december 2006

RE: Hot Desk Fellowship Application — A 500-word project rationale to accompany my formal submission

Begone I Say! Away You Shall Slither, Eldritch Monster of Bestselling Gothic Doggerel!:
A Hot Desk Fellowship Application for Vampire Drive by Kirk Marshall

  A Hot Desk Fellowship facilitated by The Wheeler Centre would afford me the sustained creative opportunity, time and space to complete the draft for a novella I've been wrangling throughout the year entitled, Vampire Drive, which is a project that has increasingly come to assume a mythic status in my head as the endgame for my manuscript has become increasingly difficult to forecast as of late.
  I recently extricated myself from a Post-graduate DipEd, and I now split my working week teaching English, Literature and Media (Film & T.V. Studies) at RMIT University, while acting in a fundraising capacity for Oxfam (Australia), the national affiliate for the international community development organisation. Because of the full-time work routine, I’ve found it a practical challenge to find the time necessary to develop my novella manuscript — like all scribblers of experimental fiction, it seems that I’ve been compelled as of late to relegate my capacity for literary inspiration to the witching hour, when any other reasonable academic would be hibernating for the winter — and this is in part attributable to the fact that I don’t have access to a convenient space to write during the working week that is close to the university or the fundraising office.
  Compounded to this, because my teaching role is a sessional one, I don’t have access to a desk that isn’t on weekly rotation (gasp! what’s that about budget cuts in the education industry not directly impinging on the arts?), and current living arrangements necessitate that my partner and I share one expertly cramped workspace at home — a desk that is groaning with all sorts of curious shared detritus, from a small ridgeback topography of paper mountains (ours), an impressive inventory of graphic design software (hers), and the obligatory collection of arcane stationery that so frequently accumulates in Melbourne apartments but is so rarely discarded (mine).
  This is all to say that I’m a compulsive doodler in desperate need of a desk, and will be obligated to learn the art of parkour so that I can use the apartment ceiling as my writerly roost if I don’t have any luck with this fellowship application. I also feel it’s a healthy corollary of successful art-making to separate the creative space from the workplace — I know what comes of composing haikus in the office (hint: just watch Fight Club) — and a Hot Desk Fellowship would allow me to maintain the strategic divide between the dual identities (Kirk-the-Teacher-Man, and Kirk-the-Bright-eyed-Scribe). In effect, a Hot Desk Fellowship should therefore be regarded as the final vanguard for my future psychological comfort: it signifies the surest way to countervail cognitive dissonance, and will ensure that an alarming process of metamorphosis doesn’t take hold where I suddenly find myself transforming into some abominable half-teaching, half-writing human oddity without a desk to call his own (albeit I guess my newfound gymnastic finesse in scuttling onto unoccupied ceilings would be a benefit, when all else is lost).
  Oh yeah, on related matters: It’s also worth noting that Vampire Drive is an incendiary object, and will explode the existing narrative machinery designed to accommodate contemporary literary fiction — don’t worry, it’s not actually about vampires, or immortal teenagers with vertiginous foreheads, or even shirtless lycanthropes trying to become actors, for the first time, by moonlight — and the book’s fast evolving into the literary artefact that I’m most proud of, even though it concerns a panoply of cardsharks, swindlers, casino barons, crow-faced sadists, woodland executions and pink iguanas. It’s a gonzo revenge thriller, bristling with forbidden romance, firearms and freaks of such wonder and gamble that they’d compel Dick Tracy to turn the colour of a canary’s cringe. If The Wheeler Centre is willing to permit me to share the manuscript with the world, we may slowly contribute to turning back the dark tide of that unholy sea which divulged the likes of Stephanie Meyer on our unpolluted shore. Why wouldn’t you all want to support me in doing that?
  • Current Music
    "Born Secular" — Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins
december 2006

RE: The Accidental Terrorist (c)

            In a hole in the ground there lived a terrorist. Amongst those still living whom knew him well (which were few: he was a terrorist), he was neither attributed the social countenance of a charismatic man, nor a man of considerable influence. He was neither psychically nor physically commanding, neither cunning nor orthodox, neither valiant nor craven. (Living in a hole was not symbolic of an absence of bravery on his part; his subterranean realm had been chosen chiefly for its capacity to fascinate and educate, – a base of operations from which to study the sex ritual of the scorpion, for example.) He was neither tall nor short, his eyes were neither grey nor green, and his face was neither ultimately odious nor especially memorable. (Except to the trained execution-squad elites of a couple of high-profile, international, governmental law enforcement agencies with names comprising entirely of anagrammatic initials; probably a fistful of professionally-commissioned bounty-hunters; and an infantry patrol of paratroopers collectively bedecked in fatigues and a particularly lurid hue of camouflage paint, for whom only one aesthetic standard existed for small bearded zealots, and that was that they resembled miniature, animated mosques covered in hair and brayed often and vocally about the seven moons of some desert god, – assumedly because they hadn’t yet been deemed devout enough to be rewarded by a holy manifestation bearing gifts of razors and shaving balm.) The terrorist held fast to his ostensibly unoriginal belief in the nobility of war as a means to purge the sins of disbelievers. (To be more accurate, the terrorist considered war most noble when it didn’t involve any disbelievers at all, which meant that a potential conflict founded upon theological dissidence could correspondingly resolve into some form of thoroughly enjoyable moonlight cocktail party, complete with an arms-dealing exchange, out amongst the dunes and beneath the velveteen savannah sky, before wending its raucous way to a tarp-sheathed jazz-club featuring holy book spoken-word artists, and possibly, with sufficient time, to the local barber’s salon.)  Of course, he had neither seen nor exchanged correspondence with a disbeliever, and this inability on the disbelievers’ part to initiate communication with the terrorist when it was so freely afforded them demonstrated their culpability. If the disbelievers pursued and engaged in lives truly without sin, there would be nothing to rationalise their avoidance of the terrorist. Such a stratified aversion to terrorists like him thus constituted a complicitous and highly-political act. The disbelievers chose to avoid participating in discussion on the matter, which only operated as proof positive of their guilt. (What guilt that was the terrorist could not determine, because that required proximity, and he was presently eking a sedentary existence in absolute and unaverring solitude down an iron-ore shaft in disrepair somewhere beneath the vast white desert.) Still, he was here, and they weren’t, which had to signify something. (He gloated about this, and resentfully entertained visions in which he performed perverse and deviant sexual acts with the busty, overtly-opinionated wives of the disbelievers, – all of whom were, uncannily, pasty-skinned chartered accountants from Maine, NY, named Fergus, – until the scorpions fell into his beard, and he was again accosted by phantasmagoric promises of billboards showcasing images of facial foam.) And if the disbelievers were in any way inclined to contribute an opinion about how they’d been misrepresented or perhaps erroneously categorised, they could just as easily surrender their beliefs, gods, societal structure and political sympathies to locate the terrorist in his hole, and to plead forgiveness. The terrorist would see to it, insofar as the issue was in his means to do so, that their plights, their conflagration of protestations, were given a level and measured hearing. (“Level” and “measured” were words that the terrorist had learnt back during those rose-tinted salad days when he was an undergraduate enrolled in an Advanced Engineering course.) What killed him – what absolutely curdled the milk gestating in his abdomen, so that his stools came out looking like Parisian truffle mushrooms – was the deranged and resolute conviction of these disbelievers. They disagreed with his kindnesses so much, – his generous offer to evaluate their innumerable indecencies and unholy transgressions prior to his spraying their bodies with a descending volley of fine-tipped hollow-pointed carbon-coated bullets, – so that he’d never seen, nor caught wind of the insensitive and iconoclastic sounds of a single one. Not one tainted soul. And when the terrorist thought about it, he couldn’t recall ever seeing anyone. At all.

