Tag Archives: Australian author

Kickin’ it with Levin A. Diatschenko

Hunched over little sewing tables in a cafe a while back, a friend said to me “There’s this guy up north – you gotta read his stuff, Balius. This guy is the real deal.”
He was talking about Levin A. Diatschenko. And I read his stuff. And he is the real deal.
I imagine Levin as this mystic journeyman way up north in the Territory, conjuring up these stories out of the ancient land and heat. I imagine him orchestrating little men made out of sticks and twine, dancing and shrieking around and around him. I imagine Levin looking up at the night sky and wonder what would reflect in his eyes.
We published My Soul Cried the Spaceman as an ebook (hit the link for the stores it’s at) and it’ll be out as a physical book in the near future.
It’s space, it’s mystic, it’s magical realist, it’s cool. It’s not for the squeamish, it’s not for the faint of heart (and not for kids!) and it doesn’t pull punches.
The Black Rider caught up to get down to the heart of the matter.
This is us kickin’ it.

Levin, when we first started discussing My Soul Cried the Spaceman our conversation filled with ideas stemming from esoteric systems, political thought, primal desires of man, spiritual matters and a range of other fields. I’d like to start here by asking about the concept of space drunkenness which I remember we spent quite a bit of time debating. What does it mean to be space drunk?
In the book space drunkenness is a condition that astronauts get from being in deep space too long. They usually get temporary amnesia, forgetting their own identities. Sometimes they awake from it as from a daydream, vaguely recalling uncharacteristic escapades they’d been on while in the trance. I wanted the spaceship and its actions to be metaphorical of mental activity. We all go on daydreams (perhaps of fights, arguments, sex, and so forth), and then snap out of these imaginative adventures. In the book I’ve made it physical; imagine if your body wandered like your mind does? You might snap out of it after doing something you regret. The astronauts open fire on cities, commit piracy, or just wander the universe lost in space drunkenness. Mastering control of the spaceship is therefore an astronaut’s equivalent of concentration or yoga.
Can you tell me a little bit more about this idea of accumulative or total human knowledge? I don’t think of this as omniscience, but rather, I see the last Thirteener character representing and being the summation of all experience of his people group. What role does this character fulfill in the story?
Borges said that on an eternal timeline all people would eventually do all things. I think this idea is very useful in terms of viewing humanity as a single being (or organ of the Earth being), as well as implying non-judgment. The idea with the last Thirteener, the last child of his race retaining all his ancestor’s memories in his head, is my experimentation with that concept. He is something of the Eternal Wanderer, or Adam Kadmon in Cabalistic philosophy. His appearance was the visible evidence of an abstract quality in the Earth Chain (the aspiration to unity) just as the appearance of the UN, say, is the visible manifestation of our desire for some kind of unity and cooperation in the world. The desire is there, and the existence of the UN is proof even though the ideal has not been accomplished yet.

