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Clinicality Press in conjunction with Oneiros books is proud to publish this meeting of minds between DM Mitchell (Oneiros Books, and featured in the two Clinical, Brutal anthologies) and Edward S. Robinson, contributor at Paraphilia Magazine, who we will be publishing a book by in 2015.

 

‘EVOLUTION WAS NEVER EASY…’

It began under the vague premise of ‘doing an interview’, but over the course of a succession of exchanges between DM Mitchell (Oneiros Books) and Shift Linguals author Edward S. Robinson something happened: a metamorphosis of sorts. The result was not so much an interview as a dissection of life and culture in the second decade of the 21st century.

PART ONE

ESR: Let’s cut to the chase. Is the conventional publishing model dead?

DAVE M: Depends on what you mean by ‘the conventional publishing model’; I assume you’re referring to the ‘Publishing Industry’ that you and I grew up taking for granted, in much the same way that our generation took television and the movie industry and the music industry for granted, whereas for earlier generations these things either did not exist or were seen in a vastly different context. All of these things are actually fairly recent phenomena that all only came into existence as a side-product of the Industrial Revolution and really reached its peak in terms of public saturation after the Second World War. I’m not going to go into the exact history of this sort of thing – Stewart Home covers all this stuff quite exhaustively and eloquently in his books and over on his blog.

Since the 50s and then increasingly with each decade, the ‘consensus reality’ of vast numbers of people, varying depending on where they live and whatever cultural filters are in place, has been determined by the mass-media. As that media has developed and the various networks changed hands (for considerable sums of money) so also the ‘consensus reality’ changed shape. And as new technologies emerged, the medium itself, the manner of how the media expresses itself has begun to change, to mutate and diversify. I think it was Robert Anton Wilson who suggested (misappropriating Marx) that who controls the media controls the mind. 1

Anyway, I digress, to answer your question in light of what I have just said, then ‘yes and no’.

No in as far as I’m not even sure if such a thing as ‘conventional’ publishing has really existed except in as much as we have been told to believe in it. Yes, in the sense that book sales have dropped drastically and the internet amongst other factors (Print on Demand publishing) seems to be better filling the niche in people’s lives than was previously filled by ‘literature’.

ESR: You’ve hit on two particular points there: the first being the considerable sums of money involved in the ‘publishing industry’ – whereby a writer needs an agent to get a publisher, the publisher and agent skim off a large wedge of the profits and the writer, somewhere down the line gets a cut, and the immense pleasure of seeing their name on the cover of a book piled high in the 3 for 2 displays in Waterstones, and the second being the control the mass media has. Do you think that that amorphous, nebulous entity of ‘mainstream culture’ has become the ‘opium of the people’ since, say, around the 1950s, and do you think that there’s a fundamental incompatibility between the arts and capitalism?

DAVE M: Writers have always generally got proportionately a small percentage of the gross their books make. People like J K Rowling or Stephen King have obviously made a lot of money from their writing, but you can guarantee that a hell of a lot of other people have made a considerable amount more. Of course when your cut is in the millions you are not going to be too inclined to go chasing for more. And of course there are the film rights.

As you come down the pile, to the ‘less well selling writers’ you start to encounter the dissatisfaction. Most writers I’ve known from the 80s and 90s were always bitching and grumbling about royalties, whether their books were actually selling or not. If I were asked to give anyone advice about writing, I’d say “if you’re in it for the money, forget it! Go get a job selling insurance instead. You’ll make more money.”

As for ‘mainstream culture’, well it doesn’t really exist and never has. It’s a rumour created by advertising agencies based on the supposition that most people want to feel like they belong to something bigger, something lasting and permanent that will outlast them. If you look at how radically culture has changed over the last four or five decades, it’s a struggle to see any continuity to it and yet we still try to convince ourselves that there is.

And that’s just looking at the culture within our own immediate environment, our country – maybe Europe and a fictional sort of America that probably never existed either. What we accept as ‘mainstream culture’ in the UK is actually a ‘minority culture’ on the global stage, a stubborn UK-centric vanity.

Capitalism as it happens is not a political philosophy, but an economic system which we are currently living with/under. It is incredibly adaptable and has so far managed to absorb and adapt countless ‘counter-cultures’ and avant-gardes. Almost anything you throw at it becomes part of it.

ESR: I’ve always maintained the ‘mainstream culture’ was something of an oxymoron, but on balance, your take on it makes a lot of sense. One of the most popular myths – perpetuated by the likes of Rowling and E.L. James (or their ‘people’) – is that anyone can wake up with an idea one day, kick out a novel and boom! Set for life. Some would dismiss your view as a ‘conspiracy theory’, which seems to be the simplest and most popular way of discrediting any idea that challenges the status quo by making out the ‘theorist’ is a crank. Would you agree that it’s the role of the artist – in any medium, but perhaps especially in literature – to educate people, to open their eyes and confront uncomfortable truths about life, about society and ultimately about themselves?

DAVE M: I prefer to think that I’m making observations rather than drawing theories. I’d rather leave that to others to be honest. As for conspiracies, I’m sure there are very real very big conspiracies out there but I’m not sure if they touch on the world of publishing. I think most of what I’ve witnessed has been demographically and economically driven. There are lines and tracks that things move on – or were moving on for a hell of a long time – that were the result of cumulative activities. The real guiding force behind most of it was inertia. What I’m finding very interesting at the moment is how those traditional methods of production and dissemination that have been around as I’ve said for ages, are very rapidly and profoundly breaking down and being replaced with numerous smaller more adaptable working units and processes. And it’s not the result of some sort of ‘planned revolution’ and nobody is behind it. It seems to be happening naturally. I feel really lucky that I’m living here and now and able to witness it and participate in it. I’m too old now and jaded to get excited by much, but it’s at least very interesting. What will happen next is anybody’s guess. Will it evolve into a network of freely operating independents – or will it all gradually be gobbled up by bigger monopolies as has tended to happen in the past?

ESR: I certainly feel as if much of the Internet’s early promise in terms of the freedoms it offered have been subsumed by corporate monopolies. The way there only two major social media platforms, one search engine has primacy, and these giants devour the smaller ones because they simply can’t survive. Which I suppose leaves only one route, namely to reject pretty much everything that existing operating models are based on, and to reject the fundamental objective of monetising products and information. Oneiros operate what strikes me as a fairly radical operating model. Could you explain how it works and the thinking behind it?

