I think the interactive nature of Blogs is fun and useful for serious writers. It reminds me a bit of sharing new writing with other students in a short story class at RMIT or something like that. I find that after I post something, many new possibilities and revisions will jump out at me as I reread the piece. I love how I can make these changes straight away and the piece becomes more economical.
So I use my Blog (ericdando.com) as part of my editing process and I am occasionally embarrassed about some of the things I post: sloppy, bad spelling, bad grammar, bad ideas etc.
I really love how I can scan cartoons/pictures/symbols and I am really excited at how these look placed with text in different narratives, the scope of that.
Essentially it is a little bit like producing chap books for friends and family but cheaper and instantaneous. I am sometimes disappointed that some journals and publishers consider work posted on Blogs already published. However this has often driven me to produce more new writing to accommodate them. New writing is always a good thing.
I recently got myself an iPhone so that I could view the Sleepers iPhone app sleepersapps.com which included 3 of my short stories and a poem. It is true that I am always eager to see anything with me in it. So I was very eager to see my work in this new format and nobody I knew would download it for me. I think most people didn’t know how. But if you like being economical with text, you will like reading all six Sleepers Almanacs for $6.
(update: I have five stories in the sleepers iphone app now which includes the Sleepers Almanac #7 – featuring my latest story Human Beans from my new graphic novel Beautiful Useful Things.)
I am also very impressed with the new Going Down Swinging online journal #31 goingdownswinging.org.au, which includes multimedia such as video and sound, my favourite being “Cheesie” by Grover Mapleton which is an overheard conversation about different fried cheeses, set to music. A conversation you can dance to. It’s very catchy and about time someone housed-up all that cheese talk that is usually wasted in the kitchen.
They also showcase text and drawings from my new graphic novel, Beautiful Useful Things and much more.
I have made an eBook version of my second novel Oink Oink Oink, but I had to use an early draft, slightly different to the finished manuscript. I’m still not happy with it and am constantly striving to make it as finished as it can be.
I think recently the price of such devices and their Android cousins have become more affordable and accessible. So now there is no excuse, everybody can consume eBooks cheaply and easily on their iPads and iPhones and Android knock offs.
When I downloaded the Kindle app on my iPhone I received a free copy of Treasure Island and began reading it at lunchtime at work, in an effort to avoid talking to people. Perhaps they think I am rereading the same text message over and over, I just don’t care anymore. I had already read Treasure Island as a real book in other lunchtimes a few years earlier and can report that the experience is very similar to reading a real book. I did not have trouble reading the text, I did not squint at the words. I was suitably engrossed and lost within the text as I usually am when reading a good book.
I’m up to the part where Ben Gun hides in the treetops and pretends to be the voice of the dead Captain Flint, as the rest of the pirates search for the treasure buried somewhere in the sand. ‘Fetch aft the rum,’ says Ben Gun from the trees in a spooky voice. ‘Fetch aft the rum,’ he says again.
After reading on an iPhone I do not feel the need to purchase a Kindle or similar eBook reader. As more and more people become confident with downloading and reading eBooks, they may also become comfortable with paying small amounts directly to authors to read their work.
Smashwords, for example, pays authors 70% of the royalties for each book sold and does not stake any claims to the intellectual property rights.
I still desire to self publish small press books which may one day become collectable artefacts.
I do not agree that eBooks or blogs will kill or damage or replace the tactile and beautifully made small press books that are pleasing to the eye and the touch and the collector. However, I do think they will compete with mass produced books from large publishers. But why should I care about the fortunes of large publishers?
I predict more and more troublesome ‘middle list’ authors will begin to self publish their own books very cheaply, selling them as small limited editions from their blogs and web sites, as well as making them available as eBooks for iPhones and iPads and Androids of all kinds on many platforms.
The Book Barn
As an author in the late 90’s, I was left without any copies of my first novel, Snail, when Penguin dumped them in a bargain bin. Perhaps they were pulped. I would have bought them all outright if they were offered to me. Up until then I had been buying boxes of them and selling signed copies slowly at poetry and spoken word events, and to family and friends. So suddenly, I was without a means to promote myself as a writer and this was something I had devoted my life to. Penguin turned me into a literary Craig McLachlan.
So I was and still am always on the lookout for copies of my out of print novel Snail. I search opshops, markets and second hand book stores. I found two copies at The Book Barn on Daylesford Lake during Easter this year. They were $8 dollars each. When I bought them, the guy said, ‘Wow, you must really like this book.’ I felt pretty weird and stupid for not telling him I had written it. I just sort of froze.
