Thursday, August 22, 2013

MANIFESTO DESTINATION


It was July, 2001.  I had recently moved to Los Angeles.  I lived in a one-room shithole in the heart of Koreatown.  No kitchen.  Just a microwave and a hotplate and fridge.  I was trying to find an agent to help me get out of a contract with a manager who has consistently won the award for Biggest Scumbag in the Universe every year such an award has been given.
So I lied.

In my letters to potential agents, I claimed to have written a book.  One agency wrote back.  Said they wanted to see that book.  Well, shit.  I had been reading a lot of Raymond Chandler (the mandatory thing to do when one first moves to Los Angeles) and I had been tossing the title, Manifesto Destination, around in my head for several years.

I was also getting used to sobriety.
And extreme poverty (I know, boo-fucking-hoo…).

So I outlined a book and decided I would sit down and write it in a week (I had recently quit a suicide-inducing cubicle job at Ticketmaster, so I had some time).  The first day I sat down to write, a fucking mouse ran across my floor.  I hate rodents.  I know it’s irrational, but I don’t care.  I went to Westwood to hide out at the Mystery Bookstore, look at books I couldn’t afford, and bought some mouse traps on the way home.  What I soon learned was that my apartment (and the building itself) was INFESTED with rodents.
Thus, I spent a week sitting high off the floor (though I still had to sleep on the floor while the little fuckers ran around eating crumbs in the middle of the night—I couldn’t afford a bed) banging out Manifesto Destination as quickly as possible.

I finished the rough draft, did as good a polish as I could on it, and sent it to the agency.
No thanks, they said.

Well, fuck ‘em if they can’t take a science fiction/hardboiled hybrid…
I put the book away for a few years until I ran across an ad from the some kids in Los Feliz putting together an independent press.  They said they’d be thrilled to put out MD and the little book saw its first publication.  They recommended I have someone edit it.  I thought they were crazy.  I still have one copy from that run.  I was crazy for not listening to them.

When the whole kindle thing started, I put the book back out there.  It still needed some more edits and it was formatted like shit for kindle.  So I pulled the damn thing from circulation again.
In 2011, to practice publishing through createspace (so Pulp Modern would look remotely good), I put out a new edition of MD.  This time I went through it several times, cutting out about 3000 words.  The few folks who bought seemed to like it.  Then I pulled it from circulation when a professor at MSU suggested self-publishing was the kiss of death to any writing career.

Of course, that guy is a stale old fuck who doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, but it scared me bad enough.
Chris Edwards, in the meantime, consistently told me how much he enjoyed the book.  He suggested last spring that he put it out through Full Dark City, his press.  I thought about it a while.  Saw what a great job they did with the All Due Respect anthology, and decided it might not be a bad idea.

That’s an understatement.  The work Chris Edwards and Chris Rhatigan have put in to make this the definitive version of this book is incredible.  Just look at the cover.  Rhatigan went through and made further, line by line edits that will make it an even tighter, smoother read.  I’m so excited by what they’ve done with it that I’ve gotten to work on a follow up novella that will also take place in Indianapolis.

As for the book itself—a whole lot of influences went into it.  The language is pure hardboiled.  An astute reader will pick up what I lifted from Philip K. Dick.  Particularly from A Scanner Darkly, a book that played a huge role in convincing me to sober up when I was younger (in 2001, few people had actually read it, so I felt quite safe in, ah, ‘borrowing’ from Mr. Dick).  It reflects my ongoing distrust of the collusion between psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry (no, I am not nor have I ever been a scientologist!).  It is a strangely sentimental book in some ways.  There is a lot of youthful passion in it (I had not yet turned 30 when I wrote it) and a shameless commitment to taking an anti-bullshit stance in a world overflowing with bullshit.  Little did I know that by September of 2001, bullshit would become the national anthem…
So there you have it.  A brief history of Manifesto Destination.  If you take the time to read it, I hope you enjoy it and I encourage you to hang around for the next book.

 A.C. August 22, 2013 

STUFF

First of all, Uncle B's Drive-In Fiction, the massive, epic collection of novellas that will change your life is now available at Amazon for a staggering price: $11.50.  No excuses.  Buy it.  Read it.  Live it.






Secondly, several interviews I did for the Weekly Reader are now up for your listening pleasure:

Lawrence Block

Frank Bill

and an hour-long interview with the only legitimate heir to PKD, DJK--

David James Keaton

Also, if you're on the facebook, be sure to drop by for the online release party for Manifesto Destination on September 17, 2013.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Pulp Modern #6 Suggestions


After discussing the Kennedy assassination theme for the next issue of Pulp Modern with a few people, I’ve decided to be a bit clearer about what I’m looking for:

So you have your basic genres; crimes, horror, fantasy, western, and you have this profound historical event—the murder of John F. Kennedy.  A murder that led to a war that claimed the sanity of three of my uncles (I include this information so people understand why the hell I find the event so damn important).  I’ve come to the conclusion that Oswald participated, knowingly, probably go that headshot, but I cannot account for the shot that caused Kennedy to grab his throat from the front.  Thus, we have the question that will never be answered.

