativity to how some of histories greatest artists utilized it in their work and lives.

When I first started learning about creativity I had no idea what the word meant, but that’s changed quite a lot over the last few years of reading and researching and writing on the subject.

I’ve come to learn that creativity is our capacity to generate novel and useful ideas, and that it ultimately comes down to our perspective and what we do with it. To adjust our perspectives—and to expose ourselves to new ones—in ways that spur and inspire creativity, we must be open to new experiences, willing to take on new challenges and look outside of constraints, have grit and be motivated, and remain ever curious.

Within these five books I believe you can get everything you need to know about creativity at some primary level. In no particular order, here are the five books I’d recommend for anyone just starting out in the realm of creativity.

Creative Confidence by David M. Kelley and Tom Kelley.

The Kelley brothers have struggled for many years to learn what it takes to encourage people to think differently about the world and the work each of us do within it. In their book, the brothers emphasize a few key lessons about creativity that drive home the importance of play, curiosity, and confidence.

Ingenius by Tina Seelig

Described as “a crash course on creativity,” Stanford University’s Tina Seelig demystifies much of what creativity has been known for over the past few decades. She not only uses clear language to define creativity, but gives examples and actionable take-sways that make this book a must-have for creative thinkers.

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Johnson’s book is a bit more technical than the others, but with the additional benefit of going into more of the science of ideas and creativity than other books.

Creative Intelligence by Bruce Nussbaum

Nussbaum takes a more scientific approach to what we know about the mind and how creativity bridges the gap between imagination and intelligence. The book is a bit more technically daunting, but is highly rewarding in that it will energize you to think creatively while giving you details on how to move forward.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve ever read on the topic of the creative act, Pressfield doesn’t get into much science or philosophy but does focus on some of the more magical and emotional aspects of getting creativity to work for you.

And that’s it! Five books I’d recommend to anyone just beginning to show an interest in creativity.

Dan Stevens
Dan Stevens may have been an ‘unruly’ child, but he still played Macbeth at 14.

Dan Stevens may have been an ‘unruly’ child, but he still played Macbeth at 14. Little wonder the doomed hero of Downton Abbey  is now a fully fledged film star. Sally Williams meets Disney’s latest leading man

Having spent three years playing the ill-fated Matthew Crawley, the accidental heir to Downton Abbey, Dan Stevens seemed fixed in the public’s perception as a thoroughly well-bred chap: a purveyor of good manners, good looks and period dramas. He was so suave in his tailcoats and white bow ties that one critic likened his ‘floppy-haired, Oxbridge burnish’ to a young Hugh Grant.

But in recent years Stevens seems to have  done all he can to obscure his fine features.  He dyed his hair black and appeared ravaged  as a heroin trafficker in the thriller A Walk  Among the Tombstones. He wore heavy armour and a melting nose as Sir Lancelot in the comedy  Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.

And in High Maintenance, a cult series about a weed dealer in New York, he was a cross-dressing  stay-at-home dad.  Now he is the Beast in the live-action remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, in which he spends the best part of two hours disguised as a 6ft 10in leonine monster.

The film, about a prince who is transformed into a brute as punishment for his arrogance, is much-anticipated (the trailer alone broke records, with 127.6 million views in its first 24 hours online). Stevens’ startling blue eyes are still apparent – particularly when he is face-to-face with Belle (Emma Watson), whose love he must win to become a prince again – but the rest of him is concealed under bad teeth, demonic horns and a Lycra muscle suit.

I felt pretty monstrous on that gorgeous set. It was incredibly lavish

You  don’t even hear his normal voice (which, as fans  of audiobooks will know, is beautiful – he has narrated over 30 titles, from Agatha Christie to Roald Dahl), because he does something clever with his larynx to make it particularly growly.  It’s all part of a post-Downton period of exploration, he explains: ‘I realised I hadn’t been  challenging myself.’


We meet at a hotel in London, where he appears in a pork-pie hat and a hipster cardigan. Now 34, he is much leaner than in his Downton days, and his hair is back to its natural chestnut brown. Having moved from London to New York in 2013, he lives among artistic types in Brooklyn with his wife, Susie Harriet, a South African jazz singer, and their three children, Willow, seven, Aubrey, four, and Eden, 10 months.

Stevens is polite, extremely likeable and laughs easily, but what is most striking is his intellect. He won a scholarship to Tonbridge, an independent boarding school; speaks French and German; and studied English literature at the University of Cambridge.

In 2011 he was the quick-witted guest host of an episode of Have  I Got News for You (crammed in while filming Downton; his co-star Hugh Bonneville, who played the Earl of Grantham, declined because  ‘I am only an actor’ and ‘not sharp enough  to compete with the regular panellists’). The  following year he was a judge for the Man Booker Prize, for which he had to read 147 novels.

The move to New York, he says, marked  ‘a different approach to a lot of things. My own personal health was one.’ He swims, does yoga and goes to the gym, and his diet is dairy-free  (he orders black coffee). ‘I didn’t take very  good care of myself when I lived in London,’ he admits. ‘Under three layers of tweed, you can hide a lot of ills.’

He works hard as an actor, researching roles, exploring the psychology of his characters. And during the five-month shoot for Beauty and the Beast at Shepperton Studios, Surrey, he went to the gym every day. Stevens says he needed to strengthen his legs to withstand the punishment of performing on 10in stilts – ‘metal, elevated platforms that were extremely painful and hard to walk in’, he explains. ‘I also developed really good core strength. It helped with the breathing, it helped with the singing.’

Emma was looking gorgeous in this immaculately conceived creation and then I come lumbering in in this grey, Lycra muscle suit

He did the film because the VHS was part of his childhood – he was eight when the animation came out and had ‘a much-watched copy’ – and because the role was exciting. ‘It was a brilliantly intriguing character to tackle. I thought, “Wow, I get to be the Beast!”’  Creating the Beast was exactly the kind of technical exercise Stevens now thrives on.

He talks of how he had to give two different performances – one neck-down and one neck-up. First, he acted out the movements of his character on-set with Watson, wearing the muscle suit and the stilts, which, he admits, could be alienating.

‘I felt pretty monstrous on that gorgeous set. It was incredibly lavish – the ballroom was based on the Palace of Versailles but turned up to 11, excessive opulence, beautifully lit. Emma was looking gorgeous in this immaculately conceived creation – it took something like 10,000 hours of work to make that dress. And then I come lumbering in in this grey, Lycra muscle suit.’

He has only praise for his co-star. ‘It was  fascinating doing the scenes with Emma. I don’t think there’s another actress on the planet  who is more experienced at working with this level of new technology,’ – after the high-scale visual effects of Harry Potter films – ‘and she was totally unfazed.’

Every 10 days or so, he would sit in a booth with his face covered in ultraviolet make-up  and give his second performance, re-enacting the scenes from the previous days in front of  a bank of cameras. This footage was used to create the Beast’s face.

‘It’s never been done before,’ he says proudly.  There was also another reason for taking the role, he adds. ‘Beast is for my children, for my wife, for my family.’

Dan Stevens was born in 1982 in Croydon, to a mother he never knew. At the age  of seven days he was adopted by two schoolteachers. It’s a subject he has rarely discussed publicly. He was later joined by a brother (no blood relation), who was also adopted.

The family lived in Marlborough, Wiltshire, then Chelmsford, Essex, and when Stevens was eight moved to Brecon, in Wales.  He says his parents – ‘warm, lovely, good people’ – were always open about him being adopted.

‘People like to pathologise adoption, but actually there is no conventional way to be brought up. People can have biological parents who are absent for whatever reason during their childhood, and their parenting can be replaced by any number of people. Adoption is just one of many ways that children get nurtured and loved and end up as human beings who are every bit as interesting and whatever as regular children.’

The circumstances of his birth, he admits, do raise a question mark over his acting ability.

‘It’s quite possibly a genetic thing; it’s quite possibly a nurture thing. The parents that raised me weren’t actors, but they loved going to the theatre and they watched television and movies, so  I was raised on a cultural diet of books, of literature, and also of performance, of watching great movies and plays.’

‘Distracting’ is how Stevens describes himself at primary school; that’s what most of his reports said, ‘either because I was bored or because I was just being an idiot’. The solution was to put him on stage. ‘It was almost presented as a punishment that I was going to be in the school play,’ he says. Acting became ‘a vent for something’.

At the age of 13 he won that scholarship to Tonbridge School. ‘My parents, as teachers, knew about that kind of thing, and I wish more people did really, because I was given some incredible opportunities and am very grateful for that. There is a system out there that champions curiosity in kids, and it doesn’t matter if your grandfather went wherever.’

And yet the change was traumatic. ‘These schools are built like castles. They have imposing façades and are run on very  old English principles, and they are all trying  to be echoes of each other.’ Stevens became ‘unruly’ – smoking, getting suspended, going  on demonstrations. But expulsion was averted  by a teacher.

‘My English master, Jonathan Smith, was one of those magical teachers who could  spot a kid in trouble and know the right thing  to say to him,’ he has explained. ‘I owe him a  tremendous amount.’

A novelist, writer and teacher, Smith was head of English at Tonbridge for 17 years. His former pupils include the poet Christopher Reid, who won the 2009 Costa Book Award, and Vikram Seth, author of A Suitable Boy. His son, Ed, is an author and former England cricketer.

Smith and the drama teacher Lawrence Thornbury ‘were this incredible duo, and it was just like an oasis of creativity and a real escape from the rest of it’, Stevens says. ‘They championed what I was good at and recognised where  I needed to be directed towards, and offered guidance. Even if it was just, “You are having  a moment, read this book.”

‘I got very into the Beat poets, William Blake, Seamus Heaney – it was almost like feeding  a curiosity, feeding certain passions. Whatever  it was, it was like, “Oh, there is something more out there. I can get into this.”’

A turning point was being cast as Macbeth when he was 14. What did they see in him?  ‘Precociousness, probably.’ He explains his urge to perform very simply: ‘The most nervous I ever get is when I have to go and be me somewhere.  If I’ve got a nice costume and some lovely lines  to say, I know I’ll be all right.’

Stevens would later use his Downton fame to help make a film adaptation of a book written by Smith. Summer in February is the tale of a real-life love triangle between British artist Alfred Munnings, his friend Gilbert Evans and the woman they both loved, artist Florence Carter-Wood.

The book was first published in 1995, and the film was released in 2013, starring Stevens as Evans and Dominic Cooper as Munnings. Was that a thank you? ‘There are easier ways of saying thank you than trying to make an independent film of somebody’s book, but yes, subconsciously it was. It was a real labour of love.’

Downton seemed to be in every country in the world. There was no rhyme or reason as to why it caught fire as widely as it did. We were all surprised

It was Smith who encouraged Stevens to go to Cambridge, which he loved, meeting like-minded people for the first time and starring in student productions. Many of his friends were alternative comedians – Mark Watson, Tim Key, Stefan Golaszewski – and he started doing  stand-up, even seeing a future on the comedy  circuit.

The theatre director Sir Peter Hall spotted him acting alongside his daughter Rebecca  in an undergraduate production of Macbeth. Six months after graduation, Hall cast them both in a touring production of As You Like It. ‘I wasn’t buying a house off the back of that job, but it felt like a success in that I had always wanted to do professional Shakespeare and learn about verse speaking,’ Stevens says.

He toured England and America and won critical acclaim, being nominated for an Ian Charleson Award in 2004. Success followed success.

In 2006 he starred as Nick Guest in the BBC adaptation of Alan Hollinghurst’s novel The Line of Beauty (‘I have not seen Dan Stevens before but from now on  I will be on the lookout for anything else he appears in,’ wrote one reviewer); and in 2008 he played Edward Ferrars in an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. But it was an audition later that year that changed everything.

Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, has explained, ‘We were looking for a young man who was handsome, of course, but who conveyed a real sense of uprightness. Not an anti-hero but  a real hero – someone who, at the same time, seemed strong and rigorous and interesting.’

When did Stevens realise Downton was a phenomenon? ‘I happened to have been in the States and I flew back to Heathrow, and someone came up to me at the airport who was obsessed with the show, and that was only four episodes in.  I thought, “That hasn’t happened before.”’

Americans were especially fascinated – the series won a Golden Globe in 2012. ‘And it wasn’t just there,’ Stevens says. ‘Downton seemed to be in every country in the world [at its peak it played in 250 territories]. Like in Spain, it become one of the biggest foreign shows there for 20 years. There was seemingly no rhyme or reason as to why it caught fire as widely as it did. We were all surprised. Even Julian.’

It has been five years since he left Downton – or rather didn’t renew his three-year contract. ‘It’s called an option for a reason and I chose not to continue,’ he explains. He remembers his days on-set with nostalgia.

‘The dining room scenes were a torture to shoot, but as a result there was  a kind of gallows humour that we all developed. You are eating all day, increasingly cold peas and congealed gravy, and there are 20 of you sat around a table. We used to play wink murder. Maggie Smith [who played the Dowager Countess] is unbelievably good at wink murder.’

Stevens says the decision not to continue was made with his wife. ‘We’d just had our daughter Willow when I started the show and we thought, “OK, a three-year engagement.”

Then by the end of three years I was ready to try something else.’  Family is at the centre of his life. He was 23 when he met Harriet – they were working at different theatres in Sheffield – and was in the thick of marriage and babies ahead of his contemporaries. He was 26 when Willow was born.

‘If it feels right, it feels right. We fell in love and that was it. 

Three children on and it’s still magical.’  He is a doting father, changing nappies, though he admits he’s ‘not the best’ at getting up in the middle of the night. Harriet has put her career is on hold, he says. ‘But there is still a lot of singing in our house.’

His biggest indulgence is travel. ‘We enjoy taking our kids to see beautiful natural spots. Wherever we are in the world, we always try to find something like that.’

As an actor, Stevens’ ambition is to keep trying new things. Future projects include a portrayal  of Charles Dickens in The Man Who Invented Christmas, a film that charts the creation of  A Christmas Carol; and he is about to start shooting Apostle, a dark thriller about a religious cult.

‘When I left Downton, a lot of people would levy questions like, “What are you doing? What are you going to do?” And I guess the last few years have been about answering those questions in a number of different ways.’

Beauty and the Beast is released on 17 March

nobody at large in the audience fucking actually cares about the tedium that goes into behind the world of a fantasy setting. that’s the shit consigned into your author’s notes or series bible. oh, you studied the mating patterns and estrus of horses cause one of your major characters is a horse breeder? that’s nice.

but you don’t have to put it in the fucking book.

