Sunday, 2 May 2010


Back in 1992, I was twenty-five and filled with the desire to be a writer. By this time I'd published my first short stories, but I knew that what I needed to do was write a novel. I just had no idea how.

I'd made a few false starts over the years, trying to get find a story that would sustain a long narrative, trying to figure out how long narratives worked. How would I know I was done? I had no idea, so in a fit of inspiration I took a look in that year's Nebula Awards collection, and saw that nominees for the novel category had to be over forty thousand words long – I had my target. I figured if I sat down and wrote a few hundred words a day, I could get it done in just a few months.

Looking back, I see now that I set myself a rather low target. Later, of course, I learned that a commercial novel needs to be at least eighty thousand words these days for anyone to look at it, and a bijoux item like this was simply never going to attract a mainstream publisher.

Well, so it goes, I thought, and put it away thinking that it had been good practice, and now I should move on to something else.

Well, about this time I moved from New Zealand to Great Britain, and discovered the British small press. Among the small magazines were a few publishes of chap books and short novels, of exactly this sort. I returned to State of Change, therefore, when perhaps I should have been writing a full length novel, and spent a year or so, in between exploring London and the world, giving it another do over.

In 1998, I found a publisher, and excitedly told everyone I knew, that my novel was finally going to be published! How proud I was, how relieved to have my efforts finally rewarded! My friend suggested it was similar to an EP from an independent label, the culmination of years gigging and doing the circuit, and the first step on a glittering career.

Oh, hubris!

Three months later, I got a very apologetic letter informing that because of events beyond their control, they were forced to close. Crashing disappointment!

Still, it was encouraging: someone out there had though it was sorth publishing, so I didn't give up on it entirely. A few years later a second small press publisher expressed an interest and I went through the same naïve exultations, but, well, I dunno what happened this time, the guy just stopped answering emails. He's still publishing short novels and what-have-you, but I guess his enthusiasm for the project cooled, or something. End result: more crashing disappointment!

So, several years later, this darn thing is still hanging around, resolutely unpublished, seemingly unpublishable. No one else seems to be interested in publishing short novels from unknowns, so what's to be done? Having dipped my toe in the blog water, as it were, I decided I might as well get out there myself, and here it is.

It must be five years since I looked at this, and it's an odd experience, now. I've tried to present it as it was when it was finished. I don't really want to spend another lot of time on it now, but I'm fixing any obvious errors, and I don't have the discipline to leave some of the more distressingly unfunny jokes.

That aside, this is, basically, it. Is it as good as it could be? Well, nothing's ever as good as it could be, but this is what I felt and thought and pondered between the ages of twenty-five and thirty. There are some good gags in it, and the ideas were fresh in those days, even if it all looks a little passé now.

What startles me most is how I am still going on at these same issues – life on camera, celebrity failures, a life without privacy and we we retreat when there's no physical place for us left. It looks prescient to me now, that a lot of my satirical ideas on how hype and marketing would shape and infiltrate our lives have come true. It's truer still in New Zealand, where television has been gutted to the extent that most of the TV shows are nakedly and unashamedly advertising.

The other matter that maybe requires some explanation is the sexual explicitness. This is very much not me. I think love is a very important part of fiction, and novels without love in them are distinctly lacking in my opinion, but I'm a discreet fade out sort of a guy rather than a character-expressed-through-lovemaking sort.

I decided to approach the sex in this novel in this way for two reasons. The first is that I think that porn is the ultimate in hype and marketing. It's the most bizarre non-product on Earth. Nothing sells a bigger lie than porn, and so in my “take this to the extreme” take on the topics here, pornography is the place it all ends up. I think, in that context, it works quite well.

On the other hand, I was trying to directly challenge my own squeamishness in writing about sex. I was trying to explore some internal space about these types of expression and so pushed myself to make it harder and nastier with every draft. I don't know if this aspect succeeded quite so well: there's nothing in the text that addresses this, and it seems to have been entirely an internal matter for me. Maybe that's just as well, as a matter of fact.

Ah well. Here it is then, without further ado. In the words of Viv Stanshall, I hope you choke on it.

Patrick H, 2010

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