Rand Washington (Bruce Alfred Boggs) (1919-2000)

LTCLost In Track Changes is an ongoing literary remix experiment featuring Cate Kennedy, Fiona Capp, Krissy Kneen, Ryan O’Neill and Robert Hoge. Starting from a short work of memoir, the authors remix each other’s work in series, with changes tracked between.

From sci-fi to faux biography: Ryan O’Neill creates an imagined author for Fiona Capp’s remix last week, though not perhaps the author you expected. These remixes are based on Robert Hoge’s memoir. Use the tabs to flick between versions of the story.


From The Australian Dictionary of Literary Biography

Rand Washington (Bruce Alfred Boggs) (1919-2000)

Rand Washington was one of the most prolific and controversial science fiction writers in the history of the genre. Best known for his once hugely popular Cor series of science fiction novels and short stories, and his extreme views on race, gender and politics, Washington was born Bruce Alfred Boggs on 11 August 1919 in Wollongong, NSW, exactly nine months after the armistice which brought an end to the First World War. He was to claim later in life that the last shot fired in anger during the Great War had been his father impregnating his mother just before 11am on Armistice Day.

Washington’s father was a police constable, and his mother worked as a maid in one of the wealthier areas of Wollongong. The writer’s childhood was defined by, on the one hand, the frequent, brutal beatings he received from his father, and on the other, his endless reading and rereading of the novels of H. G. Wells which his mother first borrowed, then stole, from the houses she worked in. Washington’s critics have been quick to seize on these facts to explain the sadomasochistic bent of much of his fiction, especially the Cor sequence.

The petty thefts of Washington’s mother were eventually discovered by a gardener working for the same household, leading to her dismissal from service and her turning to alcohol. This would lead to her death in 1930 from cirrhosis at the age of only thirty-nine, when Washington was eleven years old. Washington was never to forget the gardener, or the fact he was aboriginal. By the time of his mother’s death, Washington, having all but memorised the works of H. G. Wells, began to search out the few pulp magazines that reached Australia from America, months and sometimes years after publication. His discovery of the pulps was to have an enormous effect on Washington, both physically and psychologically. Seven months after completing a coupon cut out from Spicy Detective Stories and sending it to New York, Washington received the first instalment of ‘Hercules Strong’s Twelve Lessons to Physical Perfection.’ After diligently following Strong’s instructions for three years, Washington had, by the time he was fifteen, succeeded in transforming his physique to such an extent that (he once claimed) he was offered a job as strongman when a circus visited the town.

Washington’s reading ranged across every genre the pulps offered, from cowboy stories, wilderness romance, and medical dramas, to science fiction, fantasy and horror. He was an early correspondent of H. P. Lovecraft, whose work he first came across in the October, 1933 issue of Weird Tales. Washington’s first short stories were in the horror genre, and Lovecraft, always generous with his time, offered to critique them. Though these early stories have not survived, Lovecraft’s responses have, and demonstrate the Providence writer’s acute literary judgement tempered with an endless patience at Washington’s absolute ignorance of grammar and punctuation. As well as advising Washington to buy a dictionary and thesaurus, Lovecraft also warned Washington that filling his stories with extremist views on race could, as he knew from personal experience, alienate editors. Washington did not listen. Eventually, even Lovecraft became wearied by the young Australian writer’s endless jeremiads against ‘the mongrel races’ and the correspondence petered out after two years. Washington always maintained that this was because he had outgrown Lovecraft and his genre, and had discovered his true love, science fiction.

Surprisingly, Washington’s last letter to Lovecraft makes no mention of Washington’s father’s death, which occurred two days before the missive was dated. Washington’s father was killed on 6 January 1935, his neck broken and his head almost torn off while on night patrol in the warehouse district. The murder was never solved. With the insurance payout from the Police Union, Washington moved to Sydney, rented a one-room flat in Kings Cross and devoted all his time to writing. Washington was nothing if not prolific. In the second half of 1935 he wrote an estimated 500,000 words, submitting ten novellas and forty short stories to Australian pulps ranging from Thrilling Housekeeping Yarns to Spooky Bush Tales. All these submissions, under the name Bruce Boggs, were swiftly rejected. The absolute dismissal of all his work only led him to redouble his efforts, as he wrote an average of one million words a year from 1936 to the outbreak of the war.

In July 1936, one month after adopting the pen-name, ‘Rand Washington’ the young writer finally made his first sale, ‘The Rockets of Uranus V’ to Bonzer Science Stories for £5. This sale encouraged him to focus entirely on the burgeoning, and increasingly lucrative, Australian pulp science fiction market. Bonzer Science Stories was one of two dozen pulps published by the Siegfried Press, founded, managed and edited by James Smith (born Johannes Schmidt, Munich, 1882) a German war veteran who had immigrated to Australia in 1921. Smith was keen to expand into the novel market, and after accepting and publishing nine stories by Washington in 1936, he arranged to meet with the young writer in January, 1937 to discuss ideas for longer works. It was at this meeting that Washington was first introduced to the tenets of National Socialism. Smith presented the young writer with a signed copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, to which the Siegfried Press held Australian publishing rights. The result of Hitler’s, and to a lesser extent, Smith’s influence on Washington’s hitherto virulent but directionless racism can be seen in Washington’s first novel, Whiteman of Cor, published in July 1937.

This story, the first in the seemingly endless Cor cycle, was to set the template for those that followed. ‘Buck Whiteman’ a space scout employed by the nation of ‘Ausmerica’ to seek new worlds for colonisation, is lost and shipwrecked on the hostile desert planet (read, ‘Australian Bush) of Cor. Here, the ‘white race’ led by the love interest in all the Cor novels, Princess BelleFemme Blanch, have been over-thrown and enslaved by the ‘Agarboilin,’ described as ‘a savage, untrustworthy, genetic-ally inferior race of evil blacks.’ After rescuing the princess and inciting a rebellion, Whiteman leads the new ‘White Masters of Cor’ on a mission of extermination against their erstwhile ‘dusky overlords.’ Despite the blatant, sickening racism directed towards Australia’s indigenous inhabitants which permeates every word of the Cor ‘saga,’ and a writing style that has been most generously described as ‘sub-literate’, Whiteman of Cor was an immediate popular success, being reprinted six times in 1937 alone.

Smith immediately ordered Washington back to the typewriter, and over the next two years, a further twenty five Cor novels appeared, first serialised in Bonzer Science Stories and its newly launched sister publications, Bonzer Scientifiction Tales and Astounding True Blue Science before being published as standalone novels. All were bestsellers, and, along with the rapid translation and publication of the Cor books into German in 1938, beginning with Der Weise Mann Von Cor, helped make Smith a millionaire. Unfortunately for Washington, he had signed the rights to all present and future Cor novels over to Smith in June 1937 for £200.

Sadly, Smith’s good fortune was not to last. The outbreak of war in 1939, the paper shortages that followed, and most damningly, Smith’s continuing and vocal support of Hitler, led to the virtual bankruptcy of Smith’s publishing empire by 1941. One year later, though his company had just posted a small profit, Smith committed suicide by leaping through the closed window of his tenth floor Sydney Harbour apartment. Fortunately for Washington, Smith had written a new will on the night he died, naming Washington as his sole beneficiary, and most importantly for the writer, returning the Cor rights to their creator. In another stroke of good luck, Washington was exempted from military service because of his work in publishing, a reserved occupation.

Throughout the war years Washington rebuilt the Siegfried Press (renamed in 1943 as the Fountainhead Press) primarily by capitalising on the public’s fear of Japan. Whiteman of Yellos, the beginning of a new series, saw Buck Whiteman and his insipid princess journey to the neighbouring planet of Yellos, where ‘yellow demons’ had overthrown the race of ‘Purewhites.’ At the same time, a new line of pulps, including A Bonzer Selection and Bonzer Down on the Farm Stories took advantage of the public’s nostalgia for simpler times. By the end of the Second World War, Washington was solely responsible for writing a dozen science-fiction pulps, editing a further twenty bush, romance and medical themed pulps, and overseeing the ghostwriting of the latest Yellos novels. Exhausted, he decided to hire an editor to look after the company’s increasingly profitable romance line which included Sheilas in Love, Nurse Sheila Romances and Spicy Sheila True Confessions. In June 1946, Washington arranged to meet with J. R. Hardacre, the most prolific contributor of stories to the romance pulps, to offer him the position. Washington was stunned to discover that Hardacre was actually a woman, real name Joyce Reith (born London, 1920. See entry for Washington, Joyce).

Though aware Washington’s novels, stories and editorials were full of references to the weakness and helplessness of the female sex, Reith still accepted the offered role. Washington proposed to Reith several times throughout 1947 and 1948, but it was only after Reith’s father was forced to declare bankruptcy after losing his uninsured bookshop in Newtown to a mysterious fire that she finally accepted. Washington and Reith married in June, 1948, the same month that the sales of Reith’s romance pulps exceeded, for the first time, those of Washington’s science fiction magazines. After their marriage Washington made his father-in-law a substantial loan, an act of generosity Washington memorialised in several editorials in Fountainhead pulps.

The birth of the couple’s son, Peter, in November 1950, inspired Washington to establish a new line of pulps to cater for the post-war baby boom, led by Stupendous Bubba Stories. The romance and baby bubble, expertly edited and marketed by Joyce Washington, was to continue until the mid-1950s, and was, by that time, all that was keeping the Fountainhead Press solvent. In 1956 it had become obvious to Washington that the Australian pulp market was dying, and he reluctantly sold his company to a competitor for £5,000.

