A poem of mine was just published in Paintbucket, who’ve swiftly became my favorite aggressive lefty poetry zine after I stumbled upon them a couple months back. The title is a reference to one of my favorite places in New Orleans. Ms Mae’s is a 24-hour dive bar across the street from both a church and a library, and has a reputation for being the cheapest bar in the city. It actually sold $1 well drinks until 2014 or so.
Trying to write about New Orleans has been a minor fear of mine for a while. There’s a blog called Fleur de Leaving which collects the overwrought goodbye letters entitled transplants write after the city didn’t roll out a red carpet for their derivative business ideas. They get printed every now and then in papers or local culture rags, always framing their personal failings as the city’s fault.
The city has its faults, but most of them are things that people in positions of power (landlords, technocrat grifters, lapdog politicians) inflict on the average resident. Not surprising to anybody with an ounce of class analysis under their belt, but eh, we aren’t going to get a lot of training in that with a completely privatized school system! Hopefully the piece reads like the frustration and despondency of living under exploitative systems, rather than the petulant carpetbagger who couldn’t manage to weasel their way into them.
Also hopefully I’ll be using this blog again now that I have a few things in the pipeline.
My To Another Abyss tie-in story, “Oh Ghost of Mine,” was produced in audio by The Overcast last week — check it out here! I couldn’t be happier; J.S. Arquin did a great job with the comedic delivery. It’s also substantially different from the original audio recording which inspired the title, which is definitely a good thing in this case. I’m not much in to the shrieky vocals these days.
I’ve just gotten a short story about incorporeal solidarity published in the magazine Speculative City alongside awesome writers like dave ring, Stefani Cox, and Robin M. Eaves! It’s a great magazine from some really sharp publishers, so give it a look!
“Oh Ghost of Mine” is a story featuring Decca, one of the characters from To Another Abyss. The plot is completely separate so you don’t need to have read the novel beforehand, but you can totally pick up a copy afterwards if you want more of her snerky socialist supernatural solutions.
I think what first kicked off this story idea was a couple friends of mine who were having a discussion about where modern freelancers and the self-employed fit in to traditional Marxist class structure, and what shape a worker’s “solidarity” can take when they don’t really have co-workers or managers.
I don’t have much background in political theory so the first and most amusing answer I could come up with was “choose a line of freelance work that will grift the rich.” Which I find satisfying on a visceral level, but it isn’t really practical career advice, so I was left to explore it in fiction. I couldn’t think of any stories where someone had actually turned that old line about “the specter of communism” into a literal specter, and what’s the point in a metaphor like that if you can’t literalize it every now and then?
Moreover, ghosts are a pretty good model for activism. If you look at any story from M.R. James all the way back to Hamlet, ghosts have always known that the only way you’re going to get results if you start pestering folks who are comfortable with the status quo. Loudly. In their own bedrooms if that’s what it takes.
If the title and cover weren’t enough of a sign, punk music has been a pretty big influence on my writing. There was a period of a year or so in my teens where I’d spend afternoons laying face-down on my bedroom floor listening to a new (to me) Bad Religion album with liner notes in one hand and a dictionary in the other. But it goes beyond just the vocabulary and invective; I’m pretty sure listening to so many albums that blow through 14 songs in ~30 minutes is the reason my novel barely breaks 50k words.
A couple songs work as themes for specific characters, but most of them are just thematically-aligned with the book in general: songs about selling out, overestimating one’s own abilities, wails of existential despair, a psychobilly song about primordial sea-creatures. I guess the last one isn’t a theme so much as it is something that just plain appears in the text, but hey, what’s more punk than being too on-the-nose with your lyrics?
Dust off your checkerboard Vans and enjoy!
For those of you who don’t use Spotify, here’s the track list:
Mouthwash – Fool’s Gold
Strung Out – Mind Of My Own
Propagandhi – Anti-Manifesto
Osker – Ballad of a Traitor (Hiii Ian!)
Tsunami Bomb – Dawn on a Funeral Day
Bad Religion – We’re Only Gonna Die
Tiger Army – Nocturnal
Refused – New Noise
Sick of it All – Scratch the Surface
Minor Threat – I Don’t Wanna Hear It
Chelsea Wolfe – Advice and Vices
Chelsea Wolfe – Pale on Pale
Priests – Suck