Sunday, May 31, 2009

Thought Devices, Survival, and Romance (the Myth of)

I was having a chat to one of my (many) writer friends, who shared with me the following assumption as spouted by a non-creative person;

"Wow, to write every day you must really love writing!"


Which, upon hearing, gave me pause.

As another writer friend (there are so many of you, you're like rabbits!) noted, there is a tendency for non-creative types to romanticise it all. Which is probably true, but in this instance, beside the point.

It made me wonder, if I do not love writing, then how do I feel about it? It does not ask why I write, although the answer relies upon that question as well.

Love is not at all the right word. It is not incorrect, so much as inaccurate. The relation does not apply, like describing the taste of sausage as 'firetruck'. There are times I do love writing, but they're not often, and generally isolated incidents. Writing itself, I do not love.

I don't hate it either. Even when I'm sunk in revision rage. Even when I'm uninspired and don't know what I'm doing. Even when it takes me to a place I don't want to go. Even when I know all I've produced is drek and slurry and dessicated story abortions. Hate is merely the flip side of love, and as applicable as 'firetruck'.

Which sees me end up back at that eternal question: why do I write? Some people like chasing down that answer. I don't. I don't need to know why, because the why is entirely irrelevant. I have no great goals for my writing. There was a time I aimed at contracts with major publishing houses and awards, but those targets have long been discarded. I have to admit, once I've finished writing a story to my satisfaction, I lose interest in it entirely. What happens afterward, whether it be published or not, is not a process I have much emotion or ambition invested in. Publishing successes are pleasing, publishing failures are a pity, but they're only minor after shocks following in the wake of the mindquake the actual writing caused.

Another writing friend, after mulling over the question of why we write if we do not, in fact, love it, mused that it was almost an obsessive compulsive act, which I guess could be true of some writers. What really resonated with me, however, was the comment that writing made them feel like a better, more functional, person.

Writing makes me not want to kill myself quite so much.


Which is melodramatic to say the least.

But true.

I have never not written. Others may talk of when they started and how long they've been writing for. I never started. I simply never stopped. Writing has always been a part of my life, so integral to my existence that I frequently forget it is there, that it is something I should perhaps mention, that other people don't write.

As a result, I don't think my mind knows how to function in any other manner. It is conditioned to seek the story in all things, hardwired to put information in an order that makes the most narrative sense, programmed to put words beside other words and seek the right place to put the right beat to have the greatest impact.

It is not limited to fiction. I have decades of diaries and journals. I still keep a private diary, and in it are terrible, shameful things, all the things I could not say and so had no choice but to write out of my system. I'm still writing things out. I will never stop draining myself through words, because to stop would be to suffocate, and to suffocate would be to die.

Even writing such blog posts as this, the mere act of constructing sentences to form paragraphs to say what I mean, there is succor in this process. There is a temporary relief to be gained in occupying myself with seeking a precision of emotion, a clarity of purpose, a duality of meaning, an accuracy of structure, in these sentences. I can immerse myself in writing as with no other task. There is some small sanctuary to be found in the process, a retreating of all the voices that would swamp me, because I have control of this voice. Of my voice.

Writing is, I suppose, not something I choose to do, no more than I choose to have a forehead. It simply is.

Thus, I have come to the following conclusions:

Why I Write: N/A
How I Feel About Writing: Firetruck


For the record, I have no issue with my forehead either.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 13:03 My new superpowers include, but are not limited to, spontaneous vertigo and nausea. #
  • 19:42 has smashed her sleeping pattern (and new superpowers) with the Iron Fist of 5 ½ Hour Coma. For her next trick; egg + soldiers = inhale. #
  • 21:35 @lluke i think you think correctly. #
  • 21:49 @granfalloon jazz defies age. #
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Props! Silly Girl!

Last time, it took me a month to notice a kudos on one of my few short stories in recent publication. Because, I'm not paying attention that's just how I roll.

This time, it took me ten months to notice.

Because, I'm really not paying attention I roll far, I roll fast.

Regarding story selection for the Year's Best Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy Vol. 4, a mention of Daikaiju 3, which contained One Night On Tidal Rig #13, which I'll quote here so I can come back and read it when I've run out of marshmallows, ice cream, clean undies, etc etc etc.