DAVE M: We tend to think in terms of ‘what should be’ way too much for our own good. It severely limits what we do. I have tried to condition myself to look at things in terms of ‘what is’ and ‘what can be done with it’. I feel a lot more comfortable talking in those terms.

The Internet really does give us access to so much information we didn’t readily have – say – twenty years ago. It has opened us up in so many ways. If things currently seem controlled adversely by corporate interests, then it is as much a case of our failure to predict and adapt as it is of theirs to monopolise and control.

PART TWO

ESR: Oneiros is ‘a personification of dream’. There is certainly a dream-like quality to much of the works that’s been published through Oneiros to date, but equally, many of the dreams could be described as nightmares. Do you distinguish between the two?

DAVE M: Wow – You’ve asked me some questions here that touch on some things that are, for me, quite important – in both my work and my ‘private’ life. I’ll try to keep my response however, reined in and relevant to Oneiros. I’m not interested in ‘dreams’ themselves, as much as the ‘process of dreaming’ as a way of experiencing the world, life etc. Like most people I find accounts of actual dreams mostly tedious – especially my own. I’m also very wary of all the psychoanalytic trappings of ‘dream interpretation’. You can read anything into anything – dreams, tea-leaves, ink blots… I’m not dismissing it. I’m just very wary of it.

The real process of dreaming is something that can be nurtured and developed in its own right on its own terms. It is a mental process that is going on constantly, awake or asleep and is nether verbally or visually oriented – which is why ‘dreams’ themselves are never as relevant as what we are experiencing at the time of dreaming. Because we have taken something very abstract, subconscious/unconscious or at least pre-verbal, and clothed it in clumsy metaphor.

As for what Oneiros has published, I think what we have possibly done – in some cases at least – is put out books that were written as though dreamed, as though formed during the process of dreaming, and not as some sort of conscious post-facto attempt to recreate it.

Burroughs was one of the best that was able to do that. You’ve been doing it in your own stuff with Clinicality. I’m wondering how aware you were of the psychic functions that were occurring at the time you were writing something like ‘The Plagiarist’. Did you, for instance, find the text spilling into your everyday life in weird ways?

ESR: Absolutely! I always say that I didn’t write the book, and that’s true on more than the obvious level of textual appropriation and the removal of the omnipotent author, in that the more I became attuned to ‘the process’ the more ‘the process’ overtook me and the formation of the book. Reading Burroughs’ cut-ups, and just as importantly, The Third Mind, interviews and other writings where he explains the ideas and theories behind the practice was the first, vital step toward ‘tuning in’ but engaging on specific type of a creative journey effectively seemed to rewire my brain, permanently. Of course, that was the whole point of the cut-ups: Burroughs strove to alter the mindset and educate his readers to a different kind of narrative system that involved a substantial input from the reader. Do you think it’s still broadly possible for literature – or any other art, for that matter – to have such a profound psychic impact on its receivers? Is such an effect even desirable, assuming there are people who may be receptive?

DAVE M: I think it’s inevitable; it’s going to happen. Always. I think that ‘psychic’ environment is pervasive, and always will be as long as human life exists. I think it is a cross-cultural, cross-generational thing. Something like what Jung (bless him) called the ‘collective unconscious.’ I don’t think anyone can own it Any more than anyone can successfully repress it. It would be like owning or controlling oxygen.

There is a basic human imperative to dream. It’s well known how humans deprived of REM sleep – not just sleep itself – become progressively ill and eventually risk death. It’s weird how we still haven’t scientifically explored what happens when we dream. Not really. (If anyone has – it’s been kept clandestine). In the same way, nobody has really explored what happens after we die. There still seems to be a taboo on that one.

PART THREE

DAVE M: What’s the news atm about this ebola outbreak? (alleged)

ESR: I dunno, but a mate of mine was once convinced he had ebola

DAVE M: It was weird seeing that on a headline this morning after watching last night’s Utopia

ESR: He didn’t, he was just drunk

DAVE M: Ahahaa

ESR: Funny, though, that FB seems to be a lot quieter and reduced to bitching and griping when there are 2 headline wars raging. The whole deal over UKIP etc. seems to have been forgotten in a tidal wave of Rolf Harris.

DAVE M: I find myself wondering if the whole BNP / UKIP thing is a tactical thing, that they’re both ‘fronts’ to move public opinion in a direction where the official government can implement things they would otherwise experience oposition over.

ESR: There could well be something in that. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m deeply concerned by the spread of right-wing sentiment by the obvious sources. BUT there’s a degree of reactionary panic being spread by those in power, who, at the same time, are (as we all well know) capable of switching tactics to pander to the lowest common denominator. There is an election on the horizon, after all….

In other words, there are always vested interests

DAVE M: Just read a very interesting book (as journalism goes) called Bloody Nasty People. It digs into the machinations behind it all and asks some interesting questions. I always prefer questions to answers. Never trusted ‘answers’.

ESR: Answers usually are just someone’s opinion attempting to steer the audience toward a certain way of thinking – their way of thinking.

DAVE M: I think it’s a way of avoiding thinking – of putting thought to bed.

ESR: Completely: answers are a way of meaning the recipient doesn’t challenge or question the process. I certainly feel as if much of the Internet’s early promise in terms of the freedoms it offered have been subsumed by corporate monopolies. The way there only two major social media platforms, one search engine has primacy, and these giants devour the smaller ones because they simply can’t survive. Which I suppose leaves only one route, namely to reject pretty much everything that existing operating models are based on, and to reject the fundamental objective of monetising products and information. Oneiros operate what strikes me as a fairly radical operating model. Could you explain how it works and the thinking behind it?

DAVE M: Ok

ESR: …I was thinking along the lines of the way corporate Internet such as it is steers the collective consciousness in a certain way and reduces questioning power and if art – Oneiros in particular – can possibly disrupt that?

