Friday, October 21, 2011

The Flawed Mind - reviewed

Just got a GREAT review from Marcus Baumgart @ The Flawed Mind. Here's a taste:

"Andrez offers us one imagined future for Melbourne, and it has to be said that things don’t look so good. The dystopian Melbourne of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, pitched at some distance into the future, has the unique distinction of being the only city left in the world. Unfortunately, things are not going terribly well in terms of civil liberties, the political climate or the environment. In fact, things are comprehensively fucked up on all fronts, and the portrait painted is of an overcrowded, polluted metropolis groaning under the control of a government vested in corporate interests and busy herding non-conformists and misfits into extramural death camps styled as ‘hospitals’.

"Despite this undeniable grimness, the novel is also pretty amusing, and it mines the noir vein with gay abandon, to use an old-fashioned phrase. Andrez wears his pop-culture influences on his sleeve, and the result is a compote that mashes up a plethora of fictional frameworks into a believable, seamless whole. Readers who know Melbourne will enjoy seeing the geography of the city rezoned and remapped, polarised by the presence of a dome over the CBD that shelters the wealthy elite. And god help you if you find yourself in Richmond, which Bergen transforms into a demilitarised wasteland; Abbotsford and other inner suburbs don’t fare much better.

"I for one appreciate someone taking the time to imagine an Australia of the future, as it is a welcome change to the ubiquitous North American setting of much popular fiction, and science fiction. Nevertheless, that wouldn’t be enough to recommend it. Happily, TSMG is also a ripping yarn in the best dystopian, gumshoe tradition.

"Oh, and on a final note, you will thoroughly enjoy the company of the protagonist, Floyd Maquina – he is ruggedly handsome and generally ruined; witty, self destructive and self-effacing with his air of gracious defeat..."

You can check out more at Marcus' website.

We have a swag of other review and interviews up at the Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat website HERE.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Melbourne book launch of TSMG

So I'm now back in Tokyo, after a two week sojourn in Melbourne - the more prominent Melbourne in Australia rather than its silly namesake in Florida, which is 32 years younger. I get parochial about this because the Melbourne in Australia is my hometown, and also the setting for my novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.

I went down this time not only to rendezvous with friends and family, nor just to soak in the sights, sounds, smells and brilliant foodstuffs that the city does indeed boast. Because the novel was only recently published, it was high-time I did a book launch there; any excuse to have a party, and all that jazz. Anyway, we ended up doing the propaganda jaunt at a superb 1853 blue-stone abode in the city called Miss Libertine on Wednesday 10th August, and the turn-out was brilliant.

Suitably enough it was also pissing down with rain that evening.

I got in early to cut my teeth with some beer; I also cut up wads of cheese and a smoked sausage that, in Australia, we call cabana (suitably kitsch old school '70s art exhibition style, and far cheaper than serving up sushi!) plus we had salt and vinegar chips and chocolate teddy bears since they appear in the novel.

There were hiccups - the three-hour background score I'd put together, which included musical influences, soundtracks from appropriate films, my own hack Little Nobody muzak and some self-indulgent ditties, failed to fire-up. We also had technical problems with the DVD projector so we couldn't screen most of what I wanted to show. I skipped out on doing a book-reading - a part of me thought that a wee bit too pretentious in the circumstances - so I opted to opening myself up to an informal Q&A instead.

The only problem was that between the hob-knob of the occasion and scrawling inane messages on copies of the book, I had to remember names, catch up with mates and family members who showed up, and generally remind myself to make time for a sip or two of ale squeezed in between gas-bagging - so the Q&A fell on the back-burner a bit.

But management at the venue were wunderbar (thanks, Bo!), the vibe was fantastic, I had a couple of great happy-snappers (in particular Jason Maher) and no minor problems seemed to matter anyway.

Massive thanks to everyone who showed up and thereby created the vibe I talked up a sentence back - you all rock. While I'll admit to having been a bit stressed before the event, during and especially after I had a ball.