It was a hard life being the only member of the human race washed of sin, but it generated its own rewards.

(In his hole, beneath the infinitely receding skies and sands, the terrorist went back to observing the impotent dance of his scorpions.)

¶ This short-story was previously published in The Cottonmouth Anthology: An Anthology of New Australian Writing (Perth, 2010) — edited by Patrick Pittman, Scott-Patrick Mitchell, Jessyca Hutchens and The Concrete Organisation, Inc. editorial committee — which collected a combination of original prose & poetics from Australia's best emerging writers, in addition to creative contributions previously showcased in the Cottonmouth 'zine, a publication released in tandem with Cottonmouth's monthly "spoken-word" performance nights curated in Western Australia.

  • Current Music
    "The Bunker" — Beirut
december 2006

RE: A proposal rejection from the 2012 Emerging Writers' Festival (Melbourne, Australia)

Some stately sage from the seventeenth century, specialising in the relativist laws of modern physics, once professed that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Isn't it about time that we smalltime emerging literary practitioners of the local Australian writing community were sufficiently uninhibited and compassionate enough to dispense with the social gamesmanship, and were just honest with one another? We don't even have to perceive this suggestion as inherently schismatic, as signifying a difference in values, as constituting a clash of social politics — because surely we're all invested in an effort to support the conditions for creative collegiality? That's my moral objective in participating in this community at all, which is why the following deems revealing:



To: <>

RE: 2012 Emerging Writers' Festival — Panellist call-out

Hey guys, they who divine the signs and wonders of Australia's emergentsia;

My name is Kirk Marshall, and I'm a Melbourne-based writer & teacher originally faring from Brisbane, Queensland. I've had the fortuitous experience of assuming a role as a panellist for the Emerging Writers' Festival in both 2009 & 2010, and having just glimpsed the online call-out for the much-celebrated & fêted EWF for 2012, I felt compelled to wrangle together a proposal to be involved this year. I imagine that the program advisory committee is probably well on its way towards brainstorming & spitballing some of the major events for the forthcoming Festival, but I was wondering (with total brazen transparency!) if I could influence you kind souls in adding my name to the candidate list of hopeful laureates, especially in light of what I've been grappling with recently. If one & sundry were to demand a succinct disclosure, and inasmuch as the question "What do I write?" is concerned, I'd respond: mostly fiction. I've actually just had my fiction début, Carnivalesque, And: Other Stories, published by Black Rider Press — Western Australia's newest independent publisher of experimental literature & innovative poetics. This is a short-story collection which encompasses a contemporary multi-ethnic freakshow circus as they navigate Japan's mountain country, a Canadian lumberjack's journey toward self-discovery, and Jesus Christ's Mexican surf holiday, but the collected fictions also manage to pose some probing, philosophical questions. These include: "What's the allegorical connection between Barack Obama's neutered political agenda and his behaviour amongst friends?" and "How does a clinically depressed half-Mexican oceanographer, a masturbatory German marine biologist and a suicidal Japanese submarine pilot formulate a family at a depth of 30,000 leagues?"

Best of all, I feel that resident genius-of-observation Benjamin Law's insight into my book represents my approach to fiction as well as any of the fist-pumping, bromide-eyed definitions that I might hope to construe:

Diabolically verbose, Carnivalesque: And, Other Stories is a joyous, demented orchestra of prose. Reading it is like being pulled into an intoxicating Japanese fug, and you'll sometimes wonder whether Marshall has, indeed, drugged you. These aren't stories for people with short attention spans (and you might not always understand what is happening), but pull the pages close: there is gold to be found in amongst this ensemble cast of misfits. — Benjamin Law, author of The Family Law

I'm currently reeling from a starry, horripilative & definitively bodacious hometown launch event that was hosted by Avid Reader Bookshop & Café in Brisbane — it involved a cast of thousands, including Paul Goward (Regional Campaign Director for The Wilderness Society), Sarah Gory (Manager of the Queensland Poetry Festival), Patrick Holland (Miles Franklin Award-longlisted author), Krissy Kneen and Christopher Currie, and you can watch a selection of the festivities here — and my intention is to organise a small shindig to celebrate the release of Carnivalesque in Melbournetown within the coming weeks. However, I've also recently finished my first standalone novella entitled, The Signatory, which will soon be published internationally by Skylight Press, a U.K.-based publishing imprint whose editorial aesthetic specialises in literary fiction, drama and poetry, esoterica & gardening non-fiction. Having refined my specific literary stylistic over the years following my tertiary and post-graduate studies (Bachelor of Creative Industries [Creative Writing] and Honours degree in Professional Writing), The Signatory functions as the culmination of a long linguistic wrestle to locate the best way to construct the sorts of unearthly narratives that I thrive to create. The best way to encapsulate the novella is to define it as a surrealistic interpretation of Withnail & I set in Scotland — I elaborate on this in collaboration with Tokyo-based enfant terrible David F. Hoenigman, and with much greater clarity, here — and I would love to be afforded an opportunity to discuss both Carnivalesque, And: Other Stories and the novella at a EWF program event, not simply as a forum for artistic promotion, but as a platform to engage with questions of experimental literature in the contemporary Australian publishing industry. And that, therein, alludes to both my major creative impetus and my answer to the subsidiary question of "Why do I write it?". I'd be the first to summon up a self-attribution and identify myself as a 'word nerd' — I'd contend, without qualification, that wordsmithy should go in the running to be regarded the world's greatest unsung recreation — and I've learned to write in such a way that I'm now able to regard my process as honouring the possibilities of sentence architecture. That's what it's all about for me; there's no more substantial accomplishment than somehow managing to wrangle spiky, seraphic beauty from the application of syntax. My fiction now develops as an extension of my play with form and style, and emerges in an oleatory mode in which narrative stems from the accumulation of images, allusions, events, developments. My guide & epigone in this literary method is the late, great Barry Hannah — rest and/or wrest his immortal soul! — whose genius work I've only recently stumbled upon (have you guys read Yonder Stands Your Orphan? => prepare to have your eyeballs explode), but who has sweetly validated for me everything I consciously strive to do with words. Sometimes his monument to profundity is so irrefutable I sit agog that anyone is still trying to shake sense together by inviting the congress of pen with parchment, or quill and pixels. Anyway, this amounts to what I want to talk about: if you're not inventing the sentence, you refuse to pursue adventures. I also edit an Australian / Japanese bi-lingual literary journal (you can "join" the Facebook profile page for updates here), so I can definitely engage at length in debates relating to the future of publishing, the residual value of print, and the logistics of cross-cultural creative communication. I suppose what I'm saying is that if we're generally only agreeing to exercise our appreciation of 1% of the English language, I'll be the first among us to commit to occupying the remaining 99%. It's a foray into lit.-activism, wouldn't you say?

Here follows my up-to-date bio. brimming with brio:

Kirk Marshall is the Melbourne-based author of The Signatory (2012; Skylight Press); Carnivalesque, And: Other Stories (2011; Black Rider Press); and A Solution to Economic Depression in Little Tokyo, 1953. He has written for more than sixty publications, both in Australia and overseas, including Award Winning Australian Writing, Wet Ink, Going Down Swinging, Voiceworks, Verandah, Visible Ink, fourW, Mascara Literary Review, Word Riot (U.S.A.), 3:AM Magazine (Paris), (Short) Fiction Collective (U.S.A.), The Seahorse Rodeo Folk Review (U.S.A.), The Journal of Unlikely Entomology (U.S.A.) and Kizuna: Fiction for Japan (Japan). He edits Red Leaves / 紅葉, the English-language / Japanese bi-lingual literary journal.