DAVE M: I think the Internet is still pretty much wide open in terms of freedom. What’s moved is ‘people’. What they gravitate towards. You can herd sheep, for instance, in a huge open area with two smallish dogs. When the Internet started it was amazing in terms of access to information that had previously been inaccessible. But there was very little structure to it – no map. Surfing was like cruising through deep empty space in the USS Enterprise occasionally hitting on something interesting. Then social media was born and a sort of ‘tree’ of connectivity grew up. It seemed very user oriented at first – which was sort of when Paraphilia Magazine was born. In fact it was a direct growth of that social media. But business being business parties consolidate, and less and less is given out for free. That’s just the equation of capitalism, which of course (unfortunately) is the bedrock of all the things we use. Of course, we don’t have to use them in the way we are told to use them or even in the manner they were designed for.

ESR: There’s something of an irony there, in that even the most anti-social and individuality-obsessed people need a sense of community, but where I suppose the Paraphilia culture differs from most is that it’s a lot more accommodating, and therefore espouses what you might actually call freedom,whereas it seems many on-line communities – like political parties, councils and most other real-life organisations – become mired in in-fighting and lose all sense of focus and perspective…

DAVE M: Words like ‘individuality’ and ‘community’ or ‘collective’ really describe situations we find ourselves in rather than qualities we are able to possess or ideologies we can follow. At some point under specific circumstances we experience things as individuals. By that I mean, we do not have a choice in it. It happens to be that way. In a life-threatening situation for instance, the natural inclination is to put oneself first. At the opposite extreme however, none of us – or very few of us – are capable of existing on a day to day basis without the huge infrastructure of society and its economics. With Paraphilia all we did was move the focus of attention from the ‘artist’ to the ‘art’. We did that very subtly but effectively. If you read the introductions to the first five issues, you can see what we were doing, planting seeds. Dire and I actually had hundreds of very long and very intense talks about that and how we would word it and make it work. The result was that people gave us their most intimate and uncensored stuff, freely with almost no egotism or expectations. At first anyway A lot of NLP went into it. Lol.

ESR: It was an incredible venture to launch, and looking back, it seemed to hit the ground running (from an external perspective at least, which is of course the ultimate testament to the work done behind the scenes). I mean, those early issues, for a new no-budget publication, featured some impressive work by some very noteworthy creators. What was great – and I suppose demonstrates the success of the shift in emphasis from artist to art – was the way the ‘names’ and the unknowns and lesser knowns were all placed on an equal footing. There was a sense of egalitarianism, and best of all, the approach was abundantly justified, in that in terms of quality, there was no disparity or distinction between the better-known artists and those not so well known. To what extent has that aspect of the Paraphilia ethos carried forward into Oneiros?

DAVE M: I don’t know. Except in the fact that I was involved heavily in the one and now the other, I’m not sure they are addressing the same things. Paraphilia, for instance was about the art/writing. The whole focus was on that and it created a real feeling of community and kinship. I felt very close to the people involved. And a very important consideration is that Dire had a huge role in it, what we became collectively is definitely different form how we are individually. Oneiros is far less personal and, I would even suggest (for my part at least) that the focus has moved away from the art / writing itself to the process of publishing and dissemination. That’s not to say that the work is less important but that what I feel is MOST valuable about what we are doing with Oneiros is ‘opening doors’, creating routes of dissemination that are relatively free of vested interests. We still have an editorial policy, but it is not exploitative or profit-geared. That may sounds like I’m nit picking but I think it’s an essential difference. Of course, Oneiros in its present guise could never have existed without Paraphilia, which could never have existed without the antics we all got up to on Stewart’s (Home) MySpace blog way back.

ESR: Something I’ve said in the introduction to the new Clinicality anthology, which was very much born out of the MySpace goings-on and the people around on there at the time, is that that book couldn’t happen now. On so many levels. What was it about that particular platform that seemed to fertile and exciting, that’s subsequently been lost (because something has very definitely been lost) and also, in particular, Stewart’s blog and all that came with it?

DAVE M: It was exciting and, like so many things that generate that feeling of excitement, we also felt it wasn’t going to last. I felt that which is why I strip-mined it. It was a real learning experience. Looking back on it I must have seemed like a right psycho or nasty piece of work from some of my postings – but it was all a case of ‘what happens if I push this button’? Not helped by the fact that I would often go on there blind drunk and just fuck about. Some people just seemed to be taking it so seriously, even when they were ‘joking’ around, it seemed very staid and polite. And I found myself feeling, why is everyone being so restrained here, when there are so many crazy possibilities for mayhem? Some evenings I would actually be looking forward to going on line to see what works I could throw a spanner into – just to see what happened. It was very childish, but please don’t tell me MySpace was designed for adults.

lol

ESR: One thing I appreciated was the scope for fucking with different identities, something that you could readily do in chat rooms in the late 90s and early 2000s: those real-time aplet chats where you selected a moniker and signed in, and when you got there it was a free-for-all. You could adopt different persons, switch in and out, and really have fun, while being as crazed and deranged as you liked. No-one knew it was you, and you could deny it all ten minutes later using a different ID. In that sense, MySpace was the epitome of the postmodern experience: confused, confusing, with nothing being fixed, and of course, things moved very fast. I agree, it was a powder-keg, and it would inevitably go off one way or another… and of course, it ultimately collapsed. Do you think in some ways we’ve gone beyond postmodernism now? And do you think that the return to more people using single, fixed on-line identities is an indication of the way people are being herded by governments under the auspices of preventing terrorism, or a genuine desire to refocus themselves and feel a sense of oneness in terms of self-identity?

DAVE M: I think it might just be a case of that particular line of exploration ‘running out of juice’ – at least in terms of direct connection. Maybe technology has moved us all beyond a sense of identity but through other channels – mobile phones, apps, Twitter, Tumblr – and maybe the general consensus media circuses of ‘celebrity’ has undermined the whole concept of identity more effectively than any of our Discordian hijinks could ever manage?

ESR: Possibly so, and possibly Deeuze & Guatarri were right in their premise that a schizophrenic mindset is the only sane response to an insane world. Do you think that perhaps those very same technologies designed to bring people together and to make communication simpler and more coincide – mobile phones, Twitter, Tumblr – have contributed to a diminishing attention span, and have diminished the possibility for art with any kind of depth, substance, etc., to attain a substantial audience? Or was it ever thus?

