I do like this!

The Cheesesellers Wife

Luxurious man, to bring his vice in use,
Did after him the world seduce,
And from the fields the flowers and plants allure,
Where nature was most plain and pure.
He first enclosed within the garden’s square
A dead and standing pool of air,
And a more luscious earth for them did knead,
Which stupefied them while it fed.
The pink grew then as double as his mind:
The nutriment did change the kind.
With strange perfumes he did the roses taint,
And flowers themselves were taught to paint.
The tulip, white, did for complexion seek,
And learned to interline its cheek;
Its onion root they then so high did hold,
That one was for a meadow sold.
Another world was searched, through oceans new,
To find the marvel of Peru.
And yet these rarities might be allowed,
To man, that sovereign thing, and proud,
Had he not dealt between…

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interesting interview with a terrific writer

milfordsfwriters

Tell us your biography in three sentences or fewer.
Born in the West of England where I now live. Have had a varied career, including witchcraft shop owner, SFF writer, college lecturer and international education administrator. Practising occultist.

Liz Williams

How and when did you begin writing, and what was your first published piece?
I started writing before the age of 10, with a plaigirism of Lloyd Alexander (I was an early adaptor of Prydain! – and I also loved the Welsh legends of the Mabinogion). I remember being uneasy about this at the time and thinking that I ought to come up with something more original. This has been happening ever since. My first published piece was, I think, actually in Pravda and related to the education system of Kazakhstan. I remember being impressed that it wasn’t censored. When it comes to science fiction, I had a short story…

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Includes a short piece of mine 🙂

milfordsfwriters

Christmas Present – a short story by Marion Pitman

Doris heard the slight plip of the cat flap, followed by the scrutch scrutch of claws at work in the doormat. There was a pause, then the plink of the name tag on a collar against the rim of the food bowl. After a while she heard the claws in the carpet behind the sofa, a pause, and the air was enriched by the fishy aroma of a well-timed feline fart.

Doris smiled and shook her head. She must start tidying the house – it would be Christmas Eve tomorrow, and Norman and Christine would be round early.

Doris wondered where she had gone wrong with Norman. He wasn’t a bad son; but one of the things that were immutable in Doris’s universe was that you didn’t leave your old mother all on her own at Christmas. They would come round…

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With my other hat on – putting this on here so I can refer people to it – I have a stack of Jack Payne Popular Music and Dancing Weekly from 1934/5. Some of the lyrics are incredibly daft.

May 16 1935 32

Out in the cold cold snow

the tower of London

The Lover’s Waltz

Antonio

Yvonne

Bon soir!

Dec 1 1934 (2 copies)

Without that certain thing

Swaller-tail coat

The sweetest music this side of heaven

Blue river roll on

Song of the dawn

Bonny Face

(Home)

Oct 13 1934

Easy Come, Easy Go

Lady of Madrid

Aloha beloved

The show is overcoat

Josephine

Icicle Joe (the Eskimo)

(Whispering)

Oct 20 1934

Unless

The beat o’ my heart

In other words – we’re through

Melody in spring

True

Hospitality

(Lady of Spain)

Oct 27 1934

My design for living

You have taken my heart

Lullaby in blue

Beloved

Coom, pretty one

In San Antonio

(Clap hands, here comes Charley)

Nov 10 1934

Dearest

Sweetheart of Red River Valley

Why not?

If

Nobody’s sweetheart

My Convent Belle

(On the air)

Dec 15 1934

Kickin’ the gong around

The old sow

Humming to you

Old monastery bell

Little wallflower

Spellbound

(You die if you worry)

Dec 22 1934

The sun has got his hat on

Driftin’ tide

It don’t mean a thing

At the corner of the street

What do I care, it’s home

The bells of home are ringing

(On her doorstep last night)

Dec 29 1934

Throw open wide your window

In my little bottom drawer

Go to sleep

You or no-one

Here’s to the ones we love

Hills of Devon

(Airman)

Jan 5 1935

Good night, lovely little lady

Moon Country

Best wishes

Prairie Lullaby

I’m one of the lads of Valencia

You’ve made my life complete, dear

(Casabiance)

Jan 12 1935

Grinzing

Who’ll buy my lavender?

Seven years with the wrong woman

Love thy neighbour

The captain’s daughter

If I hadn’t been green

(The changing of the guard)

Jan 19 1935

Cocktails for two

Cradle in the trees

Old father Thames

Ill wind

You’re in my power

Rio Grande

(What’s the use of money after all)

Jan 26 1935

The very thought of you

You’re just unfair

Rockin’ chair

Trouble in paradise

The ripping waltz

My sweet

(Sittin’ on a five barred gate)

Feb 2 1935

Madonna Mine

Remembrance

It’s all forgotten now

He was a handsome young soldier

I’m bettin’ the roll on roamer

A star that shines in the night

(Soldier on the shelf)

Feb 9 1935

I bought myself a bottle of ink

The breeze

That’s what life is made of

In the Cumberland mountains

Will the angels play their harps for me?

