The ‘Use Only As Directed’ Interviews: Dirk Flinthart

4 08 2014

There are some stories which, through sheer force of personality, more-or-less insist on taking that spot right at the end of the anthology. So it was with Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear, the earlier anthology that Edwina Harvey and I co-edited for Peggy Bright Books, where Kathleen Jennings’ wonderful story ‘Kindling’ formed such a natural coda that we felt it simply had to have the last word; and so it was, too, with Use Only As Directed. In this case the obvious ‘closer’ was, in some respects, a story concerned with the first word, or events not too long thereafter: Dirk Flinthart‘s ‘The Eighth Day’, about which I’ll say as little as possible, because it’s best that you hear it from Mr Flinthart himself.

And, why, here he is now:

Flinthart-Author-Photo

What should readers know about you before they sit down to read ‘The Eighth Day’?

Well — nothing. Really. When I set out to tell a story, I realise it will inevitably be invested with elements of my character… but ideally, they should be organically included in the piece. I think the question ought to be: what are readers likely to want to know about me AFTER they read the story? To which I would reply, yes, I’m an atheist. And a bit of a cranky one at that. Which leads neatly to question two.

What provoked you (or, if you’d rather, encouraged you) to tell the story you did? What was the germ of the idea that led to it?

Oh, that’s simple. The doctrine of ‘Original Sin’ makes me angry. The idea that somehow, all of us as human beings are fallen, failed creatures due to cock-up in communications between some Grand Creator and the ur-parents of the species roundabout four thousand years ago is just appalling. ‘Original Sin’ is nothing more than an excuse for the Church – a Church, any Church – to exercise power. It denies all possibility of personal redemption, insisting that the only legitimate path lies in completely subsuming your individual will to the desires of this Creator — as conveniently set out for you by your local church and its hierarchy.

That really doesn’t work for me. Hey – have you ever heard Patti Smith’s cover of the rock anthem “Gloria”? If not, you should. It begins with her singing in that distinctive, drawling, snarling voice: “Jesus dies for somebody’s sins… but not mine.”

That’s how I feel about it.  I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life. I expect to make plenty more. I’m responsible for all of them. I did it. Me. I never asked anybody else to suffer for me, and I’m not planning to ask any time in the future. I’ve tried to learn from my mistakes, and I value them all the more for that, and if others can learn from the mistakes I’ve made, so much the better. But I don’t want anybody else trying to bear those burdens for me. I earned them.

Anyway, with that attitude in mind I wondered what might have happened if — you know, if maybe Adam and Eve hadn’t cocked up in that old story. What would have been their path if Eve had stuck to instructions and rejected the apple? What would the history of humankind have been? What would our hopes and aspirations have become? When you think about it like that — well, to me it seemed like just maybe that bite of the apple was the single greatest thing that ever happened to humankind.

And that’s the story I wanted to tell.

If you were told you were only allowed to keep one sentence from the published story, what sentence would that be, and why?

Now, as for question three, and keeping just one sentence… that’s not a question with much weight in regard to this piece. I had to model the writing on the King James Bible to make it work, so it’s a long way from being “my style.” Quite a few of the sentences are lifted wholesale, or slightly restructured. But I do like the very last sentence, because to me it sums up the helpless, wordless desperation of people who want to dream of something more, something greater — but have had even the right to dream taken from them.

Writing this kind of story always makes me feel that I should check that the house’s lightning rod is in good order, and that I should maybe invest a better grade of surge protection for the home computer. Did you have any notable storm activity round your way while you were working on the story?

It’s pretty hard to say whether or not there was any unusual storm activity hereabouts at the time… we live on the north face of the foothills of a low range of mountains, and our bad weather comes out of the south-west, so the first we know of any storm activity is usually when the lightning sizzles down, the thunder smashes, and the lights go out. Happens several times a year; often enough that I just make sure we’ve got candles and torches on standby. (And we have a wood-heater, and a gas cook-range too. But the hot water is electrical. That can be a problem. Still, usually they get the power back on within a couple of hours.)

I really am a thorough-going atheist, though. (Go ahead. Smite me! See if I care!) I’d prefer not to be. It would be nice to think that somebody, somewhere was prepared to take responsibility for this whole, awful mess. Nicer still to think that when I finish floundering around down here in the mud and the crap, there will be an opportunity to sit back and reflect in peace for a while. That would be pretty cool. Unfortunately, I can’t actually see any real evidence in support of those lovely ideas, and I’m pretty solidly convinced that when I finally take the dirt nap, that’ll be the end of Mister Flinthart. I just hope I owe a lot of money to the banks or to other equally rude and unpleasant institutions when it happens.

(On the other hand, there IS some interesting evidence emerging to suggest the possibility that this entire universe is nothing more than a complex simulation. Which is fantastically interesting, if not much more comforting. I mean… what do you suppose happens to your average computer-game character once the power’s switched off?)

What are you currently working on, and what would you like to tell readers of this blog about your current endeavour?

And what am I doing next? Oh, jeez. It never stops, really. I’m trying to organise myself to do my second dan grading in ju-jitsu. Ideally, I’d eventually like to do third dan, and then design my own curriculum for training. I mean, it’s okay to teach the curriculum of the school/style that I’m with, but I’d really rather use a curriculum which reflects my own personal understanding of the art, in a form relevant to the 21st century. I’m also doing a Masters in creative writing through the University of Tasmania — studying literary theory of genre, and writing excessively complex poetry. (Currently at fourteen thousand words in ottava rima form.)

Then there’s the usual raft of short stories, moving slowly as always. There’s some talk of gathering a collection of them. That would be fun. Oh! And I’ve been working up a few more of the old Red Priest stories. That character needs to be out and about more. I’m sure of it.

And yes, finally, I’m wrestling with the sequel to “Path of Night“. The title of the next book in that series is “Midnight in Chinatown”, and features more Night-beasts, some kung fu vampire types, and a lovely set-piece sequence involving hideous creatures of night and horror and Sydney’s famous Mardi Gras.  I’m hoping I can get it done by the end of the year… and I’m aiming to make it as much fun as the last one was.

UOAD_front_cover_small

This is the second of Dirk’s stories I’ve had the fun of editing (the other is ‘Head Shot’ from ASIM 54), but I can pretty comprehensively recommend anything he’s written, and lament the fact that, so far as I know, there isn’t currently such a thing as a collection of his short fiction, because such a thing would be a bloody good book … as, of course, is Path of Night, for which you can find the link in the previous paragraph.

If you’re now feeling motivated to read ‘The Eighth Day’ and the other stories in Use Only As Directed, the links are here: (PBB (publisher, pbk, epub, pdf, mobi); Amazon (mobi))

There are still a few more interviews to follow in this set, but I’m currently unsure when we’ll get to them. Stay tuned …

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3 responses

6 08 2014
On The Meaning Of Silence | The Last Bastion

[…] And of course, there are short stories. Here and there. You might find this interview of interest. It relates directly to a recently-published short story from yours truly, in an anthology with the intriguing title of “Use Only As Directed“… […]

7 08 2014
FableCroft » Roundup time!

[…] Some other reviews and interviews around the traps! Dirk Flinthart is interviewed as part of Simon Petrie’s Use only as directed series. […]

7 08 2014
Penelope

As an determinedly non-cranky Christian, I look forward to delving into this story. Though imitating the deathless language of the KJV is ambitious indeed!

Surge protection is a great name for a poetry collection, by the way.

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