Though several more Cor and Yellos novels appeared in the final years of the 1950s, Washington was to complain in letters to the few Australian SF pulps still active that it was becoming increasingly difficult to get his work published. He blamed a ‘shadowy Aboriginal cabal in the publishing world’ for the denouncing of Slave Girls of Cor as ‘a literary embarrassment, and a revolting stain on the national character’ in a book review in The Sydney Morning Herald, on 12 June 1959. Though conservative commentators such as Graham Nutt leapt to Washington’s defence, arguing that the Cor novels were ‘a unique attempt to create a mythology for this great country, which has never had one,’ Washington never completed another Cor novel after 1960. Instead he turned his attentions to non-fiction, writing a number of bestselling travel books including, I Got the Wog in Greece and Who Needs Italy? the popularity of which only increased after it was revealed Washington had never set foot in the countries he wrote so scathingly about. Although non-fiction proved a steady source of income, Washington decided to return to science fiction in 1966, in response to reading Michael Moorcock’s seminal work of the New Wave, Elric of Melniboné. On seeing the cover of Moorcock’s novel in the bookshop, with its gaunt albino protagonist, Washington bought it believing it to be a tribute to his Cor series. Instead he was appalled to discover the adventures of Moorcock’s melancholy, sexually ambiguous, drug-taking anti-hero, leading to Washington’s vow, in a 1968 letter, ‘to reclaim SF!’

Washington’s efforts were not successful. In 1969 his new novel, Hip Spaceways to Happeningtown was rejected by every mainstream SF publisher in Australia and America. Disheartened, Washington destroyed the novel, an act SF critic Damien Johnson characterised as, ‘Rand Washington’s one lasting contribution to Science Fiction.’ Washington spent 1968 researching for his next project, which he decided was to be an exposé of organised religion. Profits in Prophets: How to Make a Million from Founding Your Own Religion was published in July 1969, to low sales and lukewarm reviews.

Six months later, while camping near Uluru, Washington claimed to have experienced a vision of a ‘Universal Galactic Controller’ who existed outside of our spacetime continuum, and who had chosen Washington to spread his ‘Gospell’ (sic). This Gospell was found by Washington, neatly typed, under a rock near his campsite. Many ridiculed Washington’s conversion, paralleling exactly as it did the instructions he had given in his book on religion published earlier that year. Yet Washington’s new religion, ‘Transvoidism’ proved surprisingly popular among the Sydney elite. At the height of the Transvoidist craze in October 1970, at least a hundred individuals, including the son of a media baron, and the wife of a state senator, assembled at Washington’s recently purchased compound near Gloucester, NSW, to hear him preach. The precise doctrines of Transvoidism were shrouded in mystery, though it was rumoured that by following its tenets as given in the Gospell, eternal life through would be gifted to the faithful who had attained the ‘fifth level.’ However, only the most generous of adherents were initiated past the second level. Washington’s wife, Joyce, reached the fourth level. Only Washington was understood to have reached the fifth.

Washington’s commitment to Transvoid-ism was tested by the return of his son, Peter, from fighting with the Australian Defence Force in Vietnam in July 1971. Peter had been maimed after stepping on a land mine in Hoi An, and had lost his both legs and his left arm. In a sermon he had delivered shortly before news of his son’s injuries had reached Australia, Washington claimed that the Universal Controller had recently gifted him with several special powers, including the ability to cure cancer, and to regrow damaged organs and tissue. After Peter’s arrival at the compound from hospital in 1972, Washington’s followers became increasingly insistent he exhibit his powers by regrowing his son’s legs. Washington put off the demonstration several times throughout 1973, claiming the Universal Controller would not approve of the resulting publicity. Finally, on 6 February 1974 Washington announced he would perform the regeneration ceremony the next day. That night all eighteen of Washington’s remaining disciples were struck down with severe stomach pains and diarrhoea. At first insisting that this was a sign of the Universal Controller’s displeasure, Washington finally admitted doctoring the evening meal with laxatives. He was arrested on 7 May 1975, and charged with reckless endangerment. Washington famously claimed he told the police, ‘They were giving me the shits, so I gave them the shits.’ However, transcripts of Washington’s police interviews do not include this statement; only his pleas to be released, and his attempts to blame his wife, are recorded.

Washington was sentenced to three months in prison and after his release in February, 1975 he returned to Gloucester, and his wife and son. Legal action brought about by his former adherents had almost bankrupted the family, and Washington was therefore keen to make some money by writing. He toyed with writing another Cor novel, provisionally titled, Bad Trip on Cor, but soon abandoned the idea. In fact, despite his announcing the beginning or completion of several novels throughout the rest of the 1970s, Washington published nothing, instead living off his son’s disability and army pensions.

It was not until 1982 that the short story ‘Walking the Walk 2050’, generally considered to be Washington’s best work, appeared in the February issue of the short-lived but influential Australian SF journal, Up Above, Down Under. The story, set as the title suggests in the year 2050, is narrated by a unnamed mother, who watches with pride, and then growing alarm, as her son, Christopher, finds work as an ‘imagineer’ at ‘Pro-aesthetic,’ a multinational company specialising in creating replacement limbs for amputees, as well as synthetic skin, bones and joints. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Pro-aesthetic intend to market their replacement limbs as fashion accessories for the young and impressionable. The story ends with Christopher’s mother discovering that her son has had his limbs replaced by Pro-aesthetic artificial arms and legs. In the celebrated climax, the weeping mother can derive no comfort from her son stroking her hair with a hand that does not belong to him.

‘Walking the Walk 2050’ was a radical departure for Washington in almost every way. Throughout his dozens of novels and hundreds of short stories, he had never employed a female narrator before; in fact his female characters were nothing more to him than ‘walking wombs,’ as he confided in a 1959 letter. Yet the character of the mother in the story is evoked with astonishing sensitivity, and her final, horrified realisation at what has happened to her son is deeply moving. Critics have suggested that the newfound subtlety and sensitivity displayed in this story was Washington’s reaction to the horrific injuries his son suffered in Vietnam. This theory is, nonetheless, undercut by Washington’s private letters written around the time that ‘Walking the Walk 2050’ was written, in which he describes his son as a ‘mewling, mollycoddled, mother’s boy, who should have lost his head along with his legs.’ ‘Walking the Walk 2050’ is also notable for its writing style, which included more complex sentences, similes, and metaphors than all of Washington’s millions of earlier published words combined. The story also marks the only time Washington chose to invent ideas rather than steal them; his neologisms ‘imagineer’ and ‘newskin’ were immediately embraced by science fiction writers in Australia and beyond. To date at least a hundred stories have been set in the ‘Walking the Walk 2050’ universe, including China Mieville’s metafictional ‘Talking the Talk 2050’ and M. John Harrison’s savage parody, ‘Walking until 20:50.’

Puzzlingly, shortly after publication of ‘Walking the Walk 2050’, Washington wrote a furious letter to the editor of Up Above, Down Under, disowning the story as a ‘mere woman’s daydream,’ and ‘turgid piece of touchy-feely non-SF.’ It was only when ‘Walking the Walk 2050’ was selected for inclusion in The Best Australian Science Fiction 1982, and subsequently shortlisted for the Hugo Award, that he withdrew his protest and accepted the story as his own. On the strength of ‘Walking the Walk 2050’ winning the Hugo for Best Short Story in 1983, Washington was offered a contract by Tor to write three Ace Star Specials. The first two of these novels, A Kaleidoscope of Rockets (1984) a postmodern deconstruction of Golden Age SF, and the feminist fantasy novel, The Sorceress of the Dawn (1986) with their inventive plots, complex characters and intelligent exploration of race and gender received excellent, if bewildered reviews from critics who had long dismissed Washington as a racist hack. Though the third contracted novel, the autobiographical The Woman Behind the Android was announced, it was never completed. After Joyce Washington died in 1987, from severe head trauma after slipping in the shower, a grief-stricken Washington announced his immediate retirement from fiction writing.

Over the next several years Washington was known to be working on his autobiography, The Last Shot, co-written with his son, Peter. His opinion pieces, usually in praise of the government’s immigration policy, appeared sporadically in national broadsheets, until his death. Washington lived to see his Cor series enjoying a new surge of popularity amid disaffected youth in France, Germany and the southern United States. The Last Shot was left unfinished as Washington suffered a stroke on 14 May 1995, which left him paralysed, mute, and completely dependent on his son for the last years of Washington’s life. Peter had been given full control over Washington’s literary estate just before the writer was struck down by illness.

In early 1996, Peter Washington founded the ‘Rand Washington Trust,’ a charitable organisation which uses the not inconsiderable royalties from the Cor series to fund various progressive causes, from campaigning for gay marriage, to Aboriginal Land Rights and legal representation for asylum seekers. Until his death at the turn of the century, Washington, frail and in a wheelchair, became a fixture in demonstrations for social justice throughout Australia, always accompanied by his son.

Rand Washington died on 24 February 2000 at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. In accordance with his will, he was buried in Gloucester beside his wife, Joyce, with a copy of Whiteman of Cor in his coffin.

 

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When Christopher got the job with Pro-aesthetic as an imagineer he was over moon and so was I. He had spent two, dispiriting years searching for work after graduating in Imagineering – in my day we called it marketing – and copping knock back after knock back. A few times, he reached the second round of interviews, but that was as far as it went. I had started to worry that he was too good for the world and would never get the break he deserved.

At school, his teachers often described him as ‘impressionable’ and ‘easily lead’ which meant that he occasionally got into strife. But he was a sweet natured boy and they could see this. He desperately wanted to be popular, to be with the in-group, which made him somewhat slavish in his attention to fashion and the latest trends. In job interviews, he was always trying to say the right thing and I suspect that he came across as a little too eager to please. At school, the nastier kids used to call him a suck.