The small press anthologies published in 2007 all have much to recommend them. Daikaiju! 2: Revenge of the Giant Monsters, and Daikaiju! 3: Giant Monsters vs the World, are sequels to 2005's Daikaiju!: Giant Monster Tales. As with the first volume, both new volumes were edited by Robert Hood and Robin Pen, and published by Agog! Press. These were the quirky, fun books of the year, with stories pitting giant monsters, both supernatural and other worldly, against society. The strongest stories by Tessa Kum and Chris McMahon were unfortunately both too long to reprint here. Both volumes are recommended.


"...too long..."

*weep*

Lovely to discover, though. That's the only mention I've seen of the story anywhere, and as far as mentions go, it's neat-o.
This Soylent Green looks suspiciously like a peanut butter sandwich.





Tastes like one too.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I EAT YOUR BANDWIDTH

I took myself to the Royal Botanical Gardens yesterday. Had a cheese and vegemite sandwich beneath a ridiculously enormous oak and listened to the bell birds, because I am a very cheap date.





















I can't tell you what any of those plants are, as I was too busy playing with my camera to take much note. Very lax of me.

At what point does the image stop being photography and start being manipulation? I've adjusted the light and colour balance on several of these, as the sun was playing silly buggers most of the day. While I am getting better at taking, first shot, the photo I wish to take, I'm never going to be serious enough to get an end result I like without some manipulation.

Or I could simply remember to take a damn tripod with me.

Food. Food. And, also? Food.

Flavour Enhancer 621

Since Mum's ordeal with bowel cancer, I've become understandably thingy about food. Not in any sort of rational or consistent fashion, I'll admit. I'll look at the ingredients list on a packet, and if there are too many numbers or items in there that I don't recognise, I'll put it back on the shelf. (Of course, if I have cravings or am simply not in the mood to fight with the grocery shopping, I'll just not look and willfully indulge in ignorance.)

My latest illogical decision was against MSG.

Now, I have no problem with MSG. No reaction to it at all. I was practically raised on the stuff, and if I stop eating it I'll probably go into some sort of withdrawal. This decision was not based on all the bad hype surrounding it, but rather, the fact that it is commonly listed in ingredients as 'Flavour Enhancer 621'. It's a number, so it has to go.

Unfortunately, once I decided on this, I discovered it's EVERYWHERE.

And by everywhere, I mean, everywhere. How am I going to live without noodles when all sauces and soup bases contain MSG? Augh?

I found some miso soup in the organic shop around the corner that is lacking, thankfully. It's going to be a slow hunt to find more alternate soup bases.

Stupid neurosis.



Butter

After a successful(ish) writing date yesterday, my fellow tortured artists and I tried out a new feeding hole. I'd noticed "WAFFLES!!!" in huge letters on a window in Melbourne Central earlier in the week. That jedi mind trick clearly works well.

Raganeau Crepes. I don't remember seeing any crepes on the menu, but there were certainly waffles. One of them was soaked in melted butter. Far too much melted butter. To the point where it floated, as butter does, and collected at the top of my skull and gave me a butter headache. A butter hangover, to be precise. I'm surprised it didn't ooze out my tear ducts.

It was a mistake, a glorious mistake. When enough time has passed and I've forgotten what a mistake it was, I'll go make that mistake again.



Communal

Dad decided he wanted to go out for dinner. Specifically, to a Japanese restaurant. I told Mum that was not an entirely wise idea. Dad is firmly grounded in the methods of communal Chinese eating: a variety of meat, vegie, soup and tofu dishes in the middle of the table, everyone getting what they want, when they want as the meal progresses. No serving spoons, just double-triple-quadruple dipped chopsticks (this is probably why my immune system is so ridiculously overpowered). And rice. Rice for everyone. Rice without saying. Rice is the foundation upon which all other food rests, it brings meaning to the meal, it doesn't even get mentioned in preparation because rice is rice is assumed is rice.

Japanese cooking can work like that, but generally doesn't. There's a different methodology to the preparation and presentation. While multiple dishes still feature, each person is generally granted their own portion. All meals are insular. There will be no fights for the last piece of chicken.

It doesn't matter how many times Dad encounters this, he is still surprised when the dishes don't come out prepared for sharing, and rice is not automatically served. He does not approve of this, not at all, and then confuses all the serving staff with his attempts to turn a Japanese meal into a Chinese meal featuring Japanese cooking.

