A lot can happen in four years. When the first Clinical, Brutal anthology was unleashed to an unsuspecting public, Clinicality Press was but two years old and had three titles and two authors on its list. If it didn’t immediately set the world alight and initiate a literary revolution, it has, over time come to be recognised as something of a landmark collection, gathering as it did a range of up-and-coming and established authors under the auspices of a new mode of writing. Or, moreover, it captured an element of the zeitgeist emerging out of the late MySpace years, and has, since its publication, proved the catalyst for a number of new authors to develop their own interpretations of clinical brutality.
To have any kind of influence was beyond anything I could have ever anticipated or hoped for when curating the first collection, and it’s true the book has had a slow diffusion – but that’s often the case for influential works. Quite what the impact of the material the exponents of clinical brutality will be in the long term of course remains to be seen. Meanwhile, it’s an immense pleasure to present some of the authors inspired by the first book in this collection.
That book simply couldn’t happen now, at least in the form it took. The dispersal of the MySpace scene saw a number of its contributors disappear without trace. Others simply moved on either from writing or the broader milieu out of which the book was born, and on reflection, I was extremely fortunate to be able to capture writers like Pablo Vision and Constance Stadler at the height of their literary powers. Stewart Home, of course, is a law unto himself, and it was an immense privilege to be able to republish one of his outrageous early works.
That was then and this is now, but during the intervening years since the last anthology, Clinicality Press has stuck resolutely to its zero-budget, underground principles: if anything, Clinicality has striven harder to go further into the domain of the micro-niche, and now boasts a catalogue a dozen titles strong with half a dozen authors on its roster. It’s therefore immensely gratifying to reconvene and take stock of things here in 2014, and to present new works by prominent names from the first anthology, who have continued to go from strength to strength, alongside a host of writers who have blazed their way into the public consciousness more recently.
The core vision of Clinical Brutality, the mode of writing espoused by Clinicality Press’ publications remains unchanged fundamentally, and revolves around the idea of everyday violences depicted in the most direct, clinical and even medical terms. Life is brutal. The smallest interactions can extract immense measures of pain, from a simple word that serves as the twist of an invisible knife to the all too common domestic slap around the face or even the playful punch. No harm intended, no offense meant, but plenty taken and untold damage done. Clinical Brutality is all about the everyday, thrown into sharp, crystalline relief – so sharp it stings, so sharp it draws blood and leaves mental scars for all eternity.
The contributing authors didn’t really need the directive circulated when they were approached for this book, namely ‘Be brutal. Be fierce. Be brave. Be real’. These are the things that are at the palpating, bursting heart of everything they write as a matter of course.
The pieces contained herein are beyond real: a shocking gaze into a high-definition hyperreality. From the needling dissections of DM Mitchell to the razor-sharp lines of A.D. Hitchin, via the powerful prose of Díre McCain and culminating in Lee Kwo’s most brain-shredding cut-up work since Celibate Autopsy.
But this collection isn’t about the individual authors per se. What this book represents is a bubbling underground zeitgeist, a collective dystopian current, a strain of art that reflects life. Brutal writing for brutal times, as viewed through the eyes of some of the most exciting writers of this generation.
This, people, is life. Of course it’s going to hurt….