The Touch — Colleen McCullough

[asa book]0684853302[/asa] McCullough has produced some very thoughtful work in the past. Tim and An Indecent Obsession are novels that deal with difficult subject matter deftly and with insight, but this novel doesn’t work for me, at all. It is poorly done soap opera, trite, predictable, and just plain unbelievable for the most part. The dialog is often so stilted that I was embarrassed by it.

The story concerns Elizabeth, who at age sixteen is sent from Scotland to Australia to marry a cousin twenty years her senior, one who has made a fortune for himself in mining and engineering. She takes an instant dislike to him, which carries over to their sex life. Her dislike of sex is so extreme that I wondered, for a short time, if McCullough was going to deal with the matter of lesbianism in the late 19th century. That would have been interesting, at least. Instead Elizabeth spends ten years bearing two daughters, learning how to spend money, and making friends with her husband’s business partner and long-time lover, Ruby, all the while avoiding him. Alex is a man of his place and time — less than enlightened, fixed in his ideas, controlling. He plans for his first daughter (who is speaking, unbelievably, in complex sentences with subordinate clauses at age eleven months) to marry Ruby’s son by a Chinese prince when he (Lee) comes back from being educated in England.

The fact that Elizabeth and Lee will fall in love is telegraphed early and often, and thus the story has to devolve into a parody of itself. Which is really too bad. I had hopes for this novel, but I found myself speed reading to get it over with. I have given it one star because McCullough does do her research, as always, and provides great period detail.

Fire Along the Sky is available

The new book is out. I have no idea how it’s doing as (1) I can’t get hold of my agent (2) I can’t get hold of my editor (3) my internet access is up the spout. So post if you’ve got a copy, and let me know where you found it — I’d appreciate it.

Edited to add: FaS will be published in New Zealand and Australia on September 30.

practicing what I preach

Georgina posted a question: “How do you feel about fanfic involving the characters from your books?”
The short answer is: As long as the basics are observed, I’m fine with it. The basics, to be specific:

1. Appropriate disclaimers. From the BBC fanfic article: “Fan fiction websites invariably contain a host of disclaimers, acknowledging the borderline legality of the pursuit. While not done for commercial purposes, fan fiction inevitably involves the use of copyrighted characters and settings, and fanfic authors basically operate at the mercy of [the copyright holder/author]. The good archives all recognise this – hence their clear legal disclaimers – and are usually only too willing to take down any material if [the copyright holder/author] ask them to. …Any responsible site which archives fanfictions will have a blanket disclaimer on the main page and any index pages, stating that the stories were written for fun and are reproduced on the web for the enjoyment of other fans, and that there is no commercial intent. This is preceded or followed by a copyright disclaimer, stating – for general fanfic sites – that all characters and settings are the copyright property of their creators, or on specific sites stating to whom the rights belong.”

2. Anybody writing fan fiction about my characters must understand that I cannot and will not — primarily for legal reasons — read it. This is to protect myself from claims that I have stolen ideas that might show up in any such fan fiction. I just have to stay away from it, no matter how wonderful it may be.

I quite like reading the disclaimers on fanfic sites — they are often quite funny. Somebody should compile a sampling and post it somewhere (not me; nope). But. This is what I mean:

From Jess’s Buffy fanfic:

DISCLAIMER:  What’s the Numfar of this fic?  In other words, Joss [Wheldon] is the malevolent god that owns all, although sometimes I sneak Spike out the side door and do wicked things with him.

And from Ann Harrington’s Farscape fanfic:

Farscape is owned by The Jim Henson company, Hallmark Entertainment, Nine Network Australia and the Sci-Fi Channel. They own all rights to characters mentioned within this story. I have merely borrowed these characters to play with, and promise to return them in good working order.