A lot of people are turned off of Moby Dick because literally half the book is whaling guides.

A lot of latter Tom Clancy novels were exceptionally weak because there were pages and pages and pages of how fuckin stealth bombers and satellites and whatever worked and the throat slitting spec ops antics of Ding Chavez are buried under that.

if there’s enough demand for that shit, maybe publish books meant to go into the background of things or publish your damn notes or whatever. don’t subject your poor readers to THAT as a mandatory process for your novels.

research is the foundation of good writing, but if you can actually see the foundations, you’ve done something wrong. you do not lay that shit bare.

anonymous asked:

I'm writing a Science Fiction story mostly set on a spaceship (a couple space stations here and there). I've had a beta reader tell me that even though the story is good and the characters are interesting, it all feels kinda shallow because the world isn't very developed. Since it's all set basically in this little few rooms, how can I make the world feel deeper? TIA

Worldbuilding effectively when the “world” isn’t present in the narrative

Hi! That’s a great question. And there are some very easy questions you can ask yourself to help you get started on building a world and culture for this situation. 

The first thing to remember is that the world you’re building isn’t determined by a physical location, necessarily, but by the characters in your story. The world that has influenced and shaped them is the “deep” world I think you might be missing. You can flesh out the physical starship all day long, yet still not do justice to the culture and society of your characters.

1. Why are they on this trip?

Knowing the reason why a ship is flying around in space can tell us a lot about the world its people came from, and even more if you take the time to elaborate when necessary. The circumstances of the ship’s journey will likely tell the reader a lot about its crew and what it was like for them at home.

The home planet is on the verge of death

If the characters’ are in desperate FIND NEW HOME mode, then there will be a since of urgency in their actions. There will also be sadness and nostalgia. Worry for their families still on planet. There might also be characters who have a “good riddance” attitude, who are thrilled to be leaving the dying rock they’ve always called home. You can let the dire circumstances that some of these characters have likely lived with their entire lives really seep into their actions and views. 

Expansion or Colonization

If the mission is focused on finding a new colony, terraforming planets, and general expansion–find and conquer!–then that attitude will give the characters a since of importance and bravado. They are the rulers of the galaxy! Seeking to find and claim new worlds for their people! There might be a few uncertainties here and there, but the general climate will be a more up-beat and positive one. This is will also likely lead to characters who don’t have powerful feelings one way or another for the home planet. “I had the chance to explore, so I chose to explore!” might be more prominent than any powerful loving or hateful emotions about home. The amount of organization and structure in an operation under these circumstances will be much greater, as the mission had time to be thought out and planned to perfection, not rushed in a dire emergency. 

Space travel is new; a mission of research and discovery

This is similar to the last, but there is an excitement present in many of these characters that was not there for the previous crew. Think about what it will be like when we send our first ship to Mars, or wherever it might be, to our first colony. In this case, the technology will likely not be as advanced as the characters whose world has been exploring and colonizing planets for a long time and have encountered many various worlds already. But that won’t matter to them because they’re the first colonists. They’re the first people leaving the home world behind and looking out toward the future.

There is no home planet

If your characters are space-born, then they won’t have a personal connection to a home planet, like (maybe) some other characters would. They might adopt their parents or grandparent’s view of what is home, or they might not call any planet home. If you have characters with both backgrounds, then you have an amazing opportunity to let them learn from each other and see how their different worldviews mesh and clash. These characters’ views will potentially be incredibly interesting because of how their lack of home planet defines them.

2. Do they have a religion (or several religions) which motivate their actions? Conflict with their directive? Obligate them to certain actions or schedules?

If your protagonist or other members of the crew strictly adhere to a religion, then their beliefs and practices could speak to the traditions of their home world. How being in space changes or does not change the characters can also be telling of their culture. How well do they adapt to the change of being away from their temples or leaders? How do they deal with the inability to partake in religious practices that necessitate touching earth, sunrises and sunsets, or eating certain foods that are unavailable to them in space? 

What do they do when a colonization mission is aimed at a planet that already has intelligent life…does their moral code inhibit them from doing their job?

3. Are there national or cultural wars or disputes on the home world that might add tensions to the crew?

If there are new or long-standing wars going on on the ground, then the presence of characters from both sides of the conflict would really boost the tension on the starship, as well as give readers a great insight into what’s going on back at home and how it’s affected these characters. Even if the root of the disagreement is lost, buried in time, it is still a great way to expand upon the world of your characters. 

4. Are these humans or very alien aliens?

If your characters are exclusively human or very humanoid, then this will be irrelevant, but if any or all of your characters are alien, then you have a vast opportunity to delve into the world and culture of their people. It doesn’t have to be long historical rants, either. That sort of stuff should almost always be woven into the story that you’re telling right now. But if your characters have, say, tentacles instead of hands and feet, then the way their world functions is going to be very different. This can be beautifully and subtly done so that their alien-ness is shown in a thousand small ways, but it all feels natural for a cephalopod race. Sometimes very humanistic aliens work for the story you’re telling, and that’s fine. But small differences can go a long way. They only have six fingers? Eight fingers? Then guess what, their number system has a base of six. Or eight. They have an extra cone in their eyes? Guess what, they see color in the infrared spectrum. They have tails? How has their fashion sense evolved around including the tail in the clothing choices? 

There is so much worldbuilding you can do, even if your characters are endlessly trapped on their spaceship. They came from somewhere. They have a mission. Let the origins of their journey and the world from which that came help deepen your story. 

Happy writing!

Anonymous asked:

I’m developing a story that partially takes place in a setting I’ve never been in. Is it enough to do research via all media (news and film included?) or do I need to do field research, since the setting is theoretically accessible in real life? I want to portray life in such a setting realistically to the point where I feel either interviews or heavy research is needed.

Lots of writers have novels set in places they’ve never been to. In fact, four of my novels are set in real places I haven’t been to. If you can somehow wrangle a trip, by all means, do it! However, don’t shy away from a setting just because you can’t visit it. Just do the best you can research-wise. This is a lot easier now than it was even ten years ago, because now you can “walk around” so many places via Google Street View (and Google Earth, if you can get it), plus, there are 360 degree photos and quad-copter flyovers. Google Earth, YouTube, Vimeo, and travel web sites are some of my favorite sources. Have a look at my post Setting Your Story in an Unfamiliar Place for more help. :)

Have a writing question? I’d love to hear from you! Please be sure to read my ask rules and master list first or your question will not be answered. :)

chibisquirt  asked:

Hi Sine! I recently re-read your Star Trek AU--which is BRILLIANT--and I noticed that it's got a pretty complex plot. Then I thought about it, and a lot of your fics have multiple things going on in them at once. I think Living On Your Breath has something like four plots: Steve's personal, Tony's personal, the villains, and then Carol&Wanda's. Plot complexity is something I'm trying to get better at, so I thought I'd ask how you come up with and manage everything! Thanks for writing!

Thanks for asking! I had to think about this for a bit, but I came up with a few rough guidelines for how I handle plot. I’m putting this under a read more because (1) I am wordy, and (2) I don’t want to spoil either of those stories for anyone who hasn’t read them.

Keep reading

*sigh* it begins…
Guys, I may get a tad snarky so please excuse me.

@undertalefan10, normally I would ignore something like this, but I wanted to make it clear… I have done a CRAP ton of research on this game. Making a graphic novel adaptation is no cakewalk, and I need to have a lot of information about the different runs in order to put things together well.
I’ve done a lot of looking into things with Chara to figure out how I want to handle them, and believe me, they’re FAR from innocent. Sure, the player is in control of kills and spares, but there are things Chara says and does that don’t exactly put them in the right.

Get info before you accuse, please.


ARTICLE: NME, 16th May 2009 - Richey’s Final Mystery 

Unedited version from NME Blog

You’ve said that the time just felt right to use the lyrics that Richey left behind. What in particular had changed?

James Dean Bradfield: For me, personally, I suppose it was the fear of having to make music that could live up to the lyrics. There were lots of other factors, but it did start like, that there was a factor of ‘Would it be tactless to even 10 years after…?’. It just needed to feel as if the distance between the event of Richey’s disappearance and us coming to an understanding of the lyrics, it needed just to be a long time, really. You just gotta let the dust settle in a very natural way, and you can’t take a guess when that’s gonna happen. But I think the overriding responsibility was actually being able to make music that lived up to the lyrics.

Nicky Wire: I think ‘Send Away The Tigers’ was a huge help. I think if we hadn’t come back and had that success and reaffirmed ourselves as just a glorious rock band… we’re not saying it’s the most inventive, far-reaching album we ever made, but it just made us feel young again and it got us back into the consciousness of whatever it is, the NME, the radio, just all those things. If we’d done this album after ‘Lifeblood’, I think people would have said, ‘Oh, they’re just trying to resurrect their career’. But the fact is we’d resurrected our career with ‘Send Away The Tigers’. We were just in the back of a car, and James just said, ‘I think it’s time’, you know… kind of side-stepping the treadmill, to do something as an art project rather than putting us under the pressure of coming up with another gigantic hit.

JDB: I prefer the fear of pure creativity to the fear of knocking out another Number Two single.

NW: As you do! And I think the Godlike Genius award, although we’d decided before then, that did reaffirm, that did feel like it was for the four of us. It didn’t feel like there was three of us on the stage. It really did feel like that summation of our career, that gigantic part of our career, that perfect symmetry was with Richey.

JDB: I’m not saying the record company or our manager, Martin, were against the idea, but I’m sure in the back of their minds…

NW: They were worried.

JDB: …In the back of their minds they’d have rather we tried to follow up ‘Send Away The Tigers’ and particularly ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’. So we didn’t take the easiest option.

NW: (jokingly) They were like, ‘Can’t you get a blonde Swedish singer to something over the top?’… (both laugh) But when we looked at the lyrics, it was just the brilliance of the lyrics, I’d forgotten how much I missed him as a lyricist, how much of a fan I am of his intellect, and his fierce, kind of, rigorous critique of culture, and all those things made me realise I could never do what he did, and it’d be wrong for me to even try.

JDB:And finally, I do think it gave us all a chance to almost sort of act the same role in the band. Nick wrote the music to ‘Marlon JD’, half of ‘She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach’, half of ‘Peeled Apples’, and all of ‘William’s Last Words’. And it gave us chance to actually just all be, in a strange way, musicians. Just musicians interpreting somebody else’s words, even if it was somebody that we were incredibly close to and we knew very well.

When you talk about writing music to live up to the lyrics, how much did you keep it in your mind, like, ‘what would Richey have thought of this particular sound’? Or was it more living up to the lyrics in your own estimation?

NW: I think it was living up to them for ourselves. Because in all honesty, when we did ‘The Holy Bible’, James was the musical tour de force, it’s not like Richey was like, ‘Can you make this one sound like Magazine, or this one sound like Siouxsie And The Banshees?’, it never worked like that. He never came, well he did… something like ‘Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky’ which he heard before he disappeared, he absolutely loved the track. He obviously loved stuff like ‘Of Walking Abortion’, ‘Mausoleum’, ‘Faster’. I think there is elements of that on there. But it doesn’t matter, that’s not our driving force, it’s just that the lyrics had to… they dictated the mood, I think, of the record. And they’re slightly different to 'The Holy Bible’. The lyrics are much less full of utter hatred and putrefaction of the human race. And there is a surreal sense of humour in some of them as well.

A lot of the anger of 'The Holy Bible’ was quite positive, in a way, quite purgative. But some of the lyrics on 'Journal For Plague Lovers’ feel… not exactly defeated, but there’s a more sort of closed…

JDB: Serene and resigned.


NW: ’Yeah, I think there is a sense of more calm. It’s like, he’s been through this process of doubting everything and questioning everything. And the conclusions he reached, they’re not particularly happy. But it does seem like he’s reached them, he’s been through the process. There’s less railing against the world. There’s less chance of solving a problem, there’s more chance of recognising what it is, and accepting it, after this really rigorous process of ingesting everything. But then, he’s not around, so we can’t say for sure.

When you came to interpret the lyrics, in the way they were written down, when you were editing, were there any sort of ambiguities of grammar, or moments where you though, I’m not sure, by editing this, that you might change the meaning?

NW: For me the only one really was ‘William’s Last Words’, because that is probably two pages of A4, and it was obviously condensed into a very short lyric. And when you hear it now, it obviously sounds very autobiographical, and very sad and like some kind of goodbye. The original does seem to be about a character, Richey was fascinated with the film The Entertainer with Laurence Olivier, Archie, you know, the sad music hall kind of thing. There’s obviously huge analogies when you’re reading it, because it does seem to relate to him. But to edit that down… All the rest were pretty much lyrics, weren’t they?

JDB: Yeah, 'William’s Last Words’ and 'Bag Lady’ were the only two written as pure prose.

NW: But you know, Richey was a master of the lyric and he treated it as his art form. ‘William’s Last Words’, perhaps, maybe that could have been the next step that he was going for.

JDB: Along those lines, I think the only thing that was confusing was say in a song like ‘Me And Stephen Hawking’, or what’s another one, perhaps ‘Peeled Apples’, there are some verses where the intent or meaning behind the words were actually… I couldn’t unlock it. I couldn’t understand it at all. And that might be a bit shocking, because there might appear to be some lyrics on the record already which are quite hard to understand. But there were some stuff which actually seemed like the key had just been chucked away to the meaning of them.

NW: For the first time ever, it’s just not worth a debate about a lot of these words, because I just don’t… because we weren’t in that state of mind. I just wasn’t reading that much! You know, he was reading fucking six books a week! He couldn’t sleep, he had bad, really terrible insomnia, post-treatment. He just seemed like he had an utter inability to switch off, so that everything was coming out in these words. You’d need to do quite a lot of research just to spot the references.

JDB: I would think I was being intelligent just by reading a novel that none of my friends had read before, but sometimes he was just, reading like the teachings of the eighth pope. Or something that was beyond my grasp.

NW: So I don’t think we’ve changed the meanings of any of the songs, I think we’ve done a really sensitive job, and some of them only a couple of lines have gone anyway. ‘Jackie Collins…’, ‘Virginia State Epileptic Colony’ I think are pretty much exactly verbatim. So… it’s not that much different to what he always did. You know, he’s always handed us lyrics. I mean when James first saw ‘Yes’, I mean that was almost like a piece of prose in some ways, wasn’t it?

JDB: Yeah, in the past, you know, just because he would hand you some lyrics that it actually seemed it might be impossible to put music to them, didn’t mean that they weren’t written as lyrics.

NW: (cackles at length) Or that’s what you thought!

