Monday, January 31, 2011
Sunday, January 23, 2011
We see examples of this all the time.
Now that you've nailed down the basic principle that generates pure non-scene and anti-plot, you're ready to fill in the rest of the doom.
Let's examine what lies beneath all the rubble of failed narratives, the "too real" irrelevance of naturalist story-telling, the uninspired recitation of pseudo-factual details, and the insistence on exploring life from a normalized "human-interest" or realistic point of view.
From now on we will know how to get away from all that rubbish, the grossly contemporary practice of imitative prose, and move rapidly and gleefully into the quintessential forbidden methodology, the grand and eloquent Literary Absurdism.
Art, and the impractical unreality it misrepresents, is the aim of absurdism. Here's how to accomplish it.
5 Rules for Absurdist Fiction Writing
(1) BEING YOU = BEING NOBODY ELSE
If someone else could have written your story, told it in a manner similar to your style and system, even if it need be a highly advanced intelligence gifted unfairly with astronomical powers of observation and shouldering gigantic bulwarks of moral clarity, it's not worth writing.
A true Absurdist Writer should be able to say, "I know nobody else could have written this, since I can barely write it myself."
When everything that's in you is shouting, "This story cannot be done!" you're on the right track.
Being "yourself" means rejecting the temptation to do what comes natural, to be like everyone else.
To be different from everyone else is infinitely difficult, since that's what everyone else is: they're like everyone else, thus the expression "like everyone else."
If Kafka was able to write a long short story (The Metamorphosis) about a traveling salesman who wakes up to find himself transformed into a dung beetle, you too can do what needs to be done.
Think of the most bizarre story you've ever read, then outdo it, leap over it, and vanquish it with your whimsical post-realism twists.
(2) ABSURDIST SUBVERSION
Absurdism is the accurate, though deflected, depiction of society's intrinsic disturbances and self-defeating enstructurings, disguised in impossible scenarios and wildly exaggerated characterizations to trick readers into thinking the story is simply a silly tale designed to make people laugh.
By masking the purpose of the story, and letting the seed of its idea lie dormant and unchallenged, labeled "comedy" or "fantasy", resting inside the reader's mind and stretching forth with multiplying tendrils, until it's philosophical force has blown up into a colossal impetus, it enters more deeply into the reader's memory and dreams, escaping the censorship of hyper-political social conditioning.
(3) SAY IT STRAIGHT
A nonsensical story must be conveyed as a sober or skeptical assessment of the bizarre situation and unemotionally detail how the unlikely premise wildly mutates and progresses to a stern anti-climactic impasse or a phantasmagorical resolution.
Make no apologies for how uncomfortable the reader will invariably be when you introduce them to your untellable tale. Be non-chalant, like it's no big deal, this massive weirdness and the unsettling sensations you intend to inflict upon all who read the story.
One way to ease into an Absurdist plot is to make calm statements about how you've never been a fan of whimsical notions, stupid superstitions, or uncertain rumors. Have the narrator assert their absolute abhorrence of the bearers of tall tales, non-verifiable legends, and far-fetched abnormalities.
Proclaim vehemently how you despise fairy tales, UFO reports, Big Foot sightings, trans-dimensional travelogues, time travel escapades, and all forms of science fiction, speculative prose, and fantasy yarns. Be adamant about your disgust with hyperbole, exaggeration, hypotheticals, allegories, and parables. Explain how you never dream, and if you do, you force yourself to forget it.
Cause readers to sympathize with the cool rationality and mature intelligence of your narrator preferably yourself, who seems also to be rather reluctant to tell the story, as it is sure to be met with disdainful looks, indignant disbelief, and cruel mockery.
Act like your unwilling to tell the tale, since it goes against all your previous experiences and your grasp of logic. Convey the idea that you know you'll regret telling this story, you still have trouble believing it happened, but your psychiatrist said you're in a rational frame of mind and being totally objective.
Then launch into the most lunatic, wild, freaky tale your poor little imagination can drum up.
(4) ABSURDITY = MEMORABILITY
Grab attention with the unlikely and preposterous.
How? By seizing the reader's imagination with a wholly improbable opening to a completely ridiculous story, based on unreasonable concepts and unrealistic developments, that almost certainly would not have occurred to the reader as being material from which a readable story could be created...
...the extraordinary narrative, with great exuberance, bursts casually into the unprepared consciousness of the reader, rendering him incapable of resisting such extravagant themes and uncommon coincidences.
Posing as level-headed journalism or an unbiased report from an objective witness, the Extraordinary is introduced into the Ordinary, the bland and predictable world of the reader, thus escalating the ability and desire to remember the Absurdist story, placing it far beyond other stories that merely relate typical events, popular ideas, common dreams, and average personalities.
(5) JUMP RIGHT IN
You don't need to formulate where an absurdist story ends up in order to start writing it.
Be satisfied with setting up an unrealistic condition or assertion, then begin filling in the rest of it as though you had it all figured out beforehand, and even if you digress repeatedly and at great length, give the impression that all your blathering is requisite context and background information to facilitate a full and coherent understanding.
