QUARTER OF A CENTURY

I’ve just realised, as I was writing an upcoming Five for Friday post: I took the stage for my first stand-up comedy performance in 1992.

A few fevered, and not particularly serious, attempts at publication in my University years aside, that performance was the start of my continuous arts practice: after that night, via cartooning, theatre, and writing, I have been a practicing artist in one form or another for 25 years.

 

Bloody helllllll…….

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY ADDENDUM: CHARLIE HEBDO

So: two days ago, three murders burst into the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and gunned down two policemen and 10 members of staff. At least another 11 have been injured.

There’s a lot of talk around the content of the magazine, the cartoons it published, the religion of the assailants, the nature of terror and of terrorists. Truth is, right now it’s all hearsay and speculation. The full reasons behind the attack will not be known until the gunmen are apprehended and interviewed, and even then, it’s likely to be veiled by a thundercloud of polemic and grandstanding– on all sides of the argument– for longer than it’ll take to convict and sentence them.

In the meantime, here’s what I know: journalists and artists were gunned down, in their place of work, and it’s likely that they were murdered because somebody didn’t like the nature of their art.

So let’s be clear: If your response to a work of art is to kill the artist, you are not a soldier, you are not a freedom fighter, you are not a terrorist or a religious zealot. You are a murderer, pathetic and tawdry like all murderers. And you should be treated accordingly. No soapbox to stand on, no flag to wave. Who gives a fuck what Martin Bryant wants to say? Or Ivan Milat? That’s you: you’re scum.

Now, here’s a thing, or for me, at least, it’s a thing: way back when, I wanted to be a cartoonist. It was a serious ambition, until I came to realise that I could be an author, or a cartoonist, but not both– I did not have the time to hone my skills in both departments well enough, and writing was a more immediately applicable use of my practice. But there’s always been that desire, and in the meantime, I had accumulated a collection of a couple of hundred scribbles and thumbnails, put aside until I had the skills to translate them to full drawings properly. The skills never arrived, the thumbnails endured, that’s why Thumbnail Thursday began.

The idea that I might be brutally murdered because of a drawing is one that resonates along my bones, and I haven’t quite been able to shake it for the lat couple of days. I know there are acts of brutality and awfulness that occur across the globe, every day of the year. I know that somewhere, someone will be lining them all up and readying a response that says “Oh, this one or that one or this one over there is worse.” I believe you. I’m sure you’re right. But this is the one that’s still shivering for me.

I’ve wanted to do something, and my initial response has been: I want to draw. It seems a stupid, small thing, but I want to make a little note that says: hey, French artists for a magazine I didn’t know existed, and which I had never read! Me too! I’ve held a pencil. I’ve made the image. I have my art.

Art must always win.

For two days, I couldn’t think of a thing: I’m out of practice, and pretty much, I couldn’t think of anything profound enough to pretend that I had a place amongst the myriad of genuine artists who were publishing their responses. Until I realised: that’s not the point. My whole thing has been the thumbnail, the scribbled outline on a post-it note or scrap of notebook paper. So I decided I would post a blank page, torn out of my notebook. That would symbolise my response. And then I came up with this:

 
 
 
So, that’s my response. From me to Charlie Hebdo.  
 
And now, here’s a thing: it’s not enough. Art must always win. Against guns, against threats, against the brutality of human ignorance. Because art, no matter how basic and untrained, no matter how slapdash and mundane, is an expression of beauty, of the desire to translate human thought and personal philosophy into an object that adds to the flow of human progress.
 
Murder removes: art adds.
 
So here’s a post-it note. Draw something on it, please. Post it on your own blog, or Facebook page, or tumbler or whatever social page you use: stick it to your fridge, or a lamp post, if that’s what you have.
 
Add some art, to help cover the loss of the future works that have been taken from us. Draw something for Charlie.
 
 
 
 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THEY GIVE ME A TEXTA….

So I’m drawing with the kids after dinner tonight, and, you know, we’d watched Walking With Dinosaurs with dinner, and, you know, Erin was drawing a tyrannosaurus, and Connor was drawing a stegosaurus, and, you know, I wasn’t reeeaaalll sure what I was going to draw…..

Wot choo lookin’at, you ugly Paki triceratops poof?

Skinosaurus. Because I am the drawing equivalent of the bloke who comes out of the shower after yowling the house down and announces “Never been formally trained…” to his bleeding-eared family….

ROUNDING UP

MIDNIGHT ECHO

Well, (claps hands) that’s that.

All the submissions have been read, all the rejections have been sent, and now that the dust has cleared, I’m left with the 12 stories and 3 poems that make up the contents of Midnight Echo #4. Assuming nothing falls over between now and April, it’ll be my delight to present you with stories from the likes of Aurealis Award winners Chris Green and Geoffrey Maloney and international man about town Dan Braum, as well as the first poem penned by the lovely Jenny Blackford in many a long year.

I’ve received well over 200 submissions from all corners of the globe (quite literally!), and it’s a good feeling to be able to look at the final list and be satisfied that the works I’ve chosen are an accurate reflection of my views towards the art of horror writing, as well as damn good pieces in their own right. Will you enjoy them? It is to be hoped. But for now, I can move on to the second-stage editorial work— writing the editorial, shaping and editing submissions, discussing art and contracts with the appropriate AHWA Kahunas— and start to mold the final shape of the issue.

