The website of David F Porteous
Just sharing a small piece of work in progress on the third book - which has a title, but which I'm not going to tell you. This a conversation that takes place between Campbell and Stockton, relating the latter's experience with werewolves . . .
"I met a man once, his eyebrows were heavy and his hands thick covered with coarse black hair.”
“He told me a story that I believe, about how he had been bitten and lived and did not change when the moon waxed full. I asked him how and he told me—”
“Drink lots of water,” Campbell interrupted. “Pretty much all health advice comes down to sleep, exercise, diet or drinking lots of water.”
“He told me that the wolf is hungry because it needs to be fed. He told me that his brothers knew he had been bit and they knew he had to die. Remember in those days every credulous villager went around wreathed in garlic and amulets, and alternated the veneration and immolation of toothless crones who spoke to trees. According to the mad old woman they most recently listened to, the proper way to deal with a werewolf was to cut off all of its limbs with an axe, bury the four limbs in four graves aligned towards Jerusalem, then put the body, head and a pile of rocks into a barrel of wine and throw the barrel into the ocean.”
“That’ll do it,” Campbell confirmed.
“Understandably the brothers couldn’t bring themselves to do any of it. This man was their brother, they loved him, they had no idea which way Jerusalem was, and wine was very expensive. Instead they found a cave in the mountains near where they lived, they put their brother inside and they rolled a stone over the entrance. For six days they waited; three before and three after the full moon.
“On the morning of seventh day they returned to bring out his body and give him a proper burial according to their traditions. He was their brother, they loved him, they couldn’t leave his bones to rot in some mountain cave, and – what was even more important – he’d taken all the family’s money into the cave with him so he knew they would have to come back for him.
“Rolling a stone into place was, the brothers discovered, much easier than rolling it back out again. It took them hours to uncover the entrance and, as is so often the case, after so much work the final revealing happened quickly. Rather than find a beast, or the body of a man starved to death, their brother stood at the entrance to the cave—”
“How big was this cave?” Campbell asked.
“He may have crouched at the entrance of the cave. In any case he emerged; a little thinner perhaps, but alive and well. Now the brothers rejoiced. Because they loved their brother, and they had their money back, and they hadn’t told their elderly mother about the whole cave in the mountains bit before they did it and she was furious.
“So they went home and all was well. Though nobody doubted that there were werewolves, people began to disbelieve that the beast that had bitten our protagonist was such a creature. Others said that the cave in the mountains was obviously magical and suggested that anyone with an illness should be confined inside for a week to see if they got better. This idea did not immediately appeal to any sick people in the village and was never tested.
“Never?” Campbell asked.
“No. A few days short of a month later the first brother – the one who had been bitten – should I have given them names?”
“You’re the writer.”
“Let’s say the older brother was called Krebotkin and the others brothers . . . well if I name them then I have to decide if there were two or three.”
Campbell said, “I was imagining three.”
“Tom, Dick and Harry,” Stockton said. “A few days short of a month later Krebotkin killed Tom and Dick. Harry and their mother had gone on a pilgrimage to a distant church, to pray on the bones of a saint who was known to cure feelings of homosexuality.”
“Oh that Harry,” Campbell said ruefully. “He just couldn’t leave the miller’s son alone.”
“The pair returned to find slaughter,” Stockton said. “And Krebotkin had fled into the woods, or mountains, or another terrain feature, and they never saw him again.”
“So this Krebotkin in your story was a werewolf?” Campbell asked.
“Yes,” Stockton said. “He was. Obviously when he finished telling me this story he tried to kill me and so I broke his neck, hacked off his limbs, buried the pieces in several graves orientated towards Jerusalem and drowned the rest of him in wine. Because really, if you didn’t, after all that, you’d have to be some kind of schmuck.”
From December 2014 to May 2015, I worked with sound engineer David Chisholm on recording the audiobook for Singular. During what turned out to be our third-last session - which, for the purposes of narrative we were pretending was our last session - my friend and occasional co-conspirator David Candy dropped by to take some obviously staged photographs "behind the scenes".
