The Revolution Will Not Be Published

The Long, Slow Death of Avant-Garde Fiction
Daulton Dickey.

imagesThe state of popular fiction, especially mainstream “literary fiction,” in the second decade of the twentieth century is one of complacency and uniformity. It’s as though someone filtered the concept of fiction and literary fiction through a sieve, and homogeneity is all that largely remains.

Literature has struggled since the advent of movies and television, with the introduction of interactive entertainment—what some people still call videos games—and the internet. In a culture marginalizing fiction and literature, the industry is rapidly transforming into a game of monkey-see-monkey-do. In this world, the avant-garde, historically on the margins, is being further marginalized—to the detriment of our culture.

Fiction and literary fiction in this hyper-real, digital age, an age in which the line between “reality” and “simulacrum” is vanishing, suffers the same existential crisis that visual art—paintings and sculptures—suffered with the advent of the camera.

Over the past two decades, films and television, interactive entertainment and the internet have collided with the nuances of everyday life. As a culture, we’ve moved from the digital age into a sort of hyper-digital age, a period in which we’re experiencing the merger of the digital realm and the physical realm. This new period is revolutionizing the way we communicate, and consume entertainment, even more so than it did a decade or two ago. (more…)

Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things (excerpt)

Daulton Dickey.

[This is an excerpt from the titular story in the new short story collection, Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things & Other Stories, which is out now.]


Humming fills the air, but it’s the humming of a brain filling gaps exposed by silence. The lights are out. Colors flicker in space–sometimes near the ceiling, sometimes near the floor.

The brain does the math, and this is another case of the brain creating something where something should be.

But listen: the silence. It’s unnerving somehow. Unnatural.

The ceiling throbs. Cracks spiderweb the walls. From these, insects emerge. They’re miniature heads, human heads, crawling on six scrotums. Sperm oozes in their wake. Sadie throws a shoe at the wall and the insects scream and scatter.

She climbs out of bed and peeks outside: a planet-sized eyeball drifts toward a planet-sized eyelid. Twilight. She throws on her robe and taps her skin. It’s still skin. Thank Cruelty. She hasn’t transformed, not like the others.

She opens her front door.

The hallway is empty.

She tiptoes across the hall and puts her ear below “3F” on Martin’s door. Silence. But that doesn’t mean anything. Those creatures are probably in there. Right now. Fucking each other with those tentacles–or whatever the hell you call them.

More humming.

Is it a lightbulb, or is it her brain doing the math, plugging holes?stilllifedaultondickey

She ties her robe and rubs her stomach and tiptoes down the hall, listening in on apartments 3D, 3C, 3B.

She puts her teeth together and hisses, just to make sure she hasn’t gone deaf.


She hasn’t gone deaf.

Door 3B flings open. A human-sized caterpillar pops its head into the hallway. Snot and cum drips from its mouth.

–Everything okay? it says.


–Why you in your robe? Locked out?

–Stop talking to me. Monster. (more…)

A Brief Manifesto for the Practicing and Emerging Artist

D. Cay.

  1. Uproot cultural norms. If something is considered “common sense,” then you daultondickeyshould ridicule or satirize it.


  1. Target modesty and decency.


  1. Celebrate obscenity, vulgarity, and cruelty.


  1. Embrace chaos.


  1. Shun “traditional” or “standard” forms or structures. If you don’t want to challenge them too radically, at least tweak them with the aim of upsetting the reader’s, or spectator’s, equilibrium.


  1. Have a point. Art for art’s sake, or strange for strange’s sake, or offensive for offensive’s sake should be treated like television: it’s all right in moderation, but too much will rot your brain.


Ceci n’est pas une pipe: Buddha Jones, a Man Who Strives to Alter Our Perceptions.

Daulton Dickey.


“It’s not a question of reality; it’s a question of our perceptions of these convergences we call ‘reality.’”

If you encountered the man who calls himself Buddha Jones on the street, you’d find little reason to acknowledge him. He’s one of those people who seem to blend in, nondescript in every way, almost generic in appearance.

He’s sitting on a bench in a park a few feet from Lake Michigan, gazing at seagulls. They hop in a sort of chaotic line dance. If they’re following a pattern, it’s indiscernible—at least to someone who doesn’t specialize in ornithology.