That's Melbourne (Australia) for you.

I forgot how much I missed the place, even now - a decade after I left - and it just seems to improve with age. I think anybody who bothers to read this blog (hello? Anybody?) might've noticed I like to talk up fine wines, and there're some nice drops to be found in Australia. So the image of Melbourne aging away in a dank cellar - since I love my vintage stuff - is actually a positive one.

We're not talking dusty, damp and archaic, though there's plenty of gorgeous Victorian architecture to be found in this city with its fair share of mold. Melbourne has a comparatively short history but has hung on to a lot of that, while at the same time developing new twists and turns as it goes.

But I think being away gave me the detachment necessary to set my novel in a post-apocalyptic Melbourne in which the proverbial shit has hit the fan.

Anyway, a couple of days ago I left again, going straight from around 6°C in the early morning in Melbourne to 36°C and humid here in Tokyo - nice and sizzling in the sun; steaming in the shade.

And I'm buggered, but it's brilliant to be with the girls again. And missing Melbourne already - what a city.

Now I just need time to recuperate.

Photos by Jason Maher & Andrez Bergen.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Goat in the Sky

There's now an in-depth interview of my editor Kristopher Young and me - by the cool Martin Garrity - online @ Solarcide, regarding Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.

Martin writes:

"TSMG is an odd sci-fi tale of corruption in a dystopian future, set in Melbourne, Australia. (Bergen is himself Australian, though he now lives in Japan) It features an immediately likeabe protagonist, Floyd Maquina, who is a government endorsed ‘seeker.’ Floyd’s job is to hunt the deviant menace that threatens the future of the last inhabited city on the planet. This could almost be a special edition, Vegemite-flavoured version of a certain Philip K. Dick story.

"But that ain’t even the half of it.

"TSMG is also homage to the golden age of film noir. It’s a cigar puffing, whiskey sipping, piano playing, bar lout, and the book may very well stir up memories of a black and white nature. Andrez makes a million and one references to movies (The Third Man and The Maltese Falcon, in particular, are heavily drawn on) and the settings are stuffed to the margins with inspiration from this classic era of cinema."

I actually really dug doing this interview; Martin was great to yack with and he asked some canny questions - and I really loved the head-to-head between he and Kristopher.

Anyway, you can read it if at all interested HERE.

Cheers, Martin! ;)

By the way, I'll probably skip updating this blog in future months, so if you want to keep abreast of anything, my other blog, JapaneseCultureGoNow!, is far more active. Plus there's the website for Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

More TSMG reviews + Website

After a wee bit of thought - well, actually, not so much at all, I have to 'fess up - I've come to a decision that's hardly going to stir a blade of grass or two hereabouts.

So what's the big fuss? Well, I think that running this blog alongside my other one (JapaneseCultureGoNow!) is time-wasting, since a lot of what happens here is transliterated there anyway.

Also, it doesn't come across as quite so self-indulgent since on that blog I address other stuff such as, well, odds and ends of more off-beat Japanese culture (I guess the name itself gives that away).

Also, I just set up a website specifically for Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, which has a lot more info than this blog; you can check that out HERE.

So I probably won't update this blog quite so much in future.

However, we did just get a couple of great reviews of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat and I'd like to share one here, just in case some lost soul is interested.

Farrago magazine is where I cut my teeth writing during my stint at Melbourne Uni, and they nicely just published a wunderbar review:

"A story based around a post-apocalyptic Melbourne where consumerism, class division, discrimination and corruption run rampant [in which] the humour and trivial observations... prevent Bergen’s novel from becoming cliché or a 'doom and gloom' vision of the future that would probably leave you crying yourself to sleep at night.

"All in all, Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat is a great read: a well-rounded book from a well-rounded individual. Bergen’s experience in journalism, photography, music and art amongst other things, easily translates into this expat Australian’s homage to Melbourne and its culture."