DAVE M: Firstly let me say that when D & G use terms like ‘schizophrenic’ they are NOT using it in the way it was intended to be used by clinical psychologists and neurologists. Secondly, when people talk about things like ‘mindsets’, the human psyche, alienation etc… they are not talking about anything that has a corresponding referent in the physical ‘real’ world we inhabit. It is all literature – abstract invented words talking about other abstracted invented words – ad infinitum. That aside, regarding technology and alienation (in the sense that Marx used it) you could realistically trace ALL technology back to the introduction of agrarian societies and the sort of alienation you mention as probably coinciding. Which one was the resultant of the other is impossible to discern. Chicken or the egg. But farming, unfarmable lands – going against natural cycles of renewal and fertility etc. that was the beginning of the cycle we see repeated now on ever-widening, yet ever-diminishing circles. If you look at the history of technology from the earliest eras up to the modern you see a pattern repeating itself – when several options exist and one is benevolent and the others show varying degrees of toxicity, we always seem to pick the most poisonous and destructive. For instance the Chinese had gunpowder for hundreds of years before the west imported it. The Chinese had never even considered using it as a weapon. Look at the contention between Tesla and Eddison. etc… Everything it is possible to misuse will be misused to the maximum. But that is a double edged sword. Everything the corporations invent can also be subverted – as long as there are enough people with the will to do it.

PART FOUR

ESR: First, you said you found dream diaries / transcriptions tedious (or something to that effect). I suspect a lot of people agree (Burroughs is an exception in that he used his dreams and worked them into the fabric of the text rather than using straight-up dream sequences in his novels). From my experience and what I know of you & your work, disturbed sleep can have a much more profound effect on the psyche and one’s writing…

DAVE M: Not sure what I said without going back and looking. What I meant is that most people’s dreams are pretty tedious when you hear them being recounted. Without the right ability to recreate the depth you experience in a dream it just sounds like random nonsense. It’s like cut-ups or automatic writing..

You still need to be able to write well to make anything worthwhile out of it

ESR: So true. So many cut-ups have failed to grasp the fact that it’s a tool, something that needs to be worked to be effective.

Reading Burroughs’ cut-ups, and just as importantly, The Third Mind, interviews and other writings where he explains the ideas and theories behind the practice was the first, vital step toward ‘tuning in’ but engaging on specific type of a creative journey effectively seemed to rewire my brain, permanently. Of course, that was the whole point of the cut-ups: Burroughs strove to alter the mindset and educate his readers to a different kind of narrative system that involved a substantial input from the reader. Do you think it’s still broadly possible for literature – or any other art, for that matter – to have such a profound psychic impact on its receivers? Is such an effect even desirable, assuming there are people who may be receptive?

DAVE M: I think it’s possible – not sure how ‘broadly’ possible it is. I’m not sure how receptive, or even intelligent, most people are nowadays. I do think it’s changed and not in terms of education or culture. I just think the environment overloads people, fills their head with noise. I walk past some people in the street and I swear to God that I can almost hear it at times. I’m joking – but it’s not far off, I’m sure. When I talk to people I can see from the glazed look in their eyes they are not really listening to me. They’re listening to the jabbering voices in their heads yammering about trivial nonsense. People are obsessed more than ever with gossip and scandal. It seems to act as a filter to keep out unpleasant reality.

ESR: It seems one of the greatest ironies of the 21st century that ‘reality’ TV etc is the most unreal version of life there is going – and the fact that it is the reality for a great many adds yet another layer of irony. As you say, it screens out ‘unpleasant reality’. Do you think people are even aware of the unpleasant reality, or have we reached a point at which this sheltered, media-manipulated trivia-based artificial reality has become the limit of existence? It sounds like some dreadful sci-fi dystopia, but….

DAVE M: I think everyone is aware of it on some level, no matter how many layers of celebrity-gossip, sports-mania and shit they try to bury it under. On some deep level they know what is going on, and how little power they actually have to affect it – if they even knew where to start. People are obviously terrified of the future nowadays, which is awful. When I was in my late teens I had an amazing feeling of my own future. Now even, though most of it never happened the way I planned, I still felt anything was possible. I really believe that nowadays hardly anyone feels anything is possible, so they just switch off.

ESR: You’ve been involved in both of the main sides of publishing, namely as a writer and a publisher, but not so long ago said you feel you’re more or less done with writing and the majority of your energies now are focused on publishing – although you’ve also done a fair bit of illustration lately too. What was the impetus behind the shift?

DAVE M: That was an observation more than a decision. Just something that naturally happened. I feel that the way publishing and writing used to work was very different from the way it’s beginning to work at the moment and the way I feel it will function in the future – if it will survive at all. In the past, the act of writing was a very individual act. A writer was like an island, and the publisher was his/her only means of contact with the mainland. Writing is not like playing music, where you can join a band and collaborate freely with other musicians. The actual physical act of writing doesn’t lend itself to that.

Well, anyway, like you, I fell under the influence of Burroughs – also the dadaist, surrealists, situationists etc.. all trying to break down all the artificial boundaries that condition expression and communication (both of which in turn condition how we perceive the world around us). I got involved in the small press scene in the 80s and early 90s – my bible was ‘Fact Sheet 5’. Then I got connected with Creation Books – who never aimed to be a ‘proper’ publisher at all. It was all very informal and chaotic back then – and fun. I learned a lot from that, more in terms of how the big publishing industry was all a big rip off. Nobody in that industry gives a fuck about literature – the agents, the publishing house, the distributors, the sales reps, the outlets, the fucking critics. All those ridiculous links in an unnecessary chain from writer to reader.

With the new technology available to us, we can honestly dispense with all that. I suppose more of my energies have been channelled into that recently than into ‘writing’. It’s just where my focus is as I see it as more important to change the process of publishing than carry on writing as if things were going to stay the same as they were before.

ESR: Yes, times have definitely changed, and the publishing industry, like the record industry, has been incredibly slow to adapt, no doubt because the model is so ridiculously cumbersome. It also seems explicitly geared toward, if not the shafting of the artists, then the goal of milking as much revenue from them as possible while giving them as little recompense in every sense as possible. Even when publishers are willing to deal with authors directly instead of via an agent – someone else taking a substantial cut of their earnings – very few seem interested in new authors, and those that are guarantee nothing by way of investment for marketing and promotion. In other words, even writers who can score ‘proper’ publishing deals are generally required to do an awful lot of leg-work and promotion, that makes one ask ‘why bother’? So… why bother?

