THE ANDROID REBELLION BY NICOLAS GATTIG 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 53
The bus left at 10 in time for tonight’s show in Sacramento. I was walking to Civic Center when I thought about something Steve Drt had once said in an interview. Asked on camera if we would ever do Lollapalooza, he gave a smile full of plant teachers. “You know, 80 per cent of success is not showing up,” he said. “For the bullshit, that is.”
I don’t have to be on that bus, I thought, sitting down at a cafe. I can drop the whole thing, slam cappuccinos till happy hour, then get smashed at a bar.
I am a first year graduate student at Mills College in Oakland majoring in creative writing. Two assigned books of the semester were Anne Garreta’s Not One Day and Rikki Ducornet’s The Deep Zoo. Reading these books, I have called into question my position as a writer in the current frames of societal pressures. What does it mean to really dig deep and find your own truth—and then not be afraid to share it with the rest of the world? This essay aims to highlight my experience of what it means to fall in love with my experience and my writing—and hopefully the passion that others feel behind the joys of writing as well.
I am a Writing Fellow at Mills and director of a nonprofit organization in Berkeley. I am working with my school’s literary magazine, 580 Split, and I am looking to become involved with publishing on a much larger scale.
The first scene of The Android Rebellion came about while I was reading Nero Wolfe mysteries from the 1950s. The author Rex Stout was great at writing bossy executives, and I wanted to do something similar. I sat on the first scene for a couple of years until last summer I was fired from a corporate job. Then I finished the story in a couple of months. I remember sitting on my bed in a hotel room, lost like hERB, and watching the shadows of branches play on the wall.
In my 20s, I was the drummer of a punk band in Vienna, Austria which was trying really hard to make money, no qualms about it. I was an outsider in the band, much like I felt like an outsider in the corporate world. So my own feelings are somewhere between the bass player and the android.
I write to be part of this world. Besides published fiction in The Font magazine and Eastlit journal, I am a contributing writer at The Japan Times, where I do essays and book reviews. I am interested in cultural identity and its pitfalls, and I am working on a book about Japan.
“When are you going to finish your novel?” a colleague would sometimes ask me in the hall. “I don’t know, but death is my deadline,” I would answer, echoing Tennyson’s “Death closes all” from Ulysses.
For years I had been talking about a novel, and for years nothing had happened. Sure, there was the occasional poem or short story in some literary magazine or anthology but there was no book of my own. For years I had been teaching and grading papers, always putting myself “on the back burner”, mostly writing on weekends, winter breaks, and summers.
After more than 30 years as an English professor at Odessa College, I decided to reclaim myself as a writer, as the artist. I’m 72 years old and have never really stopped writing. When I was drafted at 19 during the Vietnam War, the idea for the novel was already strong and formulating in my mind. Much of the novel was written in West Germany.
When I started teaching in college in 1978, after a couple of years in public schools, I had my first short story published. It was in a Canadian magazine and I was ecstatic. And then my submissions virtually ended. About 20 years later, I started submitting my short fiction again. I had short stories published in Texas Short Stories (Volumes I and II), Sephardic-American Voices: Two Hundred Years of a Literary Legacy, Terra Incognita, El Locofoco, and Summer’s Love, Winter’s Discontent.
So 10 or so years later and a scatter of poems published, I am ready to finish short stories, novellas, and my monstrous novel. I have enough material for at least two poetry books, two short-story collections, and my novel in four volumes.
I have told my wife, “I must think I’m immortal working at such slow pace.” I have seen other writers finish books and win awards; and though I too hunger for success, I cannot escape this powerful novel that like a goddess promises immortality and won’t let me go. It is my writing and voracious reading that have helped me transcend what I find barbarous in the world. I write to feel, and it is in the arousal that I ultimately find my joy.
I’ve been a caregiver most of my life. I got married when I was 19 and put my husband through law school. Not long after he graduated, I started having children. My daughter was born with multiple challenges. Spina bifida. Autism. Learning disabilities.
Finally, many years later, I got to a place where I could take care ofme.The kids are grown and independent. My daughter’s doing great.
So I started writing. First a few hours a week.Now five hours a day. It’s my salvation. I itch to hit the computer keys. I dream stories in my sleep.
Smooth and Easy is a piece about my home town. I grew up in Miami and have seen it change from a sleepy city to a crazy metropolis. The middle class is disappearing. There’s a huge gulf between those who live in gated communities with their alarm systems and those who struggle to make ends meet. Outside my window I can see palm trees swaying and smell the ocean air. But below it all there’s an undercurrent of crime and deceit. Corrupt officials. The worst gun control laws in the country. A sea of immigrants who live in daily fear. You name it. We’ve got it.
My stories have been published in The Massachusetts Review, The American Literary Review, andArts and Letters. @writestuffmiami
I wrote this poem after watching a news report about a small community that was having trouble dealing with changes in the coal industry. So often, these stories tend to make this sort of thing overly one-sided or political, but this story centered solely on the people and what they were doing to get through the difficult time. Part of it was about someone who had sold trucks for decades. Jobs had got scarce and so had customers for trucks. The report prompted me to write a poem in a similar way, using a small situation to describe a larger issue.
Writing poetry was an impossible pursuit. Poetry was fanciful, indulgent, even hysterical. And yet it spoke to me, from it I heard and understood that language was both the severity of political experience (to greatly borrow from Laing) and the music of singular existence (to greatly borrow from Vallejo). As a result, writing poetry could never be a hobby, could never be something that I did in my spare time. Writing poetry would become sustenance; air, water, breath, sex, food, shelter. I was determined to be an artist even if it was “impractical, idealistic, and/or indulgent (all comments directed my way at one point or another)” and even if it meant little or no money in my pocket.
I continue to explore the intersections of words and images. My work is partially derived from a fondness for color and an affection for aesthetics.
I was born and raised in southern California. After a decade of teaching public elementary school in southern California, I now teach at a public university, and currently live, in central Maine.
Credits include: Art Times, Fox Cry Review, Aries, Parnassus Literary Journal, Möbius, and Red Owl among others.
As an Uber driver in Seattle, Washington, I am meeting strangers regularly. My rear-view mirror is my communication device. Each new encounter brings an opportunity for me to learn about humanity, change a frown to a smile, and occasionally cheer on powerful transformative moments from my front-row seat.
As a Leadership & Life Coach, I am fascinated by the power, beauty, and potential in each of us. Often, my two jobs overlap, though I’m not always certain who’s coaching who in my car.
I’ve been collecting stories like this one for quite some time, waiting for the right opportunity to share them. I know firsthand the power of words, and I am so excited to have my first-ever piece of writing published in 34thParallel.