I suspect that being a writer is an exquisite form of mental illness. After all, who in their right mind would choose a life of isolation, poverty and addiction? I am not talking about uni-students and other fuckwits who are in love with the idea of being a writer and spend their days chatting idly in cafes and spending their art grant money.
I am talking about the anti-social degenerates who spend their days hunched over a keyboard in a darkened room writing insane and dangerous stories that no-one will ever read. The mad ones twisted by lust and criminality who talk to the walls and laugh dementedly at inappropriate times. Who shuffle in the sunlight and mumble darkly when a good looking woman walks by.
Yes, the writer is an unlovely creature! A man at odds with himself and nature, beset with the paradox of misanthropy and lust…if only he could fuck his writing! And then there are the grim economic realities to consider…
For four years I wrote a monthly column for an army newspaper based in North Queensland. It was a video game review for which I was paid the princely sum of $100. It is the most I have ever made from my writing. The cheque always seemed to come through at the perfect time; when my dole was gone and I was down to bong gunk and goon. Sick and feverish, I would type out a column on the deadline date and smear it off to my editor via email.
Around the same time, a friend of mine joined the army and spent three months in boot camp getting screamed at by Corporals. The recruits were allowed to receive letters and the Corporals would make them read the letters in front of them as this was a good opportunity to humiliate them. So naturally, I penned the most fucked up letter I could think of to my friend. In large, childlike letters I inked:
“Hope you are haven a real good time in the army. I been jus drinking and shit with fucken Wazza and the boys since you left Wazza is a deadset cunt reckon he is at least half fagget tried to suck off Jono on the prick until I seen them. You no that time we rooted behind the church? It probably dident mean anythink to you cus you was passed out and that but it meant HEAPS to me. Love always, Teddy.”
I crushed up a cracker into the envelope and included several candid snaps of myself:
When my friend got out of bootcamp, she told me what had transpired. When the Corporal saw that there were all kinds of lumps in the letter, he screamed at her to open it in front of him and all the bits of cracker fell out. Normally, the Corporal would ridicule the photos of family and partners that were sent to the recruits. When he saw the pictures I had sent, he screwed up his face and before walking off, pointed at the crackers on the floor and snapped, “scrub the floors!”
After being in boot camp for a month, the recruits were allowed to pin pictures on the community cork board. For the pictures I sent, I put in my ‘Billy Bob’ teeth and smeared margarine around my mouth. My friend pinned them up on the board. One day as she was walking past she heard the comments of a small group that had gathered at the board.
“Who the hell is that?!”
“What the fuck is wrong with him?”
“I can’t believe someone put up a picture like that!”
My friend sidled up to them and said all dreamy like, “that’s muh boyfriend.”
The people who had been making the comments started saying things like, “oh, he seems…nice.”
But what has this got to do with insane writers? I hear punters cry. Well, when my friend got out of boot camp, she was deployed to Afghanistan and as chance would have it, the newspaper I wrote my column for was distributed to the Australian forces there.
So in one of those bizarre moments of synchronicity, the two worlds collided. I told my friend that I would be sending her ‘coded messages’ via the column that would include words like ‘smear’ and ‘gape’. Hell, sometimes I would make up a game in which a character with her name was the main character. Then there was the continuing online harassment that I received from a psychotic individual in the gaming community that oddly shared her name.
Like most of my endeavours, I really ‘pushed the envelope’ until one day I received a phone call. My editor was a knockabout bloke from Queensland and very reasonable.
“Look, I like your articles,” he explained, “it’s just that some of the language is a bit confusing – and you seem to use the word ‘smear’ a lot.”
I explained to him that words like ‘smear’, ‘gape’ and ‘syruplover’ were ‘gaming terms’ that were understood by those in the gaming community. This gave me carte blanche to go to town with my article. Keep in mind that I wrote for an ultra-conservative army newspaper and my articles would occasionally appear next to ones written by a Brigadier.
My editor also informed me that my column was the most complained about in the paper. Eventually my friend was redeployed to Townsville and one month a twist of fate occured when I wrote an article about my imaginary nemesis Priv8 Carter and lo and behold she appeared on the cover for an article about roller derby.
An excerpt from the article:
“One thing that I couldn’t get used to in this game however, is the outright viciousness of the other players. Being a beginner, I fully expected to be called a noob but the insane abuse I received from my nemesis ‘Priv8 Carter’ took me completely off guard. This individual behaved in a manner that could only be described as utterly psychotic. The profanity and depraved imaginings that Priv8 Carter heaped upon my poor character ‘Syruplover’ would have made even the Marquis De Sade blush. It was like a nightmare whenever I saw her name flash up on the player list.”
Here are a few more examples from the heady days of my column writing career:
“…Due to technical difficulties (my laptop is in hock) I have had to go back to basics, so I have been playing a lot of MAME games via an emulator on my GBA SP. One of the stand-out games on MAME would have to be Poly-Play, but only because it is the most crap video game ever. It represents the pinnacle (this was before Tetris) of video gaming technology from the Eastern Bloc. For a start, none of the words are even in English! It is a multi-game and Deer Hunt (loosely translated) would have to be the only playable game. No doubt the players were transfixed by its pixelated graphics where you can’t tell apart a tree from a deer; just these weird square blobs smearing around the screen. They probably told the kids over there that if they played decadent Western games like Pacman, that they would grow up to run around in dark rooms, listen to repetitive music and gobble pills.”
“…It is during this time that you choose what type of personality you are going to have; Gandhi or Mengele? I had a bit of fun with my character, creating the ugliest, meanest and biggest albino you have ever seen. The in game HUD claims I am “evil and opportunist” – probably because I nuked a town for no good reason and either insult or kill everyone I meet. Haters quake in their boots when my hirsute, obese albino smears through the wasteland. So far I have ingratiated myself with the Enclave, the elitist and genocidal remnant of the U.S. government (I nuked a town for them, they seemed to enjoy this behaviour).”
“Once again, Rockstar trumps the competition with its ultra-violent masterpiece and corrupts the minds of children everywhere or as Hilary Clinton likes to say, “this is a silent epic of media desensitization.'”