Wednesday, 19 December 2012

My Year in Stories

The first quarter of the year was devoted to completing Arlene’s Atoms, my fingers-crossed-first-official-novel-with-a-proper-publisher-with-a-proper-desk-and-everything. The submission process was slow but steady—after sending the novel to agents and picking up the rejections from the sorting office, I sent sample chapters to promising smaller-but-more-suitable publishers. I spent the mid-part of the year working on an experimental novella, The State I Am In, a form of fictional autobiography that takes its title from the Belle & Sebastian song. More recently, I’ve been working on a second novella called My Body of Work which uses the collage technique I deployed in three extremely pleasurable-to-write pieces (one below) published in delicious venues. Busy? Yes. But not enough. “I could always have written more!” cries the dying writer.

My short fiction output this year is naturally shorter than 2011, and most of these stories were written that year and published in this one. I lost track of when each story was published.

The longest story of the year, at 7000 words, was Maybe Tomorrow at the online zine Blue Lake Review. The story was an attempt to grapple on a somewhat serious level with social alienation, loneliness and depression while using various playful techniques to lift the story from the doldrums. Four socially alienated characters attend a bogus therapy group where they are asked to draw up new routines for each other and made to abide by them. The story pays a slight homage to Gilbert Sorrentino and BS Johnson with the typographical fancies and close third-person narration while trying to break away from those postmodern influences to touch upon something more genuinely melancholy. The zine was unable to reproduce the tables I had in the story, making the fourth part harder to navigate.

A Disquisition on the Erogenous Impulse in Prose Narratives was published in April at Martian Lit. One of three collage pieces, these stories were an attempt to cope with my spiralling distraction levels while writing and the audience’s limited attention spans with short fiction from unknowns on the internet. (I’m still convinced no one reads short fiction from unknowns on the internet apart from friends of the unknownsI have no friends, hence no readers). I felt my disaffection with character, plotline and story could be resolved by choosing an unusual theme and constructing mini-stories, self-commenting attention-seeking bits, snatches of dialogue, satire and other areas of strength for me. Time will tell as I complete my current project which exhausts this technique.

The Four Seasons of Michael Michael at Laptop Lit is written in a series of internal monologues. It was an attempt to tell the story of one man, Michael Michael, a toff going insane in his country estate, entirely from the perspectives of his afflicted family. The Wonderfully Fecund World of the Hendersons at Piker Press was inspired by the protagonist in Harry Mathews’s The Journalist who becomes obsessed with composing every miniscule detail of his day in his journal at the expense of his sanity. The story has novel potential as there can be an unlimited number of narrators and contradicting plotlines.

New Zealand magazine OneTitle, now defunct, published Writing For Carol. This story addresses my crisis about writing for an unknown, unseen and (in the case of obscure writers) nonexistent audience. For whom are we writing? People like us? Just us? Does our work reach the sort of people we want? My protagonist in this story tries tailoring all his fiction to meet one person’s needs, finding more pleasure in the act of writing when his work leads him to actually connect with this one person for real, in the flesh. Imagine such a thing!

My only print publications in 2011 were The Little Book of Nothing—a story from last year republished in the Writings on the Wall anthology, and an edited version of The Drunk & the Godly in Octavius Magazine. (Now an e-book only—grr! Full text sans edits, here). My favourite publication, which I’ve yet to see, is the Oulipo homage From A to Z published in Beeswax Magazine. The first section is an alphabetical lipogram and the second an alphabet-shaped backwards lipogram (the text takes the shape of the alphabet, omitting each letter being described). My faith in pointless constraints and innovative batshittery remains unbroken!

As an experiment this year, I self-published my first polished and, uh, serious novel A Postmodern Belch. I wasn’t doing it properly, tirelessly virally promoting my novel on the social networks and so on, because I don’t have any influential friends (except Horst). I did inform my chums on Goodreads, and some of them kindly bought copies, others reviewed the book in return for a pdf edition. The book’s page is full of splendid parody reviews written in the spirit of the book, which was more delightful than making money, in a way. A small way. If by any chance you are criminally insane and want to buy a copy—here! (Seriously, I had more fun writing the book than anything else, I hope that shows).

Here’s to 2013!

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