Home > Discussion > Fluids, Sian Cummins

Fluids, Sian Cummins

Our first book discussion will start at 8pm UK time today. From that time, you’ll be able to join the discussion by commenting on this post. See you then!

Some guidelines here.

We’ll be discussing ‘Fluids’ by Sian Cummins. Here are the first 100 or so words of the novel:

On the first morning of the new Millennium, John, 30, named after Lennon, woke with a killer hangover, a dead arm and a dead girlfriend. She was lying across his arm, pinning it to the bed, her fidgeting over for good. John twisted his head to gaze into her sticky half-closed eyes and saw the light. Not flu, not just the tetchiness that comes with the time of year, but an appliance leaking colourless fumes. They’d pushed a leaflet under every door in the block about the dangers of carbon monoxide and it was only now, in the few seconds between sleep and the sight of her dilated pupils, that the message came home.

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  1. 05/10/2010 at 6:54 pm

    Hello, I’m online! Anyone else?

  2. Gina
    05/10/2010 at 6:54 pm

    I’m here, early doors. So just loitering until others turn up…

  3. 05/10/2010 at 6:55 pm

    Hi Gina! Any more?

  4. 05/10/2010 at 6:57 pm

    We’re early. Talk amongst yourself

  5. 05/10/2010 at 6:58 pm

    I’m here too!

  6. Gina
    05/10/2010 at 6:59 pm

    Hello Jane!

  7. 05/10/2010 at 7:00 pm

    Hi jane!

  8. 05/10/2010 at 7:01 pm

    we’ll give the others a minute or so if that’s ok – hopefully once people are saying longer things i’ll be approving the comments quicker;)

  9. Gina
    05/10/2010 at 7:01 pm

    Let’s get started? I have first comment, and who ever comes along joins in when they do…

  10. 05/10/2010 at 7:02 pm

    hi Gina, hi Sian. Who’se going to start then? Or are we waiting for the rest to join…?

  11. Gina
    05/10/2010 at 7:02 pm

    hahaa….Or in a minute or two…

  12. 05/10/2010 at 7:03 pm

    yep, go ahead!

  13. Gina
    05/10/2010 at 7:04 pm

    On page 63 Finn says β€˜the new Millennium – it’s our time. We even get to name the decade, you know? Someone from recently came up with “Noughties”. We should be able to do anything we want.’ Do you think he has any idea the irony of that statement?

  14. 05/10/2010 at 7:06 pm

    What does anyone else think before I put my oar in? πŸ™‚

  15. 05/10/2010 at 7:06 pm

    of Gina’s question that is!

  16. 05/10/2010 at 7:07 pm

    ok… well I loved the way the book starts – pulling me in straight away. The language is carefully crafted and gives a real sense of the isolation of the characters at the same time as pinpointing regular strangely microscopic moments of stilled beauty – sort of fleeting images which are slowed down and evoke strong visual moments.

  17. 05/10/2010 at 7:08 pm

    ee, sorry – the time delay thing… no, I think the irony passes him by…

  18. Gina
    05/10/2010 at 7:09 pm

    Yes, some blinding turns of phrase (‘future laid out like a finger buffet’ is one I’ve written down on the re read)

  19. Gina
    05/10/2010 at 7:10 pm

    Slick opener, agreed.

  20. 05/10/2010 at 7:10 pm

    My slow comment approval may be confusing us, bear with me!! To Gina – I was aware of the irony when writing it, Fin has no idea as far as I’m concerned. He’s a bit of a goon bless him. Be interested to know what anyone else thinks of that. Jane – thank you! Microscopic is an interesting description -any thoughts on this? Either of these points people want to run wiht?

    • Gina
      05/10/2010 at 7:12 pm

      Yes I don’t think he has a clue at all. But then I wonder about Mavis. She’s much more cynical and clued up (despite her insecurities and issues). Do you think she sees the irony of that comment>?

  21. 05/10/2010 at 7:15 pm

    I think with being in Mavis’s head, as it were, this is where we see the irony – I think Mavis just feels she’s out-of-kilter, I’m not sure she sees the irony

    • Gina
      05/10/2010 at 7:25 pm

      I suppose she is out of kilter…that she’s scrabbling to find herself. An identity perhaps?

  22. Robin
    05/10/2010 at 7:15 pm

    Sorry I’m late

  23. 05/10/2010 at 7:15 pm

    er…i would say not at the time, but i’m not sure. Was anyone aware of the irony of the ‘here’s the future’ attitude around the millennium? Is this what you think is coming across G?

  24. 05/10/2010 at 7:17 pm

    hi robin!

  25. 05/10/2010 at 7:17 pm

    Hi Robin! Jane, I would also agree with you to an extent, and Gina, she’s more cynical than Fin, but I also think she’s a tiny bit enchanted by the turn of the century, even if it’s in a sort of pissed off way – any thoughts?

