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Leo X. Robertson

News of my latest publications, events, and episodes of the Losing the Plot podcast!

New Losing the Plot, with Douglas Light!

We’re back with a corker of a first guest for 2018!

Douglas Light is a highly accomplished author. His latest novel, Where Night Stops, comes out February 13th with Rare Bird Books. He cowrote The Trouble with Bliss, the screen adaptation of his debut novel, East Fifth Bliss, and he is also the author of the story collection Blood Stories and Girls in Trouble, which received the 2010 AWP Grace Paley Prize. His writing has appeared in the O. Henry Prize Stories and Best American Nonrequired Reading anthologies.

We discuss his latest novel, compartmentalising chaos with words, and whether or not he ever killed a guy (spoiler alert: No!)

Where Night Stops is currently available for preorder here.

You can check out Doug’s website here.

Follow Doug on Twitter here!

As always, if you’re a reader, writer, creative type, someone with something to say, you can always get in touch with me using losingtheplotpodcast [at] gmail [dot] com. I look forward to hearing from you!

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New Losing the Plot, with Scott Manley Hadley!

Scott Manley Hadley is a London-based author, blogger and book reviewer. His most recent output is a series of articles for the Huffington Post, where he writes about identity, mental health and social issues.

We discuss depression, death, why people probably won’t remember you after you die—but why that’s okay! As well as the joy of hats and, of course, books.

You can check out Scott’s Huffington Post articles here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/author/scott-manley-hadley/

His blog here:

https://triumphofthenow.com

YouTube channel here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/MalariaColon

And find his book reviews on Open Pen here:

http://www.openpen.co.uk/tag/open-pen-reviews/

As always, if you’re a reader, writer, creative type, someone with something to say, you can always get in touch with me using losingtheplotpodcast [at] gmail [dot] com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Feature on Horror Sleaze Trash!

Arthur Graham was kind enough to interview me for Horror Sleaze Trash. Check it out here!

It turned out to be a surprising amalgamation of most things I’ve learned as a writer and human. I hope it’s useful to you. Cheers for reading 🙂

The Price of Authenticity

I’m myself because I don’t have a choice. I’m not imaginative enough to devise a different person that I might be, and if I ever try, it quickly becomes too painful to continue.

As much as I can be, I’m also myself through my creative ventures—the fiction, podcast and blog—which are very much extensions of who I am. For me to be me and for my work to be mine, it has to seem organic and straightforward to me. It doesn’t often seem to be to other people, but I’m not in control of that, so it’s not my concern.

In general, people enjoy the familiar, the categorizable. They would batter out of you those parts that fit the mould the least. Those parts impede the goals, comfort and apparent joy of others. But do you exist to keep the peace, to make other people happy at the expense of yourself? The point of you isn’t to facilitate, butt out, offer fake smiles, laugh at unfunny jokes—no matter the deleterious effect on “the peace” or the GDP per capita. You don’t exist to make others comfortable—especially if you’re an artist of some kind.

I know why we maintain comfort. We think we’ll feel lonelier if we don’t. I ask us both: Did it work?

Humans are scared of loneliness and discomfort, and for good reason, but we must accept them to some degree. Having held onto friendships for many years, and having been married for a good while now, I can safely conclude that no two people will ever harmonise continuously. They may for a brief time, but the feeling will fade and must be sought again. If two people can’t maintain harmony, a group certainly can’t. We cannot create a perfect system that socializes us 24/7. That means life, to some extent, is lonely for everyone. At least sometimes.

Life is lonely for everyone. It’s lonelier for interesting people, because there are very few of those, so they have less people to whom they can relate, and their local environments feel much more foreign.

I was in London two weekends ago. Sometimes I think that Oslo, where I live now, is inopportune for fiction writing, because I overhear so little, and I feel a little disconnected from the city around me. However, a weekend in London reminded me that the background radiation of stupidity of a sufficiently big population is just as, if not more, killer to creativity and general mind tranquility.

Here’s a genuine, GENUINE conversation I overheard on the train:

Woman 1: Did you see the new John Lewis advert?

First of all, what would you say to that if someone asked you that? Honestly? Have you ever heard such a bizarre conversation starter ever?

They were just getting started.

Woman 2: I did, but I prefer the Marks & Spencer advert.

Jesus Christ! Did you see that coming?

Woman 2 (contd): In fact, I tweeted the new Marks & Spencer advert at John Lewis and I wrote, “Hey John Lewis, Marks & Spencer have their Christmas advert out—where’s yours?”

I mean, what the actual fuck.

Maybe you think it’s mean of me to tear apart the conversation of complete strangers. Hey: Londoners are perfectly capable of talking at a non-intrusive volume if they wish (are they though?)