If only he were only given the chance to prove himself, I was sure he would shine. But now, when I look back on what happened, I can’t help feeling that Pro-aesthetic chose him precisely because they saw him as pliable, an employee who would sacrifice his best interests for the sake of holding on to his job; a perfect mannequin for the company.

When Christopher started at Pro-aesthetic, the company was best known for consolidating its market share in prosthetics for diabetics, which was ravaging the Industrialised world. Back in the 20s, its primary market was amputees who were victims of old 20th century ordinance – the landmines that pep-pered warzones across the planet. With global viable farmland shrinking so much after the millennium, people were forced to venture back onto those zones – across Africa and Asia mostly – and the company had a stream of candidates who were will, desperate even, for new improved limbs to replace their old ones.

Before applying for the job, Christopher did his homework on the company’s biggest innovations – NewSkin, a knee joint that won them an international prize, Carefree Barefoot with indestructible synthetic soles and SuperReal Prosthetic Pro, the gamechanger which was so lifelike and responsive it could reproduce the marks caused by sock elastic.

During his first few months at Pro-aesthetic, he was on a high and a bit strung-out, as if all the hype he was imbibing and channelling had gone to his head. He would come home from work chattering wildly about the need to ‘harness emotional surges and the craving for specialness’ and ‘improved enhancement options for discerning clients’. The technology had become so sophisticated, he said, there was no limit to what artificial limbs could do. When he started talking about ‘pro-active cosmetic enhancement’ it meant nothing to me. As far as I was concerned, it was just more meaningless jargon. But Christopher had always loved playing with words and it was his job to dream this stuff up. I didn’t want to be a wet blanket, so I told him it sounded fascinating and that as a consumer I might be open to the idea, even though I had no idea what it meant.

I remember him looking at me keenly when I said this. ‘You really think so?’ he said. ‘It was Jared’s idea. He’s a genius at the big picture.’ I knew who Jared was because Christopher was always going on about him, the visionary CEO who was so far ahead of the rest of them.

After Christopher had been working at Pro-aesthetic for a year, he took four weeks holiday. I was hoping we could spend a week together at the little seaside resort where his father and I used to take him for summer holidays when he was a boy. But he said that Jared had something big planned for him and the other Imagineers. A bonding holiday he called it. It was important, he said, that the executive team demonstrate their brand loyalty, that they set the trend. It was all about fashion, art and primal attraction.

I found it hard to see what fashion, art or primal attraction had to do with prosthetic limbs, although I did have an inkling that there could be something fetishistic about them. I supposed he was referring to the interactive tattooing and self-tanning apps incorporated into some of these limbs. I liked to think that I was up on all the company’s latest innovations but I clearly, I didn’t have a clue. That’s painfully obvious to me now.

The day he came home from his holidays, it was over 35 degrees, with a dry northerly scouring the streets. I remember it vividly because Christopher was wearing a long-sleeve shirt and jeans, which was unusual for him. In this kind of weather, he’d normally be in shorts and a t-shirt. As he walked up the hallway towards me, there was something odd about his gait, as if he was terribly stiff. I assumed it was because of all that cross-country running he said they were going to be doing, although I couldn’t understand why he looked so pale. Surely he would have got plenty of sunshine?

When I put my arms out to give him a hug, he tensed and stepped backwards, as if he didn’t want to be touched.

‘I’m a bit sore, Mum,’ he said.

‘Have you strained anything?’

‘A hammy, maybe. Nothing serious.’

Looking across at him it suddenly struck me he looked taller than he had four weeks ago. He was only 24 and I wondered if he’d had a growth spurt. Or perhaps I was shrinking. My mother lost half an inch every decade after 50.

‘I promise I’ll be gentle,’ I said to him as I put my arms around him.

He reluctantly returned the embrace, his head turned to one side, a pained look on his face. I knew as soon as I felt his arms they were different in a way that four weeks holiday couldn’t explain. He had always been rather scrawny. For a period in his late teens, he went to the gym twice a week in an attempt to build what he considered a more manly physique. But working out didn’t transform him in the way he’d hoped and he soon gave up. ‘There’s nothing wrong with being lean,’ I told him. At school, they called him the Skelly, short for skeleton. He’d never had a girlfriend and was convinced it was because he was so ‘scraggy’ as he put it, so thin.

Before he could pull away, I grabbed him by the shoulders, shoulders that didn’t seem to belong to him. They were so muscular and broad, with biceps that bulged through his shirt.

Shocked, I whispered, ‘Have you been taking steroids?’

‘If only!’ he spat bitterly, and broke down. He sank on to the couch and put his face in his hands. That’s when I noticed them, his hands. Hands I had first seen when he was in my womb. Hands I had tickled and held and kissed since the day he was born. I would them recognise anywhere.

And they weren’t his.

 

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Walking the Walk, 2050

LTCLost In Track Changes is an ongoing literary remix experiment featuring Cate Kennedy, Fiona Capp, Krissy Kneen, Ryan O’Neill and Robert Hoge. Starting from a short work of memoir, the authors remix each other’s work in series, with changes tracked between.

Fiona Capp fast forwards Cate Kennedy’s futuristic remix by another five years and explores its consequences. These remixes are based on Robert Hoge’s memoir. Use the tabs to flick between versions of the story.



When Christopher got the job with Pro-aesthetic as an imagineer he was over moon and so was I. He had spent two, dispiriting years searching for work after graduating in Imagineering – in my day we called it marketing – and copping knock back after knock back. A few times, he reached the second round of interviews, but that was as far as it went. I had started to worry that he was too good for the world and would never get the break he deserved.

At school, his teachers often described him as ‘impressionable’ and ‘easily lead’ which meant that he occasionally got into strife. But he was a sweet natured boy and they could see this. He desperately wanted to be popular, to be with the in-group, which made him somewhat slavish in his attention to fashion and the latest trends. In job interviews, he was always trying to say the right thing and I suspect that he came across as a little too eager to please. At school, the nastier kids used to call him a suck.

If only he were only given the chance to prove himself, I was sure he would shine. But now, when I look back on what happened, I can’t help feeling that Pro-aesthetic chose him precisely because they saw him as pliable, an employee who would sacrifice his best interests for the sake of holding on to his job; a perfect mannequin for the company.

When Christopher started at Pro-aesthetic, the company was best known for consolidating its market share in prosthetics for diabetics, which was ravaging the Industrialised world. Back in the 20s, its primary market was amputees who were victims of old 20th century ordinance – the landmines that pep-pered warzones across the planet. With global viable farmland shrinking so much after the millennium, people were forced to venture back onto those zones – across Africa and Asia mostly – and the company had a stream of candidates who were will, desperate even, for new improved limbs to replace their old ones.

Before applying for the job, Christopher did his homework on the company’s biggest innovations – NewSkin, a knee joint that won them an international prize, Carefree Barefoot with indestructible synthetic soles and SuperReal Prosthetic Pro, the gamechanger which was so lifelike and responsive it could reproduce the marks caused by sock elastic.

During his first few months at Pro-aesthetic, he was on a high and a bit strung-out, as if all the hype he was imbibing and channelling had gone to his head. He would come home from work chattering wildly about the need to ‘harness emotional surges and the craving for specialness’ and ‘improved enhancement options for discerning clients’. The technology had become so sophisticated, he said, there was no limit to what artificial limbs could do. When he started talking about ‘pro-active cosmetic enhancement’ it meant nothing to me. As far as I was concerned, it was just more meaningless jargon. But Christopher had always loved playing with words and it was his job to dream this stuff up. I didn’t want to be a wet blanket, so I told him it sounded fascinating and that as a consumer I might be open to the idea, even though I had no idea what it meant.

I remember him looking at me keenly when I said this. ‘You really think so?’ he said. ‘It was Jared’s idea. He’s a genius at the big picture.’ I knew who Jared was because Christopher was always going on about him, the visionary CEO who was so far ahead of the rest of them.

After Christopher had been working at Pro-aesthetic for a year, he took four weeks holiday. I was hoping we could spend a week together at the little seaside resort where his father and I used to take him for summer holidays when he was a boy. But he said that Jared had something big planned for him and the other Imagineers. A bonding holiday he called it. It was important, he said, that the executive team demonstrate their brand loyalty, that they set the trend. It was all about fashion, art and primal attraction.

I found it hard to see what fashion, art or primal attraction had to do with prosthetic limbs, although I did have an inkling that there could be something fetishistic about them. I supposed he was referring to the interactive tattooing and self-tanning apps incorporated into some of these limbs. I liked to think that I was up on all the company’s latest innovations but I clearly, I didn’t have a clue. That’s painfully obvious to me now.

The day he came home from his holidays, it was over 35 degrees, with a dry northerly scouring the streets. I remember it vividly because Christopher was wearing a long-sleeve shirt and jeans, which was unusual for him. In this kind of weather, he’d normally be in shorts and a t-shirt. As he walked up the hallway towards me, there was something odd about his gait, as if he was terribly stiff. I assumed it was because of all that cross-country running he said they were going to be doing, although I couldn’t understand why he looked so pale. Surely he would have got plenty of sunshine?

When I put my arms out to give him a hug, he tensed and stepped backwards, as if he didn’t want to be touched.

‘I’m a bit sore, Mum,’ he said.

‘Have you strained anything?’

‘A hammy, maybe. Nothing serious.’

Looking across at him it suddenly struck me he looked taller than he had four weeks ago. He was only 24 and I wondered if he’d had a growth spurt. Or perhaps I was shrinking. My mother lost half an inch every decade after 50.

