Unpublished Novelist Daulton Dickey Interviews Failed Novelist Daulton Dickey

transcribed by
Julius M. Henry.

Daulton Dickey is a nobody. No one’s interested in him. Yet he runs around the Internet begging for attention and whinging about how no one will publish his artsy-fartsy novels. In a blatant and unapologetic act of theft, I’ve decided to ripoff Kurt Vonnegut’s interview from the Paris Review and track down Daulton—spoiler: he wasn’t hard to find—to ask him questions about life, writing, philosophy, and whatever else popped into my head. Knowing Daulton, I expect pretentious answers. And bullshit—spoiler: he’s an asshole.

Daulton Dickey [DD]: So. Here we are.

Daulton Dickey [Dd]: Indeed.

DD: I wanted to start by filling the audience in on a few things.20160601-230511.jpg

Dd: What audience?

DD: The audience reading this.

Dd: Are you high? No one reads this.

DD: This blog has had over 18,000 views.

Dd: Maybe so, but no one’s going to read this twaddle.

DD: Let’s agree to disagree. [Pause.] Now why don’t we start by telling the audience a little something about you?

Continue reading

The “Reality” of Literature and the Death of the Avant Garde

by
Daulton Dickey.

If literature were a person, it’d be in a vegetative state. Nothing new is said, nothing new is to be learned, nothing new is offered—the appearances might change but the forms remain the same.

A cliche persists in our culture that if you want to change the system you must first become part of the system. This is an illusion meant to persuade people to embrace the system; it’s designed to inculcate conformity.

Like our culture, literature itself is homogenized while taking on the appearance of heterogeny.

In an image-obsessed culture, appearances are everything.

Another cliche with which we’re familiar warns us to refrain from judging a book by its cover. In reality, we should judge a book by its form. Form should supersede appearances. But in accordance with our species, a peculiar mammal with the cognitive ability to process and model information linearly, the form remains the same while the appearances change.

In an age of movies and television, video games and the internet, things must change. Literature cannot excel at telling linear stories the way visual media can; instead, literature should transcend the simulacrum and represent new and alternate ways to experience simulated or emulated realities.

And that is what literature does: it emulates or simulates realities. Contrary to early Wittgenstein, language does not picture reality; instead, it provides instructions for your brain to construct models. Continue reading

Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things (excerpt)

by
Daulton Dickey.

[This is an excerpt from the titular story in the new short story collection, Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things & Other Stories, which is out now.]

1.

Humming fills the air, but it’s the humming of a brain filling gaps exposed by silence. The lights are out. Colors flicker in space—sometimes near the ceiling, sometimes near the floor.

The brain does the math, and this is another case of the brain creating something where something should be.

But listen: the silence. It’s unnerving somehow. Unnatural.

The ceiling throbs. Cracks spiderweb the walls. From these, insects emerge. They’re miniature heads, human heads, crawling on six scrotums. Sperm oozes in their wake. Sadie throws a shoe at the wall and the insects scream and scatter.

She climbs out of bed and peeks outside: a planet-sized eyeball drifts toward a planet-sized eyelid. Twilight. She throws on her robe and taps her skin. It’s still skin. Thank Cruelty. She hasn’t transformed, not like the others.

She opens her front door.

The hallway is empty.

She tiptoes across the hall and puts her ear below “3F” on Martin’s door. Silence. But that doesn’t mean anything. Those creatures are probably in there. Right now. Fucking each other with those tentacles—or whatever the hell you call them.

More humming.

Is it a lightbulb, or is it her brain doing the math, plugging holes?stilllifedaultondickey

She ties her robe and rubs her stomach and tiptoes down the hall, listening in on apartments 3D, 3C, 3B.

She puts her teeth together and hisses, just to make sure she hasn’t gone deaf.

Hiss.

She hasn’t gone deaf.

Door 3B flings open. A human-sized caterpillar pops its head into the hallway. Snot and cum drips from its mouth.

—Everything okay? it says.

—Fine.

—Why you in your robe? Locked out?

—Stop talking to me. Monster. Continue reading

6 Tips for Writers Who Want to Break the Mold

by
Daulton Dickey.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step into any bookstore or library and you’re bound to discover at least one book professing to be capital-t the underscored book to learn how to write a book that publishers and agents and readers and Hollywood producers and the Dalai Lama and maybe the Pope or some low-rent Mafioso will recognize and idolize and adore. Fiction, according to the reality in which these writers write, is an algorithm. Replace variables with values and, viola, book is done. Sale is imminent.

