Boris Glikman’s fiction appeared in issue seven of Structo. We invited him to fill us in on what he’s been up to since.
Your work was on display for two months in Melbourne’s Federation Square. Can you tell our readers a little bit more about that project?
This project was created by a site for creative people called Pool (now, unfortunately, defunct) that was affiliated with Australia’s national radio/TV broadcaster, the ABC. I became involved with this site after I appeared on ABC’s Radio National in 2009, performing my poems and discussing their meaning. Pool ran a contest called ’30 Days of Creativity’ whereby its members submitted stories, poems, imagery, photos, pictures, paintings, videos, etc. every day for 30 days. The winning entries were chosen to be included in a ten minute or so video, which comprised a mix of works being shown in rapid succession, accompanied by electronic music. My vignette ‘The Rape of Reading’ was included in this video and it was actually the only written work that was included in the mix. All the other items in this video were of visual nature.
I think the judges of the contest, being creative people themselves, could relate to the sentiments expressed in my piece, namely, how writers feel when readers destroy the creations that writers work so hard to bring into being with their thoughtless criticisms. This video was shown for around two to three months on a giant screen in Federation Square, which is situated in Melbourne’s city centre and is where many of Melbourne’s biggest cultural events take place.
You adapted your short story ‘The mePhone’ for an anthology for children. The ‘mePhone’ isn’t particularly adulterated, so what aspects of it most needed modification? Was it an easy transition?
The children’s version of the story, whose full title is ‘Wally the Wombat and his mePhone’ is comprised of two fables ‘The Good Deeds of Kenny the Koala’ and ‘The mePhone’ that I combined into one. The way that I modified the original ‘The mePhone’ story to make it more suitable for children was to change it from having human protagonists to having animal protagonists, with corresponding changes in various details of the story. To give the story an additional Australian flavour, I made the animal protagonists native fauna, such as wombats, kangaroos, kookaburras, koalas, etc. So it was a pretty straightforward transition, with not that much to do really.
The original adult version of ‘The Good Deeds…’ has quite a dark ending that I think even some adults might find confronting. So I omitted that stark ending, and then added the modified version of ‘The mePhone’ as the second part of the ‘Wally the Wombat and his mePhone’ story. And so the story now has a happy ending, appropriate for children’s sensibilities.
You hold several academic degrees: philosophy, linguistics, mathematics and physics. How has this diverse background shown up in your writing?
I think that the influence of philosophy on my writings is clearly evident to anyone who takes a look at them. The influence of linguistics is a bit more subtle and probably manifests itself in the games that I like play with words and their meanings in my stories and poems. Regarding the influence of science, when I suddenly became creative at the age of 13, mathematics and physics were my first love. Writing, until relatively recently, was always the second choice for my creativity’s outlet. So what I am trying to say is that given that I also studied science in university, it is inevitable that there would be an influence of mathematics and physics on my writings.
I think this influence of science shows itself in a number of ways in my work. On a more overt level, the subject matter and the themes of my stories and poems often have allusions to mathematics and physics. For example, I am working on a suite of poems about various celestial objects, such as the planets, the Sun, black holes, the whole universe, etc. falling in the backyard of the protagonist. These poems are a mixture of science, fantasy, science-fiction, surrealism, mythology, philosophy and humour, and there are references to the physical properties of the celestial objects. On a more subtle level, I think that my scientific background does influence my thinking process and the way I go about creating the plot and development of a story. In fact, some readers have remarked that my stories have a mathematical structure and that they flow almost like a logical argument.
However, some time ago, I actually became quite disillusioned with science and its claim to be the great provider and source of Absolute Truths. I found science’s perspective to be too restrictive and reductive. Consequently in my writings, science is unshackled from its constricting chains of logical laws and is allowed to blossom fully into an opulent and multifaceted new incarnation, unbound by pedestrian reality.
What projects are currently on your plate?
At the moment I am working on two books with two different publishers, American and British, so that takes up a lot of my time and energy. Apart from the books, there’s the issue of experiencing what I call “a writer’s flood”, which is the exact opposite of a writer’s block, for I am constantly being inundated by new ideas for stories, poems, fables, parables, vignettes, song parodies, etc. As a result I have a backlog of about ten years of ideas that I haven’t had the chance to work on and expand into full stories, poems, etc. as yet. So this backlog of material exerts a constant pressure on me too, demanding that I give it time and attention. My plate is always overflowing and it is a constant challenge trying to stop it from spilling over into other areas of my life, as well as possibly ruining my shirt and pants.
Boris Glikman’s story ‘The Curious Story of Frank and his Friend Mr. Stims, the Hydrophobe’ first appeared in issue seven.
Amongst other things, Glikman has also had a parable translated into the unique whistling language Silbo Gomero, traditionally spoken by inhabitants in the Canary Islands to communicate across the deep ravines and narrow valleys. There doesn’t seem to be much from which he shies away. One of his performed song parodies can be found here. You can keep current with Boris here.
Photo of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Federation Square, Melbourne (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by Wojtek Gurak.