Exchange words soon, & hope you're all scrabbling freely in this spree of Melbourne summer,

P.S.: You can also begin to listen to my book here, if you'd like a teaser as to content and style.





To: <>

RE: Message from the Emerging Writers' Festival Regarding Artist Call-out

Hi Kirk,

Thank you for contacting us at the Emerging Writers' Festival and expressing your interest in becoming involved in this year's program.

Unfortunately, we have been unable to find a spot at the festival for you. Programming such events is always challenging as we receive hundreds of submissions in response to the artist callout, making our selections is a difficult process.

Do not despair as there are still other opportunities to be involved with the festival — please sign up to our newsletter for all the latest news. 

And of course both our Director, Lisa, and I encourage you to attend the Emerging Writers' Festival, which is happening from this year 24 May — 3 June 2012.


Karen Andrews,

Program Manager
Emerging Writers' Festival


We were unable to find a spot at the festival for you. Now, come on, we can all be a little more honest than that, can't we?


Post-Entry Edit (01/04/2012): I feel I need to clarify that there's no problem here, just a personal compulsion to share a rejection letter I received that seemed disproportionately lacking in engagement with the proposal I composed to justify it. I'm entirely happy to be advised that my submission didn't warrant an acceptance, but to suggest that there was no "available spot" on the program when I identified some pretty explicit areas of focus is to circumlocute what was wrong with it. I appreciate that it was a stock rejection letter, and that everyone possesses limited time and resources, but it wouldn't have demanded any more time to replace that line with "Your proposal just wasn't what we were looking for in 2012's program". I also don't feel it's lacking in value to simply share & showcase a rejection letter amongst fellow scribes, when so frequently these things remain relegated to our inboxes as though that constituted the endpoint to something that generally continues to run through our minds. My demonstrated intention was just to stimulate discussion, which I'm thankful to have received, and I'll now transfer some of the ideas that have been offered to me & compose a reply to the EWF Program Committee to continue this same conversation.

  • Current Music
    "A Commotion" — Feist
december 2006

RE: "The Death of the Orca" (c)

            The professional Algerian trace-shifter: he with the apocalyptical cowlick and eyes like minarets engulfed in flame, had expedited all necessary inquiries and fast-tracked his investigative obligations in order to inform Riley Murtagh with an alarming efficiency that The Narratologist spent mornings alone at the marine theme park. This constituted an altogether encouraging exchange for Riley, even though the sleuth’s gaze pulsed with a sordid glow as though twin fists were clenching a family of fireflies in the throes of suffocation. Cigarettes of an immaculate design were distributed, disconcerted laughter was afforded them both and the trace-shifter spent a furious moment attempting to drive a finger through to his brain via the conduit of a nostril.

            Riley, for his part, had gambled a romantic relationship ripe with potential; had invested all the income provided him from the advance for his novel-in-mortal-gestation; had disregarded family advice and spurned the miscomprehending hearts of his parents and had braved personal embarrassment by partaking of a daily jujitsu regimen, so that upon touching down in Toulouse, he was consumed by nothing but The Murder, the event that had required such extensive sacrifice.

He had arrived in France, with his ungovernable Australian timbre and a face like a vacant limousine — all classic architecture, but devoid of light or occupancy — so that he could engineer the mercenary killing of someone with whom he’d never before met.

Having located an affordable private investigation service on the banks of the Garonne, Riley had anticipated that the trace-shifter would disdain the entire enterprise with a furrowed brow and a few unwelcome fractured-English maxims — ‘Merde! Your mind is interesting, but not very hygienic,’ perhaps, or ‘This contract makes the agency very nervous, and it would be deceitful of me not to explain that, when you leave, I will crawl beneath my desk.’ Albeit Riley had felt some apprehension about such exigencies arising, his concern could not have been more unnecessary.

‘Everyone wants to maim or kill everyone else in France,’ the Algerian agent had reassured him. ‘I am therefore overjoyed about the possibilities of contributing to the collective dream of the general populace,’ he’d elaborated to a nonplussed Riley. And thus the pact had been forged, the documentation and finance exchanged, and a bottle of malt ginger ale had been brandished about like a bouquet to mark the anniversary of their fellowship. Riley had returned to his hotel in the banlieue of Allée Jean Jaurès, emerging from the Métro shallow of breath, his head smarting from the purchase of violent ideas, the garden of his laughter abloom with dangerous and thorned specimens.

Riley Murtagh had forsaken his motherland in order to restore the currency of his name. Those bright-eyed believers in Australia patriotic enough to have grappled with his début novel — a gargantuan epic of difficult and diffusive prose, which The Age had cautiously championed as ‘the nine-hundred page Rabelaisian biography of a fictional Guatemalan saint, complete with appendices, detailed maps describing his pilgrimage, and an undernourished subplot about the mariachi musician who dies of unrequited love for him’ — those unprecedented Australian readers whom had once branded him a homeland hero — now regarded Riley, a true literary gallant, as a one-trick pony. Worse than that, they thought him a restive hack.

The new-kindled dismay attributed to his name was all a consequence of a single savage criticism used to defame the legacy of his ‘three-and-a-half-star, gay, Mexican, religious, coming-of-age narrative’. Dequoise Guillaume Furnot, a French recluse and Emeritus Professor in literary theory, had published an unauthorised treatise on a certain work of contemporary Australian fiction to great scholarly acclaim. Its title? ‘Eighty-nine examples of plagiarism in Riley Murtagh’s novel, The saint, the mariachi and that gringo Jesus.

Riley and the trace-shifter agreed — after a plan of action was decided upon in a licensed dive, and the pair of visionaries had toasted their own professional decorum by drinking their way alphabetically through the cocktail menu — that no reaction was better justified. The Narratologist had provoked Riley’s hand. The Narratologist must die.


            A dispatch enclosed within a wide brown envelope had been secreted into Dequoise Furnot’s on-campus pigeonhole. When The Narratologist’s ineffectual paws had adequately bested the adhesive resin sealing the correspondence, he flourished the offending article, demonstrating a loathsome smile — all crocodile teeth and a jawbone like the hinge on a lion’s cage. Observing the tremors that glided across the surface of The Narratologist’s countenance in arcane displays of amusement commanded the hackles on Riley’s neck to immediate attention. Riley waited whilst the professorial monster feasted on his collusive words. From Riley’s perch on the parapet of the opposite building, via the filtered optics of his military T7, thermal, infrared, electronic binoculars, The Narratologist’s hunkered silhouette was captured in hues of crimson blossoms and appeared to shimmer and caper in and out of view. It reminded Riley of the rash on his ex-girlfriend Charlie’s breastbone, the way it would appear suddenly, profane and unbidden, deep-burning like a sun behind the crest of a broken wave, expanding with her tiniest broken breaths, before opening up across her breasts like a fist, or a flower.

            This sickened him. He wanted to throttle The Narratologist right then, feel the power coursing through him, his blood racing, execute the act with all the zeal and urgency he could find it within himself to wrangle, hear the bones inside the deluded French semiotician’s throat crackle like kindling underneath his closing hands. Riley wanted to glory in a thrall of violence. He wanted to knock off the pearlescent, lacquer-hard skin scabbing over the wound piercing his gut and heart. He wanted the vinegar and gall circulating round his aortae to explode beneath his chest. He wanted to channel the hurt, that signature pain, born of killing a relationship that warranted no such cruelty, absorb the thousands of tears which Charlie had shed and which he’d bottled within his pulsing head, allow them to transfer steam to his veins and exact vengeance on the dry academic bastard encased within the lenses of his binoculars.