And that might work for some people. But if you have any ambition and integrity, then you should buy or borrow that book, tear out each and every page, and use those pages to roll cigarettes or joints. Smoke that inhales the words fermenting on the pages. Those rules are better to inhale and exhale, they’re better as permanent scars on your lungs, than they are to absorb and incorporate into your writing.

Now let’s make a distinction. Some rules are useful, such as word economics or showing in lieu of telling. I’m talking about structure. I’m talking about form. I’m talking about what information is necessary, what isn’t—but I’m modifying it: ambiguity and disconnection constitute important information as well. I’m talking about the algorithms writers and agents and editors and authors of ‘How-to’ books drill into your head. The algorithm of fiction is what we want to avoid. How else are we going to invent new ways of storytelling—and new ways of seeing ourselves—if we stick to the same tired rules?

Which leads to a question: How do we invent new forms of storytelling?

Which leads to Tip #1:

Experiment. Break the mold. Try to write in new ways, try to shake things up, to use a cliché, try to change how sentences and paragraphs and chapters flow. Try to alter what information you find necessary and what information you don’t find necessary. Continue reading

Ceci n’est pas une pipe: How One Man Strives to Alter Our Perceptions. But Who is He?

by
Daulton Dickey.

I.

“It’s not a question of reality; it’s a question of our perceptions of these convergences we call ‘reality.’”

If you encountered the man who calls himself Buddha Jones on the street, you’d find little reason to acknowledge him. He’s one of those people who seem to blend in, nondescript in every way, almost generic in appearance.

He’s sitting on a bench in a park a few feet from Lake Michigan, gazing at seagulls. They hop in a sort of chaotic line dance. If they’re following a pattern, it’s indiscernible—at least to someone who doesn’t specialize in ornithology.

“They might be following a pattern,” Buddha says, “at least as far as they’re concerned. [Psychologist B.F.] Skinner found that pigeons will detect patterns even when none exist.” He hisses as he inhales smoke, then sighs as he pushes it out through his nose and mouth. “Those findings extend to people, by the way,” he says. “We’re pattern seekers, and we’ll sometimes find patterns that aren’t there.”

Buddha Jones is one of those people you might know for decades without pegging who he is, without pigeonholing him, without finding patterns, if you will, to enable you to discern cohesion in an otherwise aloof personality. His stories often contradict one another—his father died when he, Buddha, was in his thirties, for example, or he never knew his father; each story he tells, each facet of the life he chooses to share eventually emerges as either a creation or an exaggeration—or a combination of the two.

“People sometimes call writers professional liars,” he says. “That’s bullshit. Writers, and I’m talking about fiction writers here, make shit up, but there’s a difference between a lie and making something up.”

What’s the difference?

“Writing is algorithmic,” he says. “You follow a pattern, replace variables with values you’ve appointed. The point is to entertain or enlighten. Or trick.” He grins. “Or to shock or offend or whatever. To lie is to either avoid consequences, real world consequences, or to illegitimately obtain something, or someone, you want.”

But are the two behaviors mutually exclusive?

“Of course not,” he says. “But a writer sets out to tell a story, for whatever reason, or maybe to play with the notion of storytelling. Look, at the end of the day, a writer’s job is to emulate this hallucination we call ‘reality.’” He curls his fingers in air-quotes whenever he utters the word “reality,” something he never fails to do.

Why does he do that?

“I hate the word,” he says. “‘Reality.’ It misleads people.”

In what way?

“In my experience, people tend to assume ‘reality’ is this objective thing that exists independently of people, that we’re somehow passive participants in this thing we call ‘reality.’”

So then what is it?

“It’s a product of billions of neurons modeling an incomprehensible amount of information every second of every day. Each of us experience ‘reality’ differently because it’s ultimately a product of our brains.”

At this point I make a face without realizing I’d made it.

“You don’t believe me?” he says. “Drop some acid. Or drink some whiskey. These chemicals will literally alter how you experience ‘reality.’ If chemicals affecting your brain alter your experience of ‘reality,’ then isn’t it evidence that ‘reality’ itself is a product of experience?” After a long pause. “Which is itself a product of cognitive processes, of our brains?”

