Sunday, June 16, 2019



My next reading will be Saturday, July 6th at San Diego's genre-fiction paradise Mysterious Galaxy As a special "In Discussion" panel, moderated by bruja-fiction author Lizz Huerta , I'll be joined with J.S. Breukelaar and Keith McCleary. The event is free and starts at 2pm.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

DIP-ICK-SHUNS


      



           

            A majority of a writer’s life is spent navigating rejection. The good news, at least for myself, is that the more I am rejected, the easier it gets. They cross you off the list for that particular piece, and you cross them off. There is nothing personal when you both need to keep the wheels turning, the arteries flowing unobstructed by foreign matter.

            But occasionally there’s going to be a clear outrage, where a writer feels so misunderstood by one gatekeeper's reductionist opinion, that it sends the writer screaming into the stratosphere.

            After a proper solicitation from the editor, my twin novel Virgins In Reverse/The Intrusion was recently rejected by a major L.A. literary institution, on account of how the assigned reviewer “balked” at the way women were depicted in the book. To be fair, it was the most personable, kindest rejection letter I have ever received – to the point that I felt a genuine empathy for the editor, as it seemed they found themselves up against a wall – and I could only imagine the kind of pressure they were under in our current climate, where we are trying to break stereotypes of females in the media - something I am in large support of, in spite of these alleged transgressions.

            If I was going to apologize for my book, I would say that I probably wouldn’t write the same book now at age 42, that a majority of the novel was written nearly ten years ago, by a previous version of myself who may have been blindly machete-ing his way through life, who may have read/watched one too many noir books/flicks to the point where he was not just writing but actually living that way, that a lot of the book was based on my fledgling worldview that required scapegoats to make sense of it all, that I loved women so much back then that I briefly forged a double-life of cross-dressing in clumsy tribute to the fairer species, that I loved women so much I never saw them as meek and submissive but as in-tandem, intrinsic and powerful presences that could potentially fuck a man up so good that it was always a wonder to me why gender equality was still even an issue, forgetting to consider anyone who didn’t live as hard and ravenous as my co-ed inner circle.

            But I will never apologize for my book. How could I, when you consider the universe I created in Virgins In Reverse/The Intrusion, where every single character, man and woman, is guilty?

            Every major player in the book is debased, overzealous, paranoid, self-centered, self-loathing, weak, nihilistic, hypocritical, delusional, insensitive, overly-sensitive, violent, and finally murderous but most of all: imagine this - exaggerated for narrative’s sake! For better or worse, it is these qualities, more than any kind of unattainable fairytale attributes, that I see as an overlapping common ground for both men and women who have let themselves go and hold no accountability for themselves – which is just one facet of what I feel is the book’s unsavory deliciousness.

            For the uninitiated: The protagonist in both stories is the debauched twenty-nine year old Caleb, who finds himself in the throes of runaway train obsession with a woman named Cecilia. They both work at L.A.’s Silent Movie Theater, and the theater quickly becomes its own character as their own Church of Forbidden Love (we won’t mention the unnerving addendum that in real life, this theater became another ground zero for the swell of the Me Too movement in summer of 2017, when its owners were exposed for their vast, systematic sexual harassment conspiracy, even though it’s an important one it its own right and you can refresh yourself here). One of the themes of Virgins is romance, and what comes with romance is the eventual rude awakening that everything is not how it seems, as when we romanticize a relationship, we are idealizing the other, glossing over mutual character defects that may eventually lead to the union’s disintegration.
            
           In their attempt to settle down before they really get to know each other, both Caleb and Cecilia meltdown, becoming exaggerated versions of themselves in an effort to uphold their own identities – Cecilia as the controlling vixen succubus who assumes the spirit insect of the gorgeous but deadly Emerald Wasp, and Caleb as the unkempt fiend, the drunken buffoon who takes the form of Cockroach.
            