Another layer to this concept is the spiritual idea about the external and internal worlds mirroring each other. Since this single being retains the memory of a whole human race, when he gives a speech in front of a huge crowd of people from another human race it seems to him that he is viewing the contents of his own head.
You’ve got themes of unity permeating through the book as you explore in multiple contexts. I’m thinking of the androids, the sect, the pilgrims seeking out the last Thirteener. Do you see your main characters in their lonely states seeking to belong to something?
Yes, the androids are seeking acceptance as sentient beings, so that it becomes a human rights issue: if they’re deemed alive, they should be entitled to rights as a new form of human (since they ‘evolved’ from humans). Professor Bleak switches the argument to say that we humans are also only artificially intelligent, reactionary, and mistaking complexity for consciousness. This puts humans on par with the AI either way.
The Hidden Moon Cult was founded by a native of Earth 13, the race which dies while passing their collected memories onto the next generation until there’s a single child left. This is a huge sacrifice of the many for the one (or whole). This woman did not want to give her own identity up and so had a struggle with that. The theme of sacrifice comes up throughout the book as linked with unity or unifying.
Which main character do you mean? The astronaut or the Child? both have their share of loneliness, since both are living lives unusual to the rest of humanity. They are therefore the closest things to peers to each other than any other characters in the book. These two are not seeking belonging in the usual sense, but more like those who aspire to greatness (the astronaut) or feel greatness has been thrust on them (The Child) and thus belong to the historically great among us.
Something I particularly like about the story is the repetition – it’s as if situations repeat themselves or become shadows of themselves with each reoccurance. What is happening to the astronaut amid this repetition?
The repetition has a few ideas behind it. One is that hypnotism and trance occur with repetition, and so these repeated scenarios add to the Space Drunk feel of the book. Another is the idea of writing prose like music, with repeated motifs. Motifs in symphonies or free jazz often repeat motifs with variations or in different keys and so forth. Russian fairy tales are actually written with this rhythm. There are lots of repeated phrases, endings, and occurrences. The result feels very poetic and rhythmic.
I also like the idea that repetition is a way of thinking non-linear. With each repetition something is different, as if these are the same moment revisited, spiting into two potential choices or realities. Imagine an editor’s view of reality: If someone keeps doing the exact same thing each day then all the days in between the first and last day would be deemed redundant. So the editor-god takes them out. Time becomes transcended like a wormhole from the first day to the last. We experience such a (subjective) loss of time when we do repetitive activities. We also lose our cars when we park in the same parking lot at the same supermarket year after year. This is because the incidents of parking there have become redundant or melded into each other.
What role does the Hidden Moon Cult play in the story. Does it exist?
The last Thirteener says that everyone has a Hidden Moon inside them. This place was his subconscious, with its extreme sexual traits and its reluctance to give up its last desires. The woman who founded it, Hegemony, is a Thirteener herself and the last to give herself up to the process which ended in unity. So, it was like the Child’s last temptation or Dweller of the Threshold (as some traditions put it).
It does exist but the question is whether it is an actual physical place or an astral or ghostly illusion. I think it had aspects of both since some people, such as Miss Glare, return in the flesh.
How does a Gleamer challenge humanity?
Gleamers challenge humanity firstly by their mere existence: it forces a clear definition of sentience, and there isn’t one. Professor Bleak  claims that they are merely very complex programs with a huge number of potential programed responses, and this tricks us into thinking them sentient. The problem is that this may well describe us humans. We live by programmed or learned responses to similar situations. So, if we deem them machines, we could deem ourselves that too, and if we deem them sentient then they have grounds for human rights. The humans do not want to grant this in the book.
The Gleamers themselves consider themselves the next evolutionary step from humans, and therefore our superiors.
Tell me about The Veil – what is it and how do people get their hands on it?
The Veil is a magazine (or zine, I’m not sure on the difference) that I produce and edit. It’s devoted to occultism, mysticism, obscure science, philosophy, Freemasony, comparative religion, and things like that. It’s designed by Nico Liengme and is about to release its fifth issue. We do small print runs of about 150 copies, and distribute it online too.
For a hard copy email aybrus@hotmail.com or go to Polyester books in Melbourne, and various cafes around Darwin.
What are you working on these days?
Right now I’m working more in theatre. We’re trying to tour my first play Darwin Vs. Matilda to venues around the country, and my second play Jehovah’s One Table Restaurant is going into production. As I said, issue 5 of The Veil is coming soon as well, and so is a book of Swagman’s fables.
Thanks Levin!!!

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Filed under Australia, Black Rider Press, Fiction, Interview, Kickin' it with

Kickin’ it with JJ Deceglie

It took me about a year to track down JJ Deceglie.

I’d originally found him through following (and later publishing) Nathan Hobby’s work. For ages I’d been wanting JJ to climb up onto Cottonmouth’s stage. I couldn’t get a hold of him. I couldn’t  find him – too elusive, too non-descript.

See, JJ is exactly the kind of hepcat I dig. This cat’s work is so heavy – forget whatever you’re told anything is supposed to be. This cat is so heavy.

He’s concocted the novella the sea is not yet full, the short story collection In the Same Streets You’ll Wander Endlessly, Australia’s first novel about poker Damned Good, and his most recent novella Ennui and Despair. Plus lots of stories published all over the place.

Out of the blue a year later I heard from him, had crept out of the depths of Freo, and over jars in the Sail & Anchor then the flurry of maddening schemes, plots, codifications, defiant contrivances, irreverent. And mad for the High Ones in the Berryman sense.

So with JJ soon taking over the oncoming edition of The Diamond & the Thief, here then some of our conversation while kickin’ it.