The rest of that review is HERE.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tobacco-Stained & Out There

Well, the novel is now out - in fact it has been for a month now - and slowly starting to garner the occasional review like the one at Forces Of Geek.

My publishers are currently putting together the digital versions for iPad and Kindle (stay tuned), but in the meantime the classic old school paperback - sorry, trees! - is up on Amazon UK, Amazon USA, Amazon Canada, Amazon Japan, and Alibris.

Even better, you can order direct from my cool cat publishers Another Sky Press, where the price for the paperback is much cheaper ($4.74 plus postage), and you also get bonus glossy bookmarks (see above) featuring the cover artwork on both sides.

If you feel like it, while online @ Another Sky you can contribute more so that the publisher, the cover artist (Scott Campbell) and I actually make some dosh in the long run.

The funky postcard is not yet available except here in Japan, but I'm working on it, and eventually hope to achieve world domination with bumper stickers, a Scout patch and iPad apps... even if I don't have one of those darn tootin' gadgets yet myself.

Bah; humbug.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 1

Something lighter here, as life appears to be edging back on track and into the realm of normality, at least for those of us in Tokyo and elsewhere - at a distance from the smoldering nuclear smoke-stacks at Fukushima.

Personally, I have a lot of reasons to celebrate.

One of these is my family, and my five-year-old daughter Cocoa, who is a just plain god-send. She's funny, talented, and growing up way too fast!

Another is my first novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, which was officially released through Another Sky Press at the beginning of April and is now available on Amazon. Yep, it's on Amazon (the UK, USA and Japan versions) and I keep clicking on one of these everyday to peer at the wayward tome and sigh - silently, of course. I don't want people to concern themselves too much with my mental state.

It just got reviewed by Forces Of Geek today, and the reviewer, Tony Pacitti, seems to completely "get" where I was coming from. I love what he says, even the negative.

He writes:

Constantly questioning his role at the end of the world, Floyd quickly finds himself stuck in the middle of a story that’s a delicious bit of Chinatown 1930s wrapped around a Blade Runner future with a dash of post 9/11 paranoia for good measure. Double- and triple-dealings lurk around every corner and for every twist and turn there’s a wisecrack and a nod to the gumshoes of Hollywood’s yesteryear.


When Bergen isn’t riffing on genres he’s taking frequent swings at the world we live in. Whether he’s shining a light on the gross imbalance between classes in an economic crisis or amplifying our obsession with cosmetic perfection to gaudy extremes, Bergen’s punches land frighteningly close to home.

You can check it out here. Wow.

Another reason to be cheerful is my new Little Nobody album, Hard Foiled, which is finally being released today. It's a collection of electronic/techno stuff I've cobbled together over the past couple of years and is being released through IF? Records.

There's a digital version via Beatport as well as a limited edition CD (with less tracks, but still clocking in at 70 minutes) via Lulu.

Last reason? I live in Tokyo. And I love Japan. This is my home.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TSMG review (from Amazon)

Just got this review via Amazon UK (thanks, Lotte).

Love this assessment:

"Bergen has a penchant for quick, witty dialog moments that border on the surreal, while the characters around Maquina are both painted with absolute care and pushed to offbeat edges. Hidden amidst these are about a million and one TV and movie references, some crystal clear and others obscure. The reverential homage to 1940s and '50s detective noir sits pretty alongside nods to the classic Hollywood musical like "Top Hat". The influences of Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" and Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" are all too clear, along with Japanese anime and '70s Asian cinema, compressed into a knowing understanding of Australian culture and slang.

"Then there are the little red herrings between the lines -- off-the-cuff references to things like "Star Trek", "Winnie-the-Pooh", "The 300 Spartans" and "The Charge of the Light Brigade", which were some of the ones I recognized; others I'm sure are there yet still to be found."

So nice for someone else to get where we were trying to come from!

The novel is also up on Amazon USA and Amazon Japan 日本 - but I still recommend getting it via my publishers @ Another Sky Press, as they offer cheaper rates, you can check out their other fine tomes, plus you get bonus free TSMG bookmarks from them!

Anyway, if you do take the time to go check it out... cheers!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat: the published tome!

One hefty element of happiness is... getting the printed/published version of your novel for the first time in your mitts!!!

They're here - and as I'm prone to exclaim at moments like this... ZOUNDS!!!!

Talk about insanely cool timing, since we're doing the Tokyo launch party for the novel tonight at the Pink Cow in Shibuya (see post below). Up to this point we were thinking it'd be a paperless affair (weird for a book launch party, I know), but the gods - whomsoever they may be, and regardless of whether or not the blighters actually exist - have been kind.

The biggest ever possible thanks to Kristopher, Bob and everyone else at Another Sky Press for their tireless work, belief and madly cool assistance on this beastie - it's their baby as much as is mine. And cheers to family and mates for all their support and encouragement over the years it took to finish off the yarn.

Here's the back cover, with the barcode - and we even have a darn-tootin' ISBN number! x

I think I'm still a little bit in shock, really - so I'll stop gabbling here and sit down with a strong coffee to pore over one of the copies I have beside me.

If you're interested in checking out more about the novel, head on over to the Tobacco-Stained Another Sky site (just click the highlighted bit).

WOW. Bliss.

Tobacco-Stained Party, Tokyo 東京 25/3

These are strange times here, for all too obvious reasons - and sometimes it feels like we’re collectively treading water awaiting the next Big Thing to transpire. Meanwhile the reactors still belch scary looking clouds and we get shaken by dozens of aftershocks everyday.

I know this cuts a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but a high percentage of events and parties have been cancelled here in Tokyo, and attendance is lower than usual at the places that're still open.

A lot of the DJ/producers I know are spending most of their time at home, creating tunes – or putting together worthy benefit compilations, like the ones coming out through Shin Nishimura’s Plus Tokyo label and another called Kibou that’s being put together by Japanophile DJ Hi-Shock through his Elektrax label – which features contributions from a wad of Japan’s finest techno bods.

It’s been mad timing for my new novel to come out; teaches me to write a yarn that’s been described as “post-apocalyptic noir.”

I’m supposed to have the Tokyo book launch this Friday 25th March (in other words tomorrow) at the Pink Cow in Shibuya, but the postal service is all screwed up so there's a big chance I won’t be getting the books themselves in time from the U.S. - not through lack of trying by Kristopher and Christine @ Another Sky Press, but, as I say, our timing has been out-of-whack with nature.

I'm still praying to an empty mead hall of Norse gods that UPS will be able to get the books out of Japanese customs - where they've been since Monday - and here into my lap in time. Hell, if not for the party itself, I just want to hold and stroke the beastie that's taken so much time of my life to complete!

Anyway, after much soul-searching, mood-swings, flip-flopping and so on, we’re doing the launch party, regardless of earthquakes and/or radiation levels.

All this extra added stuff does give us nice fodder for silly quips about glowing in the dark at the party (and therefore no need for lighting, boom-boom), plus going tree-friendly “green” at a book launch. Etcetera, ad infinitum. And so on.

Anyway, that brings me to the bloody brilliant DJ line-up, which includes:

Ko Kimura, DJ Wada, Jin Hiyama, Cut Bit Motorz, Eri Makino, Toshiyuki Yasuda, Devin Wine, Little Nobody and Paul McQuade. Oh yeah, and me. We had Shin Nishimura on board initially, but he's understandably taken his young family out of this city.

Proceedings kick off from 6:00pm sharp, and if we get enough people we'll probably go all night. Whether we do or not is a matter for conjecture.

Entry is a measly ¥500 coin on the door, which equates to about US$6.10 - in keeping with our age-old IF? Records idea of keeping event prices cheap. Dunno why - we never, ever make any money out of these things, but at least we get a nice warm feeling about our frugal ideals.

In case you haven't read elsewhere in this blog, the novel itself is called Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat and is being published by U.S. label Another Sky Press.

