Real Life

I can’t remember where I came across Real Life Magazine. I’ve searched through my email inbox, but it’s not exactly a distinctive name now, is it? Let’s just say that I had a fever dream one night in January 2018 about a website publishing thematically-linked articles each week featuring interesting pieces by a wide variety of authors. Authors who manage to write work that remains compelling, even if you aren’t necessarily interested in the topic at hand.

In my dream these shapes formed over my head like a cascading, oozing monstrosity from the fifth dimension:

 

 

R̸ͤ̆ͩ̓҉̱͇̮̳͖̻̫̭͓̕ ̷̸͍͈̺̾ͦ̿̍̽̓̌͌̀ͣ͂̏̅ͤE̴̢̘̺͇̤̖̭̫͎͖͒ͥͯͭͪͭ̓̾ͮ̄͆ͤ̉ͧ̃ͨ͟͝͡ ̶̡̯̰̜͍͚̟͔̯̙͔̉̓ͨ̓ͫ͗ͪ̑̚A͚͇͇͈̤̜̥͍̝̩̥͎̭ͪͯ͌̒̎̚̕͞ͅ ̷̨̩̜̙ͪͮͪ̍̄ͣ̍͛́͘Ļ̸͙̲̘͎͕̮͎̭̮͇͑̐ͫ̎̿̓ͬ̑͟͢ ̷ͫ͌͊̀̐͜҉͉̩̞͕̝̠͙̮̫̞̤̣͉L̨̞̲̜̩̖̯̟̘̳ͦ̂̍͛̿̆͊ͥͯ̎̑ͣͫ͑ͥͮ́̕͡ ̶̡̠̪̲͇͖̖͈̜̱̭̰̮͒͐̃̍͊̂̆͜ͅI͓̺̠͍̹͕͌ͤ́̎͌͑ͥͮ̓͛̄̓́͟ ̵̰̫͇̯̺̥̱̗̙̯̘̩͇̇͋̊͂͞ͅFͩ͊̑̿̌ͥ̀͑̐̉̿̒́̀̚͜҉̼̯̩̱͈̘̣̗̬̻̪̦͍͉͕̘͕̲ͅ ͛ͬ̋ͦ͗̅̂ͩ̉̄ͯͬ͑͛ͬ̀҉͍̥̫̰̩̳̼̟̜͉̫ͅẼ̶̬͙͇̟͎̗̗͍̳̙͚̩̮̥̰͕ͤͭͣ̾̋͆̓͐͟ ̶͓̭͉̘̯̟͎̰͙̩̱̥͆̋̂ͥ̋͒ͪ͒͘M̷̮̻͉̬̻̀̂ͩ̒͌̂͊̃̎̀ͩ̂̅ͨ͘ ̡̗͎̪̻̠̳̙͙͔͔͓̹͚̪̫̬̍̓̈́̌́͢͠A̛͉͕͔͔͈̱ͧ̓͗͒̌̊̾͊͠ ̻͓͚̗̭͔̜̞̤̩͚̻͙̝͎͖̘̪̖̄̉ͫͭͤ̃ͦ͛͐ͮ͗̎́͂͗̇͊̀͡͡G̵̢̪͓̖͍̺̟̜̰̭̖̲͎̜̗̘̀͛̈ͫ͗́ͯ̑̊̿͂ͫ̇̄̒̐ͬ̚͘

 

 

Risking my sanity I decoded the hidden message and punched these enigmatic runes into my web browser… and LO, my dream was reality. As I wiped the sweat from my fever-hot brow, I pored over these tomes of timely wisdom, risking my very sanity to bring them to you, dear reader!

Or, y’know, I just came across it via the Republic of Newsletters, and it has consistently been one of the most interesting things appearing in my inbox ever since.

 

Here are some recent highlights:

In an attempt to counteract the narrative in which the slain black man is remembered as a “thug” (recall the protest to the New York Times calling Michael Brown “no angel” in 2014), Stephon Clark, who was shot at 20 times and murdered by Sacramento police in March, is being remembered as a father: candidly sleeping on the couch holding his children or in a formal family portrait his children and their mother. You shouldn’t have to be a “family man” in order to avoid getting slaughtered by the U.S. militia, also known as the cops. The collective shuffle of self-representation of the black family attests to the general attempt to recover the humanity and subjectivity of the desecrated, murdered, and neglected black figure.

In Move on Up, Tiana Reid looks at the idea of the black family, and the ways it has been attacked by everything from President Reagan to pornography, and how this helps to reinforce white supremacist notions that lead to police murdering black people and not only getting away with it, but being aided and abetted by a racist media.