It is often the case that conversations like this that I’ve overheard (well, not exactly like this—this was one of a kind) have been the loudest. This is likely a Dunning-Kruger effect phenomenon.

I bet you have a few examples of this yourself. And if you were this type of person, can you imagine how many friends you’d have? So many! Is that a trade-off you’d willingly accept? To be less lonely but sound like that?

Life is lonely for everyone. Life is lonelier for intelligent and/or interesting people. Not only can they relate to few people, but when they meet people who get them, there’s a real bittersweetness to it: they remember how numb they’ve become to life around them when it becomes interesting again for this brief moment; they beat themselves up for not actively seeking more interesting people more often; they resent the amount of time wasted trying to cultivate friendships with people that weren’t worth it or trying to change themselves to be what others wanted of them; finally, typically independent-ideative, they lament how much they are going to have to rely on this new interesting person now that they have found them.

However: life is loneliest for intelligent and/or interesting people who try to be anything else. If they convince anyone with their conforming act, they are selling a person to other people who isn’t them. This also makes them further from who they are, which is another type of loneliness.

I wish you weren’t lonely at all. I do what’s within my power to mitigate it by writing uncomfortable things to comfort the disturbed (this post probably counts) and by providing original conversations on my podcast for people, like me, who have trouble finding enough interesting people in their vicinity. Unfortunately, some loneliness is an innate function of the universe in which we live. Your loneliness cannot be expunged. It can be minimized, yes—not by conforming, but by being yourself. This means that you’ll be lonelier than idiots, but idiocy too is an innate function of the universe. No perfect, interesting civilization exists—so you can drop that fantasy. I promise you that it’s very unlikely that everyone is enjoying themselves at some more interesting, more intelligent party without you (but if you get the invite or find out where it is, please tell me.)

You can find harmony in the sweet spot of acceptability between loneliness and authenticity. You can, through some effort, create your own global community of interesting people.

I’m pretty sure I wrote something about this before, but still: here are a few indicators of your success at being authentic:

  • Being told by someone, accusatorily, that they don’t know anyone like you. (I’d tell you to be wary of this person, but you’d probably picked up on that already. I imagine this happening to you when you’ve been so bored by pretending not to be bored that you thought, “Fuck it: I’ll just say what I’m actually thinking for once.” These are the wonderful days when you emerge from a beige chrysalis into a new you!)
  • Being persistently questioned and belittled for months about something you’ve done to improve yourself—quitting drinking, learning a new language, reading more—until the belittler proudly reports to you that they too have taken up whatever activity it is. (Greaaat…. #DontCare)
  • The sound of nervous laughter. It’s now one of my favourite sounds. It’s Hare Krishna himself using the mouths of his creation to let me know that I’m doing what I was meant to do: keep everything in flux.

I heard an expression I liked recently: when you heal, the sick get angry. Blandness, superficiality and idiocy are pandemics.

I hope you feel a bit more empowered by this post, but I know you have the power within you to be yourself. If you’re anything like me, anyone else isn’t a choice, and I wouldn’t have it any other way for either of us 🙂

New Losing the Plot, with Dylan Richards (Not Not Normal)!

Dylan Richards, aka House of Black Lanterns, aka King Cannibal, is a musician with a hugely impressive bio. It includes being “championed by the likes of Mary Anne Hobbs, hand-picked by Björk to work on her recent ‘Biophilia’ project, selected by Liam Howlett to remix the Prodigy.”

At the moment, he’s focusing on his YouTube channel, “Not Not Normal”, where he talks about his experiences with addiction, what rehab is like, what friends can do to help addicts, and much more.

We talk about all of this, as well as the importance of clean dishes, and towards the end I slip in some unnecessary jabs at Russell Brand.

Here’s Dylan’s latest venture, Not Not Normal

Here’s where you can find/support Dylan’s music:

House of Black Lanterns

King Cannibal

As always, if you’re a reader, writer, creative type, someone with something to say, you can always get in touch with me using losingtheplotpodcast [at] gmail [dot] com. I look forward to hearing from you!

New Publication! Story in Twisted50 vol 2

Hiya,

Y’all’ll recall that Twisted50 published a story of mine last year and that I went to the launch party and met one of my own characters (!) Well they’ve just announced that they’ll publish my story, “The Art is Absent”, in Twisted50 vol 2. I also see that Losing the Plot guests Madeleine Swann and Steve Pool will have stories in this book too, so I’m sure the resulting anthology will be awesome.

I sent them 2 stories and they picked the good one 🙂 This also ends my acceptance drought of like… 4, 5 months? Though I’ve had more than enough accepted or published or whatever this year, by many cool outlets that I respect, so I’ll shut the fuck up. Once again the turnaround of this story, from writing to acceptance, was a full year.

