Derek Raymond: He Makes All Others Look Like Shit

June 8, 2007

So yesterday I finished Nightmare in the Street by Derek Raymond.

It was a book whose length could have been done in one sitting. But I couldn’t do it.

It took two days. And yesterday, when I read the bulk of it, I still couldn’t read it straight through in one go. I had to keep stopping to catch my breath.

Derek Raymond (whose tribute site has been in the Blogroll since the start here) was a writer who wrote brutal, unflinching works that told the truth. If you’ve ever read a book that made you feel as if it left a lesion on your brain, trust me when I say you haven’t experienced anything close to what Raymond delivers.

Nightmare in the Street is the story of a few days in the life of a French undercover cop named Kleber. He is a man who takes the value of life and justice — true justice — seriously:

I must express it, thought Kleber; otherwise the dead will go down as if they’d never lived. He didn’t quite know what the war was, being too young to have lived through it; but what he did know was that the dead had fought for a society for him, and what was happening to that most expensive of all things was that it was being wrecked and so what had they died for? [pg. 39]

In the course of these few days chronicled in the book, Kleber is suspended from his job for punching out a fellow officer (bastard deserved it, of course!) and suffers two devastating losses. The bulk of the book deals with his grief.

His unbearable grief that Raymond, through words on paper, manages to transfuse into the reader’s soul. You become the grieving Kleber. And it is awful.

The tragedy of existence, he now discovered, was that as you were on the point of living you were on the point of dying, and that when the greatest thing in your life died you, too, were dead. Afterwards others could only hold you gently by the wrist or forearm, get you a drink, joke to you, and beg you not to fall down and die. [pg. 128]

Yes.

But no matter how grim the world Raymond portrays is, there is always, somewhere, hope:

So our society, for all its mediocrity and corruption, is still occasionally based on the absolute of our common soul, and a human being can at times be as strong as God. [pg 12]

But it’s not passive. We must bring it about:

‘It’s not our fault,’ Kleber saìd, ‘Not altogether, anyway.’

‘I don’t agree,’ she said. ‘It is. We let it happen the way it does.’ [pgs. 129-130]

Consider that the next time someone mutters in your presence, “Why do things have to be this way?” We let it happen the way it does. Ayn Rand coined an apt phrase for that: The sanction of the victim. (I cite Rand to emphasize the point; otherwise, there is hardly anything in common between the works of Raymond and Rand.)

It is, of course, a book I recommend. I recommend all of Raymond’s works. Serpent’s Tail publishing will be re-releasing Raymond’s “Factory” series of books. These feature a nameless detective in the Bureau of Unexplained Deaths who, even moreso than Kleber, takes his job, life, and justice very seriously. This is what noted writer James Sallis wrote about his encounter with the final book in that series, I Was Dora Suarez:

Five or six times in a life you come across a book that sends electric shocks skittering and scorching through the whole of you and radically alters the way in which you perceive the world. There’s a great deal of talk about books changing lives. The mass of people are as likely to have their lives changed by a doughnut as by a book. But it does occur.

In 1990, as usual, I was reviewing for a number of periodicals; books arrived daily by the boxful. It became my habit, as I headed out for afternoon coffee, to select a book at random from the stack and take it along.

One day I happened to pick up the unprepossessing trade paperback of a thriller by Derek Raymond titled I Was Dora Suarez.

And for three or four hours, I was. Not only youthful Dora Suarez, who lived and died horribly. I was also taken deeply into the mind of the nameless detective from “the Factory” who, reading Suarez’s journal and following her trail through tangled London streets, sets out first to solve then to avenge her murder. And from the first page I was plunged into the mind — terrifyingly into the mind — of the murderer himself. His thoughts and feelings became as real to me as the chair upon which I sit now, writing this.