 —
What’s more, the current glorification of the youth activist fortifies the idea that being daring, politically engaged and passionate is a young person’s game. As such, teenagers represent an effort-free do-over for adults. In them, we wistfully imagine our own (best) past selves and enjoy a vicarious thrill in our ability to recognize their heroism, while absolving ourselves of the responsibility to participate. Close to half of Americans don’t show up to vote: the bare minimum of political engagement in a democracy and an action that could have a profound effect on everything from environmental protections to gun control.

In Children’s Crusade, Rachel Giese writes about the recent mass protests led by American youth, and the narrative that seems to dominate traditional and social media – “The kids will save us” – and how it’s a reductive generalisation that serves little purpose other than othering the youth and giving anyone not in that particular ‘generation’ an excuse for their own lack of political action.

The car has become the opposite of liberating: a dangerous and expensive hassle that has reshaped the landscape in its image, creating isolation and dependency for everyone, with or without one. Families must maintain a fleet of vehicles to complete ordinary tasks within a suburban landscape designed to keep everyone marooned in individualized convenience.
[…]
Cars themselves are no longer portals to the unknown, to be customized at the owner’s discretion; they are festooned with elaborate electronics that preclude the possibility of home repair, let alone modification, and they are equipped with monitoring devices that make them fully trackable (and susceptible to being hacked). When young adults get to drive the family car, they are still under the parental thumb, having their speed governed and their location monitored remotely.

I found the beginning and end of Uber Alles, by David A. Banks, to be really interesting, but your mileage may vary on the middle bit. For me it was a re-tread of ideas I’d kinda dived into recently thanks to the (so disappointing that I never bothered to finish it) second season of True Detective, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (still holds up extremely well after all these years). It talks about the corruption that went into dismantling the American street car systems in order to replace them with buses and cars, and then to demonise bus patrons in an effort to minimise their use and encourage more car ownership because, y’know, capitalism won’t stop until it kills us all, or we kill it.

Anyway, it’s about “our” (Read: the West’s) relationship to cars, the way they changed the landscape, and the way they – and our landscape – may change further with self-driving cars, and Uber, Lyft, etc trying to kill public transport in the coming years.

Cyberpunk’s Not Dead, But Maybe It Should Be

The below is a quick and dirty manifesto I put together for a writing prompt over at Ganzeer’s Restricted Academy forum. I love a good manifesto – filled with pomp and self-importance, (naive?) idealism, and moral absolutism. I think they rarely stand up to scrutiny, but they’re not meant to, they’re meant to grab people’s attention and put a fire under their arses. It’s meant to get people to think.

So here’s my manifesto titled Cyberpunk’s Not Dead, But Maybe It Should Be. A little half-baked, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about recently. It also ties into one of the books I’m planning – with it, I hope to develop the language and themes of a new SF sub-genre, the same way William Gibson did with Neuromancer and cyberpunk (because, hey, why not aim for the moon, right?). With that background established, here it is:

//

Cyberpunk promised us a corporate-controlled future where, despite advancements in tech, average people would struggle to survive while the rich hid away in opulence. That’s the future we got, but we deserve better.

Inspired by the potentials inherent in CRISPR gene-editing, CRISP SF isn’t post-cyberpunk, it isn’t ecopunk, solarpunk, or cli-fi. It’s a new type of fiction that strives to discard anthropocentric perspectives and replace them with something, anything, else. CRISP SF is about change – it’s about climate change caused by human intervention, it’s about changing humanity into human-animal hybrids to survive radical climate change. It’s about what it means to be human if destructive ideas about “dominion over nature” are finally done away with. It’s about what it means to be human if we consider ourselves simply one part of the hyperobject called Earth. It’s about what it means to be human if we treat the animals, plants, and microbes as our peers instead of as our servants, our food, our raw materials waiting to be packaged, branded, and sold.

CRISP SF is post-capitalist. CRISP SF is post-anthropocentric. CRISP SF is the future.

CRISP SF is about changing our perspective as we change our DNA. CRISP SF is about considering the personhood of non-human animals in an effort to stop the Great Extinction Event we have wrought.

Because we can do better. Because the world deserves better from us.

Terminal Knowledge

Fellow citizens of the Republic of Newsletters – if you haven’t already discovered Max Anton Brewer’s SCIOPS newsletter, I highly recommend it. He claims the newsletter is cyberpunk weirdness, but I feel as though that is far too reductive for the breadth of topics covered. There’s surveillance, tech, politics, religion, and all those other things we talk about at the dinner table despite being taught otherwise.

The latest one spoke to me as a former churchgoer who has lost three of his (religious) grandparents in the past few years. Here’s an excerpt:

Nietzsche called Christianity a slave religion. It was the fervent hope of a better life, one that would reward all the suffering and punishment of this world, that kept the many generations of Christians from violent revolt in their own lifetimes. The doctrines of pacifism, obedience, and patience combine to form a lifestyle suitable for serfs. The better you are at subjugating yourself before your Lord (note the feudal flavor here), the more you will be rewarded. But not in this life, and not by this Lord. Count on the invisible entity to kick down the prizes in the next lifetime. In this one, shut up and turn the other cheek and work.

