Schmucks With Underwoods


“You do have copies of all this, right?”


The sea air of Dalian has done me good, but I wish the persistent downpours and thunderstorms would clear the gritty air here in the Jing. As it is, it’s just a bit of a grey hellhole right now. Even so, I set off under the clouds to say goodbye to a colleague that I’ve known all too briefly, someone who is soon to swap Beijing for St. Petersburg. We are both ‘frustrated writers’, so we figured that the most appropriate place to meet was a dingy coffee shop. It got our heads out of the rain and smog at least.

At the same time, my director friend back in England shared the rough-cut and a poster mock-up of the short horror film we wrote. Encouraging stuff!

It all made me pull the metaphorical digit from the metaphorical orifice and start archiving and organizing some old writing, something that yet another friend (soon to swap Kazakhstan for Egypt) has been nagging me to do since he saw me burning some old screenplays on a Northampton rooftop (see above quote!) It’s a more monumental task than I had hoped, scouring hard drives and iPads and email accounts for needle-like nuggets of corn in the giant haystack of absolute effluent that is the metaphor for my writing.

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My now-ex-colleague but still brother-at-arms left me with a stack of horror movies and science fiction episodes, knowing full well the struggle of finding anything to watch on China’s anemic imitation of Netflix. I have already devoured David Cronenberg’s pervert’s choice classics Videodrome and Naked Lunch (his hallucinatory palimpsest of William Burroughs’s great novel). The film version has its flaws,* but I dug all of the different machinery; the tools of the trade coming to life, eating each other, shape shifting; the idea that a writer works better with certain instruments than others. (I must admit, the typewriter that morphed into a weird dick-arse creature and slithered off into the night was probably my least favourite).

I also liked the scene where the guy’s buddies turned up and magically got his book published for him. It reminded me of a scene that I watched the other day in Spike Jonze’s Her, where the main character’s girlfriend edited all of his writing together into a coherent piece that gave the publisher a boner. It’s one of the reasons I finally decided to organize some of my own work: because that’s not gonna happen!! There is no Ginsberg or AI operating system that’s going to pull all my old incoherent writing together and tell me how great I am. Shit’s up to me.

I’m not actively looking to publish or produce anything right now, just gather it all together and take stock. See where I am. And see if I’m still a writer.


*(too many silly accents in Interzone. And old Robocop is a right bloody mumbler, isn’t he?)

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