Stay tuned, and as soon as I get the all-clear from Midnight Echo Big Banana Marty Young I’ll give you the final Table of Contents.

A QUICK GLANCE INTO A NEARBY BUCKET

With the time-intensive scutwork of submissions editing out of the way, I can finally indulge myself once more with thoughts of my own work. The Battersby Art machine has been quiet of late, and there’s a lot of product to be fed into the business end. To whit:

  • 2 novels need editing: Napoleone’s Land and Corpse-Rat King
  • 3 stories are currently away in the world, and I have 2 more, The Possession of Mister Snopes and C to finish and send. The goal is to have completed and sent 15 by the end of the year, 12 from the partially completed work I have on hand, and 3 completely new pieces.
  • 3 poems: Hart Crane, Treading Water; Wish Fulfillment; and Like A Leaf Falling need final polishes and sending out
  • 3 cartoons are finished, I’ve 2 more that have been inked but not shaded, and I need at least 1 more completed after that to constitute a complete batch. The goal is to have 24 (or at least 4 batches) in circulation by the end of the year.
  • And I promised myself that I’d complete a new novel by the end of the year, so I really need to get started on that as well. Still, on this score at least, you may be pleased by the following…..

SO IT BEGINS….

It began in a dream.

It has taken me a million years to leave my father’s embrace, and now I am falling. I am supposed to fall forever. I am never to touch the ground again.

Eight minutes after my fall commences, I start to burn.

Those are the opening words of the Father Muerte novel.

A QUICK WORD ABOUT PEOPLE TALLER THAN ME

He likes his privacy, so at his request I don’t make mention of him too much on this blog, but I’m breaking that rule because Aiden turned 17 a couple of days ago, and you need to know just how proud I am of the young man he’s become.

I simply couldn’t wish for a more intelligent, funnier, more capable, caring (as anyone who’s seen him with Connor can testify) and just generally excellent Bonus Son, and I’m excited by the thought of what’s coming to him in the years ahead as he navigates his final year of high school and heads on to University and the world beyond.

As soon as he acknowledges that System of a Down suck the devil’s dangly bits he’ll be perfect…..

A WEEKEND MOST PRODUCTIVE

It started out well: Lyn rang me on Friday afternoon to tell me she was picking me up a couple of train stops early, because she was at our friend Tehani’s place and they’d decided to stay for dinner. And a fab evening it was, too: I committed Australian Man Adultery (cooked on another man’s barbecue without his consent), we sat and chatted far past the kids’ bedtimes, and Tehani let me borrow her copy of X6, Coeur de Lion’s collection of novellas by 6 Australian authors. I’d forgotten just how much I love sitting around and jawing about writing and writers. Part of the reason I’ve yet to really find a village for myself in the writing world– I’m a writing geek, not an SF geek, when it all comes down to it.

And much satisfaction there has been this weekend. I’ve completed another 2 cartoons, and sent out another two short stories, as well as inputting line edits for half of a third (dinner calls me, or I’d be finished that one too). I’ve finally finished chopping down a diseased hedge that’s been spoiling our front yard, spent an enjoyable afternoon drawing with the kids, and even managed to fit in a couple of good exercise sessions with the Wii Fit Plus– love that rhythm karate, folks! Luscious and I even found the time to watch a DVD together without the kids– looxury, bloody looxury.

The new week starts tomorrow: I intend to lose another 500g, finish another couple of cartoons, and start wading my way through the first round of Corpse-Rat King edits, as well as send out the remaining shorts in my ‘In Progress’ folder. But for now, it’s dinner, relaxing with a nice glass of Myalup Vines Wineries port (okay, my second glass…) and resting my bones before heading into the new week.

Slainte!

HITTING THE GROUND

It’s been a good start to the year.

  • I’ve lost just over a kilogram in weight. I set myself a loss of 12 kilos for the year, so this represents a good beginning.
  • I’ve completed and submitted Plot or Pants?, an article on novel planning to WQ, the monthly magazine of the Queensland Writer’s Centre
  • I’ve line-edited the five stories currently in my ‘In Progress’ folder and submitted the first of them. My plan is to have all five out in the world by the end of next week. Not a big goal, perhaps, but I only saw print twice last year, while I was focussing on Corpse-Rat King, and that’s just not up to my usual standards.
  • I’m up to date with reading for Midnight Echo #4, and about to start filtering the stories I kept for a second stage of reading. If you were thinking of submitting but haven’t got around to it, might I suggest you do so soon? I’ve received 157 submission so far, of which 33 have made it to a second reading. Submissions close 31st of the month.
  • I’ve completed 2 cartoons of the 24 (minimum) that I plan to complete and submit.

Not bad so far. There’s a lot of year left, and some big goals to achieve (2 novels to edit and submit, ya know?). But I’m on the way…

POSTED!

The contracts for Father Muerte & The Flesh to appear in this year’s Best Fantasy & Horror Vol. 20.

Very satisfying.

IT’S ENOUGH TO GET A MAN THINKING

I’ve been cleaning the office today, and now that I have a box for them, I’ve discovered just how many thumbnails for single and three-panel comics I’ve scribbled down over the years.

In fact, at one or two a week, I wouldn’t have significantly less than a year’s worth of material.

Hmm….

Song of the moment: All Along The Watchtower Jimi Hendrix
Reading: Still amongst the Vukcevich stories