That fucking review. Those words of nonchalant brutality, written by Dequoise Furnot with a view to collapse all the hard work and hope of Riley Murtagh, were nothing short of travesty. The Narratologist had declared that Riley’s novel was ‘the most exquisite literary forgery since James Macpherson’s ossified Ossian cycle.’ Riley’s head was all torrent and noise; the rush of blood behind his eyes like driving rain. The Narratologist was labouring over Riley’s letter with the scrutiny of a clockmaker. He’d have breezed past ‘cordially invited to,’ would have lingered on ‘request an audience with’ and would be entertaining an appropriate way to demur before being seized by the seductive glamour of ‘Warm regards, R Murtagh.’

Riley sheathed his binoculars, abandoned his post, and began descending the internal stairwell. Surveillance or no, he didn’t need to observe The Narratologist’s reaction upon finishing the letter to anticipate that the man would now call upon the Dean’s office to cancel all outstanding afternoon classes. Riley Murtagh had a date at the marine park, and it damn well resonated before him like the moment prior to a prize-fighter’s most crucial round.

The train bells chimed as the express disembarked from the station, and Riley enjoyed a moment’s double take as his eyes hunted about the carriage for a boxing referee. The train entered a tunnel, submerging into the blackness. The din of the traffic above was, for a moment, the roar of an apprehensive crowd.


            The underwater glass dome of the aquarium rippled and glowed in arcs of phosphorous blue, and reflections of Dequoise Furnot refracted up and down the breadth of the vivarium corridor like a bogeyman in a funhouse hall of mirrors. A fever of manta rays tessellated above him, their pectoral fins tilting wildly to afford them optimal stealth, allowing them to alter direction on the turn of a dime. Dequoise stared with the baleful gaze, the sour mouth and the air of distraction common to all those disenchanted with the familiarity of an old and unrevised performance.

            There had been days, not so distant and deprived of relevance, when he had stood transfixed by the ballet of the rays, their svelte, white forms fleeting before his eyes. Something like a stray tear might stagger through his lofty defence, back then, disrobing his staged dispassion to reveal a lapsed sentimentalist who adored the life and light of dancing things. The tear might score its hot brand down the gaunt hollows of his cheeks, his eyes might lock upon a school of angelfish or the mottled underside of a snaggle-toothed reef shark as it cavorted with a shank of newly-offered mutton above him, and for an exquisite minute he might feel less illusory, less a filter of words, and perhaps more of a participant of experience.

Nowadays he came to the marine park to think about how theory had robbed him of his idle wonder and turned him into the haggard, spurned old fuck he now was.

So much of his scholarly youth had been invested in the whimpering of books, and all that this had equipped him with was an unparalleled ability to identify the fakery in everything. And a career devoted to extolling such a prowess didn’t always disguise the fact that he, too, was a fake. He’d tried writing fiction, only to discover that his vision would collapse the moment his structuralist brain engaged autopilot. Dequoise Furnot appreciated that a certain savage cunning was required to betray your mind from thinking in rules, but only people with blind enthusiasm — novelists — prevailed in that realm. He’d relinquished that sort of aspiration years ago, along with romance, fame and direction. So many colleagues he once knew had succeeded in accomplishing careers as novelists of household repute, and maybe it was due in part to his mastering of categories, but Dequoise Furnot liked to exist beyond the rule.

            Furnot glided through the ocean of his regrets and broke free to the surface, wheezing his way back into the present. Riley Murtagh chose that moment to press the nose of his pistol into The Narratologist’s back.

            ‘We’re gonna go find somewhere private, Monsieur Furnot,’ Riley grunted. ‘Now I’ll caution you against making a solitary mother-fuckin’ sound, you old gibbon, because I’m an ace with a shot, and a purple belt in jujitsu.’

            ‘Well done,’ Dequoise croaked, swallowing, as his left forearm was twisted and manipulated behind his back. ‘Can I just ask you something to clarify my confusion?’

            ‘Don’t keep me waitin’ like a slaughterhouse lamb, you tall fucking drink of water. Go on.’

            ‘That incident on page 216 of The saint, the mariachi and that gringo Jesus. Did the mariachi sleep with a pig?’

            The butt of the pistol struck The Narratologist’s forehead, and everything resolved to maroon and black.


            The body was discovered by a Polish oceanographer completing an internship at La Cascade d’Arpenaz Marine Park, the next morning, at about 4 a.m. (Heure Normale de l’Est). The local constabulary cordoned the entirety of the porpoise pool off from spectators, ribboning the exhibition with a flourish of red police tape. The theme park was officially closed to visitors at lunchtime, signs citing ‘until further notice,’ and braces of tourist passes were refunded at the gates. A team of construction workers and a contingent from the fire and emergency department was contacted to ensure that the disposal of the cetacean corpse occurred both seamlessly and without further complexity. Most Toulousain citizens mourned the loss of Papillion, the park’s surly, piebald male orca, when his death was announced in the circulars, gossip gazettes and major newspapers the following day.
            What would appal even the experts employed to conduct the autopsy would be the contents of a solitary X-ray image taken of Papillion's multi-chambered stomach: the remains of two men, their hands entwined round each others' throats. An author and a literary critic.

¶ This short-story was previously published in The screen door snaps (Melbourne, 2011), the twenty-third volume of Visible Ink, RMIT University's annual anthology of new writing and art.
  • Current Music
    "The Blizzard's Never Seen the Desert Sand" — The Tallest Man on Earth
december 2006

RE: "Island Swarm" (c)

The man with the sun-upholstered feet gazed out toward the sea’s lazy marine warmth as it presented a constellation of fruiting blue paddocks to the fascinated, haunted human eye and he was again overwhelmed by the sensation that exile was desperately similar to abandonment.

He couldn’t discern or quantify exactly how long he’d been hunching, with heat-parched mouth and burn-mottled forehead, on the strand while a pleiades of terns converged and dissolved above the waterline or a skulk of crabs veered into the shallow assault of the ocean whenever he snapped an eye open to observe their orderly coastal reconnaissance. He may have been here for months.

Time was a privilege here, an unnecessary luxury, because the ocean’s implacable modulation and randomised locomotion would not allow for a clock’s chronology in the same way you could not chalk numbers on its inconstant surface. It was like applying the laws of gravity to interstellar flight. He’d once tried to exchange handshakes with the rippling element but it had warped beneath his touch, adhering to subterfuge lest the man know its static identity and so proceed to tame, to master it.

The man did not expect intimacy or companionship or disclosure from the sea.

It existed to thwart proximity, it prevailed to perpetuate distance: it was definitionally opposed to being possessed, being owned, it disavowed transparent interaction as a human imperfection. So the man came to know things about the sea which betrayed its transformative character, anyway: it would not tolerate friendship, it continuously changed its parameters for play, it resented the man’s arrogance and fragility, it was frivolous and forever consummating bursts of passion with itself, it was furtive and lacking in imagination, it was crippled by a boisterous and basic sense of humour which failed to apprehend the intricacies of a nimble wit. But it was troublingly alike, also: like man, the sea was given to funks of introspective brooding, it was frequently violent or vituperative, it strived in vain to exercise control over free and untamed agents, it was incapable of fraternity and therefore forever lonely.

