KID SHIRT

Monday, July 07, 2008

DISCHISM

In honour of TMD...this is defined as:

"The unwitting intrusion of the author's physical surroundings, or the author's own mental state, into the text of the story. Authors who smoke or drink while writing often drown or choke their characters with an endless supply of booze and cigs. In subtler forms of Dischism, the characters complain of their confusion and indecision -- when this is actually the author's condition at the moment of writing, not theirs within the story."

Here's another one, known as Signal from Fred, wh/ is catagorised as:

"A comic form of Dischism in which the author's subconscious, alarmed by the poor quality of the work, makes unwitting critical comments: "This doesn't make sense." "This is really boring." "This sounds like a bad movie." (Attr. Damon Knight)

Jeez: I've done both of those in the last couple days...my version of a 'Fred' described someone's uber-violent death as resembling "a bad special effect." lol - some kinda subliminal auto-critique thang going on there.

RIP THOMAS DISCH

Thomas M. Disch:

An S.F. and Horror-writer who was a stalwart of the 60's New Wave/New Worlds scene. Hugely underrated and unrecognised, but not by Kid Shirt.

THE ETIOLOGY OF A STORY

Oh, weird. I just found out last night that my short story "Blue Raspberries" had been nominated in the Best Short Fiction of 2007 category by the BSFA (the British Science Fiction Association)...this story originally appeared in last year's Nemonymous anthology "Zencore!"
Another story from the same comp. "Berian Winslow and the Stream of Consciousness Storyteller" - by an author who has rather gamely continued to remain anonymous - was also up for a nomination. See, my last post about Nemonymous wasn't entirely made up from needless hyperbole.

Anyway, before I completely climb up my own arse, I'd better mention that there were over 60 nominees in total. Still, I'm pretty fucking made up to find myself on a list that includes Rudy Rucker, Bruce Sterling, Lucius Shepard, Gene Wolfe and the mighty Steve Aylett.

Oh, and M. John Harrison, whose work I fucking adore.

Did I win? Oh, come on...of course not: that would be just one step to the left of Too Much.

The story itself has had a pretty odd journey. Strangely, I can vividly remember writing the core of what became "Blue Raspberries" - I was sat in bright sunshine on a saturday afternoon in the garden of our old house...I reckon it was around 1996, maybe...I was scribbling in a note-book, working on something else and this stuff started coming thru...there was about three-quarters of a page, which I wrote as a flashback section within a bigger piece that I was writing. I got a weird sense of discomfort while I was writing it; it kinda freaked me out a bit to be honest...Anyway, it got typed up on my old Amiga 500, then the story got abandoned and the old computer decomissioned in about '98. Luckily I had a floppy-drive wh/ could save to Windows format.

About 3-4 years ago I found some old, dust-covered floppies and retrieved and read thru some of my old stuff - this half/three-quarters of a page immediately jumped out at me and I recalled the sense of oddness that it had induced in me. For a lark I posted the fragment on Loki's "Idiot's Guide to Dreaming" team-blog. I thought about working on it, but to what end...no one would publish it, surely?

The story-fragment niggled at me for weeks. I took it off the site and dabbled with it, but it didn't want to play. So it sat on my hard-drive for ages.

About 20 months ago, I just suddenly decided to start writing fiction again. I wrote some new stuff and to my surprise I sold a couple pieces...I looked around for fresh inspiration and found this fragment (wh/ I'd christened "Blue Raspberries" 'cos it featured an 'imaginary' book with that title.) I tinkered w/ it over a couple evenings and it suddenly telescoped out into a 3/4-page story written in a deliberately formal, almost stilted manner...incredibly, a couple paragraphs and a scattering of sentences had survived the decade-long journey intact. More importantly, I'd managed to ressurect and match the voice that had spoken to me in the garden all those years ago. I now find I can invoke that particular voice at will, as if it's a character or an internal actor that I can just switch on. What had unnerved me so much all those years ago, was the fact that I didn't understand where this stuff was coming from - whose voice was it that I hearing? Well, the answer's obvious now, innit.

Most of the events in the story are completely true; albeit extremely warped versions of reality filtered thru thick coke-bottle lenses smeared with grease and middle-aged grit.

The idea that a book could be viral in nature has surely been used loads of times - tho, oddly, I can't actually think of any instances off-hand. Burroughs used to say that language was a virus; but that's not, I think, what I actually meant here, tho.

The idea that a book could be viral - that the information embedded in it can irretrivably change the people that come into contact with it - so that it is passed on, albeit in a new form (as a magazine, a website, whatever...), like a subtle contagion has its basis in The Banal and the Ordinary, like other Nemonymous/New Wyrd fiction. All books - whether we like them or not, or whether we even pay any attention to them - change us merely by the act of reading them...brain-proteins are altered and synaptic connections are made that amend our brain-structure, our dreams, our emotional life...all words - all information - is viral on a basic chemical level. How can it not be?

I'm fascinated by griots...by oral-storytelling traditions where myths/legends/race-memories/fairy-tales are passed down between generations, subtly mutating and reinventing themselves to match the socio-cultural infrastructure of the era they find themselves washed up in. Stories have genomes; cultural dna base-pairs (informational memes) that undergo a form of fictional-evolution as they are passed from father-to-son or switch continents. Music is the same.

I'm reminded of RA Lafferty's "900 Grandmothers" where the protagonist finally meets the oldest surviving member of a race - the one who started the story in the first place, but she refuses to tell him the truth because it is so ridiculous that he would go mad if he heard it. Instead, the frustration of not knowing drives him mad...

And "Blue Raspberries" own voyage into strangeness still continues: since that day in the garden when it planted its first seed in my mind it has haunted me, sneakily modifying my own behaviour until I was forced to finish the 'story' in a form where it could replicate itself further and infect other people - using paper, HTML pages, any means necessary to pass on its own meme-genes...from an odd briefly unsettling idea that popped into my head it has sprung into life once more on this post, reasserting its right to exist. The weird thing is that I can still clearly see the paperback cover to the 'original' fictional "Blue Raspberries" exactly as I did on that day. All I have to do is shut my eyes. The image is banal, but incredibly disturbing.

But where did it 'come from' - what fictional universe did it inhabit before it entered my conscious mind?

And the horizontal Infinity Sign that the phantom publishers used as their logo has also reappeared: Des Lewis (completely subconsciously, I imagine) used it on the cover of the new "Cone Zero" anthology as a sort of stylised "8." Poor Des - I fear I have infected him with it too.

Copies of "Zencore!" are still available here, individually or as part of a special deal With "Cone Zero."

I think this particular story is still far from over.