In light of all the cultural hooha I've blogged about recently, I feel I should mention this. There are some cultural differences that are irreconcilable. Heh.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Smell the Goat

The Gin Palace is a small bar tucked away on Russell Place, off Little Collins Street. The entrance is quite discreet; one diamond sign with a border of muted lights over an unmarked door. The interior is haphazard pillars, multiple floor levels, odd nooks and corners, which makes it endlessly fascinating, bit like drinking in an Escher drawing. Mrs Bishop took me there before she escaped back to Thailand. She is fond of the d├ęcor, which is more than understandable. Enormous deep armchairs! Decadent couches! Cozy little alcove seating!

Being as neither of us are drinkers, the only sensible course of action was to have a cocktail each, on an empty stomach. Chrysanthanum Club, sour-tart and thick. Tulip Fix, sour-sweet and refreshing. Could not taste the alcohol in either. I'm in love with the name of "Luis Bunuel's 'Surrealist' martini", in which all ingredients and utensils are allegedly frozen for at least two days prior to creation. From the sound of it, it is frozen gin. With gin. And some gin poured over the top. And also, some gin. And once it has warmed up, is disgusting. Being just gin.

We risked ordering food. I wasn't expecting much, regardless of how slick the place was. $10 for a toasted chicken sandwich a $8 for a bowl of Parmesan crackers is a lot of money for bar food. At the time, they were flat out with Friday night fallout, and the only two staff on were overwhelmed, had given up all pretense of smooth professional service and were reduced to dumping drinks and fleeing before the glasses had settled. It took maybe an hour and a half for the sandwich to arrive, by which time it was far too late to use as a liquor pillow.

It was also the best toasted chicken sandwich I have ever had. Holy crap. Totally worth the wait, and even worth $10. Fabulous bread, perfectly crisped and warm, and the chicken was mixed with mayo, chives and lemon, and was appalling spectacular. I'd go back just for the sandwich, to be honest.

The fact that the crackers came out another half hour after the sandwich was perplexing at first. How long does it take to open the packet and pour them in a bowl? Not long. However, they weren't those sort of crackers. They were fresh-made and fresh-baked and came straight out of the oven, hot and stupefying.

It was a great evening, sitting in a cubby hole and generally giggling too much.

My partner in crime at work, who shares the office pod with me, was deeply envious of this excursion, and after realising that we've been in a Mon-Fri job for five months and have not had after work drinks to date, the only sensible course of action open to us was to go to the Gin Palace and have a cocktail each, on an empty stomach. Southside, basically a mojita, and very very strong. Whoops.

This time, I furthered my exploration of the bar, and went to the toilet.

Men and womens differentiated by gilt framed photos of Jack Nicholas and Shelley Duvall from The Shining, him doing his manic grin, her doing her terrified scream. Turned out, it was an appropriate warning. The toilets were clean, really freshly amazingly clean for a drinking hole, but oh me, oh my, the smell.

Did you dissect a rat in high school? Do you remember the smell that rose out of the innards? Think of that smell. But bigger. It smelled like someone had gut a goat in there. A big goat with bad eating habits and bad personal hygiene and bad badness to boot.

One person said hairdressers, specifically perming solution. Three out of four voted for the goat. If I may, I'd like to introduce this phrase into your terminology, for the next time you are in a social but work-related situation. When you need to excuse yourself, simply inform them that you are "going to smell the goat".

There was a lot of giggling involved here too, which got me thinking about the power of history. There are plenty of places around that memory has coloured with heavier meaning than I necessarily want. Connotations and associations that exist in public places which carry on despite your own personal earthquakes. I tend to return to such places and try to override them by creating other memories, and so strip them of their history. Usually it works, at least, to a point. Heavy memories have a contradictory habit of rising to the surface, but the layering of other times and other moments blunts their appearance. Some places I've reclaimed entirely.

Two for two the Gin Palace has been saturated with a damn good time. I wonder, is it possible to return and still have a good time? Expectations are now fully cocked and loaded. An okay time, and alright time, these would be layers working in the other direction. Possibly I should never return, and so despite being a public place, it will remain, in my private world, the perfect place to enjoy a drink, a comfy seat, and deliciously silly company.





As a totally unconnected tangent: has Melbourne been showing off her finest fogs lately, or did I fall into a game of Silent Hill? When I walk to the station in the morning I can see the shadows of power lines cutting through the haze of street lights, and I can't see the station at all. My hair is soaked from the stroll. When I'm finally within the city I cannot see it, all the towers and buildings are swallowed and sleeping. It's lovely.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I won, and I'm sorry

I've recognised a pattern in my writing arc. First drafts are exciting things, full of discovery and exploration and free of the onus to make things perfect. First drafts are great fun. I'm all for writing first drafts.