“They might be following a pattern,” Buddha says, “at least as far as they’re concerned. [Psychologist B.F.] Skinner found that pigeons will detect patterns even when none exist.” He hisses as he inhales smoke, then sighs as he pushes it out through his nose and mouth. “Those findings extend to people, by the way,” he says. “We’re pattern seekers, and we’ll sometimes find patterns that aren’t there.”

Buddha Jones is one of those people you might know for decades without pegging who he is, without pigeonholing him, without finding patterns, if you will, to enable you to discern cohesion in an otherwise aloof personality. His stories often contradict one another—his father died when he, Buddha, was in his thirties, for example, or he never knew his father; each story he tells, each facet of the life he chooses to share eventually emerges as either a creation or an exaggeration—or a combination of the two.

“People sometimes call writers professional liars,” he says. “That’s bullshit. Writers, and I’m talking about fiction writers here, make shit up, but there’s a difference between a lie and making something up.”

What’s the difference?

“Writing is algorithmic,” he says. “You follow a pattern, replace variables with values you’ve appointed. The point is to entertain or enlighten. Or trick.” He grins. “Or to shock or offend or whatever. To lie is to either avoid consequences, real world consequences, or to illegitimately obtain something, or someone, you want.”

But are the two behaviors mutually exclusive?

“Of course not,” he says. “But a writer sets out to tell a story, for whatever reason, or maybe to play with the notion of storytelling. Look, at the end of the day, a writer’s job is to emulate this hallucination we call ‘reality.’” He curls his fingers in air-quotes whenever he utters the word “reality,” something he never fails to do.

Why does he do that?

“I hate the word,” he says. “‘Reality.’ It misleads people.”

In what way?

“In my experience, people tend to assume ‘reality’ is this objective thing that exists independently of people, that we’re somehow passive participants in this thing we call ‘reality.’”

So then what is it?

“It’s a product of billions of neurons modeling an incomprehensible amount of information every second of every day. Each of us experience ‘reality’ differently because it’s ultimately a product of our brains.”

At this point I make a face without realizing I’d made it.

“You don’t believe me?” he says. “Drop some acid. Or drink some whiskey. These chemicals will literally alter how you experience ‘reality.’ If chemicals affecting your brain alter your experience of ‘reality,’ then isn’t it evidence that ‘reality’ itself is a product of experience?” After a long pause. “Which is itself a product of cognitive processes, of our brains?”

He had picked up a stick while we talked, and now he’s drawing the Mona Lisa in a patch of sand surrounded by grass. The picture would impress you: by utilizing nearby dirt, he shades the woman’s face, creating an almost three-dimensional picture, or a sepia etching.

On finishing the picture, which took only minutes, he tosses the stick aside and slides his boot—khaki work boots—over the picture, leaving tracers of a worn sole where a depiction of a woman’s face once lay. (more…)

Review: Battle Without Honor or Humanity Volumes 1 and 2 by D. Harlan Wilson

Daulton Dickey.

dharlandwilson3In an age of corporate omnipotence and adherence to formula, experimental fiction has fallen further into the gaps, obscured by the shadows of genre and ‘safe bets.’ Of the few experimental writers working today, D. Harlan Wilson embraces the shadows, creating works without pretense to genre or formulae.

Wilson eschews orthodoxy in his latest works, Battle Without Honor or Humanity Volumes 1 and 2 (also recently collected in a single volume), and produces a work both maddening and refreshingly different—and new, which is what makes these books so interesting: you’ve not encountered anything like them. As a result, you can’t approach them as traditional novels. If you do, you’ll find the experience of reading these books less than enlightening. (more…)

Nine Writers and Performers Who Influenced Bastard Virtues

Daulton Dickey.

In 2003, my cousin died in a car accident. I received the news while loafing around in New Mexico. I had traveled there earlier in the year, and, after a brief stint in Las Vegas, felt lost. But I had left Indiana—hopefully—for good, and I was determined to start a new life somewhere else. Jobless and low on money, I resisted giving in. I resisted going home.

Then news of his death arrived, and it hit me hard. I felt isolated. My determination to stay transformed into a desire to leave, to go back home, to spend time with my friends and family. To fill the hole my cousin had left.

