In our new author series, we’ll be offering a clairvoyant peek behind the veil of who and what makes up TRANSCENDENT. Here’s a glimpse at Maul Allan Hewish and his story “Remember Backwards.”
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
The original concept for this story was of course, from a dream. The dream was a bit vague on a lot of fronts, but I wanted to convey that sense of knowing that we have in dreams. Where continuity and a linear perception of time are out the window. Dreams are like reverse déjà vu in places. If I could construct a story that captured the feeling of tumbling through the fragmented universe of a dream, that was the goal.
Did you have to do any research? If so, what kind? What did you learn?
They say experience is the best teacher. I have a lot of experience with night-terrors and disrupted sleep. I often wake screaming. That sounds made up. My fiance Kat has a dream journal of things that I’ve screamed that have occasionally woken her up. Sometimes, they are entertaining, hilarious, and other times, quite tragic. I don’t remember my dreams all too often, since I’m on a heavy sleeping pill that knocks me out, but when I do they’re often quite vivid and strange.
The more linear aspects of the narrative was partially inspired by [SPOILER] the idea of your life flashing before your eyes when you die, and the myriad of memories and imagined places we store to keep ourselves comfortable. [SPOILER] This of course has some truth, as our brain releases DMT as it loses oxygen, to ease our passing.
There was something interesting I learned afterwards that ties into the concept of the story, about how traumatized brains are often fragmented and unable to reconstruct linear memories. It fascinated me since that mimics the themes of my story so well. I’m claiming that was my intention all along. Maybe my brain knows what it means better than I do.
I think there is some truth in the idea that the work has a life of its own and knows what it wants to say. Academia loves to claim the blue curtains in your story are a symbol for [insert topical crisis], and you shrug and go “Sure dude, whatever,” and they go and write a thesis. In this instance, I think there actually is a fair chunk of substance behind the curtain, so to speak. It wasn’t apparent even to me at first, which I think is nice, when your own work can surprise you.
Can you tell me a little bit about your protagonist?
Danton is a tragic figure who isn’t certain if he equaled his father’s achievements, despite having a similar run of sour luck in his life. Of course, we don’t discover this until it is pieced together in the fragmented dream narrative exploring his memories and lost imaginings. Even the narrator isn’t certain who he is in the dream, which is another facet of dream logic; we act as though everything is normal despite nothing having quantifiable boundaries and no sense of continuity. Things happen in abstract sequences, and hence Danton isn’t entirely certain who he is, because he doesn’t understand who his doppelganger is either. There is an interesting thing I read once that said if we saw our own reflection walking around in the waking world, we wouldn’t recognize it because we’re used to seeing it reversed. We aren’t used to seeing ourselves as we truly are. I think there’s a neat metaphor in that.
Tell me about the setting you chose and how it influences your work.
The setting is the mind of the character. It takes place entirely in an abstract dreamspace. The setting IS the character. It’s a library of memory as a tactile place that can be explored. I love the idea that memory is so subjective, that merely by viewing it, because we don’t store all the sensations of it, our brain fills in the blanks and we re-interpret the scene anew. We can alter our own past by remembering it different. All except the most painful memories are wired this way, because pain teaches us survival skills our brain stores elsewhere.
Hence traumatic memories create a fragmented perception of the past.
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
Hopefully, as mercenary as it might sound – my name. I have some ambitious projects I’ve been working on for a few years now that I’m determined to see publication. If people dig my writing, and want more of what I’m giving, they will be pleasantly surprised to know I’ve got a weird-fiction/speculative horror novel finished and waiting a publisher, and its sequel in the oven.
Which phrase are you most proud of in this story?
“The trees are stripped of their leaves, pointing accusatory fingers of gnarled, frost-gilded wood heavenwards at the perpetrator.”
I’m big on succinct, poignant metaphors where appropriate. Most people these days undercook a lot of descriptors in the quest for readability (looking at Joe Hill, who is a wonderful writer, but with almost all the flavor edited out of his work. “The Fireman” was so sparse at times it was like I was reading cliff-notes. Compare that to “Horns,” an earlier novel of his which has a hell of a lot more character).
And while it is true most authors over compensate in their early writing career with bloated waffle desperately in need of a thorough edit – I’d argue like all things, it’s a tight-rope walk. A little poetic indulgence here and there can be delicious if you manage to pull it off.
If your story was front-page news, what would the headline be?
The Dreams We Won’t Forgot by the Writer Who Can’t
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
As a writer, I think investing in my own website and domain name has been pretty good money. The freedom you have in self-promotion and the presentation of your work is unparalleled. Plus, you can use it as a platform for sales once you get yourself off the ground. I immediately roll my eyes at any “free” websites that people try to use, and they still think they come across as a serious author or serious artist. I can’t take you seriously if you don’t take yourself seriously enough to invest in your own product. Buy a website. It’s how you present your brand.
If you had to put your name on someone else’s book/story, which would it be and why?
I wish I could put my name on Jeremy Robert Johnson’s short story collection “Entropy In Bloom” – after reading that I realized I needed to step up my game. That guy is a hell of a storyteller, and I am looking forwards to reading more of his stuff.
When did you decide to take writing seriously?
Well, I’ve never really felt I had a natural talent for anything else. Ever since I was in sixth grade and someone told me that people wrote books and that other people would pay you for those books, I worked hard at trying to iron out that skillset. Years were spent doing nothing but honing the craft. Very isolating, but I was always quite reclusive.
If you could choose a single superpower, what would it be and why?
The ability to cure and bestow upon people certain illnesses. So I could cure Cancer here, and absorb it, then give it to someone else who deserved it. Like certain politicians and government officials who have made our lives a dystopian hell.
Maul Allan Hewish is a Australian, Brisbane-based author and visual artist, who dabbles in Sigil-crafting, Tarot, and Western Occultism. His fiction, art and poetry deciphering the horrors of waking life, mirror his own experiences with mental-illness and childhood trauma. His works have been published twice in Grotesque Quarerly Magazine. He lives with his loving partner Katya. They spend their free time having long discussions on the merits of bad horror movies, video-gaming, and collecting obscure miniatures. For more updates, check out his website: www.themaul.net
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Photo Credit (c) “Library of Memories” by Matt Smudz