‘I promise I’ll be gentle,’ I said to him as I put my arms around him.

He reluctantly returned the embrace, his head turned to one side, a pained look on his face. I knew as soon as I felt his arms they were different in a way that four weeks holiday couldn’t explain. He had always been rather scrawny. For a period in his late teens, he went to the gym twice a week in an attempt to build what he considered a more manly physique. But working out didn’t transform him in the way he’d hoped and he soon gave up. ‘There’s nothing wrong with being lean,’ I told him. At school, they called him the Skelly, short for skeleton. He’d never had a girlfriend and was convinced it was because he was so ‘scraggy’ as he put it, so thin.

Before he could pull away, I grabbed him by the shoulders, shoulders that didn’t seem to belong to him. They were so muscular and broad, with biceps that bulged through his shirt.

Shocked, I whispered, ‘Have you been taking steroids?’

‘If only!’ he spat bitterly, and broke down. He sank on to the couch and put his face in his hands. That’s when I noticed them, his hands. Hands I had first seen when he was in my womb. Hands I had tickled and held and kissed since the day he was born. I would them recognise anywhere.

And they weren’t his.

 

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The brand managers told us we were lucky to have come across the article in the archive. It’s not often, they said, that we—by which they meant we here at Pro-aesthetic ™—had access to primary source material like this. They were calling a meeting with the Imagineers and the CEOs and we’d get together over an actual table and dream up the direction of the new campaign.

‘It’s an piece of writing,’ Jonathon enthused as we made our way to the Senior Executive floor for the meeting, ‘full of simple statements of insight, written with actual first-hand experience. No sales agenda, no pitch.’

The managers were right—this was rare. By the time Pro-aesthetic had started making headway, back in the 20s, its primary market was amputees who were victims of old 20th century ordinance—the unexploded landmines that peppered warzones across the planet. With global viable farmland shrinking so much after the millenium, people were forced to venture back onto those zones – across Africa and Asia mostly – and we always had a stream of candidates who were willing – desperate even – for new improved limbs to replace their old ones. We hadn’t needed much market research. But it was the raging spike across the industrialised world in diabetes that really consolidated our market share. Unprecedented demand for prosthetics really put us on the map.

They’d been boom years for a while there—new legs all round, patented Innovative NewSkin, a knee joint that won us an international prize. Now it seemed we were headed in a new direction.

Inside the boardroom Jared, our wunderkind CEO, welcomed us.

‘These are exciting days,’ he said, as he often did. ‘Our history may have felt slow and methodical, but I think, as this article will show us, that it’s only been one short generation since the inception of a brilliantly fast and inventive revolution of which we are the proud vanguards.’

He brought an image of a page to the screen. Plain text. Just one candid sentence after another.

‘Most people learn to walk just once.’ it began. ‘…Then there’s the rest of us – the leaners, the lame, the legless – a tribe who needs to walk every time we get a new pair of prosthetic legs.’ Jared highlighted the word ‘tribe’ with a single touch, saying nothing.

‘New prosthetics can come with a whole range of changes – they might be a different shade of dark cream, they may be lighter, stronger, more reliable. Once I collected a new pair and discovered that instead of a crescent moon of rubber at the tip of the feet, they suddenly had toes.’ continued the article.

Jared raised his eyebrows and responded to our smiles. ‘This is what I mean,’ he said. ‘you can see we were at the very beginning of not only the technology, but also the conception of its marketing possibilities. The idea of toes being new, being novel. And you can see here how he jokes about his sister, painting the toenails. This would have been – let’s see – just a few short years before the app came out for incorporating interactive tattoos and the self-tanning feature became standard. Then the SuperReal Prosthetic Pro, the gamechanger. Remember the single idea that was based on?’

‘Imitating the compression marks caused by sock elastic on the shins,’ said Jonathon. Jared paused, looked at him.

‘Right,’ he said. ‘But not imitating, Jon. Reproducing.’ He turned back to the page and read a passage aloud:

‘Sometimes – the golden growing summers of my youth – my prosthetic legs would grow lengthen and all of a sudden I’d be 5cm taller. There wasn’t much about my appearance that filled me with pride when I was a kid, but leaving school one afternoon the third shortest student in class and coming back the next day the third tallest was pretty damn special.’
‘Hear that?’ said Jared dreamily. ‘“Golden”. “Pride”. “Pretty damn special”. That’s what we’re after, friends. That overwhelming emotional surge. How to harness that surge? How to nurture a craving for it?’
‘Putting one foot in front of the other should be simple, right. It should be dependable, knowable. It should be something you could rely on.’
‘I know you’ve all read reports from diabetic amputees from the old days which echoed this fundamental frustration,’ said Jared. ‘They just wanted something reliable and straightforward, something that didn’t draw attention to the fact that their legs were prosthetic. And that market’s still bullish, don’t you worry. Diabetes is our bread and butter, as it were. But our customers…how can I put this. We love novelty, but we love normalising. We don’t mind spending to make a statement. And more and more of our clients feel encouraged now to purchase multiple sets from Pro-aesthetic, because they can see, as we can, that the sky’s the limit and it’s discriminatory to restrict options to consumer choice. Why not, after all, have a set for every day of the week, for each season, for every whim, if that’s what you want? Why not develop Pro-aesthetic limbs which reproduce the appearance of gradually increasing muscle tone of the calves, or adjust skin tone according to mood? You can see it already, if you’ve got the eyes to see it – in an early article like this one, straight from the heart of a person without legs – the possibility there, germinating.’

He pointed to another sentence: ‘You could really swap sets of legs I suppose – like an opening batsmen choosing the bat that best suits him for the day …Switching sets of legs just means re-adapting again and again..’

‘Thirty years ago,’ said Jared, musing. ‘Re-adapting again and again….there’s something in there for all of us to reflect on.’

‘The biggest sales spike last year,’ added the other wunderkind, Mark from Brand Mapping, ‘was Carefree Barefoot™, right? Because that just needed a conceptual leap. Why wear shoes, if you’re wearing prosthetic legs? Why not just make the synthetic soles indestructible?’

‘Thanks for bringing that up, Skye,’ answered Jared. ‘Because that kind of segues in a neat way into what I want to touch on next. That indicates a shift, the Carefree Barefoot™. A sign of a falling away of stigma, of a desire to be proud. A statement that says, ‘hey – I’m not hiding anything! I’m wearing these legs because I’m making a consumer choice to do so!’

He paused to let this sink in. ‘So what’s the way forward now?’ he said softly. ‘Where’s the path? How can we capitalise on this shift? It’s in this piece of writing, in my opinion; this simple sincere piece written three decades ago. Just let’s…look.’

He raised his finger and highlighted another fragment of text.

‘And there’s kind of a loveliness about it which makes you always conscious of your connection with the physical world. Your brain pauses for a second and re-discovers the world for you. This is the first time you’ve got in a car with these legs, and it feels different. The first time you’ve walked downstairs. The first time you’ve chugged up a hill. The first time you’ve tried to run, hoping that maybe just this once you’d be able to run. But it reminds you for just a few days that you’re not really connected to the Earth. You – the real you – is floating three feet above the ground. Your legs are your freedom and your burden.’

‘“Your freedom and your burden”,’ said Jared in the same dreamy voice. ‘There’s a keystone slogan for us right there. “The real you.” And don’t you love that? “…a kind of loveliness which makes you conscious of your connection with the physical world.” That’s what we need to think about now. Something elemental and visceral – something that does nothing less than re-discover the world for you.’

He turned back to us and spread his arms in entreaty. ‘So my challenge to you today is—do we have it in us to be audacious? Where is our new market? Where is our new fertile ground?’

‘Are you talking increased vertical market saturation?’ said Skye.

Jared eyed him patiently. ‘I’m talking “golden”. I’m talking “pride”. I’m talking “pretty damn special”. There’s limited prestige in contracting Type 2 Diabetes, Skye. We can recover that prestige with fabulous product, sure, we can restore the sense of choice and control to turn that around, but what if we take that—if you’ll forgive me—a step further? What if we began to create customised, state-of-the-art Proaesthetic improved limb enhancement options for a more discerning client? A client not afraid to take the steps to be pretty damn special?’

He stared at us, and we stared back. A glimmering of understanding of what he was saying. This was the genius of Jared, I couldn’t help thinking in that silence. Seeing this in context. What begins as tattooing and morphs into body piercing and scarification and plastic surgery and then anything for novelty, anything to embellish, to strut, to revise, to reinvent.

‘You’re talking ….voluntary amputation,’ said Skye hesitantly.

‘Stop,’ Jared said sharply. ‘I don’t want to hear the “a” word. I never want to hear it again in any of our promotional copy, is that understood? I don’t even like “voluntary”. And definitely not “cutting edge”, for obvious reasons.’

A nervous ripple of uncertain laughter greeted this.

‘I like “elective”,’ went on Jared. ‘I like “pro-active”. I like to think of this as “pro-active cosmetic enhancement”.’ He looked sternly across the room, full of faces gazing back at him. ‘Language is everything,’ he said. ‘We’ve got to make choosing to incorporate enhanced and eternally youthful limbs the ultimate statement. Of fashion. Of art. Of primal attraction. Remember that word—tribe. That’s our touchstone. I know we can do it.’

Brainstorm time, because even now, in the middle of the 21st century, groups of image marketeers still swear by brainstorming. We cleared our throats and shifted in our seats. Cast covert, anxious glances at each other. Secretly, everyone was wondering what I was nervously wondering, I suspect—what would our real test be, as our company’s executive team, to publicly demonstrate brand loyalty? What would be asked of us? What is the secret for getting through the task of taking this next impossible step?