I put down the book stunned. I was sitting outside and, suddenly, quite ordinary traffic along Camp Bowie Boulevard seemed fraught with meaning. Streetlamps came on, dim and trembling in early twilight. I realized that this novel now aslumber on the bistro table before me had carved its way into me the way relentless pain etches itself indelibly upon the body.

After reading Nightmare in the Street, I did a very stupid thing. I went to the NYPL and got out several other books. One of which I will not name. It was first published (I found out only after starting to read it) on the Internet and has recently been put on paper. It was filled with very clever sentences. Surprisingly, I read about fifty pages of it. But something got under my skin and started to burrow into me. Finally it hit me: I was reading utter shit!

The clever sentences disguised the fact that characters were bullshit. They were thinner than the paper that described them. They had an emotional range from A to A. They were the kind of people who after watching Seinfeld reruns in their ghastly midwestern towns and cities then invade the city of my birth and think that if they can speak in complex compound sentences that display their degreed educations, they are automatically emotionally deep. I had stumbled into a book written by one of them for them.

I stopped reading in disgust.

And it made me think: I have to stop wasting my time with writers who can’t, or won’t, address our humanity. Writers who think clever sentences equal talent. Writers who can think only about today, as if nothing ever happened before they opened their eyes. Writers who — fuck, I shouldn’t devalue the word writer like that. People, creative typists (Harlan Ellison‘s apt phrase!) whose work garner the fashionable reviews of today but whose work will, rightfully, be forgotten tomorrow.

Raymond Chandler, in his lifetime, was scorned and ignored. Yet all of those bestselling, well-reviewed authors of his time are forgotten today. Chandler’s works live on. This is the difference between the creative typists and the true writer.

Derek Raymond was a true writer. His work will live forever.

Go read it now.

Additional:
A dedication to Derek Raymond and Ken Bruen


Blogroll Addition: International Noir Fiction

June 8, 2007

International Noir Fiction


YouTube: Boy With The Incredible Brain Documentary

June 8, 2007

Boy with the Incredible Brain chunk 1
Boy with the Incredible Brain chunk 2
Boy with the Incredible Brain chunk 3
Boy with the Incredible Brain chunk 4
Boy with the Incredible Brain chunk 5
Boy with the Incredible Brain chunk 6

Daniel Tammet, who’s made quite a splash with his remarkable mind.

Sound looks to be out of sync, but still worth seeing.


YouTube: Perversion For Profit

June 8, 2007

1965 Anti-Pornography Propaganda film

“However, it’s been well-stated that very few blind people join the nudist colonies.”

“These homosexuals! Who have a slogan that betrays the evil of the breed: Today’s conquest, they say, is tomorrow’s competition.”

“The Worship of the Whip!”

“How to Buy a Whipping!”

“To the play upon the buttocks.”

Some lines worthy of Ed Wood Jr! It ends too soon!

Not safe for Work, Christians or Other Children.


Quote Of The Day

June 8, 2007

Spiderman 3 and the Ken Levine watch test

Aren’t New Yorkers supposed to have street smarts? Don’t you think maybe they’d RUN FOR THEIR FUCKING LIVES?! Mothers with their cute little tykes standing in the middle of harm’s way watching 200 foot monsters throw the ESPN Fun Zone into Central Park. Apparently the citizens of Metropolis and Gotham City are equally stupid.


When YouTube Fucks Up, It Fucks The Entire Internet!

June 8, 2007

Jaysus. I’m going to different sites and where there are supposed to be embedded YouTube vids in posts there are … nothing! And the Firefox circles chase each other as the page builds and builds and builds and … doesn’t build!

See? I knew this shit of embedded YouTube videos would bite our asses. Now it’s happened.


Bukowski’s Leftovers

June 8, 2007

Letters & Manuscripts from Charles Bukowski

This is just So Fucking Great.

–linkswipe via Table of Malcontents (where else?)


Earth To YouTube: Increase Your Capacity, Dammit!

June 8, 2007

This time I don’t think it’s Just Me. Nor do I think it is Time Warner’s craptacious Roadrunner service.

