Tuesday, August 30, 2016

FAQ – The Moral of the Story

These questions are about the short story “The Moral of the Story”.  For the actual short story itself, please go here.


What is the moral of the story?
I honestly don’t know.  It feels like there is one, but I really do not know what it is, which is why I named the story that: because it so clearly felt like there was one.  Maybe it’s something like “be careful what crutches you set up for yourself, because they could end up defining who you are”, or maybe it’s something like “just be happy with who you are, because as soon as you start changing yourself you might become something you aren’t happy with”, or maybe it’s “don’t fall for mainstream definitions of masculinity”, or maybe it’s “sex hang-ups are funny to those who don’t have them”.  Or maybe the story actually doesn’t have one at all.

Why did you have to make fun of fat people, old people, and/or defecation?
I think I explained that pretty well in the story, to be honest: it’s just an image that this chap uses to feel less close to orgasm.  I have absolutely nothing against fatness, oldness, or baking bowel brownies: indeed, I am fat, old, and expel faeces on a regular basis.  It’s just, combined, these things make a generally non-orgasmic image for a fairly wide cross-section of the community.  If you are one of the very few (but, let’s face it, definitely present) members of society who are sexually turned on by the image of a flabby elderly gentleman puckering out crap-cable, then I deeply apologise for any offense caused.  Although I imagine you enjoyed the story in quite a different way to most, and for that, you’re very welcome.

How do you go about getting a story that revels in revulsion actually published?
I didn’t.  I just assumed I couldn’t get it published, and so published it on this blog instead.

One thing I really liked about the story is that you avoided describing the man pretty much at all – his ethnicity, his appearance, his social status, even his name is a mystery – so that we’re entirely focused on his inner world, his self-destructive toxic masculinity, his crippling insecurities.  Because really, it doesn’t matter what you look like, or what socio-economic status you find yourself inhabiting, or what colour your skin or the skin of your ancestry may be: self-worth is an inherently internal thing, and can only be buoyed or sunk from within.  So the story feels very unifying, and cross-cultural, and universal, and quite powerful, considering it’s really just a sequence of loosely strung together synonyms for “shitting”.  Nice work, Blackwell.  High five!
No worries, thanks!  *high fives, awkwardly and ineptly*

Why do you write all these stories about lame/annoying/awkward/terribly flawed males?  Are you sexist?
Hmm.  I don’t think so.  I think I do it because, being born a male, I was always kinda expected by society to grow up in this particular gendered way that I never ever related to.  All the stuff about boys being into mud and cars and catching lizards and bashing each other on the footy field – all I wanted to do was read books and invent new toys in my mind and talk to my friends quietly about monsters and UFOs and the weirdness of dreams.  And, as a so-called “man”, I constantly find the social expectations of “manhood” to be bewildering and opaque: I’ve actually had female friends say, in the middle of telling an engrossing tale of complex romantic emotional entanglement, stop and ask “oh, are you even interested in this stuff, you’re a man”, as though because I was born with a penis I have no interest in the complex experience of being alive, and would rather be comparing engine sizes or waxing lyrical about barbecue tools.  “Being a man” appears to be all about contest and “proving yourself” and some sort of constant second-guessing about where one stands in relation to others, which all seems to really miss the point of what actual living can be about as a valuable individual, and leaves very little room for authentic experience and/or culture-generation.  So, although I opted out of the “being a man” game very early on, I do think it’s a fascinating world to examine, question, criticise, and, hopefully, dismiss as a damaging and meaningless charade of desperate posturing.  I definitely have a sort of fascination for what it must be like to “be a real man”.  It looks like it would be pretty horrible most of the time (and the very few “blokey” friends I have do report that it is indeed pretty horrible and shallow and empty and soul-destroying).  But more importantly, this whole paranoid/desperate posturing of “real manliness” causes so much damage, not only to the people swept up into it (men have higher rates of suicide, homelessness, depression, violence) but to everyone around them (partners, children, society as a whole, cultural norms then being absorbed by younger generations, etc – it’s a terrible terrible cycle of make-believe and pain, and all for nothing).  Dismantling the toxic structures of “manliness” is probably the most important thing to do as a culture right now, and so I feel like it’s a timely and important topic to approach in fiction.

Sorry, what?  I was checking my phone.  Are you sexist or not?
No.  I am probably one of the least sexist people you’ve ever met (this is not just SNAG-ish bragging, this has been scientifically/statistically verified through the use of varying online Implicit Association tests, which I took several times, just to find out if I was subconciously sexist, even though I was fairly certain I wasn't).  So there you go.  In all truth, I barely even believe in gender at all.  Gender seems like one way to divide people up into two categories, but no more “essential” than dividing people into “tall” and “short”, or “introverts” and “extroverts”: having different toilets or sections in a clothing store (etc) for “males” and “females” seems to me to be just as weird and unnecessary as having different toilets or sections in a clothing store (etc) for “introverts” and “extroverts”.  I honestly do not get it.  Anything that divides people into two simple categories seems immediately suspect to me: to put it another way, anyone who is unconvinced by horoscopes should be 6 times less convinced by gender.

But what about like at the shops when you want to buy a pair of pants – women’s pants fit differently to men’s pants. We need these categories so we can shop efficiently!
That’s not strictly related to the story, is it.  

But I will answer it: no, we don’t need these categories to shop efficiently, all we need to know is where the pants that have room for penises and ballsacks are, and where the pants that snugly fit against vulvas are.  We have absolutely no need for a whole genderised pronoun-heavy cultural-divergence zone.  And shopping efficiently is hardly reason enough to create an entire system of inequalities.  Even when it comes to going to the doctor, if we have doctors who specialise in “problems of the uterus/fallopian tubes/vulva/etc” and doctors who specialise in “issues associated with scrotums/testes/penises/etc”, then gender can be kept entirely out of it.  Because really, we are all complex individuals, and the state of our birth genitals is about as relevant to our complex personhood as our taste in cinema, or our favourite foods, or whether or not we like to write long rambling answers to questions we’ve written for ourselves to answer.  

You’re very strange.
That’s probably true.

So, are you done writing offensive immature stories about arses and dicks and smut and poo now?
Not at all.  I think I’m just warming up.

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