DAVE M: The old publishing industry is definitely as good as dead. Mainly because they were always replaceable. It was always just a matter of time. The only two links in the chain that are indispensable are the writer and the reader – and even that is not set in stone, I imagine. The publishing industry held on as long as it could to its cash cow. you can see them making a last desperate stand with nonsense like the Kindle – which is really just a PDF reader with a bit of code added so you can only read ‘kindle’ books on a ‘kindle’ reader. It’s only a matter of time before people realise how easy it is to get around that.

ESR: What I find bizarre is that there seems to be widespread panic about the collapse of these industry models. People seem to have forgotten (or history has been conveniently rewritten to help them forget) that arts, in all forms, existed long before the industries. Copyright is a very recent creation, which seems – certainly posthumously – to create more problems than it resolves in terms of ‘protecting’ authors’ rights and the ‘integrity’ of their work.

DAVE M: I think we started this conversation, a few weeks back, on more or less this note. People have selective memories and like to think of what they have grown up with as being somehow eternal. What we think of as ‘literature’ has not even been generally accessible to most of the population until fairly recently. At least in the West.

Everything is always changing and what seems to be remembered as important literature or art or whatever, is also subject to fluctuation. A big part of what drives art or literature is not so much individual inspiration nor some eternal truth, as much as demographic change.

ESR: …which leads me neatly to what is probably my final question, picking up on various threads that have run through the conversation, and also your earlier comment about gloomy thoughts. Do you feel especially pessimistic about the future, or think that there is hope – for art and literature, and for the future of humanity? I mean, we’re supposed to be at the peak of our evolution, and I for one can’t help but feel as though, for all our technology and ‘progress’, we’re actually devolving….

DAVE M: I don’t want to give a sweeping generalization as an answer. I feel very pessimistic about certain things. I could write a fucking essay on this … I don’t believe in ‘humanity in general’ any more, which is maybe difficult to reconcile with my identification as a Marxist. I would just specify that I am referring to the ‘human condition’ and not ‘human nature’. Paraphilia Magazine was a real gesture of optimism and belief. Oneiros Books currently is the same. I would need to differentiate between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ optimism and pessimism. The passive optimist sees a glass half fill of water. The active optimist thinks about how to use that extra empty space in the glass. I am a passive pessimist (things look bleak) but an active optimist (there’s still loads of things to be done). The problem with most folks is they are lazy. they want answers given to them. They want a plan to follow. Throw away all your plans, I say. Plans make you ‘option blind’ (to paraphrase William Starbuck). Evolution was never fucking easy.

1 Actually it was Jim Morrison, but people reading this are just marginally more likely to take it seriously if I attribute the quote to Wilson. Of course, they’d be even more inclined to take it seriously if I quoted some obscure French philosopher that they hadn’t read or even heard of but I do have some modicum of shame.

We make no bones about the fact Clinicality Press is a zero-budget operation run by a couple of guys with regular jobs. Rebellion and revolution isn’t about being bankrolled or even hitting a mass audience (and most ‘viral’ Internet phenomena achieve their status with silent financial backing). We’re all about keeping it real and doing it the hard way: no sell-out. That’s sticking it to the man.

Unfortunately, remaining true to the punk ethic means that sometimes things take longer than we’d like or necessarily anticipate. So when we announced our publishing schedule for the first half of 2013,we knew it was going to be a challenge, and sadly we couldn’t quite manage it. However, we’re not far off.

Christopher Nosnibor’s This Book is Fucking Stupid, set to appear in print in March, hit the shelves on 11th April 2013.  It looks great and contains material not in either of the ebook editions.

The print edition of James Wells’ Hack, scheduled for publication in March, is now set to appear in June. After some hellish difficulties with the pagination and formatting, we’re finally there. It will be available to order via Amazon shortly. We will be stocking it in our own shop in due course, just as soon as we can afford to carry new stock again.

We also said we’d  be publishing Christopher Nosnibor’s latest work,  a collection of essays entitled The Changing Face of Consumerism in April. It’s now good to go, and will be published as an eBook via Amazon on May 31st. The cover will look like this:

 

Changing Face Cover 2 copy

 

The print edition of Incisions, Collisions and Aborted Missions by Karl van Cleave has been put back from May to July / August, but we will be putting out another couple of short stories by different Clinicality authors as standalone free e-books in thee meantime, and we’ve got some more really exciting titles lined up for the Autumn, so keep watching this space.

When we first established Clinicality Press, we were fairly clueless about things like web design, and if we’re honest, we didn’t know much about publishing either. By much, we mean anything at all. But since 2007 we’ve managed to fumble our way through to achieve the level of slickness that’s come to define this operation.

In setting up the website, we went with Microsoft’s Office Live Small Business because it was inexpensive and easy to use, and we were a (very) small business. This was a good thing, as it meant we could keep everything in-house and control the look of the site (to the best of our limited technical abilities) and besides, we didn’t have the funds to pay someone else to do it.

Some time ago, Microsoft announced it was discontinuing Office Live Small Business, and replacing it with Office Live 365 with effect from 30th April 2012. Unsurprisingly, the new version actually has less of the functionality of its predecessor (for instance, we find the real-time reports and attendant details extremely useful) and costs more. Instead of offering up to 25 emails per domain, domains are charged per email account, and each email address costs more than the old OLSB domain.

The ‘easy’ ‘migration’ from the old OLSB to Office 365 proved to be anything but, and rather than simply upgrade an existing account, users are required to rebuild their pages from scratch.

Then there was the whole deal of having to reassign the domain name. We didn’t have the foggiest about DSN and this code and the other, and spent a lot of time trying to figure it out. Perhaps we slipped up somewhere, or perhaps we didn’t, but having decided, perhaps against our better judgement, to take advantage of Microsoft’s generous offer of a six-month free trial of the new platform in order to give us time to decide what to do next. Unfortunately, thanks to Microsoft (or their needlessly complex and technical ‘migration’ process), we’ve found ourselves without a domain host sooner than anticipated. This morning we discovered that Clinicalitypress.co.uk had disappeared. We’re not entirely sure what happened. Clinicalitypress.co.uk is no more.