           Even though the author of the book is a male and is told from a first person male perspective, you are not necessarily expected to sympathize with him throughout the story. In fact, the reader is tricked – at first you may be charmed by his trajectory, but as the layers of Caleb are peeled back, you realize he is a deplorable human that you are unfortunately, stiflingly stuck with until the end.
            
          This unveiling – this horrible yet relatable depiction of man - grows even darker once The Intrusion begins, as Caleb has lost all control of himself. With further disregard to take accountability for his actions, Caleb has convinced himself he is in fact, possessed by an evil spirit that is making him do all sorts of horrific things.

            I decidedly left a lot of grey area and voids to be filled by the reader’s own imagination, so it may take on a life of its own inside the readers mind. I like the idea of the reader taking ownership of how they interpret the book, to give it a personal branding with which they can empathize. There are some that think through his obsession with her, Caleb is possessed by Cecilia, or by the spirit of a queen bitch Kali-esque entity. I like to see it as this: Caleb IS the evil spirit, the way someone can haunt their own house while they are still living. The living, breathing embodiment of bad vibes, man.

            But make no mistake here - by the time the book ends, the reader should have equal disdain and sympathy/empathy for both Caleb and Cecilia, as well as the common degraded tendencies of both women and men, as the roles of who is guilty and who is innocent (that is, if you insist that there always has to be those kind of reductionist terms in your adorable, fragile mind) flip-flop so many times that one can only deduce that the only truth worth arguing in favor of: that we are a conflicted species at constant war with ourselves and others, no matter what kind of genitalia we have been cursed with. And as long as the sun does shine, we are always led to reckon that we are unable to run from our respective shadow selves.

            Virgins In Reverse/The Intrusion is without question, a nasty book for nasty men and nasty women alike. That is, if the reader has the guts and compassion to see a little bit of someone they’ve known in the characters, if not their own damned selves. And if not – I applaud your good fortune, if you were lucky enough to live such a safe, antiseptic life that these phases of growing up come across so appalling that you may “balk.”
            
           In fact, let’s discuss class issues for a moment. For Cecilia and the other major female, Amber, the two women are maligned not because they are female, but because they are grim examples of the extent of “how far can too far go?” that is largely dictated by the opposite sides of the tracks they find themselves on. Cecilia is the calculated, overly-confident rich kid who you get the feeling has never heard the word “no” before, armed with the assumption that “everything is negotiable” by money or manipulation. Then there’s Amber (who only shows up for a couple pages but is an important spike in the narrative), who barely skims by in a junkie flophouse off of Vine. She is desperate, scattershot with her emotions, and has allowed her abysmal environment to sculpt her for worse, scrambling for self-confidence as she grasps at straws to make Caleb stay with her, in spite of it being a toxic, empty union.
            
           While I maintain it is a work of fiction, most of these characters are based on people I have known – true characters in my colorful yet misguided time in Los Angeles where my depraved instincts could only attract comrades and lovers of a similar ilk. Still, these are depictions – again, exaggerations - of not just a type of person, but what we can only hope is merely one phase of a person. To take these creative snapshots out of context, that are imperative to the arch of this twisted morality tale, then condemn the author on the grounds that he is somehow dragging a whole gender through the mud merely from a momentary facsimile – I believe you are actually doing a disservice to a large element of feminism – that a woman can be whoever she wants to be, and if it is somehow unattractive to society’s cruel, imbalanced standards, well, consider the corrupt source from which we come.
            
           While it is paramount to empower the female, it is also unfair to women to insist that all depictions of a woman can only be one of the empowered woman. To disregard all the inherently human moments of temporary weakness, of abandoned hope, of bottled-up rage, of using the best intuitions you have been dealt to merely survive; is to balk from a counter-intuitive soapbox of privilege, where you are actively ignoring the struggle aspect of a woman’s plight. Of a human’s plight. Much like the men, the women I have portrayed in Virgins In Reverse/The Intrusion have lost their fucking shit. But like some of our sisters in real life, who didn’t have the luxury of an understanding family, an empathetic lover, in a culture that often systematically encourages their mistreatment, they have every right to.


