James Austen's Blog: The Letters of James Austen
December 20, 2014
Parents see their children as beautiful. They are glad when neighbours or family compliment them on their looks. It therefore fills us with an animal horror that anyone could see that same beauty as sexual. This operates outside logic, it is primal.
I suspect that it is so deep an abhorrence that there is either an over reaction or no reaction at all. Paedophiles have got away with grooming kids in clear sight, but the natural reaction is to bury the fear and look away.
From personal experience, I know that victims are blamed. It’s not just paranoia. It has been subtly made it clear that if they had been me it never would have happened. Then, one way or another, I am less to them. And I am treated as if I am delicate and prone to hysteria. As if I’ve entered a category they are uncomfortable with.
When it comes out on the headlines on the scale of Jimmy Savile or the Westminster paedophile ring there is an over reaction. Paedophiles are seen as unnatural monsters rather than your neighbours, your family.
You’ve probably met paedophiles who seem like nice, decent folk. Maybe they are. That is if they do not act on their desires and become child abusers.
To my mind the vast majority of paedophiles should be pitied rather than hated, because they have to live with desires they can never act upon. This type deserves our respect.
While I am not generally in favour of changing nature, ancient animal instincts that drive a minority to murder, rape or abuse must be stopped. We have moved on from ancient times and like to pretend that we are better than animals. Yeah, right.
Ironically if child abuse was less of a taboo, my subsequent history would have been less troubled. To illustrate, let me compare rape to non sexual violence. If given a choice, I’d take rape every time. But because violence is less of a taboo it is the easier to get over. It’s the things you can’t talk about that cause the long term trouble. It’s the sense of shame and guilt that emotionally cripple you inside.
Paedophiles exist and will continue to do so for a while longer, so we have to deal with it. We must keep children safe, but don’t make them grow up under the terrifying shadow of a monster out to get them. I actually felt a little queezy seeing the new Pants campaign, but entirely agree with its intention. Just wish we could find less disturbing ways of keeping kids safe.
Not every stranger is a danger. Be more on the look out for friends being a little too friendly. Anyone who seems too good to be true probably is. I am sure that if kids were in an enviroment where they could comfortably share their fears they would. That in itself would have kept me safe. Part of my grooming process exploited the lack of open communication between my parents and I. The paedophile abuser may understand your child better than you do yourself. Yeah, that’s nasty.
So one more controversial point to end on. I don’t believe a single possessor of child porn who has not physically violated a child should be in prison, while others who produce such material walk free. Of course I don’t like knowing that people get kicks from looking at that shit. But let’s not have a witch hunt against the easy to convict. Use those same resources to stop such material from being available and to stop it from being produced.
I’ve seen statistics that suggest that viewing paedophile porn increases the likelihood of going on to physically abuse. That is certainly plausible. Though it is also possible that for many it is an alternative to committing an even worse crime.
But the only point of view that matters is that of the victim. They have every right to prevent people from seeing films or images of crimes being committed against them. But I’m not sure that they expect those who do to go to jail.
As you can see, like my character Button, I’m kind of mixed up on this. I only have vague ideas of answers, but I see so many ways we’re still getting our priorities wrong.
December 16, 2014
Feel like I’m under pressure to report how well the healing process is working and wear the survivor badge with pride.
Mostly that’s kind of true. If you compare how I am now to how I was seven years ago, you’d only see improvements. But as I adjust to my new reality, I find myself as a stranger in a strange new land. The attempts to rebuild a functional new self keep running into difficulties.
A recent blog has caused a new set of memories to surface, not of the actual abuse, but of a reaction that happened because of it about 3 years later. At 13 I started experiencing headaches, stomach aches and nausea. I was subjected to an array of medical tests, but they could find no physical cause and as I was displaying other psychological traits, like depression, I was referred to a psychiatrist.
This was too much for my parents or school to take. I was read the riot act over and over again. There had been a history of mental health issues in my family and it was assumed that I was choosing insanity as a path to escape personal responsibility. “Pull yourself together boy, don’t give into it.”
