By Tim Davis
I recently read and reviewed an unusual and entertaining new novel, Mr. Blur, by the eponymous author, c. c. dust.
But I have a confession to make about my encounter with Mr. Blur. When I finished reading the book, I really had to put it aside for a day or so, and I used that time to think a bit more about c. c. dust’s detective story. I knew I had to pick it up again, read it again, and take another look at the author’s frequently puzzling contortions of style, characterization, plot, setting, and theme. Don’t misunderstand. I was not “put off” by the author’s curious brainteasers but was instead mystified and fascinated. I knew that I hadn’t read a conventional detective/mystery novel (the form I admit to most enjoying when it appears in the more orthodox, conservative Golden Age forms). But somehow the author’s Austerian/Borgesian adoption and morphing of the basic genre actually worked.
After my second reading, and after writing the NewPages review, I contacted the publisher and tracked down the somewhat secretive Pynchonesque author who agreed to an email interview.
Tim Davis: Thanks for taking time to answer some questions about Mr. Blur. I have tried to make my questions short, to the point, somewhat randomly organized, and flexible enough to allow you plenty of room for whatever answers you wish (or do not wish) to provide. Here they are. What kind of novel would you call Mr. Blur? Is there a style, form, or genre label you would ascribe to the novel? Why the cyberspace/gaming/virtual reality motif and themes? I see you going out of the way to blur the lines (excuse the pun) between printed texts, e-texts, graphic art, “literature,” genre fiction, conventional space, and cyberspace. Is that part of your “game” strategy in the novel?
c.c. dust: Thanks for your interest in Mr. Blur. I’ll try to answer your questions in order. I guess I would call the novel schizo-fiction. Since bookstores don’t seem to have a schizo book section, I guess I would put it on a shelf called science fiction or, more to my taste, general fiction, subcategory post-modern, addled fiction. You ask about the cyberspace/gaming/virtual reality motif. Just stand in the middle of Times Square, NYC, and you’ll get a pretty good feel for the pace of the modern media world. We’re hit with overt/covert messages all the time. And sometimes it seems hard to tell the difference between reality and advertising. The “game” (if you want to call it that) might be in deciphering all these strange and conflicting signals.
TD: Whom do you see as the audience for your novel? Who are your readers?
ccd: I assume younger people will like the book more than older people. Older people may not “feel” modern media in quite the same way. Anybody who’s interested in recurring archetypes and genre fiction would probably enjoy the book.
TD: Perhaps some readers will not embrace (or even understand) your thematic vision. In fact, many might be completed baffled. Are you concerned about that? What you say to them?
ccd: Baffled? I don’t know why. It all seems pretty clear to me. Confusion is part of the picture. But, yeah, I do try to communicate.
TD: Why the interesting morphing and benign mangling of the P.I. novel form? Is there something about detective novels that you find particularly well-suited to your purposes in this novel? What detective novels (as your influences or antecedents) most interest you?
ccd: I love hard-boiled detective stories. The detective is a great metaphor, a great hero, and a great lead role. I think the search for truth is timeless. And the classic templates are Marlowe and Spade. I tried to take that mythic model and inject it, so to speak, into the future, where it might take root and grow in another form.
TD: Which of your characters do you most esteem? Why?
ccd: I love all the characters. I spent a long time getting to know them. But I guess I feel most attached to Maya Nation and then to Ian Citrine, since they, to some degree, represent the creative force (which motivates the book).
TD: Tell me a bit more about Dr. Mayhem and his appearance in the novel. Comic book? Game? Both? Other? Can you talk more about your involvement with or interesting Dr. Mayhem?
ccd: Dr. Mayhem is the original pulp/fodder from whence the child grew; by that I mean comic books and video signals, like nursery rhymes, shaped my world. That’s the mythic seed, so to speak.
TD: By whom do you think you are most influenced as a writer/artist?
ccd: I’ve been influenced by so much stuff it’s impossible to sort it all out: Durer, Dali, Escher, Goya, Bosch, Blade Runner, Matrix, Existenz, Pynchon, DeLillo, Stephenson, Delaney, Paris Hilton, Courtney Love, Ru Paul, Raymond Chandler, Andy Warhol, Frank Frazetta, Dashiell Hammett, Pulp Fiction, Sherlock Holmes, Fu Manchu . . . the list goes on and on.
TD: What are your previous writing/artistic enterprises? What do you plan for future writing/artistic projects?
ccd: This is my first book. I’m currently fiddling with another book called Sadoch set in San Francisco, and I’m thinking about a sequel to Mr. Blur called The Renegade Master, and I’m thinking about having a bag of chips.
TD: Tell me a bit more about yourself, c. c. dust. Am I correct about understanding the name as a drug-allusion pen-name? Why that pen-name? Why the meta-fictional device of inserting the author (yourself?) into the novel? (Is it coincidence, in fact, that the author appears on page 221 which might be perceived as a near-perfect allusion to the Baker Street address of another important detective character? What do you think?
ccd: c. c. dust is less about a drug reference and more about a carbon copy. I put the author in the book because I love mirrors and complications and circles that never end. The near perfect allusion is, of course, one of those near perfect coincidences that make things more interesting.
TD: If you were forced in one word to explain the cube (which figures prominently in the novel), what is the word?
ccd: The cube in one word is: central.
TD: If you were forced to explain Mr. Blur (character and novel) in one word, what is the word?
ccd: Mr. Blur in one word is: enigmatic.
TD: Any other comments you wish to offer preemptively in response to questions I have asked or neglected asking?
ccd: Thanks again, Tim. I hope this helps. — cc.
Interview conducted December 4, 2004