    • Gina
      05/10/2010 at 7:19 pm

      Yeah, she’s not entirely cynical yet. More world-wse than Fin…

  26. Gina
    05/10/2010 at 7:18 pm

    There’s a sense of changing of the guard about it, as the older generation (John et al) lose grip on the new, but the new guard hasn’t quite arrived – you know that they haven’t quite got going. That limbo of the millennium, that you were expecting ‘something’ to happen, but took a while to get going. That the younger characters are somewhat in that limbo.

  27. 05/10/2010 at 7:19 pm

    (commenting on my own book is weird but interesting πŸ™‚ )

  28. 05/10/2010 at 7:19 pm

    Very complex book, written in deceptively simple style. Great descriptions reflected detailed, minute observation by the author. The characters felt isolated and abandoned in the new century. Feelng of desolation/wasteland. Brilliant study of grief. Hopeful at the end….

    • Gina
      05/10/2010 at 7:35 pm

      I agree on the isolation and abandonment here Morag…especially when the whole idea of the year 2000 was shiny flying cars etc (the bright future). It’s bloody bleak, and the characters a lost in this wasteland.

  29. Gina
    05/10/2010 at 7:20 pm

    haha!! (I bet).

  30. 05/10/2010 at 7:21 pm

    Hi Morag!

    Interested to know if anyone spotted any millenium specific details besides the obvious?

  31. 05/10/2010 at 7:23 pm

    there was a very little one for the geeks when Fin goes to Andreas’s place…to do with cameras in the toilets…

  32. 05/10/2010 at 7:23 pm

    hmmm, is that a spoiler at the end there morag?!

    For me, Mavis becomes the focus of that sense of dislocation – and I feel that the millenium thing is somehow an echo of the inability to make real connections with one another – showing that it’s all promise and no real result maybe…?

  33. Robin
    05/10/2010 at 7:23 pm

    ooooo…you have an agent…jealousy is bad, jealousy is bad, jealousy is bad…

  34. 05/10/2010 at 7:26 pm

    Jane’s comment, yep, anticlimax is really interesting to me in my writing and this novel particularly – I like the idea that it’s generally the result of things, but that good can come out of it, or change

  35. 05/10/2010 at 7:28 pm

    Can I go back to what a couple of you said about minutiae or microscopic detail…was this in the writing style mainly, and how, do you think?

  36. 05/10/2010 at 7:29 pm

    yes, and that sense of anti-climax carries well, even where there are moments of connection with Mavis and Fin at the H (trying not to spoil!) and with John at the end… for me the anti-climax is an extension of the sense of aimlessness and dislocation of the characters – of feeling somehow “out of their time”…

  37. 05/10/2010 at 7:30 pm

    Jane, yep, love the way you put that, that is what i was aiming for.

  38. 05/10/2010 at 7:31 pm

    I always find it interesting when people try to ‘drag something into the twentyfirst century’ – we’re IN the 21st century like it or not….what you see is what you get. I think these characters don’t quite get that yet, but they’re ahead of millions of others who are still expecting y2k and tinfoil – hence their anxiety to an extent

  39. Robin
    05/10/2010 at 7:32 pm

    Do you find the subtleties that seem so clear to you are sometimes lost on your readers?

    • 05/10/2010 at 7:34 pm

      i’m interested to know that too, robin – because when we write we have alot more stuff in our head than ever makes it onto the paper…

  40. 05/10/2010 at 7:32 pm

    re the microscopic – it’s those regular images which seem to reflect the charatcer’s attempts of place themselves in the world and in their relationships with others which only serve to emphasise their dislocation, and are often with external things rather than other people – Mavis seeing herself reflected in the window
    “She glanced at the window where the striplit reflection of her, John and the room was solidifying against lights starting to come on in the tower blocks. If she could have seen herself three years ago – on the seventeenth floor, about to eat Oxtail Soup.” for example…

  41. 05/10/2010 at 7:35 pm

    yes – the bike in the corridor is one detial that i very purposely wrote to give off dislocation…when i was living all over the place, bikes in corridors seemed like the epitome of dislocation and semi-squatting if that makes sense

    • 05/10/2010 at 7:37 pm

      and in a way, sian, that also answers robin’s question as I don’t feel that about bikes at all – for me they show that someone lives here…!

  42. 05/10/2010 at 7:38 pm

    Robin’s question, possibly, sometimes. I think there are some things that no one is ever ever going to get but you, but i like the idea of subtelties that ask the reader to do a bit of digging….i like reading books where i need to work a little bit (not too hard πŸ˜‰ )

  43. 05/10/2010 at 7:38 pm

    …whereas the reflection in the window beginning to solidify shows their lack of substantiality as the image seems more solid than mavis feels, yet it’s a transient reflection and unltimately not real…

  44. 05/10/2010 at 7:39 pm

    haha, also true – about the bikes – but i like that ambiguity…does that sound like i’m covering my arse, haha

  45. 05/10/2010 at 7:40 pm

    yep ;o)

  46. 05/10/2010 at 7:40 pm

    I’d agree Jane…and i think mavis is caught up with appearances and context at that point.

  47. 05/10/2010 at 7:41 pm

    so what other aspects about fluids strike other people…?