My Treasure

(Fairy on the clock)

Feb 16 1935

Isle of Capri

Faith

Little Dutch mill

Silly girl

You oughta be in pictures

Sonoma

(Cupid on the cake)

Feb 23 1935

Soon

Ridin’ around in the rain

The prize waltz

How’m I doin’?

The general and the private

When it’s springtime in Normandy

(Fire! Fire!! Fire!!!)

Mar 2 1935

Out in the cold again

There was an old woman

Riding on the clouds

Just a little grey-haired lady

The crazy song

That forgotten melody

(When I met Connie in the cornfield)

Mar 9 1935

Oh! Muki Muki Oh!

I read it in the paper

Marta

Where? (I wonder where?)

‘Fonso

Faded letters

(Dance of the rain-drops)

Mar 16 1935

Dreamy Serenade

In the hills of Colorado

Let’s make love

Snowball

What is there to take its place?

Away from the rest of the world

(Oh! Arthur)

March 23 1935

Every time I look at you

Over on the sunny side

You’re wonderful

Hold up your hands

Rufus on the roof

Blue moon in the sky

(Oh! Sailor behave!)

Mar 30 1935

The sob song

Lullaby lady

Someone’s laying the table

When days begin

Three o’clock in the morning

Offer up a little prayer for mother

(Please Percy)

April 6 1935

Way down south in North Carolina

Three of us

This is the rhythm for me

I’m going to meet my jolly old girl

In a gondola

I will have a real good time

The shamrock your wore in your hair

April 13 1935

He didn’t even say goodbye

Lady rainbow

Roll along Kentucky moon

Old Sweetheart days

The closer they nestle together

Oh! Suzanne!

April 20 1935

Argentina

I was in the mood

I heard

Rambling down the lane together

Wait for the kettle to boil

Desert Start

April 27 1935

That night in Venice

Song of the Nightingale

For ever

In the hollow of your hand

I’m a failure

I’ll always be sorry for you

milfordsfwriters

MitBGive us a short biography in three sentences or fewer.
I grew up in north London, left school at 16, and started a second-hand book and bric a brac business. The shop and flat burned down in 2000, and I spent a couple of years travelling, mostly to Zimbabwe and New Zealand, mostly watching cricket. I have one surviving stepdaughter and three step-grandchildren; I have no car, no TV and no cats.

When did you start writing? What was your first sale?
I started writing as a tiny child: as soon as I learned to write, that’s what I did. I think my first sale was a zombie story to Mary Danby for the Fontana Book of Horror in 1978, and not long after I sold a second story, The Seal Songs, to 19 magazine, and then to an anthology.

Have you always written short stories or is there a…

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It’s hard being a writer. For a start, in most fields of human endeavour, the competition comes from other people doing the same thing, other painters, singers, footballers, politicians, what have you. Very few people, having become successful and well known in another field, then suddenly have an exhibition of landscapes, or play for Arsenal, or even stand for parliament – a few, perhaps, but not many. But it seems to me that every single person who becomes well-known for anything at all – acting, athletics, armed robbery, reality TV, whatever – immediately writes a novel. And has it published, since they are famous. And if it’s moderately readable, and they have fans, it sells, and they write another. And if the poor bloody writer does manage to get a book published and it sells, no-one invites them to record an album, or play Hamlet, or run the country. They’re just expected to write another book, and it’s got to sell better than the first one.

It’s a hard life, I tell you.

Something that tends to come up in critiques is that the viewpoint character isn’t sufficiently involved, that they are not in danger, that they don’t have enough at stake. I see where this is coming from. If the viewpoint character doesn’t care what happens, why should the reader? But the character may care very much, without being in personal danger. And  one can surely write from the viewpoint of a character who is unsympathetic, and then why should one care what happens to them anyway?

Then you have the classic detective story. OK, maybe the hard-boiled private eye, who generally gets knocked on the head so often they must have serious brain damage after a few years in the business, and is motivated by getting paid, has something at stake – not only the pay, but the likelihood of getting bumped off.

The police detective is presumably also motivated by getting paid, but they don’t have to be personally involved in solving the case, generally it’s surely better if they’re not. And surely, also, the chances of getting bumped off are relatively low.

And then Sherlock Holmes – the model of all disinterested detectives – granted there are a few stories in which Holmes and or Watson is attacked, but there are a lot more where they’re not. There are quite a few where it turns out no-one’s in danger at all. Solving the mystery is the object of the exercise. What Holmes has at stake is his reputation and intellectual satisfaction; Watson, the usual viewpoint character, most often has nothing at stake at all.

There are many detective stories where someone has something at stake – they are suspected, or accused, or even convicted, and want their name to be cleared. But almost by definition, they’re usually not the main viewpoint character. There is the scenario where a murderer must be tracked down before they kill again – but the detective is not often the most likely next victim.