He had picked up a stick while we talked, and now he’s drawing the Mona Lisa in a patch of sand surrounded by grass. The picture would impress you: by utilizing nearby dirt, he shades the woman’s face, creating an almost three-dimensional picture, or a sepia etching.

On finishing the picture, which took only minutes, he tosses the stick aside and slides his boot—khaki work boots—over the picture, leaving tracers of a worn sole where a depiction of a woman’s face once lay. Continue reading

The Revolution Will Not Be Published

The Long, Slow Death of Avant Garde Fiction
by
Daulton Dickey.

The state of popular fiction, especially mainstream “literary fiction,” in the second decade of the twentieth century is one of complacency and uniformity. It’s as though someone filtered the concept of fiction and literary fiction through a sieve, and homogeneity is all that largely remains.

Literature has struggled since the advent of movies and television, with the introduction of interactive entertainment—what some people still call videos games—and the internet. In a culture marginalizing fiction and literature, the industry is rapidly transforming into a game of monkey-see monkey-do. In this world, the avant garde, historically on the margins, is being further marginalized—to the detriment of our culture.

Fiction and literary fiction in this hyper-real, digital age, an age in which the line between “reality” and “simulacrum” is vanishing, suffers the same existential crisis that visual art—paintings and sculptures—suffered with the advent of the camera.
Over the past two decades, films and television, interactive entertainment and the internet have collided with the nuances of everyday life. As a culture, we’ve moved from the digital age into a sort of hyper-digital age, a period in which we’re experiencing the merger of the digital realm and the physical realm. This new period is revolutionizing the way we communicate, and consume entertainment, even more so than it did a decade or two ago.

Unfortunately, fiction, especially literary fiction, zigged when it should have zagged. In lieu of revolutionizing the form, the way Picasso did with les Demoiselles D’avignon, the publishing industry instead chose to alter the delivery system, transitioning from hard copies to digital copies, without altering the form. That is, they’re in the process of changing their appearance—and nothing more. Continue reading

Elegiac Machinations, a novella, is out now

Fresh off the kinda sorta success of my short story collection, A Peculiar Arrangement of Atoms, I’ve released a new novella, Elegiac Machination, available in paperback or as a Kindle ebook. Please not: All proceeds generated throughout the month of June will be donated to inner city arts programs.

Reality is a product of perception. To alter reality, we must alter our perception. But how? Our unnamed narrator explores this question and attempts to unravel the mystery in this experimental novella, a non-linear, surreal trip through consciousness—and beyond.

Embracing the street art mythos, the narrator plasters an unnamed city with symbols meant to open up awareness—awareness of consciousness, of reality; reality as it is, not how people perceive it. But he lives in a world in which corporations, government, and technology have transformed people into mindless automatons. People move without thinking, follow without thinking, work and live and dream without thinking—and they don’t realize they’re shackled in a continent-sized prison.

To change people, our narrator has to wake them up; he has to make them aware of their shackles. Can he use stencils and spray paint to wake them? Can art still thrive in a cultureBookCoverPreview populated by drones?

Part philosophical meditation, part surrealism and literary cubism, Elegiac Machinations is unlike anything you’ve read. It’s a haunting exploration of what it means to be alive, a meditation on the nature of reality and art, and on paying attention in a world dominated by routine and distractions.

About the author
Daulton Dickey was born into a family of circus freaks. Without any noticeable defects or talent, he hitchhiked across the Atlantic Ocean and kicked the corpse of William S. Burroughs. He currently lives with his wife and sons in a city on a planet in the Milky Way Galaxy.

He has written for several websites, including popmatters and filmthreat, and he was, briefly, an editor for the journal, Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens.

The Hills of Zoar

by Daulton Dickey.

Jane Doe sits in a chair beside a window in a dimly lit room. A book in her lap is open to a chapter filled with blank pages. She turns the page and scans the textures. Her eyes bounce right to left, right to left, as if reading Hebrew. The textures, fine, almost imperceptible, are arrayed in scattershot patterns. Pulp dropped and compressed into pages. Random. But the textures say something. They mean something. Of that, she is certain.

The window to her right overlooks a brick wall. Someone at some point long ago, probably long before Jane was pushed into this world, had tagged the wall with paint. A cock with eyes and a mustache sitting on top of a scrotum. Above the cock, in perfect calligraphy, reads, “Beware, ye who enter here.” Continue reading