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  • Endless Joke
    Endless Joke
    by David Antrobus

    Here's that writers' manual you were reaching and scrambling for. You know the one: filled with juicy writing tidbits and dripping with pop cultural snark and smartassery. Ew. Not an attractive look. But effective. And by the end, you'll either want to kiss me or kill me. With extreme prejudice. Go on. You know you want to.

  • Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    by David Antrobus

    Please click on the above thumbnail to buy my short, intense nonfiction book featuring 9/11 and trauma. It's less than the price of a cup of coffee... and contains fewer calories. Although, unlike most caffeine boosts, it might make you cry.

  • Music Speaks
    Music Speaks
    by LB Clark

    My story "Solo" appears in this excellent music charity anthology, Music Speaks. It is an odd hybrid of the darkly comic and the eerily apocalyptic... with a musical theme. Aw, rather than me explain it, just read it. Okay, uh, please?

  • First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    by Sybil Wilen, P. J. Ruce, Jeffrey McDonald, John Page, Susan Burdorf, Christina Gavi, David Alexander, Joanna Parypinski, Jack Flynn, Graeme Edwardson, David Antrobus, Jason Bailey, Xavier Axelson

    My story "Unquiet Slumbers" appears in the zombie anthology First Time Dead, Volume 3. It spills blood, gore and genuine tears of sorrow. Anyway, buy this stellar anthology and judge for yourself.

  • Seasons
    Seasons
    by David Antrobus, Edward Lorn, JD Mader, Jo-Anne Teal

    Four stories, four writers, four seasons. Characters broken by life, although not necessarily beaten. Are the seasons reminders of our growth or a glimpse of our slow decay?

  • Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited

    I have two stories in this delightful compendium of every 2012 winner of their Flash Fiction Challenge—one a nasty little horror short, the other an amusing misadventure of Og the caveman, his first appearance.

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Entries in punk rock (2)

Friday
Apr072017

"Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground"

Even if he'd been a small man he'd have been a big man. But he was a big man. I see him in his chair at the peeling formica table, on the right facing the tiny kitchen itself, slumped, in what some now call a wifebeater but then we simply called a vest—baggy trousers, cuffs rolled, braces over the tea-stained vest. White hair nicotine yellow, swept back. A soft pack of nonfilter Woodbines and a mug of sweet strong milky tea. Ten or fifteen bottles of prescription drugs ranked like soldiers in a defective war in which daily battalions are lined up at dawn to learn their fate.

England. Northwest. The nineteen sixties. The syncopation of passing trains.

I sit now on the long sandy reach listening to "Little Wing," blinking along, tapping my toes and fingers, stretching my neck to watch the disc of our galaxy wheel slowly across the night sky, that genial Stratocaster tone opening its throat and hungry for us all.

Oregon? BC? Baby, won't you change your mind?

This is the part where we are asked to feel shame. Where our therapists make their living.

"Baby, what's in your spice rack? Paprika's a given, but surprise me. Cloves. Ground nutmeg, sure. Dried sage and oregano. Chilli powder. Garlic. Cumin. Coriander. I need something radical, girl. Exotic."

"I got something radical. Stay with me."

A skinny girl in a tiny pleated skirt and motorcycle boots, nipples face-forward and plastered humid inside a plain white cotton tank top, eyes encased in kohl, earbuds pulsing Diplo and Flux Pavilion, waxy, harsh.

I'm two generations beyond, yet more thirsty for Cleopatra. 

And is this the part where I'm to beg you to love me?

Nah. Don't work that way. Been driving a good while, coming down from the mountains, heavy on the brakes as the road descends and sidewinders down to a quiet valley while the sun begins to drop behind the dry hills. The town is unremarkable. Its populace too. I pull over and walk the empty streets, meet almost no one. A one-eyed scarface dog, an old lady with recycled bottles inside transparent bags in a shopping cart. Meet me. Meet me. You won't ever meet me.

Quiet howls emerge from the draws that backdrop the town, each a distinct tone, a coyote symphony. Except it ain't coyotes; it's the outraged god-abandoned wind piping its raw heartbreak through ruined fissures in shafts that are no longer mined nor ever again will be. 

Back to the large man in the crumpled grey pants absorbing and agitating the fog of morning, charcoal and faded pink. His mind always working, his appetites arrayed, some clockwork set by ancients and left to unspool well into life and beyond. UFOs, wartime, an Italian-American tenor, a gaudy South Pacific theater, Antarctic sacrifice, an icebound German plane one bleak February that never got airborne, the awful melancholy of something unsinkable sinking. Melancholy hearted, he saw the eventual decline. Nodded quietly at fate. Checked out around the same time as Elvis, of whom he'd once said, "He'll never last." Nineteen seventy-seven. The jubilant year of Sam and Stevie, of Stormtroopers and fevered Saturdays, under a marquee moon. Stayin alive amid the rumoured death of a ladies' man in the decade's autumn.