 

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Walking the Walk, 2045

LTCLost In Track Changes is an ongoing literary remix experiment featuring Cate Kennedy, Fiona Capp, Krissy Kneen, Ryan O’Neill and Robert Hoge. Starting from a short work of memoir, the authors remix each other’s work in series, with changes tracked between.

Lost in Track Changes is coming to paper and ink. We’ll be launching the print edition of the project at Avid Reader in Brisbane tomorrow on Tuesday 2 December. And it’s free to come. Book now.

Cate Kennedy takes Robert Hoge’s memoir and builds an entirely new story around it with thirty odd years between. Use the tabs to flick between versions of the story.



The brand managers told us we were lucky to have come across the article in the archive. It’s not often, they said, that we—by which they meant we here at Pro-aesthetic ™—had access to primary source material like this. They were calling a meeting with the Imagineers and the CEOs and we’d get together over an actual table and dream up the direction of the new campaign.

‘It’s an piece of writing,’ Jonathon enthused as we made our way to the Senior Executive floor for the meeting, ‘full of simple statements of insight, written with actual first-hand experience. No sales agenda, no pitch.’

The managers were right—this was rare. By the time Pro-aesthetic had started making headway, back in the 20s, its primary market was amputees who were victims of old 20th century ordinance—the unexploded landmines that peppered warzones across the planet. With global viable farmland shrinking so much after the millenium, people were forced to venture back onto those zones – across Africa and Asia mostly – and we always had a stream of candidates who were willing – desperate even – for new improved limbs to replace their old ones. We hadn’t needed much market research. But it was the raging spike across the industrialised world in diabetes that really consolidated our market share. Unprecedented demand for prosthetics really put us on the map.

They’d been boom years for a while there—new legs all round, patented Innovative NewSkin, a knee joint that won us an international prize. Now it seemed we were headed in a new direction.

Inside the boardroom Jared, our wunderkind CEO, welcomed us.

‘These are exciting days,’ he said, as he often did. ‘Our history may have felt slow and methodical, but I think, as this article will show us, that it’s only been one short generation since the inception of a brilliantly fast and inventive revolution of which we are the proud vanguards.’

He brought an image of a page to the screen. Plain text. Just one candid sentence after another.

‘Most people learn to walk just once.’ it began. ‘…Then there’s the rest of us – the leaners, the lame, the legless – a tribe who needs to walk every time we get a new pair of prosthetic legs.’ Jared highlighted the word ‘tribe’ with a single touch, saying nothing.

‘New prosthetics can come with a whole range of changes – they might be a different shade of dark cream, they may be lighter, stronger, more reliable. Once I collected a new pair and discovered that instead of a crescent moon of rubber at the tip of the feet, they suddenly had toes.’ continued the article.

Jared raised his eyebrows and responded to our smiles. ‘This is what I mean,’ he said. ‘you can see we were at the very beginning of not only the technology, but also the conception of its marketing possibilities. The idea of toes being new, being novel. And you can see here how he jokes about his sister, painting the toenails. This would have been – let’s see – just a few short years before the app came out for incorporating interactive tattoos and the self-tanning feature became standard. Then the SuperReal Prosthetic Pro, the gamechanger. Remember the single idea that was based on?’

‘Imitating the compression marks caused by sock elastic on the shins,’ said Jonathon. Jared paused, looked at him.

‘Right,’ he said. ‘But not imitating, Jon. Reproducing.’ He turned back to the page and read a passage aloud:

‘Sometimes – the golden growing summers of my youth – my prosthetic legs would grow lengthen and all of a sudden I’d be 5cm taller. There wasn’t much about my appearance that filled me with pride when I was a kid, but leaving school one afternoon the third shortest student in class and coming back the next day the third tallest was pretty damn special.’
‘Hear that?’ said Jared dreamily. ‘“Golden”. “Pride”. “Pretty damn special”. That’s what we’re after, friends. That overwhelming emotional surge. How to harness that surge? How to nurture a craving for it?’
‘Putting one foot in front of the other should be simple, right. It should be dependable, knowable. It should be something you could rely on.’
‘I know you’ve all read reports from diabetic amputees from the old days which echoed this fundamental frustration,’ said Jared. ‘They just wanted something reliable and straightforward, something that didn’t draw attention to the fact that their legs were prosthetic. And that market’s still bullish, don’t you worry. Diabetes is our bread and butter, as it were. But our customers…how can I put this. We love novelty, but we love normalising. We don’t mind spending to make a statement. And more and more of our clients feel encouraged now to purchase multiple sets from Pro-aesthetic, because they can see, as we can, that the sky’s the limit and it’s discriminatory to restrict options to consumer choice. Why not, after all, have a set for every day of the week, for each season, for every whim, if that’s what you want? Why not develop Pro-aesthetic limbs which reproduce the appearance of gradually increasing muscle tone of the calves, or adjust skin tone according to mood? You can see it already, if you’ve got the eyes to see it – in an early article like this one, straight from the heart of a person without legs – the possibility there, germinating.’

He pointed to another sentence: ‘You could really swap sets of legs I suppose – like an opening batsmen choosing the bat that best suits him for the day …Switching sets of legs just means re-adapting again and again..’

‘Thirty years ago,’ said Jared, musing. ‘Re-adapting again and again….there’s something in there for all of us to reflect on.’

‘The biggest sales spike last year,’ added the other wunderkind, Mark from Brand Mapping, ‘was Carefree Barefoot™, right? Because that just needed a conceptual leap. Why wear shoes, if you’re wearing prosthetic legs? Why not just make the synthetic soles indestructible?’

‘Thanks for bringing that up, Skye,’ answered Jared. ‘Because that kind of segues in a neat way into what I want to touch on next. That indicates a shift, the Carefree Barefoot™. A sign of a falling away of stigma, of a desire to be proud. A statement that says, ‘hey – I’m not hiding anything! I’m wearing these legs because I’m making a consumer choice to do so!’

He paused to let this sink in. ‘So what’s the way forward now?’ he said softly. ‘Where’s the path? How can we capitalise on this shift? It’s in this piece of writing, in my opinion; this simple sincere piece written three decades ago. Just let’s…look.’

He raised his finger and highlighted another fragment of text.

‘And there’s kind of a loveliness about it which makes you always conscious of your connection with the physical world. Your brain pauses for a second and re-discovers the world for you. This is the first time you’ve got in a car with these legs, and it feels different. The first time you’ve walked downstairs. The first time you’ve chugged up a hill. The first time you’ve tried to run, hoping that maybe just this once you’d be able to run. But it reminds you for just a few days that you’re not really connected to the Earth. You – the real you – is floating three feet above the ground. Your legs are your freedom and your burden.’

‘“Your freedom and your burden”,’ said Jared in the same dreamy voice. ‘There’s a keystone slogan for us right there. “The real you.” And don’t you love that? “…a kind of loveliness which makes you conscious of your connection with the physical world.” That’s what we need to think about now. Something elemental and visceral – something that does nothing less than re-discover the world for you.’

He turned back to us and spread his arms in entreaty. ‘So my challenge to you today is—do we have it in us to be audacious? Where is our new market? Where is our new fertile ground?’

‘Are you talking increased vertical market saturation?’ said Skye.

Jared eyed him patiently. ‘I’m talking “golden”. I’m talking “pride”. I’m talking “pretty damn special”. There’s limited prestige in contracting Type 2 Diabetes, Skye. We can recover that prestige with fabulous product, sure, we can restore the sense of choice and control to turn that around, but what if we take that—if you’ll forgive me—a step further? What if we began to create customised, state-of-the-art Proaesthetic improved limb enhancement options for a more discerning client? A client not afraid to take the steps to be pretty damn special?’

He stared at us, and we stared back. A glimmering of understanding of what he was saying. This was the genius of Jared, I couldn’t help thinking in that silence. Seeing this in context. What begins as tattooing and morphs into body piercing and scarification and plastic surgery and then anything for novelty, anything to embellish, to strut, to revise, to reinvent.

‘You’re talking ….voluntary amputation,’ said Skye hesitantly.

‘Stop,’ Jared said sharply. ‘I don’t want to hear the “a” word. I never want to hear it again in any of our promotional copy, is that understood? I don’t even like “voluntary”. And definitely not “cutting edge”, for obvious reasons.’

A nervous ripple of uncertain laughter greeted this.

‘I like “elective”,’ went on Jared. ‘I like “pro-active”. I like to think of this as “pro-active cosmetic enhancement”.’ He looked sternly across the room, full of faces gazing back at him. ‘Language is everything,’ he said. ‘We’ve got to make choosing to incorporate enhanced and eternally youthful limbs the ultimate statement. Of fashion. Of art. Of primal attraction. Remember that word—tribe. That’s our touchstone. I know we can do it.’

Brainstorm time, because even now, in the middle of the 21st century, groups of image marketeers still swear by brainstorming. We cleared our throats and shifted in our seats. Cast covert, anxious glances at each other. Secretly, everyone was wondering what I was nervously wondering, I suspect—what would our real test be, as our company’s executive team, to publicly demonstrate brand loyalty? What would be asked of us? What is the secret for getting through the task of taking this next impossible step?

 

if-book thumbnail


Most people learn to walk just once.

An unlucky few need to stumble through it a second time after a schism of the back or a grody snap of the ankle. Then there’s the rest of us – the leaners, the lame, the legless – a tribe who needs to learn to walk every time we get a new pair of prosthetic legs.