Then, I went back to The Book Barn a few months later and found another copy of Snail. It was also $8. I was really excited, I took it straight up to the counter and said, ‘I wrote this book,’ so the guy said I could have it for $5.
Published paperback copies of Snail (Penguin, 1996) have also appreciated in value over time, with copies being posted on eBay for $70 and upwards.
I’m not sure if this is a good thing, but more than one person has told me they have stolen a copy of Snail from their local library, such was their desire to own the artifact for themselves. Of course stealing an eBook will be much less of a crime in the future.
***winks enigmatically to camera and clutches chin for author photograph***
james is having difficulty finding a mate for his rare tropical fish. he sold most of the male fish months ago to buy alcohol and pizza and sculpture supplies. and although he did keep three males for breeding, they all died mysteriously. three dead fish. unexplained.
and now it is mating season and he is in a fix. the pet store that purchased his males has a breeding program of their own and dislikes competition. the nearest available male is in dubbo.
james can’t get it together to put in his dole form, how is he going to get a fish to dubbo? he feels frustrated and useless, mopes around his aquarium with a sour face.
‘I have to go five hundred miles to get my fish fucked.’ he says. ‘fuck that, i’ll fuck it myself.’
(‘This unpublished fragment was deleted from snail by my editor at the time. it was probably a wise decision.’ Eric Yoshiaki Dando)
john is into guns. it is all he talks about. he subscribes to gun magazines. the type that have pictures of guns in them. sometimes the magazines have free posters in them. the posters are of guns, sometimes naked girls with guns.
john says that he has two guns. a shotgun and a semi-automatic. he says that he keeps them hidden in the roof of his house. you have to be careful with guns like this around. he takes out polaroids of them.
john takes me out the back of nowhere. we shoot the fuck out of a red bucket with john’s shotgun.
john tells me about the time he took acid:
he was walking with his shotgun and the sky was just on fire. he saw a fox and he shot it. it was in two pieces. both halves still twitching. it looked like it was trying to run off in opposite directions. but it was dead. and the blood was so red and it seeped into the sunset. seeped into his soft head.
there are three shells left, there is no bucket. john takes a vegemite jar out of his pocket. he sits it on a rock and shoots it. now there is no jar. we walk over to where it once was. it is a pile of white powder.
‘look at that,’ he says, ‘it’s atomised. i killed it.’ he cannot get over the white powder that the jar has become. he sifts it through his fingers in rapture.
we stop by the roadside to buy hot jam doghnuts. john gets sugar all over his face and lap and shirt. he says, ‘this sugar looks like that vegemite jar i shot.’
The caravan heats up like a little oven in the midday sun. Jill is stretched out on the bed sweating. She is too skinny. Her little heart skips a beat inside its birdcage and catches up to her again. Jill’s heart is like a skinny little bird: squawk, squawk, squawk.
The caravan is parked on top of the tallest, baldest hill around. The cupboards are bare. It will not rain. And the sun. It has baked the land into bread, the crust has all cracked open and blown away.
Jack is walking to The Butcher to sell their skinny cow and meets an old man, he’s just standing there on the road waiting for him. The old man wants to buy Jack’s cow, but he doesn’t have any money, all he has is a bean. He lifts the bean out of a sack.
‘Jesus,’ says Jack quietly, ‘that’s the biggest bean I’ve ever seen.’
Jack holds the bean up to the sun, sniffs it. ‘Be careful,’ says the old man, stepping away a little, ‘it’s a magic bean!’
When Jack gets home with his magic bean Jill is very angry. She was hoping for cash, she goes stomping through the caravan with her steel capped boots and Jack’s magic bean. She wants to know what Jack was thinking. ‘You’re a fucking idiot.’ she says, ‘We’re going to starve, fe fo fi fum, you can stick it in your ear mate, you can stick it up your bum.’
And she throws the bean out the window.
Jack follows the bean, covers it in cow shit, drowns it with the hose. Dancing on the end of his shovel, singing…’Magic bean, you are my magic bean, the biggest bean I ever seen.’
Jack has swapped the family cow for a bean but it won’t flower till mid-summer and they are hungry. Very very hungry. And now he’s dancing.
It’s too much for Jill, she is looking at Jack through the window of the caravan, he can’t hear what she’s saying to him, she articulates each word slowly, she is saying ‘Jack you are a fucking idiot. A fucking idiot. Jack you are a fucking idiot.’
Jill has been seeing The Butcher on the sly. She is sick of Jack’s stupid mystical shit. She’s fucking sick of it.