 You don’t have to answer that question.  Just look at the cast of characters—Oswald, Ruby, the mob, the CIA, Cuban nationals, profiteers in the military-industrial complex, etc.,  You can take any of these elements, any angles.

 For instance, I started, but never finished, a story in which Oswald accepts the assignment to kill the president in attempts to gain notoriety (research demonstrated that his whole life was a quest for attention).  He gets the headshot and walks away thinking he will go down in history, without any question, as the killer.  Of course, the hundreds of conspiracies that followed quell that and that was the irony of the story.

 Some possible launching points for stories:

 There’s no blood on Oswald when he gets shot by Ruby.  Was that staged?  Is he still alive (hanging out with Jim Morrison?)?

 How did Ruby ("really") get cancer in prison?

 How about telling the story of one of the other shooters?

 I remember taking a psychology course in college where the professor talked about paranoia, how someone might be convinced aliens killed Kennedy, the assumption being that such a theory is evidence of insanity.  I then, right there in class, made a chart beginning with Nazi involvement with “gray aliens” that led directly to the assassination of Kennedy.

Here’s the biggest challenge: How can a western be crafted from this event? (Good luck with that one—there is an old spaghetti western, I forget the title, that revolved around a political assassination in the old west that was obviously a metaphor for the Kennedy assassination).

 
Hopefully that helps.

Likeable characters?

An article from Slate recently made its way across Facebook regarding “likeable characters.”   The author of that article questioned why we feel the need to make such characters.  I also discussed this issue recently in an interview with author David James Keaton.  The consensus among those who write non-fishing-with-grandpa-stories is that the drive for likeable characters is irrational and unfounded when the evidence of literature at large is presented.  Richard III, Alex from Clockwork Orange, any protagonist in a Charles Bukowski story, these are all examples of characters who do not pass the likeability test (provided by polite society, polite society itself being a toxic hive of hypocrisy and repression) and yet readers never tire of them.

 I’m on my last year at Minnesota State University, earning an MFA in creative writing (because, goddammit, if you’re a writer in the 21st Century, that’s what you do!).  During this last spring semester, I participated in a workshop where I turned in stories that will be included in my thesis.  Not one of the five stories I presented passed the likeable characters test.  One sensitive little urchin actually wrote on my last story (a charming tale of a badass woman putting a piece of shit nun over her knee and spanking her in a Santa display at a shopping mall), “I hated the main character so much I didn’t want to read the story.”  Now, aside from the fact that that is one of the most terrible comments you can give a writer, I question that person’s inability to set aside his addiction to the Hallmark world of rainbows and lollipops and approach a piece of fiction with an open mind.  I was also attacked, time and again, by the two women in the class who could not separate the world of fiction from the real world.  In one of my stories, an English teacher goes to a porno theater in the 1970s.  He is nearly nabbed by the police in an undercover sting.  One of the women in the class said that she worked at a high school (in a very small, Minnesota town), and that none of the English teachers there would ever go to a porno theater.  Never mind that her comment in no way construed constructive criticism.  The only possible reaction to her thinking is, “Huh?”

 We are coming to a bizarre point in the history of literature where people want realism, but they want a Disneyesque realism where there are no “bad” people.  This is, of course, a contradiction.  You cannot have realism without some dirt.  One of the complaints the women frequently tossed at me was about my inclusion of strippers, porn stars, and hookers in my stories.  Now, those aren’t the only women I write about, but those are the women who catch the attention of the Polite Police.  My question is: Are strippers, hookers, and porno stars, not people as well?  Do they not deserve to have their stories told?  Should fiction create a world where women are not economically compelled to go into the sex industry?  Most importantly, will sweeping these characters under the proverbial rug and pretending they don’t exist do anything to improve the conditions that cause women to pursue these careers?

 These thoughts are on my mind as I work on two major projects—my thesis, which is a collection of inter-connected stories beginning in the 1950s and ending in the early 2000s where we see the American male get weaker while American women get stronger, and ending with a declaration by a young man in the early 2000s to be sensitive to the needs of others without compromising his own needs; and a novella I am writing called Daddy Problems, about a cab driver who tries, with disastrous results, his hand at being a pimp.  I worry that there could be a wall of resistance among editors of journals (where the stories for my thesis will have to first be published if I am to publish the whole collection) simply because they want to sweep “unlikeable” opinions under the rug.  I still remember the turbulent first years of “political correctness,” where nobody was allowed to write about anybody different from themselves (gender or ethnic-wise).  It seems that post-9/11, uber-puritanitcal ‘mainstream’ America is heading for even darker times of what I consider to be flat-out censorship.

 Anybody else have thoughts on these issues?

 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pulp Modern #6: The Kennedy Assassination

So after some soul searching and good imitation Japanese food, here's what I am going to do with Pulp Modern:

Pulp Modern will now be a theme-based journal.  Still pulp fiction, only, the stories for each issue, regardless of genre, will revolve around a specific theme or topic.

To begin with, I'd like to invite writers out there to come up with a story related in some way to the murder of John Kennedy.  Stories should be between 2000 and 4000 words.  The deadline is October 1st, 2013.  Payment is one contributor copy.

Beginning with issue six, I will go back to publishing a kindle version as well.

Send your manuscripts to:

pulpmodern@yahoo.com

Thanks for your patience and understanding.