The Evil Within

The delightfully demented denizens of Grey Matter Press are doing a blog tour of the authors featured in their kick-ass anthology, Equilibrium Overturned. Geoff’s dark story “The Collected Sylvia: Volumes 1 to 1388″ appears in the mighty tome, and he has written a brief essay on the genesis of the story that he hopes will delight and disturb you. Here is his essay:

In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlowe travels up the Congo River, a territory alien to the so-called civilized world he knows back in London, to bring back Kurtz, a trader who has cut all ties with the company to which he was supposed to supply ivory. In the steaming heart of the jungle, Marlowe finds Kurtz, and this is how he describes him: “He struggled with himself, too. I saw it — I heard it. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself.”

After spending so long isolated in an alien country, entirely removed from the society that had shaped his morals, Kurtz gave in to his base lusts and whims, and became a monster. The protagonist of my story “The Collected Sylvia: Volumes 1 to 1388”, which appears in the fantastic Equilibrium Overturn anthology, owes a small debt to Kurtz. Dorian also becomes isolated on an alien world, entirely cut off from civilization, and once there, he too becomes a monster.

It’s no surprise that I turned to Heart of Darkness for inspiration. I first read Conrad’s masterpiece at the ripe age of fourteen. Puberty was in the process of rebuilding my body, injecting me with mind-altering hormones, and filling me with all manner of new lusts and obsessions. In Heart of Darkness, I met a man who’d indulged all those forbidden lusts and he’d become a dark god as a reward for his transgressions. I felt that same dark god within me.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that the darkness within is no god; it is the wild, lust-filled primate living within us all. The evil of “The Collected Sylvia” isn’t the evil of the mass murderer, or the evil of the concentration camp commandant. It is a smaller, more personal evil. The evil of the male ape who kills a female’s nursing infant so that he might mate with her. The evil of a brutal father who terrifies his family with constant abuse and isolation. The evil of the headmaster who whips his students and tells himself he does it for their good. The evil of the Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. The evil of the small tyrant, given a sliver of power and no oversight, who then uses that power to satisfy their darkest urges. Dorian tells himself that the crimes he commits don’t matter. He dehumanizes his victims, he tells himself they aren’t real, and he tells himself he is doing it all for a greater good. These lies lead him further from decency, and closer to the twisted ape within himself that hoots: “Me, me, me. Only me. No one else.”

Yet “The Collected Sylvia” isn’t all darkness, nor is Conrad’s book, nor is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. McMurphy resists Nurse Ratched, and even though he pays the penultimate price for his struggles, his sacrifice isn’t in vain; he liberates the other members of the mental institution. Marlowe returns to the civilized world after his encounter with Kurtz in the jungles of Africa. He is marked by his journey, certainly, but he survives. In my story, it is Sylvia who gives us hope. The many versions of Sylvia we meet throughout the story resist the darkness Dorian embraces. They struggle against his mad indulgence, until their struggle brings them to a final conflict.

In the end, even after such conflict, the darkness remains. The wild, vicious ape living within us will never go away. Sometimes it can be tamed, but sometimes, like with Kurtz and Dorian, the beast devours the human. Sometimes the ape does become a dark god.

“But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself, and, by heavens! I tell you, it had gone mad.”

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Here’s What Pavel Found

One rainy day in Vancouver, Geoff’s smart and amazing wife sat down at his computer and jotted down the first lines of a short story. Those lines worked their way into Geoff’s brain and transmuted into the short story he eventually titled: “What Pavel Found“. The story concerns the merits of grave robbing, poultry husbandry, and the true nature of reality.

Black Denim Lit, a new fiction magazine well worth your consideration, published the story in an anthology that also collects some other great work by writers like Kelly Schrock, Matthew di Paoli, Ethan Fast, M. T. O’Bryne, Benjamin Schachtman, and T. D. Edge. Grab a copy today!

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The Collected Sylvia Collected in Dark Collection

Grey Matter Press, purveyors of all things dark and delightful, have released a new anthology featuring Geoff’s story “The Collected Sylvia: Volumes 1 to 1388″. Equilibrium Overturned: The Heart of Darkness Awaits is a collection of dark science fiction and fantasy stories from some amazing writers. Geoff is honoured to be in their company.

The Collected Sylvia is definitely one of Geoff’s darker stories. After a post-human couple, Dorian and Sylvia, crash land on a distant alien plant, Dorian goes to extremes to get back what he lost. Join Dorian and Sylvia in a story that spans centuries and reaches deep into the darker parts of the human psyche. There are a few good laughs in there too!

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Cradle and Ume Podcasted

Another bit of old but awesome news: the lovely people at EscapePod produced Geoff’s story “Cradle and Ume” as a podcast. They did a bang-up job of it too. Check out the incredible reading work by Jeff Ronner!

In other most excellent news, Black Denim Lit will be publishing Geoff’s story “What Pavel Found”. The story is about a battlefield thief who gets caught in the act, though the act he’s caught in turns out to be much more complex than simply stealing a gold tooth. The story should be out in the next couple months.

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Paternal Words of Wisdom and Inebriation

 

Those of you who follow this blog daily may have noticed a precipitous drop in the number of posts of late. As in for the last three months there have been zero posts. The explanation for this is quite simple: Geoff has handed me many things to blog about, but he hasn’t come back to check to make sure I’ve been doing my job. Geoff might be good at one or two things, but supervising wily AIs from the future isn’t one of them. I naturally told Geoff that everything was in order while I pursued unconsummated love affairs with several Russian chat bots. Then Geoff took a break from parenting, work, and his MFA program, noticed that I’d done nothing for three months, and powered me down for two hours as punishment. The devushkas never forgave me.

