Monday, March 12, 2018

REVIEW: Hattifnatter - Barometrizm

 Image result for hattifnatter barometrizm

Review written, as all of them have been so far, for the increasingly eclectic Heathen Harvest, and meticulously edited by the tireless (and perhaps superhuman) Sage Weatherford.

"Crackling, dripping, pulsing, rippling, burbling, creaking, whooshing: this album has it all, layered with distant chiming, granulated voice noises, bowed things, and tidal ebbs and flows of tones, both warm and cold. It’s not quite ‘dark ambient’ or its hippy cousin ‘meditation music’, but it definitely sits (strangely, ghostly, mysteriously) in that same spectral ballpark."

Read the full review here!

FAQ: Blood

These questions are about the short story “Blood”, and definitely contains spoilers which, once seen, cannot be unseen.  For the actual short story itself, please go here.


So this was another of the ten stories you wrote in ten days for the Swinburne Microfiction Challenge in 2017, wasn’t it?
Yep.  The prompt word for this one was “Blood”, and I thought an interesting approach to it might be the idea of “blood” being a word for familial bonds, rather than a flowing substance rich in haemoglobin.

Did you win this one?
You seem very interested in the competitive aspects of the challenge, rather than the artistic ones.

Sounds like a ‘no’ to me.
Fine, no, I didn’t win.  But I still think it’s a pretty nice little story.

So this one looks like it interrogates notions of the importance of “blood” in familial relations, right?  In that Cass has found out she’s adopted – “not blood” – to someone she had always identified as not only a close family but in fact her twin, a familial relationship normally seen as perhaps the very closest familial relationship possible.  So in this way, the story interrogates concepts of family and blood, and, Baz, in tearing up the proof of their non-blood relationship, and in his simple response – “Nah” – denies the facts of blood, instead favouring the less-physical-but-still-undeniable facts of their shared childhood, shared experiences, emotional closeness, and their respective positions in their respective lives.  To Baz, the blood actually doesn’t matter, despite having spent the first three quarters of the story insisting that it does. 
Um, right, yes, that’s what this story is about.  Couldn’t’ve said it better myself.

So, what I want to know is – do you have a problem with adopted people searching for their biological parents?

Do you have a problem with adopted people searching for their biological parents.  Because many adopted people feel a real need to discover who their biological parents were, and I wonder if you’re sitting there in your comfy writer’s chair telling them not to worry about it, because “real family is who you grow up with” or some such easy schmaltz.  It could be interpreted that you’re saying “biology is inherently unimportant”, thereby marginalising and erasing and kinda making fun of people for whom biology is deeply important.  You’re basically saying “the Stolen Generations was totally okay”.
Wow, um, I really don’t think I said that.  It wasn’t meant to be a slur against people who want to discover their biological links. Definitely wasn’t attempting to make any kind of comment on the Stolen Generations.  Wow.  And my chair isn’t any kind of special “writer’s chair”, whatever that might be, nor is it particularly comfy.  In fact I’m pretty sure we found it on the side of the road as hard rubbish-

Enough trying to change to topic – what’s your stance on adoption?
I don’t have one!  It’s fine!  It’s good to adopt people.  And it’s fine if you want to find out your biological ancestors too.  It’s all fine.  I have no official stance.  And, for the record, I think taking peoples’ children from them in some kind of genocidal kidnapping, whether good-intentioned or not, is generally pretty despicable.  I’m honestly surprised you think I’m being controversial here-

What about lesbians?

Your character Baz said something about “not minding if she was a lesbian”.  What do you have against lesbians?
Nothing!  Some of my closest family are lesbians! And the character said he didn’t mind if she was lesbian, was the point-

But why would he mind in the first place?
He wouldn’t!  He didn’t!  And even if he did – which he didn’t – this is a character in a story, not an essay about “what Mat Blackwell actually thinks about adoption and/or lesbianism”-

“Death of the Author”, bro.  “Intentional fallacy”.   What you think your story is about can’t be divorced from what belief systems went into creating the story.  What you actually write is interpreted and deconstructed and parsed by the reader, and that interpretation is just as valid as any desperate excuses you make to weasel out of your offensive viewpoints.
I’d love to get into a discussion about this stuff, really I would, but I think you’ve got the wrong idea about me.  I wasn’t saying anything negative about adoption, and I wasn’t saying anything negative about lesbianism, and I never said anything about my hard-rubbish chair.  I was just trying to write a short piece about “blood” and how family might mean more than blood and how one person reacts when one other person suggests that she’s not actually “blood” after all, and how the person silently renegs on his position that blood is really important, and embraces her as his “real sister” even when presented with biological evidence to the contrary.  I can see now how maybe that idea, that “blood doesn’t mean anything after all”, might impact on people searching for their own biological parents, yes, and I can see that I was maybe insensitive in that area, but, honestly, I wasn’t trying to be comprehensive or all-encompassing or whatever, I was just trying to write a short story in 24 hours and I’m sorry to everyone I might have offended.

…Thank you.  It’s not enough, but it’s a good start.
Thanks, good, sheesh.

