THE McNEIL VARIATIONS
Surrealism . Art . Time . Space . Assassination Porn . Sherry


30.8.03  

Sorry for the gap between posts. Never apologise, I know...anyway, been in South Wales in a caravan with family, very nice, lovely weather. The sea was amazingly warm, and the forecasted rain appeared, but only during the night. Am now chilled despite being back in the land of noise and smoke. Back at the day job for a few days next week then on holiday again. France this time. Lucky me. In between, I'll be trying to finish reading Nicolo's Gifts, the debut novel from Neil Ayres.
Early signs are good, so my promised review will hopefully appear erm BEFORE I go away...

posted by Dan | 23:05


18.8.03  

The ravings of the Catholic Church know no bounds, and continue to ensure that it remains relevant only to these in the grip of a cerebral breakdown. The current Pope - quite clearly sick and demented himself - has entertained and horrified with his rants against gays, abortions, unmarried mothers and others who affront the dignity of Christ. No ranting from John Paul II against the people of his own church who helped Nazis in WW2, nor against Catholic priests who systematically abused children, and who were then systematically shielded by their employer. An article at The Comment
explains.

posted by Dan | 20:38


17.8.03  

Martin Amis
makes the Booker Longlist. Cross over to The Comment
and find out more.

posted by Dan | 20:35


14.8.03  

Just started reading the debut novel from Neil Ayres.
Nicolo's Gift's is published by Bluechrome Publishing,
with 30th September as the official release date; in the meantime, it's a candidate for the Man Booker Prize. A review will be posted at The Review
in a week or so.

posted by Dan | 20:59


12.8.03  

"Car(n)age: A Psychopathic Love Story" is republished at The Fiction.
The difference is in the variation of links within the text, producing a multi dimensional story of sharper and even more disturbing substance. The first of many stories - old and new - by Mr. Dan McNeil that will be published and republished online, "Car(n)age" forms the basis of a novel in progress, due for completion in spring 2004.

Over at The Politics,
there's an interesting take on the character and psychology of Tony Blair.

posted by Dan | 23:50


11.8.03  

The McNeil Variations is now beginning to...vary.

Four new pages have been created.

The Comment.
The Fiction.
The Politics.
The Review.

Each will contain what the title implies. Or a Variation, thereof.

posted by Dan | 21:54


8.8.03  

A brief review of ‘Under Compulsion’ by Thomas M. Disch (first published in the UK in 1968, US title ‘Fun with your New Head’).
Edition reviewed: Panther, ISBN: 0586032657.


Some writers are stylists. Thomas M. Disch is one of the greatest. Only JG Ballard equals him.
Some writers are black humorists. Thomas M. Disch is one of the greatest. Only Philip K. Dick equals him.
Some writers are satirists. Thomas M. Disch is a sublime satirist. Only Jonathan Swift equals him.
Why then is Thomas M. Disch relatively unknown compared to the above writers? An American, he lived for some time in the UK, and was a member of the New Wave in the 1960s, hanging out with Ballard and Moorcock . The answer is perhaps best given by John Clute and Peter Nicholls in their essential Encyclopedia of Science Fiction:

“Because of his intellectual audacity, the chillingly distanced mannerism of his narrative art, the austerity of the pleasures he affords, and the fine cruelty of his wit, TMD has been perhaps the most respected, least trusted, most envied and least read of all modern first-rank SF writers.”

Disch has written several first rank SF novels. However, to aquaint yourself with his narrative art, you should first read ‘Under Compulsion’, his premier short fiction collection containing 17 superlative stories. True, you may have to read some of them three, maybe even four times, before you get the idea. Maybe you’ll never fully understand some of them. But you will appreciate the writing, I promise you that.
Disch is supremely bright. I get the impression he is a man who absolutely does not suffer fools gladly, a man who is utterly confident with his literary gift. Many people are uncomfortable with these who are clearly more gifted, more intelligent than themselves. I feel that Clute and Nicholls sensed this. In Disch, I sense a man who wants you to taste his words, to enjoy the sentences they create, to observe the paragraphs as they assemble themselves before you, to feel uncomfortable with the direction you are being pulled in, to feel your mind being stretched. And what’s wrong with that? Much of the dross that strains the shelves today is safe and easy. It’s also dull, inane, useless and derivative. These attributes are fine for TV, but for literature? Pass me the blowtorch.

For existentialist style, consider this excerpt from ‘The Contest.’

“They walked together before the Racquet Club and were mirrored in the glass facade of the Seagram Building. Beneath their feet, sewers flowed silently into the sea.
By a curious chance, the two men wore identical suits. From the upper stories of the Pan-Am Building they were scarcely visible: all suits seem identical from these heights.
The younger, less garrulous man stepped on a dog turd and grimaced. His companion smiled. ‘To pursue the metaphor,’ he said apropos this new unpleasantness, as though it had been a parenthesis in his conversation, ‘some poet - Goethe, I think - said that architecture is frozen ordure.’
‘Architecture is the empty spaces in between.’
They stopped and considered these empty spaces. Light, sound, electro-magnetic waves, and orgone energy contested for their attention. Somewhere, a defective toaster sent out signals to aeroplanes. Every five minutes a retarded child was born, but elsewhere cybernetic machines were being assembled at a much faster rate.”

In ‘Casablanca’, a holidaying, elderly American couple start to mentally and physically disintegrate as they become aware that their homeland has been obliterated in a nuclear attack. Disch’s gift is in making you feel a combination of pity and disgust, despite, or perhaps because of his clinical prose.