I have wondered if this insistence on personal jeopardy is responsible for one of the things that irritates me most about many recent detective stories that I’ve read. The detective, amateur or professional, has to be assaulted at least once, possibly several times. They must be in danger of death at some point. Frequently because they have taken the murderer somewhere quiet to tell them they are a suspect. Sometimes to the top of a tall building. I mean, what??? I’m sorry, can you see Holmes or Miss Marple doing that?

And then there was the successful series of crime thrillers that I started reading and enjoyed, only for my suspension of disbelief to finally snap as, increasingly, every crime the investigator had to deal with seemed to be aimed at her or her friends and family. And after a bit, every crime anywhere, whether in her jurisdiction or elsewhere. All crime was part of a conspiracy against her friends and relations. That isn’t what I’m looking for in a detective story. I want an interesting mystery, preferably with a not-too-sympathetic villain, who is unmasked by a detective who is there for their detective abilities, and not because their private life is the target of every villain in Christendom and beyond.

I fear, however, I am a lone voice crying in the wilderness. Pass the locusts.

Comet Weather is a totally brilliant book, a grown-up version of the sort of book I liked best as a child. Liz Williams is also totally brilliant, and entirely grown-up.

milfordsfwriters

book_comet_front_2dMilford: First of all, Liz, could you please give us a very quick introduction to Comet Weather.

Liz: It’s the only novel I’ve ever written which is set in contemporary Britain. It’s set partly in Somerset, where I live, and in London and Wiltshire. The plan, however, is to write 4 novels, all of which are set in the Southern counties of England. Although I come from a Welsh and Scots background, I feel that a lot of Celtic mythology has been mined to death and there is so much folklore and myth in Southern England – in the West Country, and counties such as Hampshire and Dorset, that it would be interesting to explore it.

Milford: In the last two decades you’ve had fourteen or so novels published, as well as a couple of novellas, short stories and short story collections encompassing both science fiction and fantasy, but this…

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Those who know me at all well will be aware of my deep-seated and passionate loathing for the education system, at least in England – I hope it is better in other cultures, and I’m fairly sure there are some where it does not inculcate a contempt for intelligence. Where else is the word “clever” an insult?

One thing that riles me is the assumption that the only way to become educated and knowledgeable and civilised is to stay at school for years and years.

I left school at sixteen, my sister and parents left school at sixteen. We were about as educated, civilised, intelligent, knowledgeable and well-read a family as I have ever met. My grandparents left school well before sixteen, the three I knew were also intelligent, knowledgeable and well-read. All of us could follow a logical argument, and behave in a rational way. We all read books for pleasure. None of us was stupid, coarse, brutal, or wilfully ignorant. My parents gave me a thorough grounding in poetry and Christian theology, which neither of them studied formally. My mother’s father was an engineer’s patternmaker, an immensely skilled job I couldn’t do in a million years – he did an apprenticeship. My father was a chartered accountant – he started at sixteen as an articled clerk.

Somewhere the idea got in that everyone must go to university – whether or not that style of learning was what they were suited to, whether or not their particular talents were served by that route. I would not argue against the idea that everyone should have the chance to go to university – which now is becoming more difficult, as it is so expensive again. But if a person’s talents or temperament are better served on some other path, that should be an equal option, and equally respected.

I sometimes think I might have been more successful if I had taken a degree, in so far as it would have changed people’s perception of me. I also think I might have gone terminally round the bend. But I don’t really think I would have been more intelligent or generally well-informed. (Those who know me are free to argue to the contrary…)

There is a point after which you can only educate people with their consent and co-operation. There is also a point after which you cannot stop people acquiring education, short of locking them up away from all sources of information, and even then they will go on thinking. And that point generally occurs before they are twenty-one, or even eighteen.

I have dear friends with a university education. I have dear friends with none. I perceive no consistent difference in their intelligence or all-round awareness and knowledge of things in general. If a person’s calling is to be a surgeon, they should be given every facility. If their calling is to be a street-sweeper, likewise. Streets need sweeping, and to assume only stupid people can do it is really rather insulting.

My brain is on strike at the moment, but revisiting some old poems. This is a villanelle, if I remember rightly

Gifts

In my fingers, in my lips,

lie powers of healing and of sleep;

peace is at my finger-tips.

 

When sorrows salt the sun eclipse,

coolness for your heat I keep

in my fingers, in my lips.

 

In the healing river dips

bitterness too sere to weep;

peace is at my finger-tips.

 

Balm to soothe the sting of whips,

oil the troubled waves to sweep,

in my fingers, in my lips.

 

Lonely passion burns the lips,

love unloved and longing leap –

peace is at my finger-tips.

 

When your foot with fainting slips,

seek for healing and for sleep

in my fingers, in my lips;

peace is at my finger-tips.

 

(Marion Pitman)