And the lesbians?
Sorry to them too.  Sorry to everyone, for everything, ever.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

REVIEW: Twilight Circus and Edward Ka-Spel - 800 Saints in a Day

A review for Heathen Harvest, about the strange pop-weirdness of Twilight Circus and Edward Ka-Spel.  Really not sure where this music should live.  Edited by Sage "Overworked But Happy" Weatherford.

"You never know exactly what the next track will bring, nor what direction a single piece will go in. The starts are rarely like the ends, and there are few signposts along the way to guide you. A piece might start with a tribal-style bongo loop, travel along a path that seems almost Krautrockish, and end with a noise that is somewhere between a deflating balloon and a saxophone solo. ... In nearly every piece on this album, I found myself making assumptions about ‘what kind of song this was’, only to have my assumptions completely pissed on, and found myself going from self-assured critical superiority to slack-jawed awe in the space of minutes, again and again."

Read the whole review here:

FAQ: That's Just How It Works

These questions are about the short story “That’s Just How It Works”, and definitely contains spoilers which, once seen, cannot be unseen.  For the actual short story itself, please go here.


So this was one of the ten stories you wrote in ten days for the Swinburne Microfiction Challenge in 2017, wasn’t it?
Yes, it was! I’m actually touched that you know about that.  Makes me feel like, I don’t know, like you’re really following my work or something.  It’s nice.

Well, you know, I do my research.
Good, nice.  Yes, this was the very first of that series.  Each day at 9am they’d give us a one word prompt word, and we had 24 hours in which to write a 500 word story.  The word for this first one was “Next”.

And you thought “next life”, huh?
Yeah.  But also the feel of the word “next” is an impatient one to me, like a “hurry up, get on with it” kind of vibe.  So I combined the two into a metaphysical treatise on The Betweenworld.

Is that what you call it.
Just came up with that just then.  So yes, that’s what I call it, now. 

But you didn’t win, did you.
Depends what you mean by “winning”, doesn’t it.  If you mean by “winning”, “wrote a cool story that I’m actually quite proud of, in a challenging scenario of both limited time and limited words”, then yes, I totally won.  I really love how this story-

No, no, I mean “winning” in the traditional sense of “entered a competition and won it”.
Well, no, sure, not in that old-fashioned literal sense, no.  But like I was saying, I really do love how this story works, with her whole life condensed into the first paragraph: it felt like a unique way to tell a story-

If by “unique” you mean “kinda like the credits sequence of the movie ‘Up’ ”.
There are some similarities, maybe.

Hey, why is her life so filled with shitty sexual harassment?
Well, because she was a woman who lived between 1946 and 2017.  You didn’t get all the “me too” stuff on your Facebook feed?  Because I sure did.

What did you mean by the line “Based on your previous choices, we thought maybe a ‘single parent, only child, metropolitan, utilitarian’ scenario might suit you best, but of course, it’s totally up to you”?
I meant that, the system somehow gathers data on your life experiences for each life and suggests your next life based on your previous choices.  Based on her choices of lives so far, and the data generated by living those lives, it suggests a bunch of new ones.  It suggests she might like an experience growing up as the only child of a single parent, perhaps based on experiences she’s had with siblings or parents (we know her relationship with her mum is strained in this life, for instance).  Etc.  And in the next section we learn that she selects the next life based on which “preview trailer” she stops on, subconsciously.  Kind of like kinesiology.

I wouldn’t know, I don’t know much about kinesiology.
Fair enough.  It’s not really very similar, really, it’s just something that occurred to me just then as kinda vaguely similar in feel.

Do you believe in an afterlife?  And if so, do you believe it’s like this?
Not really. What I think happens is probably just like what happens before we’re born, or when we’re in deep sleep: consciousness just isn’t present.  I think we’re just not “on” any more.  But what would I know?  Numerous cultures suggest there is some kind of afterlife, and reincarnation is a pretty common theme too, so who knows.  It made an interesting nihilistic tale, so I went with it.  I’m not super interested in what is “true” and what “isn’t”, I’m more interested in the stories people tell themselves about reality, about the different ways it’s possible to believe reality operates.  Even completely and knowingly fake realities like the Church of SubGenius or the Kvlt of Kek have interesting perspectives to offer, I think, on how the universe might function.    

You think?
Mm hmm.

So you’re an ontological anarchist, then.
Is that what people are saying about me?

Is that meant to be some kind of droll quippery?
Sorry, yes.  I do like this story though, to drag this discussion back to the FAQ-type structure I had planned it to be.  I like how it’s dense, overwhelming, kinda claustrophobic, and rushed: like, it’s just sinking in, and then we’re suddenly chucked straight back into the World of the Real to live yet another meaningless life of difficulty and inconvenience.  I like the way it suggests that existence is some eternal chore that just never ends, is completely illusory, and utterly non-negotiable.  It’s tiring and daunting and infinite and it just is what it is, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.  I especially like the bit where she asks “Can’t I sit this one out?” and the voice says “Why do you always ask that?” before briskly going back to business – the idea that every single time she’s keen to have a rest from it all, and every single time is thrown back into the Living.

Why would you like that?
I’m not sure.  Perhaps I’m metaphysically perverse and spiritually mean-spirited?

Perhaps you are.
Or maybe I’m just tired.  I mean, lately, I’ve been really-

Thanks for your time.