‘A-1’ is black, black humour and savage satire. I’ll give nothing away, other than to say I was reminded of Bill Hicks’ classic rant: “Anybody dumb enough to want to join the military should be allowed in. Case closed.”

‘Descending’ is pure Kafka. A man gets on a down escalator, and just keeps on going.

Perhaps the best story is ‘Flight Useless, Inexorable the Pursuit.’ The title alone - Disch is also a fine poet - is worth the purchase price. Sexual disgust, disease and love converge to a killer punch in under three pages.

In the end, I’m reduced to quoting the blurb on the back of this edition, as you are urged to:

“...read them (the stories). Eat them. But be sure and get them into your head somehow.”

posted by Dan | 23:05


2.8.03  

Thomas M. Disch is an overlooked giant of SF, as well as a master stylist, with novels like The Genocides, Camp Concentration and 334. The Genocides (1965) is utterly chilling, in my view the best end of mankind story ever. I'll be reviewing it later this month. As a taster, I'll be posting a review of Under Compulsion (1968 - U.S. title Fun With Your New Head) - TMD's premier short fiction collection - in the next few days.

posted by Dan | 23:49
 

A while ago, I posted the item below. In light of events over the past three months, it seems appropriate to show this post again. I'm now even more convinced that Blair is a psychopath...

Is George W Bush a psychopath?

This is not such an outlandish question as it appears. Last year, I wrote a story called Car(n)age: A Psychopathic Love Story.

Using factual data on different psychopathic types, I developed to its logical conclusion the theme that anti-social behaviour (in this case automobile assassination) was a symptom of psychopathology, caused by the advertising and marketing era, itself created and perpetuated by these in power - themselves psychopaths. There are three main psychopathic types:

"The Primary Psychopath

Primary psychopaths are the true psychopaths. When someone is asked to come up with a mental picture of a psychopath, it will, more than likely, be that of the primary psychopath. "He or she is unique: neither neurotic, psychotic, nor emotionally disturbed as commonly believed. Primary psychopaths are usually not volcanically explosive, violent, nor extremely destructive. They are more apt to be outgoing, charming, and verbally proficient" (Bartol, 1995,p.59). In other words, they are calm and collected. They can control their tempers and appear as though they have everything under control. Furthermore, primary psychopaths are held to be "callous, manipulative, massively selfish, and routinely untruthful..." (Levenson, Kiehl, Fitzpatrick, 1995, p.151). They are actors, meaning that they can convey with gusto and immense feeling almost anything they feel may warrant the emotion. However, it is just an act. While commonly attaining positions of influence and power, primary psychopaths are incapable of experiencing any form of emotional content.

The Secondary, or Neurotic, Psychopath

Secondary psychopaths, to distinguish them from primary psychopaths, have severe emotional problems and would most likely be diagnosed as neurotic. They are often referred to as "acting-out neurotics, neurotic delinquents, symptomatic psychopaths, or simply neurotic characters" (Bartol, 1995, p.58). Their delinquency can be attributed to inner conflicts and psychological discord (Bartol, 1995). Levenson, Kiehl, and Fitzpatrick (1995) concur by saying that secondary, or neurotic, psychopaths have an emotional disorder (extreme impulsivity) that can account for their exhibiting antisocial behaviour, whereas a purely primary psychopath will exhibit no such disorder. Levenson, Kiehl, and Fitzpatrick (1995) further go on to say that although a primary psychopath is the "true" psychopath, secondary, or neurotic, psychopaths are the ones most likely to come into contact with law enforcement personnel.

The Dyssocial Psychopath

Dyssocial psychopaths exhibit antisocial and aggressive behaviours they have learned from their culture in some way (Bartol, 1995). Dyssocial psychopaths can be said to have come about primarily due to Bandura's Social Learning Theory and his model for observational learning. In other words, if a behaviour is modelled, the viewer is more likely in the future to display that behaviour when in similar situations. So, the dyssocial psychopath can attribute his antisocial behaviour on his culture and the society that surrounds him or her. They were effectively made antisocial by their environment. However, because of its diagnostic rarity in psychopathic individuals, not much information on dyssocial psychopathology was disclosed by the research articles for further discussion."

In considering Bush and his behaviour, one can see symptoms of all three psychopathic types. The difficulty is in determining which type he is. Given that primary psychopaths routinely attain positions of power and influence, it would seem obvious to place Bush as a primary psychopath. However, primary types are verbally proficient and almost never come into contact with law enforcement agencies. Bush, on the other hand, is verbally incoherent and has been in trouble with the law on at least two occasions for alcohol related behaviour.

No, Bush’s observed intelligence and behaviour suggests that he is most likely a combination of secondary and dyssocial psychopath. His position as President can be easily explained by the fact that he has been helped along the way by people such as Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Jim Baker and brother Jeb, who all exhibit symptoms of primary psychopathology.

On this side of the Atlantic, Bush is ably assisted in his mission of behaving stupidly by Tony Blair. Blair is intelligent, and it seems odd that he should line himself up with a psychopathic crook. Odd, that is, until one realises that Blair is probably a primary psychopath. That, or else Bush’s good ‘ole boys have got something very nasty on him.

posted by Dan | 17:00


1.8.03  

New(ish) story upcoming on Fragment. I say New(ish), because 'Appetite' first appeared in Antipodean SF albeit with a different ending. Fragment is a free downloadable mag and looks well worth subscribing to. Thanks Neil.

posted by Dan | 16:50
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