Finishing a first draft is not so fun, as it heralds the next stage in the process, namely: unbreaking the story I've laid out.

My goodness but I do revision rage like I've been doing ice for three days straight and then decided to snort dried chilli. I hate the story, and the story hates me. It's clawing my eyes out with irregular rhythms and logic flaws and continuity errors and motivational absences and thematic incontinence, and I'm slashing its guts out with a red pen, and every session we cut and cut and cut away at each other, until each of us is in a corner drinking and/or crying and waiting for the other to clean up the blood.

(This could be why I have so many first drafts...)

And then, sparklemagicmoment! The story unbreaks. And we love each other once again.

To a point.

It's exhausting (like sex). And when it works, immensely satisfying (not at all like sex).

I'm feeling pretty satisfied right now. This particular story put up an enormous fight. The first drafts - and there were a ridiculous three and a half of them - were about as fun something that really isn't fun and is actually quite excruciating. Not only did I have to navigate revision rage, but I had to deal with the fact that the subject itself was an emotional block I wasn't aware I had. The deadline meant I had to process twenty-seven years of suppressed "I am a freak poooor meeee!" in a couple of months, and find something to say about it, specifically, something small enough to fit in a short story, and then turn it into a short story that didn't suck.

I don't know if I managed the last point. I don't know if I managed the second last point, or the second point, or any of those points. To be honest, I don't care.

The story is sent. It may not be accepted. It may never be published, and I don't care. It feels right to me, and in this case, having merely completed it is an enormous triumph. I'm standing here on the field of victory, with the story dead at my feet, blood on my hands, and the knowledge that I could do it and I did do it.

Thank you, Gillian, for opening a can full of worms. The fight was worth it.




(Now no one ask me to write to a theme ever again.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009



A photo I took on Operation: GTFO last year. The same need to up and go has been growing in my shoulder blades lately. The desire for spaces I don't know, soundscapes I don't know, air I don't know. A life I don't know.

I have many things to say, but, I have misplaced my voice. So I shall say nothing.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

this war never ends she will never be defeated

I'm having some trouble with myself, there's a scream sitting in my ribs that I haven't let out but it shifts and stirs, I can feel it when I'm making a cup of tea at work, I can feel it watching the train pull into the station, I can feel it sitting here in the dark, imperceptibly it rises up my throat, and one day it will out, out, out.

To avoid this happening at an inopportune moment (ie, with an audience), I'm running dark. Email silence, blog silence, radio silence. Submarineasaurus invoked.

Placeholder
  • [insert griping about the cold here]
  • [insert absurd amusing thing witnessed in the streets here]
  • [insert navel-gazing here]
  • [insert random picture here]
  • [insert more moaning about the cold here]
  • [insert writerly stuff here]
  • [insert tirade of your choice here]


For those of you who may also be in a rut, down, got the blues, in a funk, weary, SAD, depressed, I leave you this gift.

Spider Sex Violent But Effective

Typically, spider males deliver their genetic package via sperm that is deposited into a small web and manually inserted using a pair of appendages on their undersides known as pedipalps.

The sperm are then held in a receptacle between the ovipore and ovary known as a spermatheca until an egg is released.

However, the spermatheca is a "last in, first out" structure, so that if any further males inseminate a female, the last mate's sperm is the first in line to fertilise an egg.

Milan Rezic, an entomologist at the Crop Research Institute in Prague, has spotted a spider circumventing this problem by delivering sperm directly to the ovaries via holes that the males bore directly in the females' abdomens.


There is even footage of this occurring, but, pffft, spiders, man. I have no idea what's going on in there. Legs everywhere.

Vagina? Who needs a vagina when you can just DRILL HOLES STRAIGHT DOWN TO THE OVARIES YEEEHAAAAAW.

Combined with the Spiked Demon Penis Of Doom that seed beetles use, I do believe that we all, the human race as a whole, have a lot to be thankful for.

And so these things help me keep perspective, as I swallow this scream yet again.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Facial Fortitude

Week Five of the beard growing attempt.



I did give myself a deadline of sorts, and that deadline has now been exceeded. By now, even my brother would have managed some low lying scrub on his upper lip. It's about all he can do, get some stringy little mo that makes him look like a dirty drug dealer. I have not achieved even this.

There are many skills, abilities and talents I possess. Some of them I am very good at. Some of them are even useful. Alas, I can only conclude that growing hair on my face is not an innate ability of mine.




But you should see my pubes! pits! legs!