            So the man with the yielding pink palms was consoling himself with deep, demotic ruminations on the plight of his extraordinary exile, one whose existence was enriched by the spectre of misery, when he saw a human figure about twenty yards distant emerge from the suck of the sea, before the apparition set himself upon the descending bank of the fourth island, his arms spreadeagled and his tongue grappling for air.

There were about five islands in the man’s beleaguered domain, and they described a hemispherical cluster which resembled a haphazard frown or an inelegant smile depending on the direction you viewed the arrangement.

Each island was separated from the last by a channel of water which extended to twenty yards, but there were occasions in which the moon dangled, fat with superluminal fire, just low enough for the ocean to retreat and the man might, after three weeks of nautical enclosure, relish the opportunity to navigate a landbridge brokered from salt deposits to the next island and make occupation there. Each island was different (the second island, clockwise from the man’s current post, was abundant with bananas and plantains that littered its shore, whilst the fourth island, on which the stranger now sprawled, benefited from the shade of a pandanus canopy), but each island shared identical dimensions.

They were six feet wide and eight feet long, just snugly configured to suffice in accommodating a man’s sleeping body if he were to splay himself lengthways. But it was an ideologically threatening development for the man with the sun-mutated complexion to welcome the new arrival. He was an intruder, after all, encroaching on a marooned individual’s pleasant, if abandoned, island monopoly.

There was little that the man with the rash-harassed shoulderblades could do to assume an immediate authority of this uninhabited cove of tiny assorted sandbars, particularly since all the conch-shell trumpets and cuttlefish blades remained scattered over the surface of the third island, so he resolved this dilemma of dominion by whistling on his fingers, and waving aggressively, with a pump of the forearm, just militantly enough to display his meaning. Parrots cavorted in the foliage of the pandanus behind the stranger, so all noise tripped across the trough of the tropics in a distorted incarnation, too muddled by the undercurrents and assailed by the winds for the man with the summer-boiled face to interpret what the rasping newcomer had howled in response.

The words came again – "Why are you waving to me? I don’t know you" – but at this point the gulls were performing synchronised plunges into the water dividing the two men, to skiff the current with their sun-glanced bills, and there was far too much screaming for the man with the island-charted smile to make much sense out of the stranger’s repeated dismissals.

The man kept waving and the stranger continued snarling, and between them the sea tried its damndest to maintain the heaving distance separating the islands, to ensure the new friendship didn’t result in blood being purged in ugly cyrillic across its smug and pretty face. There was something about the social appurtenances of company that a lonely thing like the sea would never understand.

¶ This short-story was previously published in Kizuna: Fiction for Japan (Niigata, 2011), a mixed-genre charity anthology edited by Brent Millis, which collected original micro-fictions of 1,000 words in length as a curated response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. All proceeds made from both print & e-book purchases were donated to the not-for-profit youth organisation, Smile Kids Japan.

  • Current Music
    "King of Spain" — The Tallest Man on Earth
december 2006

RE: "Eat the Twin Superheated Flames of My Quasar Pistol, Bottomfeeders from Jupiter!" (c)

“Eat the Twin Superheated Flames of My Quasar Pistol, Bottomfeeders from Jupiter!”
Or: Mork Shits In His Pants, While Toru Saves The Day

The first time he saw them descend, the sky riven with arcs of vainglorious red, Toru Strangler Itakawa could discern no cordiality in their appearance. He gambled his Christian-schooled virtues and guessed that their motivations were of an entirely barbarous design, because he’d braved enough winter sheets of gossamer rain and invested enough bright-eyed discipline into his late-hour Harajuku nights, the pistolero otaku of the arcade parlour, to recognise a badass when he saw one.

Shit if they weren’t one disconcerting breed of intergalactic invader, and as any soul equipped with a cultivated learning in physiognomy would attest, no alien born from the idle dream-teemings of bong or Bosch could ever engineer a species quite so confrontational.

Never mind physiognomy; anyone enabled the apparatus for logical thought, anyone involved in and operational amongst the workaday fray, walking beneath the catastrophic loom of cloud on that Thursday afternoon in the capital of Tokyo, had to consider adopting the phrenology method when seeing these tentacled motherfuckers. Each one bore a head of bestial proportions; a Lynchian metaphor might prove utilitarian, but chalking up the frontal lobes on these extraterrestrial creeps against The Elephant Man would simply constitute an oversight. Put like this: when the creatures had finally made landfall within Shimokitazawa, parked their ytterbium-propelled multi-cylinder stealth engine, lowered the mechanised galley door and assembled with billowing appendages and leviathan features on-street, the collective topography of their cranial domes was like watching a committee of mountains jawbone on the sidewalk. Man if their faces didn’t make everyone within eyeshot think of a riot of assholes.

Toru didn’t harbour any sweet secret inclination to go on disdaining the galaxial Butthole Patrol, for he wasn’t racially segregationist and if he was wise up against an ambit claim suggesting that he was a political subversive, he’d have told you for himself that he thought xenophobia was the charlatan responsible for creating the Zorba dance. He was an all-loving gentleman. A rosy-minded agent of lionhearted ambition. A cigarette-fuming, dragon-breathed surfer-boy sort, complete with milk-blue eyes, blonde pompadour, and laughter like a fulsome shoreline booming with the song of the sea and the chatter of a tide of clams. Let’s be real. Toru was pretty beautiful; if you’re willing to momentarily dismantle all sexually-elicited categories and surrender to a fleeting moment’s revision of what is wholly remarkable and glorious in life, then you’d have to be ballsy enough to concede, Toru was golden with dishevelled glamour. And it wasn’t in the nature of our champion, he with a professed ardour for all things friendly, to go debating the worth of a new race.

If they had arrived with fascinated and tranquil pursuits in mind, Toru would have been primary amongst those gathered ’round the circumference of the spacecraft to elect himself as their host and ambassador. As it was, the aliens erupted from the base of the vessel with baleful fishy-mouthed peepers and fat, fatuous maws transmitting their abominable gut-churning dirge, pretty much supplying everyone the necessary head’s-up to rotate on sneaker-feeted heel, flock the fuck out, and run, so it’s only really their extraplanterary superintelligence that can be designated blame for their downfall, an exacting plight to eradicate humanity foiled at the hands of Toru Strangler Itakawa. And shucks, what hands. The fastest fists in all of Tokyo, the quickest grip to be found in pachinko-slot palace or in Shinjuku arcadia.

Listen now, read on, and watch Toru’s hands win back mankind from being monstered by the mouths of untrawled, deepest space. Those hands are like birds, and they reign down upon the unsuspecting like a descending volley of arrows.

This isn’t really a B-movie romance, because our hero’s a man of superlative pedigree. This is probably concerned with the day we almost all got destroyed by a siege of spacecraft, populated by animals with forested faces of antlers and tusks. But it’s mostly about the semblance of valour required to stand up against the most ungovernable horror.

It’s actually really about video games.


Insert Coins: Y/N?

One or Two Players?

Press “A” to Start

Level One: Rappongi Hills

Dig this. When the Neckties – the English conversation school underlings – shoot the breeze it sounds like they’re poaching for farts. I ain’t splicing the truth. At the centre in Shimokitazawa, they call me Maverick Mile, mostly because the Neckties are all genki American gaijin with sufficient facial hair between them to seduce the bride of the Wolfman, and they like to cultivate the pretence, even in Japan’s capital, that they’re still cocksucking pioneers of the westward frontier. But spare some love, because you can’t blame them for being American or for being tourists. See, it don’t matter where an American tourist is. He’ll always be a cowboy.

