Nine Writers and Performers Who Influenced Bastard Virtues

by
Daulton Dickey.

In 2003, my cousin died in a car accident. I received the news while loafing around in New Mexico. I had traveled there earlier in the year, and, after a brief stint in Las Vegas, felt lost. But I had left Indiana—hopefully—for good, and I was determined to start a new life somewhere else. Jobless and low on money, I resisted giving in. I resisted going home.

Then news of his death arrived, and it hit me hard. I felt isolated. My determination to stay transformed into a desire to leave, to go back home, to spend time with my friends and family. To fill the hole my cousin had left.

Although he was a year younger than me, we grew up together—and we were close: we made the same mistakes together, tried alcohol and pot together, developed a similar sense of humor, and developed similar tastes in movies and music, in pop culture in general.

Rage filled me when he died, and I felt the urge to write about it. I tried and failed several times before I hit on the opening chapter of Bastard Virtues. My desire to honor my cousin gave way to my anger and rage, which consumed me whenever I thought about his death. Early on, I realized the novel wasn’t about him as much as it was about my anger, my rage, my sadness—emotions transformed into themes which dominated the novel.

On embracing the anger and rage, I decided to pick influences for the novel which reflected my relationship with my cousin. Some of the influences are mine alone, and reflect nothing more than my preoccupations at the time. Other influences, however, represent shared interests between my cousin and me.

Hunter S. Thompson

Thompson’s influence is apparent early on in the novel, the opening section of which was inspired by The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved. Although Thompson’s story meant nothing to my cousin, it was a starting off point for me. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas connected my cousin and me to Thompson, which is what inspired the setting early in the novel. Thompson’s cynicism and vitriol hit a nerve with us when we were teenagers; it was the language we had already used, and in Thompson we’d found a sort of spiritual guide. 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

An Excerpt from Bastard Virtues, a Novel

by
Daulton Dickey.

Bastard Virtues is now available for pre-order. Click here to pre-order the paperback. Or here to pre-order the Kindle edition.

 

A thorn bush bloomed in my skull.

Vines sprouted inside my brain.

They spread throughout my body—their thorns, razor-sharp, tore into my muscles and threatened to deglove me—as fragments of light sparkled and devoured me.

Bugs, or, worse, creatures whose existence had eluded us, crawled across my skin and burrowed into my temples. They danced and stretched a rope from temple to temple, and tried to pull them inward, tried to collapse my skull.

I wanted to scream, couldn’t.

I wanted to dig my fingernails into my skull and remove them one by one.

The ropes pulled inward, inward.

I tapped my temple in search of a hole.13516669_258152327885522_3315739699535796428_n

Gummo.

Gummo, inspect my head.

Why hadn’t the words come out?

Why hadn’t I made a sound?

Had my motors skills atrophied?

Where are we?

What the hell is this place?

Why the fuck are we doing this?

Although certain I’d transformed my thoughts into coherent chatter, the expressions from strangers and dealers told me otherwise. Wide or squinted eyes, open mouths or frowns—everyone broadcast a response.

Faces muted confusion or fear. Continue reading

Bastard Virtues Now Available for Pre-Order

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

A Peculiar Arrangement of Atoms — Out NOW!

Click here to buy it.

50% of all proceeds generated from this ebook will be donated to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. apeculiararrangementofatomsdaultondickey

A couple discovers an alien-like element, a woman locked in a ward tries to grapple with her mind, an ex-junkie encounters a possible solution to her problems, two men—broke—just want to get drunk, and, in an infinite story, a man encounters a woman who may hold the key to life and the universe.

A Peculiar Arrangement of Atoms is a collection of sixteen moving, funny, and enlightening short stories written in a variety of styles. Individually, they explore human experience. Together, they represent a bleak yet hopeful, and at times comic, portrait of humanity and the human condition.

Part John Barth and William Gaddis, part Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace, part Kurt Vonnegut and William S. Burroughs, but in a voice all his own, Dickey has crafted a short story collection that will linger, that will haunt you, that will entertain and, most importantly, stick with you.

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

An Excerpt From Another Novel No One Will Publish

by
Daulton Dickey.

The bedroom looks more or less as it did when Sarah’s mother had returned from the hospital, like something out of a 70s Style magazine: khaki colored carpet—shag carpet, mind you—vanilla walls, a beige ceiling. A dresser stands beside the closet door. A bed towers in the center of the room, one of those velvet numbers. It looks old and worn, the bed, like it’s been sitting beneath a pile of scrap metal for years.

As a child, Sarah loved to peel the sheets and blankets off and roll around on it. Complete with a velvet headboard, the bed attracted her; she loved how it felt, adored it, even.

It repulsed her after her mother died. And, as a teenager, it embarrassed her when, on a rare occasion, a friend, rarer still, showed up to the house and peered into the room. The headboard alone belonged in a museum, it was so old; and its color, purple, caught the eye. It never failed to elicit a comment, usually about her father, which further embarrassed her.

Sarah shoves her fist into the mattress. It creaks. She recoils and blurts something like a scream but not quite a scream. More like a yelp. Touching the mattress had raised gooseflesh on her arms, which she now pulls to her chest and massages.

Her mother’s absence lingers, but it’s vague. It reminds Sarah of the feeling she experiences when she leaves her house and forgets something—but not certain if she has, in fact, forgot something. And this evokes pretty much the same sensation, her mother’s absence. Why does she linger? But then does she linger?

After a while, the sensation dims. It dims. The shadows of years gone by darken the signature of her existence.

And but Sarah’s father … His absence is fucking oppressive. Like at any moment, Sarah expects him to call from downstairs or to make an appearance or to ask why she’s in his room. Like it doesn’t even feel like he’s out of town or on vacation or something. It feels like he’s there, right there, alive and well and in the house, maybe in the living room, maybe, or in the basement. And … but … she doesn’t have access to him. Like he’s there but she can’t pinpoint his location; like she knows he’s home but she can’t figure out in which room he’s doing whatever it is he does.

She opens the closet door—inside, it smells like dust—and fumbles for the twine dangling from the light fixture. She flails her arm and pinches her fingers. Then, still flailing her arm, she slaps the twine, catches and pulls it. Photons ping pong around the closet.

Clothes hang from wall to wall. Men’s clothes. Some old, some new, some she’s never seen. She slides her fingers across the sleeve of an old jacket. Goosebumps. The clothes retain his smell, his signature. Tears threaten to assault her. She clears her throat and closes her eyes and pops her neck, slaying the tears before they usurp her.

It’s almost funny. Every suit, every shirt, every pair of paints—everything seems plucked out of the 1970s and 80s, like her father was maybe some secret sitcom star and had saved his wardrobe. As a teenager, of course, she didn’t find it funny, even though his style wasn’t as outdated.

Among blues and whites, and even a pink, among velvet and cardigan, a black suit sticks out. Does it look good? Seams are frayed and, at some twitterheader (2)points, gray dulls black, turning it more or less silver. So no: it doesn’t look good. But then so what? Does it matter what he looks like when he’s buried?

But even in death people tend to appear the way others expect them to appear.

—It’s such bullshit, she says.

More faded clothes. More frayed seams. Did the man own a decent suit? 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.