Even if the scenario fails to come to a credible conclusion and instead drifts off to some very unrelated space or eventuality, that too is Absurdist technique and not to be scorned as a potential denouement. A tangent can serve just as well as a tragic catastrophe, freakish twist, or happy ending as the tale's unforeseeable finale.
Posted by steven edward streight at 12:33 AM
Friday, January 21, 2011
An Exclusive Interview with Str8 Sounds
by Lester Spurlanger
Slamp! Magazine (UK), the world's premiere techno rave, space drone, and ambient dance journal.
Exploration Beyond Time by str8sounds
Spanish Portals by str8sounds
Program Guide by str8sounds
Phoenix feat. Eshar by str8sounds
Well, folks, it's here -- the eagerly anticipated "departure project" by Str8 Sounds. Promising to blaze a fiery trail through the thickets of unexplored territory, "Sparse" is one colossal (monolithic in effect while multi-dimensional in essence) milestone in the field of electronic music.
Think of it as an off-kilter blend of The Orb, Spacemen 3, Plastikman, and A Silver Mt. Zion / Godspeed You Black Emperor.
Or what the Twilight Zone would be if it was a oscillating ring modulator played by a theremin-slinging straw mannequin at a square dance.
In keeping with Joseph Faber's Talking Machine (1845) (SEE PHOTO ABOVE), which "consisted of a bizarre-looking talking head that spoke in a weird, ghostly monotone as Faber manipulated it with foot pedals and a keyboard", and through a system of just 16 notes blown through a robotic vocal array, could reproduce the human speech of any European language, this new Str8 Sounds album is no bland derivative of pop formalism, nor any other explicable auditory tradition.
'Sparse' is accomplished, ironically for a minimalist endeavor, in the neo-maximalist mode, with restricted track agglomeration. 'Sparse' throws the listener some sonic curve balls, but not without euphoric undertones and after-auras. What a tepid and utopic assembly of otherworldy cave harps and banjolins, cellophonic tone grinders, paper trumpets, and audio velocity vitalizers, resounding with extraordinary acoustic depth and residual scale dynamics.
When you obtain a recording like this, on an old fashioned audio CD, you must hurry home, turn on your stereo system, turn up the volume, open your ears...and LISTEN.
Sit there and stare at the sounds pulsating from the troubled speakers.
Go with the flow and get lost in the genius of it all, the conceptual beauty of the lilting passages, the surging diversions and explosive pounding, beating and thumping, in perfect quadrophonic high fidelity.
Brutal at times, then suddenly gentle and floating, while depicting every scene and spectrum in between: from classical orchestras to hard rock, then off into soaring techno majestics, brilliantly inundating the spaceflight of a trillion galactic bandwagons triumphing in amusia delirium.
Which basically means fewer instruments and reduced audio information, not as much the standard muddy assault of hoots, warblings, and wails, menacing the walls with pyramidic echo-flares, blaring discordantly in a wild abandon over distorted sine wave generators and cacaphonic sound devices squawking, squelching, and dangerously short-circuiting, an unseemly and ungainly exaggeration-for-effect, an overloaded near-redundant display, competing for attention bedlam, all at the same time, until it morphs into a transient silent spot or an unenveloped din.
Did he run out of ideas? Was Str8 Sounds techno music too mainstream?
What are we to make of this self-confessed act of creative desperation, his emphatic retreat into the unfamiliarity of abandoned methodologies? How else to explain the jolting and pompous orchestrations, the cascading collisions of overly lucid stereophonic hubris, roughly hewn (as in sterile stone) or smoothly stitched (as with darning needle and elastic thread) into the undulating stratified fabric of this medley of long meanderings?
Listen to the luxurious tone spacing and malingering reverse synthesis in "Sparse" and feel the STR8 SOUNDS machine hovering more gently over the barren vicinity, moving closer to the bleak rhythmic patterns of hard ambient doodling.
In short, STR8 SOUNDS "Sparse" is a collection of musical novelty that's not easy to ignore or forget.
Using the Joseph Faber Talking Machine (1845) as the visual symbol of ascetic composition, this delightful album sends electricity and sound waves sprawling across the essential autoscopic range of machine feeling.
"We're trying to capture, tame, and exhibit an audio representation of the broad spectrum of electroplasmic emotions that are integral to machines and computers," Steven Streight, infamous leader of the STR8 SOUNDS, or just THE SOUNDS (as impudent fans truncate the band's name, to speed conversation).
I asked him about that.
"Are you comfortable with the truncation your fans use to refer to your music ensemble, which is mainly you?"
"No," he said, then fell silent. A strange air of enforced self-protective sobriety seemed to cast a pallmall murkiness over almost the entire room.
