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The Narrator

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I’m tired and miserable and I should go to bed but I will feel like I wasted another day of my life if I don’t write something down. So I’m going to write about Michael Cisco’s The Narrator.

Have you ever read something so utterly incredible that it fundamentally changes your perception of what is possible with words and art? Something so phenomenal that nothing will ever be the same again now that you’ve experienced it? Maybe that sounds stupid and pretentious but I don’t care. It’s true. Nothing will ever be the same now that I’ve read this book. I haven’t been this blown away by a book since the first time I read Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast novels. And you have noooooo idea how strongly I feel about Gormenghast (that’s a blog for another day).

The Narrator is a fever dream. It’s a surrealist nightmare of war and despair. You don’t read this book, you hallucinate it. It throws so much grotesque imagery at you that you can’t actually comprehend it all. You just stare at the words, lost in a fog, until suddenly one little description within the page lunges out at you and wraps itself around your mind. And before you even understand what you just read it’s gone, and you’re in the fog again, waiting for the next image to grab hold of you. I know when I read it a second time I will be reading an entirely different book because different images will emerge for me.

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This is actually one of the less weird occurrences in this book

This is a story of the futility of war. It is the story of death villages, cannibal queens, flying armies, storms of glass shards, magical alphabets, transparent mice, sickening towers. It’s… it’s fucked up, is what it is.  I still don’t even understand half of what I read. Cisco doesn’t explain things, he just lays it all out, lets the words meander across the page and ooze under your skin like a bruise.

When I finished The Narrator, I put my head into my hands and screamed. I didn’t know what I’d just experienced, but my heart ached for characters I already missed, for a world that horrified yet mesmerized me.  I felt shaken, traumatised. I was in love with this book. Everything had changed.

I used to feel like my stories were too weird to be accepted, like I could never be a real “Australian Author” unless I was writing about boring middle class white people having boring middle class white people problems with some fucking gum trees in the background. But now I’ve found Michael Cisco, Jeff Vandermeer, Caitlin R Kiernan, KJ Bishop, Thomas Ligotti. I’m not alone. There’s a whole movement for this sort of thing. I want to be a part of it. I feel like I’ve found my people.

This book is so important to me now that it sits on the shelf above my desk, next to my Mervyn Peake collection.

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If a book like this can exist, then there are no limits to what we can do with words. It’s time to reach for the stars and turn them inside out.

 

 


Nostalgia

Last night I fell down a Youtube rabbit hole, as one often does late at night when you’re too tired to do anything but not tired enough to go to bed. You know how it begins – you look up that band you liked when you were 16 and watch a couple of their old music videos. Then a couple of other bands come up as suggestions, and the next thing you know it’s 1 am and you’ve just relived the entire soundtrack of your youth.

I gotta admit I kind of did this to myself on purpose. It’s been a while since I was a teenager so I’m worried I’m forgetting how to write about being one. I wanted to try and recapture that feeling, to make sure I was getting the characters in my story right. But I went one video too far and now I’m stuck in a miserable fog of nostalgia.

I’m not very good at nostalgia. I don’t look back on things and smile and say “oh, those were the days.” I just look back and think about how anxious and depressed I was. I think about how I was too scared to ever raise my hand in class even though I always knew the answer. All those awful feelings come rushing back so easily that they smother any of the good memories I might have had. I know that sounds pretty melodramatic, but that’s how everything is when you’re a teenager I guess. Everything is black and white. Mostly black, in my case, because I was always a bit of a goth at heart.

At least the music was good. My god, the music was good.

The things that matter to you when you’re a teenager matter so damn much. Those bands were gods to me. They weren’t just the soundtrack to my life, they were the soundtrack to the lives of my characters, characters I miss more than a lot of the real people I knew then.

For a long time, I lost the ability to love things the way I loved them back then. But lately I’ve been feeling better, and I’m getting excited about music and movies and video games with all the fervor of a teenage fangirl.

It feels pretty great.

I’m just kind of rambling, sorry. Anyway, here are some of the videos that sent me into this nostalgic haze.

P.S I was in love with the singer in every one of these bands. Most have not aged well. Except for Pelle from The Hives, who doesn’t seem to have aged at all. It’s actually kind of weird.

 

 


Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and it’s bollocks

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Look, I don’t mind a bit of pretentious arty wankery from time to time. But today I think I found my limit. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is the new game from The Chinese Room, who brought us the pretentious wankery walkathon Dear Esther. I actually didn’t mind Dear Esther. The writing was a bit overwrought, but it was pretty and it was short enough that I didn’t ever overstay its welcome.

So I sat down to play Rapture, expecting more of the same. For a while, I enjoyed it. The story was intriguing, the characters were interesting, and the graphics were gorgeous. After an hour or so of wandering around a very British countryside, I began to get a little impatient. I figured the ending couldn’t be too fare off, so I persevered for another hour…

And another…

And another…

And then I started to get really pissed off.