New prosthetics can come with a whole range of changes – they might be a different shade of dark cream, they may be lighter, stronger, more reliable. Once I collected a new pair and discovered that instead of a crescent moon of rubber at the tip of the feet, they suddenly had toes. My sister was so excited, she stole my legs so she could paint the toenails a rich, dark purple. Didn’t suit my skin tone at all.

Sometimes – the golden growing summers of my youth – my prosthetic legs would grow lengthen and all of a sudden I’d be 5cm taller. There wasn’t much about my appearance that filled me with pride when I was a kid, but leaving school one afternoon the third shortest student in class and coming back the next day the third tallest was pretty damn special.

With new feet came new sensations, with a new artificial knee came new challenges and with longer legs came a whole new gait. Imagine getting out of bed one morning and you’re 7cm taller and your knee is 3cm lower. I’d stand up after putting on the new legs and feel like I was Dannii Minogue in a Kylie Minogue music video. I’d stand up, sway, lean to one side to stop swaying, over-correct and fall over – the strangest of locomotions. Try again. This time reaching out for the wall to hold myself up. Eventually I’d master standing up but everything else felt different – my hips, my back, how far my hands were from the ground. Putting one foot in front of the other should be simple, right. It should be dependable, knowable. It should be something you could rely on.

It’s not a small thing. It’s not like just getting a new pair of shoes because you get new feet to go inside them too – feet that are firmer because they’ve never been used. Throw in a new ankle to join it all to a new shin and maybe a new knee as well. All of that newness works instantly, universally to remind you of that one simple fact – you don’t have any legs.

If you had legs, you wouldn’t feel like you were walking on a foreign planet. You wouldn’t fall over putting them on the first morning you had them because you hadn’t ‘walked in’ the new set yet. The most disconcerting – legal – out-of-body experience you can get.

Maybe you know something of the feeling, like when you drive a new car for the first time. You might have had the old car for three years, maybe five. You were used to its quirks, how the right blinker was just that little bit sticky; how there was that slight knock when the engine went from first gear to second. How there was that slight dint in the licence plate that you never bothered getting fixed. Then you get the new car. The seat is different. The engine purrs but it isn’t the same. Every time you try to turn a blinker on you end up with windscreen wipers going instead.

So how do you do it? Sheer necessity helps, I suppose. You could really swap sets of legs I suppose – like an opening batsmen choosing the bat that best suits him for the day. But mostly there’s no going back. Once you start down the track you need to keep going. An average person might take two-and-a-half million to three million steps a year. You can normally adapt to new legs in less than a week – maybe 25,000 steps or so. Switching sets of legs just means re-adapting again and again.

And there’s kind of a loveliness about it which makes you always conscious of your connection with the physical world. Your brain pauses for a second and re-discovers the world for you. This is the first time you’ve got in a car with these legs, and it feels different. The first time you’ve walked downstairs. The first time you’ve chugged up a hill. The first time you’ve tried to run, hoping that maybe just this once you’d be able to run. But it reminds you for just a few days that you’re not really connected to the Earth. You – the real you – is floating three feet above the ground. Your legs are your freedom and your burden – your Dannii and your Kylie.

Walking becomes so ingrained after a while that when you get a new pair of legs you really do need to learn how to walk again. And it wasn’t like it was easy to do in the first place. Now you’re older; maybe fatter and certainly more set in your ways. You’ve worked out – walked out – the kinks in your legs. You know it’s easier to step onto the sidewalk with your right leg because that’s your leg with the real knee – the one you have more control over.

So you do it. You stand up, you lean, you stumble and fall and feel like every single step is Armstrong on the moon. You feel this crazy ambivalence to these tools of torturous freedom. You haven’t worn them in yet. They rub in all the wrong places. You lift your left foot too high and put your right leg down too hard. You shout for joy because the new legs are lighter and fit better – not right yet – but better. But you crave the comfort and sameness of your old legs like someone quitting smoking craves having a pencil to roll across their fingers.

So, how do you do it? What is the secret for getting through the task? Like mastering most things it ends up being pretty simple – just keep putting one stump in front of the other.

 

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0

Waiting for the 4:45 to Toorak

ifbook_podcast_itunesThe latest if:book Podcast features the extraordinary Matt Blackwood talking cities of literature, sticky stories, the benefits of QR codes, and all things locative with Emily.

Our featured artist is the Broadway Melody Makers with ‘Any Place Where I Make Money (Is Home Sweet Home To Me)’, a wonderfully appropriate track from some time in the 1920s, first released on the delightfully named Puritan Records. This recording comes to us, as always from the Internet Archive.

Links to the stuff we talk about:

 

Play

Podcast Feed // iTunes

0

Walking the Walk

LTCLost In Track Changes is an ongoing literary remix experiment featuring Cate Kennedy, Fiona Capp, Krissy Kneen, Ryan O’Neill and Robert Hoge. Starting from a short work of memoir, the authors remix each other’s work in series, with changes tracked between.

Lost in Track Changes is coming to paper and ink. We’ll be launching the print edition of the project at Avid Reader in Brisbane on Tuesday 2 December. And it’s free to come. Book now.

Our final run through the track changes begins with Robert Hoge’s memoir and a pair of legs. Or a few pairs. And Kylie. And Dannii. Next week will see this work transformed into something else entirely.

Most people learn to walk just once.

An unlucky few need to stumble through it a second time after a schism of the back or a grody snap of the ankle. Then there’s the rest of us – the leaners, the lame, the legless – a tribe who needs to learn to walk every time we get a new pair of prosthetic legs.

New prosthetics can come with a whole range of changes – they might be a different shade of dark cream, they may be lighter, stronger, more reliable. Once I collected a new pair and discovered that instead of a crescent moon of rubber at the tip of the feet, they suddenly had toes. My sister was so excited, she stole my legs so she could paint the toenails a rich, dark purple. Didn’t suit my skin tone at all.

Sometimes – the golden growing summers of my youth – my prosthetic legs would grow lengthen and all of a sudden I’d be 5cm taller. There wasn’t much about my appearance that filled me with pride when I was a kid, but leaving school one afternoon the third shortest student in class and coming back the next day the third tallest was pretty damn special.

With new feet came new sensations, with a new artificial knee came new challenges and with longer legs came a whole new gait. Imagine getting out of bed one morning and you’re 7cm taller and your knee is 3cm lower. I’d stand up after putting on the new legs and feel like I was Dannii Minogue in a Kylie Minogue music video. I’d stand up, sway, lean to one side to stop swaying, over-correct and fall over – the strangest of locomotions. Try again. This time reaching out for the wall to hold myself up. Eventually I’d master standing up but everything else felt different – my hips, my back, how far my hands were from the ground. Putting one foot in front of the other should be simple, right. It should be dependable, knowable. It should be something you could rely on.

It’s not a small thing. It’s not like just getting a new pair of shoes because you get new feet to go inside them too – feet that are firmer because they’ve never been used. Throw in a new ankle to join it all to a new shin and maybe a new knee as well. All of that newness works instantly, universally to remind you of that one simple fact – you don’t have any legs.

If you had legs, you wouldn’t feel like you were walking on a foreign planet. You wouldn’t fall over putting them on the first morning you had them because you hadn’t ‘walked in’ the new set yet. The most disconcerting – legal – out-of-body experience you can get.

Maybe you know something of the feeling, like when you drive a new car for the first time. You might have had the old car for three years, maybe five. You were used to its quirks, how the right blinker was just that little bit sticky; how there was that slight knock when the engine went from first gear to second. How there was that slight dint in the licence plate that you never bothered getting fixed. Then you get the new car. The seat is different. The engine purrs but it isn’t the same. Every time you try to turn a blinker on you end up with windscreen wipers going instead.

So how do you do it? Sheer necessity helps, I suppose. You could really swap sets of legs I suppose – like an opening batsmen choosing the bat that best suits him for the day. But mostly there’s no going back. Once you start down the track you need to keep going. An average person might take two-and-a-half million to three million steps a year. You can normally adapt to new legs in less than a week – maybe 25,000 steps or so. Switching sets of legs just means re-adapting again and again.

And there’s kind of a loveliness about it which makes you always conscious of your connection with the physical world. Your brain pauses for a second and re-discovers the world for you. This is the first time you’ve got in a car with these legs, and it feels different. The first time you’ve walked downstairs. The first time you’ve chugged up a hill. The first time you’ve tried to run, hoping that maybe just this once you’d be able to run. But it reminds you for just a few days that you’re not really connected to the Earth. You – the real you – is floating three feet above the ground. Your legs are your freedom and your burden – your Dannii and your Kylie.

Walking becomes so ingrained after a while that when you get a new pair of legs you really do need to learn how to walk again. And it wasn’t like it was easy to do in the first place. Now you’re older; maybe fatter and certainly more set in your ways. You’ve worked out – walked out – the kinks in your legs. You know it’s easier to step onto the sidewalk with your right leg because that’s your leg with the real knee – the one you have more control over.

So you do it. You stand up, you lean, you stumble and fall and feel like every single step is Armstrong on the moon. You feel this crazy ambivalence to these tools of torturous freedom. You haven’t worn them in yet. They rub in all the wrong places. You lift your left foot too high and put your right leg down too hard. You shout for joy because the new legs are lighter and fit better – not right yet – but better. But you crave the comfort and sameness of your old legs like someone quitting smoking craves having a pencil to roll across their fingers.

So, how do you do it? What is the secret for getting through the task? Like mastering most things it ends up being pretty simple – just keep putting one stump in front of the other.

