Friday, June 26, 2015

Fungi in Fiction: The Fungus (1985)

Book Review: The Fungus by Harry Adam Knight (1985)

Though the structure of this novel is confusing and some of the story-telling strategies distracting, the science (IE mycology) is surprisingly well-informed for a story reminiscent of 1950s pulp sf. 

The many species of fungi featured are described and named correctly as far as I can tell. Fungal processes such as mycelial growth are up to date (to 1985) and for the sake of those surprises, The Fungus is quite an interesting read.

The first four chapters are pure pulp, describing the spread of a mysterious fungal plague in lurid detail, with each chapter following an unfortunate human to his or her end.

Chapter five is the beginning proper, and skips back in time to before the spread of the plague described previously, leaving a reader to wonder how these previous chapters are involved.

Jane Wilson, mycologist, cradles the result of her experimentation, a giant Agaricus bisporus. Quote: “For one thing its pileus, or cap – which was resting against her left breast – was over a foot in diameter, and the stipe, or stalk was over two feet long and seven inches long. Altogether it weighed nearly four pounds.”

She is disappointed to discover that there are no spores, no sexual reproduction.  

Towards the end of nearly every chapter, the author finds it necessary to step out of the character’s viewpoint to explain something that happens outside the knowledge of the chapter’s character. Reader, in this case me, trips out of the story every time. In this chapter: Quote: “Unknown to her, several thousand microscopic mushroom cells still remained in the cut and under her fingernail.”

The next chapter continues with the effects of the unstoppable spread of the fungal plague, this time as related by a medical doctor, Bruce Carter, the strategy I feel to seed in that character for his role at the end of the story.

Part II, titled the Journey, concerns Jane Wilson’s ex-partner living and writing in Ireland who, after being forced to volunteer to travel to London to find Jane’s notes about her experiments, is sent on a violent journey accompanied by an obstreperous soldier to protect him and to get him there, and a sexually hungry doctor to administer anti-fungal drugs to herself and them.

After many of the sort of adventures we have become familiar with in modern filmic adventure/thrillers, Wilson succeeds in discovering the tower where Jane is working around the clock to find the processes needed to promote spore production.

Wilson, accompanied now by Dr Carter, cuts a swath through the women guarding Jane with his flame-thrower after overcoming his earlier horror at using the device. It’s a matter of survival after all.

Since Jane has also used their children as guinea pigs for her research, and they are both consumed by fungi, Wilson feels justified burning Jane. The fungus infecting her makes it easy. He and Doctor Carter, who happens to be a radio geek, manage to broadcast Jane’s research to enable scientists outside the area of infection to control the outbreak.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A New Beginning

This piece of stone to illustrate that nothing is 'set in concrete' as the saying goes. Even stone can be changed. By the flow of water in this case. By lichen growing on it. and in the goodness of time crumbling it. Repeated freezing and thawing will break up stone. Landslides will break up stones ... 

Today, just for the heck of it, I started Monster-Moored in a totally different place. One page into the existing chapter, at the actual point of contact between the Protagonist, Tardi Mack, and his burden.

1: Tardi Possessed
Tardi swam frantically down and back. A white boat keel came straight at him through the blue underwater morning. The boat lifted over a final little swell and crashed onto his surfboard. Bet the bastard did it on purpose.

A million bubbles hiding a dozen pieces of his board punched him back down the sunlit water column, onto the old trawler’s wreck he’d been filming. His back shredded over the mysterious silver-barbed coral.

Aah! He gulped water trying to get air for a scream. The pain! Up! He had to get to the surface!

Wait, said a thing in his mind. A huge tongue slurped over his back.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Orb in a Shop Window

Orb in a Shop Window
This is a shop window I pass walking to the CBD in Mullumbimby. I love the way the cherub as magnified in the orb almost looks right-way-up. Only on looking closer do you realise it's not a plain reflection.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Style: Sentences & Sentence Fragments

One thing I won't be doing in my latest edit, or anything else I'm rewriting, is getting rid of sentence fragments. This is one of the things that every editor and all reviewers have noted in my writing for the five years I've been asking for feedback.

Every book I read contains verbless sentences, usually to good account. Jeff Vandermeer's Finch is a recent find. A brilliant fantasy if you enjoy noir, detective fiction and fungi.

The first sentence reads:

Finch, at the apartment door, breathing heavy from five flights of stairs, taken fast.

Though there are two verbs, breathing and taken, they are the wrong forms to make this a complete sentence. But the effects are a sense of immediacy and the feeling that you, the reader, are right there at the apartment door with Finch.  

The second sentence has a couple more no-no's. Two, mark that well, two passive verbs! How often are we told passive verbs are not allowed on the first page?

The message that'd brought him from the station was already dying in his hand. 

I hope sincerely that you ignored the passive verbs to wonder how a message could be dying? 

Red smear on a limp circle of green fungal paper that had minutes before squirmed clammy.

Another sentence with a missing word, an indefinite article at its beginning this time, the third sentence describes the physical attributes of the message. Who's got time to worry about the incomplete-ness of the sentence when faced with red smear, limp circle, green fungal paper, and squirmed clammy to try and make sense of?

The fourth group of words is a complete actual sentence. 

Now he had only the door to pass through, marked with the gray caps' symbol. 

In the first section there are six complete sentences out of a total of twenty groups of words that some would say are masquerading as sentences. 

But not me. I love what you can do with incomplete sentences. But I have a question of all the people who are still saying that incomplete sentences are an anathema to good writing. What have you been reading lately? 

Monday, June 8, 2015

When You Can't Type ...

I see I've been off-line for almost a month. I've been recovering from a combination of overusing my wrists, elbows and shoulders without moving my shoulder blades adequately. This how interpret the Osteopath's comments, and the exercises he set. Sitting still and typing too often and too long is another way of putting it.

I'll be well content if I can get myself fit enough to do my Tai Chi warm up routine every day, as taught me by Michael Rose who learned from Patrick Kelly.

View of Byron Shire Valley from the Eastern Flank of Montecollum
As well as hundreds of arm and shoulder exercises, I've been walking. However, this view is accessible only from a Bed & Breakfast place where I visited a while ago. All my recent walking has been around Mullumbimby which lies to the upper left just out of the frame.