The Headmaster of my school was instrumental in the white wash, writing to the consultant that I was a well adjusted and happy pupil. True I had been in school plays, but apart from that, his letter was pure spin, ignoring all the trouble I had been in for schoolwork, anti social behaviour and bad attitude.
I, too, was complicit in the cover up. I did not want to be labelled with a mental health problem, but moreover I did not want to come clean about how disgusted I was with myself for having had a sexual relationship with a teacher. I would rather have died than tell anybody.
So with fake proclamations of how happy I was and resolutions to get my act together, I fooled the psychiatrist into discharging me with a clean bill of health. I am not sure if he believed me, I was a good actor, but I sensed that he signed me off with regret.
This memory is like a wrecking ball and has made me so angry. Angry with my parents, the school and myself for obstructing the help I needed.
The truth should have been forced out of me. Then not only could I have had the scars in my psyche treated, but I would have had a far more solid case for getting justice against the teacher.
Now it is too late. I have successfully managed to forget so much and have lived with a false core identity for so long that I make a lousy witness. It’s one big mess.
December 15, 2014
I like looking at those who move slowly through time. I like the way their gestures hang in the spaces they have vacated and the way thoughts twinkle like shooting stars reflected in their eyes.
December 14, 2014
He was mean to me because my love was counterfeit and he knew that one day I’d leave him, “Prove me wrong.”
I thought it was real, but am often mistaken. The realer it feels, the bigger the lie.
“You wouldn’t know reality if it raped you.”
This was true, I hardly noticed.
Love was one of many drugs that got us through. But it wasn’t enough. Eventually he was proved right.
But I still feel something. Not sure if it’s love or frustration. Could be a glitch in the software.
It’s like we were meant to be, if we could live with ourselves, if weren’t both broken. And not in this virtual world.
Love and kisses
X Zero Zero
December 13, 2014
A few years ago I was introduced to the god like genius of Scott Walker via a TV Documentary called 30th Century Man. I’d heard the name before and knew that David Bowie had covered his song Niteflights.
The documentary described Scott as a transgressive artist; an Orpheus who had returned from the Underworld as a changed man.
He had originally became famous in the 1960s boy band, The Walker Brothers, where he was encouraged to write his own songs. His sublime baritone and enigmatic otherworldliness made him the interesting one in the band. Back then he was the standard other singers were judged against, but now his style sounds dated, like Elvis singing Opera with an audacious vibrato.
He went solo in 1967 pursuing unusual career choices. His albums were absurdly over orchestrated and firmly aimed at an arty MOR audience. He covered the standards, but instead of the obligatory Bob Dylan or Leoanard Cohen covers were songs by Jaques Brel. But most outstanding of all were Scott’s own compositions. Although one can hear elements of Brel, beat poetry, 1960s anthropology, Burt Bacharach and Stravinsky, his songs were utterly unique.
If I can find any common element, they all contain at least one magical musical movement that induces levitation. And while a few recordings, like Rhymes of Goodbye, The Old Mans Back Again, Such a Small Love and The Bridge are perfect, Scott’s capacity to annoy his audience by getting things slightly wrong is without parallel. So many songs only orbit nirvana or crash back to Earth because of a lack of conviction in the backing vocals (The Plague). Maybe Scott was too ambitious. But even his failures were more interesting than most people’s successes.
Scott’s first three solo albums sold well, but his fourth, Scott IV, ironically his best, flopped spectacularly.
Scott has blamed his third album for the failure of the fourth. Although Scott III contained several amazing compositions (like Big Louise), it was also the most overtly ornate and sickly. If you liked Scott, by then you probably had all you needed of him. It wasn’t so much a falling out of love as an overdose. Also he was a man out of time being almost the antithesis of where music was going.
Failure seems to have been catastrophic for Scott. He retreated to alcohol and what he hoped would be a safe career of MOR slush. Most sadly of all, he stopped writing. He became legendary as a recluse.
But by the end of the 1970s Scott had become cool again. Other artists dropped his name in awe and the Walker Brothers album, Nitefligts included 4 wonderful new Scott compositions. It was as if creativity had burst his dams. But he had changed; the voice was older and though it had lost nothing of its power, his vision was darker and the candy coating had gone.