The Butcher is putting his apron back on, Jill leans over and whispers something to him and The Butcher gives her something wrapped up in newspaper.
She unwraps it when she gets home, but is disappointed. A cow’s liver and a note: ‘Sweets for the sweet, sweet meat, sweet meat, sweet meat.’ She has no idea what it’s supposed to mean, it scares her. She was talking about money when she was whispering in his ear. Idiots. She was surrounded by idiots. She buries The Butcher’s liver under the bean shoot when Jack isn’t looking at it.
The bean had been growing again. It always grew the most when Jack wasn’t looking at it. Jack deliberately didn’t look at it all day and it was already as big as the caravan.
Jack climbed up into the bean stalk and now Jill can’t get him down. ‘Jack,’ she shouts, ‘get down here, you miserable cunt, go and get a fucking job.’
She potters around below with her watering can and her empty birdcage, planting daffodils and ox tongues and lamb’s hearts around the stalk of the bean.
It is growing on him. Jack inches upwards, ever upwards, tangled angelically on the tips of shooting nodes, smiling his wide idiot grin. Tendrils gently twine themselves around Jacks wrists and tighten. Others bind his legs. They could have ripped him in half, pulled him apart like a Christmas bon-bon. But this is a gentle magic noble bean.
And this is the exciting magical part: Jack’s co2 is absorbed by the stigmata in the leaves of the bean, o2 from the leaves and stem is absorbed into his alveoli. The bean becomes him and Jack becomes the bean. The sun makes it happen. Nitrogen nodules the size of footballs anchor themselves onto the roots of the bean far below Jill’s feet.
Jack has no idea when the bean will stop growing. Look down Jack, go on, look down. Jesus that’s a long way down.
The Giant’s house is on top of a cloud. Surrounded by blackberry canes. Blackberries will grow anywhere. There are rabbits in the blackberries, there are foxes eating rabbits in the blackberries. Weeds within weeds within weeds.
Jack is riding on bean shoots, they take him right over the blackberries and foxes and rabbits to The Giant’s house. Weeeee…
They drop him gently onto the front step, curled up in a bundle of flower buds. Beautiful, it was magic and noble and gentle.
The Giant is sitting on the end of a huge wooden table with his head in his hands, listening to terribly sad songs on the magic harp. It has turned him into a depressive housebound fool. The Giant’s tears flow out in little waterfalls over the blackberries, making them sour and dry and unpalatable. Only the foxes will eat them.
The Giant has a chicken that lays golden eggs. It’s a magic chicken. The golden eggs are also magic.
Jack is an idiot. It is true. He only climbed the bean because it was there, he had no idea that it would take him to riches beyond belief. Stealing the harp and the magic chicken was easy. Jack just walked in and took them. He didn’t even see The Giant sitting there. The Giant was so big that Jack did not see him.
Listening to the harp for so long has made The Giant soft and melancholy and sentimental. The Giant didn’t chase him. The Giant was a poofta. The Giant was weak as piss.
The Butcher is showing Jill his butcher’s shop window, sticking it into her like half a stuck spider against the bean stalk. They work up quite a rhythm until Jill is hit on the head by the first bean of the season. It knocks her unconscious. The Butcher runs away in fright. ‘Beans!’ he screams, ‘Great big falling beans!’
Jack climbs down from the bean shoot with the harp that sings and the magic chicken, sees Jill lying in the dirt bleeding. Takes her into the caravan and bathes her head, puts her feet up.
And when Jill wakes up, the first thing she sees is the suitcase full of lovely golden eggs, her face bathed in unholy apricot.
‘I love you Jack,’ she says. ‘I love you Jack, I love you Jack.’
Jill never mentions The Butcher. Jack is a trustworthy soul and suspects nothing. The Butcher is not coming back; he’s afraid of falling beans. Jill will not go into town, she has become a vegetarian. She’s put on a healthy layer of fat. She sits in the chicken run and waits for another one to be laid. Each new egg is carefully wrapped in cloth and buried under the caravan with the other ones.
Jack saves the seeds from the giant bean. He swaps one for a cow and plants the rest in the garden. Beans are a good crop before corn. Jack is hunting around for giant corn seeds. He talks to every old man he meets on the road. All Jill does is eat beans and look at her magic golden eggs.
Jill digs up her secret treasure trove of magic golden eggs but the rain has got to them and they are rotten. They smell like a packet of matches. She crouches in the coop, whispering encouragement to the magic chicken: ‘Lay.’ she says. ‘Lay you fucker. Lay.’
(‘Tree of Man’ artwork by Miles Allinson)