November 21

Shampoo

I found myself pacing the Health & Beauty aisle at Coles looking for shampoo, perhaps the worst kind of Saturday night to have after what was a fairly good day. I’m not loyal to any brand in particular but I do like to pick the most eco-friendly product on offer that isn’t wildly expensive, a weird legacy inherited from my mum after she joined a multi-level marketing scheme selling beauty and cleaning products without sulphates or parabens long before the current enviro movement.

The least evil shampoo there cost $23.99 for a 500ml bottle and it still had sulphates in it. Since when was shampoo worth $24?! I decided I could probably make do temporarily with soap and conditioner.

 As a last resort I headed to the baby section for a bottle of Johnson & Johnson ‘no more tears’ baby shampoo. I don’t remember where it sits on the evil shampoo scale but I do remember how awesome my hair looks when I use it, which I discovered by accident one time when I stayed over at my parents’ place and found a third of a bottle that a previous guest had left behind.

‘No more tears’ was no more, but I did find significantly more not-evil shampoos there, also at exorbitant prices. I left Coles without shampoo, but I also cried a little for ‘no more tears’, for it was like the end of an era. Grown-up shampoo from now on, Ads, the world – Coles’ new world – seemed to say.

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November 19

In which I decide to get over myself

When I was 7, one of my favourite books was a tall joke book called, I think, 1000 Jokes for Kids. It had a bold blue cover with the title in large snazzy orange font and was roughly the dimensions of a foolscap sheet folded lengthwise.

One segment was a list of fictional books and fictional authors all with punny titles like ‘Songs for Children by Barbara Blacksheep’. I remember clearly one from the list because it was the first time I had ever seen my name in a book. The pun title was ‘The Unfinished Poem by Adeline Moore’.

Fast forward some decades and I’ve decided I’m not writing enough for myself. I know exactly why, too: I’m one of those writers who don’t like to show their work-in-progress. I hate admitting that I have half-baked ideas, I don’t like my foundation of knowledge to be too fresh. But what this does is stifle the natural learning process of working through an idea, an argument, a voice. I want to get over myself. I want to forgive all the mistakes I’m going to make before I make them, knowing I’m going to make them but also knowing that I need to make them to progress.

Bear with me. Prepare for changing perceptions as I uncover new information. Allow for paradigm shifts.

So here it is, my newly anointed blog: Unfinished writing by Adeline.

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June 22

True and real: fiction, non-fiction and the interior world of the reader

Slender ManSlender Man is a construct some of you may know from the video game of the same name. He’s a faceless demon with many arms who kills anyone who looks at him, and has a predilection for kidnapping children. No, not kidnapping, that’s too prosaic. Making children disappear.

A number of the youth in the youth group I facilitate are obsessed by the creepy and macabre and love scaring themselves silly with thoughts that the Slender Man myth might be true. One session, which became a show and tell via YouTube (my ‘show’ was of an elephant painting) ended with a youth choosing the Slender Man ‘documentary’ to show to the others. He was convinced it was real. (One look and you can tell it isn’t, plus if you Google ‘is Slender Man real?’ the doco is debunked.) Another youth repeated my adamant statement that the doco was a fake, but I could tell she was more than a little spooked. As I walked her home I told her to do a little research into it. “Sometimes things aren’t real but they feel true,” I said.

This thought echoed through my head as I walked home. It is the job of a writer to make the world of the work true, even if s/he is writing fiction. In sci-fi and fantasy in particular it is the author’s job to make readers believe in the world they’ve created, that it logically follows rules, even if the rules are also fabricated by the author. Authenticity comes when readers buy into the fictionalised space.

When I read PM Newton‘s piece in Seizure magazine’s Crime issue on the increasingly violent and sadistic ways victims are tortured and killed in contemporary crime novels, it occurred to me that perhaps these authors were missing a trick, and a literary one at that: the level of horror we feel for a victim does not come from the level of gruesomeness of their murder but the empathy we have for the person killed.

The murder must feel authentic to us, it cannot be an exploitation simply to show off the twisted imagination of the author. There must be something at stake for the reader: our piece of mind, our comfort. When a murder is fantastic there is novelty value, yes, but the death is strangely hollow, which leads to desensitisation. It does not affect readers in the way that it must, at an empathetic level that makes such a crime possible in our hearts and minds therefore evoking a reaction of horror and disgust.

Newton writes: “Violence and sexism and racism are powerful and important subjects that should be explored by writers. But they are all the product of forces far more complex and powerful than the actual mechanistic acts of their end points.”

Then: “As a crime reader and writer, violence is only of interest to me for what it has to say about the people, the place and the politics involved in producing and reproducing it.”

And just as crime is not the act, but the motive and the context of the motive,┬ásci-fi is not the science but the agents that use the science and how the science affects society. All this is just a long way of saying there is a difference between true and real. While non-fiction writers may focus on ‘real’, all writers should strive for ‘true’. It’s the only way the reader accepts the written world.

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