cats

WHINGE

A POX UPON THE AUTHOR'S BIOGRAPHY

If it is true, as they say, that people always love talking about themselves, why do author biographies always seem the hardest part of any piece of writing to actually write? It can hardly be natural reticence (I spend a good part of an article trying to draw attention to myself) or forgetfulness (Alzheimer’s hasn’t set in yet). Is it, then, authorial integrity, a desire to distil everything that needs to be said perfectly in the article, story, essay, or poem itself, so that anything coming after would be superfluous? Don’t make me laugh.

Perhaps it is an awkwardness, like posing for a camera and preparing an insincere smile. Somehow, no matter how hard you try, the facts don’t seem to come, the biography as it comes out is not quite right. It would be easier to attend one’s funeral than write about yourself in an author biography, and more pleasant, too, for your only duties at your funeral would be to be an inanimate corpse while others talked about you, except I suspect if ever I decided to attend my own funeral, some bastard would get me to write my own biography.

There’s something in that, though: getting to hear what others say about you. This is exactly the pleasure you don’t have when you write your own biography. And things would definitely be improved if you got to write biographies about others in a detached and calm mood of magisterial disinterest. The more disinterested, the better: 'Gary is a complete and utter bastard and also owes me a dollar' [1] would make a good biography to read, don’t you think? More so than 'Gary lives in Caulfield with his girlfriend. He is a tutor in writing at....'

It is not just that it would be wrong to lie; it’s that even if you decided to lie about yourself, you would end up catching yourself out in the act of lying to yourself about yourself. It is so much nicer to lie about other people and have them lie about you—not the obvious lies of fact, but the less obvious lies inherent in flattery and the language of critical appreciation. Self-flattery is such a valuable luxury that it only works when other people are doing it for you.

But no, you are left with that blank page of paper, and still the words don’t come or, when they do, they seem pointless statements of the mundane (which you hardly wish to have your life seem like). It becomes tempting to list things up like achievements: 'Tim has a BA, an MA, a lovely wife, two cats, and eczema.' (I haven’t tried that one yet). And what’s all this writing about myself in the third person about, anyway? That’s what Caesar did, and look how he ended up. [2]

Not all authors have to supply a biography. Long-dead authors—who you’d have to think had the most biography of all—never have to bother. Genre writers, poets, and short story writers seem to be amongst those most bothered by the pesky demand for an autobiography; other writers seem to have to do little more than supply their name, or anything to that purpose that they happen to find lying around. Or there is the author photograph. If all you had to do was pose for a photograph (rather than a biography), I would be quite happy to oblige. I would procure a pipe and tobacco (you have to be smoking the pipe in the picture or it’s not worth it) and practice my grumpy old man scowl while pulling at the hairs of my beard to make sure it is as long as it can possibly be.

But can you imagine if these innocuous biographies had to be applied to classical writers? Homer ('lives in Ithaca with his wife. When he does not spend his time barding he takes his dogs for a walk....'), or St John? ('You might find him in the third cave from the left. When the world ends he is going to live forever and laugh at you while you fry.')

Author biographies can be quite unbalancing, too; they may not seem so to those who habitually write long-form essays or novellas, but to poets and dealers in aphorisms and epigrams, they really get in the way. Pope took exactly 29 words to pen the following perfection:

Sir! I take it as a general rule
That every poet is a fool
But you yourself will serve to show it
That every fool is not a poet.

Biographies often take twice as many words without being nearly half so interesting.

There is no conclusion to this little essay on the irritations of the jejune writer’s biography, aside from the obvious: that as a writer, generally it is much more advantageous to be dead than alive.

I guess that’s something for us all to look forward to.

TIM TRAIN, MELBOURNE

Tim has a BA, an MA, a lovely wife, two cats, and eczema.

  1. Astute readers may notice at this point that this does not exactly fit the definition of disinterested. You know what I hate almost as much as writing an author’s biography? Definitions!
  2. Astute reader: Conqueror of the British isles and father of the first Emperor of Rome? Tim: Dead! And stop answering rhetorical questions.
Even supposing Mr Sandow was an author, a biography would clearly be entirely redundant. Eugene Sandow [Prussian bodybuilder]. Albumen photograph by Henry Goldman, 1902. State Library of Victoria, H96.160/708.

Even supposing Mr Sandow was an author, a biography would clearly be entirely redundant. Eugene Sandow [Prussian bodybuilder]. Albumen photograph by Henry Goldman, 1902. State Library of Victoria, H96.160/708.

NEWS

WRITE FOR SPECU-CRANK

Inspired by a recent viewing of “Transformers: Age of Extinction” we here at CRANK (brought to you by pinknantucket press) thought a special CRANK festival devoted to all things speculative was in order. And hence behold… SPECU-CRANK. Running from next week until we stop receiving submissions, twice a week over at CRANK. (Mondays and Thursdays). Maybe if we get enough, we’ll put together a special hard-copy zine version as well. Drawings, explanatory diagrams and other illustrations welcome!

Send your 500 word (ish) diatribes, theories and reprimands to chiefnantucket at gmail dot com or via our online form.

Some ideas to get you rolling…

  • What is Tom Cruise doing here
  • Dinobots: WTF
  • But…physics!
  • Hey wait a minute all these aliens look like humans
  • Why didn’t you deploy your foot jets in the first place
  • JONESY 4 EVA: Why cats are vital to spec fic
  • A sonic screwdriver is NOT a magic wand
  • That really isn’t how evolution works

So much potential...and so much time! Write for CRANK today!