Streight grimaced, swatted at a fly I could not see, then slumped in his chair and slowly stared at the floor for a while, scratching his left knee until I thought it would fall off and become a hockey puck type obstacle that someone, myself included, could easily mistake as a stationary lump on the floor, a fixed swelling, not slippery, and then, with that misguided assumption in mind, boldly, albeit defiantly, step on it to be done with it, like it was a stepping stone, a one step staircase, a slightly elevated protrusion, serving as a speed bump, only to step and slide, slipping wildly, then flipping violently, abruptly, tragically, both feet waggling upwardly, unexpectedly in the air, landing hard on their bottom part.
Eventually he looked up at me, still scratching that damn knee of his, the right one this time, over and over, digging into it like there was no tomorrow, I thought I saw smoke and sparks flying, vigorously, abrasively, to the point that I was now sure some real, permanent, irreversible damage was bound to occur.
His reply left his mouth sluggishly, a difficult word followed, reluctantly, by a reticent word, tortured off the tongue, laboriously articulated, with long professorial pauses, one slow syllable followed hesitantly, uncertainly, by the next, like an impromptu orator who edits his tentative mental text as he lethargically produces it inwardly and cautiously speaks it outwardly, painstakingly constructing each minute particle of every micro module, like they were certain to be quoted by future generations of baffled critics and admiring fans.
"I understand that in the age of Twitter, vehicular operation texting, and blind status updates, one must abbreviate, trim, condense to near-oblivion, occasionally, verging close to utter meaninglessness, or at least mistaken implications and slipshod hermeneutics, to make the message (stripped of adjectival accuracy and barbarically garbled as it may be) fit a limited space, or, more precisely, a constrained number of characters," Streight mumbled.
By "vehicular operational texting" I understood him to refer to people who send text messages from their cell phones to other cell phones, as a crude means of interacting with them in a reckless manner that was not without its seductions and charms, but could be disastrous, infortuitous, even fatal, when this behavior is performed while driving a car. But "blind status update" was a bit harder of a nut to crack.
"Blind status updates?" I asked, being a journalist with extremely high standards. I wanted to be sure I heard him right. And if a status update could be blind, my readers needed to know about it.
"Firing into the dark," he replied. "Whistling past a graveyard. You don't know who is receiving your messages. You friend people you barely know, old high school pals who have become dark and insane, or some person who requested to be your friend and you were to busy to check their profile closely. It's like your on the phone with an intimate companion or confidante, but you've got the speaker hooked up, so others can listen in."
I could see his social media musings and analytical theorizing about networks was getting us nowhere. We had wandered off topic, wretchedly far from the main subject. I needed to seize control, even if a precarious grip was all I could manage, of this wayward meandering of tangents, and make a swift if clumsy return to the intended conversational thread.
"What would you like to say to your fans about your new CD?" I ventured, hoping he'd take the bait.
"I love this new album, 'Sparse', and I think my fans, long-term loyalists and new devotees, will fall in love with it too! I took some artistic risks and made some controversial aesthetic decisions, but I also put a lot of heart into this one."
It was easy to see he was pulling my leg, quoting all the trite gibberish the teeny bopper bands spout for MTV and VH1, trying to be overbearingly obnoxious. I knew what he was doing, but I dared not interrupt. He continued in the same vein.
"I think it's the best thing I've done since whatchamacallit, that last horrible album I did, I forget the title of it right now, that everybody hated. 'Sparse' represents a futile and panic-stricken return to audio collage and sine wave malformatting. Segues are in the spotlight once again, along with changes and fades, and the professionalism is on a whole new level, where reflexive memorability is not just a slogan, but a reality. I make a lot of very personal statements in these songs, dealing with issues I'm concerned with and experiences I've had recently," he smirked.
I knew the sick game he was playing, wasting my time with it. He was paraphrasing other music artists, making fun of them, imitating the trivial epiphanies they tend to present in response to curiosity in a new project, thereby totally evading the core of my query.
"If one more music artist says they love their new album," I said sourly, "I'm going to punch myself in the face!"
"Yeah, they never say: it's okay, but not nearly as polished and dancey as my previous work, so I suppose this new album is for completists only, those fanatic collectors who absolutely must own every title, just so they can brag about having it all." Streight was agreeing with me, but why did he parody this annoying characteristic, which just made it hurt all the more?
"This interview is over," he said and handed me the CD. "Listen to it in the context of the artistic problem I was attempting to solve, and only secondarily according to how it makes you feel. It's real aim is to correspond, not to human feelings, but to the sensitivities of the artificial world, the autonomous, self-regulating machine entity. Arrive at, and archive, your own conclusions as to what 'Sparse' is – and if it works.”
There he goes again, calling everything a machine, stretching analogy and metaphor to the breaking point, I thought quietly to myself.
"Machine emotions?" I yelled at his back as he sauntered off into the freezing cold night. It was now 3:30 AM. Streight had just burned the first few CDs of the new album, and I was one of the first to receive one. "Come on! You expect us to take you seriously? How can machines feel anything? They aren't alive. They aren't conscious personalities. They may pursue goals and be self-originating, but they can't be happy or sad or in love. Can they? You, obviously, are saying they can and do. You're expressing machine emotions in your music?"
"That's right," he said, and no more. That was all I was able to extract from this mysterious character. But somehow I felt, it was enough.