Interview: Michael Frazer

Michael Frazer

We talk to Michael Frazer about his unusual story “Point____Null” (which appeared in issue #34), and his other experiments in music and writing.

Your piece “Point____Null” depends as much on the layout and graphics as it does on the story. Did one element come before the other, or take more time to get right?

One of my struggles with this piece was playing with some balance between symmetry and asymmetry: “an ill symmetry.” Placement was one of the more difficult aspects of this particular piece. It’s a very peculiar one to say the least, and I had to play around and move the elements until they seemed to fall into place. I think a lot of my process happens by accident in this way. I thought of a story, a weird one at that, and I just kept on getting ideas, ways to represent the tale: the main body, the aside, several graphics that are meant to recapitulate the story in some way. It was a challenge of balancing the written elements with the visual.

Converting the unusual formatting of “Point____Null” to EPUB and MOBI formats (for eReaders or Kindle devices) was difficult. In the end I resorted to including images of the layout rather than text, but this isn’t an ideal solution. What do you think the advent of eReaders means for experimental and formally innovative poetry?

Strange as it is, I cannot read from eReaders; I personally prefer the text in print. But writing is different. I prefer using digital means. I’ve incorporated scanned and Photoshopped texts and images into my works. Technology is a great advent for the literary world – it’s allowed for much play with how we read and interact with a text. And, though I don’t use an eReader for extended reading, I do admire eReaders in particular for the fact that they have broadened the scope of the availability and portability of texts as well as more personal means of expression.

You say in your bio that you’re working on a PhD which is mostly centred on the Southern Californian landscape and Orange Country locale. Can you tell readers a bit about this area, and why you chose it as a subject?

Certainly. My PhD is more focused on Postmodernism and Digital Humanities, which definitely has an influence on my creative processes and subject matter as well. I’m very interested in where literature and technology meet, so I play a lot with layout and visuals in my writing. I was particularly inspired by Suzan-Lori Park’s essays on theatre – she uses a good deal of marginal comments, and I found it particularly fascinating how this technique forces the reader to break from an absolutely linear read. I wanted to do the same, and you can see that in “Point____Null.” I like the concept of a text having no particular order, no absolute linear track to be followed.

As for my creative writing, I’ve been working on a novel for a few years now (on and off), and I’m finally seeing an endgame somewhere on the horizon. Poetry is a more recent venture for me, and I certainly enjoy it, but fiction is my primary mode of writing. Basically, it’s a work about the people and the culture, a more cynical perspective that isn’t offered by mass media. We’re saturated here with shows like Laguna Beach, The OC, The Real Housewives of Orange County, and so on. And that’s what people buy into: that that’s the way everyone is, or at least that there’s merit to that sort of lifestyle. I find it frustrating as a Californian and decided to work on a story about the decaying relationship of a guy named Hal and a girl named Haylee, both struggling to find meaning in this particularly shallow culture. Hopefully, it’s counterculture.

What experiments with other genres in writing and electronic music production have you been working on?

Lately, I’ve been working on the visual elements of my novel. I’ve been incorporating marginalia, overlapping texts and images, etc. I’ve also been working on a few bilingual works, particularly a combination of English and Norwegian. I like to explore the interplay of languages, how they reflect in each other or extend beyond the other – a word in one language may be better suited than that of the other.

In terms of my music, I’ve been working a lot in synth pop, but I have a habit of switching between (and combining) genres frequently. I’ve been mixing synth pop with elements of chiptune, lofi, and IDM (among others). A lot of my percussion comes from processed samples of sounds I’ve recorded, things that aren’t generally used in music. For example, I was able to generate a small percussive drum set out of the click of a Super Nintendo power switch. I like taking a sound and re-contextualizing it, using a sound that hasn’t been used before, something unconventional.

Is there anywhere online where readers can follow your work or find out more about you?

For my written works, any and all, I have a Twitter account where I post links and updates: twitter.com/micfrazer – and I will gladly discuss if anyone is interested in conversation.

For my music, I work under the moniker em eff. My music can be found on iTunes as well as at: soundcloud.com/mfrazer.

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Michael Frazer is currently a PhD candidate at Auburn University. Mostly working in postmodern fiction centred on the Southern Californian landscape and the Orange County locale, he also explores and experiments with other genres in writing and electronic music production. Because Postmodernism is play. Some of his forthcoming work will appear in Used Gravitrons and Kudzu Review.