JDB: (chuckles) So that kind of process hadn’t changed.

NW: He wasn’t looking for an Ivor Novello, was he, the boy. He was looking for a Pulitzer Prize.

JDB: And strangely, I’ve never thought about it, but he was never looking to be compared to any other lyricist.

NW: No, he wasn’t, no. He just wanted to be JG Ballard.

Did you find the individual nature of his lyrics pushed your songwriting around them in a certain direction, that maybe it hadn’t been for a while?

NW: Oh definitely, James might be too humble to say this, but he definitely touches places that I can’t. And therefore, it does push James to write music in a different way. Because it’d be embarrassing if I tried to do that, you know. Became all jagged! And angular! And compounded by so many references… it’d be embarrassing if I tried to be him. But it does push you in other ways.

JDB: Yeah no, I think subconsciously we put some songs together on the record, I mean like ‘All Is Vanity’ leads into ‘Pretension/Repulsion’. And ‘All Is Vanity’ is quite self-explanatory what that deals with… that deals with just hating those momentary lapses of just falling into narcissism and then realising perhaps that even the appreciation of yourself is just useless. And then that leads into ‘Pretension/Repulsion’, which mentions Odalisque by Ingres, which talks about the idealisation of beauty, or what is ugliness. I love the way that ‘All Is Vanity’ deals with one issue and ‘Pretension/Repulsion’ seems to resolve it for me. In a strange, kind of twisted way. ‘Pretension/Repulsion’ could pretty much be another song that just said ‘I have no judgement in my eye, I cannot behold anything’.

NW: It’s one of the greatest rock couplets ever: “Shards, oh shards, the androgyny fails/Oadlisque by Ingres, extra bones for sale”. That’s never gonna appear by anyone else. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

JDB: It makes me think in a different way, but… I’m not just trying to boast round Nick, but on ‘Send Away The Tigers’ I’m just used to dealing with lyrics that people don’t have to sing, you know. The first lines of ‘Send Away The Tigers’ are “There’s no hope in the colonies/So catch yourself a lifeline/Things have gone wrong too many times/So catch yourself a slow boat to China”. You know, it’s not like I’m not used to having to pay attention to the words when I sing them. If I wasn’t used to it by now I would just be an absolute dummkopf.

So, how much do these 13 tracks represent of the whole of the notebooks that Richey left you?

NW:The original one was an old kind of Ryman’s ring-bound one that contains artwork and photos and tracts from various writers, and I’d say, I can’t quite remember but it might be 28 or 30…

JDB: 28 feels right.

NW: Something like that. And included in them are ‘Elvis Impersonator…’, ‘Kevin Carter’, ‘Removables’, which he heard, (and) ‘Small Black Flowers…’ and we demoed a couple of them and James played acoustic to them, literally the week before he disappeared. So there’s probably between eight and 10 maybe that were too impossible. Some of them are little haikus, four lines. ‘Dolphin-Friendly Tuna Wars’, that’s one, ‘Alien Orders/Invisible Armies’, that’s one. ‘Young Men’, which is quite Joy Division-y. It’s not like, um, they just didn’t feel right. We’ll probably put them all out in a book one day. There’s not gonna be a ‘Journal For Plague Lovers Two’. The special version of the record does come with the original version of the tracks on there. So you can see the editing process, if there is any.

JDB: But the thing is I do think we used the best of the lyrics?

NW: I think so, yes.

Is it true the Japanese version of the album has two extra tracks on it?

NW: No, there’s just a cover of ‘Primitive Painters’ by Felt and an instrumental, ‘Alien Orders/Invisible Armies’. So we used the title of that one, but it’s just an instrumental. Because it felt like a good title.

So, if we could go through the songs track-by-track… Starting with ‘Peeled Apples’

NW: “It starts with an audio clip from The Machinist. If there was ever a film made of us, Christian Bale is the one person who could play Richey. Maybe Michael Sheen. Both Welsh. Both mental. No, I mean, I just think the script, obviously Richey never saw The Machinist, but I just think it sets the tone.

You were talking about the lyrics being a bit inscrutable. I’ve thought and thought until I nearly broke my head, but I can’t figure out what that line “The figure eight inside out is infinity” might mean.

NW: I know how you feel…

JDB: It stands for the Scalextric of his mind. Racing around, and sometimes crashing, and getting back on…

NW: But he did always go on about, if you remember, he was obsessed with the perfect circle and Van Gogh’s figure eight and all that. It was a kind of recurring theme that he never seemed to get to grips with.

JDB: Drawing the perfect circle’s meant to be the test that has sent many an artist into insanity.

NW: But I don’t know whether we relate it to that either. It might just be like James said, the internal maelstrom. I mean, that first line “The more I see, the less I scream”, that just sums up… I mean, this was a long time ago, this was before media saturation, but even then, you know, I think he was feeling, like, ‘I’ve seen it all’.

JDB:And also, you know, I think a lot of people use Chomsky as a benchmark of their political knowledge or thought these days, and Richey seems to takes the piss out of that with Chomsky’s Camelot and riderless horses…

NW: It goes back to like ‘Faster’, “I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer/I spat out Plath and Pinter”. I love the kind of insane ambition of his intellect.

You’d never have anyone else writing a line like that.

NW:No, you wouldn’t. “A dwarf takes his cockerel out of the cockfight” – that was a hard one to sing, wasn’t it?

JDB: “The naked lightbulb is always wrong"… there are so many lines there that just kind of set your imagination off. Is that kind of taking the piss out of almost… picturesque existentialism? That’s the kind of things it brings up in your head. And then there’s more literal stuff like "falcons attack the pigeons in the West Wing at night”. I think if you sing the song along it does come together in your head as a sort of tableau of bizarrist imagery, if that makes sense.

NW: For one thing, I think Richey never did anything to show, this is the mind of a man, a 27-year-old at his creative peak. He was just saying what he thinks, it’s not like, I’ve read this or I’ve seen that. It really wasn’t about that – he just took it to heart. He had more desire and more uncontrolled desire, to be an artist. We’d never say something like that, you know, it’s not in the Manics canon to say ‘we’re artists’. It just usually means you make fucking terrible records. But I think he was, he was, y’know. He wouldn’t have said it himself, but that’s what he’d become.

There are lots of echoes to other songs… that line “The Levi Jean is always stronger than the Uzi”, that’s just brilliant.

NW: That could have been on ‘Generation Terrorists’.

Yeah, it reminded me of that line from ‘Born To End’, “Europe freed by McDonald and Levi’s”

NW:Yeah, and kind of one of our – it used to be our most embarrassing song ever – but ‘Natwest Barclays Midlands Lloyds’, became the most prophetic. That line “black horse apocalypse, death sanitised through credit”, which he wrote.

JDB: Ain’t so funny now, huh?!

NW: Yeah! And we were embarrassed when we used to play that sometimes. But, uh, there you go… I think musically it’s the nearest to why we got Steve Albini in, it has that ‘In Utero’ power. The drums are massive, menacing, it’s got the ‘Archives Of Pain’ kind of bass… it sets the tone. That and ‘All Is Vanity’ are probably the two most ‘Holy Bible’ kind of tracks. That and ‘All Is Vanity’ are probably the two most ‘Holy Bible’-ish songs.

That and ‘Bag Lady’.

NW: It is, and that’s why [it’s a secret track]. We thought it was too grim, musically. And also we wanted 13 tracks like ‘The Holy Bible’ and we wanted a secret track like ‘In Utero’. Just a petty rock’n’roll thing.

JDB: ‘Bag Lady’ was the only sound that we actually worried about from a listener’s perception of what we were trying to do. Because that is the song that just came straight away from the lyric.

NW: It’s just got the most miserable chord ever.

JDB: I mean, we just felt even though that was what came out, we just felt it didn’t suit. For people like us to come out with music like that, it was just a little, mmm…

NW: I guess that we felt maybe we were being a little bit contrived musically.

JDB: But it was at the end of the record, so we were losing our perspective at that point.

How was working with Steve Albini?

JDB: Loved it, because it was probably different to anybody else we’ve worked with, and that was the main reason we did it. We wanted somebody that was gonna… we originated trying to achieve some sort of purity, because we were working with lyrical restrictions, and we needed to embrace that, and we needed someone else that wouldn’t give us limitless possibilities as to what we could turn the song into. So we knew that he works in one take, and that he doesn’t do many takes, and that he wasn’t gonna stroke our egos and say ‘yeah, it sounds great’, we knew none of that was gonna happen. There’s an aspect there on some of the records he’s produced which we just knew might fit these lyrics. I do remember us talking about working with Steve Albini when Richey was around.

NW: ‘In Utero’ that year, and ‘The Holy Bible’… to be honest, it matched the rawness of the lyrics, that unbridled honesty. And it is a pre-digital album. Richey wrote it on a typewriter, he never had a computer. An Olivetti portable typewriter, which wasn’t portable at all, it was fucking huge, he carried it away with him everywhere. And it sounds analogue, it’s something of a time capsule I guess. And we just wanted to follow through on that. And it took a lot of our safety nets away. If you phone Steve Albini up today, he’s not going to be like ‘Wow, what a great experience, working with the Manic Street Preachers’. He might say he liked a couple of the tracks. But we didn’t want that, we didn’t want a producer saying how great we were.

JDB: We just loved the tell-tale signs about what kind of person he was.

NW: He wore overalls to the studio.

JDB… with a big E on it, some pencils, never had breakfast, never had lunch. Never on the phone, which is unbelievable for producers. They’re always on the phone going ‘Oh my god, Elvis Presley, I’d love to work with him’. And when he did settle down in coffee breaks, to watch MTV or NME TV, with Nick, I’d walk in the room and it’d be like listening to two vipers.

NW: He’s the only person I’ve ever met who’s got more spite than me, but in a very funny way.

JDB: There’s just a really good work ethic there, it’s a really good old-fashioned application of recording science. But not overdone, he just really loved microphones, and he just got the balance right. And at the end of the project, we couldn’t quite finish it, and so we just went and did a couple of tracks without him, and he sent us over a big package of Studs Terkel books, which kind of says it all really. He’s still very engaged in what you call social realist politics. Bit of the soup-kitchen vibe sometimes. He believes in the grassroots application of just being a political person rather than supporting parties.

You recorded 'Journal For Plague Years’ with Steve Albini. Was that partly because Richey loved Nirvana’s 'In Utero’ [which Albini also produced]?

Nicky Wire: There was an element of that, yeah, but it’s the whole thing of making a pre-digital album, like there’s no singles. It’s a tribute to Richey, it’s also a tribute to the idea of an album. That this is a piece of work that you can’t take a track here and think this is representative, this feels like a body of work. And Steve reflects a lot of those principles, and a lot of those ethics as well. He does records like he does because a lot of his favourite records were made that way. That’s his thing. He hates the digital drama of modern music.

James Dean Bradfield: [Impersonating Steve Albini] The digital squuaaaall!

NW: The digital squuuuuuuuaaallll…

So, ‘Jackie Collins Existential Question Time’. Best song title ever

NW: It is a good title, isn’t it? The weirdest thing is, I think, lyrics aside, a lot of it is very sweet and very pop. If we’d done it in a different lifetime with different words, who knows, it could have been a gigantic hit single. I love the way it draws you in with the softness and everything and then that last minute of rasping… pure hatred and anger kind of… spoils it all.

It’s a brilliant track. I keep singing the refrain ‘Oh Mummy what’s a sex pistol’ at bus stops and freaking people out.

NW: That is a brilliant sound. It actually sounds like a festival chant to me, I can see it… through the crowd, call and response.

JDB: [Shaking head] bizarre.

NW: But we didn’t, right from the start James said, we’re just not gonna try and write a single. We’re just not. Which, you know, after the success of the last record was a pretty bizarre thing to do, it did scare people close to us. But it just felt like the only option. Richey’s not writing these lyrics to get a hit.

That line comes from an actual Sex Pistols poster or flyer, right?

NW: A lot of people wore badges, you see it a lot in photos, and it’s just got ‘mummy, what’s a sex pistol’ on it. It’s just a sort of cultural reference point, I don’t know if it’s any more loaded than that. The song, I find, is pretty impenetrable, I don’t know if Jackie Collins was ever on 'Question Time’, having a bit of a Will Young moment, you know.… I have a feeling, the last bit, ‘situationist sisterhood of Jackie and Joan’. All I can think of is I seem to remember once maybe Jackie and Joan were on at the same time. And it was a bit like the Hitchens brothers but total opposite to each other… maybe 'Question Time’ or something like that. Maybe Russell Harty. I don’t know, James might have a better handle on the lyrics.

JDB: No, I just think that was the one song… I just got drawn into it when I saw it as a lyric. Most of the songs I’ve got a definite idea about what I think they’re about, or there’s a grey area, but I mainly know what they’re about. But that’s the only one where I’m very, very uncertain.

NW: Maybe you know!

The furthest I got was it being something about the breakdown of the possibility of relationships or romantic love. Jackie Collins’ novels, Jackie and Joan being a sort of Situationist sisterhood, turning normal ideas of love on their head?

NW: That’s good.

JDB: Better than either of our ideas!

It’s so tantalising, because it seems to be so loaded with meaning, and you wish you could just… get at it.

NW: I can hear it in my head sometimes, when we’re doing these interviews, his slightly nasal Welsh drone after he’s been talking all day and he’s still had this immense love to talk, and talk. He loved the challenge of doing interviews, he loved… well, he didn’t exactly love journalists, but he just thought it was a chance to get your point across. Even if they hated you, he’d never kind of back down. I can almost hear his chat.

JDB: Even the 4-Real incident, he still kept talking! Which is not something I want to regurgitate or anything, but it’s pretty remarkable.

I feel a bit like I’m in an English Lit seminar. And probably failing.

NW: Yeah (laughs). And we were listening to a lot of Pere Ubu and Skids, and even a lot of Pixies in it musically.

[This next paragraph was from a follow-up phone interview]

Reading through what we said about ‘Jackie Collins’, the mention of Sex Pistols and Situationism in the same lyric suggested the influence of Greil Marcus’ 'Lipstick Traces’, namesake of your rarities compilation. Joan Collins acted in the film adaption of Jackie Collins’ novel 'The Stud’. Maybe the lyric somehow views those films/novels as subversions of traditional romantic love, in the same way that the refrain ‘Oh mummy what’s a Sex Pistol’ line suggests subversion of innocence?