April is National Poetry Month - I have four new poems in this month's issue of Cholla Needles

   While I began writing songs when I was thirteen, I never wrote poetry as a kid - largely due to spending most of my life assuming that songs and poems were one and the same. But after the atrocious event of Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, I was infuriated, considering of all the relevant contemporary novelists that could have won the specific award. Bob is a musical icon, sure. But as far as actual literature goes, Dylan had only written the jibberish of "Tarantula" in 1971, before his more recent memoirs. And here the Swedes were now claiming that songs were literature? As both lyricist and novelist, I scream at the top of my lungs that this is simply not true.

   Songs, as great as they can be, are essentially what I prefer to call "ego-jingles," a frontman/woman's beating of chest whose sole purpose, like it or not, is to reduce itself into a commodity to sell albums for a label or beer at the club. Songs, when written well, or rather, if there is enough money behind your "team," are lavished with praise and press, to help sell ads in print magazines, online sites, and if you're really lucky, to help a car commercial appear more in touch with the today's vague zeitgeist.

    Poems, on the other hand, are the lonely, thankless road - even if the poetry is "amazing." Poetry is the true emergency, the personal means to end, the cry for help, the declaration of independence, the the scream in the forest that makes no sound, meant to be savored either in lightning strike moment of the poet's live reading or the brief repose from their book

   Poetry has been flowing from me now more than ever, largely due to the solitude and allowance of refection in the desert. Big ups to Rich Soos at Cholla Needles for the opportunity, over and over. In this month's issue, I have four: "Late Bloomer With A Love Supreme," "Paper Cuts," "Deep Root Delusion," and my favorite, "Heat" (pictured below).

Click here to purchase Cholla Needles Issue 28.





Friday, March 15, 2019

New story "Through The Raven's Eyes" on Episode 13 of Space Cowboy's "Simultaneous Times" podcast

   "Through The Raven's Eyes" contains a psychedelic theory of human existence that I have been entertaining for some time now - sort of an updated, more nightmarish version of the whole "what if our solar system were just an atom on a giant's hand?" trope. I often relate a lot of human behavior to cellular level mechanics, especially after getting my mind blown by Howard Bloom's The Lucifer Principle in my late twenties. Come to think of it, one of my favorite songs around that time was Anita Lane's The World's A Girl, and I think it would make quite a fitting accompaniment to the story in another format.

   Our favorite antichrist Jack Parsons makes an appearance (in theory) but I promise it's bereft of the usual fanboy worship that we usually fall victim to.

   Thanks to Jean-Paul Garnier and Zara Kand to helping with the cast reading, and to Oneirothropter for the soundtrack.



https://spacecowboybooks.bandcamp.com/album/simultaneous-times-episode-13


Saturday, January 12, 2019

My debut novel VIRGINS IN REVERSE/THE INTRUSION out now!



    It is with great exhalation this week that I announce the release of my debut novel VIRGINS IN REVERSE/THE INTRUSION on Joshua Tree's Traveling Shoes Press.
 
    At 170 pages, it is comprised of "twin" novellas. Two deceptive morality tales - think Day of The Locusts/Miss Lonelyhearts - only these stories repellingly intertwine. The stories are not sequel/pre-quel or in anyway traditionally linear, but third mind guided through phantasmagorical noir scenarios after the sidewalk of the narrative's "speculative memoir" runs out of historical accuracy. Memory is such a deceiving thing, after all.

     I spent nearly ten years on this book. From its naive inception, to its mind-numbing bureaucratic hostage, the false-starts and stops, the constant art imitating life parallels that still shock me to this day, to its return to my hands and a great humble and hungry publisher behind me. With its reception thus far, I am now thankful it took as long as it did - it would seem regretful if it came out anytime before now, to run the risk of it being anything less. If it was a crap book, I believe it would have merely evaporated in all the chaos - especially considering how many brilliant people I have to thank who lent their eyes and opinions.

