Category Archives: tattooing

Are writers the worst liars?


Writers are well known for making things up. Neil Gaiman is known to over two million Twitter followers as someone who

will eventually grow up and get a real job. Until then, will keep making things up and writing them down.

Speaking for myself, as a writer I keep making things up and writing them down, which, if drawn as two intersecting circles, puts me on a .0001mm intersection with Neil Gaiman; normally I am a small rock (not drawn to scale), a two-millionth particle of a rock around his Twitter account, but on this occasion there is an intersection.


As a child I was a liar on three occasions (that I can remember). I told my sister that if I rubbed a ring on my finger, a monster would appear. I remembered this as an early foray into making things up until my sister told me a couple of years ago that she believed it at the time and was still remembering it a matter of decades later. The other was a matter of a skipping rope and the third will never reach the light of day.

Despite this, I believe writers aren’t the worst liars, in fact we are hopelessly honest to the point of self-impalement on our own honesty, a contradiction that is occupying me in my writing at the moment.

It makes sense that if writers are taking the stuff of raw reality and producing a recognisable version which is made up, writers can recognise the difference between the two. A mechanic can hear the sound of a problem in a running engine, a teacher can detect the point a class is about to go lord-0f-the-flies, a Jedi detects fluctuations in the Force, so the writer knows the difference between making things up and lying. Regardless of our rep as individuals, we simply cannot afford to leave the writer’s equivalent of a loose bearing, behaving badly or the early intimations of the destruction of Alderan in our writing. A book is a particular version of the truth, as Neil Gaiman wrote, and a reader found important enough to tattoo onto her body:

I can believe things that are true/and I can believe things that aren’t true/and I can believe/things where nobody knows/if they’re true or not.

However, it has to be truthful to itself.

Which brings me to my problem. When I started writing for publication, I worked with a powerfully charismatic and commercially successful creative, let’s call him Bob. The effect was like going down to the end of my cul-de-sac (for real, I lived in a cul-de-sac) and a long-loader, lit up like a fairground in the twilight, drew up with a hiss of hydraulics. I got aboard thinking I’d probably have to walk home at some point, which is what happened, but for a while I travelled the route taken by a big, commercial creative. It didn’t stop anywhere unless there were connections to merchandising centres, or the potential to set up your own.

Now gaming is part of my urban fantasy, Skinny Inkers, but the deeper I got under the skin of the story and the characters,  the more truthful I’ve had to be about gaming. Gaming is geek culture, which I love, but it has its dark side and two of the characters needed the dark side – gamergate, addiction – to work. This must happen to every writer, whether we sign up to it or not.

… and so the merchandising opportunities disappear into the distance, tail-lights flashing as the long-loader goes over bumps in the road.



Otaku tattoo yo


The last time I spoke to a Japanese tattooist working outside Tokyo he said inking was still connected – not for the customers but for some of the neighbouring shops – with the yakuza. For otaku (geeks) to ink their geekhood on the skin is Yo, but YO.

But for a culture where Hokusai was drawing manga (man-ga or to randomly wander around, drawing-wise) at the same time as The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, it’s worth bearing in mind that the best-known japanese saying in the West:

Deru kui wa utareru.

“The nail that sticks up will be hammered down,” may mean more to us than to the average Japanese nowadays. After all, the best-known western saying in Japan is probably:

Mind the gap.

The cultural relevance of that one runs out pretty quick.


Not true dat?

Still putting my writing through trueness to SFF. Memo to self, of all fake genres, using bits of SFF to sex up a straight-down-the-genre-line romance, crime thriller, action, etc is

not true dat

The core SFF readership are geeks in the purest sense of the term; an enthusiasm that can follow Brony to the ends of the earth. For why? Because everybody else thinks it’s weird but we don’t, so what everybody else thinks doesn’t matter? Who knows, it’s about commitment to the largely-indefensible, perhaps. It has its own battles, the fake geek chick being the most insidious. Like mixed bathing, we’re at our most vulnerable when we’re just letting go in front of others in our core geekhood.  Pointing up gender in those circumstances (and the wicked corollary that female = fake geek chick) is the last thing you want.

I’m checking that I haven’t used SFF like a piece of lego slotted onto a standard YA, NA romance or crime thriller or even litfic looking for niche-cred. Because that is messin’ with irrational enthusiasm. Which, when messed with, comes out the other side as seriously pissed off.

The temptation’s always there, to increase the chances of publication or shelf-space by introducing SFF elements, which is like introducing a fake tattoo. Inkers and the SFF community have that well-weathered tolerance of any group that’s spent its formative years in a niche in the smooth surface of the status quo, waiting to be absorbed, Borg-like. But even inkers and SFF can be pissed off by fakes.

The answer is, have I written books like Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro where the SFF is part of good, good stories that challenge the status quo?

No, I have not written books like Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro.

But yes, I have been true to the SFF genre.

true dat.

China Miéville is the Boss


It struck me, watching China Miéville come out on stage at the Purcell Room yesterday, that in a fight with any current modern author, he’d win. To begin with it was the muscle, the tattoos and the piercings. Then, when he started to talk, I realized it’s because he is seriously Intelligent (the capitalization isn’t a typo). He writes New Weird, but is in no way weird himself.

He was there to give an archaeological literary examination of London as a source of speculative fiction, visionary edge and a growing, niche genre of urban fantasy.

Within two minutes he’d used half a dozen terms, perfectly understandable in context, which I should have written down. One I had to ask him to put in my signed copy of The City and the City.

The word of the day = Perichoresis

It was the combination of Boss-ness regarding words as well as inks that led me to refer to “The Big Bang Theory” in the Q&A. Suddenly I wasn’t sure I knew sweet eff ay about the use of language.

I’m going to need to get hold of a transcript before I can do “Visions of London” justice.

For the moment, I’m just really worried I’ve written China Miéville into Skinny Inkers as Ink-tup.