NW: Greil Marcus was a massive influence on all of us… it does seem to make some sense. The way everything seems to be connected – you could definitely be on a goer. And Jon Savage’s ‘England’s Dreaming’… 'Lipstick Traces’ was much more than just a book on music, I could definitely see that, the same idea of recurrence.

Did most of the songs suggest musical ways to present them straight away, or did some of them take longer than others?

JDB: Yeah, stuff like ‘Me And Stephen Hawking’ they felt like slightly overblown haikus, the verses, they’re kind of economic. They have the stabs, and the stops, and then they’re punctuated by something Steve Albini called the ‘Itchycoo Park’ section. And it just felt like ‘Me And Stephen Hawking’, 'Oh we laughed/We missed the sex revolution, when we failed the physical’. It was obvious that we couldn’t be going [hums ‘Ifwhiteamerica’-style crunching riff] nnn-nnn-NNN-NNN. There had to be some kind of bathos or humour in there. That line itself made me realise that the song had to be punctuated with like, mini surprises.

And then something like ‘This Joke Sport Severed’ is I think just beautiful, a really beautiful lyric about something which is probably quite sad and resigned. And I just wanted the first half of the song to be beautiful. I didn’t want things to have to be reminiscent of the riff on ‘Mausoleum’, or ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ or ‘Of Walking Abortion’, because the words just weren’t saying that to you. It was an absolutely beautiful little lyric, ‘This Joke Sport Severed’ The ability for him to turn that kind of inner turmoil into something which is beautiful, is something you just gotta admire in him.

NW: I think with ‘Stephen Hawking’ as well, people will say, oh, well this seems like some kind of dated reference, but I think you’ve got to remember that this is two or three years before Radiohead even started to do the Stephen Hawking stuff… It’s kind of unavoidable that some of the references are of that time.

‘Me And Stephen Hawking’. As well as the obvious concern with genetic modification in the first verse, it seems like he might be trying to refer perhaps to the way those technologies are marketed in developing countries, or the way we view their struggles.

NW: I know what you mean by that, and then there’s the mad thing of Giant Haystacks, who was obviously a famous wrestler in our time. He was the bad guy to Big Daddy and this was really… ITV on a Saturday afternoon, it wasn’t WWF. I’d love to know if Giant Haystacks fought in a Bombay fight and was watched by 100,000 people. Because if that’s true… no, I don’t know what the fuck it’s about. Cos then, like you said the genetic stuff, the scientific angle, seems to… I don’t know, it’s just that amazing mixture, Richey was never afraid of really low art and really high art. And that’s why it’s never elitist really, it’s just knowledge, it’s just taking something from everything.

JDB: And I also feel that it’s a precursor to how other worlds, even then in Richey’s imagination it was all becoming interconnected, and everything was having a knock-on domino effect in world culture itself. If that’s what he’s trying to say in the lyric, then he couldn’t have been more right.

NW: And the Tracey the sheep thing, every month there’s another cloning story that’s really similar to that reference. But feel free to write your own ideas on this, seriously, in the piece, because it’s nice to have a different perspective on stuff.

It’s hard at first to see how the two verses relate to each other. They could be from two different songs covering two totally different topics. And then you try and think of ways that you could join them up.

JDB: Seriously, you haven’t seen the rest. Seriously, you wouldn’t fucking believe them.

NW: I love the fact, that, looking at that, you would never think it could be sung. But I don’t think James ever sounds that awkward singing them. He’s got a technique.

JDB: It’s just enjoyable, really at the end of the day. I mean, you can overblow all that… ‘Culture sucks down words/Itemise loathing and feed yourself smiles’… it’s always the fucking same.

NW: ‘Motorcycle…’ is particularly awkward, actually, yes.

I’m sure this has been said to you a million times, but it does sound particularly attention-grabbing, as well, that the lyrics are so staccato and unusually phrased.

NW: I think the difference is, that deep in my heart, probably, I know I could never write lyrics like this, or I could never write lyrics this good. I’m completely humbled by him as a lyricist. That’s just a fact. Having said that, he probably couldn’t have written ‘A Design For Life’ . It probably would have just turned into something so complicated… and it’s very minimalist, lyrically, ‘Design For Life’. So it’s a weird dichotomy.

JDB: ‘Lowry, Hughes, working classes, matchstick man, I am Superman!’

NW: Yeah, yeah…

JDB: That just came off the top of my head, sorry. Richey’s version of ‘A Design For Life’.

NW: It definitely would have been… not that it would have caused conflict, but maybe we would have just gravitated to writing separately. But in a good way.

Where is the audio sample on this from?

NW: It’s from a film called 'The Sun’, about the Emperor Hirohito. We just felt it fitted. The actual translation is just ‘turn the radio up, turn the radio up’.

‘This Joke Sport Severed’: I was surprised that you gave this such a musically gentle treatment, considering the bleakness of it.

JDB: Well ‘severed’, yeah, the word ‘severed’, it’s one of those words that when you see it, it just describes exactly what it is. But the song it is… it did feel like a dead flower to me, because it’s got the possibility of just giving up on conjugal relationships or love, I think. And that emotion is not turned out to anybody in particular except himself. It’s just saying perhaps I’m not worthy of love, or love in relationships doesn’t work for me. I’m not saying he’s objectifying love in the sense of just saying nobody’s worthy of my love, it’s all about him. It’s just saying maybe I’m not worthy of love. That’s what I thought the song was about.

NW: I just thought it was another one that seemed to come to a conclusion after a process, you know, “I endeavoured to find a place where I became untethered”, it just feels like, you know, he’s looked at the possibilities and, like I said, a lot of the conclusions aren’t pretty or positive, but they are… rational, even? You know? It’s just nice to know I think, well, I know for a fact from the last 10 days that we were with him, that he’d reached a place where he was much ha… not happier…

JDB: Calmer.

NW: Yeah, and it was just like being like we’d always been. That eight months from 'The Holy Bible’ onwards was incredibly strained and miserable, you were just losing someone and you couldn’t reach him. But the last two weeks where we had this demo session together and everything and went through these songs, whether he’d reached some conclusions or not who knows, but he was much… the pathos was back, the smile was back. Which now I guess, obviously, has a different context, but at the time I felt like we were actually… I mean we did about seven songs, didn’t we?

JDB: 'The House In The Woods’ and stuff?

NW: Yeah, and we did the theme to [the Judge Dredd film,] 'Judge Yr'self’ as well, the Sylvester Stallone, which I think he really enjoyed, doing that. Because he loved the fucking cartoon.

JDB: Nietszchean references he could latch onto.

NW: “Blessed be the…” what is it?

JDB: “Blessed be the blade, blessed be the scythe.”

NW: “Dionysus against the crucified!” So yes, I guess that idea of conclusion is… is good.

It is bleak, but I guess no more so than many other songs he’d written a lot longer ago. I was wondering, with songs like this do you worry that people might interpret them less as lyrics, less as art, more as symptoms? Reading them too much retrospectively?

NW: It’s a good question, but I just think a line like in silken palms that tear bone from skin, that’s just poetry in its own right anyway. No, I don’t think that’s fair, I think if you take your writing that seriously, like he did, I don’t think he’s writing a diary, I still think he’s writing lyrics.

JDB: I think our main perspective, perhaps when we’ve gone through any kind of emotions when we were writing or recording these things were that it’s nice to just admire a lyricist or somebody who has poetry in his soul, et cetera. I think it’s fairly obvious that I wouldn’t want anybody to kind of challenge themselves as much as Richey challenged himself. I wouldn’t want anybody to go down that road anymore. And I don’t hear any echoes in my head or my heart about the way Richey felt sometimes. I just stand back and admire his writing. Like I said, to actually turn something that ugly into something beautiful and erudite, is something that he was trying to do all the time. And regardless of what happened in the end, it’s about admiring somebody who’s trying to process or turn personal emotion into creativity.

‘Journal For Plague Lovers’: I felt this could have been about a number of things, but the main impression I got was of it being to do with the medical establishment.

NW: Mmm. That’s good, that, actually. As in, doctors being gods?


NW: I took it more literally as just being like, a secular masterpiece like Bill Callahan’s 'Faith/Void’, but I can see where you’re coming from. [Reads through lyrics aloud] I think there’s a fair bit of doubt in religion in there as well. I don’t really get the 'PG certificate, all cuts unfocused line…’. Does that imply some kind of censorship, then? It’s funny, it’s the one track with a title which doesn’t seem to quite match the concept. 'Journal For Plague Lovers’ doesn’t seem to relate so much to the song as others. If it’s about what I think it’s about. It’s not very good, I know, but some of the stuff, we just don’t fucking know.

JDB: No, it’s alright, it’s just that through the songs, some, like I said, like 'All Is Vanity’ and 'Pretension/repulsion’ are linked together and the three songs that link together with this one are 'Journal For Plague Lovers’, 'Facing Page: Top Left’ and in a strange way, 'Virginia State Epileptic Colony’. I think it talks about how when the malady doesn’t fit the cure. And how the cure sometimes homogenises the person. And it’ll be like, 'PG certificate, all cuts unfocused’… the cure will sometimes bring a bland focus to what is a real problem.

NW: (to JDB) You think it’s more his journey, then, this? A comment of more, 'they’re all trying to change me’? Because of course, The Priory is a mixture of all pseudo-God and religious bollocks and doctors trying to cure you.

JDB: And submitting to some symbol, or God.

NW: Ripping your soul up.

JDB: I think that those three songs link together and the sense of community that you get with the people that you meet when you’re having treatment.

NW: He quickly realised, when he was in The Priory and not the NHS hospital, that the cure basically means having to destroy the entire entity that you are. And I don’t think he’s prepared to do that for the sake of survival in the modern world.

JDB: He had this amazing quote once when we went to the Priory and he was very pissed off with somebody that was trying to treat him, and he said 'they would just believe that something was wrong with me if I went and sat in the bushes with a camouflage hat on and pretended I was in some kind of war. Then they would think there was something wrong with me. Which is a bleak fact.

NW:NW: Fucking turning into a therapy session, this.

JDB: Therapy’s just bullshit, because talking never makes you feel good.

NW: It just makes you feel fucking shit. For me, anyway. But for other people, might work.

I loved the concision of that line, 'PG certificate, all cuts unfocused’. The double meanings of 'cuts’ and unfocused’.

NW: And that sung as well: Cuts. Un. Focused. It has a wonderful rhythm to it… although when he was in the Priory and Eric Clapton was there and he offered to come round and jam on the guitar, that was one of those moments where you couldn’t write anything funnier, in a tragic situation.

JDB: God bless Clappo, he wasn’t being nasty…

NW: He wasn’t. He just thought, hey, rock'n'roll musician, come on. I would love to have been there to see Richey’s polite 'well, maybe not…’ ‘Matron, bring my Strat, close the door’. And Richey’s like 'Fuck, I’m getting out of here!’

She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach’: Is there any particular story or source behind this one, do you know?

NW: I don’t know, I really don’t think so.

JDB: We’ve just got to keep quite shtum on these. I think there are some people he met when he was in one of the two places having treatment and I think he just took in, just digested other people’s stories and experiences.

NW: Especially the NHS hospital in Cardiff in Whitchurch, which was… I mean, The Priory was grim in a different kind of way. In a… not false, but just a wrong sort of way. But the NHS hospital, obviously everyone was trying really hard, but it wasn’t a nice place to be. It was, how can I put it, visiting in there, it did wither your soul. I don’t know, is this song about that? He was kind of capable of just a kind of pettiness towards any idea of marriage or love, or relationships.

There’s a deeper way, but there’s also, he just couldn’t fucking understand it, you know. It wasn’t for him. Back in university, when me and him were together, he would relentlessly, when I got dumped by a girl, he would laugh and mercilessly take the piss out of me for weeks on end. In a funny way, but in a (laughs) kind of savage way as well. And I think it’s the closest to the kind of Nirvana thing, we really went for it on this. I did a little demo of it and James changed the chorus into something bigger and more dramatic. I mean that is a really pure song, there’s hardly anything on there, is there?

There’s two guitars, a bass, a vocal and a drum, I think. What we realised on this record was that unlike something like 'The Everlasting’ where it took something like six-and-a-half minutes to put a verse chorus bridge and solo in, when we were doing it on this album it’d be two and a half minutes. And there’s still as many musical features on there. But we haven’t done that for years and years and years. And it was completely natural.

What kind of Nirvana songs did you have in mind?

I was just thinking of stuff like 'Serve The Servants’, 'Rape Me’, a sort of speeded-up 'Heart-Shaped Box’. And there’s a kind of '60s pop sensibility to the verse as well, it’s quite sweet. And again it just shows off James’ brilliance. It’s just a fantastic guitar solo. Like Steve Jones at his peak. Let the Bradfield off the leash…

The lyrics on 'She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach’ [a track on new album 'Journal For Plague Lovers’] seem to see love as a dirty trick, at best.

Nicky Wire: Yeah. I did rearrange a couple of lines to fit. And the one line that always haunted me, which I don’t know how we got in there, was 'salmon pink skinned Mary, still caring’. It reminds me a bit of the play we did in O-Level, 'An Inspector Calls’, when the girl, doesn’t she pour bleach, to kill herself, by drinking bleach? I can’t quite remember, but it might have something to do with that. I think the title is more scary than the lyric in this one. A lot of people have been shocked by the title. Once again, in inimitable and bizarre Manics way, we just never get shocked by stuff like that. Even when he was around, you know, when he gave us 'Intense Humming Of Evil’.

James Dean Bradfield: Yeah, I didn’t think 'oh gawwwd’, I though, 'cool, this is going to be difficult, but enjoyable’. Which is bizarre, because the subject matter of the lyric is awful. It’s just the way we’ve inoculated ourselves against certain realities and just got on with the creativity I suppose.

NW: It’s just our knowing ourselves, all four of us, or all three of us since Richey’s disappearance. If you’ve known someone since you’re five years old, you don’t need to go through all that bullshit that other bands do, you just don’t need to. There’s telepathy, there’s kinetics involved, you know, there’s trust?

JDB: I mean, I feel pretty embarrassed, sometimes, actually saying, articulating what I think the songs are about, because we don’t really talk like that, do we?

NW (laughs) No.

JDB: We might say one or two sentences, this or that, but it isn’t like inside the actor’s studio where we talk and talk and talk and try to interpret things, and what we would call something, it was a lot more, sign language between each other.

NW: The only time we did was around 'Lifeblood’ and we just confused the shit out of ourselves so much we didn’t know what we were doing. Trying to theorise, like I was trying to insist that there were no cymbals on the record, you know, MAKING A POINT! And it didn’t need to be like that.