Although he was a year younger than me, we grew up together—and we were close: we made the same mistakes together, tried alcohol and pot together, developed a similar sense of humor, and developed similar tastes in movies and music, in pop culture in general.

Rage filled me when he died, and I felt the urge to write about it. I tried and failed several times before I hit on the opening chapter of Bastard Virtues. My desire to honor my cousin gave way to my anger and rage, which consumed me whenever I thought about his death. Early on, I realized the novel wasn’t about him as much as it was about my anger, my rage, my sadness—emotions transformed into themes which dominated the novel.

On embracing the anger and rage, I decided to pick influences for the novel which reflected my relationship with my cousin. Some of the influences are mine alone, and reflect nothing more than my preoccupations at the time. Other influences, however, represent shared interests between my cousin and me.

Hunter S. Thompson

Thompson’s influence is apparent early on in the novel, the opening section of which was inspired by The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved. Although Thompson’s story meant nothing to my cousin, it was a starting off point for me. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas connected my cousin and me to Thompson, which is what inspired the setting early in the novel. Thompson’s cynicism and vitriol hit a nerve with us when we were teenagers; it was the language we had already used, and in Thompson we’d found a sort of spiritual guide. (more…)

An Excerpt from Bastard Virtues, a Novel

Daulton Dickey.

Bastard Virtues is now available for pre-order. Click here to pre-order the paperback. Or here to pre-order the Kindle edition.


A thorn bush bloomed in my skull.

Vines sprouted inside my brain.

They spread throughout my body—their thorns, razor-sharp, tore into my muscles and threatened to deglove me—as fragments of light sparkled and devoured me.

Bugs, or, worse, creatures whose existence had eluded us, crawled across my skin and burrowed into my temples. They danced and stretched a rope from temple to temple, and tried to pull them inward, tried to collapse my skull.

I wanted to scream, couldn’t.

I wanted to dig my fingernails into my skull and remove them one by one.

The ropes pulled inward, inward.

I tapped my temple in search of a hole.13516669_258152327885522_3315739699535796428_n


Gummo, inspect my head.

Why hadn’t the words come out?

Why hadn’t I made a sound?

Had my motors skills atrophied?

Where are we?

What the hell is this place?

Why the fuck are we doing this?

Although certain I’d transformed my thoughts into coherent chatter, the expressions from strangers and dealers told me otherwise. Wide or squinted eyes, open mouths or frowns—everyone broadcast a response.

Faces muted confusion or fear. (more…)

Bastard Virtues Now Available for Pre-Order

Jeff O’Brien Answers the Proust Questionnaire

Jeff O’Brien writes fantasy and horror, weird and absurd novels and stories. For more 13508885_10154140920775926_1024170234206822858_nabout his books … actually, skip reading about them and just read them. You can find them here.

1.What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A utopia with myself, my wife, my dogs, beautiful green women, and the small band of people who grasp our concept of perfect happiness. In my backyard there would be a transport to the magical land of Xanth, and I could go and hang out with the gorgons, nymphs, zombies, ogres and puns. I love a good pun.

2.What is your greatest fear?

The possible repercussions of sharing my greatest fear with the general public. Nice try, Dickey!

3.What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Probably vanity, as I can’t think of one.

4.What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Lack of conversation etiquette. I have no use for someone who talks over others.

5.Which living person do you most admire?

Piers Anthony. I mean, I don’t know much about what kind of guy he is, but his virtually endless bibliography has pretty much been the greatest thing I’ve ever discovered.

6.What is your greatest extravagance?

Books. I live rather frugally, but can’t seem to restrain myself in the purchasing of books. I have more than I can possibly ever read, but I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. (more…)

Brutal Honesty and Depression, a Desperate Confession

Daulton Dickey.

In marketing yourself online, the experts tell you to keep things light. Nothing serious. Humor your audience to grow your audience. Nothing serious. Nothing too personal. Nothing dark.

But what do you do when the point of marketing yourself is to market your writing, and what do you do when your writing represents depression and the dark and uncomfortable sides of the human condition?

I’ve tried to play this game, I’ve tried to humor people, I’ve tried to present myself as something in opposition to the tone and nature of my writing. And I haven’t succeeded, and so I’m done trying. (more…)