YouTube is constipated this morning.

It needs more storage, more servers, more bandwidth, more something!


YouTube: Home? I Have No Home. Hunted! Despised! Living Like An Animal! The Jungle Is My Home. But I Will Show The World That I Can Be Its Master! I Will Perfect My Own Race Of People. A Race Of Atomic Supermen Which Will Conquer The World!!!

June 8, 2007

Bela Lugosi

Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi

The YouTube Challenge

The YouTube Challenge Revived

The YouTube Challenge Revival Responses

Oh, you think it’s just so easy, don’t you?


YouTube: Star Wars By Ed Wood Jr (If Only!)

June 8, 2007

Ed Wood Star Wars 1

What if Ed Wood directed Star Wars and ran out of money in the middle of production?

I spent an entire year learning After Effects, keying, compositing and working on this short. The goal was to have it done by the time the final Star Wars film came out, for the festivals and Comicon.

The rocket effects in this sequence are done in Bryce, which is a 3d landscape program. Not made for animation at all. It took two weeks of tweaking to get the cheesy shots that you see here today. I have since purchased Alias Maya and taken the Introduction to Maya course at UCLA Extension. Now I know how to do the rocket stuff, I just haven’t had the time to do it properly.

I’m proud of my hologram and lightsaber effects, both of which I do the hard way.

The unforseen hours of time involved when I took on the job of putting in all the special effects myself, complicated by the arrival of my first-born son (He is currently running around my office, shouting “Jamie shaking Blue Maraca!”) resluted in the fact that I STILL haven’t shot a SINGLE ENDING TO ANY OF THE THREE STORIES. The best I could do was have Lee Presson, who plays Ed Wood, come over for some quick greenscreen pickups, pleading for completion funds. This gave me an ending that gave the illusion of a finished film and I was able to show it at the Star Wars Feeb Fest in 2005. After that, partial goal achieved, I shelved the film and enjoyed being a father for a year, keeping my creativity limited to doing a television commercial and a couple wedding videos for friends.

I have posted five sequences here, cut out of the timeline in my NLE. This is the unfinished opening of the film. If it was just a Star Wars fan film, I could show it almost anywhere. But since I have infringed on Ed Wood and Tim Burton (and Howard Shore for the title music) There is no legitimate contest in which I can enter this film

Someday I may go ahead and edit more and post them in a serial fashion. For now, though, other projects loom and need to be conquored.

Ed Wood Star Wars 2

What if Ed Wood directed Star Wars and ran out of money in the middle of production?

Here are some clips from my unfinished Star Wars fan film directed by the not-so-great Ed Wood.

Ringworm and Sykofant decide not to attack the Sith Lord.

Meanwhile, on the planet, Emmit learns from Reflux the truth about Midichloreans.

Ed Wood Star Wars 3

What if Ed Wood directed Star Wars and ran out of money in the middle of production?

Here are some clips from my unfinished Star Wars fan film directed by the not-so-great Ed Wood.

In this sequence, Ringworm tries to warn her brother Reflux of the approaching Sith Lord.

Ed Wood Star Wars 4

What if Ed Wood directed Star Wars and ran out of money in the middle of production?

Here are some clips from my unfinished Star Wars fan film directed by the not-so-great Ed Wood.

The villans discuss who is going to win the Final Apprentice over pizza.

Ed Wood Star Wars 5

What if Ed Wood directed Star Wars and ran out of money in the middle of production?

Here are some clips from my unfinished Star Wars fan film directed by the not-so-great Ed Wood.

Longing to be a real Jedi, Emmit builds his first lightsaber from scrap parts and presents it to Master Taidai.

Plan 9 from a Galaxy Far Far Away

Ed Wood directs his Star Wars film and runs out of money half way through production.

This is the same film I poster earler but I have corrected the aspect ratio and rendered it at a higher resolution.