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The Past | The Previous

Paul Haines

This morning, my friend Paul Haines died after a long battle with cancer.

It was not unexpected, but it remains incredibly sad. Despite myself, I had hoped for news otherwise. I liked Haines. Everyone I knew liked him, and the loss is great, very much so. We all have to feel that now, for in death, it becomes the experience of those alive, their loss, their grief, that is felt. For Haines, the long struggle is over.

Over the weekend, I read 'Wives', one of Haines' last pieces, a large novella that was rightfully well spoken of by a number of people. Set in an Australian outback crumbling to drought, poverty, and a huge gender imbalance, 'Wives' is everything that Haines' body of work had promised: dark, satirical, powerful. It follows a young man, Jimbo, as the cousin he loves moves away, and he and his friends search for a woman and happiness. Haines' Jimbo is at the centre of the piece, a character always on the verge of self conscious realisation of what he is doing, his seething resentment and anger dulling his acknowledgment of his life, from the way he treats women, his future, and the relationships of his family around him. As the story unfolds, Jimbo's anger seeps through the story, and Haines winds him tighter and tighter, leaving him for the moment where he will break, where violence will erupt from him. Yet, even here, at the climax of the story, Haines doesn't relent, and he plays the hand Jimbo has been dealt to the final card.

It is, I think, one of the finest pieces of speculative fiction to come out of Australia in the last decade. Constructed from the mythology of the Australian male, laced with the racial and gender issues that lurk throughout the nation, and a use of Australian slang that is entirely uncommerical and unwanted in today's market, 'Wives' is a triumph, a dark, satirical piece that could very well be called the centre of Paul Haines' body of work.

Man, I am going to miss you, Haines.

***


I interviewed Haines twice. The first time was in 2005, when I interviewed a lot of Australian authors. Then, Haines was just getting his name, emerging on the scene after the first Clarion in Queensland.

The second time was in 2010. Haines had a second collection out, a third on the way, and he was fighting cancer, even then. I was never real happy with all the interviews I did back in 2005--due to their nature, you never had a chance to get any real depth out of them--and Haines was always more interesting than that short part he got, and so, I asked him if he wanted to have another tilt. I still don't think the interview does him justice, and perhaps this is why I only ever did three.

Paul Haines, 2010.

***


You can buy Haines' collections, still. In many ways I am talking about his work here because, if you don't know him, then this is all you will know of him now--and it is the work he left behind, what we have to share with those who did not know him.

But if you knew him...

Years ago, Haines tossed me an invite to the private music file share, Oink, about six months before the Police raided the UK, I believe, and shutdown the offices. I always imagined them raiding his house for all his illegal objects and chuckled, while wondering about mine. Of course, what came out of that was the discovery that a large portion of the people using it were musicians. I guess the writers didn't number enough to be noted. We shared a publisher in Prime Books and would swap stories about the experience, though his was much worse than mine. We'd talk about books and music and movies. Occasionally, we'd gossip. Sometimes, I wrote to him about a story I read of his, or he mine, or he asked me to critique something he had written. He would always tell me he appreciated my feedback on his own fiction, because I was 'such a hard taskmaster'.

And I always thought that he didn't need to hear anything I said.

Goodbye, Paul.

Comments

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nick_kaufmann
Mar. 5th, 2012 03:15 am (UTC)
My deepest sympathies.
frogworth
Mar. 5th, 2012 06:18 am (UTC)
So sorry to hear this, man. A lot of people in the Aussie sf scene will be very sad.
benpayne
Mar. 5th, 2012 08:56 am (UTC)
*hugs*
Adam Browne
Mar. 7th, 2012 04:02 am (UTC)
thanks for this, Ben - it's beautiful - I remember at about the time I was pissed off at you for accusing one of my stories of racism, Paul posted something about how much he wanted to be your friend. Shit. I didn't understand why, first of all, and secondly, I was taken aback by how baldly he'd stated it - but of course, he had no fear - he'd say stuff like that without hesitation. Too, where I was nervous of outspoken people, he loved them. He loved you, and it was a good thing, don't you reckon, to be loved by him?

Will you be able to make it on Saturday?
benpeek
Mar. 7th, 2012 04:20 am (UTC)
It was honestly my pleasure and I thought the best of him.

I don't think I will be able to make it Saturday, though I would have liked. I would like to say goodbye amongst the others from the scene (which, given my hermit like nature, is probably strange to hear) but it's become difficult to make it due to a few financial issues. I might still be able to swing it, but it doesn't look likely, I'm afraid.
Adam Browne
Mar. 7th, 2012 11:37 am (UTC)
no worries - did you see that his family wants people to provide their favourite passages from his writing to be added to the eulogy?
benpeek
Mar. 7th, 2012 01:03 pm (UTC)
nah, not yet. was that put on the blog?

it actually does look like i'll be down. my girlfriend is swinging some flight points for me, and a mate who lives in cranburn is going to put me up the eve before.
Adam Browne
Mar. 7th, 2012 07:21 pm (UTC)
that's good news
Adam Browne
Mar. 8th, 2012 07:31 am (UTC)
if you need a lift from the airport or whatever, there are various convoys being organised - if you're interested, post a message on my blog - http://tiny.cc/rD7f2b
benpeek
Mar. 8th, 2012 08:16 am (UTC)
thanks, man, but i'm cool. i've a mate who lives out in cranbourne whose picking me up the night before and organised a lift to the memorial with andy and rju.

nice illustrations, btw.
Adam Browne
Mar. 10th, 2012 11:07 am (UTC)
good to meet you
you're my friend now - no choice, sorry man - a shame i was a bit shy, but I look forward to more conversations
benpeek
Mar. 11th, 2012 05:57 am (UTC)
Re: good to meet you
yeah, man, it was sweet. i'll track down an email addy and toss you a hello.
matthewchrulew.wordpress.com
Mar. 14th, 2012 12:36 am (UTC)
"I always thought that he didn't need to hear anything I said."

I think he was actually quite targeted with who he asked for crits from for different pieces of work, based on what he thought might be needed. Not in the way of, only asking for advice from someone who'll tell you what you want to hear, but rather, only asking for advice from the person who you know will tell you what needs to be done, whether or not you want to hear it.
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