Would you say this is a kind of sister song to 'She Is Suffering’?

NW: I don’t know, 'She Is Suffering’ isn’t one of my favourite songs anyway.

JDB: It’s my least favourite song on 'The Holy Bible’.

NW: It doesn’t really fit 'The Holy Bible’ anyway. I just don’t know… I think 'She Is Suffering’ suffers slightly more from sort of, the man coming to the rescue (laughs) syndrome. Whereas I think this one is different, I think it’s slightly weak.

It is that idea of female victimhood again.

NW: Yeah.

Facing Page: Top Left’: This seemed to me to be kind of about women’s magazines, or maybe magazine culture in general.

JDB: That did… you kind of have to be careful talking about lyrics, because like Nick said, we can never be sure if we’re being accurate. But there was sometimes, when we’d visit Richey in certain places, some women having treatment, you know, alongside him, that would be impeccably turned out sometimes, in the place, there would be a garish use of lipstick and very made up et cetera. And that did strike me that maybe there was something about that in that lyric.

But I still think it’s part of the little community of 'Journal For Plague Lovers’, 'Facing Page: Top Left’, 'Virginia State Epileptic Colony’. It is just about how you become homogenised under the gaze of certain doctors and analysts and how you kind of lose yourself in treatment.

NW: I think it’s so amazing, like, the original lyric, for once, does have punctuation, doesn’t it? It’s like, full stops after every fucking word.

JDB: Not every word. Just every other word. And for somebody that never used punctuation, just chucked them out of the window, it felt quite strange. 'Pretension/Revulsion’ did as well, actually.

NW: Commas. He had a lot of commas in there. But it lent itself, the one track that seemed to cry out for a kind of acoustic lament, a 'Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky’ kind of thing.

JDB: Physically the hardest song to sing, definitely… 'dipping neophobia’.

NW: Yeah, I love that line. I don’t know if 'neophobia’ has ever been used in a song before. I don’t even know if it’s a word.

It’s a great line, but I just couldn’t, grammatically speaking, make out what it meant at all.

NW: No.

JDB: Which one?

NW: “This beauty here dipping neophobia”.

JDB: Again, I just thought it was about routine. Once you get couched in the useless supposed cure, then you get caught in a routine. Which outside of that, can often be comforting to you.

NW: Which you know, does kind of hark back to 'Small Black Flowers…’ in the idea of being trapped in the zoo, the desperation of zoos. Relating that to his own condition… I don’t know.


NW: Yeah. But I think the institutionalisation of beauty, and trying to be all those things that you’re never gonna get to, and all that, the application to him seems to say, 'I’ve given up on all that bollocks’. 'I’ve long since reached a higher plateau’, I think that line from '4st 7lb’ really counts on here. I think on this album he really does reach that plateau of… the disgust has perhaps turned to ultimate realisation.

Kind of got over the disgust and [quietly] just reached a new level. [Perks up] Having said that, though, he was a brilliant at saying 'you should stop being vain’ and all that kind of stuff. But he was one for looking in front of a mirror for long, loooong periods.

JDB: Tapping his stomach, 'how many situps have I done today?’

NW: He did take weights with him on tour.

JDB: It was the Olivetti typewriter and the weights, in a suitcase. So the tour manager fucking hated him.

NW: He used to say to me, when he got a skinhead, and he came in 'oh, you should really get one, it just clears you from all the vanity, and everything’. As he’s looking in the mirror. It’s like, 'it’s alright for you, you always look fucking great’.

JDB: I did notice when we all turned up to the main photo session for 'The Holy Bible’ we all had very obviously military gear on, and he turned up to that session with one of the shirts was just black, with some badges on it, because it was his favourite shirt. He didn’t really wanna go military, because it was his favourite shirt, at the time… (sounds tired) they’re just recurring obsessions, aren’t they. Routine, lack of sleep, failure of love, failure of God.

NW: I think the vanity thing as well, I know it troubled him, but it interested him as well, that idea of being trapped within vanity and constantly trying and then thinking it’s pointless… it always just flips back and forth with him. Course, he never looked anything other than brilliant.

JDB: Except the waistcoat.

NW: The waistcoat, you’re right. It’s a rock'n'roll law, do not wear a fucking waistcoat.

What did you make of the title?

JDB: That was my favourite title.

NW: It just sounds like it could be a chapter in John Updike or Saul Bellow. It just sounds like a brilliant book title to me.

Maybe it’s a conflation of the kind of idea of how institutions change you and the ideals of perfection in magazines?

NW: Feel free! No seriously, I’m happy to explain every lyric, it’s just hard to give any kind of definition with authority. It’s a shame he didn’t leave… The idea of a journal, it’s not actually notebooks or scraps, these are all fully formed pieces that he left us. So it’s not like there’s any background information for us. There’s images with them and photos and bits and bobs, but they’re just pieces of his work really.

When you say he worked on an Olivetti typewriter, was it a proper old clickety-clack typewriter?

NW: Yeah, it was a bit more modern than that, but not much. I’ve got one now, which I still use, you can get them in London. They’re slightly smaller. Not like really old-school Joe Strummer, but still cool.

So you’d hear it clacking away, in the next room.

NW: Oh yeah, oh yes. And he loved writing as well, physically, with pen and paper. Me and him always used to say as a running joke, when people asked 'what instrument do you play’, and he’d play the pen and I’d play the paper. And the sound of a typewriter is just erotic. The sound of a computer is a gigantic turn-off.

Marlon JD’: Here at least is one that’s slight more clear what it’s about…

NW: Well, it’s clear, apart from the JD bit.

I assumed that was for James Dean.

NW: Well, a lot of people have said that. But the lyrics in all honesty, quite a few of them are stolen, well, not stolen, borrowed from the film, Reflections In A Golden Eye. Marlon Brando does actually say in it (adopts Brando wheeze): “I’d like to live without clutter, live without luxu-reee”. So um, the film itself is beautifully shot. Richey did have a fascination with the idea of Marlon Brando, with someone that was so beautiful.

JDB: He loved him because he was the idealisation in his mind of what the ideal man could be, but also because he turned to shit as well.

NW: Exactly, yeah. The idea that he walked around his island in a nappy, eating and fucking.

JDB: That’s why he’s his kind of like perfect role model, because he rejected his innate beauty and talent turned into Jabba The Hutt.

NW: And Brando is such a complicated… well sometimes he seems utterly superficial, but just all those things… combined. And he did talk to me about that film a lot, Reflections In A Golden Eye, he was really into that, and I think that Young Liars, with Marlon Brando when he’s a German officer.

JDB: I think this is one of the lyrics where Nick just proved he can be one of the greatest researchers in the world and just did great research on it.

NW: And you know, to use the sample on it as well, and I actually wrote the tune, apart from the Bloc Party bit.

JDB: And the middle.

NW: The harmonics bit! [Producer] Steve Albini didn’t do this one, it’s slightly more modern. It’s still live, it’s still done in the same way. But it’s a more Neu!, motorik kind of thing.

I must confess I haven’t seen the film.

NW: It is the classic thing where you’ve got two minutes focusing on Elizabeth Taylor’s arse and Marlon Brando staring… I mean, he loved Elizabeth Taylor as well. It’s kind of homoerotic. Well, the sexuality in the film is very blurred, it’s not homoerotic, it’s just that everything is blurred, relationships are blurred, no one loves each other.

JDB: Pain and pleasure’s blurred.

NW: The one’s that do love each other are not allowed to love each other…. I think bizarrely it might be John Huston, which is odd.

And the horsewhip across the face mentioned in the lyric, that’s an actual scene from the film, right?

NW: It is, yeah. He fucks up Elizabeth Taylor’s horse, and she humiliates him in front of everyone by whipping him across the face. There’s a lot of humiliation in the film. Private and personal and public. So I think it’s more for once, I don’t think it necessarily hugely relates to him. It’s more a kind of general inspiration and we all kind of went down that route.

Maybe more about how Brando’s role in that film relates to Brando’s whole life.

NW: Yeah, and maybe that then relates back to his admiration for him. And you know, maybe the line, 'learn to live without clutter, to live without luxury’ has a slightly deeper resonance. Cos he was ridding himself at that time, he did seem to be ridding himself of any material complications. [Very slowly] It was just books, or watching the TV or listening to music. There wasn’t really anything else involved.

Doors Closing Slowly’: There’s a lot of religious imagery in this one…

NW: I think James had the most trouble singing this one. It is incredibly sad. The first line “Realise how lonely this is, self-defeating, oh fuck yeah. There’s even a kind of pathos involved as well. Just that last couple of lines, you know, listen to the selfish ones, they are the voice of accomplishment. See, I don’t know if he’s saying there, the pressure of relationships, that’s the idealism of that, he’s never gonna get there, that idea of accomplishment is just so ugly, alien to him… "Unarmed army salvation”, that’s the hardest bit to sing.

JDB: Sally Army.

NW: Yeah. “The shadow is the cross, OK… silence is not sacrifice, crucifixion is the easy life”. It’s just a classic Richey line. That’s him pressing buttons that he knows he’s pressing. I know.

That last line is quite sort of Richard Dawkins in a way.

NW: If you apply it to religion, definitely. That kind of self-centred righteousness that if you don’t understand faith, well, you know… if you haven’t got faith then you will never understand. His religious obsession or rejection of it is quite strange.

JDB: It runs deeper than you would ever have thought.

NW: It ran really deep and its not something I just don’t think we’ve ever felt. Being oppressed by religion, it just hasn’t been a realisation in our time, in our country.

JDB: No, we’ve always thought there’s been a really good separation of church and state.

NW: Exactly. I mean, he went to Sunday school for a couple of years and he always talked about how he really hated it and didn’t enjoy it, but it does seem to have had more of an impact (laughs) than just a couple of years of Sunday school.

JDB: I just think he found it galling that the supposed beauty in religious art, like the depiction of death as being beautiful and glorious kind of troubled him and inspired him by the same turn. And again, the objectification of like, sacrifice and suffering, and how it can be always represented in some kind of beautiful tableau, I think he always found it, like I said, inspiring and disgusting at the same time.

NW: Despite that, I was always waiting for the moment when he converted to something, some obscure religion, just to piss people off.

JDB: Zoroastrianism. Worship of fire, I believe…

NW: I think this is the most stunning piece of music on the record, Albini really, it was the one time he actually arranged four bars of music. He said, 'I’m really embarassed about it, I hate doing this, I never do this, but just lay back on the first four bars and invert the beat on the intro, and then you’ve got that Harlem funeral sound’… and he called it really humble, he said 'it’s such a humble song’. I think he genuinely liked this song. Yeah, I think it’s a proper piece of music. It kind of reminds me of 'In The Neighbourhood’ by Tom Waits. Velvet Doom March, you called it, didn’t you?

JDB: Yeah, Velvet/Harlem funeral dirge.

Did he read the Bible at all?

NW: He had read the Bible, but more literature that sprang up around the Bible and related to it. But I think he did go through a stage of reading the Bible. I’m useless with all that stuff, you know 'PCP’, read Leviticus and stuff like that, I know nothing about chapters of the Bible. It’s just like listening to a neverending fucking Nick Cave record, innit. Over and over, here’s another fucking chapter…

Where’s the audio clip from this time?

NW: It’s from The Virgin Suicides, not so much because it’s a great film, but because Richey loved the book [by Jeffrey Eugenides]. I don’t think the film would have been made by then [Sofia Coppola’s adaptation was released in 1999], and that particular dialogue just seemed to fit.

All Is Vanity…

JDB: I loved that some of the lines, that 'I would prefer no choice, one bread one milk one food'…

NW: I love that.

JDB: That’s showing his slightly unfashionable side, his left-wing authoritarian side. Sometimes I’d prefer to live in a utilitarian Eastern Bloc culture where I don’t have to worry about choice and how glorious or glamorous I could be, I just wish I was restricted.

NW: And I mean, that still resonates with us so deeply today. The idea that there’s just so much choice now, that when we apply that to music, people think it’s great that there’s so much music, and that’s so obviously not the case because so much of it is utter drivel. And you know, too much choice in music has led to mediocrity. And I think it’s that kind of idea that Richey liked experts. He liked people who he though were thoroughly researched and immersed in each particular subject. And we’re still like that now.

JDB: And just the idea that sometimes your emotions are not your best guides or friends. Or desire is not your friend or guide (laughs). Which is quite an unfashionable way of thinking, isn’t it.

NW: It is.

JDB: It is relinquishing yourself to that old-style authoritarianism.

NW: I like that “makes me feel like I’m talking a different language at times”. That seems quite a pointed reference. Perhaps he didn’t even feel he was communicating with us. That everyone seemed… and it’s true, because apart from those last 10 days, it was hard to keep up with him, to understand why his mind was working so fucking fast, and the level of consumption was just so gigantic… I think he felt he’d lost his art of communication with everything and everyone, apart from his own art.

I read the line 'it’s not what wrong, it’s what’s right’ as a response to the question 'what’s wrong?’

NW: Maybe, yeah. And then, because the next line is 'makes me feel like I’m talking a foreign language’, maybe he felt like he couldn’t explain himself. And he couldn’t explain himself, at that point. People in the same situation the world over just reach a point where there is no explanation.

NW: Another night of torment now as I remember what I’ve just said for the fucking four hours…

JDB: No, you’ve been fine….

Pretension/Repulsion’: This is such an onslaught of verbs at first, it’s hard to know where it’s coming from.

NW: It is, yeah. I think it’s the other stuff that brings the lyric together, like James said. The actual use of all those words at the start really confused me at first, I didn’t know where he was going with it. But when you get to 'Shards, oh shards’. I mean 'shards’ is such a bizarre word to have in a rock song… Isn’t it shards and chards in the original?

JDB: And chard is sort of food.

NW: And slightly burnt.

JDB: Well, no…

Like, spinach?

NW: Yeah, the first draft, he had that and shards. And it was like, how can you…

JDB: ‘Leave the vegetables out of it! We’re trying to be serious, here.’

NW: Like I said to you, “androgyny fails/Odalisque by Ingres, extra bones for sale”. I just bow down at the altar of that as a lyric. That just explains the whole song for me. And 'BORN.A.GRAPHIC vs PORN.A.GRAPHIC’, I don’t quite understand.

JDB: Lumpen, useless flesh as opposed to something erotic.

NW: I dunno which side he comes out of on it, though. (To JDB) Don’t say it!