I very much enjoyed Twisted50 volume 1, and I have a lot of respect for what Create50 does overall to promote new and emerging writers, with Twisted50, Impact50 and Singularity50.

I hope you’ll consider submitting to a Create50 project. Purchasing Twisted50 vol 1, a highly enjoyable book, would be a great way to know what Create50 are looking for.

Cheers 🙂

 

Hardened Hearts now available for preorder!

Unnerving’s Hardened Hearts anthology will be released on 4th December, but you can preorder it here, now!

There are many cool authors with stories in it, myself included 😉 😉 ;); ););));;);)););) but also work by new exceptionals such as Gwendolyn Kiste, Tom Deady, Somer Canon, Meg Elison and more.

 

My story, “Brothers”, took me ages to write. And it came out backwards.

I started it as part of my project of rewriting trunk stories to prove to myself that I was a way better writer than I used to be. From an old story whose title I can’t even remember, I kept nothing but the central relationship between two teenagers. As more characters entered the narrative, I realised that they needed developed too, and wrote from their perspective, heading backwards in time. I then assembled these fragments in the right order, thought the story was finished, held onto it for ages, then wrote the overarching storyline linking the three pieces together. It seemed to click. Then Eddie of Unnerving told me it was missing an introductory scene, and then it did click.

I’m convinced a creative writing class would have nothing to offer me: “Today we’re going to find an old story, delete almost all of it, write a new one backwards, think it’s finished, hold onto it for months, realise it isn’t…”

It’s a writing process to which I’ve been trying to return. It produces my best work, I think. I’m guilty of reading litmags and getting scared into trying to write like other writers. This kills my writing intuition and gives me strained and incomplete stories, with forced poetic lines, that grasp at profundity without having earned it. As well it should: my subconscious is the guy doing most of the work, and when I try to tell him he’s been doing it wrong, or needs to do it better, all his thoughts get tangled and he can’t give me much. (I also imagine he then starts sobbing and apologising even although I’m the one in the wrong, because he’s a bit like a more childish version of myself, and that’s what I used to do.)

Let that be a lesson to any writer reading this: good writing is authentic exploring, not expert mimicry. The most rewarding stories for readers and writers are those where you set out not fully knowing what it is you’re trying to say. (Later on, it’s about plot and characterisation and all that shite. Later.)

Unnerving as you probably know released my novella, “The Grimhaven Disaster“, this summer, and an ebook of “Bonespin Slipspace” only last month! I’m forever thankful for their support of my work, and their tireless efforts to present the best of the best darklit writers out there—an effort of which this collection is exemplary.

A dark, creepy and melancholy Christmas treat for one and all I’m sure 😉

New Losing the Plot, with Jeanne Marie Spicuzza!

Jeanne Marie Spicuzza is a spoken word poet, actor, writer and director! I first heard of her when a writing teacher of mine played us Jeanne’s unforgettable performance of “(Men Succeed Where Women Are) Sluts”—here’s one such recording!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=relmfu&gl=SN&hl=fr&v=UEF8RO6zsvQ

She also starred in/wrote/co-directed “The Scarapist”, a film about novelist who is manipulated by an evil therapist, based on her own experiences. We chat a lot about The Scarapist, which is worth watching beforehand (and beware spoilers if you don’t!)

Here it is on iTunes

On Amazon

But amongst many other things, we also discuss narcissists, screenplays, and how to deal with trolls!

Here also are details on her forthcoming film “Night Rain”, currently in post-production.

As always, if you’re a reader, writer, creative type, someone with something to say, you can always get in touch with me using losingtheplotpodcast [at] gmail [dot] com. I look forward to hearing from you!

New Litmag Stories I Thought Were Pretty Cool

It’s been a while since my last one of these, but I haven’t read litmags in a long time—at least it feels like I haven’t, because I’ve been neglecting my list of indie books to read and endlessly researching a shapeless story I’m almost-but-not-quite stuck on. We’ll see.

And I think this year I’ve learned how to read litmags. Here are some thoughts.

You’re not going to love every story they publish all the time.

You may also be so intimidated by a writer’s skill you can’t ever imagine yourself appearing in the same pages.

You may read a story so incomprehensible that it’ll make you feel excluded from the world of literature itself, as if a prestigious publication is saying to you, “If you don’t understand this and why this is good, go cut off your hands and gouge out your eyes, dirtbag!”