Of course, Nietzsche was a showboating syphilitic with a bad attitude. But he wasn’t wrong. Christianity is a form of terminal knowledge: a dead-end of thought, a self-reinforcing mental trap.

Terminal knowledge, once acquired, is impossible to be rid of. Like a retrovirus in DNA, it lurks inside the mind, taking every opportunity to replicate its own structure. If you accept one of the memetic hooks, such as “there is life after death”, you invite the entire belief system to infest your mind. It’s all self-referential and internally consistent. If there’s life after death, then of course your soul must go somewhere else. It’s clearly not in your body anymore, after all. If it goes somewhere, is that place better or worse than this one? What makes a person go to a better place or a worse one? Better check the Special Book…

Previous letters don’t appear to be archived online, but if you subscribe now, at least you can be sure to get the next one…

Three Years

Today it has been three years since Marlee Jane Ward and I started dating. But I’m not going to go into how we met, our first kiss, or any gross stuff like that, instead I just want to acknowledge how big an influence Marlee’s brilliant Welcome to Orphancorp was on Killing Gravity.

I’ve talked before about my musical influences for the book, and I believe I’ve mentioned in an interview that Akira was also an influence, specifically this scene:

But I haven’t really talked before about Welcome to Orphancorp. When I was studying writing at University, I’d been reading a fair bit of Chuck Palahniuk and writing mostly in the first person. So ten-ish years later when I decided to get serious about writing science-fiction I felt as though first-person was too juvenile* because it was the form I had used when I was writing… well, juvenile shit. But then I read Marlee’s Welcome to Orphancorp and realised exactly how powerful first-person can be. I mean, just look at the excerpt at this link and try not to be lost instantly in that world and in Mirii’s perspective.

When I had a loose outline for Killing Gravity, I still hadn’t decided on a POV, but it was Orphancorp that convinced me I should go with first person (that, and a scene right in the middle of the book that I knew would work best in first), and I’ll forever be grateful to Marlee for that. Without Orphancorp, Killing Gravity wouldn’t have been the same book, and maybe it wouldn’t have been a good enough book to get picked up.

So if you haven’t read it, you really should.

*There tends to be a bias against first-person perspective among a lot of readers and writers. I’m not sure why that is. It could be that it’s often used in YA, so people who deem YA to be beneath them lash out against it, or it could be that people think it’s cheating because the reader can see everything that’s going on inside the character’s head. I think it’s a tool, and like any tool it has its purposes – and if you write it off as either a reader or a writer, I think you’re going to miss out on some great opportunities.

Twin Hometowns

In April this year I’ll be doing Supanova again, this time in Melbourne and on the Gold Coast.

At these 2 shows I’ll be launching VOID BLACK SHADOW, part 2 of the VoidWitch Saga. I’m calling this a Twin Hometown Book Launch because both Melbourne and the Gold Coast are close to my heart.

My family moved from the outer Western suburbs of Sydney up to the Gold Coast when I was around 12 years old. It’s where I went to high school and university, it’s where I made plenty of incredible friends over the years, and it’s where my family still lives. I moved to Melbourne at 30, and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. For one thing it has a real winter (unlike Queensland), but it’s also a city filled with great pubs and cafes, vibrant street art, music, culture, and a great writing scene.

I want to do something special for readers who make it out to the convention and say hello, so I’ve come up with the following GIVEAWAY.

The first three people at each convention to come up to me with both KILLING GRAVITY and VOID BLACK SHADOW (either that you already own, or purchased at the show), who tell me they need that third book will get a free copy of The VoidWitch Saga part 3 (I know the title, but I’m not telling yet) signed, stamped, and posted to them just as soon as I can get my own copies.

Again, in dot-point form:

  • Find me at Supanova.
  • Show me KILLING GRAVITY and VOID BLACK SHADOW.
  • Tell me you want that third book.
  • Give me your email address (I’ll be getting postal addresses just prior to posting in case people move house).
  • Wait patiently for me to get in touch (possibly October, maybe November).

Three copies to giveaway in each city for a total of six. I’m also hoping to have at least one short story done up as a zine to give to anyone and everyone who passes the table, so please swing by!

Chop Wood

There’s a Zen proverb that has sort of rattled around in my head ever since I first heard it:

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

It’s something I think about a lot, not because I’m actively seeking enlightenment (and certainly not because I’ve achieved it), but because it seems like a versatile piece of wisdom.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that whatever you’re working on is so important that you need to put life on hold. Whether it’s a piece of art you’re creating, or a different sort of life goal you’re striving toward, you still need to live. You still need to get out of bed in the morning. You still need to shower. You still need to eat, and maintain relationships, and earn enough money to live. You still need to do The Work. You still need to chop wood and carry water.

