October 5th, 2007


Welcome to Early Morning Thoughts


I've reached the point where I'm talking about my book as I write it and there's no-one round to email insanely, so it'll have to go here.

When I was writing 26lies, I had these huge conversations with Deb Layne (deborahlive) going, which must have driven her up the wall, but like the fine publisher she is, she kept talking to me, letting me talk the book out and out. There's a line, in fact, in a Raymond Carver story, called 'Why Don't You Dance', in which the young woman in the story is telling her friends what she's seen, and Carver says that she's trying to talk it out, or something similar (I don't have the book with my at the moment, so if I'm wrong, there you go). That line always struck me as one of those personal little epiphanies, because I'm a lot like that: I like to talk things out until they make sense. All kinds of things, really. Books, short stories, girls, food, whatever, y'know? Some times I think that the things I write are nothing more than an expression of that, an extended, composed version of my talking something out, and shaped into a narrative so I can work resolutions and answers in, if I come up with any.

Of course, a lot of authors I know, they don't talk things out. They keep them pinned up inside, waiting until they're formed to show the world, or afraid that someone else might take their idea, and use it.

It's a fair enough in both cases. In the former case, I can understand not wanting to talk the half formed idea out, and later, when it is fully there, there comes a time when you need to be quiet, because if you're busy talking a story out, why write it? You've told it then, go off and write something new. As for being protective of your ideas, that's all well and good, though for me, I just figure ideas are, as the Americans say, a dime a dozen. Plus, every idea I have has been used by someone somewhere, so I don't see the point. Personal choice, that, for, to me what makes a piece of fiction work is the author, the way he or she spins the idea, the voice he or she uses, the verve that he or she has. Originality comes from the pattern of thought within the author, not the one high concept idea. Or, at least, that's what I figured a while back, and I've never much seen any idea to go back and change it.

Anyhow: this is long winded.

What I'm thinking about today is violence. It's an important conversation in Across the Seven Continents of the Underworld, perhaps unsurprisingly, given the introduction that I posted a few days back, but what I'm thinking, lately, what I'm thinking, is how I can make every moment of violence carry a weight to it, and yet not be caught up in that emo argument you have about how wrong it is. Don't get me wrong--I'm not a fan of violence, and I don't want to have a narrative that is supportive of the casual, effortless deaths that are the background noise of so many books and films. I've never had a huge problem with works that do that. In fact, I've enjoyed more than a few. But I don't find it very interesting to casually kill seven people and not have it so much as appear as a blip on the inside of a person's mind. To do that, somehow, and at the very least in this piece of work, feels as if I'm short changing one of the thematic elements of the book, and further, it creates a tonal inconsistency. The downside, however, is it makes things a lot more difficult: how do you justify the deaths of guards, then, when you know, through endless amounts of narratives, that guards are an anonymous point of violence, a nothing but sharp crack, burst of a bullet, slice with a knife, the representation in the book of the author making a the short, sharp cut to remove the plot obstacle for his or her character?

This is what I'm thinking about right now. It's a thought in my cluttered head. A problem to be solved. Maybe it doesn't make any sense to you. Maybe it's not even interesting. That's how it is sometimes, I guess.

Pimp Bang! (Buy A Book For A Friend Week)

This week has been pretty review heavy on the blog, I've noted, and I figure I'm going to close the week out this way, because it's Buy A Book For A Friend Week, and all of you should be rushing out to buy my poor books for your friends.

Not, you know, that you should need a week to buy books for someone, or donate money to cancer, or help suffering people.

But, if you do, here's some choices:

"With the gravitas of a Margaret Atwood or Kazuo Ishiguro, Peek, in his debut novel, Black Sheep, crafts a quietly horrifying world displaced from ours by a century of time and an implosion of globalist attitudes."

Paul DiFilippo, Barnes and Noble Review.