JDB: I think he was just saying, like, how long have we been having this argument for. We don’t need actually magazines like, then I suppose it would have been Loaded and FHM that captured his imagination as to the objectification of beauty et cetera, but he just was saying, this has actually been going on for a long time. Ingres was actually inserting an extra disc in the spine, just to idealise the woman’s body. People have always been obsessed with it.

NW: I really can’t remember the context, but he was always going on about those Benetton ads around that time as well, wasn’t he. That’s part of the same argument. And I’m never quite sure which… and then you get the Jenny Saville painting for 'The Holy Bible’, then you get the exact opposite.

That line, 'Shards, oh shards’ seemed to kind of reference both Yeats’ 'the centre cannot hold’ and Eliot’s 'these fragments I have shored against my ruins’. It’s so much in such a small space.

NW: And that’s the genius of it, that it’s still a lyric.

[From hereon in James and Nicky are interviewed separately]

Virginia State Epileptic Colony’.

James Dean Bradfield: I’ve said these are the three songs that for me fit together, but with this one you get the overall cynicism of treatment trying to subjugate the intelligence of the patient kind of thing. You get the overall cynicism of somebody saying, there’s not one thing you’ve told me that is gonna make me better. You get the overall cynicism of someone saying, just get the fuck out of my room and let me try and solve these problems myself. And it is heavily laced with sarcasm, the song. and that was the overriding thing, like I said before, just trying not to let anything else but the lyrics guide you, whatsoever.

And I guess again, if I came up with some kind of angular, out-of-step rhythm, it would just be wrong, it would just be wrong. And I might just be completely wrong about it, saying all these things. I might just have been over-thinking it at the time. I don’t know. But it just felt as if this needed, as if I needed to be sympathetic to Richey’s cynicism. It was as simple as that. And it was influenced by 'Outdoor Miner’, a tiny bit, at the start, by Wire. Because there’s the little piano bit. I don’t always start out with a direct influence musically but you end up finding where the things have come from that you’ve gathered into a tune. It quickly became something else. But I also do feel it’s a heavy, heavy dose of Richey just finding, doing a bit of research here and integrating it into his own experience.

Sometimes folk just go, why didn’t you find this record a more emotional or dark experience than it actually seemed for you? And sometimes I just find it inspiring that Richey can kind of find the energy to investigate these things, and to turn it into something that was vaguely constructive for him at the time as an artist, that’s what I find inspiring. I don’t always, when we’re making a record, I never find myself mired in thinking, oh, this is too much. It never ever feels like that, ever.

As John Niven said in the biography that came with the album, that Yeatsian thing of art growing out of ‘the foul rag and bone shop of the heart’.

JDB: And when he was writing these, that was his whole raison d'etre, when he was doing these things, he was trying to articulate so many things. And that bank of TV screens in his head were flickering on and off, they were never off, they were always there.

And what’s the audio sample on this?

JDB: Ahhhh (shakes head, puts finger to mouth). No clearance! I could tell you, but you would tell other people… it’s Russian.

‘William’s Last Words’ is obviously the song that most people are going to interpret autobiographically. Do you have any idea who the character of William might be?

James Dean Bradfield: No, I gotta say. And these are the only problems, when you start to anticipate how people might react to things is when you hit problems, so we resisted trying to forecast how people might interpret lyrics or songs, or what Richey’s trying to say. We had to disengage from being worried about how people might react to these songs. Which was essential, I think. Otherwise we’d get fear. And then we’d stop. And then you wouldn’t get this record. It’s important as a lyric, whether it’s semi-autobiographical or about somebody else, because you actually just get genuine traditional warmth from it.

Which is… you spend an entire record sometimes listening to Richey speak in tongues, and on this lyric, you get genuine traditional warmth. It’s almost like reading a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem or something. You get something so warm and traditional from it. And it gives you the hint that, during the process of writing all these lyrics, Richey hadn’t lost his essential humanity. It sounds overblown, but that’s the impression I get. And I tried and tried, I tried a couple of times to write music to this lyric, and I couldn’t. I came up against a blank wall on this one.

And Rich, there were two pages of prose for this. It was meant to be a lyric, because it was amongst all the other fully formed lyrics, I tried to edit it, and I couldn’t get to the kernel of how to approach it musically, and Nick finally did it. And I was just openly jealous when he finally turned it into this song. Because it was obvious it was going to be the last track. And it was obviously right, because there was a tiny bit of serendipity because I could see that there’d been an Ian McCulloch songwriter special on Sky Arts, songbook I think it’s called that series, and I’d said to Nick, when he writes music, it’s very akin to how Ian McCulloch does it, because he uses very simple chords, but he seems to get so much expression out of it.

And there was a bit of serendipity there because Richey’s first love, Richey’s first obsession musically was Echo And The Bunnymen. y'know, after I’d seen him around (primary school) in Blackwood when I was young, Richey, and I kind of knew him and played football against him and stuff, the next time I really saw him and started talking to him was in Oakdale comprehensive and he had an absolute identikit Ian McCulloch haircut. He’d walk down the corridor and you’d see someone with hair this tall… and it wasn’t just sugar and water, it was proper proper hair products, it was done properly. The attention to detail was scary.

And my first concert, Me, Richey and Sean went to see Echo And The Bunnymen on the Ocean Rain Tour at Colston Hall in Bristol. And they were his first love, he absolutely adored Echo And The Bunnymen when he was in comprehensive. So it seemed to me there was a kind of serendipity in that Nick seemed to have written something that could have been off 'Ocean Rain’. And in a corny way, that felt kind of full circle to me.

And I think this was Steve Albini’s favourite song. When we were doing that, I was doing my electric guitar on it and Nick wanted me to do something that was Jimmy Page-esque, a la, not the rock stuff, but the stuff from like 'Physical Graffiti’ where it’s almost quite erudite and quite flowery. And when we finished that song, Steve Albini was very un-Steve Albini-esque by saying, ‘I’m pretty stoked after that’.

When I got the lyrics, this was the one I was most shocked by. I never would have imagined him writing something like this.

JDB: It was the only time I ever got close to what you might call a soft-focus B-movie moment in the studio. Camera close-up: will you see a tear fall from his eye? It was the only moment where I felt I had to step back a tiny bit and be like, let’s just stay focused on this track. Because you can draw some pretty obvious conclusions from the lyrics. But we’ve just spent a whole interview trying to give you our interpretation of the lyrics.

And we can’t stress enough that it is an interpretation. In The Holy Bible, you know, sometimes I would say to Richey, what are you trying to get at here? Is it voyeuristic, is it vicarious, is it first person, is it third person? And sometimes he could explain things to me sometimes, and sometimes he wouldn’t. But for this record, we haven’t been able to do that at all. Whatsoever. So it is all conjecture at the end of the day.

Did Nicky sing on this one because he wrote the music?

JDB: He did a demo of it and it just worked straight away. I mean my description of Nick’s voice in the past has been, it’s like a mixture between Mark E Smith, Lou Reed and Katharine Hepburn. And I can’t do that with my voice. And I find that pretty galling, really. I’ve spent my life, since I was nine years old, singing in a choir, and I can’t convey that, I can’t convey what he does. Which is quite galling for me really.

He has a breathless quality to his voice and as soon as I heard the demo, I knew that I wouldn’t be singing that. And there would be a bit of Welsh bluster in what I did… It would be like (booms)“Isn’t it looooooovely”. And it would have been wrong. It would just have been wrong. And that’s the other thing about the lyric, actually, it’s one of the only Welsh references that Richey has in the entirety of his lyrics, when he says “Nos da”, which is Welsh for goodnight. And I like that. Because if you ever hear playbacks of Richey’s voice, he sounded so Welsh. People forget that (laughs) he had that real lilt to him.

Bag Lady – you said you had this as a hidden track because you wanted the same amount of songs as ‘The Holy Bible.’

JDB: The drudgery of symmetry… Even though, when the record was finished we shied away from comparing it to The Holy Bible, we wanted some kind of symmetry to The Holy Bible. With the artwork , with the number of songs on it. And for lots of reasons, I think. The record is different, but I think they’re the same…. There’s a painting by Jenny Saville on the first record, and now there’s a painting by Jenny Saville on this record. But they’re different. Because the triptych on ‘The Holy Bible’ shows the wide spectrum, there are some more, there’s a variety of topic choices on The Holy Bible.

It’s a lot more varied. There are a few more political songs on The Holy Bible than people ever imagine. And there are a lot more wide-ranging references on The Holy Bible. But obviously, this record is a lot more personal. And that’s why we chose the up-close portrait of the young girl so that represents how much more personal the record is. Essentially it was the extra track because we couldn’t have 14 tracks on the record for aesthetic symmetrical reasons. But I think Bag Lady is the most reminiscent of ‘The Holy Bible’. Perhaps that’s why we shied away from putting it on the record as well. Sonically, it actually sounds like the Bible, sounds more claustrophobic, I mean it sounds too crammed with perhaps just a bit too much stuff.

The image of walking in half view of all mirrors is strangely terrifying.

JDB: Yeah, and that’s another reason why it was left off the record, because it gives a feeling… it’s not as resolved, the lyric itself. This is the only lyric that really weighed me down, I wouldn’t wanna inhabit that lyric too much. I wouldn’t wanna sing it every night on this tour. I don’t know why, it just makes me feel like that sometimes. And the push and pull between pretension and repulsion between being vain and rejecting any notion of what is ugly or beauty, must have been exhausting at this point, when it gets to lyrics like this I think. It would be for me to sing it every night, I must say.

The rejection of morality and law and eternity, is very sort of… losing any sense of centre.

JDB: On the record it rejects ideology, it rejects God, it rejects love, it rejects possibility. There you go! The perfect album for our worst economic downturn of all time.

Was part of the reason you took so long to return to these lyrics that you were reluctant to have that very personal part of your lives picked over again?

James Dean Bradfield: There are many reasons, but they’re all tied up with the same thing. First of all we had to know what being a three-piece meant, first of all, when Richey went missing. And obviously ‘Design For Life’ helped us crystallize a vision of what we could be without Richey. Or what we had to be. And then once you realise it’s just the three of you for now, you get on with life. It’s as simple as that. But the subject of Richey is unavoidable. Although over years I got fed up of the B-moviefication of Richey.

I do sometimes get a tiny bit fed up of people trying to imagine what kind of person he would be now, or I get fed up of people imagining what he actually did, did he disappear or is he living in a monastery somewhere… and I get fed up with this kind of horrible tacky TV movie version of what the possibilities of Richey being or what he was or what he would think or what he would feel. And it was kind of, after all those years of just letting kind of those things wash over you, ultimately we’d let enough time elapse that there wouldn’t be anything tasteless about doing this.

And it was a relief to not actually trade in hearsay or myth or speculation, we could really just trade in something real. We could just say, these are his lyrics. They are typed. This is the binder, we have three copies of this book. We can trade in something real. We can try and interpret something that Richey actually did. Something he actually felt. And it’s a relief to actually, it’s got nothing to do with setting the record straight, it’s just that you actually manifested something that’s real about Richey rather than something imagined.

With all the talk about living up to the responsibility of it, it does seem like something you’ve enjoyed as well, rather than a burden or a task.

Yeah, setting the subject of Richey aside for a second, after the first three days in the studio, I actually started feeling happy that we were in a band, and we had this wishlist. And that wishlist was in front of our eyes. The first thing we said was we wanted Steve Albini, who we’d harboured ambitions to work with for a long time. We knew that on the horizon, Jenny Saville had made positive noises about saying yeah, I’d love to give you a painting, I just need to hear a record.

And the first week in the studio, we were actually like, God, we’re really fucking lucky to do this. We’ve got Richey’s lyrics, we’ve made contact with Jenny Saville and she seems open to it, Steve Albini’s stood in front of me. It’s pretty fucking good being a band sometimes. And I was able to really enjoy myself for the first couple of weeks in the studio. And then you get kind of caught up in having little arguments about whether a song’s right or not, and that’s just part of the drudgery of being in a band. Not drudgery, but it’s normal stuff to us. And after a while, you know, there were days where I wouldn’t have any loaded thoughts about what we were trying to do for Richey, we were just making a record. Some days.

And I remember when we first arrived in the studio, there was a weird moment, you know, I arrived from my flat in Cardiff. I know Rockfield really well, because it’s where we did ‘If You Tolerate This…’ and ‘Masses Against The Classes’ and I got out the car, and I walked into the studio, and I didn’t see Steve Albini in the control room, so I walked through to the live room, where they did ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and stuff like that, and he was stood there, and he had his overalls on and he had his round glasses on, and it was a really strange moment for me. Like, ‘fuck me, he actually got on the plane!’.

I didn’t think he’d fucking come. And then two days later, because the day I went to Rockfield Studios, which is a place I absolutely love, I gotta say, but the morning I woke up to go there I was listening to ‘Reel To Real Cacophony’ and ‘Sons And Fascination’ by Simple Minds. Because I love those early Simple Minds records, they’re a deeply misunderstood band, because their first four albums are just fucking genius. Because they were done in Rockfield, those records. And I was listening to those records before ‘The Holy Bible’, so I thought I’d listen to them again, just for a traditional sort of superstition thing.

And we arrived at Rockfield, and someone said, ‘Oh yeah, Simple Minds are next door’. And I was like, that’s a bit weird. And then a couple of days later, I walked into the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee, and Jim Kerr was sat there. There were just weird little echoes around the place. And I’m not a superstitious person, I’m not even that spiritual, but there were little echoes everywhere. Jim Kerr, when he was writing the lyrics to ‘Empires And Dance’, I thought it was fucking genius. Not enough people say it.

So he was sat there, and I was talking away, and I started unloading all this stuff on him, and he started getting scared because I was such a trainspotter… but there was just something that felt right about it being in Rockfield. There were just little signs everywhere that I was gonna enjoy the process. ‘The process’, as wankers say…

You said you might issue all of the lyrics as a book?

JDB: Might do, might do. It’s loose at the moment. We still wanted to make a record. There was vague talk about when the record came out, trying to do it simultaneously. But we decided that we still wanted Richey to be part of the band. We didn’t want to make him too much of an art statement, I mean, we had the Jenny Saville thing on the cover. We need to see how people react to the record first, I think. We need to see that. And I think we really used the best lyrics in the booklet. I don’t think there’s stuff still in there that could have made the album.

One of the lyrics you mentioned in the past being in the ones that Richey left you was the one about cutting the feet off a ballerina. Was that one of the ones that was too impenetrable to use?