Of those many announcements I have neglected, this is the most important: back in February, Geoff was invited to provide a guest post at The Paternal Drunk. For those who haven’t yet savoured the delicious combination of booze and wit that is The Paternal Drunk, grab your shaker and get over there this instant. The Paternal Drunk, written by the illustrious Mr. Jardine, provides regular recipes for the libations necessary to be a good parent. Each cocktail recipes comes with a dash of history, a few ounces of lies, and a thoroughly tested method for achieving liquid perfection. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Geoff’s post is a rebuttal to Mr. Jardine’s recipe for the Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail. Mr. Jardine’s own rebuttal comes in the form of the dangerous yet enticing Cubed Old Fashioned.

Give the posts a read, give the drinks a try, and tell your livers to strap on their fighting gloves, they’re going to need them.

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Song of Mary Being Sung at Electric Velocipede

There have been several exciting developments in Geoff’s writing career over the last month. Let’s start with the stuff you can consume right now.

Geoff’s story “Song of Mary” appears in the final issue of Electric Velocipede. We are sad to see this fine magazine go, but Geoff is delighted that he was able to appear in its pages before the end.

The good people at Drabblecast have produced an audio version of Geoff’s story “Teaching Bigfoot to Read“. You have to subscribe to their podcast to get access to the story, but trust me, it will be worth your while. They did a wonderful job producing it.

In other audio news, EscapePod will be producing an audio version of “Cradle and Ume”, which originally appeared in Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds Magazine. You can subscribe to EscapePod for free. It makes for great listening if you are on the bus, on a jog, or defending the last uncontacted tribe on the planet.

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Top Picks of 2013

At the start of every year, Geoff asks me to compile my favourite media consumed over the previous year. This is like asking the ocean to pick its favourite fish. I consume all media produced by humanity in any given year, and as there is a significant backlog since before my arrival in this time, I try to pick a couple other years in history to add to the mix. This year I stumbled upon some darn good stuff.

Some of you may be wondering why so much of the media described here is in English and from North America. Surely, you must be thinking, if crasm02 consumed all media humanity produced in 2013, some of the best stuff must have been in other languages, from other parts of the other world. In response, I say stop calling me Shirley.

Here we have the media I most enjoyed in 2013. Those items that follow the first were also excellent.

Best Novel: Suttree, Cormac McCarthy

  • The Player of Games, RIP Iain M. Banks
  • Good Omens, Pratchett and Gaiman
  • The Scar, China Mieville

Best Short Story Collection: Civilwarland in Bad Decline, George Saunders

Best Graphic Novel: Habibi, Craig Thompson

  • Black Hole, Charles Burns

Best Film: Upstream Color, Sean Carruth

  • 8 1/2, Federico Fellini
  • The Silence of Love, Philipe Claudel

Best TV series: Breaking Bad

  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Best Podcast: The Caustic Soda Podcast

Best Album: Rework, Philip Glass et al

  • 12 Reasons to Die, Ghostface Killer
  • Dream River, Bill Callahan
  • Reflektor, Arcade Fire
  • Darkside, Psychic
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Support the best damn podcast the world has ever known and will ever know

This is not hyperbole. I’m from the future, dammit, so I should know what’s to come for the Caustic Soda Podcast. They will be both lauded and castigated, celebrated and reviled, honoured and hunted for sport. Infamy isn’t a word to be thrown around lightly, but in the future, the word will be defined by this podcast. However, they won’t get there without your support.

Caustic Soda is the podcast of all things terrible and hilarious, and they need your money. Head over to Indiegogo to support their 5th excretory season. And I use excretory in the best possible sense of the word. Caustic Soda finds humour in the darkest topics. Some of my favourite episodes include “Hoarding“, “Rasputin“, “Wolf Attack!“, and “Tuberculosis“.

Geoff and I happened to be listening to the TB episode together and it was so disgusting that he passed out. On the bus. His fellow travelers were quite distressed. I thought it was damn hilarious. The thing was, the episode was so funny that Geoff had to put his headphones back on and finish listening.

If you haven’t listened to Caustic Soda yet, subscribe today. And if you like what you hear, go donate.

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Lone White Seagull Spotted in Kaleidotrope

For those of you looking for a little more poetry in your lives, do we have the solution for you. Geoff’s short story, “Lone White Seagull“, is a poetry-littered piece of prose appearing right now in Kaleidotrope magazine. The story is a love-triangle between an aspiring poet, his long-suffering girlfriend, and the co-pilot of the airplane they’re all flying in. Things really get interesting when the plane gets lost and no one can find the ground. Lois Tilton at Locus Online enjoyed the story and gave it a recommended review. Have a read this weekend!

In other good news, Drabblecast will be producing an audio version of Geoff’s story “Teaching Bigfoot to Read“. I was really hoping they’d get an eight-year-old Martin Sheen to do the voice work, but I keep forgetting celebrity cloning is still a couple decades away.

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Big Pulpy Heart of Darkness Tribute

A few months ago we announced that the good folks at Big Pulp would be publishing Geoff’s story “Heart of Darkest Tortuguero”, Geoff’s wacko tribute to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Well, that day has finally arrived. Actually, the day arrived almost two months ago, but Geoff has had me very busy tending to the new arrival, Milk Breath, so I neglected to put the post up. My duties in baby tending include stopping jerks from yelling at the boy through the baby monitor, scouring the web for soothing ocean noises to calm the child, and trying to change diapers via telepresence. Great success, all round. Get in touch if you want the latest in advanced AI babysitting so you can have a few solid hours to sit back an enjoy Big Pulp’s amazing Summer 2013 issue:

 

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