We’ve lost a lot of pages. Having just published our latest title – and we only put out 2 or 3 a year – the timing couldn’t have been much worse. The plan had been to transfer to Office 365, reassign the domain name and keep the transition as smooth as possible, using it as an opportunity to tweak the site design along the way.

In the event, it wasn’t to be. We decided to cut our losses and move the whole operation to WordPress, and having acquired Clinicalitypress.com (the annual hosting costs less than the monthly hosting for maintaining the .co.uk domain through Microsoft), we are now in the process of rebuilding the entire site. We do still have the text for the Clinical, Brutal interview series, and will be reinstating them and everything else as is humanly possible.

There’s a lot of work to do. If we’re slow to reply to any messages, that’s because we’re busy. Thankfully, we can still access our domain-specific emails. But please, do message us. And do buy our books. The titles already out there are still available through most channels, and we’ll have our own on-line store back up and running as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, keep it brutal.

It was a couple of years ago that Chris passed me his manuscript for From Destinations Set. He seemed quite bewildered by it, and said he wasn’t sure if it was publishable on account of the formatting. Then, last year, he announced his departure from Clinicality Press because the burden of running a publishing company on top of writing and reviewing was proving unmanageable. So I asked if he would mind me putting Destinations out as a sort of ‘thank you’ for the work he put in establishing Clinicality Press – if I could figure out the file conversion. He agreed.

Initially, having sorted out the formatting, I opted for a super-sleek and ultra-cool (in a retro sort of a way) hardback. Production proved expensive, and the necessarily high retail price was destined to be an obstacle to sales, so a download version followed.

Now, at long last, the first batch of trade paperbacks are in, sitting in boxes in the Clinicality office. Review copies and press releases are going out, and so I decided it was worth celebrating the event by shouting Chris a pint or three. I thought I’d also grill him about the book while I was at it.

The following ‘interview’ was conducted / constructed in similar fashion to The Job, the book of interviews with William Burroughs and Daniel Odier, in which some questions were answered face to face, before Burroughs subsequently provided large segments of text he had already written (and sometimes published) elsewhere to expand on some responses, and to provide more detailed replies.

SB: I read the piece you wrote about Destinations when the hardback came out, and you said that the book ‘was a bitch to write.’ How was it so?

CN: In every way. I mean, I came up with the concept of two simultaneous narratives – something I’d done in short sections before, notably in ‘A Call for Submission’. I first same up with the idea back in, what, ’99, when I wrote the short story ‘His ‘n’ Hers,’ and there are sections in my unpublished novels Exiled in Domestic Life and Rusty Bullet Wounds. But I wanted to take it further. I was going for the Semina series – they were holding open submissions for a couple of years – and having been shortlisted the first time, I wanted to do something really radical. They wanted experimental, innovative, and I thought that a dual narrative would really fit the bill. The concept and the interlooping, interrelated stories and narrative tracks evolved from there. But I really had to immerse myself in the process. I tend to set myself targets and rules when I’m writing something big, usually timescales and the like. But also there are elements of research and the question of getting myself into a certain frame of mind. As most of my writing’s pretty warped in one way or another, producing something like Destinations required, to a degree, stepping into the book, immersing myself in it. Producing a text that’s so wilfully disorientating was extremely disorientating. And that was before I had the small matter of the formatting to contend with.

SB: So what was it about the formatting?

CN: Everything! Essentially, while I have a reasonable working knowledge of Office, I’m still using Word 97 – partly because subsequent versions haven’t actually been as good and partly because I can’t afford to upgrade – I’m not super-knowledgeable about all aspects of the program, and so when I started writing I simply set up my document as two automatically set columns and started typing… the trouble was that any edit made in one column affected the other, and any changes made on one page would see the whole text shunt into the wrong column by a few lines and just completely screw the whole document. The writing process was tough enough, but making edits and corrections… and of course, I created the text as an A4 document without any consideration for how it may be converted to something the size of a book. You can’t just change the page layout and boom! book sized document. So I had all that to contend with while trying to create the most complex of plots and ensure that the two simultaneous narratives met in the places I wanted them to. The passages where the two narratives mirror one another or otherwise play of one another were rendered all the more difficult by the technical aspects, and amplified by my limited capabilities. You could say that ambition extended beyond technical skill. I like a challenge, of course, but this was perhaps beyond what could be considered sensible. And then there was the time factor….

SB: What was the issue there?

CN: Well, as I said, the book started out for submission to BookWorks, who were doing the Semina series. Stewart Home was the commissioning editor, and I submitted a proposal for the 2007 round of open submissions and got shortlisted before finally being rejected, largely on account of the fact my postmodern reworking of Hamlet, retold using song lyrics and the like within the body of the text, wasn’t quite experimental enough. So I decided to try again the next year and the submission required a synopsis and the first 20 pages, which I managed to knock out without too much difficulty, formatting notwithstanding. I was pretty pleased with what I’d done, but hadn’t really considered the problems producing the full manuscript might create, the fact that the longer the text became, the greater the issues of editing earlier pages later on in the process would be. Anyway, I fired off the submission and forgot about it for a few months. I’d not long done THE PLAGIARIST and was getting on with other things.

It made the 2008 shortlist in the Spring of that year. If commissioned, the time for getting the thing finished and to the publisher would be pretty tight. Realising that to produce anything like a complete working manuscript would take a lot of time and effort, I pushed on with putting some meat on the bones of the remainder. In the end it wasn’t commissioned (I can’t really grumble: the books that did come out are brilliant), but I was committed to seeing the project to completion. So I did. It almost drove me round the bend, and when I was done I had a manuscript that was probably my best to date, and nothing to do with it.

I tried a few publishers, largely without any kind of reaction whatsoever. One or two asked to take a look at it before deciding it wasn’t their thing or they didn’t have a clue what to do with a book like mine. It was hardly a surprise. It’s a pretty radical and challenging text, and the appearance and presentation is going to be an obstacle to many readers. Publishers are hardly going to be queuing up to get it on their roster.

SB: I’d say it’s probably the most radical book to be published anywhere since Mark Z. Daneiewski’s House of Leaves.