             I’m “Maverick Mile” to the Neckties because my English is rhinestone-studded – flamboyant – which they all individually are fond to attribute to their educational efforts. Hai, truth now, it don’t seem an especially complex dialect, English, not when you been moonlighting at a gaijin cinémathèque in Rappongi and slinking in on your balls to the Scorsese triple-features for the past six years. Fo’ sho’. To be Americandid – to speak like a jarhead gaijin – you just got to invert the structure of the sentence in your head and make room for tenses: “Toru is the possesser of an attitude of total pimpedness” dispenses with its clumsy noun-verb to become “Toru possessed a totally pimped attitude”. I’m no philologist – woah, watch out homeboy! – but there don’t seem nothing wrong with that first sentence. Sumimasen. A sucker can rearrange the truth in what ever way Western syntax demands it, but all the fool’s doing is wardrobing it to look respectable. Thing is, words are tourists too, they pursue their own agenda. You can’t make ’em any prettier just because you give them a necktie.

            I’d feel one chuffed motherfucker effusing chutzpah to claim that I were thinking this particular pedigree of whizz-bang genius while scooping out two waffle cones of Aztec Gold ice-cream behind the confectionery counter in my barbershop quartet slims, but that weren’t the factual actuality: the factuality. Iketeru! What I was really applying my unparalleled whoop-ass quality of investigative cunning to, was how to blindside my girlfriend from recognising that I’d forgotten to furnish flowers upon her for our one-year anniversary. Burn! I’m no insensitive, party-surfing punk, I’m a fast-hearted lover with monogamy on his lips and a prodigy between my hips. My daddy tutored me long ago on the methods to satisfy a woman, and surprisingly a great many of those involved domestic lore about clipping your toenails out on the lawn and sweeping convergences of cobwebs out with the end of a well-administered broom. Yo, I’m not a naïf, but I’m man enough to admit to my adolescent notion that a hotblooded dame wants only for a round of hokeypokey in a barn-loft somewhere, or failing that, a soaplands pleasure hotel, so my education as to feminine necessity was a little arduous. Saru mo ki kara ochiru. What I’m convinced of now, however, is the razzle-dazzle, immediate, amnesty-cultivating effects of a masterfully arranged bouquet of Parisian peonies, and I gots only my daddy to thank for those moments when I’d be otherwise foresworn to suffer a life of luckless romance.

Dig now what I’m about to impart, playa. You’d have to be a whack example of the masculine specie to neglect lavishing your sweet-footed tootsie with roses redder than blockbuster blood – aka – or lilac – ao –  the lustre of a blueberry Slushie. That’s the only way to woo the weeping willow, apologise to regain your size. Fo’ real, or my name ain’t Marathon Mile. And I was about to do just that, don’t you doubt it, make a call to 555-Apologies-From-Assholes and secure myself a festoonery – booya, literati, you best watch your back! – of pink lilies, when a grip-grain Escalade crested the kerb and a gangsta in a pair of lenses crafted from his vehicle’s own tinted glass, opaque as an aquarium filter’s instruction manual, stepped his leopard suede onto the carpet beneath the theatre marquee.

Zakenayo! Swear to the “ho”s and hucksters in all of Rappongi Hills, dude was one mac brick-shithouse with pimp written all over him like a thousand-yen bill. O ya. I coulda shoulda woulda started kowtowing to the cornroll’d kingpin if I didn’t lay a bird on the axe tattoo emblazoned on the inside of his neck. Mutha was yakuza, ate geisha pussy for breakfast, consumed cocaine like a temple-top breatharian inhaling truth. He was as tall as a Miyajima torii, with a head like a Tsukiji trout. He extinguished a Lucky Strike cigarette on his own tumescent bicep and then, wincing only while generating pleasure from the horror, that clusterfuck rasta-schmuck ate the butt, fisted it into his sneering kisser and swallowed the smokin’ thing. Word, playa, it sounds gongodoodan, but I’m telling you no deceit!

The bling-decked goon, in his gold discothèque blazer, eased off his Aviators and exchanged daggers with me from across the cinema atrium. I might’ve squirmed and concealed myself, with a violent heart, behind the popcorn oven unit, and simulated the keening sounds of the machine’s heating function with the back of my throat, but instead I maintained my footing, made a gun with my fingers and pointed it square at my noisily-attired adversary, so that he knew the nature of my grim and slaughterous soul. Pimp Bizkit nodded at me once, a subtle register chiming across his chops, and then surged towards me, a playful psychosis in his eyes. A real carnivorous creature, this heat-packing brother. He swung a bruise-mottled fist onto my counter-top. Impatience tap-danced across his forehead.

“You the resident Mr Whippy?” He over-enunciated this last phrase, slinging it harshly through the theatre’s unobtrusive silence like the taut crack of the word’s namesake. I busied myself by rolling up my cuffs. “I need to ask you to do me a flavour.”

I understood. He wanted to hire me. I accommodated his unspoken solicitation with a dry smile. “And the order of the day?”

I coasted above the snack bar ice-cream container to ward off the undue suspicion of unoccupied patrons. “Killer vanilla,” gonged the contractor, his voice as barren of love as hotel satin sheets.

I understood my purpose. Ishin denshin. Offering up a placatory palm to that spackle-jacketed lunatic, I gestured to the cinema store-room, and retreated swiftly into its dust-riven darkness. Shelves strained from the inert inventory of bulk-bargain lollies long past their expiry dates, and motes of decomposing cardboard plunged and wheeled in the dead air.

I quickly assembled my Lee-Enfield No. 4 bolt-action in the feeble light, engineering its construction with perverse dexterity. I shouldered the brunt of the rifle, fastening it to my back like a quiver of arrows, and with the gamble and swagger of the most monstrous lionfish in the fish-tank, I erupted front-of-house, all-combat, no-forgiveness...

I received a gut-churning slap in the back of my head from my manager, Mr Yasuhiro Dustin T-Bird, – a queer, runny-eyed mendicant with elastic aeroplane suspenders and a face like a horrified watermelon, – and I lampoonishly scattered entire boxes of Crackerjack all over the atrium carpet.

“Toru Itakawa! Is daydreaming a disease for you? Wake up, or I’ll personally sweat the fever out of you by getting you to plumb the patrons’ toilets.”

Ame ni furareru! I nursed my mean, ranklesome head, and gave the boss the forks behind his back, whispering, “For king and country, bitch,” under my breath.

Level Two: Tokyo Intermission

Nou aru taka wa tsume o kakusu. That’s right, peeps: “A hawk with talent conceals his claws”. Now, slugger, I’m requesting that you don’t wig out on me when I fan out my Royal Flush. I been trying to keep the following deets on the lowdown, incognito-like, because I never saw the sense in prematurely promoting a confidential precocity. But here’s the grand reveal: From Shin-Ōkubo to Shimokitazawa, from Ikebukuro to Akihabara, and throughout the chatoyant shimmer of the whole effulgent principality that is Shinjuku, – that gold prince giggling luminously through the night, – I’m the king of the games arcade.

I stalk down Tokyo’s narrow-channelled labyrinth like I’m a schizophrenic outlaw or a caped crusader, with an iPod in my ear, and one million songs chanting for a moment of acknowledgement, locked fast in the electric trove of my vandal-crafted heart. I know the long, shape-shifting, bloodletting history of contemporary hip-hop like my mummy exclusively fed beat-bustin’ tunes to me via the umbilicus while in gestation; I’m a reincarnated nightclub, see, because I got rhyme in my veins, two turntables for lungs, and a dance in my primordial step that’s been there since I first heard my own mummy’s heartbeat.