All I’ve wanted for the longest time was to be a published author. I’m sure in the back of most people’s minds there is a little voice saying “Once I have/do x, then I’ll finally be happy/complete.” But my depression didn’t magically disappear when I was published, and if anything I’ve now got more things to be anxious about than I had before (these tend to fall into the category of ‘Good Problems to Have’, but that doesn’t make the anxiety any less palpable).

I still need to work on my mental health. I still need to work my day job. I still need to make time for my friends. I still need to make time for myself. I still need to chop wood and carry water. And that’s a good thing. You and your art are never so grand that you are above the work of simply living. Thinking otherwise is hubris.

The Sound of Killing Gravity

I’ve spoken before about how I originally envisioned Killing Gravity – as a space post-hardcore EP, as opposed to a space opera – but I haven’t spoken in detail about my thinking behind it, or the music I was specifically referring to when I coined that (admittedly clunky) term.

See, operas are big, dramatic, “epic” performances; not only that but it’s also an old artform, carrying with it the musty scent of tradition. I didn’t want to write something big or unnecessarily complicated, “epic” for the sake of genre conventions. I wanted to pare everything back, cut right to the core, and tell a personal story that hints at larger conspiracies and larger battles but remains focussed on a small group of outsiders. So, if I wanted to write a space opera without the opera part, what would I use instead as inspiration? That’s where the idea of the post-hardcore EP came in.

An EP is short. A post-hardcore EP is short, short, dirty, with jagged sound that reaches out of your speakers and grabs you, forces you to listen close. There are moments of chaotic screaming noise offset by downbeat stretches of experimentation. There’s a poetic and broken quality to the lyrics, nonsense and beauty screamed in the same hoarse tone. There are weird syncopated rhythms and abstract time signatures.

And that’s everything I wanted to do with Killing Gravity, to put everything I love about These Arms Are Snakes (and to a lesser extent Genghis Tron, Refused, At the Drive-In, and Dillinger Escape Plan*) into words. I don’t know if I succeeded, but I’m happy with how it turned out.

If all that sounded like nonsense without the music to back it up, then you’ll be glad to find the links below.

These Arms Are Snakes Discography | TAAS/Harkonen Split EP | Genghis Tron – Board Up the House

Listen to everything at those above links non-stop for a month, and you’ll know what writing KG felt like.

 

 

*I’m deliberately leaving out Young Widows because I didn’t discover them until later, but they were basically the sole soundtrack to the writing of the third VoidWitch book.

Pre-order Void Black Shadow

Void Black Shadow CoverCorey J. White’s space opera Voidwitch Series continues: Mars Xi returns in Void Black Shadow, sequel to Killing Gravity.

Mars Xi is a living weapon, a genetically-manipulated psychic supersoldier with a body count in the thousands, and all she wanted was to be left alone. People who get involved with her get hurt, whether by MEPHISTO, by her psychic backlash, or by her acid tongue. It’s not smart to get involved with Mars, but that doesn’t stop some people from trying.

The last time MEPHISTO came for Mars they took one of her friends with them. That was a mistake. A force hasn’t been invented that can stop a voidwitch on a rampage, and Mars won’t rest until she’s settled her debts.

 

Void Black Shadow is sort of the Empire Strikes Back to Killing Gravity‘s Star Wars. Here, everything that can go wrong does go wrong, people are hurt, and people are changed. It’s dark, and it’s more political than KG (though, still subtle I hope). Did I mention it’s dark? There’s a reason why I settled on that title. I never wanted to do more of the same with the follow-up, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. Some people will love it, some will hate it, but I wrote the book I had to write at the time.

After it’s out, I’ll probably write about some of the people, places, and things that influenced the story, and maybe some of the influences I had to leave out.

It will be released in ebook and paperback formats in March, 2018. You can preorder it now from all the usual suspects.

eBook:
B&N NOOK | iBooks eBooks.com | Google Play | Kobo

Paperback:
Amazon US | Amazon UK | BookDepository

Brisbanites, hit up Pulp Fiction in the CBD. They’ve been big supporters of Killing Gravity, and I am sure they’ll be supporting Void Black Shadow just as much. Sydney-siders, Galaxy Bookshop might be your best bet, as they’re the sci-fi and fantasy specialists in town.

Also, QBD did a great job supporting me and the other authors at Supanova in 2017.  Otherwise, you can simply ask for your local bookstore to order it in for you. Just quote the title, and the ISBN (Void Black Shadow, ISBN: 9780765396938) and the staff will no doubt be happy to help you out.