The Guns Going Bang Is Sick: The Experimental Hyper-Violence of MIKA

MIKA

Anyone can write violence for violence's sake, but MIKA crams it into the compressed prism of our desensitized dystopia — under this applied pressure it bursts into nightmarish psychedelia that reaches inexplicable sensory-receptors we didn't know we had. Her debut collection NO TIGER (Apocalypse Party), is a poetry/prose/collage written in an urgent, teeth-gnashing language — her exploding style of glitch-panic oblivion that, on first glance, seems a grim vision of the future until you remember it's happening somewhere out there right fucking now. MIKA is also the editor of surfaces.cx, home of "neo-decadent computer writing," where intense visual art and other writhing ghosts in the machine collide. She answered my burning questions over DM — we left it intact, unedited for vibe continuity.


In a way, I almost feel invasive asking you questions — part of the allure to you, your site, and your writing is its deliberate yet mysterious style, and a large part of me doesn’t want to ruffle that. I see you as part of a new brood of authors who go by one first name, some which aren’t even their “correct” name, others don’t even seem like proper names at all — Big Bruiser Dope Boy and bibles are others that come to mind. Do you see this anonymity — or psuedoanonymity as you say on your site — as a way for the reader to focus on the depth of the work rather than the author’s legal state-sanctioned persona, or is it more personal rebirth/reinvention? Or merely a declaration of privacy in our world of unhinged surveillance? A chance to write whatever you want without backlash to your safety?

i think there are a lot of reasons for the focus on aliases and my own usage of one. for surfaces we encourage individuals to feel like they can submit to us with no sense of obligation outside of the work itself that they give us. i’ve a lot of contributors, including myself, who resent the practice of “selling one’s self” that comes with the typical circus of the “indie lit” scene. when you have to attach a real name to a piece i feel like there’s a “legitimacy” gained that can sacrifice authenticity. there’s lots of work on our site that comes from people that would have never submitted if it wasn’t explicitly allowed to use any credit they choose. we don’t take bios for similar reasons. many of these people have barely, if any, identifiable online presence even with their alias. those random internet weirdos and burnouts that have no background or credentials to list anyway. it’s also often the best work we have. bylines kind of disgust me lol. i sometimes get people submitting to me with this long list of publications they’ve been in and i always just ignore it. they also are often the people submitting because we’re a mag with a presence and not because they care about the project. i hate the lit mags that feel like glorified ad space for the authors who happen to get in lol.

i don’t care for inclusivity in the way some more visible or “presentable” trans authors do.

for myself i use MIKA rather than my legal name not only because it was my first chosen name after transitioning, but because i find something dreadful about the current culture in online literary circles of having maybe a twitter handle but still maintaining a “professional” appearance under a legal name. it reeks. it feels so calculatingly fake. my online persona is me. MIKA is me, the delineation between the persona and the authentic self is something i can’t really perform and it doesn’t make sense to me. it never has, i guess, as someone who’s always been intensely online and developed a lot of my gender identity through explorations done on the computer. the digital and the real is not so clear cut to me. there’s safety in it i think, it’s like body armor and jewelry at the same time. i am able to express myself more safely but also more extravagantly and genuinely.

The term “cyberwriting” has lodged itself into the lexicon in the last year, though there’s a tongue in cheek element to the term. Yet, your work seems to really be an earnest example of it — like desperate, determined transmissions from a glitchy computer in a world desensitized to total war. It reads like futurist dystopia literature, assuming we have a future. How did you hone this singular style?

idk it’s hard for me to parse myself exactly why my style came about how it did. like, i can cite some influences that were turning points for me like bands such as Death Grips and Type O Negative or anime like Hellsing, Welcome to the NHK, and Ghost in the Shell. but in terms of the actual development of it i think maybe a huge part of what made me go in such an idiosyncratic direction compared to a lot of other voices in indie lit is isolation. i didn’t have an audience or even read other writers or talk to them for years. i just worked alone and posted my stuff to nobody on tumblr until late 2018. i didn’t have a reference point for what other people at the time were doing and i also wasn’t reading older literature at the time either. i spent most of my time with anime and movies. lots of grindhouse films. i took a lot of aesthetic cues from those, i felt like trying to capture the exciting dynamism and punchiness of stuff like that was more compelling to me than creating something meaningfully “literary” (whatever that means, i didn’t know the term existed back then and don’t even know what it means now really). i just wanted to make writing that’s interesting to read that also expressed me sincerely. Hellsing is the biggest touchstone, from my perspective, right now. an anime that deals with themes of endless conflict, fascistic death drive, has vampires with giant guns and lots of dismemberment? basically perfect for me. i’m trying to read more but i feel like i’ll always be more compelled by pulpy violence and gratuity that you find in stuff like that. i feel too like visual media is more relevant to the current moment that i’m interested in exploring in my work. we’re living in a digitized landscape filtered through screens and simulacra that is permeating every inch of our bodies and minds. this is part of why i’ve delved more into collage work the past year and a half and my work has always been deeply reliant on imagery. i want to show people something. not talk to them, and my work reflects that impatience with merely saying things to the reader. no time for it lol. the fixation on futurist warfare themes is something that’s relatively recent. its been developing for awhile but came into clear focus in the past couple years, which is where the majority of NO TIGER is from. as i began to politically radicalize more for some reason i developed a hyper-focus on the way we are inundated with “empire” in every aspect of our lives. war as symbol = defanged but pervasive and infinite within our minds. i felt a distinct horror at realizing how normal things like Syria, the Iraq War, etc had become to me. i basically didn’t think about them in any meaningful way until then. NO TIGER is an exploration of discovering that, the experience of realizing you live in a culture ruled by domination and power that exerts itself in forever transgression of every border and a desire to persist despite all of that.