     The great Tav Falco really makes it shine with his initiation foreword, adding a whole other layer of intrigue to the book. He made connections between the two stories I would have never even dreamt of, and the way he writes is so vital, uncanny, and otherworldly that I couldn't have imagined anyone else more fitting to come to my rescue at a precarious time where the book was in absolute limbo. For someone I admire as much as Tav, I was grateful he took such a leap of faith with this.

     Again, enormous gratitude to Jon Christopher and Tania from Traveling Shoes, who really rescued the book and are wholly responsible for making it available to us today. I am excited to grow with a new publisher in real time and look forward to our time together. Jon also designed the cover and executed it not only how I imagined, but in the end better than I could have thought.

     And to Jean-Paul Garnier, my hawk-eye editor who spent more time with the book than anyone besides myself. He also uncovered great synapses in the plot that made it sparkle when I was so burnt out and disillusioned that all the words were beginning to look like Hieroglyphics.

     While there is a proper acknowledgments page at the end of the book, I would like to end this by giving a special shout out to all those who didn't make it in there on account of timing, who helped with the proofs, last minute look-sees, and blurbs to give the book further grease: Rich Soos, John Tottenham, Rachael Polokoff, Seth Miller, Niki Pretti... thank you. If I forgot anyone, blame my brain and not my heart and please let me know.


                                                                                              - Gabriel Hart
   
   
   

   

   

 

Friday, November 30, 2018

New short story "Your Honor and 'His Likeness'" in Simultaneous Times Sci-Fi Anthology Vol. 1 (Space Cowboy)



     Some time ago, my editor Jean-Paul Garnier from Space Cowboy Books asked me to write a sci-fi story for an anthology he was putting together. I took it as a challenge to get me out of my noirish discomfort zone, to see if my voice could work within different parameters.
     The result is "Your Honor and 'His Likeness,'" a paranoid tale of human origin that takes place in the unlikely backdrop of a pressure-cooker courtroom. Desert rat Jason Krieger has gone missing, as a fragmented scene of the trial surrounding his disappearance unfolds. His best friend, who we only know as "Mr. Barnes" is another accessory suspect called to the stand. He is in possession of Jason's cell-phone, left behind at the scene of his vanishing. What we hear on the cellphone's voice recorder history proves a ground-breaking diverging of not just the case at hand, but courtroom protocol, as the Judge loses his composure and chaos spreads to the jury (not to mention, changing everything we have been taught).

   
      I am "honored" to be among seven other authors in this anthology, including Jean-Paul ("Fucking Like Animals"), Jakes Bayley ("The Banshee"), Jon Christopher of Traveling Shoes Press ("In The Heavens As On Earth"), Joe Hertel ("The Mechanics"), Robert Deloyd ("Katie Of The Stars"), Brent A. Harris ("A Hard Day Hunting Dinosaurs"), and the debut sci-fi story from surrealist painter Zara Kand (One's Moon).

     The official release party will be this Sunday, December 2nd at Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, 3pm. All authors will be in attendance, along with very special guest Bryan Thao Worra, President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. Please, join us!

To order, visit Space Cowboy Books

Monday, October 29, 2018

Catching up August - October 2018

     The year really began to accelerate toward the end of summer - I am writing all of this down for no reason other to just remember my life and keep some kind of order and sense to what is happening, though I can't be sure that will even work. It is a lot.