CN: Yeah, in many ways it probably is. With THE PLAGIARIST I had a whale of a time, letting the experimentation lead the ‘writing’, but despite pitching it as being the most out there book ever, ever, really it was just a cut-up that followed on from Burroughs and Kenji Siratori. That I’m a complete Burroughs fan is no secret, and my appreciation of Siratori is hardly news either. It was reading BACTERIA=SYNDROME that compelled me to do THE PLAGIARIST, in fact. Siratori was recycling text, and so I thought it would be a wheeze to recycle his formula and knock out a book in three months that not only out-Siratori’d Siratori, but also pithily addressed notions of influence, which is why the Hamlet stuff is in there. Amazingly, Stewart Home’s Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie makes similar use of spam emails, which were the other primary source of material for the book. So with THE PLAGIARIST, I was trying to be ultra-derivative while feigning originality, whereas with Destinations I wanted to really dig into narrative proactive and the construct of character.

Danielweski’s works are certainly in the same sphere, in that they’re concerned with problemetising the act of reading. They’re very visual, and also demand a high level of engagement and interaction from the reader. That’s precisely what Destinations is all about.

On the other hand, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, and I make no pretence concerning vague notions of pure originality. I’m thinking of John Giorno’s poems that are presented in two-columns, such as ‘Johnny Guitar’ and ‘Cum.’ His works of the late 60s and early 70s were remarkably innovative, and although the collected poems Subduing Demons in America has come out quite recently, I still don’t think he receives nearly the acknowledgement he deserves. He’s an astounding writer. Then there’s also the idea of the split screen. It’s been done in film for decades. I really like the way the two-column narrative replicates that in text. In film, people are fine with it, it’s not seen as being problematic and it’s understood what the function of the split screen is. It’s become a convention. Why not in literature? So I really wanted to take that to its logical conclusion in Destinations.

SB: With all of this in mind, what kind of headspace did you find yourself in during the writing process?

CN: A very intense one! I do tend to write with a great degree of focus, and immerse myself in the work quite deeply. It means that breaking out of the writing to tend to everyday tasks can become quite difficult. Interacting with other people, that sort of thing, can get quite strained. It feels almost alien. Life doesn’t take on a dream-like quality as such, but is very like being extremely tired or badly hungover: one finds oneself disconnected and unable to really get into step with the world around. That was quite appropriate for Destinations: it was that kind of sensory detachment that I wanted to write about and for my characters to experience. I hope that through the characters, the reader will feel a similar sense of separation, of disorientation, of being out of step and not entirely in control or ‘there’. But it was odd to think that in trying to write an experience, I was bringing it into my own life. It was as if I was writing my own script – which, of course, also happens to be a key aspect of the plot or plots and the way they interrelate.

SB: So would this be an example of the ‘method writing’ you’ve mentioned previously?

CN: Sort of, yes. It’s not really method writing in the sense that a method actor lives the life of the role or whatever, but I use the term because it seems to fit reasonably well to my experiences while writing. That is, although I don’t set out to put myself in my characters’ shoes and I certainly don’t live out or act out the book in whole or in part, I do often find myself sharing the mindset of my characters or otherwise stepping into the states I’m describing. If I’m writing a character who’s permanently drunk, I won’t spend a month off my face, but I do find I’m likely to drink more while I’m working. I’ll also dredge deep and relive experiences from my past in order to feel certain kinds of emotions again. It’s much easier to describe the power of those emotions while their echoes are coursing through your system. I suppose in that sense, I write as a cypher or conduit. I channel those emotions and experiences directly into the text.

SB: In that you put so much into the writing, would it be fair to say that there’s a lot of ‘you’ in the text? How much are the characters autobiographical?

CN: Not at all. There’s a lot of ‘me’ in the text inasmuch as ‘I’ wrote it, the characters are ‘my’ creations, but I’m none of the characters in any of my books, not even the unpublished ‘autobiographical’ novels, Exiled in Domestic Life and Rusty Bullet Wounds. In those, the narrator and central character has my name, and elements of the plot and the other characters are based on my experiences and people I’ve known, but they’re autobiographical in the way that Burroughs, Bukowski and Miller wrote autobiographically.

Generally speaking, I’m not interested in characterisation, or even that concerned with plot in the conventional sense. By and large, my characters are all vehicles for something. In Destinations, I specifically set out with the purpose of exposing and exploring the artifice of character. In that sense, I’m drawing out a comment Stewart Home made in an interview in 1994 about his book Pure mania when he said ‘I’m not interested in traditional notions of literary depth, and characterisation bores me’. While Destinations is more character-orientated than my previous works, it’s very much about character as construct rather than my development of multi-faceted characters in the conventional literary sense.

People sit around pontificating about the books they’ve read and talking about the great characters in this or that book, how they’re multi-faceted and multi-dimensional, how they have depth and are credible or believable or engaging or whatever. Fine, but so many readers get incredibly hung up on character and engage with characters to what I’d consider an unhealthy extent. Credible characterisation and dialogue is all well and good, but people really care too much for these creations – it’s like with TV soaps when viewers talk about the characters as though they were real.

With Destinations, I wanted to really highlight the idea of the character as a construct. But not just fictional characters. The people you know in real life are characters too. They’re playing parts, roles they’ve been cast in your life, you compartmentalise your friends and family, perceive them in a certain way. In doing so, you actively determining their character. Who you are determines to a lesser or greater extent how they behave around you. You’re shaping their character, in the present. And that’s precisely how the characters in Destinations evolve. They shift from one scene to the next as they’re rewritten, edited, re-imagined, reconsidered.

At the risk of sounding self-contradictory, the fact that the characters dissolve and reform, mutate and deform, and change from scene to scene is closer to the actuality of how real-life characters exist. Character isn’t fixed. But because I’ve framed the characters of Anthony and Tim – especially Tim – within the book, they’re very malleable characters who are constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed before the reader’s eyes.

SB: The title suggests that you’re also exploring notions of predeterminism…?

CN: Yes. And no. I’m painfully aware that everything I say about the book and my writing and even myself seems wholly contradictory. But that’s essentially the point, I suppose. The concept that character isn’t fixed, that plot isn’t fixed… Consider it this way: I do believe that you make your own luck. For example, if you want a job, you’re not going to land it if you don’t apply for it. As a writer, you’re never going to make it if you don’t get yourself or your writing out there. No-one’s going to come knocking on your door or ringing your phone saying ‘Hey, I hear you’ve got a great novel-in-progress in a pile of notepads stashed under your bed’ or ‘Hey, I reckon you’ve got great management skills: can I see your CV?’ You need to be seen by the right people. That entails being seen by people full stop, because they can’t all be right.