Last time we spoke, we talked about how it was your love for poker that led to your novel Damned Good. The high stakes poker storyline goes that deep into the character’s psyche, how much of it is researched and how much of it did you live?

I think of it sometimes as a completely psychological novel; one that uses poker as a metaphor to detail a method of living one’s existence in a particularly intense way, and the agony that can come with that.
In another way it is a completely philosophical novel; guidelines to attempting life as an existential superman, and again the intensity required for that. Then again it’s also just a book about poker; also a veiled personal mythology of myself and my life and things I’ve felt and known. It’s about  failure mostly. Gambling and failing and having nothing left, but gambling yet again to get something back. There is no other way for the character, none that he can see anyway.

There’s an answer in there somewhere.

Damned Good’s ascendant and subsequent descendent arc is split by a guide to authentic poker, my fave sub-chapter being ‘In the End as in the Beginning’. How did this li’l guide come about both in content and where it sits in the story?

The actual poker guide was the publisher’s idea. I wasn’t particularly keen at first (and told them so) but went out one day and wrote some stuff down and it just flowed and I liked how it sounded. I thought I can do this and it can add rather than take away.

The way I see it is that it is something ‘The Rookie’ wrote during that period in which we aren’t with him. I had to pare down the story and took some of those parts out (sections that ‘The Rookie’ had written, along with a more surreal ending).

We know he burns a manuscript of sorts and this is what would have come outta him. In terms of content it’s a hybrid of mostly individual mysticism, throw in arcs along similar lines to that of Heidegger, Gurdjieff and Camus and you could maybe leave it about there. Perhaps a mention to old Nietzsche too.

I’ve become convinced you’re spelunking into the inner caves of what it means to be or become man while thrashing through life. (“A man is, or he isn’t.”) Do you find these protagonists are done and/or undone at their own hand?

There are, and are not. As is anyone really. For men such as these there may be no other method. Not to their eyes or hearts, not in their sphere of existence. They have to know, and will push until the bloom or wreck shows itself as the result. It is about living, how best to do it, how to actually know it and feel it and yeah to be a man, but to become a man as a result of prolonged authentic experience, not one by what you have stored up or borrowed or read about. It must be lived. I think I use the writing as a method of figuring these things out for myself; and I can tell you wholeheartedly that I have no definitive answers.

Ennui and despair, is this our inheritance?

Both are by-products of intensity and misplaced authenticity. Both are the run-off of failure and collapse. Both are the end result of abject misunderstanding and a vein of hopelessness that can be felt so strongly at times wandering about on this earth. Though both are battled with hope and beauty, and both are rendered next to dead by courage and individual responsibility acknowledged in one’s existence. If you are really trying, you have to feel them both at some stage, don’t you – I can’t see any other way.

Wherein do we find answers?

Find what you wanna do, do it with everything damn thing you got; but expect nothing without work. So work and work and work. You’ll probably still lose, and you will definitely die, but it’s better than dying while you live.

What’s next for you?

I got a novel called ‘Princes Without a Kingdom’ coming out with Disruptive Press real soon. It’s a 400 plus page work, and I spent 18 months on it over 2009/10. It’s my Dostoyevskian effort, hopefully the first of many. Big characters colliding like planets, different attempts at existence personified, talking it out, living it out, fighting life in drastic efforts to see what works best and most.

I got some poetry I’m working at too.

Also a hardboiled noir novel. 

Why press on? Why continue? What is it with obsession? I’m thinking about this: “All you have, the lot, before, now and after, the real gambler, the real artist, it is risked every time, and it is accurate living; the will to live burns most intense only in the moments of unchecked creation, or in the winning at the highest possible stake.”

I think you either understand it the way it is written above, or you don’t.

Confusion or bewilderment?

Bewilderment. Complete and absolute. You can clear up confusion, you can elucidate it. Bewilderment is akin to disorientation, to perplexity, and I know and feel it like one would a sibling. It cannot be altered, it can only be lived, accustomed and adapted to. We habituate it.

What’s coming around the bend? And how fast are we running toward it?

More of the same, unless you change it, so buckle up, or expire now.


Filed under Australia, Black Rider Press, Fiction, Interview, Kickin' it with, Perth