In your own words, how would you describe your site Surfaces.cx? What sets it apart from other online literary venues, and what are you looking for in works that come your way?

surfaces is like a tool for me to relate to online literature. i’ve always felt intensely alienated from writing scenes, even when i tried reintroducing myself in 2019 i found myself getting frustrated and bored by all of it within only a few months... until i started working on surfaces. to me, i want it to be a website that serves as a full alternative to the typical tropes and etiquette of the indie lit scene. with it, i don’t feel beholden to anyone but myself, its contributors, and my fellow editors. i can just do what i want, have fun with it. it really baffles me how so many other lit mags that are just run based on the personal tastes of the editors don’t really do anything but take work and plug it. relentless marketing machines for everyone involved. its part of why i usually call surfaces a “project” rather than a lit mag. i see my contributors as direct collaborators, a cadre, and often i go towards ones i’ve built closer relationships with to share work or plans i have for the site. what i really want from the work that people sent us is stuff you want to see in surfaces specifically, the shit that other publications might find too strange or hostile to run themselves. i’m particularly interested in the highly online, the digital, the writing that something a 4chan burnout that feels alienated by what they’ve been told is good writing (aka, me) would find compelling.

i want surfaces to be where people can let loose and try to do something with their work rather than trying to just become part of the mag’s “prestige” status or whatever. maybe that’s why bylines disgust me lol. i’ve rejected writers before who felt like they just wanted in on the new hotness rather than actually giving a shit about the project in any meaningful way. it’s very transparent to me and their work is usually boring. i don’t even remember the names of most indie lit mags i come across, honestly. i’m hostile to the boring. the writing that feels like it’s written only for other writers who only read other writers. i want a catalogue of writers you probably won’t see anywhere else. i’ve come to accept this will probably preclude surfaces from ever reaching higher levels of direct clout or influence but i couldn’t care less haha. i think it will, and has, made a significant mark regardless. it self selects. we don’t have 10k followers on twitter or anything but the people that have come to it in the past couple years are the people i want looking at us in the first place. anyone who finds us obnoxious or frustrating is someone i’m not interested in catering to.

The landscapes in your work are violent, real-time psychic and physical warfare scenarios that feel anti-war in its unfiltered gore yet almost fetishistic to the weaponry involved. Where does the fascination and knowledge of these armaments come from? Is it merely striving to be the last one standing, having to fight fire with fire against all odds? You seem very well steeped in these technologies.

the interest in weaponry and warfare is a long running relationship for me. it’s like i’m married to it. i explore this most explicitly in the piece Generation Kill Chic which deals with my teen years where i was still repressing a lot of my gender identity, struggling with opioid addictions, and had an intense desire to join the military. my dad was a vet. he never pushed for it too hard but also thought it’d be good for me. i think i was temporarily obsessed with pursuing an imagined hyper-masculinity because i wasn’t coping well with these lingering gender crises i couldn’t properly articulate and also coming into my sexuality. the interest in warfare (but not violence generally) kind of tempered for a long time, then awoke again in the past few years. there’s a level to which i just think it’s cool. the guns going bang is sick. very tactile, loud, mechanically complex, etc. i used to be obsessed specifically with armored vehicles when i was younger and they remain a consistent source of awe for me. i was particularly interested in being a Bradley IFV driver. the seeming fetishized feeling to the depictions of the weaponry in my work is coming from that place of dissonance for me, i think, where even if i enjoy these things and looking and hearing them, i am also seeing them for what they are—tools of that empire uses to subjugate the world around it. i don’t think you can really depict these things and remove that dissonance, warfare in the modern era is intrinsically dynamic and cinematic in appearance. i’m concerned with how that translates to the spectator. i’m not interested in speaking for the people who are struggling directly under these things, i’m not equipped for it and i don’t experience it. i am interested in the place of the observer. how seeing these things filtered back to me affects my brain and identity and soul.

Given the fierce, confrontational, sometimes gonzo nature of your writing as an experimental trans author, do you strive for inclusivity through your work, or would you rather people acknowledge a more intensified singular perspective that comes from the trans existence? Do you see a direct connection from your unique experience to your work?

i don’t care for inclusivity in the way some more visible or “presentable” trans authors do. i don’t really use sensitivity readers to tell me if i need to be more catering to other perspectives. it’s just not in my interest, what i write is as close as i can translate from what i see every day. from my experience that resonates more than the trans experience depicted more generally for the sake of including others. there will be people who understand and live your experience no matter how intensely personal it is. the piece Denial Cycles in particular has gotten a lot of praise from people who’ve read the book and felt shockingly “seen” by it. i feel like if i tried to represent anything outside of myself i couldn’t do it. everything i write is an expression of honesty and individuality, i’m not a good liar. i’m not good at the persona poem in particular. every character i write that has a name and/or face (Kare, Val, the lizard girl from Scalez 2717) are self-inserts. i’m a girl that wants to express myself, only myself, to everyone so loudly and aggressively and extravagantly that they can’t ignore me.

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Gabriel Hart

Interview by Gabriel Hart

Gabriel Hart lives in Morongo Valley in California’s High Desert. He's the author of Palm Springs noir novelette A Return To Spring (2020, Mannison Press), the dispo-pocalyptic twin-novel Virgins In Reverse / The Intrusion (2019, Traveling Shoes Press), and his debut poetry collection Unsongs Vol. 1 (2021, Close To the Bone, U.K.). Other works can be found at ExPat Press, Shotgun Honey, Bristol Noir, and Punk Noir. He's a monthly columnist for Lit Reactor and a regular contributor to EconoClash Review. He's currently working on two novels, a short story collection, and Unsongs Vol. 2.

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