Sunday, November 11, 2012

Helping Henry

Here's one of the linoleum cuts Ruth taught me to do. I never got the hang of the engraver's contour line, but maybe some day...

The first seven chapters of Helping Henry have been released at the Flash Fiction Fest. Helping Henry is the longest work of fiction I've had made available to the public. It's also the most spontaneous piece of sustained writing I've ever done. Normally my work is planned, and obsessed over, and revised at least ten or twelve times.

The Henry stories have been gone over once or twice, and the edits I've gotten back have been the lightest of my career, which makes me nervous. Especially since no-one but me and the editor have seen the final version. Helping Henry isn't just a series of stories. It very much has the form of a novel, and right now there's been enough of it to give you a real feel for things.

What's it about? Human/animal relations, love and friendship, responsibility, and art. Not to mention weird animals and plants, good and bad meals, and dog breath.

As I wrote before, the Henry stories are firmly rooted in mainstream science fiction traditions, but they don't really have the shape or tone of conventional science fiction. While conflict and desire do make appearances, these plots aren't driven by those engines.

And they are also fairly naked wish fulfillment.

They are dedicated to the artist Ruth Leaf, who happens to be a science fiction reader as well as a fine artist. She's been very influential on me -- she wrote the book on intaglio printing techniques, and taught me to do linoleum cuts. She's one of the reasons I approach digital art as a print-making experience rather than a painterly or photographic one. (She also reads the blog -- everybody wave now. Hi, Ruth!)

And a few months back, she said something to me that stuck. She'd seen some of my other work, and found it distressing, and expressed a desire to see me do something that made people feel good when they were done reading it, rather than concerned and distressed.

When I first started the Henry stories, they began with a particularly stupid dick joke. But as they developed their shape, Ruth's request was in my mind. (It rang with something someone once said on stopping reading my first novel -- "You have a knack for taking the reader to fantastic places, and you never take me anywhere I want to go.") And in addition to Ruth, the original cyperpunks and artists Mark Pauline and Maya Lin are owed a debt for their influences.

There are some spots in the first few stories where the benevolence of the Henryverse is hidden, but they turned out to provide important elements in the whole work, so I left them in. These stories are not about perfect lives in a perfect world, they're about living well in a rough world.

I just hope they work.

So give 'em a try, and if you like them? Subscribe to the stories, spread the word, and leave a comment. At this stage of the game, everything helps.

I'll be reading from Helping Henry next Friday at Diesel Books in Oakland. Details here. If you can, please come on down!

And be sure to tune in tomorrow. Don't tell Henry, but he won the design bid for the memorial for the Gulf of Mexico!

No comments: