Monday, June 29, 2009

Going Postal

Two boxes landed today; one expected, one not.

The delightful explorer Madame Bishop sent me an 'oddity', a mini-version of a festival mask for Phi Ta Khon. It's quite a fearsome mask. Bit of rabbit, bit of hawk, bit of shark, a lot of unsettling. In the card, Madame Bishop notes that the shop had these displayed on Ken and Barbie dolls. Heh. I have no Barbies, but I do have the Masterchief, who has kindly volunteered to model.

I think he looks quite fetching.

There was also a bottle opener decorated with what look like Chinese opera masks. It is just as alarming to look at. I may never get to open a bottle of fun with it, because the opener will look at me every time I go to use it.

Second box contained an uncorrected proof of Jeff VanderMeer's Finch, which I had the honour of reading as manuscript and telling him everything he was doing wrong. I read it in one day. It's a powerful book, that. Powerful enough to keep 46 degrees of summer out of my head, which is no small feat. Brilliantly written and very juicy. There's a lot to love.

There was also a wrapped thingy, with a card taped to it. On the back of the envelope was a request to document my reaction. At which point I put everything down, didn't even open the card and went off to do all my chores. Sounded far too distracting.

Now I'm opening it...

Oh holy hell!




Waitwaitwaitwaitwait. Ages ago. Like, ages ago. I flippantly requested a capybara for my birthday. I wasn't really expecting a capybara, because Australia has strict quarantine laws, and I have nowhere for a capybara to live. But when requesting presents you're never going to receive, you might as well do it properly.

Apparently this infected Jeff, 'cause he had a capybara dream, started RPing a capybara on a certain-social-networking-site-that-looks-like-a-cubicle-farm, and the internet coughed up a capybara to talk to him, who he then went on to interview. (ZOMFG, teh kewt.)

But, I did not receive a capybara for my birthday.

Got the next best thing though!

And this is my head asploding with the combined pressure of Oarsum Unsettling and Mighty Cute.


Thank you, Madame Bishop! Thank you, VanderMeer Inc! Thank you, Caplin Rous!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Only amateurs love everything they write." - Robert McKee

The above was twat (hereby past tense of tweet) by Deborah Biancotti last night, and struck a chord with me. I am not a musician, so it was not a very good chord, but a chord none the less.

I'm belly deep in revisions on this sorry sack of soggy scrotum. Revisions are normally painful, as it becomes apparent how much work you have to do to get the draft you wrote to match the Amazing Wonder Power Masterpiece you have envisioned in your head. Typically there is a lot of work. A lot. Of work.

And angst. Lots of that too.

Which I expect, but this time has been harder than usual because, unfortunately, I like this story.

I mean, I like like it. You know. Really.

You know, when you were in school and just starting to think about boys/girls and had a crush on someone, and it was a totally unreasonable crush, there was nothing attractive about this person at all, they were not your type and you never even had the chance to say 'excuse me' when passing them in the hall, but that was irrelevant because you liked them.

This lack of contact meant you'd constructed an image of them in your mind, which was exactly what you wanted them to be. Anything the real person did that contravened that was conveniently ignored for the sake of this daydream, and you couldn't handle any of your friends slagging this person off because that was also in contravention, and you plastered over every such thing and continued blindly on, until the dream wears out and you realise just what a dumbass you've been and omg so embarrassing why did you even admit to liking them?

The fact that I like this story means I can't trust myself with it.

My perspective is skewed, I'm more likely to forgive its flaws, instead of honing in on them and tearing them out with my shark teeth. Hell, I'm so biased I can't even see the flaws (sharks don't have great vision). I'm sensitive to any critique of the damn thing, so I'm arcing up instead of listening and taking that advice.

I am pissing myself off.

How am I supposed to make this story as good as I want it to be if I can't see it properly?

Normally, I don't like my stories. I get excited about them, absolutely. I believe they're worth writing or I wouldn't even start them. I have great fun in exploring them, and I like the challenge, and the (hopefully) final conquest.

But I don't like them, not in that starry-eyed sense.

Much as I hesitate to state any sort of opinion that whiffs of authority, much as I dislike using the word 'should', I'm going to do both, and say this is not the sort of relationship a writer should have with their work.

Tailend revisions should be about breaking up with the work. You need to put distance in, so you can improve it, make it as good as it's going to be, and because you are letting go. Once a story is finished, once it's done and you are not in a position to change anything else in it, nor is there anything left to change, it isn't yours any more. You're the writer. Now you've written it, it isn't being written, it has turned into something to be read.

And readers are going to wade in and read it and not give a shit about you and your sad embarrassing little crush on your story.

It's time to start writing something else.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

unVampires, Doppelgängers and ______

A photo of Deb and I at the Freeze Frame Project last Saturday has surfaced. Murasaki Claire snapped this great shot demonstrating our product placement, food fellatio, and the fact that Deb is neither vampire nor ninja, and shows up just fine (provided you're looking straight at her).

What I most love about the photo is the guys gawking in the background. That's a pretty light example of what we were surrounded by for those five minutes. Even looming over Deb like that, the guy isn't nearly as obtrusive as some of the other curious souls to take a peek.

Checking @replies on twitter I found an online doppelgänger of mine, @sirtessai. Except, having had a gander at her site, I think it's apparent I am the doppelgänger, a leery reflection of someone quite gobsmackingly talented.

I'm cool being an echo of that.

Steve Burnett wrote this wonderful piece on the importance of silence;

We will pay for silence. For better soundproofing in walls, or lacking it we will rest less when we sleep. For more distance from high-density zones, creating longer commutes and increasing fuel consumption, and reducing the time we have by sacrificing it to the extended travel. For active noise canceling cellphones to talk with and headphones to listen to our overly compressed and distorted music on our portable music players and *still* have to pump up the volume until we reach the limits of our ear fatigue before we want to stop listening. For white noise and for nature sounds that become rarer and more exotic over time. For recordings of silence at the bottom of a well, in a cathedral, in the soon-to-become-misnamed Rub' al Khali, the Empty Quarter of Arabia.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More Advice For Writers

Writing a story is like being a scientific explorer. The early stages of gestation, world-building, plot-noodling and then navigating your first draft are the heady days of discovery. You get to go new places, see new things, and generally, you'll be surprised at what is out there to be found.

And then you have to come out of the wilds, sit down, analyse, and present all your findings in the proper manner for peer review in an academic journal. You're still sifting through and surrounded by the treasures you've brought back, but it isn't the same. You're not out there.

There is a vast difference in the mindframes required to make the most of being an intrepid explorer (first draft), and being an analyst (revisions). They're very different hats.

When wearing the exploration hat, I look like this;

Slack-jawed, vacant-eyed, inert, and lost in the roiling miasma of my inspiration flatulence. I love brainstorming. World-building is a terrible crutch of mine. I get carried away with the shiny, with making things bigger and more ridiculous and fun, because the bigger, more ridiculous and fun the world is, the more interesting it will be to break, and then fix.

I'm supposed to be wearing the analyst hat.

Today, I put the explorer hat on. Not just once, but twice, on two stories that aren't even mine. My head just exploded and I had to thinkthinkthink, and I knew I shouldn't have started that way because I know that's like crack to me, but I did it, and now I'm screwed. I don't want to revise, I want to create! I want to go somewhere new!

But no. I am not bushbashing today. I am treading a known path. With a big stick. And I will not insert any dinosaurs into this short story. No. No I will not. Even if the mental strain required to refrain from doing so will squeeze my brain out through my sinuses. This story requires only a tweaking of balance. Dinosaurs are not tweaking.

Writers, beware. Never lose control of what hat you wear.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 18:43 is off to the Australia vs Japan FIFA qualifer HUZZAAAAHHH!!! #
  • 19:54 HOT JAM DONUTS. The blisters hurt so good. #
  • 21:12 AUUUUUGH D: #
  • 21:20 FREEZING HELL is being sucked into the G just like that super storm in 'The Day After Tomorrow'. #
  • 21:39 AUUUUUGH :D #
  • 21:56 AUUUUUUUUUUGH :D #
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2:44pm Wednesday 17th June 2009 and we stopped holding our breath.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 20:14 I have tested and can confirm that my bedroom is colder than the dark, frigid, bleak Melbourne winter night outside. #
  • 20:15 ...which I think is bullshit. #
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Time Warp

After five years, my mobile phone wanted to have some 'time apart'. It did this by committing suicide every few days, and I would be forced to resurrect it by ripping the battery out.

We've had a good run. I barely used it, and it was fine with that. But, I can't stay with a phone that wants to die. For starters, I have no other contact number. Kinda a big deal, that.

So I upgraded. Grudgingly. Resentfully.

I've put off getting a new phone for some time. I knew the end was coming, but I was happy with what I had; a phone. Calls and text messages. That's all. All new phones that people pulled out and showed off in front of me, they came packed with so many features and heaps of connectivity. I don't want features. I really don't want to be connected. I want a phone.

But, oh well. If I must make this step, then I'll do it properly. Screaming. Shrieking. I have to admit, after some mild teething problems, the iPhone is pretty neat. I have science fiction in my pocket. I HAVE SCIENCE FICTION IN MY POCKET. It knows where I am! (Alarming.) It's learns my spelling, it learns! (Alarming.) Because it contains a keystroke logger! (Alarming.) IT CONNECTS ME TO THE INTERNET AT ALL TIMES. ALARM. ALARM. ALARM.

Because I love walking away from all my connectivity. I love being unreachable. I love being away from the feeling that I should be checking my accounts, to see if someone has sent me something. I love not being in a position to respond to anything said to me. I love not being able to receive anything sent to me. I love being away from you all, even as I love you.

I love being off the radar, off the edge of the map.

I love being off.

I haven't set up email on the phone, because I don't want access to it 24/7. So far I haven't fallen into the trap of checking through web interfaces. So far, I've just been treating it as I treated the old one; like a phone. There to be forgotten and ignored.

I wonder if people will expect me to check my mail, now that I can, and respond promptly. Is that expected of everyone? Are we unwittingly rising to an apex of perfect impatience in our demands for acknowledgment? Smack me if I nag. Sometimes, I'm not replying because I haven't checked my mail. And sometimes, I'm not replying because I don't feel like it. There is no one who needs my attention immediately. None of us are obliged to drop everything on receipt of a message.

(One thing the old phone definitely had up on the iPhone (henceforth referred to as Spartacus)is that it always displayed the time and an icon to show if there were any messages or missed calls. I could check it without touching it. I resent having to wake up the Spartacus every. single. time.)

Where to from here? More connectivity? How connected can we get? Should we be so perpetually connected? I know I don't want to be, but I think I'm being dragged along and into this tangle of connections anyway. For better or worse, we all are. I dread to think what, in five years time, the next phone will be. Something that reads my mind and sends prompts to my friends when I need attention? Coddle me, my piece of pocket science fiction, validate my existence. I dare you.

But as long as I can keep my MONKEEEEEEEEEY! ringtone, I will not fight the onset of the future too hard.

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger


That's how cold I am. This book is too thin to be a suitable hat.

I don't feel much need to rabbit on about this book, since it's a classic and there's nothing I can say that hasn't been said a hundred million times before. It's a dreary, miserable book. The unacknowledged despair, the pointlessness of it, the farce he bounces of, the destruction he follows, it all felt a bit too familiar.

Excellent use of voice. Phenomenal use of voice, actually. I found myself wanting to red pen, but nothing I wanted to put a red pen through was actually surplus. It all served a purpose.

And what I took from it, the one thing that stays with me, is the guy with 'mossy teeth'. Augh. My skin crawls just thinking on it again. Mossy teeth. Mossy teeth. AUGH.

Should you read it, just because it is a classic? Should you read it for any reason whatsoever? It's an interesting study, still says something about modern western society today, but I can already feel this book fading away from me. Maybe because I'm actively shedding it. Maybe because I don't need to keep it, I already contain it.

Verdict: Mossy teeth. Mossy teeth. Mossy teeth.

Steampunk - Ann & Jeff VanderMeer (ed)


This one did not fall off my head. My tower of books to write about is sinking. The hazards are waning.

I broke with my normal rule for this one. Usually I choose what to read next by selecting something markedly different from the last book I read. But, well, I was still in nostalgia mode from reading New Weird, and thought I'd continue.

(My honour dissertation wanted to be about New Weird, but it had no such easy definition or label at the time, and I was in no position to go around making it. I ended up playing with the concept of genre cross-pollination and tore up steampunk instead, which was established enough for there to be some existing literature with which to appease my examiners.)

Again, there are non-fiction elements to the book, but I only skimmed them. This makes me a bad person, but I am not loyal to genres, and am of the opinion that they should be broken whenever the opportunity presents itself, their history be damned.

Once again, I'd already encountered quite a few of these stories in my readings, such as Blaylock's Lord Kelvin's Machine (a copy of which I found in a second hand book shop in New Orleans), Moorcock's Warlord of the Air, as well as Mary Gentle, Michael Chabon and Paul di Filippo's contributions. They're all excellent stories on their own, especially di Filippo's. If you're partial to the genre and haven't read his Steampunk Trilogy then I suggest you amend that.

Newly encountered stories varied from "yeah, s'alright" to "HOT DAMN WTF WAS THAT". Of particular awesome was Ted Chiang's Seventy-Two Letters, a story delving into the possibilities and politics of the golem, and the letters needed do describe and animate one. It's a gentile story that runs deep, and although the waters were quite calm through out its unfolding, when I reached the end I found myself entirely disturbed. Subtle tensions wrought there.

Minutes of the Last Meeting by Stepan Chapman plants Big Brother nanotechnology in Russia and lets the spirit world loose upon the country, aided by an AI doing the only thing an AI can do. Divergent streams overlap and cross to make a complex pattern. It's the surprise awesome, tucked up the end of the book.

And then there's, uh...The Steam Man of the Prairie and the Dark Rider Get Down: A Dime Novel by Joe R. Lansdale.


It's kinda gross. I mean, sickening. Even as I was laughing at the utter outrageous random WTF of it, I was wondering if maybe I was going to be sick. I actually felt nauseous. Not for the faint of heart. Or weak of stomach. But sweet blasphemy, if you can take it, it's a hell of a story. Fucking hiiiiilarious. So very wrong. It takes the gentle Victoriana trappings that steampunk usually carries, and bends them over the bathroom sink.

As with any collection, there's hits and misses. For me, there were more hits than misses. There's a lot of fun in these stories, which the world needs more of.

Verdict: I daresay you've already discovered, in the recent boom, if steampunk is to your tastes or not. If it is, then this collection is definitely worth your time. If it isn't, well, there's still nothing but quality here. (Apart from the Lansdale. Quality is a non-applicable term for what that story is. That's skullfucking. Which is still...uh...powerful.)

Closing Tabs

Actually, I never close this tab: Awkward Boners. Yeah. Exactly what it says it is. Because penises (peni? penes? penids?) are funny.

This post on how to get with that friend you really like in that way cracks me up. It is a hilariously idea, so wrong and so full of genius.

So, you're in love with one of your friends, but she has a boyfriend and probably wouldn't have sex with you anyway.

What you will need: 1 x knife, 1 x ring, access to a sunbed, the ability to grow a beard.

Unfortunately, we all know about my ability to grow a beard. I have no choice but to rely on my charm and wit instead.

Organic Chemistry As Magical Realism is a sublime translation of a passage of dry chemistry text into lush and decadently styled prose.

The fumehood was thick with serendipity on the day the prophesied oxindole, known as 1-methyl-3-dicyanomethylene, floated into the laboratory in an ochre coloured corporeal guise.

If all scientific books were written like this...well I'd be in trouble. That would just mean more books I want to buy and read.

Losing Our Voice, Richard Flanagan's closing address at the Sydney Writer's Festival, specifically concerning the push to abolish territorial copyright here in Australia. This is an excellent speech, and summarises the situation and consequences of such action very well.

Of course, as the Coalition for Cheaper Books - or, as we might more accurately call it, the Coalition for Bigger Business - would point out, that's not the whole story.

This is.

What is being proposed doesn't exist in Europe or the USA. And even if US and British publishers are allowed to dump books on our market, Australian publishers will not be allowed to do the same in theirs.

In the one country in the world where the change was introduced, New Zealand, publishing has, according to the New Zealand Publishers Association, suffered, and books are now more expensive.

This would basically turn Australia into a remainder bin for the rest of the world. I'm not cool with that.

I would dearly love cheaper books. I was given a $50 voucher for my birthday, and that bought me one and a half books. I had to shell out extra. That is for one trade paper back, and one mass market paper back. $37 and $26 a piece, both on general release in Australia. The last book I bought before those was $55, an imported hardcover, and that was really cheap. I snapped it up because every where else I'd seen it on the shelf, it had been upward of $65.

So when I say I love reading, I support authors, I support the book industry, I buy the fucking books, you can be damn sure I mean it.

I would love cheaper books, but I'm not interested in shit and trash and sludge. I'm not interested in our own rubbish, let alone the rubbish that other countries are trying to offload. I don't think any one is. The books I buy generally do not end up remaindered. They're quality. They're wanted. That's what I want to see on the shelves; more excellence. More quality, not quantity.

Even more alarming is the thought of parallel importing books that are on release here. Sure, they might be cheaper, but most books get tailored for the market. They'll cut out our vocabulary. They're taps, not facets. Doonas, not comforters. It'll be yet another rollover of imported culture, American in particular, and we're already drowning. (That isn't a diss to you America, it's simply a fact. Our identity is blurring beneath yours. Your volume is louder.)

If they were serious about lowering the price of books, they'd take the GST off. It was putting that in place that caused the price to skyrocket in the first place.

I grew up in a house full of books. I loved the library and used it well, but there's nothing like being surrounded by books in every room. It shapes your mind when you're growing. My heart dies a little to think of all the kids who aren't growing up with such surroundings, purely because books cost too much.


I was recently reminded of the Halo 2 ARG I Love Bees, and had a yen to listen to the radio play again. And lo! The folk at HBO have compiled the chapters into easy to swallow files in WAV and MP3. I'm downloading now. It's a great dramatisation, with gorgeous voice acting.

Finally, I really want this, this, and this. Saw them at the no vacancy art market and have lusted quietly ever since. My flat needs a flying narwhal. Good thing my credit card is in the other room.

The New Weird - Ann & Jeff VanderMeer (ed)


This book should make a great hat. It has the right dimensions, deep and wide enough to keep good balance, and the cover and pages have a good consistency of flop. It sat perfectly on my head while I was messing around with crap on my desk and opening programs, and as soon as I froze for the camera, the damn thing fell off, knocked over my bottle and sent water all over Eddie.

I think this is one of those hats with poison pins. It's out to get me.

This is an interesting anthology to go through, as it isn't simply a collection of stories that resonate with a theme or each other. You can flip it open and dip in and out, but doing so would probably lessen the impact of the argument put forth, which concerns itself with the literary movement the New Weird. And whether or not it exists. Or what it does. Or how it's defined.

Reading this put my head in a time machine and sent it back to my Honours year at university. Fuck. FUCK. WHY WASN'T THIS PUBLISHED WHEN I WAS WRITING MY EXEGESIS. I NEEDED THIS BOOK. The table of contents reads like my bibliography. A fair number of the stories contained I'd already read, and the majority of writers I was well familiar with as well.

The book is broken into sections dealing with various facets of the genre; the writers/stories that started the infection, the writers/stories that are the result of the infection, a collection of essays analysing the infection, and a round robin of kooky shit just for the hell of it. Being as I had a very angry and spiteful relationship with my exegesis, I was not as concerned with the essays as with the fiction. Probably because I've already made such arguments against my examiners and the memory still gets my back up. KJ Bishop's article has stayed with me the longest, probably because the point it makes is not restricted to the genre in question, but should apply to all writing (see, I even used the word 'should', I'm a bad person).

All the fiction contained, I love.

I honestly don't care if such a literary movement, reaction or genre exists. I can't claim to be overly interested in the discussions that attempt to identify it or define it - the only reason my exegesis strayed into such territory is because I had to write something (I passed. My fiction, on the other hand, set fire to the university with its magnificence (no really)). Something happened. Enough time passed. Enough people wanted something different in their reading and thinking. Something happened. It doesn't matter what, just that it happened, and the stories produced make me sick with glee. I love these surprising, odd, unsettling, subtle and unexpected stories. I love these textures and obfuscations and everything that makes me work for the narrative. I love being left with a larger mystery. I love the flavour. I love this, and if this is to be called New Weird, then so be it.

So, there's no point in my getting into details, because anything I say can be summarised as "ZOMG WOW!!!!one!!1!" It will only be rabid excitement and gushing. I'm getting incoherent with delight just looking at the names of the cover again. Is there any point me writing about something I love? Clearly not. Love makes me tongue-tied and shy. I am inarticulate with joy.

If you like Clive Barker, China Miéville, Jeffery Ford, Steph Swainston, Thomas Ligotti, Conrad Williams, if you like the names in the table of contents, then you know you'll get a kick out of the collection. If you're looking for something that lies outside the genre mainstream, you might not like the collection, but it will be what you're looking for. It will surprise you. It will challenge you.

One thing I will say; rereading Barker's In the Hills, the Cities was just breath-stealing. It is an incredibly powerful story. The first time I read it, it affected me so much that I riffed on the title for my dissertation. Of all the short stories I've ever read, this story has stayed with me the longest, the strongest, remained the most vivid and visceral in my memory. Even knowing the outcome, reading it again was no less of thought-nova. It is available in other collections, but in this book especially, it is home.

Verdict: This made me want to go back and read all the books I read for my dissertation, and remember why I choose such a subject when I knew my supervisors and examiners were highbrow Literary Academics who Did Not Get It. This book made me excited to read again, excited to write again, excited, just plain excited. That's what being in love feels like.

But don't trust it as a hat.

Thus ends probably the most useless verdict I've ever written.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 23:13 ZOMG! I can liek totally see the future! And there's a hangover in it! #
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This Wall Fucks With Birds

This is one of the exhibitions currently on display in the subway at Flinders Street Station, care of Platform Artists Inc, created by Ace Wagstaff (which is a fantastic name).

The exhibitions explore the idea of 'apocalypse', what it does mean, has meant, and has come to mean.

However, I looked at those birds and thought of the hole in Blue Base. /end geek

My comrade also discovered this piece of anonymous typewriter poetry, which I quite love. Things like this make me hatch mad ideas to make sticky things or ribbon things or hanging things with one sentence mindfucks to leave on the trains and around town. To litter pieces of artistic wank like a leper dropping fingers. To set them all free and never know what becomes of my creative spores, and never know what is thought of them.

Note to self: While on the subject, Sir Testicle, don't forget you want to go see the Dali Exhibition on at NGV. Okay? Okay.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 19:29 Phone lost reception when it finally reached my ear (under beanie and hood and hair). Don't call me in winter. I'm not letting my ears out. #
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Tuesday, June 09, 2009


You want to click this. Yeah, you do. You may not want to admit it. You're probably fighting against it, because there's some fzzzt in human nature that sees us turn away from that which we know is good for us. This will make you go 'ahhh!' and smile, huge smile, half way across a summer blue sky. You'll feel the sun melting in your mouth and content in your belly.

twenty-six lies/one truth - Ben Peek

From Silence Without

buy - author site

There's a pile of books on my desk, each of which I've read, each of which I have not yet written about. It has become a health hazard. It's going to topple and crush me. It's so big it's become too big to contemplate, so I keep letting it grow instead of dealing with it.

This particular book I read last year. That's how long it's been. I am a bad person.

Also, it is fucking freezing in here. I'm not mimicking Ben on the cover there. I'm dressed to survive freeze slower.

This book is fucking OARSUM.

I was greedy and devoured it too fast. I inhaled it, taking tokes on it at work when the supervisors weren't on the prowl. I finished it far too quickly, well before I was ready to stop reading, and so went back and flipped through the pages, rereading bits and pieces on whim.

It's a bit of a masterpiece of juggling and jigsaw. Three distinct threads present themselves in the pages; that of his relationship with Geraldine, that of his own personal history and place in what he knows as Australia, and a third, tongue-in-cheek look at author forgeries, and the general question of truth in the written word. It's a topic toyed with to great affect, as he uses himself as the vessel to carry these three narrations, and the title alone is enough to make the reader pause at the other end, and wonder what the lie was.

It's fiction. It's all true.
Or; it's autobiography. It's all lies.

I've chewed on the subject, having used myself in fiction recently. Does it lend some extra authenticity, knowing that the author is leaving themselves truly bare instead of hiding pieces of themselves in a cast of characters? I don't know. I suspect that's something for the reader to decide. Maybe there's some greater sense of connection to be had, as with the more personal of personal blogs. I don't know. I just know it felt right at the time. (Like so many things that later aren't.)

Does it matter? Perhaps, if you buy into the notion that authenticity leads to authority.

Does it matter to me? Yes. But no. Regardless of where this book is pigeon-holed, it remains fucking OARSUM, a little book of brilliance. Ben is a master at playing with structure, and has done so to great effect here, striding through the alphabet and giving the reader a neat catalog of his life and thoughts and opinions. The mosaic is superbly balanced, and the pieces bounce of each other with an ever-growing resonance.

People often talk about the next Great Australian Novel. When I'd finished it, I sat on the train, full of all the meat contained in this slim volume, and thinking of everything it had to say about Australia here, now. I think this is that long awaited Great Australian Novel.

It is only fitting it be written by a white heterosexual middle class male, one who recognises how he fits in the world around him. It is only fitting that this book not be published or available within Australia, and as with the majority of Australia's culture, must be imported.

Whether you agree with me or not, it remains an amazing book.

Verdict: Let me say FUCKING OARSUM a third time. Also, illustrated by the amazing Anna Brown who went on to draw Nowhere Near Savannah, which is equally as brilliant.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Driving Through Ghosts

Operation: GTFO II was a small and spontaneous affair. Last time, I went west of Cape Otway. This time, I did the Great Ocean Road between Geelong and Apollo Bay.

There's a lot of fun driving to be had in that stretch. Unfortunately, too many cars on the road to take the corners as fast as I'd like, but still a lot of fun.

That's about it. It's beaches. And holiday houses. And beaches. And more holiday houses. It must be said, I prefer the shipwreck coast to the surf coast, I prefer hostile cliffs to temperate shores.

I paused for lunch at the site of the wreck of the W. B. Godfrey. There was no one else about. Just me, some rocks, the hungry sea and a crow grizzling from the road.

As the beaches didn't call to me, I didn't do as much exploring, and so, very few photos this time, and nothing really exciting. A shame, as I was looking forward to playing with my camera.

The constant rain also curtailed any exploration of Apollo Bay. I half wonder if I keep heading out this way to remember what it is to have water in the ground, on the ground, in the air, dripping from the leaves, languid on the horizon. The rain was incredible. I watched the sky unfurl a rainbow from Mariner's Lookout, and the rain storm roll in over the Otways.

Great weather for driving in. I love driving in the rain, beside the sea, in the splash of low sun, on wet curves. I love driving, for the sake of driving. It's probably best I don't own a car.

There were enough herbs, spices, seasonings, powders and split peas to make a decent curry at the backpackers.

Tony, the unemployed geologist from Brisbane killing time before heading to the snowfields to hopefully start a job as a ski instructor (only there isn't any snow on the hills yet), shared a dorm room with me. Several times he assured me that he did not snore. And he was right, he did not snore.

He did talk in his sleep, however.

As conversations go, it came about that I write. He said he'd like to write a book, and asked me about my own writing. I did not sell my last story to him, in his words. He said I didn't sound 'enthused'.

I had no option but to explain to him how writing a story is like being in an abusive relationship; it starts off wonderful and exciting and full of romance, and then you have to make it work, at which point it all falls apart and there's blood and tears, and rage and fury, and you HATE IT, and then it does start working, sorta, and you finish and part on amicable terms, but generally speaking, don't need the damn story in your life any more.

I wonder if he'll ever write his book.


He was reading something by John Grisham. I was reading Hunter S. Thompson.

I took Skenes Creek Road (C119) back, instead of the Great Ocean Road, which would be full of traffic also heading back to Melbourne. I'd never driven this road, and picked it at random because it looked interesting. It wend its way through the Otway Ranges. Rain from the previous night was still thick in the air. Up in the hills, the clouds were stretching, reaching and preparing to take off to the sky and start a new storm. I drove through a world of ghosts, alone.

"Don't close the blast doors!" [to your heart!]

A wee while back, Jeff VanderMeer offered me a copy of Star Wars Punch Out 'n Play, to give it user acceptance testing on Omnivoracious over on Amazon.

I accepted the mission, as it has been a while since I futzed around in Comic Life. The results are as follows.

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(Instructions in the back of the book ordered me to decorate my home and office with them, and then play! Hours of fun! So I introduced them to my home, my office, and all the local, er, wildlife. Actually, that isn't even half the junk on my desk.)

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Anyone else want me to do PR for them?

Victory ( ) Hollow

It takes a chair, five (5) telephone books, my thick-soled boots, ninja balance, tip-toes and fingertips in order for me to reach the light in the bathroom to change the globe.

Only to discover that I'd bought a screw-in bulb by mistake.

All of you over 5'3", if I ever hear you griping about your height, please know that it will incur my wrath, and the wrath of a short person is not to be incurred.

Friday, June 05, 2009

just because i'm losing it doesn't mean i've lost

('cause if I've learned anything in my life, it's how to show myself a good time.)

June is the perfect month to have a birthday. It breaks the year neatly in half, so I can pause on this bright winter day and look at my hands, take inventory of my grey hairs and the lines around my eyes, and test the ground I'm standing on.

I hesitate to say it, because saying such a thing does nothing but invite the world to take notice and take steps to rectify the situation, but to hell with paranoid consequences, I shall say it, I will say it, I am saying that I am fine.

Dare I say great?

I fucking dare.

Last year, there was no ground to stand on. There was nothing in my life that had not been shaken by the earthquakes, mind and heartquakes, lifequakes. These things storming through my Mondays all the way to Sunday were out of my control, and stayed out of my control, and I have never been so powerless in all my life.

What has happened since then? Nothing. The passage of time. Enough time relax into the fall.

I'm not standing on any ground. I haven't stood on solid ground for some time. Don't even know where it is, and now, perhaps, after all this time, I am no longer looking for it.

I'm in an interesting job that may be extended, or, may not.
I have a regular sleeping pattern and I never knew how much I needed it.
I feel like a sane person.
Hell, never mind sane, I feel like an actual person, instead of a loose swarm of neuroses.
I live in a battered, drafty, crusty and freezing flat, and I call it home, the first home I have ever made for myself.
I have glorious friends the likes of which I don't think I've ever had before.
My family is not in danger, and we are no longer waiting for the all clear; we have it.
My dog is scruffmuffin.
The secrets I'm keeping are bright and sunny little things.
I have not one, not two, but three overseas expeditions booked and paid for and creeping closer day by day.
I am not heartsore.
I still haven't written a book, but it grows and I am giddy with the growth, and I have a swath of short stories to show for the delay.

There are still earthquakes, but I think I've learned to roll with them, like sailors on the sea.

And I don't know who I am. Some sense of presence or identity was lost in all the apocalypses last year, and I haven't felt a desire to get it back. I don't need it.

For the first time in years, I can say that I trust me with myself. It feels wonderful. No, that's too small a word. Euphoric. Triumphant. See me, I can move molehills, I'm a 5'3" giant. What else is there to be done with such a state of heart, other than create some mayhem on which to test it? I'm like a kid at Christmas, and yes, I will see how much this new toy can take before it breaks. (And then I'll cry. Oh well.)

All this is transient, fleeting. It will end, some unanticipated poison will return to my life, and all will be rotten with doubt and fear again. It will end, and some spectacular joy will return to my life, and all will be big skies and mad leaps again. And so it goes.

I'm still in orbit, somewhere, forever falling over the horizon without ever landing. It's no longer an out of control tumble. I'm not burning up in the atmosphere. I'll crack the clouds, smash your windows, set the sky on fire and wave as I'm going by.

From here, I can see forever.
And that's where I'm going.

(Actually, I'm not. I'm going out to dinner with my family. But that doesn't sound nearly so dramatic, even if there will be Malaysian-cooked crab involved. You just can't write a waffly Hallmark-saturated post and then end on crab. Have to keep with the mood created.)

(But I have a history of undercutting everything I say. I wrote all this, then thought to myself, all I really want is to stand on the field of victory, one foot on my own bloody hacked up carcass, wave my fists in the air and scream VENI VIDI VICI BITCHEZ!.)

PS: June 5th is also World Environment Day. If you do nothing else to Save! The! World! today, take a moment to look at the sky, look at some leaves, look at the birds. Find something that exists despite us, something worth loving.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 14:29 "treatmenting" is not a word! I'm not even activating my grammar pedant powers for that, it is not a nitpick because it is NOT A WORD. #
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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

For Those It May Concern

Recap: September last year, I went off the pill. I'd been on it for 10 years.

Current Status: I have just started my third period since then. That's averaging one ovulation cycle every three months. Which, to be honest, I'm not complaining about, but it is something to keep in mind if you're in the same situation and planning on making babies right away.

Possibly Unrelated, Probably Not: Insomnia dropped in for a visit Sunday night. I was still awake when my alarm went off, and spent most of the day quite deliriously cheerful. Lack of sleep, probably combined with the usual hormonal skirmish, sent me home with a screaming migraine. I slept till late evening, shuffled about in an unattractive fashion, then went back to sleep for a further thirteen hours.

Probably a good thing I did not plan on discovering cold fusion today.

Monday, June 01, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 06:33 Insomnia is exactly the sort of friend who turns up uninvited and very late on a Sunday night, #
  • 06:33 Eats tomorrow's lunch, #
  • 06:34 Won't stop talking about, I don't know, their scrapbooking project, #
  • 06:35 And does not take the hint. Any of the many hints. #
  • 06:50 Let me just confirm that trains are not equipped with chuck bags. No? No. #
  • 07:10 Let me just confirm that my desk is not equipped with chuck bags. No? No. And my chair does not have a seatbelt either. #
  • 15:30 Dear Gravity, please pick a 'down' and stick to it. #
  • 22:15 My gravitas brings all the boys to the yard. #
  • 22:47 @snarkattack oh i hear that. #
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