  48. 05/10/2010 at 7:51 pm

    I loved the detail… Fin trying to *******************. As a reader you needed to remember he was *****. Fin was a hopeful character, younger and still looking forward to the future. I wondered what had made the others so nihilistic. There was no back story. They seem to exist in the present, without connections, except very thin ones to each other. Sarah seemed more whole but we only had tantalising glimpses of her.

    • 05/10/2010 at 7:57 pm

      interesting that the dead character seemed to have more substance then… perhaps because she is no longer floating aimlessly in time…?

  49. 05/10/2010 at 7:54 pm

    Really, really sorry Morag, I edited a little bit of that comment – I want to keep that particular episode quiet!!! It’s my favourite bit so I’m keeping it close to my chest πŸ˜‰

  50. Gina
    05/10/2010 at 7:56 pm

    Though I think to date the time shifts wouldn’t be quite right for this some how – that it’s not how the characters work themselves…that to do that would be pinning them down…they are too adrift for that I think.

  51. 05/10/2010 at 7:57 pm

    Just to go on a tangent a little bit as I’m aware we’re getting to the end of the time….would be really interested to know what people thought of the stuff from John, Andreas and Sarah’s past…the warehouse parties and the story of John and the coat for example…was anyone ‘there’ and did it seem true?

    • 05/10/2010 at 7:59 pm

      ah, well it was all myths and stories wasn’t it…

  52. 05/10/2010 at 7:58 pm

    really sorry everyone, daughter has arrived at the pc with homework to do – I’ll come back and check up on the conversation again tomorrow…

  53. 05/10/2010 at 8:00 pm

    Gina i agree with you on that which is why they’re not dated or in a different font (yuck) haha. Jane, agree with you to an extent – I wanted to exonerate her from being just ‘dead’ – she lived once, as you see in the chapter near the end…it was a reaction against the fatalism of the time i think

  54. 05/10/2010 at 8:01 pm

    I get the ‘spoiler’ bit now…duh! I’m a bit old to comment but their past seemed more meaningful than their present but isn’t that true of all of us. If we knew the best bit was from age 15 to 25 would be bother going on?

  55. 05/10/2010 at 8:03 pm

    Well since Jane has to go, it’s 9pm and I have a man-flu victim on my hands (!), let’s wrap it up there in terms of live debate – I’ll stay on for a bit though and approve any more comments people want to make, and the discussion will stay open after tonight. I’ll post shortly asking for comments on how the format worked, with me maniaclly updating etc!

    Thank you all very much- I’ve enjoyed it and hope you have too πŸ™‚

  56. Gina
    05/10/2010 at 8:05 pm

    Enjoyed very much too! BTW I know nuffink of Warehouse life (as I was still cleaning the paint brushes in the sixth form art room at the time) or myths and legends.
    Night all.
    gg

  57. 05/10/2010 at 8:53 pm

    I’m really late. Everything got pushed back

  58. 06/10/2010 at 7:27 am

    Hi Brian, no probs, the discussion’s still open if you want to comment

  59. Emma Stott
    10/10/2010 at 9:39 pm

    So sorry I couldn’t join in at the time.
    I enjoyed Fluids immensely – for its dark humour in particular.(The fight in the toilet cubicle was really memorable).
    It was also very evocative of urban life. I think the section where Mavis gets off the bus and is waiting for Finn was especially successful in portraying the curious emptiness of cities, with a careful irony.The interactions between characters was realistic and each spoke with a distinctive voice. And Mavis’s hypochondria was very well done. I liked Mavis the best. She could have got tedious quite quickly but her idiosyncrasies were always effectively managed. Looking forward to reading your next Sian πŸ™‚

  60. 26/10/2010 at 10:58 pm

    I have to agree with Emma on all counts. Sian, I think you have done a remarkable job with the book since you first started writing it. The parts fits really well and the characters and settings are really on spot. Your dialogue is shy of genius – oh, alright, it’s genius. Mavis was always my favorite and she remains so. The whole book has the dingy, void feeling cities in the NW of England have. I could see the grim from a one time industrial age now outdated and left to rot. Good stuff!!!

  61. 27/10/2010 at 9:34 am

    Thanks people – lovely comments and glad the discussion is still going on after the hour session, it’s what I hoped would happen. Interesting to hear an American’s perception of the British setting too.

  62. 22/01/2011 at 7:11 pm

    I’ve just created a Spotify playlist to go with Fluids, here: http://tinyurl.com/6kzqa3t

  63. 06/03/2011 at 8:36 pm

    i found the story to be a very good insight for the people who were not old enough to witness the fear and un-needed paranoia that surrounded the millenium, when infact nothing has changed hahaha. I also liked the subtle jokes and mockings of one type of person to another, like being at college, it proves we don’t change with age, we only think we do. It shows peoples fears and uncertainties for their future, which everyone can relate to. It’s good to see there’s not just 1 characters progression and insecurities, but multiple. It’s also a story about loneliness and how some feel it when alone, and yet others feel it when surrounded by people….who they just can’t relate to. And as you can probably tell from my mis-typings and punctuation I’m not a writer, but I do enjoy delving into a world not quite my own

  1. 21/12/2010 at 7:43 pm

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