 

if-book thumbnail

0

My Father as a Short Story

LTCLost In Track Changes is an ongoing literary remix experiment featuring Cate Kennedy, Fiona Capp, Krissy Kneen, Ryan O’Neill and Robert Hoge. Starting from a short work of memoir, the authors remix each other’s work in series, with changes tracked between.

Lost in Track Changes is coming to paper and ink. We’ll be launching the print edition of the project at Avid Reader in Brisbane on Tuesday 2 December. And it’s free to come. Book now.

How much is true? Robert Hoge poses an impossible question as he brings another series of change-tracked remixes to their conclusion. Use the tabs to flick between versions of the story. The source of the remixes is an original memoir My Father as a Short Story by Ryan O’Neill. Read it here.

Well, you’ll make up your own mind, so I may as well just tell it. The words are the words; the truth—as almost always—is woven between them; not from them. But hear this: none of this is true, except the start and the ending.

Starting logically: my father, born July 20, 1935 on the third floor of the tenement building in the east end of Glasgow. The words written, the story falls fatally silent. I put my hand to the baby’s chest and found no breath in him. A father, dead still; still-born.

Starting in faith: St Bridget’s chapel, Edinburgh, where my father and mother married on August 3, 1971. Words raining down on the blank pages with the dry rustle of thrown rice. Over the next three days the rice swelled. A blue mould set, changing the scent of the words. I could not read my work without feeling slightly nauseous. Sickened by sentences, lost in a language that does not feel my own.

Starting abroad: later, looking through the manuscript, I touched a page and found the paper slick with the slime of spit. When my father did his National Service in Egypt, one of his duties was to serve his officer tea in bed in the morning. Before adding the hot water, my father would spit in the mug. This part I know to be true. I saw him do it once to a neighbour, who had asked to borrow father’s axe, then used it to dig rocks from the grass. Now, reading over the words that were worthy of derision, I picked up the wad of paper and placed it warily in the recycling bin.

Starting afresh.

Starting on the page: this time, instead of spitting on them, my father collapsed on them, folded to the floor and rested there, damaged, the blood leaking out into his brain for three treacherous hours. 5 February 1989. After the stroke he lost language. It was stolen from him, replaced by a limp. He stared out from the dumb pages, frustrated; in pain. When I tried to move him from one page to the other I discovered he could barely limp through the narrative.

Starting again: at the end this time, desperate for a story circle. The last conversation I had with him: March 18, 2012. I recorded each sentence, word for word, and yet when I read back over the work the words were barely recognisable—no meaning and no context. Syllables without sense.

Ending in mystery: I wrote a life as a crime, a story in which I killed him by fracturing his skull with an encyclopaedia. Freud nodded his sage head as, free of the spectre of my father, I was now free to make passionate love to my mother. I reached for her brassiere, then stopped. Ludicrous. I tore up the offending page.

Ending in fantasy: typing the words: ‘My father often told me that he loved me’ would make them true. I typed them and my father spoke them, but the corner of his mouth turned upward in a sneer. The inflection was all wrong.

Ending at the beginning: my father needed an easier life. He needed joy. I rewrote his childhood. I removed the boy who used to beat him up each afternoon after school. I invented a long, lovely romance for him and my mother, with a wedding dress for her that was tight about her waist because in this version of her life she was not already pregnant. Godlike, I cleared the blockage in my father’s brain and blessed his future with language. In this forgiving narrative my father published books, became a celebrated author. I stood in line at his book launch, my copy of his book pressed open to the title page. To my son, wrote my father. There was a pause.

Ending in in charge: I held my father’s pen. With love. I made the marks on the page, but when my father pushed the book across the signing table there was an ironic underline under the word love. There were little hearts and crosses. My father grinned like a manic cherub. I glanced down to see the edges of the heart dissolving. Again, he spat on the page.

Ending in revelation: one afternoon last year, I had an epiphany stuck in a crowded waiting room for an hour and a half before I could see a doctor. I had finished the novel I was reading, and all the magazines were already taken, so for something to read I picked a pamphlet at random from a plastic rack on the wall. When I finished it, I realised that my father had been depressed for most of his adult life. And so, it turned out, had I.

The truth: that night I went to bed early. The edge of sleep rushed towards me but I did not fall over. I was drifting, thinking about how it would be breakfast in Scotland, the hour my father used to call, on the rare occasions that he did. And then my phone started ringing at the other end of my house.  I scrambled out of bed, then stopped. I could see him there in the hallway of his house in Scotland, the phone pressed to his ear.  The phone switched on to the answering machine just before I could reach it.

‘Hello?’ I heard my father say, ‘Hello?’

These are the words I wrote down.

All of this is true except the start and the ending.

 

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I started logically, or tried to. My father, born on the third floor of the tenement building in the east end of Glasgow, on 20 July 1935. I wrote these words then felt the story fall fatally silent. I put my hand on the baby’s chest and found there was no breath in him. A father still-born.

I began again. St Bridget’s chapel in Edinburgh, where my father and mother were married on 3 August 1971. Words raining down on the blank pages with the dry rustle of thrown rice. Over the next three days the rice swelled. A blue mould set in, changing the scent of the words. I could not read my own work without feeling slightly nauseous.

Later, looking through the manuscript, I touched a page and found the paper slick with the slime of spit. When my father did his National Service in Egypt, one of his duties was to serve his officer tea in bed in the morning. Before adding the hot water, my father would spit in the mug. Now, reading over the words that were worthy of derision, I picked up the wad of paper and placed it warily in the recycling bin.

Began again.

Fresh clean pages.

Only this time, instead of spitting on them, my father collapsed on them, folded to the floor and rested there, damaged, the blood leaking out into his brain for three treacherous hours. 5 February 1989. After the stroke he lost the power of language. He stared out from the dumb pages, frustrated and in pain. When I tried to move him from one page to the other I discovered that he could barely limp through the narrative.

I began again. At the end this time, desperate for a circling narrative. The last conversation I had with him: 18 March 2012. I recorded each sentence, word by word, and yet when I read back over the work the words were barely recognisable, providing no meaning and no context.

Nothing but more paper for the recycling bin.

More desperation. I tried a mystery in which I killed him by fracturing his skull with an encyclopaedia. Freud nodded his sage head as, free of the spectre of my father, I was now free to make passionate love to my mother. I reached for her brassiere, then stopped. Ludicrous. I tore up the offending page.

I tried fantasy. Typing the words: ‘My father often told me that he loved me’ would make them true. I typed them and my father spoke them, but the corner of his mouth turned upward in a sneer. The inflection was all wrong.

My father needed an easier life. He needed joy. I rewrote his childhood. I removed the boy who used to beat him up each afternoon after school. I invented a long and lovely romance for him and my mother, with a wedding dress for her that was tight about her waist because in this version of her life she was not already pregnant. Godlike, I cleared the blockage in my father’s brain and blessed his future with language. In this new, forgiving narrative my father published books, became a celebrated author. I stood in line at his book launch, my copy of his book pressed open to the title page. To my son, wrote my father. There was a pause.

I was in charge of the story. I held my father’s pen. With love. I made the marks on the page, but when my father pushed the book across the signing table there was an ironic underline under the word love. There were little hearts and crosses. My father grinned like a manic cherub. I glanced down to see the edges of the heart dissolving. He had, yet again, spat on the page.

One afternoon last year, I had an epiphany while sitting in a crowded waiting room for an hour and a half before I could see a doctor. I had finished the novel I was reading, and all the magazines were already taken, so for something to read I picked a pamphlet at random from a plastic rack on the wall. When I finished it, I realised that my father had been depressed for most of his adult life. And so, it turned out, had I.

That night I went to bed early and was in that state between waking and dreaming when your mind does strange things. I was drifting, thinking about how it would be breakfast time in Scotland, the hour that my father used to call, on the rare occasions that he did. And then my phone started ringing at the other end of my house.

I scrambled out of bed, then stopped. I could see my father standing in the hallway of his house in Scotland, the phone pressed to his ear.

The phone switched on to the answering machine just before I could reach it.

‘Hello?’ I heard my father say, ‘Hello?’

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My Father as a Short Story

LTCLost In Track Changes is an ongoing literary remix experiment featuring Cate Kennedy, Fiona Capp, Krissy Kneen, Ryan O’Neill and Robert Hoge. Starting from a short work of memoir, the authors remix each other’s work in series, with changes tracked between.

Lost in Track Changes is coming to paper and ink. We’ll be launching the print edition of the project at Avid Reader in Brisbane on Tuesday 2 December. And it’s free to come. Book now.

Artifice and reality blend as Cate Kennedy takes up the remixer’s baton this week from Krissy Kneen. Use the tabs to flick between versions of the story. The source of the remixes is an original memoir My Father as a Short Story by Ryan O’Neill. Read it here.

I started logically, or tried to. My father, born on the third floor of the tenement building in the east end of Glasgow, on 20 July 1935. I wrote these words then felt the story fall fatally silent. I put my hand on the baby’s chest and found there was no breath in him. A father still-born.

I began again. St Bridget’s chapel in Edinburgh, where my father and mother were married on 3 August 1971. Words raining down on the blank pages with the dry rustle of thrown rice. Over the next three days the rice swelled. A blue mould set in, changing the scent of the words. I could not read my own work without feeling slightly nauseous.

Later, looking through the manuscript, I touched a page and found the paper slick with the slime of spit. When my father did his National Service in Egypt, one of his duties was to serve his officer tea in bed in the morning. Before adding the hot water, my father would spit in the mug. Now, reading over the words that were worthy of derision, I picked up the wad of paper and placed it warily in the recycling bin.

Began again.

Fresh clean pages.