JDB: You know what, I don’t know, and it’s because Richey made the original copy of the lyrics, and Nick got the original copy. And then Richey made two other successive versions that were a bit more photocopied from the original, and they have different covers. And there are one or two lyrics that are missing from the copies. And I don’t think I’ve got that one in my book. And I haven’t obsessively been through Nick’s to see which lyric that is actually. Because I remember Nick saying that he thought Bloc Party used that line.

They did, yeah, in ‘Where Is Home’? I assume they referred to it because they were fans.

JDB: I think the bass player in Bloc Party is a Manics fan. Of course, Nick’s version of the book, the original is all kind of perfectly spotless, where he preserved it, whereas mine is all sort of crumpled, because I kept getting it out over the years and then putting it back in the drawer because it was too scary. Like that scene from Friends, putting a copy of The Shining in the freezer because it’s too scary. And I could feel the drawer going dum-dum-dum, let me out! Let me be! But I don’t think I’ve got that one in my copy.

How did you feel about them using that line?

JDB: Oh, fine. We’ve pillaged enough from people…

Let’s talk about ‘Virginia State Epileptic Colony’.

Nicky Wire: This is a lyric that we didn’t change much at all. For me it kind of resonates back to the Small Black Flowers thing of being trapped, of the mundane nature of life. Which I think is a weird thing, that it almost seems sometimes like a celebration. We were all sort of bedroom, routine people, me and Richey especially. We had no room for chaos, we couldn’t work under chaos, we weren’t kind of classic rock'n'roll style at all. That Nietzschean ethic, if you like, of order and strength. But that seems to be falling apart, this does seem to relate much more to personal trappings.

I mean, I don’t know that much about the Epileptic Colony myself, but the Andrew Marr program on Darwin that was on recently, they covered this, because there was a huge number at this period, about 500, because they used Darwin as an excuse. It was between 60-150,000 people over this long period that were sterilised, it became eugenics, with supposed defects. I don’t know how that relates, is he saying, I wanna be sterilised, I wanna be incapable? I don’t know.

It’s been an eye-opener to me today, because that theme of doctors or institutions trying to really stamp their authority does seem to have come through, and it’s a bit of an eye-opener to me. I personally always found that sort of thing easy to resist, maybe because there’s part of me that always wanted to conform. But I never felt that Richey felt he was like persecuted in that sense. Not persecuted, but I guess when you’re under that much pressure when you’ve had that sort of breakdown, you obviously feel different.

In the booklet, which you get with the special edition, there’s a Scottish clan motto, I think it’s MacDonald [Stewart] which is something like 'The wound makes you stronger’ [Courage grows strong at the wound]. And that’s quite a big thing in this booklet, he’s got it in there. But he doesn’t seem to be so strong on this. It does seem to be that he’s feeling the pressure more, or he’s come to some more brutal conclusions. But I guess all The Holy Bible was lived before the real shit happened, so perhaps he did feel some more mental strength then.

[The song is] Genuinely authentic post-punk. I think James got a documentary from Sean for Christmas, about soldiers… and all the Russian murmurings in the track might be from that.

‘William’s Last Words’

NW: There’s two ways I look at it. Either it genuinely is about someone else, because I know we’ve said to you, I know when he was in the institution in Cardiff, he was writing a lot. And you can’t avoid it in those places, it’s not like The Priory with your own room. Either that, or as I said it’s a giant analogy from The Entertainer and Archie Rice, that kind of sadness at the end of the career I know he loved that film, and it reminds me a bit of that.

But I didn’t pick those lines out, because I wrote the music for this, I didn’t pick those lines out on purpose, it isn’t like I wanted to make it seem more applicable to the situation, I was just drawn phonetically and in terms of the music, because I write quite simple songs, and when I played it to James and Sean, they weren’t shocked, but there was a bit of a lump in the throat.

I think a track called Primitive Painters by Felt which me and Richey used to play to death at university. There’s definitely an influence of that on there. Out of tune Lou Reed vocal (laughs), a bit of Caramel by Blur. But it’s definitely from a more indie background than some of the other tracks. James added the most beautiful Jimmy Page guitar, which kind of falls like a waterfall over the whole piece. I mean the ending the wake up happy stuff, that is quite like the ending of the piece of prose.

If I remember rightly, that is quite towards the end. But there is a sense of calm in it, there is a sense of if it is some kind of goodbye, it’s like, I know what I’m doing, it’s probably the only thing I can do, I’m not insane, it’s not something I’ve taken lightly. Because I do feel that. There’s very little comfort to be had from someone disappearing, but if you do feel that they’ve done it from their own accord with some sense of clarity that there is no other way for them, I think that as a friend and a bandmate you just have to somehow accept that.

‘Bag Lady’.

NW: We did think, 'Does this sound like we’re trying a bit too hard to sound like The Holy Bible?’ Someone really shook me and James up yesterday by pointing out that after William’s Last Words the first line of Bag Lady is I Am Not Dead, as if it was meant to be some kind of resurrection! I hadn’t realised that. That is not something we contemplated.

For me, on The Holy Bible, Die In The Summertime had some of the most biting images, and this one as well. I’m kind of sure that he did say this was about someone he met in the hospital, he took a lot of stuff down verbatim. This was a comparatively long lyric, about a page. And it does seem to be about a female, quite a successful lawyer who has, for want of a better word, lost it.

I suppose the danger with all of these songs would be to assume that they’re all about Richey himself.

NW: Yeah, I think it would because in the songs and in the ones we haven’t written up as well, there was so much context, and I don’t think it’s entirely internalised. Like I said, if you’re consuming that much culture, I think he’d be pretty insane to connect everything to himself. You know… I don’t think he’s comparing himself to Giant Haystacks.

anonymous asked:

Which are your top ten historical novels and why?

Clearly I have a lot more than ten and I have a lot of series I adore.  Here are a few which I have a soft spot for and if anyone has any recommendations I would love to hear them!!

  • The Heretic Queen - Michelle Moran.  I was young when I read this (and Michelle Moran’s other books which aren’t to bad!) and it is teen fiction and as such can be a little trashy.  But, regardless of the great artistic license taken, its pretty well researched and an easy read, especially for people new to Ancient Egypt and/or the New Kingdom.
  • Lily of the Nile/Song of the Nile/Daughters of the Nile - Stephanie Dray.  This is a really well written trilogy, it weaves history and magic together essentially seamlessly and I love it.  The protagonist Cleopatra Selene makes my heart ache and I openly wept reading (especially the last) books.
  • Mistress of Rome/Daughters of Rome/Empress of Rome/Lady of the Eternal City - Kate Quinn.  These are fun!  A mix of fictional characters, sprinkled in with real historical figures, in a very real, tumultuous period of Rome’s history.  These books span generations and you will get very attached to characters by the end.
  • The Sunne in Splendour - Sharon K. Penman.  Once again, so well written.  You will read about historical events from perspectives you never thought about and once again, I cried throughout.  It is quite a lengthy volume, jumping between perspectives in such a tricky period politically in English history.
  • The Book of Coming Forth by Day Series; House of Rejoicing, Storm in the Sky and Eater of Hearts - Libbie Hawker.  It is tricky writing about the Amarna Period and not a lot of people can do it.  For me, it is harder to read about it, because of the great holes in historical knowledge you have to suspend belief and sometimes just go with it.  Hawker fills the gaps in well, often in a way I never would have thought about it, she breathes life into enigmatic characters like Nefertiti and Akhenaten so very well.
  • Daughter of the Gods - Stephanie Thornton.  Hatshepsut is written so very, very well.  I know I keep using that as my reason, but it is true.  I remember picking this up as something to read at the airport/flight interstate, but I spent most of the afternoon in my hotel room polishing it off.  Once I started I could not stop!
  • The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller.  A modern classic, Patroclus is such a minor character in the Saga’s of the Trojan War, but Miller has built a love story which is so heartbreakingly beautiful that to say “I cried” is just not enough.  This book made me feel things, sad, beautiful, deep things.
  • I, Claudius - Robert Graves.  A classic which doesn’t read in the ‘stuffy-you-need-a-dictionary-to-get-through-one-paragraph’ kinda way.  It is an interesting narrative which has actually shaped the way many people look at the personalities of the Julio-Claudia era.
  • Outlander (the whole series) - Diana Gabaldon.  Kinda history, but also romance, fantasy and science fiction.  I am only three books in but I like it, the writing isn’t mind blowing but the plot and characters are fun.  I usually put the audio book on in my car while I am on a big drive and it makes it a little more fun.
  • The Memoirs of Cleopatra - Margaret George.  I remember being in school and finishing this (mammoth) of a book and being so damn proud.  To be honest I nearly remember how it goes, but I remember liking it.
Author Profile: MzMocha

Stories on FFN; tumblr: @artsychica2012

Your name/nickname/alias:

MzMocha/ mzm  under my FFN acct / artsyChica2012 currently

How long have you been writing?

About 16 years

How long have you been writing Olitz?

4 years

What drew you to Olivia & Fitz?

The amazing chemistry between Kerry and Tony and the wealth of possibilites in their DC universe

Outside of Olitz, where do you get inspiration to write?

I started off reading General Hospital fanfic until I felt the inspiration to write my own. I was lucky to have come across a fanfic board that encouraged writers, with forums with a lot of how-tos and I was hooked. When one of my fics turned itself a novel [Dangerous Liasions on FFN under my MzMocha pen name], it inspired me to try my own with original work, in which I write soul & sword fantasy. I used to draw a lot and the research I would do on my artwork started giving all kinds of ideas and one day I opened a notebook and started to write it all down. In 2008, I discovered Nanowrimo, and I’ve never looked back from there.

How do you describe your style of writing?

Hmm…  lyrical. I love me some prose, the rhythm and cadence of a well turned phrase. Nothing makes me happier. And layered – I write what I love to read, stories with sub-plots and plot twists.

Do you write (journal, pen/paper) or type first?

Type, although I do keep a notebook by the bed and in my bag – because you never know when  inspiration will strike. But the connection between my brain and my fingers and the keyboard is quicker than the one between my fingers and pen and paper.

Do you have a special notebook or writing utensil?

Right now, I’m working with Scrivener writing software and I love it.

Do you incorporate visuals, music, and/or poetry to help you get into the writing mood?

I have music playlists, both on my laptop and those I’ve created on YouTube.

Do you use mood boards/aesthetics/Pinterest?

I have a ton of writing Pinterest boards under my artsychica2012 name, from crafting characters, how-tos on outlining and plotting, to world-building

Favorite kind of music or podcasts to listen to before/while you write?

Depends on what I’m writing, but anything from neo-soul to instrumentals.

Where do you like to write (Home, coffee shop, etc.)?

Home and at my favorite coffee shop. Have laptop, will travel!

How long does it take you to write a chapter?

3-4 days, my writing process is constantly evolving, but right now, it’s: define chapter /scene goals, define chapter POV, write the rough outline, then re-edit and refine until I’m satisfied. My fic updates take longer because I upload “episodes” of 3-4 chapters rather than single chapters at a time. I think it helps with maintaining continuity.

A favorite line or paragraph you’ve written.

This was a hard decision to make!
“Fitz’s lips were soft, warm yet they quickly turned fierce as Olivia began to kiss him back. Her body acted before she could think about the wisdom of it - and that was the wisest thing of all. The strength of their rising feelings - both emotional and physical - began to weave a web that spiraled around them - and caught within, Olivia stopped thinking at all. Emotions freed of rhyme and reason overrode common sense and logic, leaving only want and need in its place. And love that was once lost, filled all the spaces in between.”

Describe yourself in 5 words/phrases:

Leo with Leo Rising… creative to the nth degree… Child of God, Momma, Auntie, Sister, Daughter, …happily addicted to Tony Goldwyn

Favorite TV shows/movies:

Scandal, Gray’s Anatomy, Game of Thrones, American Gods, Firefly, The West Wing, A Different World.

Movies – the nerd in me lives in the MCU – the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Can’t WAIT until Black Panther comes out! Beauty Shop, The Best Man, Just Wright, Dreamgirls, The Five Heartbeats

Favorite vacation spot:

Any beach will do.

Favorite books:

When I’m not reading Scandal fic, I read a lot of fantasy [because I write and am studying how to write a lot of fantasy], so Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series is one of my favorites in the genre. How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Tom Clancy novels [Hunt For Red October, Clear and Present Danger, etc.] George R.R. Martin [Game of Throne novels] N K Jemsin [The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms]

AU or Canon?

I write canon, but have come to appreciate the greatness that is AU. And yes, one is currently percolating in the back of my mind.

Favorite trope/scenario to read?

Olitz falling in love, overcoming all obstacles both internal and external and becoming the badass couple that they were meant to be along the way.

Favorite Olitz TV moment/conversation?

The Rose Garden – “I belong to you” The raw emotion coming from Kerry/Olivia and Fitz/Tony Goldwyn literally took my breath away.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I want to say thank you to all the readers who have left me so many great reviews on my fics, they really make my day  - and don’t forget to check out my Olitz videos!

Things in Fanfiction that Can Be Problematic and/or Just Wrong

So these are just a few of the things I’ve noticed, but feel free to take everything with a grain of salt. These are just my personal opinions and beliefs. I’ll admit right now that I’ve written a lot of these things before too. (To be honest, I know I’ve said this a lot of times before, but I’ll say it again: I’d edit and/or completely rewrite most of my stories if I had the time.) That’s just me. I can’t speak for all the other writers. However, it’s important that the fanfiction community know why certain things in fanfiction are problematic and/or wrong.

1. Inaccurate descriptions of sex. Most people don’t orgasm so easily and for most women it takes more than just really quick and hard penetration to orgasm. You don’t always bleed your first time if you are turned on enough and your partner is being gently and caring enough. And most people don’t cry out like porn stars and cuss every single time they have sex! Don’t rely on porn for sex tips, most of the time they’re overreacting and staged sex isn’t the same as real intimate sex. (I might do a separate mini sex education blog later.) Please learn a little about anatomy and how sex really works…

2. Way too much sex. People have a limit you know. And generally the older you get and the more sex you have, the less easily turned on you are.

3. Where’s the plot? I mean, I see the violence and the smut, but where’s the actual story? (Personal tip: reading real novels is always a good way to get plot inspiration, and it will increase your grammar and vocabulary too!)

4. Violent and rape everywhere. Not everyone is a psychotic stalker. And gangs and mob bosses don’t always have to be the main characters. Most importantly, violence and rape as main plot devices could sometimes be okay-ish if it’s done properly with lots of explanations of why people are the way they are and a full out realistic recovery process for the victim. But unless you’ve been in the situation yourself or have done A LOT of research, writing something so horrible like that won’t be realistic and could leave people with a bad taste in their mouth and wrong impressions of many things.