"There’s a clear critique operating here of contemporary Australian society, with its expectation that newcomers leave their cultural background at the door on entry... Black Sheep is one of the more interesting novels I’ve read in recent times."

Ben Payne, ASif.

"This is an angry young book... it blazes across the page with absolute intensity. It’s also one of the most interesting and politically challenging science fiction novels to come out of Australia in a very long time. It’s a novel that has something to say."

Tansy Rayner Robers, ASif.

Buy it from Amazon and Galaxy Bookstore.

"Ben Peek is a writer I fully expect to blunder out into the scene like a run-away brontosaurus one of these days. He has titanic talent generally leashed to micro-detail projects when his true canvas is probably something much wider and deeper. Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth is a gently experimental text that uses a glossary of terms from A to Z to create vignettes, one-liners, and other supports for loosely connected narratives. Some are funny, some are most definitely not funny. All are lively and deserve your attention."

"I emerged from the book feeling somewhat dazed and exhausted (having read it from beginning to end within a 24 hour period), and I’m not entirely sure what I feel about it. Impressed, certainly. Curious, definitely. A little pissed off... well, maybe."

"What I got from it is this: that truth matters when it matters, and doesn’t when it doesn’t. And that each of us must find our own path as to where that distinction lies. 26 Lies, 1 Truth is an intelligent, playful, funny, challenging, thoughtful and deeply moving work. It is a book filled with outrageous lies. And it is a book filled with truth."

"It ought to fail miserably. But, curse his eyes, Mr Peek has written a fantastic book. And despite its structure, Twenty-Six Lies has a powerful narrative drive. Mr Peek as deftly woven a story into his encyclopedia, complete with character development, unfolding themes, and a hard shock of an ending."

"Quite extraordinary."

"Ben Peek's Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth is a memoir in the form of alphabetical entries, ten or so entries for each letter. The book is also semiotic, social commentary, a meditation on the truth-telling responsibilities of a writer, a part-time comic book, funny as hell, profane, and melancholy. Like the best memoirs it's deeply personal yet engaging and universal. Peek lays out the truths and lies and is smart enough to trust the reader to fit everything together. Powerful stuff. Highly recommended."

"This is a clever, moving, funny and insightful book. I laughed, and I would have cried, but I'm too fucking hard for that sort of shit. See, I understand, relate and empathise with a lot of the truth in this book, the truths I know are true."

"This book is an autobiography. At least some of it is true, for whatever value you like for 'true.' It tells me (or you, or whoever the reader) over and over again not to trust writers. Writers lie. Words, by their very nature, lie.

I know better than to trust this book. I know not to let it seep into my mind, not to take too much too heart what I think it tells me about Ben Peek.

The only trouble is, I don't know how."

"I find myself unable to call it a brilliant book, although there are certainly brilliant bits, and I am instead left to describe it as an interesting book, which is certainly is - through and through."

"Recently I read Ben Peek's Twenty Six Lies/ One Truth. Yes it's full of bluff and bluster, Peek coming across as a hard-ass, and yes, it's very fucking good. There are moments, in fact, of brilliance."

"A bit too clever."

Dan Hartland, Strange Horizons.


"Ben Peek’s Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth is inebriating, an absinthe of self-deception, a smoke-filled room of conflicted emotion, a hall of mirrors, each of them distorting both perception and reality. Ben Peek dances on the stepping stones of Ben Peek’s supposed life, leaping from philosophy to pop culture, from insight to angst. As one reads this remarkable work, the question arises, “what is the line between the art and the artist”? Peek knows. I know. But you cannot know, for certain, until you pick out the lies. Do you trust your judgement that much? Do you trust Ben Peek? What makes you so certain that you can crack the code of Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth? I’d be careful if I were you. Deception awaits."

Buy it from Amazon, Wheatland Press, and Agog.

Clearly, these are your only choices for Pimp Bang!

Er, I mean, Buy A Book for a Friend Week.

Also, they're good for kindling for people in countries currently under military control or suffering from natural disasters.