Only this time, instead of spitting on them, my father collapsed on them, folded to the floor and rested there, damaged, the blood leaking out into his brain for three treacherous hours. 5 February 1989. After the stroke he lost the power of language. He stared out from the dumb pages, frustrated and in pain. When I tried to move him from one page to the other I discovered that he could barely limp through the narrative.

I began again. At the end this time, desperate for a circling narrative. The last conversation I had with him: 18 March 2012. I recorded each sentence, word by word, and yet when I read back over the work the words were barely recognisable, providing no meaning and no context.

Nothing but more paper for the recycling bin.

More desperation. I tried a mystery in which I killed him by fracturing his skull with an encyclopaedia. Freud nodded his sage head as, free of the spectre of my father, I was now free to make passionate love to my mother. I reached for her brassiere, then stopped. Ludicrous. I tore up the offending page.

I tried fantasy. Typing the words: ‘My father often told me that he loved me’ would make them true. I typed them and my father spoke them, but the corner of his mouth turned upward in a sneer. The inflection was all wrong.

My father needed an easier life. He needed joy. I rewrote his childhood. I removed the boy who used to beat him up each afternoon after school. I invented a long and lovely romance for him and my mother, with a wedding dress for her that was tight about her waist because in this version of her life she was not already pregnant. Godlike, I cleared the blockage in my father’s brain and blessed his future with language. In this new, forgiving narrative my father published books, became a celebrated author. I stood in line at his book launch, my copy of his book pressed open to the title page. To my son, wrote my father. There was a pause.

I was in charge of the story. I held my father’s pen. With love. I made the marks on the page, but when my father pushed the book across the signing table there was an ironic underline under the word love. There were little hearts and crosses. My father grinned like a manic cherub. I glanced down to see the edges of the heart dissolving. He had, yet again, spat on the page.

One afternoon last year, I had an epiphany while sitting in a crowded waiting room for an hour and a half before I could see a doctor. I had finished the novel I was reading, and all the magazines were already taken, so for something to read I picked a pamphlet at random from a plastic rack on the wall. When I finished it, I realised that my father had been depressed for most of his adult life. And so, it turned out, had I.

That night I went to bed early and was in that state between waking and dreaming when your mind does strange things. I was drifting, thinking about how it would be breakfast time in Scotland, the hour that my father used to call, on the rare occasions that he did. And then my phone started ringing at the other end of my house.

I scrambled out of bed, then stopped. I could see my father standing in the hallway of his house in Scotland, the phone pressed to his ear.

The phone switched on to the answering machine just before I could reach it.

‘Hello?’ I heard my father say, ‘Hello?’

 

if-book thumbnail

The father spat on the writer’s story.

When the writer’s father did his National Service in Egypt, one of his duties was to serve his officer tea in bed in the morning. Before adding the hot water, his father would spit in the mug.

Later, the writer was looking through the manuscript about his father. He touched the page, found the paper slick with the slime of spit. He took it as a criticism, reading over the words that were worthy of derision. He picked up the wad of paper and placed it warily in the recycling bin.

He began again. This time the story started with the writer’s father being born on the third floor of the tenement building in the east end of Glasgow, on 20 July 1935. The writer came back to the manuscript and put his hand on the baby’s chest and found there was no breath in him. A father still-born. The death of a writer.

St Bridget’s chapel in Edinburgh where his father and mother were married on 3 August 1971. Words raining down on the blank pages with the dry rustle of thrown rice. Over the next three days the rice swelled. A blue mould set in, changing the scent of the words. The writer could not read his own work without feeling slightly nauseous.

Fresh clean pages and the writer’s father collapsing on them, folded to the floor and resting there, damaged, the blood leaking out into his brain for three treacherous hours. 5 February 1989. After the stroke the writer’s father lost the power of language, he stared out from the dumb pages, frustrated and in pain. When the writer tried to move him from one page to the other he discovered that the man could barely limp through the narrative.

And so, beginning at the end, the writer chose a circling narrative. The last conversation between the writer and his father. 18 March 2012. The writer recorded each sentence, word by word and yet when he read back over the work he discovered there was no content, no meaning. The words were barely recognisable, providing no meaning and no context.

More paper for the recycling bin.

He flirted with the idea of a mystery in which the writer kills his father by fracturing his skull with an encyclopaedia. Freud nodded his sage head. Free of the spectre of his father, the writer was now free to make passionate love to his mother. The writer reached for her brassiere. The writer stopped, tore up the offending page.

In desperation, he decided to shake off the shackles of the real world and try fantasy. All the wrongs of their relationship could be righted. Typing the words, ‘My father often told me that he loved me’ would make them true. He typed the words and his father spoke them, but the corner of his mouth turned upward in a sneer and the words were damaged by his inflection.

His father needed an easier life. He needed joy. The writer rewrote his father’s childhood. Removing the boy who used to beat him up each afternoon after school. He invented a long and lovely romance for his parents, a wedding dress for his mother that was tight about her waist because in this version of her life she was not already pregnant. He cleared the blockage in his father’s brain and blessed his future with language. In this new, forgiving narrative his father published books, became a celebrated author. The writer stood in line at his father’s book launch. He pressed the book open to the title page. To my son, wrote his father, pausing. The writer was in charge of the story. The writer held his father’s pen. With love. The writer made the marks on the page, but when the father pushed the book across the signing table there was an ironic underline under the word love. There were little hearts and crosses. His father grinned like a manic cherub. The writer glanced down to see the edges of the heart dissolving. His father had, yet again, spat on the page.

One afternoon last year, the writer had an epiphany while sitting in a crowded waiting room for an hour and a half before he could see a doctor. He soon finished the novel he was reading, and all the magazines were already taken, so for something to read he picked a pamphlet at random from a plastic rack on the wall. When he finished it, he realised that his father had been depressed for most of his adult life. And so, it turned out, had he.

That night he went to bed early and was in that state between waking and dreaming when your mind does strange things. He was thinking about how it would be breakfast time in Scotland, the hour that his father used to call, on the rare occasions that he did. And then the writer’s phone started ringing at the other end of his house.

He scrambled out of bed. He stopped. He could see his father standing in the hallway of his house in Scotland, the phone pressed to his ear.

The phone switched on to the answering machine just before the writer could reach it.

‘Hello?’ he heard his father say. ‘Hello?’

 

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Track Changes Salon

LITC_FrontLost in Track Changes is morphing into book form and we’re celebrating with a salon event on 2nd December at Avid Reader bookstore.

Join Cate Kennedy, Ryan O’Neill, Fiona Capp, Robert Hoge, and Krissy Kneen as they take the personal and intimate craft of memoir and turn it over to the cut-and-paste transformation of remix culture, combined with a hint of old-fashioned parlour games.

Edited by Simon Groth, Lost in Track Changes is a project from if:book Australia featuring the talents of five incredible Australian authors. It begins with a short piece of memoir, a vignette. Each of these pieces is passed onto another author within the group, tasked with transforming the piece into something else. The newly minted remix is passed along again and so on until each of the pieces have passed through all five authors.

Lost in Track Changes follows the journey of each memoir piece through its transformation, with hints of the changes tracked between. But it doesn’t stop there. This is a book in which you are encouraged to take part and make your own changes: highlight, cross out, make additions, even tear whole pages out. Lost in Track Changes is your book. Where we go from here is up to you.

At the Track Changes Salon, we will follow one story’s journey from personal reflection to futuristic dystopia to memorial poem for an imagined hack author.

It’s free to come but bookings are essential.

Where: Avid Reader Bookshop , 193 Boundary St, West End, Brisbane, Queensland 4101 (AU).
Date: Tuesday, 2, December, 2014
Time: 6:00:pm –   8:00:pm

BOOK NOW

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Memory Makes Us See

so many memories have pressed on the ribbons / so
many rhythms crashed out on the keys
people passing through stepping back
into over around finding / or even avoiding
some fabulous forgotten feeling
or some uncomfortable childhood dream

memory makes us
memory makes us see

— Maxine Beneba Clarke, 1 November 2014

MMUAfter stops in four Australian cities, covering 18,887 km, and featuring the talents of eleven extraordinary authors, we have closed the book on Memory Makes Us for 2014.

Memory Makes Us, an ongoing experiment that creates an interface between writers and readers that blurs the boundaries of their roles in the creative process.

In its second year, the project expanded from a one-off experiment into a series of live writing events. Presented by if:book Australia in partnership with local festivals, Memory Makes Us challenged writers in Darwin, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to create a new work live before an audience.

During the event, the audience both online and in person was invited to make contributions to the writing in progress.

Our thanks go to all our contributing authors who were brave enough to create something in full view of an audience both face to face and online, their every keystroke visible to the world:

  • Marie Munkara
  • Levin Diatschenko
  • Kamarra Bell-Wykes
  • Paddy O’Reilly
  • Nicholas J Johnson
  • Angela Meyer
  • Josephine Moon
  • Sean Williams
  • Warsan Shire
  • Kate Fielding
  • Maxine Beneba Clarke

Thanks also go to participating festivals without whom none of this would be possible:

  • Wordstorm
  • Melbourne Writers Festival
  • Brisbane Writers Festival
  • Disrupted Festival of Ideas

Also a huge shout out to the Australia Council for the Arts who has supported if:book’s vision for literature that sometimes looks bookish and sometimes does not.

We are currently working to upload the typwritten memories from each event to complete the text for Memory Makes Us. Not long after that, though, everything will begin to fade away. Memory Makes Us was always intended as an ephemeral project and eventually, like all memories nothing will remain.

So read it now.

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This is the future of the book, but not the one you were expecting.