Saturday, 28 January 2012


un-zooty looking spider-kids
          In between books is not a good place to be for a writer.
          I’m glad to have finished the first draft of Sterkarm 3 at last, but I have to let it brew before I start rewriting it, and in the meantime I don’t know what to do with myself.
          So I’ve started to think about the next book, and, because it’s going to be set in the future, I’m in search of zoot.  My brother – the cover-artist brother, not the Blott-drawing brother – introduced me to Zoot.  He’s a science-fiction reader (and writer) and zoot is something he looks for.  If a sci-fi book or film doesn’t have enough zoot, he’s disappointed.
The latest cover, in rough
          What is Zoot?  It’s one of those things that’s quite hard to define, though you know it when you find it.  I gather that it means something outrageous, surprising and imagination-stretching.
          It’s a science-fiction thing.  Now, I love fantasy and ghost stories, but they aren’t zooty.  Even when they’re scary, even horrific, they’re not zooty.  There’s a hard-edge to zoot.  It has circuit boards and shiny cases, perhaps even wi-fi.  It’s often astonishing, but not mysterious.
           Space-elevators are zooty.  Huge mirrors orbiting Mars, to reflect sunlight onto the planet's surface and terraform it - they're very zooty.
          The up-dated Dr. Who is often quite zooty.  The BBC’s wonderful, modern day ‘Sherlock’, with its text messaging and forensics, brims with zoot.  It’s not just the science and gadgets: it’s the audacity and panache.  In fact, zoot may be a kind of science-flavoured chutzpah.
          So far, I’ve got a few characters, and a future setting.  I’m going to set up some notes files for characters,backgrounds and ideas (because my head-space is already getting crammed.)  I shall use navigation pane (or document map) so I can leap about in the files, from note to note.
          And I’m on the hunt for zoot.  I aspire to it, though I don't know if I can bring it off.

A genetically engineered, flourescent cat. I want one!  It wouldn't get run down in the dark!
          I watched that Horizon programme the other night, the one about the spider-goats.  Spider-goats, I feel, definitely have a touch of zoot.  As do yeast colonies that produce diesel fuel. From, if I understood correctly (I was thinking of spider-goats at the time) the grease on the surface of apples.
          I’ve also been reading Roz Morris’ NAIL YOUR NOVEL.  She has nothing to say about zoot (at least not as far as I’ve read), but she has some great ideas for working out and shaping plots.  I’m always willing to give something new a go.
      Last week’s suggestions for the rewrite of Sterkarm 3 were gratefully noted. If anyone has any zoot - ?

          And, as I reach the end of January as fat as I began it, here's a timely Blott - 


Jen said...

Haha - Blott made me laugh! The bit between books is my favourite part. I can't wait to finish this draft and then hit the hills and the beach, and start sleeping all night again. Dreaming and daydreaming the next one is pure pleasure - or going on a zoot hunt, of course. Enjoy!

Susan Price said...

Good luck with the draft, Jen!

madwippitt said...

Fantasy can have zoot too, surely? What about Anne McCaffrey's dragon books - they develop lots of zoot.
And a lot of Diana Wynne Jones' books suddenly swerve unexpectedly from being fantasy to zootiness, catching you off balance.

But glow in the dark cats: now there's a good idea. Much easier for wippitties to spot and send packing out of the garden on dark nights ...

Joan Lennon said...

Zoot alors!

Freyalyn said...

I find the thought of walking in the dark and seeing glowing cats in the undergrowth and up trees oddly appealing - I wonder if the Cheshire Cat might be a forerunner? That Horizon was fascinating... and of course there was the glowing bunny in Sherlock. Blott made me giggle this time...

Leslie Wilson said...

Catching up with you again - following on madwippitt's comment, I think my Matilda-dog would be driven wild by fluorescent cats, but I agree, it would be marvellous to see them slipping around gardens. Marvellous, too, for prey animals, who'd get a nice warning!
I wouldn't want Blott nagging me about eating chocolate either, it would only make me eat more.
Read first chapter of Sterkarm. Can't wait to read it all!