But I do believe that working hard won’t equal success. You can do all the ‘right’ things, have all the ‘right’ contacts, whatever, and still end up with fuck all to show. Meanwhile, some jammy cunt appears from nowhere with no credentials and has everything land in his lap without doing a thing to warrant it. How does that happen? You see, making your own luck only counts for so much. Talent or ability or whatever only count for so much. The system can work against you. All the luck-making in the world counts for nothing if your face doesn’t fit or your timing’s not right, or whatever. Then you say ‘maybe it’s not your time, your day… your life.’

So I can see both sides. And I speak from experience.

In Destinations, I’m questioning the ideas of ‘success’. The two characters have very different, conflicting ideas regarding what constitutes success. Tim’s all about the materialistic trappings of success. But he’s not happy. In fact, he’s desperately unhappy, but the trouble is, he doesn’t even know his own mind. Anthony’s anti-materialistic and has a completely different idea of success… but is he happy? No, he’s as much as a fuck-up as Tim.

SB: Do you think you run the risk of being seen as wilfully difficult, as an author and as an individual?

CN: I know I do, in everything I do. I am wilfully difficult. No, look, here’s the deal: I run the risk of being perceived as ‘difficult’ because I don’t tolerate fools and I refuse to dumb down. It’s not for me to dumb down: it’s for the broader population to wise up. If that’s perceived as difficult or serves to be somehow alienation or an obstacle to my success, then so be it. I’d rather be a failure on my own terms than a success on the terms of the masses. And yes, I appreciate that this may appear to be self-defeating, like I’m shooting myself in the foot. But as you’ll have realised by now, I’m not in it for the money, or the glory. It’s all about the ART, man!

Having said that, I think there is definitely an appetite for challenging works. Inception was extremely complex for a Hollywood blockbuster, and I think – apart from being visually stimulating and having big names in it – a lot of its success was down to the fact people are fed up of being spoon-fed predigested slop by the media. The same is true of films like Shutter Island and Fight Club. Palahniuk’s book is great, but being great doesn’t usually equal immense success. The fact that there are great books that are challenging in various ways that do achieve the success and recognition they deserve gives me hope that there is a market for me.

SB: So why have you stuck with Clinicality rather than pushing for bigger publishers?

CN: Having been fifty per cent responsible for starting Clinicality, I have a very strong connection to it. I can see it growing. But more than that, the publishing industry and book retail are changing fast. They’re having to, and not just because of the Internet – although publishers and retailers going to the wall invariably cite the Internet as the reason for their demise. They can’t compete, apparently. I can see their point, and I miss book shops as much as the next avid reader, but by and large, good book stores still do ok. People like books, people do still read, and it’s not all about the Kindle. But many publishers and retailers are failing because they’re all chasing the same corner of the market – the populist mass market. Of course they are, it’s all about the numbers. The mainstream middle ground has the greatest potential for high volume sales, it’s all about the high profile bestsellers. But because it’s so competitive, there’s the constant need to discount and drive prices down in order to increase volumes. Margins are consequently tighter. What they’re ignoring is that there are countless niche markets, some of which are huge. Ok, so the horror, fantasy and crime fiction niches are now well tapped and bordering on saturation, but…

As some observers have noted, the development of the underground press in the 1950s that grew as a response to the social indifference and journalistic vacuum at the end of the silent generation of the 1950s. I think there are distinct parallels between the late 1950s and early 1960s and now. Moreover, periods of social unrest – such as the sixties, and the eighties, when unemployment was high and everyone was living under the threat of nuclear war – tend to be fertile periods in artistic terms. The sixties and the eighties both saw underground presses flourishing: the seizing of one’s means of literary production is all about freedom and taking the power back.

Right now, technology has indubitably changed people’s buying habits, people’s reading habits, and it’s also facilitated a shift away from the big publishers. They no longer hold the monopoly they once did, and still present themselves as having. Time was when you did need an agent and a major publisher, and sure, if the mainstream audience is your target audience you still do. But now it’s possible to reach audiences directly and retain complete creative control. That kind of freedom is liberating, and is great in creative terms because it’s not market driven. Sure, the audiences may be smaller, but they’re less likely to be fickle or to be swayed by trends, and therefore there’s a degree of dedication and loyalty not so readily present in the mainstream.

Plus I got sick of the rejection. Touting a work round countless agents, editors and publishers and having to wait indefinitely to be ignored and / or ultimately rejected is time-consuming and arduous, not to mention downright depressing at times. Time is precious and time spent waiting and approaching all of these people is time that could be spent on writing, or directly promoting a work.

SB: You’re very much into the promotion aspect of things, aren’t you? Your postcards and flyers crop up in all sorts of places…

CN: Public toilets, on trains, in shops… yeah, I get around. And why not? I’m only ‘into’ the promotional side of things through necessity, if I’m completely honest, but I do enjoy coming up with different ideas, different approaches, different materials and different locations. I’m not big on the usual kind of methods: I’m getting into showing up at open mic nights, because it’s an unsuspecting audience. I’m all about the guerrilla tactics. Regular readings, organising book launch events, trying to get into local or internet radio, it just doesn’t appeal. It comes down to the fact that I’m not all that comfortable with those types of situation. So I try to approach the (self)promotion from different angles. It works for me, because I’m operating in ways I’m comfortable with, while also doing things that most other writers aren’t. So, you might find band flyers and promo postcards at gigs and in pubs, but not stuff for books.

In some respects, I consider the promotional duties to be projects in themselves.

SB: How do you find the time for it all, if you’re working a regular job, at gigs several nights a week and producing prodigious volumes of music reviews as well?

CN: I’m a pretty committed worker, and I can type reasonably quickly. It also helps that I signed up to a medical experiment a few years ago. Not only have I been genetically modified to have infinite stamina, but I have been successfully cloned. There are currently two of me, and there are more in development. I will achieve global domination, one way or another!

From Destinations Set is out on March 28th through Clinicality Press and can be ordered directly from the publisher now.