Dude, your Saturn is all wibbly wobbly.  Astronomy: a diagram of the phases of the moon, and the rings of Saturn . Engraving. Wellcome Library no. 46270i

Dude, your Saturn is all wibbly wobbly. Astronomy: a diagram of the phases of the moon, and the rings of Saturn. Engraving. Wellcome Library no. 46270i

REPROACH

The "SOCCER DRAGON": AN INSULT TO SOCCER AND DRAGONS

Think of the word “dragon”. What other words spring to mind? Scaly, perhaps, or sinewy. Powerful. Terrible and awesome. Cunning. Sleek, stocky, supple, gnarled. A dragon is an ancient thing of cunning and strength. Like a cat, its movements embody both poetry and danger. 

Now think of the words “soccer player”. (Or “football player” for anyone anywhere other than Australia and the US). What other words spring to mind? Possibly some very similar ones—sleek, supple, sinewy, powerful. Maybe not scaly or gnarled (they use too much product for that), but there is definitely some overlap. Like a cat, a soccer player’s movements embody both poetry and danger.

There exists in this world a game called Dragon City. You may have received pleading emails from Facebook friends, “inviting” you to join. Do not succumb! It is highly addictive, particularly for those of us who feel strong compulsions to complete sets, or to collect one of every kind of thing. Even I, a cheapskate, have spent $4 on in-game purchases. Those who tend to fail the Delayed Gratification Marshmallow Test would spend much, much more. Wannabe app-billionaires would do well to study the structure of Dragon City and how it feeds addiction.

In this game, you breed and hatch and collect dragons—all sorts of dragons. There’s the Flame dragon, the Jade dragon, the Burning dragon and the Star dragon. There are also some frankly ridiculous dragons—the Mojito dragon, the Gummy dragon, the Icecube dragon (I mean COME ON) and so forth. But one dragon offends above the rest.

The Soccer dragon.

Now, I like dragons. I also quite like soccer. But the Soccer dragon is an offense to both. If I was a real dragon, I would swoop down on the creator(s) of the Soccer dragon and tear out their guts. Then I would steal their huge piles of Dragon City gold and burrow into it to sleep, or swim about in it like a dragony Scrooge McDuck. If I was a real soccer player I would be more constrained by legalities but I would want to do the same.

Let us look at a picture of the Soccer dragon. What words spring to mind? Does it conform in any way to your mental image of either dragons or soccer players?

The "soccer" "dragon" in Dragon City.

The "soccer" "dragon" in Dragon City.

Of course it doesn’t. This dragon is clearly a buffoon, a hooligan. It’s wearing CLOTHES. (Dragons shouldn’t wear clothes). He has HAIR—and terrible hair, at that. (Maybe Neymar could get away with it). There is no way this dragon could lay waste to a city or devour an entire hillside of sheep. When it attacks, it kicks a stupid football at you! Ooh, scary. Far from inspiring awe and terror, this dragon inspires contempt. I take great pleasure in crushing every Soccer dragon that comes my way with my Elements dragon, Bunny, who I have trained in the Magma Attack, to which Soccer dragons are fortunately susceptible. 

The Soccer dragon is clearly popular with other Dragon City players, given the frequency with which I encounter it in battles. Each time I see it I am confounded—as to the tastes of my opponents, and the nature of people who purport to like dragons and/or soccer and yet do not see this concept as a blot upon both dragonkind and the beautiful game. Even worse, the makers of Dragon City have recently brought out MORE soccer-themed dragons for the World Cup. Being eaten is too good for them.

But here’s the rub - because I am a collector, I must possess the Soccer dragon to complete my collection. I am complicit. I hate myself as much as I hate them.

ALICE CANNON, MELBOURNE

TRIFLES

FREAKING WORD SEARCHES

What's the best bit of the weekend newspaper? The puzzles and quizzes, of course. Also the funnies, but we don't have any of them yet. Who doesn't love a word search? Those things are ace. Maybe you can print this one out to do while your beloved is burning the toast.

annoying / be quiet / bleeding heart / bugger / damn it all / damn it all to hell / declining standards / flabbergasted / flagrant disregard / foolish / fruitcake / get out of my way / impertinence / madness / radical / ridiculous / selfish / sheer impertinence / sheer insanity / silence / so rude / stop / tomfoolery / unkind / why oh why / wilful / zealot   

annoying / be quiet / bleeding heart / bugger / damn it all / damn it all to hell / declining standards / flabbergasted / flagrant disregard / foolish / fruitcake / get out of my way / impertinence / madness / radical / ridiculous / selfish / sheer impertinence / sheer insanity / silence / so rude / stop / tomfoolery / unkind / why oh why / wilful / zealot

 

WHO AM I?

  • I was born 22 February 1788. 
  • As a young lad I started playing the flute. 
  • I lectured at the University of Berlin but not many people came to my lectures so I gave up.
  • I called Hegel a clumsy charlatan.
  • I fell in love with an opera singer but didn't marry her because marrying means to halve one's rights and double one's duties, and also is like grasping blindfolded into a sack hoping to find an eel amongst an assembly of snakes.
  • My mum told me my first book was incomprehensible and was unlikely to sell many copies. I told her my stuff would be read long after her rubbish and ha I was totally right.
  • I believed humans were motivated by only their own basic desires, and that human desire was futile, illogical and directionless. Therefore, by extension, so was all human action in the world. PROVE ME WRONG.
  • I held that people cannot be improved. They can only be influenced by strong motives that overpower criminal motives. 

  • I had a series of pet poodles called Atman and Butz.
  • I died of heart failure sitting at home on the couch with the cat, on 21 September 1860.
  • My name is Arthur ___________ and I am a famous misanthrope.

FIND THE DIFFERENCES

There are several differences between these two pictures of Schopenhauer. Can you find them all?