     It was a darker (than usual) night of the soul summer for me, finding myself having to navigate the aftermath of an epic mind-fucking break-up, along with the inferiority complexes that come from the mysterious fist of the publishing industry, as my book was cancelled a month before its scheduled release. There were many a solitary night were I felt I was floating in goddamned space. All I could do was keep busy, as the second I would stop working I would start to feel the floor drop from under me again, praying tentacles would grab on to my ankles so I wouldn't go floating into the black, unable to speak... just witness my future  - what I thought was my future - slowly fading from view. Then, I flogged myself for letting the illogical, elusive paths of success, domestic and artistic, dictate my worldview - one of the reasons why I left L.A. in the first place - and there I was in the desert, doing that thing again... All I think to do was double-down so I wouldn't obsess over it, hopefully get over myself.

     In August, full band rehearsals commenced for the new Jail Weddings alter-ego SIRENS IN THE NIGHT - our focus to our 60s girl group element but through a futurist lens. I bought my first synth - a KORG MS-20 - and began constructing the writhing, ecstatic tracks with Mary Animaux back in June. I stole the title from the Harlan Ellison sci-fi story for our first demo "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" a song about an abusive relationship - a subject then still too close to my heart, so I took relief in having the girls sing it in order to gain some distance and perspective. I am not singing in this band, just writing the songs / playing the synth. With all the illuminating upheavals we've seen recently, as women's inequality finally comes to the surface and becomes part of an international dialogue, it seems fitting to have Mary and now Rachael Ann (Bird of Paradise) be the mouthpieces for this project. Though at the risk of pandering - I would insist on them singing even if gender politics weren't so deep in the crapper...


 
(Top-Bottom) Rachael Ann, Marianne, and the rest - Seth Miller, Gabriel Hart, Rufo Chan are SIRENS IN THE NIGHT.

 
 












 
   Around the same time I started to take the Amtrak into L.A. once a week instead of driving - and maybe as a result of this - I began to really reconcile my relationship with the city. Not that I would ever move back, but something about the timing of these contemplative train rides gave me a bit of neutral excitement to be "just passing through, folks!" One of the cooler nights in my life ended up being a great reunion of old friends as well as meeting new ones, when I got asked to take part in the Dead Moon tribute show for Fred Cole's 70th birthday - with Toody Cole in attendance, no less - at the Echo last August 28th. I picked my favorite DM song "Runnin' Out of Time" and I was one of the luckier ones to be able to do it as a duet with Toody. She was warm and sincere as always. I watched most of their Unknown Passage documentary with her before the show, and it felt so special every time she grabbed my arm as she leaned over to me, whispering various behind-the-scenes anecdotes in my ear. We were backed up by the Secret Stare, which is Sharif Dumani's new group who clearly did not fuck around, mastering the tone, mood and execution perfectly.



Other standout performances included Pat Kearns (who engineered Exploding Hearts "Guitar Romantic" LP) and his wife Susan doing "Where Did I Go Wrong," Vashti Windish of Warm Drag doing "Kicked Out, Kicked In," and my boy Warren Thomas from The Abigails (and one time Jail Weddings roadie from Hell) absolutely bringing the house down with "I Hate The Blues" and "It's Ok." The next morning I hitched a ride back to the desert with Pat and Susan. I got home and the comedown of a near-perfect evening ushered me into an apparently unshakable darkness again - so much for feeling invincible. Out of nowhere I get a call from Jean-Paul Garnier, who alerted me that there was a local high desert publisher who mentioned they heard me interviewed on the Disinfo podcast earlier that week - where I was talking about my novel in limbo - and they wanted to meet me and get the manuscript as soon as possible. I called this sweet couple Jon Christopher and Tania Leysen of Traveling Shoes Press. We met, schemed, and by the next night they had the cover executed for my debut novel Virgins In Reverse/The Intrusion, out January 8th, 2019. Keep checking back here for pre-order details.



