Thursday, 16 November 2017

Cezanne or Picasso?

2084 by Robert Bagnall, now available from, or direct from Double Dragon, for your enjoyment.

I recently took in an episode of Malcolm Gladwell's brilliant Revisionist Histories podcast called Hallelujah.  It's on the subject of why genius takes time.  Or, sometimes, it doesn't.

He contrasts the slap-it-together, finished by lunchtime ethic of Picasso or Bob Dylan with the drafting and re-drafting of a Cezanne or Leonard Cohen, where works are never finished, merely abandoned needing to be monetized.  Sometimes it even takes another person to pick up what you thought had been taken as far as it could be to reveal the gold beneath the tarnish, just as Jeff Buckley, John Cale and a host of others did with Cohen's Hallelujah.  Or, like Elvis Costello reworking Deportee, it takes an older you revisiting what the younger you had declared as good as it was ever going to get.

Why mention this?

Well, I see myself as a Cezanne.  I have stories on my spreadsheet which were first drafted in the last century, western crime capers rewritten for the edge of space; flash pieces that have grown beyond their original intentions; longer pieces that have been boiled down to not much more than a flash.  I'm a honer, an editor, a re-writer.

So, you'll understand that it is with a tad of bemusement that I look back on the year so far and realise that my two most recent sales are both for pieces freshly drafted, with virtually no rewrites, and certainly no opportunity to take a mental step back.  Picassos.  Bob Dylans.  Not Cezannes.

One, I've already mentioned: 'They Have Been to a Great Feats of Languages and Stol'n the Scraps' in Daily Science Fiction.  As I put in the author comments:

Some stories have a difficult gestation, the product of long walks and hot baths, always just out of reach, more stared at than written over the course of weeks or months, until they emerge into the light, never quite as good as that elusive first idea that you loved, now lost sight of.

This story wasn’t like that.

Its genesis can be found in a jokey posting on my blog suggesting that Shakespeare’s famous lack of books could be explained away if he was actually a time traveller, and challenging somebody to take the idea and run with it.  Suspecting nobody would, I picked up the gage that I myself had thrown, as Shakespeare would have said.  The tale was written on a single damp spring morning and polished over a latte after lunch.

I know many of you would like to think we suffer for our art.  Not this time.  Sorry.

Well, added to that I can let you know that my story 'Storm Warning' will be appearing in Azure Keep's Tales of Ruma sometime early next year.

Which is nice.  Even if it leaves me not really sure what kind of artist I am.

(Who said 'piss'?  Come on, own up, who was it...)

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