Usually, when I start yelling at the TV over a game it’s because I’m getting my arse kicked by enemies or continuously missing a platform or a target or something like that. I’ve never gotten so angry about walking before. So. Much. Fucking. Walking. The developers actually forgot to tell anyone there was a run button. I knew about the run button at least, but it’s not even a real run button. It’s a “hold R2 for a while and you may begin to walk slightly less slowly” button.

There’s a glowing light that guides you around to where you need to go, but it doesn’t work half the time. It would just disappear now and then, so I would walk on and do my own exploring. Then the bloody light would show up again and coax me into walking halfway back across the fucking map because I missed something because the light wasn’t there to guide me when I actually needed it! At the end of the game the light just got stuck in one place and I had to find a walkthrough online to figure out where to go to trigger the god damn ending.

Rapture does have sort of an interesting story, and I’m sure there will be lots of people comparing theories online and scouring the game for all the clues necessary to fully understand it. If the game had been half the length, I might have been on board for all that. But by the time I reached the ending I was like a kid on a long car trip; tired, cranky and ready to chuck one hell of a tantrum.

The thing that makes me the angriest is that I had purposely not gone back to playing Witcher 3 because I felt it was taking up too much of my time, so I thought I’d try playing some shorter indie games. Now I’ve wasted my whole day on this bullshit when I could have been doing far more productive things with my life, like playing Witcher 3.

If you want to play a truly great arty walking game, play Gone Home. It does everything right that Rapture does wrong, and it does it in a fraction of the time.

I am so done with you, The Chinese Room.

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Thoughts

My mind has been racing with thoughts lately. I’m collecting things in my head and can’t let go. I don’t really understand it, but I think it might have something to do with acupuncture.

Honestly, I was skeptical that acupuncture would do anything at all for me. But doctors hadn’t done much for me either, so I figured I had nothing to lose. And I think it might have helped me. But see, I’m really good at experiencing weird side effects from things. Maybe it’s just that I’m feeling better and now my brain doesn’t have as thick a fog of pain to fight through, or maybe that needle to the head opened something up. Whatever the cause something has definitely changed.

Mostly, the things I’m collecting in there make sense; stories and motifs that I’ve always been drawn to.

But I’m also suddenly really into wrestling and I’m very confused about that.

Look at this stupid shit I'm watching

Look at this stupid shit I’m watching

Anyway, back to the stuff that does make sense.

I decided to play through the old Silent Hill games after PT had such an impact on me. I rage quite the first one pretty quickly because the controls were awkward as hell and the graphics just didn’t hold up to today’s standards. Then I played the second one. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

Silent Hill 2 isn’t like the other games. There are no nonsensical plots about cults and gods. Silent Hill is not just a spooky town, it’s the personal purgatory for the characters within the game. The monsters aren’t just monsters, they symbolise the emotional state of the protagonist. The game deals with some very heavy and dark themes. The fact that these are horrors that happen in the real world just makes it all the more disturbing.

This scene in particular, despite the slightly shonky voice acting, is one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever seen in a video game.

So I was already obsessing over Silent Hill 2 when I began to read a book called The Drowning Girl, by Caitlin R Kiernan. It’s a very surreal trip into the mid of a schizophrenic girl trying to figure out which parts of her mind are truth and which parts are… less true. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but by the end I couldn’t put it down and couldn’t get it out of my head. I feel like I need to read it seven more times before I will really understand it. It’s a fantastic piece of weird fiction, quite unlike anything I’ve read before.

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So now my head is full of psychological horror and fog and ghosts and unreliable narrators and surrealism and monsters.

And wrestling! What the fuck!?

What even is this shit?

What even is this shit?

So I really need to do something with all of this stuff in my head. I still have so much work to do on my current manuscript but I can’t just ignore all these thoughts I’m having. I don’t know if anything will ever come from it, but I’ll just follow the thoughts and see where I end up.

Hopefully not back at wrestling.

Oh I give up

Oh I give up


The Perfect Wedding

I don’t think I know of anyone who dreamed about their perfect wedding when they were growing up. That just seems like a movie cliche to me. So when people in my life have found themselves suddenly betrothed, they turned to their friends for help and guidance in putting together their very special day. I love having an opportunity to get involved in a wedding, mostly because I like to make the worst suggestions possible. Such as, “Hey, you should get some engagement photos like this!”

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Or, “Hey, I found the perfect bridesmaid dress!”

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But now I’m in an awkward situation, because I’m the one getting married!

I’ve spent so much time thinking of stupid ideas for other people’s weddings that I’m struggling to figure out what I actually want for my own wedding. Being serious about this sort of thing is all very new and overwhelming. I feel like Jack Skellington trying to figure out how Christmas works.

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I’ve decided I need to get all the stupid, non-serious ideas out of my system so that I can focus on sensible things, like table centerpieces and prohibiting anyone from putting those ugly satin covers over the chairs.

So without further ado, here is my plan for a perfect wedding:

 

The guests arrive at a secluded forest location and take their seats (with no ugly satin covers over them, ugh).

The groom is already there, dressed as Optimus Prime.

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His groomsmen are dressed as Robert Muldoon from Jurassic Park.