I discovered much later, when I was old enough to appreciate it, that she used to complain to my daddy for all my amniotic kicking, and ever since birth I ain’t been able to shake off my doggedly perfect comprehension of rhythm. Ishi no uenimo san nen. Music haunts me now like a shadow.

So please do me a solid, friend, and sit on what I’m telling you because, for me, it constitutes an all-encompassing secret: When it involves music, I’m the fastest video games pro that’s ever breathed Tokyo’s frost-sharp air. My hands move so swift with the melody, it’s almost criminal. Tanuki neiri. That right there’s the notorious enigma surrounding the legend of Toru “Marathon Mile” Itakawa .

Now’s the time you just got to chillax. Because this is where the aliens come in.

Level Three: Shimokitazawa

            After harbouring a rapturous headache for the lion’s share of four working hours – and all the while spilling incessant streams of carbonated beverage onto my brand-package-new pink Tigers – I shuffled out the alleyway entrance of Rappongi Hills’ Six-Screen Cinema Complex with a mouth dribbling ribbons of Mild Seven smoke into the effortless glow of afternoon. A haze scudded across the plane of the sky like a reckless skimming stone. What up, then, homez? I tell you now, the world above me was a nefarious shade of colour, uglier than kitsune shit. Nemimi ni mizu!

I quickly extinguished the cigarette onto the brickwork wall, generating a few half-hearted sprays of embers onto the flagstones beneath my pink, pimpin’ feet. Then I found my groove, my jumper’s hood cowling my monasterial head. With headphones snaking from the recesses of my neckline to the iPod sheathed in my tartan-patterned asspants’ pocket, I shimmied up the lane to flag down my lunch-hour train. Brooding beneath the hoodie, the hackles on my neck were crackling with static. Nasty shit was up, motherfucker, and I could feel it reverberating like a bad soundtrack beneath my heels.

            Within minutes on the Rappongi Hills subway platform, a JR Metro lunged from the tunnel like a heart attack, sending dangerous shudders through the fibres of my brain , but I fended it all off with a dope gangsta front, turning up the volume on my fist-gripped soundbox. The train made its glissando passage through the Metro loop, and I watched the shoulder-packed Tokyo suits with luggage accumulating in wrinkles beneath their eyes, thinking all the while Why can’t I feel the music today?

Listen up, champ: As I caught the wave of disembarking office jockeys and surged out the train doors with them, thrashing for purchase, ’til I was wading creep-deep in my Shimokitazawa surrounds, it was the sound that knocked me for a delicious six, and not the sight of the abandoned spacecraft.

In the dead centre of Shimokitazawa prefecture, newly garlanded by a hundred vaporized human corpses that stunk of bubbling sulphur, was a glemmin’ silver disk  the likes of which I’d seen a thousand times before during my numerous 1am work stints harvesting rubbish during the sci-fi double-bill. I set my jaw, then, anticipating the ominous slap of my manager’s hand, but it never came. That’s when I realised what I were eyeballin’ was actually physically there, a length of twelve feet away, and that the katana-hot UFO pulsing before my knocking knees was really only some hyperspatial boom-box turntable, because a music so pugnacious was oozing from its superheated carapace that you could feel the extraterrestrial vibrations rattling the earth under your shoelaces. They were blasting everyone, fo’shiz, with a cacophonous track of white noise, but before they could treat me ill, I surrendered my higher brain to the momentum of my hands. Soon my iPod was at maximum volume in deference to the craft’s invading, gum-bleeding wail, and I could hear nada but a jam of classic hip-hop, such that my heart thundered with it.

In less than a phat ticket, standing before the countless pained faces of those decalcified human cadavers, I was introduced to the entire, damaged zoomorphic parade. For from within the disk’s tumultuous interior, and down the lambent galley-plank came a tiger-striped rabbit the size of a dodgem car, its pink eyes cavorting about the landscape like a firefly. I was seized by a sudden crazy compulsion to deck that souped-up Bugsy, such that I’d send the jungle-juice cottontail into a motherfucking Leporidaze. Iketeru! I had to will myself to ball my fists to my hips, and leaven these to my pockets. I chewed darkly on my lower lip as the new freaks of the hill exploited their opportunity for a grandiloquent entrance. Fool, I ain’t playing you when I say it felt like some taxidermist’s revenge.

Before me was a giant avocet, its grim gold plumage the course texture of mohair. There was a mottled black chameleon as big as an evil armchair, with eyes like gun turrets that it obsessively preened with the windscreen-wiper arc of a distended tongue. Next, I craned my neck to best appreciate the pear-shaped sea cucumber which suddenly towered above me, its yellow, tubular anemone-like head secreting a queasy-making smell which reminded me of steaming barbeque duck. I almost didn’t catch the fifth superintelligent parasite emerging from their eye-watering songship – it resembled a baseball glove, with hooves! – because I was leggin’ it like spaghetti to the threshold of the nearby music store along Awa-Odori, the district’s main street, my head low like a moon-fed rose, and my Tigers vaulting over concrete.

I guess I expected that surly hurly-burly to cop my steezy, and come after me in pantomime pursuit, munching their Martian mouths and shitting out their musical discordance, but I didn’t reckon with their unanswerable nonchalance. I stormed through that Setagayan shopfront, sending the doorbell clapping, and exercised a stealthy surveillance through the crowded emporium window. Them outerspatial suckers were noncing about the underside of their spacecraft, fiddling with their wine-souring frequency so that their turbulent tunes were amplifying over the breadth of the district. I clamped my palms over my ears, and sneezed.

So this is how they’ll get me, send me duking into the gutter with my eyes screaming for silence. Clown, I wouldn’t allow myself to be so easily seduced from foregoing my mortality – not me, Marathon Mile! – and certainly not for this bitter pack of brats and Fraggle Rock critters. Hip-hop jangling clammily beneath my skin, I swept towards the store counter, and slammed the heel of my palm into the woodwork. Without warning, the clerk-twerp behind the desk was completely skeletal, with folds of flesh stripping off him like ceiling paint. I gagged immediately, fearing I’d blow chunks, my hands on my guts and my face buried into my sleeve.

This was a full-blown nightmare, now, and I couldn’t shake off the sweat of decay beading my brow. I pivoted ’round with spastic abandon, barren of equilibrium, and saw the Moog Moogerfooger M-105 music synthesizer trembling like providence on a rack. I lashed it to my back, sheathed a Marshall MS-2 Mini amp at the belt-loop of my pelvis, and jacked the assembly cables into a power socket, before descending upon a set of wide-headed, handheld taiko drums. The bachi sticks were already in my hands before I felt the deep-bass beat stampede through me, and then I was stomping like one dope motherfucker through the swing-door, with the crown of my head unhooded and my pompadour bouncing like the mercury in a thermometer.

I turned the amp to 11, and brought the sticks down on the skins. I could feel the plangent feedback loop being generated in real-time, before trawling through the chop and churn of the district’s hissing soundscape. “For king and country, bitch,” I crowed, letting my parlour-game hands set the scene. Ame futte ji katamaru.

The mutant sea cucumber farted its intestines out through its head, and yet deep in me, one billion fathoms below the surface, I called up the doomsday hymn, and it bloomed fuzzily within like a mushroom cloud. Dig this. I busted out an incendiary sort of freestyle. I drummed the stars out of the sky.