I believe that soon after this, maybe during the recording of Climate of Hunter, Scott gave up on the idea of conventional fame and success. He had already had his fingers burnt and wasn’t prepared to play that game again. So he intentionally decided to write and perform difficult songs that had no danger of charting.
Instead Scott made himself vulnerable as an artist and experimented. He put his whole being into the songs with a strange mix of gross and beautiful, discord and harmony. They still have the same Scott curse, only a few work perfectly. But even with their imperfections, they are magnificent. On first hearing, they assault the senses, obsessing and confusing the listener. But on each listening more poetry and melody is revealed. It is like an endless quest; how I feel about his music now is not how I will feel in a years time.
But I am wary of recommending him to you. Maybe you are not ready to have your relationship to music changed. But if you want to jump in the deep end, why not try Brando? Then you might want to try Tilt, The Drift & Bish Bosch.
December 1, 2014
At the age of 15 I was not a nice boy. If you’ve read my previous blogs, especially Juvenile Delinquent you will know why.
So here’s an amusing story that gives an idea of how bad I was. I regularly played truant. Most times I got away with it, but eventually I got caught, my parents were called in and many adults had the opportunity of shouting at me and trying to make me feel like shit. Ironically, one of them, the Schools Headmaster, had written just a year before to a consultant psychiatrist to tell him how well adjusted and happy I was there (all lies). Now I was treated like an aberration of nature. Who knows, maybe they were right.
As a result I had to be signed in and out of each class until I learnt my lesson. The lesson I actually learnt was how to be more ingenious and not get caught again.
But my physics teacher, who was also one of the schools deputy heads was now wise to me. He never let me or the rest of the school forget that I was rotten to the core. Two examples:
1) we had been excused off rugby to rehearse the school play. He was keen on rugby and hated drama. So from one end of the hall to the other he yelled at me, telling me I was in enough trouble already. It was rather embarrassing, not just for me, but for the English teacher producing the play.
2) in a physics lesson he asked a question that I did not know was only meant rhetorically. “How can something be a particle & a wave form?” I put up my hand to answer (and my answer was actually right) but was told that until I got better grades, I should shut up.
At the time I was a keen archer as well as having an air gun, so naturally I made plans to murder him. I decided that if I dipped an air dart in poison I could hide in the bushes opposite his house and shoot him in the neck one morning as he left for school.
You’ll be glad to know that planning the crime was enough, I did not need to see it through. I felt very compassionate in letting him live and felt that I now had a power over him that he would never understand.
For me the interesting part of this story is his job title of deputy head. It was a deputy head in my previous school who had groomed and then sexually molested me. But my emotions were too confused to understand, including both love and hate. But the words “deputy head” had become a trigger. I believe his job title, more than what actually he did is why my mind flew to such an inappropriate resolution.
A few years later some friends of mine were expelled for locking him in the physics lab after leaving the gas taps for the Bunsen burners on. So it wasn’t just me…
November 29, 2014
My next story, The Quantum Twins, is a romantic, comic, sci-fi fantasy about an extra terrestrial rock star. But all of that is the candy coating, what it really explores is the journey of recovery from childhood sexual abuse. Without the escapism, fantasy and happy ending, it would be a bitter tale.
I have questioned the morality of my actions, it feels wrong making an entertainment out of tragedy. Probably some paedos will read it for kicks (though they may be disappointed). It also feels like I’m cashing in on the scandal currently rocking the political establishment. So here’s the case for the defence.
1) Fantasy and sci-fi can tackle issues too toxic for realistic styles of drama. I believe the first interracial kiss on American television was on Star Trek. And concerning paedophilia, the novel Let The Right One In conveys the real horror of child abuse more than it does the fantasy horror of vampirism.
The issue of child abuse has been hidden for too long. Currently we are having an hysterical over reaction to it. This seems like another way of avoiding the issues. You may sign a petition, or tweet something nasty about Jimmy Saville, but that is not the same as understanding. Often victims do not behave the way expected of them. I hope I show how a basically good person can be damaged and what form that damage may take.
2) By writing a fantasy I can explore my own personal mythology, especially the ideas of alienation, innocence lost and the gravity of time. I can also use magic, or extra terrestrial technology to fix the things that are broken. Or at least speculate on a better world.