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Music is provided by the Doof Warrior from Mad Max. He plays the Monkey Island theme song on his flaming guitar.

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The bridesmaids make their way down the aisle, dressed as velociraptors.

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Then a flock of cockatiels fly me in. My outfits looks like I’ve been vomited on by a bunch of Japanese Lolitas and Tim Burton.

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Our celebrant, Jeff Goldbum, will be dressed as Glinda from the Wizard of Oz

Love, uh, finds a way

Love, uh, finds a way

 

We exchange vows and Jeff Glindbum pronounces us husband and wife. The velociraptor bridesmaids then attack the Muldoon groomsmen. Then, with the ceremony complete, we all walk away from some sort of massive explosion, and no one looks back because we’re too cool to look back at the explosion.

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Okay, now that’s out of my system, I can go plan my wedding for real.


Mad World

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I know everyone is talking about mad Max: Fury Road, and there’s not much that I can say that hasn’t already been said. But I need to write something down because I honestly don’t remember the last time I was this blown away by a movie. In fact, I don’t know if I have ever been this blow away.

Fury Road is what the world would look like it there was an apocalypse and the only people who survived were the cast of Cirque du Soleil.  It’s two hours of car chases, explosions, gunfire and complete batshit insanity. On paper, it sounds like just another big dumb action movie. But it’s actually so much more than that.

This film is breathtakingly beautiful. Every shot is a work of art. The high speed battles play out like a dance across the desert, with incredible set pieces and spectacular choreography. The design is wonderful, from the spectacular cars to the grotesque villains. Seriously, there is a character whose sole purpose is to ride around on a massive truck made of amps and shred a guitar that shoots fireballs. Can you honestly say you’ve ever seen anything like that before?

But the thing that makes me the most excited about this film is the characters. Max might have his name in the title, but this is Furiosa’s film. She’s the one driving the narrative (and the truck, actually). Max just happens to be along for the ride. Charlize Theron is phenomenal; a perfect mix of power and vulnerability. She isn’t just a “strong female character”. She’s a strong character, period. Furiosa can proudly take her place in the movie heroine hall of fame next to the likes of Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor and Beatrix Kiddo.

Furiosa isn’t the only strong woman in the film either. Her cargo of slave brides are active participants in their own rescue every step of the way. They aren’t as skilled or as strong as other characters, but they fight just as hard for survival as everyone else. And the camera never leers at them. Not even once. No gratuitous boob shots, no lingering camera angles creeping up their thighs.  They don’t feel objectified at all. In fact, they are more human than any other human in the film.

Some men are calling for a boycott of Fury Road, claiming it has a “feminist agenda”. And they’re right, it does have a feminist agenda, and it’s fucking awesome! The women in this film are basically fighting to overthrow the patriarchy that has kept them beaten down. But that doesn’t mean this is a man-hating movie. Furiosa and Max are portrayed as equals in every way. And it’s only by working together as equals that they are able to overthrow the system and establish a new world order.

I’m just so excited about this movie. As soon as it was finished I wanted to watch it again. I’m even listening to the soundtrack as I type this. This is the sci-fi fantasy action movie we’ve been waiting for. What a lovely day!

 

Edit: As if I didn’t need another reason to love this movie, I just found out that there’s a orchestral cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit at the end of the trailer.


Disposable

So I’m really pissed off about two things right now: Silent Hills and Twin Peaks.

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After years of disappointing sequels, Silent Hills promised a return to form for the Silent Hill franchise, thanks to the involvement of Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima, who created a playable teaser for Silent Hills that was so innovative and brilliant that it blew everyone’s mind with only 20 minutes of very simple gameplay.

The Twin Peaks revival was supposed to give the series a chance to find closure after studio meddling left the second season in tatters. It was subsequently cancelled thanks to the sheer drop-off in quality.

But now the powers that be behind these two projects, Konami and Showtime, have decided that they don’t actually need the creators of these projects to bring these projects to fruition. Konami doesn’t need Kojima’s genius to make a game so scary that players will “shit their pants.” It’s not like the Silent Hill franchise was suffering from derivative gameplay and poor sales and slowly sliding into irrelevance, right?

And it’s not like Showtime actually needs the creator of Twin Peaks to create more Twin Peaks, right? They did fine without him last time didn’t they? You know, when the show got cancelled because it was so fucking terrible?

I hate this attitude. I hate this belief that that the actual creative talent behind a project is completely disposable. What could Lynch have possibly wanted that Showtime wouldn’t give him? Did he want to be paid in golden unicorns? Did they think he would do it for free in exchange for the exposure? And after the resounding success of PT, why the hell did Konami think they could recapture that brilliance without the person responsible for creating that brilliance?

People want people to make art, but they don’t want to actually value the artists. And so they toss the artists aside and then sit back and scratch their heads in dumb befuddlement as they wonder why all of a sudden the art fails.

So screw you, Showtime and Konami. If I wanted to play a half-assed Silent Hill game, I’d play one of the half-assed ones that already exists. And if I wanted to watch a Twin Peaks show without David Lynch, I’d just watch that Wayward Pines show that literally no one cares about.

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