I think my girlfriend will understand about the flowers. Fuku sui bon ni kaerazu.

After all, life ain’t a B-movie romance. It’s actually really about video games.

Play Again: Y/N?

This short-story was previously published in the December issue of The Seahorse Rodeo Folk Review (Portland, 2010), and has been used as literary curriculum for teaching fiction by the University of Saskatchewan's Interdisciplinary Centre for Culture and Creativity.

  • Current Music
    "A Commotion" — Feist
december 2006

RE: Interview with editor Les Zigomanis from Busybird Publishing & Design

¶ The following brief transcript assumes the form of a recent conversational interview that was facilitated by Les Zigomanis, Melbourne-based editor of [untitled] magazine — an independent bi-annual anthology of prose and poetry — and co-director of Busybird Publishing & Design, a professional Australian small-press literary publishing & design service established in 2009 that has been going from strength to strength.


1. How do you feel about the release of your book?

Though I'm ordinarily loath to subscribe to communicating in clichés, I have to confess that I'm pretty elated about the forthcoming release of The Signatory. It’s my début standalone novella — a literary mode that I've increasingly become enamoured by, after having originally grappled with the form over the course of my Honours degree in Professional Writing — and I feel the book is best representative of what my personalised stylistic has evolved into, especially in its synthesis of language and experimentation, even if my day-to-day writing isn't as occupied with brain-haunting Scottish nightmares as seen here. It certainly constitutes an accomplishment for my part, and I'm just gratified that Skylight Press (U.K.) related so immediately to what, in effect, is a very British story. There's nothing more validating than being told, "This is a bang-up job, guv'nor."

2. What's it about?

Over the last few months, I've been basically encapsulating The Signatory as "a 45,000-word exploration of Scottish cryptozoology" — and yet that précis has simultaneously begun to devolve into a distancing mechanism, something like literary shorthand, because prospective readers find that the edges of the narrative still remain a little woolly to wrangle a hold of, even though there remain the broad strokes of a picture at its centre. The best way to define the novella, therefore, is by its characters, of which there are two central protagonists: Sebastian Sackworth, an emotionally-depleted English anthropologist (he's a heartbroken cynic), and Adolfo Cavaggio, a lusty Italian ornithologist (he's a flatulent hedonist). In a way, the book's key thesis and fascination is to study the consequences of this uneasy friendship. Would these people get along? Would they nourish or bring out the best in one another? What happens when they leave the bread and circuses of bustling Britain to maroon themselves in Scotland for a weekend of swans and seduction? And what's the chimpanzee got to do with it?

3. How did you come about writing it and publishing it?

The Signatory evolved out of practical necessity in a way: I wrote the original draft for The Signatory whilst working full-time and simultaneously undertaking my Post-graduate DipEd part-time, which meant the manuscript occupied what I'd surmise were the "hidden hours" in a week. I had to occupy every free interstice of time I could muster in developing the novella, whether that was during lunch at work or whilst I commuted home via tram or between frequent assignment submissions, and this actually proved a matter of serendipity because it required a greater demonstration of self-enforced discipline than I've hitherto assumed in my writing. Beyond some cosmetic finessing, the final manuscript came together in six months (and I'm indebted to sweet Fortuna for that, because I don't think I could have maintained my composure if the writing process had gone on any longer: a few more weeks, and birds would have begun to nest in my beard).

As for publication, I was scarily systematic about where and to whom I should submit to: because my writing time suddenly became replaced with hours of web-trawling freedom, I specifically targeted independent publishers of literary fiction — anywhere else and I would have been indulging in rampant naïveté — and once I'd composed a list, I began to telescope my focus by appealing specifically to small-press publishing houses that specialised in promoting and championing experimental literature. So that meant most Australian presses were excluded in the first round (it exasperates me still that aesthetic innovation is so often seen as anathema to book sales, when viable audiences have always existed for every narrative form). Anyway, it was a pretty providential corollary of the initial risk I took when American and U.K.-based publishers began to contact me to express interest in the manuscript. My editor, Daniel Staniforth, was actually the first to offer me a publishing contract, and because I was still negotiating weekday work hours and post-graduate study commitments, I made the initial gamble in agreeing to allow Skylight Press to advocate on the behalf of my book. Then I saw they released work by Will Alexander, Hugh Fox, Rikki Ducornet, et al., and I knew I was in safe hands.

4. What’re you working on now?

I'm just administering the final touches to another long-form story, but it just doesn't seem to want to end before it, too, can claim the status of "novella". It's about a card game gone wrong, written as if Dick Tracy were being channelled through Paul Auster. It's also concerned with blood ties, love and pink land iguanas.

5. Details of the book’s release (and any possible launch).

The Signatory sees its international release on March the 26th, and you can now place pre-orders through, The Book and Launch details to be announced on my up-to-date online weblog soon!

6. Any tips for other writers?

This applies to all consummate connoisseurs of the quill, and to fictionauts especially, but I just can’t emphasise enough the need to write what engages you — that which seizes up your insides to express — in deference or preference to writing to fulfill a commercial pro-forma, the way that some musicians strive to "manufacture" chart-topping pop songs. An editorial imperative, like a multi-million dollar commercial publishing company's aesthetic manifesto, shouldn't function as the mandate by which your writing need comply: there exists a cosmic teeming abundance of literary publishers willing to invest their time, attention, editorial rigour (in addition to generous royalties) all with the objective to convert your book into the highest quality product you might cauterise your throat crying for. Having just recently launched the release of my début short-story collection toward the conclusion of 2011 (Carnivalesque, And: Other Stories through Black Rider Press), I can attest to this being more than just the evidence of a "fluke occurrence", and it must mean something, because at the best of times my writing is no minor supernova of crazy. Thus, to offer a canny maxim: I suggest that one & sundry submit widely, and with faith. And try to avoid leaving the detritus of sesame seeds in your facial hair if you write at home by an open window treatment; those birds will surely find a way, and they prove to be surprisingly tenacious tenants to evict.

  • Current Music
    "The Beast" — Laura Marling
december 2006

RE: "Carnivalesque, And: Other Stories" — The audio book

The following are the first in a suite of spoken-word recordings in which I intend to perform the collected contents of my fiction début, Carnivalesque, And: Other Stories (published by Black Rider Press in 2011), and upload them online. I'll add to the spoken-word tracks on offer here, as I progress through the entire short-story collection over the coming weeks — but for now, one & sundry now have access to the following examples of Australian experimental literary fiction: "Squid Story", "Wetting the Cement: A satire on our new damp future", "Hangin' With Barack Obama", "Soliloquy for one dead (Criminal Featherweight Remix)""The Artist, At Frankston and Lowe", "Lonán Royce Greenish Goes Forth (or: An Irish Western for Readers of Japanese Haibun)""King Kill""Babe Rockerfeller (or: A Canadian Gothic Lumberjack Romance)", and "Progeny: A suburban fable". Why don't you invest a newfound moment in my prose-wrangled fables, and become one with the carnivalesque Japanese gypsy caravan?

  • Current Music
    "Rain Is Falling Down" — Saint Jude
december 2006

RE: Black Rider Press presents The Last Hurrah for "Carnivalesque" (Brisbane-based launch)

Footage & highlights from the Brisbane-based launch for my fiction début, Carnivalesque, And: Other Stories, published by Black Rider Press in 2011.

My gratitude to Avid Reader Bookshop & Café (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia), Black Rider Press and Liberty Browne (freelance artist / graphic designer) for their assistance in the creation of this video.
  • Current Music
    "The Way It Will Be" — Gillian Welch