Violence and cruelty are not normal behaviors. The bottom line is rape should never be justified. There is no excuse. Once a rapist, always a rapist. Sadistic behaviors are generally abnormal and once a rapist gets away with their actions, it becomes a repeated trigger for them (for example, dogs have to be put down after they bite a human because they’ll keep doing it). Please don’t let your characters stay with abusive partners. Don’t let people think it’s okay or that everyone will change for someone they supposedly ‘love’.

As for emotionally unstable, criminally insane, anti-social characters and characters of the like, my biggest pet peeve is that they’re not usually written with enough depth. They just simply appear as a villain with little to no back story most of the time.

5. Being queer/gay/LGBT is the most easily accepted thing everywhere. Wrong.  Maybe if you’re really lucky, every single person in your whole entire extended family would be completely okay with it and totally supportive, but what about the rest of the community? The rest of the world? For those who are struggling with their identity, they might have unrealistic expectations because of fanfics. Homophobic people are everywhere. That is the sad truth. 

But then again, there are also allies. And not everyone is completely on one side or the other. It’s a mixed bag. It’s important to portray variety. Overall, while I acknowledge that it’s okay to write about ideal situations, it bothers me that a lot of us write about the LGBT scene in South Korea without a full grasp of its complexity.

Also, the term ‘gay’ doesn’t cover the whole entire LGBTQA+ spectrum. Please look at reliable online resources for full break down of what each term means. Gender and sexuality can be both complicated and fluid. People can also change their identity, self-expression, and preferences over time as they learn more about themselves and experience new things.

6. Predictability. I shouldn’t feel like I know everything that will happen, but please also don’t use random violence and/or sex as plot devices. A story DOES NOT need sex and violence to be good! Repeat: a story DOES NOT need sex and violence to be good.  Also, why is everyone only either dirt poor or filthy rich? Where’s the freakin’ huge middle class? And please don’t play into stereotypes. There’s so much more to every single person than only one characteristic and/or emotion.

7. Where’s the continuity? Please read over your own writing or have someone edit for you so that the whole story makes sense all together and you don’t contradict yourself.

8. Where’s the character development? Do the characters, or at least just the main character, learn nothing from their experiences in the story? If they’re still exactly the same, then what was the main impact of the story?

9. Usually, the most smutty, violent, predictable, cheesy, or just horribly written stories become the most popular. I guarantee to you if you bookmark these stories and come back to them when you’re 30 years old or older with a family, a romantic or sexual partner, and some real life experience, you’ll realize that life isn’t like fanfiction and that most of the most popular stories aren’t the best stories you’ve ever read (unless you read nothing except for fanfiction?? >.<)

I’ll stop there. I might add on or edit later. Once again, these are just my views and experiences as a queer demisexual, liberal, feminist, twenty-year-old university student.

Cushing Library Event

I gave a lecture on worldbuilding in SF/F and did a question and answer session on the TAMU campus last night, as part of Cushing Library And Archives Hal Hall Lecture Series. It was a great audience of students and faculty, and I had a lot of fun.

Here’s the talk I gave about worldbuilding:

What is worldbuilding? Briefly, it’s the setting you create for a fictional work, including the type of landscape, the environment, the climate, as well as the people who live there and their cultures. It’s the physical and mental space that your story occupies.

Worldbuilding is all about choices. Even if the setting is a real world place, (like the way The Avengers was set in New York) you will be making choices. Where do the characters live, what things do they need there, what is their income level, what is the weather, what is their community. That’s all worldbuilding.

There are also settings that are fictional but are meant to be understood by the reader as real. One older example is in the book Raintree County by Ross Lockridge, Jr. It’s a fictional setting inserted into a real world place, so seamlessly that readers can’t tell if it’s based on a real town or not. You can find the spot on the map where it’s supposed to be, it’s just not there.

But the kind of worldbuilding that most people think of when they hear the word, is in secondary world fantasy. That’s fantasy that does not take place on earth, but in its own invented world. Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, are secondary world fantasy. It’s sometimes called created world fantasy. Or just fantasy.

Worldbuilding is an element of a fantasy novel, but like all the other elements, plot, story, characterization, it can’t exist in a vacuum. Who your characters are and what their goals and problems and agendas are is going to be wrapped up and inseparable with the world they live in. Worldbuilding can and should help drive your plot and be essential to your story. The best fantasy stories can only take place in the world that was created for them, they can’t be removed from that context without changing things that are essential to the story and the characters.

For example: My current fantasy series is the Books of the Raksura. The main character is an orphaned shapeshifter who can transform into a flying creature who looks like what we would think of as a demon. He has no idea what species he is, but has to hide his ability to shapeshift because the species he most resembles are the predators that everyone is terrified of. He finds his own people by accident, and then has to try to fit in to a complex matriarchal culture that he has a very important biological role in.

The themes of that story are about identity, about finding your place in the world, finding a place where you belong when it’s maybe a little too late for you to adapt your behavior to fit in. There are themes about gender roles, about sexual roles, and there’s a lot of fighting and chasing and adventure. Those individual themes can be removed from that setting and put into a real world context, but the specific way this story uses them really can’t.

Worldbuilding for fantasy can be realistic, which is where you think about things like how your magical floating city in the clouds gets its food, water, and the other necessities of its infrastructure, and how it deals with its sewers and garbage. The solutions to those problems can of course be magical. And you don’t have to tell them all to the reader, unless they’re important to the story. But knowing how the nuts and bolts of your magical city work can inform your worldbuilding with a sense of verisimilitude.

Some people believe that fantasy by definition has to take place in a kind of world that’s basically a caricature of medieval England. It has certain inalienable characteristics. Everyone wears hooded cloaks, because it’s always cold and rainy or snowy. Everyone’s white. Women have limited employment choices. In fact they have two employment choices: princess or whore. Or sometimes nuns, if they’re lucky. The government is a monarchy. Everyone eats stew and there are a lot of taverns to sit around in and meet the rest of your party.

It used to be called “derivative” because the assumption was that the author didn’t do research on the real Europe, the real England of the medieval, or any other, time period. They read other people’s fantasy books and copied them. Derivative fantasy tends to be about as much like the real middle ages in Europe as New Orleans square in Disneyland is like New Orleans. Except everyone knows Disney New Orleans isn’t real, isn’t supposed to be real, and a lot of people think the faux medieval world of these novels is “historically accurate.” (air quotes) That’s an excuse, and it’s the kind of excuse that’s a lie.

That standard faux medieval setting is not real, it is not even close to the historic reality. It’s a choice. It’s a secondary world, a created world, made up of the author’s choices. Making all the characters white, erasing the rest of humanity, and taking any kind of agency away from women characters are choices the author made. It doesn’t have to be that way. But people who don’t read fantasy assume, and will tell you, that those derivative worlds are all fantasy is, and they are wrong.

The not so secret key to fantasy is that your secondary world can be anything you want, and there are an inspiring and astonishing variety of worlds out there.

I’m going to talk briefly about three of them.

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

All three are secondary world fantasy novels with magic, all three were published last year, all are critically acclaimed and have been on various genre award lists. All three are examples of stories that would not be the same if they were removed from the context of their created worlds.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin takes place in a world where catastrophic seismic disturbances are commonplace. These disturbances literally destroy and remake the large portions of the landscape periodically, and it’s a struggle for the various peoples who live on this planet to survive, and retain some grasp of the history of their world. There are people who are born with a kind of magic who can control these seismic disturbances. You’d think that would solve everything, but people being people, that is not what happens. As the book goes on we see more and more evidence that parts of their history have been deliberately concealed to manipulate their society.

The worldbuilding is told in what I would call a very spare style. We don’t learn a lot about what people are wearing or what they eat. There isn’t the abundance of lush material culture detail we see in other fantasy novels. The pace is fast, and we learn what this society is like by the way various characters are treated, what happens to them when they conform, and what happens to them when they resist. We’re getting a glimpse of the history of this world, and it’s that history and the radical changes that the world has undergone that help drive the plot. Through the worldbuilding we begin realize that there is a mystery at the heart of this world and the characters are just beginning to uncover it.

It’s an example of the fact that fantasy secondary worlds don’t have to be static, don’t have to be pre-technological. All worldbuilding should drive the plot and the story, and this is a great example of that idea in action.

Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson is a short novel that was published as a novella, but which packs a huge amount of worldbuilding into a high concept, intense story. It’s set in a place somewhat based on medieval Africa, with huge trading cities like Axum in Ethiopia or Benin City, but it’s entirely original. As the story goes on, we realize the main character’s magic is based on real science, in that he’s magically manipulating his environment based on scientific principles. It’s a short book, but the descriptions, the language, is intense and vivid. The author uses the main character’s memories of his past to fill in detail as the characters travel to their destination. You have this world in your head in full color, and it’s fascinating.

It’s an example of how you can have all the swords and fighting and adventure and magic you want, without having to set it in the same boring rain-soaked taverns of white male faux-England.

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard is set in an alternate world version of late twentieth century Paris, except the world has been all but destroyed by a magical war. Parts of the city are controlled by Great Houses, using magic to protect their dependents and maneuver for power. The magical war has been just as devastating for the environment as it has been for the people, and we see a world where the Seine is black with debris and dangerous to even approach the bank. Dying angels occasionally fall to earth from heaven, and their bodies are broken up and sold as part of the magical economy.

It’s an example of a fantasy setting that uses a real world place. You can follow the actions of the characters on a map of our Paris, but it’s a Paris with magic and a different history. One of the main characters is Vietnamese, brought to Paris to fight in the war, and through his perspective and memories we get some idea of how different the rest of the world is.

This is an example of how to make a real world setting fantastical, and how adding magic and changing history can transform a real world setting.

So in conclusion, your worldbuilding will say as much about you as a person and as an author as any other part of your story. There’s very little in the fantasy genre that hasn’t already been done, but what makes it unique is you. There are no rules, no guidelines, just choices, made by you.

3 Myths of Fiction Research

One of my favorite things about writing is having built-in motivation to educate myself on unfamiliar topics and learn about new and exciting things. But for many writers, research is a task of drudgery, and most have absolutely no idea what they’re looking for or where to start. Your process will depend largely on what it is you’re researching, but I thought I’d share what I feel are big myths regarding fiction research, based on the research I’m doing for my current novel.

Myth 1: Research is endless Googling

Don’t get me wrong. I love Google, and Google is the best place to start if you know absolutely nothing about a topic. But after a while, filtering through web pages, bookmarking, taking notes…it all starts to feel very…academic. It starts to feel like you’re gathering sources for a research paper. For me, I spend so much time on my computer when I’m actually writing my fiction, so if I can find ways to get away from the computer when I’m brainstorming, outlining, and researching, all the better. 

There are likely lots of little things you Google to help clear things up, but if you’re writing a novel about a general topic that you know very little about - a mental illness, a type of profession, a technology or science, a historical time period, ect., find a book. 

And I’m not talking about a giant textbook, or a book with lots of footnotes, or even a book with an index and a glossary. I’m talking about nonfiction that actually discusses the topic, as opposed to just teaching it. While a field of science can be very technical, there also may be a number of sociological debates surrounding it, and that’s good information to have when you’re writing a story about people that may or may not understand and embrace that branch of science you’re discussing. 

Nonfiction on a historical time period might give you more about the day-to-day lives of the people, and may even have anecdotes and hypothetical stories based on historical fact, all of which will make it more relatable and interesting. 

Ordinarily, judging books by their covers is a bad idea, but try to find books that are small and that have engaging covers. Go to a library, find the section that houses your topic and just start browsing for something. 

I love reading nonfiction as a means of research. I have more fun reading a few comprehensive books on a topic than clicking through hundreds of search results. Because each book has one author, I’m able to settle into that author’s style, and the flow from one chapter to the next ensures that I’m more engaged with the content. Plus, I can do it on my couch or in bed without a bulky laptop on my legs. 

I’ve also gotten great ideas to fill plot holes just by reading nonfiction. That’s research at its best. 

Myth 2: Research is all reading. 

Research for a novel can be all kinds of things! Some examples:

  • If you have a character that has a talent or skill you know nothing about, try learning it. You may not be very good, because it will likely take years to become a master, but if you’re going to write about an artist or musician, or even an athlete, you’ll be better able to get into that character’s head if you know more about hand positions, body movements and physical sensations, as well as the emotional feelings you get while doing it. 
  • If it’s a broad topic, watch a documentary. You’ll be able to absorb a lot of information in just a couple of hours, and if it’s a good documentary, it’ll have interviews from people who really know what they’re talking about. Pop some popcorn, grab a soda, and enjoy the research. 
  • Do some setting research. Go to places that have similarities to the setting you’re writing about. These could be settings you’re unfamiliar with, or they could be things you know very well. If you’re writing about a group of employees that work in a coffee shop, visit lots and lots of coffee shops and observe the interactions of the staff. Go to a bar, a bookstore, a rec center, a college campus…go to places that will inspire you to work on your story. If you have the money, you might also do some heavy or light traveling - going to the nearest city, or to the beach or the mountains. Go somewhere that will make you feel like you’re in your story, instead of just writing it. 
  • Talk to people. If you know people in real life you can consult about topics, that’s wonderful, but if not, find some online forums/communities you can find a home at, where people don’t mind sharing their expertise and experiences. Don’t think of it as “interviewing” people - just have casual conversations, and ask questions when you’re curious to know more. 

Broaden the type of research you do to make it more interesting, not to mention comprehensive. 

Myth 3: Research must be done before writing. 

You’ll never be ready to start writing. There will always be something that you feel you need to figure out, work out, straighten out, and basically put off the inevitable. Research can be done before writing, but sometimes it’s actually better to wait. 

Write a first draft, and BS your way through the things you don’t know. The first draft is the closest depiction of what your final draft will look like. You’ll get ideas for character backgrounds as you go, you’ll throw new plot twists or plot arcs in there to keep the writing interesting, and you’ll discover plot holes that you were pretty sure didn’t exist during the planning. If you think that researching for months prior to writing will stop all this from happening, I promise you there’s no guarantee of that. What’s worse, you might spend a lot of your time researching something that ultimately doesn’t make it into the novel. 

So if you’re ready to write, but you’re afraid of jumping into the story without researching a topic first, don’t be. Go ahead and start writing, and once the draft is finished, you can look at what you’ve got and pinpoint what specific topics need research. And the plot holes that come up will likely get filled while you’re doing that research. Then, start on the second draft with both intimate knowledge of your story and the topics you cover.

Happy researching!