3) Victims of trauma often escape into mystical fantasy. Tolkien, for example, not only lost most of his family while young but also endured the horrors of WW1, so he needed an alternative reality. But for him Middle Earth was not just a place to hide, he used it to confront those same demons that haunted him.
For years I escaped into a time travelling space opera, I am now using that same world to exorcise (or maybe just exercise) my demons. Indeed, the character of Simon/Button always was a part of that inner world, but up until the Quantum Twins, his part of the story had not been told. As I wrote it was like a jigsaw falling into place and it felt like I had uncovered his true history. I had several uncanny experiences while putting it on the page, as described in an earlier blog, but also, since then, its subject matter of a powerful paedophile conspiracy has hit the news. I have heard victims on television almost say Simon’s words.
4) The story is personal. Joe and Simon are aspects of myself. Wherever I had a choice of commercial or idiosyncratic ways of telling the story I followed my heart rather than the money. Moreover I don’t expect to make any real financial gain from this, I just want to tell a story.
October 25, 2014
Been up and down, mostly down, for about a year now. Sometimes feel like I’m at breaking point, but there’s been so many it’s become routine. On the bright side, everybody prefers sand to pebbles. I’ll be easier to walk over and will look great in sunset shots. And as the tide goes out, it will almost be romantic.
I’m better at my job (all of them). Haven’t been yelled at by a boss for a long time. I’m even sought after; like I’m a man you can rely upon. I get on better with people, but I still don’t want to get too close. Maybe I should trust you, but I don’t.
I’m resigning myself to never getting justice. The guy who sexually abused me when I was ten is still at liberty, living the good life abroad. Though other boys have come forward with similar complaints, the crown prosecution service say that an extradition order is unlikely to succeed due to his poor health.
But I’m not sure if that even bothers me anymore. I no longer hyperventilate or get into rages; the triggers have been disassembled. There are so many news stories detailing suffering much worse than mine, I no longer feel the right to be angry.
This year has seen a dramatic increase in creativity. Often feels like I’m on fire. Though to put this in perspective, a hot day for me is like a lukewarm one for J.K.Rowling.
But I have a new full length novel coming out soon. For me it feels like I have pulled off the impossible, redefined storytelling, solved the worlds problems and written a sizzling entertainment, but another voice says, “Who you kidding, fool?”
So there’s a dazzling winter sun in the east and storm clouds coming in from the west. I, as always, am heading west.
October 12, 2014
Who shall I be today? Unlike most people I know, I am aware that we all use masks to interface with the world around us. In each grouping we find ourselves playing different roles forced by the group dynamic as much as who we really are. For example, some self proclaimed extroverts, when on Big Brother and surrounded by other extroverts, inexplicably find themselves being introverted. Similarly I noticed that in some groupings I will be forever doomed to play the naughty little boy, whereas with others I am a paragon of virtue and mature. So we cast ourselves and each other in roles and like self fulfilling prophecies they exert irresistible gravity on our behaviour. There are practical applications to this; if you see the good in people they will be good, if you see the bad life gets worse for all of us.
The idea of masks implies deception and hiding the truth. There may be an element of truth to this. In my own case, I spent about twenty years actively denying my status as a victim so I chose false masks to convey a false picture. But I would argue, to be real means adopting the right mask or interface for each situation. If trying to teach children, for example, role models as diverse as Maria Von Trap or Mr Chips may assist in channelling your inner genius more truly than the drunken fool you were on the dance floor last night.
I learnt of this concept primarily through the occultist Crowley who used a huge cast of selves to portray his inexplicable essence. David Bowie with characters like Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke successfully used this formula, as has Madonna. Even” real” rock stars like Bob Dylan inherited his spaced out swagger from James Dean and has passed the role onto others. The use of the word inherited is important. It is like the use of objects in Object Orientated Programming. Roles or as they are called in programming, objects, are inherited, their properties modified and these new objects are available for replication.