I am fourteen or fifteen, a voyager, thumbing my tangled path away from pain. Close encounters on the littered edges of motorways while listening to "I Feel Love" on light cranial rotation and waving at "Johnny B. Goode" as it slingshots out of the solar system. Never minding the bollocks. Watching every last detective. And shedding a tear for Ronnie and Marc. Low. Animals. The Idiot. A Bat Outta motherfucking Hell. 

She emerges inchoate from the gloaming, haloed by dark motes like the ur-lights of some grim carnival. Hands me something warm and still dripping. Smiles like a tracheal gash.

"Eraserhead. Is that radical enough for you?"

Nightfall is upon us, with no place to sleep. 

Tuesday
Jan242012

Punk Fire or Indie Schmindie?

Inspired by this excellent post by fellow traveller Dan Mader, I've been doing some thinking about what it means to be an indie author in relation to this new publishing milieu within which we find ourselves.

On numerous occasions, Dan and I have discussed the parallels with the punk rock movement of the late 1970s (in the UK and in New York) and beyond (post-punk in the UK, hardcore and straight edge in the United States) leading to "alternative" music in the '90s. And they are indeed striking; with the long tail of minimally talented yet enthusiastically raw artists, the do-it-yourself improvisation, unrealistic expectations and the overall lack of financial success, the slightly dodgy/murky concept of not selling out, of "authenticity", even the sense that the rough-hewn fanzines of old have been replaced by blogs... all of which has contributed to a sense of deja vu for anyone who has been steeped in both cultures particularly.

But here is something else. If you extend the history of punk and conflate it (perhaps somewhat unfairly, although a case can certainly be made) with the musical genre known ominously as "indie", things are perhaps not so cut and dried. Indie as it was once identified, particularly in the UK in the '80s, referred to music that was not signed to a major label, literally to an independent label. And with innovative labels such as Factory, 4AD, and Creation, the music was rich, inventive and became a genuine alternative to the more "mainstream" rock and pop of the day. But something else happened. Soon, the term "indie" was being applied to a style of music and not to the commercial environs of the labels themselves. Mostly rooted in post-punk, it made its way across the Atlantic until, today, indie is a full-fledged genre unto itself... although here lies the problem. It's kind of stale. It's kind of rhythmically-challenged. It's kind of snobby. It's kind of soulless... or precious... or, worse, one-dimensional and gutless. So much so that some have taken to calling it Indie Schmindie to denote a very marginalized, very vanilla, very bland type of prettified ephemera.

So, here's the dilemma. If you even partially agree with my somewhat broad and no-doubt slightly unfair characterizations above, you might begin to worry about how it may all play out for indie authors. We're still at the punk rock stage, in which the initial euphoria and electric uncertainty of everyone being a producer and not merely a consumer is still palpable. A buzzing awareness of possibilities. Some dream of making it big, of being the Clash, if you will. Others just enjoy the sense of belonging while hoping to find the right audience. Now, Dan's post and my own sentiments fall neatly into the latter camp. Making it big is still a lottery. Playing for others, then returning the favour the very next night by showing up and watching those same folks don their metaphorical Strat copies and studded, zippered bondage pants, is the fun part... but where will it end? If it ends all stunted and ghettoized while the same tiny minority make off with pretty much all the pie, we'll have failed, no matter how much fun we may have had for a time. Preaching to the choir, writing only for other writers, however much it can be a blast, may be a good look but is not a sustainable one.

Epublishing should be a great leveller. The problem with that is nothing stays level, not for long. And in some ways, that's okay. A great many bands played to ten or fifteen friends in their garage and were pretty fucking awful, and so let's be honest here: many indie writers can't actually write, which is a pretty big handicap when you come right down to it. But where does that leave those of us with some degree of talent? Can the market sustain a Clash and a Pistols (Konrath, Hocking?) while also maintaining some level of success for the Slits and Wire and Gang of Four and UK Subs, not to mention the tens of thousands of equally worthy yet far lesser-known artists still?

The danger is, we'll be drowned in an oversaturated market in which everyone and his or her dog believes the gravy train is pulling into the station. Okay, excruciating mixed metaphors aside, it's all very well buying into a new and exciting landscape of DIY innovation, but if we descend into a future of mediocrity amid an environment in which the Amazons/Apples of the world simply replace the often exploitive practices of the Big Six publishing houses, and only a tiny handful of artists grow rich, what will we have gained? A sense of fun and cameraderie at the expense of a career. Because, really, why can't good writers plough those talents and that energy into an actual career? Why do they, or we, not deserve that?

None of which is a criticism of those very aspects which inspired this post. Like Dan, I am grateful to be surrounded by such positive and talented people, who often give of themselves for the pure joy of paying it forward and helping their peers. I simply hope that each and every one of them finds some reward over and above the satisfaction of belonging to a community, rich as that can be in and of itself.

I suspect fire in the belly—the fervor of innovation, the ardor of love—will be key ingredients in that goal.

*     *     *     *     *

also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.