Only people called David were involved in this project. These are real people, not other personalities I have.
Anyway - photographs!
DFP asks whether, even to the untrained eye, it will be obvious that much of the equipment in this photograph is being used incorrectly
DFP pretends to listen to audio using only one headphone, because he's seen other people do that in like films and shit
DFP pretends to have made a risqué joke while David Chisholm, who hasn't dressed like a batman villain but is instead wearing normal clothes, looks on in bemusement
in easily the most awkward moment of either man's life, DFP and David Chisholm fake a high five for the fake ending of the recording sessions. At the actual end of the recording sessions, some weeks later, there was no actual high five. Look at the awkwardness - that's almost certainly a future leader of a political party right there.
Late spring in the northern hemisphere is a time of endings. University students are graduating, high school students are completing their final exams, and there is a sense that a great and abiding illusion of permanence is being swept aside. Reality intrudes. The minute hand ticks. And so on.
A few years ago I wrote a high school graduation speech. I think mine is at least as good as those delivered recently by some of my favourite authors - Ian McEwan discussing the necessity of freedom of speech, Neil Gaiman advocating creativity and the making of things, George R R Martin explaining why he enjoys killing the people you love and that you can't stop him.
I think this is also an excellent time of year to reflect on ourselves and how things are going. New Year is entirely the most grim and dark point of the annual cycle for those of us on the north bit of planet earth. Any assessment of one's self conducted on the cusp of the dying light of December's fireworks and the bleak house of January, is surely going to conclude that you're fat and a disappointment and that you're career isn't what it could be.
In May . . . all of those things are still true - but at least it's sunnier.
This year my "Spring Summary" highlighted that I'm not doing enough to engage with people. That there's about a 65% chance of me dying alone, probably of heart disease. And that I need to get a light, breathable summer jacket that doesn't look inappropriate in formal meetings.
I've been looking for that jacket for a long time.
I DON'T WANT TO HAVE A BLOG!
Hopefully the warmth of that opening has encouraged you to read more. I don't like blogging. Blogging feels a lot like I'm an old man sending letters to the editor of a print media artifact created from wood pulp and spit. It seems old hat. Even older than that, perhaps - it seems pre-hat.
But here I am, blogging. And there you are, reading. I presume.
I'm going to keep this blog updated more regularly and more frequently. If you're following me on Facebook and Twitter then you'll have seen a number of updates about cover art and the forthcomingness of an audiobook. These things will be the subject of future blogs.
What I wanted to introduce to you today is the concept of regular progress, behind the scenes work on what I'm doing right now. I'm going to call these posts IWHSYDHT(F) - which stands for I Write Harder So You Don't Have To (Facepalm) - and in them I'll introduce you to terrible, inhumane acts of crassness which I commit in first drafts and which I then correct in subsequent drafts.
That's a good idea, right? There's no way this could ever come back and bite me in the future - like suddenly in the future, like before the end of this post? Nah, that's never going to happen.
The first change is in Singular itself. With the revision of the cover I took the opportunity to dip back into the book and make a small change due to an issue we encountered when recording the audiobook. It was only when listening back to a section featuring the creature (It) that I realised I'd put a really lazy and repetitive sentence in and somehow this had got by my normal editing process.
The original sentence was:
"The world grew from fist-sized sphere to fill the whole of its vision in three exhilarated breaths - and grew larger still until it felt the jarring strike of something hard against its whole body as it broke the threshold that separated one reality from another."
The reason it struck me was because there are three "hole" sounds. "Whole of its vision", "whole body" and "threshold". Using the same word twice in one sentence is criminal; thrice is . . . more criminal. Mugging an old lady, criminal. Punching a goat, criminal. Low class, unwashed, criminal.
The revision was:
"The world grew from fist-sized sphere to fill its vision in three exhilarated breaths – and grew larger still until it felt the jarring strike of something hard against its body as it broke the threshold that separated one reality from another."
Now, those revisions having gone to press, as it were, I see that second "grew" laughing at me. And I realise it isn't the word "grew" laughing at me - it's god.
Hopefully future blog updates will make me seem less of an idiot.