On September 1st at Sun Alley Shops in Joshua Tree, I got to witness the debut performance of Less Bells, the new avant-orchestral project from Julie Carpenter. While Julie plays violin in Jail Weddings, she is a fierce solo artist, first and foremost. The group is rounded out by her husband Dain Luscombe on synth and Leah Harmon on accordion. Their debut album on Kranky! dropped the following week and it quickly became my favorite album of the year. This lush, all instrumental soundtrack is a tribute to desert monsoons, encapsulating all of the dread and beauty one will feel when they finally recognize weather is the boss. Fans of Apollo-era Eno, Julee Cruise/Badalamenti will rejoice in this enveloping spell of an album.


On September 22nd, my dear friend Claire McKeown of Honey Child organized a tribute show to Leonard Cohen at the Echo. While I was a tad self-conscious the night might bleed into overly-precious territory, that such overzealous reverence might some across as trite, fall-short of the man's true essence, or as John Tottenham so eloquently put it, "blowing smoke up a dead guy's ass." I couldn't have been more mistaken.



Over fifteen poets and musicians came together and there wasn't a dud in the bunch. While his songs/poems resonate so deeply with us, Leonard Cohen's output is so specific and so immediately him, that many find his songs difficult to do justice to. With this in mind, every single performer "brought it" that night, if not as a result of their own raw talents, then due to a quaking fear that they may make fools of themselves. 
I got off incredibly easy, being asked to simply recite a couple of his poems - "Song" and "The Priest Says Goodbye."




Every performer was top notch, playing like their lives depended on it. But direct memory standouts for me included Draemings ("So Long Marianne"), Guy Blakeslee of Entrance ("Teachers"), Imaad Wassif ("Hallelujah"), Laena Geronimo ("Bird On A Wire") and Honey Child doing a choral rendition of "Treaty" off his final album "You Want It Darker."
Some welcomed irreverence added to some sorely needed levity to the evening, when "failed visionary" John Tottenham closed the evening with a unique speech, stating that he wasn't so familiar with Cohen's work, so he had cram for research for the evening, arriving at the verdict that "most of it wasn't very good." As the audience slowly died laughing, he continued to pour his acidic wit into our wounds, before ending in earnest with the fact that Mr. Cohen "also saved his life when he was sixteen." 


Also in September, high-desert literary octopus and enfante terrible Jean-Paul Garnier dropped his debut collection of dark sci-fi short stories Echo of Creation (Traveling Shoes Press). So not to be so desert insular with events at Space Cowboy, we had a release party for it at Stories in Echo Park. I read from last years Nothing To See Here. We were joined by Sharif Dumani, Justin Maurer, and an unexpected addition from Martin Atkins of PiL/Killing Joke, who read from his upcoming memoirs... equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking. Though he read for an audacious half-hour, he kept all in attendance engaged.  



My comrades at L.A. Record bestowed me a special assignment to interview Australian proto-swamp punk architects THE SCIENTISTS for their first ever U.S. tour. The Scientists have been one of my favorite groups since my late teens, and a chance to see them live - much less pick frontman Kim Salmon's brain - is something many of us thought we'd never get to do. You can read the interview here. Their show on October 3rd at Zebulon was everything we hoped it would be and more, as those songs clearly aged well, molding with even more viral spores as our world becomes this much more savage.


Kim Salmon, The Scientists. Zebulon Oct 3rd


Somewhere around that next week, I did something I never thought I would do. I auditioned for a part in a play called The Seer, written by Jean-Paul Garnier and directed by (and starring) Tony-Award winning NYC theatrical producer Lawrence Lane. I got the part as an overzealous religious painter, who is on the antique end of a karmic wormhole, in which a vampire treads back and forth from, teaching my character and his current day victim (who he is slowly bleeding to death) about the foils of pride and envy. Not only is it a legitimately harrowing play, it is also perhaps the hardest thing I have ever challenged myself with... though I have never given birth, battled a terminal illness, or been to war. The Seer premiered one night only this past Saturday, October 27th in Joshua Tree at Sun Alley Shops at 8pm, right before SIRENS IN THE NIGHT hit the same stage for our debut show.
All right, full circle.

xoxo
gabriel