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Monday, September 10, 2012
I don’t think I’ve ever quite fit in. I was an immigrant at five—England to Australia, admittedly, and not half as dislocated as a refugee or war orphan, but Australia in the 1970s was still no place to be any sort of other, even if it was just a pommy bastard with a poofter accent—and then I bounced around various country towns from the desert to the wheat belt to the coast until I turned nine. The town in which I lived during the eighties was a charming combination of bogan reservation, heavy metal outpost, and blue collar aspirational dream village, which was hardly the most nurturing environment for a kid who spent six weeks working at his father’s sheet metal works one summer holiday and swore off any form of manual trade for life. I used to joke that I was thrown out of the town when I was caught using two forms of cutlery in the same meal. Like all the best jokes, it contained an element of truth. Half the population of my high school could have written “member of Saruman’s army” under ‘career goals’. First year of high school our guidance counsellor was arrested for prostituting herself to support her drug habit. I wish I was joking. One of these things was not like the other: that’d be me.
University hit my brain like the spray of slo-mo water in a shampoo commercial. But even there, eighty miles from home, I was the barbarian surrounded by citizens: more articulate, better read, more sophisticated than me in every sense, and usually richer, to boot: I was travelling three hours a day by bus to and from home, back to a divorced mother trying to raise two nearly-adult sons on a single mother’s pension. I didn’t find a part-time job until I was twenty due to travel and my big, thick glasses (in a town built on fast food and metalwork, glasses are a distinct disadvantage in the job market). I missed out on some bloody good concerts that way. And on into adulthood: always in the crowd but never of it.
And so I remain. I love speculative fiction, but I’m not a fan. I enjoy TV shows, but don’t identify. I follow sports teams but aren’t part of the tribe. I flitter along the edges of things: observing, taking notes, absorbing, picking moments apart and reassembling them and pushing at the weak spots to see if I can find the story within them. I’m a normal looking guy—middle-aged, overweight, wife, kids, happy family life, good job. But there comes a point in almost every conversation when I realise I’m talking and everyone else… well, if they’re not outright staring then I can see the wheels turning as they try to work out just what the fuck I’m blethering about. Because I just don’t think like normal people.
I’m a mass of internal reference points, a giant walking filing system made from gossamer and pop culture, with data loops built from umpty years of music nobody else likes, books nobody else has read, documentaries they didn’t watch, factoids they don’t give a shit about… rolled and folded and twisted and writhing about each other like a King rat’s tail cluster inside a pile of sleeping puppies. I respect everything equally and don’t believe any of it, and I don’t give a damn how sacred that little shiny bauble of –ism is to you or anybody else, if there’s a story idea in it I’ll use it. Half the time I can’t be bothered slowing down to let the guy standing at the other side of the conversational circle with the beer in his hand and the football-team-of-your-choice t-shirt catch up. The other half of the time I’m down on the floor playing with his kids because they don’t give a damn how weird you talk as long as you make them laugh and build cool stuff. And I can do about a million different fart sounds which is comedy gold if you’re a kid…
Which maybe explains why the only times I really feel at home are when I’m surrounded by writers or comedians. Because as much as bikie gangs and guys who play ‘Freebird’ ninety times in a row without a shred of self-awareness might like to think otherwise, real outsider status doesn’t come from dressing up like each other and waving guns about and yelling about the damn gummint an’ our freedums and Ah vote goldammit! Outsider status comes from pulling up short halfway through a conversation with the sudden realisation that, no matter how many people surround you, you’re the only damn one who is pulling these thoughts together, and nobody else even sees the rigging you’re hauling upon. Because writers and comedians, it’s their job to think like me. And they don’t think like me because it’s their job, they think like me because they think like me.
I love being a writer. It’s precious to me, the major cornerstone of my psyche. Being a writer is where I keep all my stuff. Because it gives me an outlet for all that thought, all that dislocation and dissonance and loneliness and soul dysrhythmia that keeps my mind circling just outside the circle of firelight wondering what the bipeds are doing so close to the heat. And it’s where I connect with all those other strange little islands that call themselves writers and artists and bibliophiles when what they really are, are masses of misunderstood connections lurking inside someone who can’t connect to the general populace. And if I have to give all that up just to be part of everybody else, then too late: you should have told me when I was eight, and I still had the choice of betraying everything important to me and fitting in.
I may be weird. But it’s my weird!
AUTHOR INFORMATION: Lee Battersby was born in England but moved to Australia at a very young age. He discovered his love for SF at the age of nine and has never looked back since then. He has previously done gigs in stand-up comedy, cartooning, arts administration and even tennis coaching. He currently works as an arts and culture officer. He is married and lives with his family in western Australia. The Corpse Rat King is his debut book.
Order “The Corpse Rat King” HERE
Read an excerpt HERE
12:00 AM | Posted by The Reader | | Edit Post