So what follows is a list of some of the many sub personalities I have found operating in my psyche. Some of the teachers who have influenced me are not included; I may have learnt from them but I never wanted to be them. Thus I could say I slightly modelled some of my behaviours on Herr Isyvoo/William Bradshaw from Isherwoods Berlin novels, though I have never found myself playing the role of the real Christopher Isherwood. Similarly, I may have wanted to be Ziggy Stardust, but never David Bowie.
Some of the evil personalities or self harming types are included in the list out of honesty. We don’t always use good role models. When hurt or in a corner, for example, you may find yourself channelling your inner Vlad the Impaler. Also you may note that many of the characters are variations on a theme. Like the concept of inheritance mentioned earlier, there are many similar expressions of the goddess. But they all have their own unique characteristics that I have found in myself.
So here goes. Please don’t hate me for sharing this list. You may, indeed, find it fun and illuminating to construct your own list. It is by no means complete, it misses out a significant list of people I have met and copied from real life, but it is honest.
Bonnie & Clyde
Nancy & Sid
Alexander the Great
Diana (the goddess not the Princess)
Samuel T Coleridge
The lady who presents Woman’s Hour
Lana Del Rey
The Beast 666
Jesus (the early Roman version, before he grew a beard)
William Burroughs’ Kiki
Button & Joe
Nico (from the VU)
Howard Hughes (aka Leonardo)
The Pied Piper
The Vampire Lestat
The serpent in Eden
Cain & Abel
September 5, 2014
Hope you don’t mind me rambling about the writing of my new story, provisionally called “The Quantum Twins.” It’s the same one that has previously been called “Push the Button” and “House of the Rising Bum.”
Although, as usual, I have the same old insecurities; is it any good? can I even write? I have felt that the force is with me again. When I started the first draft in January, I had a grand SciFi theme of addressing an Ancient Evil that predated our universe, but still shaped our destiny. But the more I wrote, the less I believed in it. It became apparent that there was no cosmic evil and the term only has meaning for humans and is only relative to our lives. My writing was stilted and blocked. I had a few interesting dialogues between the main two characters, but it went nowhere and the plot elements felt contrived.
So eventually it was decided that the whole story needed a reboot. The new back story is given in an earlier blog Confessions of a Refugee. This idea seemed to work, it is a blending of archetypal folk lore and pseudo science, but at a mythological level it seems true.
The words came more easily as did convincing plot twists. It feels like the story wants to be written. But this time I am not only using experiences from my life to colour it, it is plotting me.
I had toyed with the idea of using meteorites and sun spots to allow the cosmic to impact on the every day. But after driving all night from Scotland to Cambridge and was exceedingly tired, the sight of a shower of meteorites heading towards me made me think that the world was ending, or I’d driven into the twilight zone. I didn’t immediately realise that the experience was just what I needed to delay my characters in a traffic jam.
This week the fate I was writing for Joe duly happened to me. Three days of sickness, vomiting and fever blurred the lines between the mythological and the real. He was cut off by the internet going down and his phone breaking. Guess what? The internet here went down the day the fever hit. My phone didn’t break, but I did run out of data. In my more confused moments it felt like the magic of coincidence had replaced the normal world order.
This isolation is necessary for Joe in a way that I hope you’ll see when you get to read the story. For me it has allowed me to resolve my enduring concern about the morality of writing a homo erotically charged story that deals with child abuse issues.
I have had a voice explaining what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in such a scenario.
Although most readers have not seen it, Raw Food shows a form of abuse. The fact that Joe was an adult, walked into it with eyes open and enjoyed it does not mean he was not exploited in a way he would come to regret. At least I think that it is what I was trying to convey.
In the subsequent story, Magic By Button, the abuse issue was addressed more directly, but with less descriptive detail. I did not want to turn readers on with accounts of child rape and exploitation. But I did want them to enjoy his and Joe’s redemption in love and each other.
In my current story it is necessary to give more detail and while I guess that some may get turned on by what to me is pure horror, I am confident that the light I shine on my subject exposes evil but does not perpetuate it. It’ s been tricky, without the voices suggestions and revisions I don’t think I could have done it.
I hope my story about a gay extra terrestrial rock star will be entertaining. I try and make the impossible plausible. For the most part writing it is a joy. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the main theme seems to be family. I had no idea of that when I started. Though when I look back to where it came from, it should have been obvious.