I remember reading a book about writing a while ago in which the author talks about when a writer finds himself writing (or an editor reading) interminable passages to do with mists, fogs, white rooms, blank fields, empty plains, pristine seas. He called it the white room syndrome. A sure sign of an empty mind struggling to fill itself, of a writer with the desire to write, to capture the wild euphoria of ideas sparking further ideas but lacking the initial spark.

The last week has been me pretty much feeling like this.

Ok, I have had a nasty flu, one which wrings me out by 3pm and leaves me without an appetite for food or any activity but reading or watching crap sci-fi/fantasy and i’m ready for it to be over now but it seems that this has started up my latest sci-fi/fantasy reading binge.

For reasons I dont want to go into, I alternate between cycles of reading nothing but non-fiction and feeling engaged and analytical about well everything and periods of burying myself in the SF/F genre during which my brain activity sinks to mollusc level.

So far, in the last week or so, I’ve:

Read the latest Harry Potter which I found really really tedious and would have made me feel like I’d been ripped off if I’d actually bought it instead of stolen it from the web. But the ending was kinda cool and I’m hoping for a dark side HP next go, someone who actually uses spells that do the kind of things that Stephen Erikson’s mages can do and maybe a couple of Arnie-like one liners at some point, as in ‘Draco, you mo-fo’ or ‘Suck my wand, baby’ or well, you get the idea.

Read one of the latest Pratchett’s discworld novels “Going Postal”, a rant about the dubious business practices of monopolistic telecommunication companies, the destruction of venerable government owned postal institutions, the possibilities of renationalising essential infrastructure, the evils of international finance and the corruption but inevitable requirement of government regulation. Pratchett appears to be beginning to resemble the Mike Moore of the genre much as I like Pratchett (and detest Moore).

Read the latest instalment to the severely anti-heroic, very darkly funny and quite nasty but unfortunately somewhat self-indulgent sir apropos of nothing series which ends in a nuclear cloud devastating all of the main characters bar the protagonist (hoorah!). If only he wrote better.

Read a by the numbers gallant knightes, ye olde merrie fantasie kingdome bodice ripper from Luis McMaster Bujold titled Paladin of Souls where everyone is so wholesome and there’s such prime American moral rectitude behind it all that it made me wish for a similar nuclear armageddon ending preferably very close to the author’s home. Gah. There’s a scene where the heroine jerks off a ensorceled sleeping hero or I think she jerks him off but is written so tastefully that it’s like reading about your Aunt Martha dunking her arnott’s biscuit in tepid tea.

But almost all is forgiven because I am currently reading the fantastic “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell” by Susanna Clarke. It’s like Charles Dickens or Jane Austen has discovered the neverland of faeries and mages. What has been sucked totally dry by too much modern fantasy is now invigorated by great witty writing and well-turned characters with better turned names. And it’s her first novel!

So, it seems that this binge will go on a little longer.