You may fall into the deadly trap of thinking that any lauded outlet has no chance of accepting a story of yours because you don’t write like writer X Y Z does. This is why it’s best to read more than one issue. Mags have a bigger range than you’d expect, and if you submit to them, they may surprise you! Conversely, it may be that the only reason they haven’t accepted a story of yours is because it’s shit, objectively—which, despite how subjective literature can be, is an actual thing. I should know: it’s happened to me dozens of times this year. (No shame: it’s happened dozens of times this year to your favourite writers, even—but they don’t tweet about it much if at all.) Either way, no stranger is capable of placing value on who you are as a person. They don’t know you; they just know your work. I know your work means a lot to you. You should be proud of it! But it is not you. You might suck also, like as a person, but no one’s judging that here.

You will also read stories that you enjoy so much that none of the above seems to matter. The purely transcendent. Isn’t that the whole point?

Folk like me read litmags for research, and as part of our self-assigned job as writers. We tend to forget that reading these mags is actually a lot of fun, that the reason we are writers is because of the love of literature that came first, that everyone involved—the editors, writers, etc—they all want the maximum enjoyment out of you. Literature is a bastion of joy and hope in a world of resentment. When resentment bleeds into literature, shit gets fucked. So don’t. The success of others not only doesn’t infringe upon our own, but likely assists it.

So join me in celebrating some cool shit. I’ve restricted my selections to what’s available for free online. You should consider subscribing to some of the ones below, but of those whose stories don’t appear online, I can also recommend Unnerving Magazine, Shoreline of Infinity, Black Static, Interzone, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Helios Quarterly, Phantaxis, DevolutionZ, Lamplight, KZine, Deadman’s Tome, Dark Moon Digest, The Singularity, Create50 anthologies, Crystal Lake’s Tales from the Lake anthologies, Bizarro Pulp Press’ More Bizarro Than Bizarro anthology, and the Horror Sleaze Trash: Fiction in Poor Taste anthology.

Handjob by Dan Ayres (Open Pen)

For BritLit, I enjoy Structo and Open Pen. I also read Open Pen’s “Best of” anthology earlier this year, and can highly recommend it. Dan Ayres’ story in the latest issue, #20, is a surreal exploration of the London gay scene’s overfucked and underloved. It starts off tame and ends up super weird. Very cool.

(Doesn’t hurt that Open Pen published a story of mine, “The Other Half”, in Issue Nineteen! Never thought I’d see the day.)

The Zodiac Walks on the Moon by Will Ludwigsen (Nightmare)

Weirdly poetic rumination about Ted Cruz’s thoughts on the moon landing. Perhaps about the ongoing struggle between explorers, conquerors, creators, innovators and those who exist purely as forces of nature contrary to anything that can be considered progress. Poetic and haunting.

Stuck Girls by Emma Copley Eisenberg (Granta)

I love the typically clear, simple prose of Granta stories. This one is humorous, surreal, evocative.

Red Lights, and Rain by Gareth L. Powell (Clarkesworld)

I didn’t know Clarkesworld would publish a story about a time-travelling vampire hunter! This was a cool and gripping addition to a mag typically filled with dense and cerebral stories.

Fandom for Robots by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny)

Prasad’s last publication, “A Series of Steaks” (Clarkesworld) was in one of my earlier lists this year, and she’s back again with a sweet and uplifting story about robot-written fan fiction, effortlessly demonstrating that literature can still be contemporary, relevant, thought-provoking, hopeful and fun.

The Three-tongued Mummy by E. Catherine Tobler (Apex)

I love when authors create their own personal mythology. This story asserts its own mummy legend with a strong authorial voice and weird, original mysticism. Check it out.

Infinite Love Engine by Joseph Allen Hill (Lightspeed)

This one grabbed me straight away with its fun and wild world-building and language. The story itself is perhaps a knowing cliché, but entirely besides the point.

The Future of Hunger in the Age of Programmable Matter by Sam J. Miller (Tor)

This is the one story on this list that I most wish I’d written myself. Gay meth addicts and kaijus—too good.

Girl, I Love You by Nadia Bulkin (The DARK)

I’m reading Bulkin’s collection, “She Said Destroy.” Today I read a story I thought was familiar—and I realised I’d already read it in The DARK magazine! (Which I’ve recently come around to—sometimes you just need the one author you like within the pages of a mag for the rest of the stories to click!) It’s a great story and a phenomenal collection, so read this one and if you like it, pick up “She Said Destroy.”

Boneset by Lucia Iglesias (Shimmer)

I’m not often a fan of writing that prioritises language over story—but when the language is this cool, who the hell cares what’s going on? And yet there is a simple and quite haunting story nestled within this weird world.

Show, Don’t Tell by Curtis Sittenfield (The New Yorker)

Funny and emotionally charged story about creative writing programs!

Phew—there it is. The best of the best from someone with excellent taste! I should put up a damn paywall around myself!! Enjoy 🙂

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