The book will be out in stores by 31 March 2011.

For tomorrow's launch I was s'posed to do a reading from the novel, a Q&A about it all, and book signings/sales - but the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, and the subsequent nuclear reactor problems, threw a few spanners into the works. The bigger picture is so much more important than personal extravaganzas like this - so we've decided that we'll do it as just a way in which to unwind from 24/7 news and the stress of the past 12 days, to relax, chill and listen to good music.

Besides, I never was quite so comfortable about doing the wanky reading thing - it's just not me. At worst I'd misrepresent the novel with a wayward monologue.

Here's a bit of guff about the DJ/musicians involved at the launch, who are way cool cats I really admire here in Tokyo, and deserving of kudos above and beyond what I do - please take the time to check them all out for their superb electronic muzak, live set-ups, and skills behind the decks/CD-Js:

DJ WADA is one half of Co-Fusion, one of Tokyo's top DJs, and released through Sublime, Elektrax, IF? & Pro-Jex

KO KIMURA is one of the preeminent DJs in Japan, a superlative veteran behind the decks who continues to push the perimetres of electronic music.

JIN HIYAMA is not only Go Hiyama's brother, but an excellent painter, designer and DJ/producer himself, with a recent EP out through Blank Records.

CUT BIT MOTORZ is the current Japanese electronic enfant terrible, breaking through in 2010 with releases through IF? and Elektrax.

TOSHIYUKI YASUDA has worked with Señor Coconut (aka Uwe Schmidt from Atom Heart) and Chicks On Speed as well as with me, and runs the way cool Megadolly imprint.

ERI MAKINO is one of Tokyo's best leftfield purveyors of electronica and acoustics, having released through A Chain Brick Yard and Emilii Records.

DEVIN WINE has performed as a guitarist, bass-player and vocalist in various bands around Tokyo, and makes electronic music as Admiral Anderision.

is perhaps Tokyo's best-kept secret - till now, wethinks. Heck, we don't even have a website to connect to, but this is one very cool Scottish import.

Let's hit it tomorrow, mates.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan Quakes


Unless you’ve had your head buried deep inside some sandbox in a place a million miles from the nearest social network or wireless connection, you’d already know precisely what I’m leading into if you bothered to note the headline tag to this post.

So let's get straight into it.

On Friday March 11th, at around 2:45pm local time, the east coast of Japan was hit by an earthquake that tipped the scale at around 8.9 – 9.0 on the Charles Richter magnitude charts.

I’ve since learned that we survived the fourth or fifth biggest earthquake in recorded history, and the worst ever in Japan – which is one of the world's most seismically active places.

But Tokyo was lucky compared with other places in this country just north of our city, like Miyagi Prefecture.

Straight after the earthquake there were tsunami waves of up to ten metres (33 feet) that struck the Pacific coast north of Tokyo, ploughing inland up to a dozen kilometres – sweeping away the towns and cities along the way.

The footage has been so surreal: That tsunami rapidly filling the streets of the city of Kesennuma as people watched (and filmed) from atop hills; cars and air-conditioning units bobbing and floating by, followed by houses that started moving and weaving between overturned boats; the aftermath with ships and trucks on top of highways and houses. It was like looking at The Day After Tomorrow rolled up into Dante's Inferno.

But the sad truth is that it isn’t surreal at all. This is no dream. It’s been neither fiction nor the unrealistic segment of a disaster movie – it's cold, hard reality.

Somewhere around 10,000 people have been killed, though no-one knows the true extent of the fatalities even now – at the time of writing this – seven days after that initial disaster. Our thoughts go out to all the people affected.

But I say “initial” disaster, because we’ve since suffered aftershocks numbering in the hundreds and varying in intensity depending on the area. The other night night in Shizuoka, near Mt. Fuji, there was another earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4.

I got woken up by an aftershock at 5:00am yesterday morning - rattling doors and shaking bed. When we went to the supermarket almost half the shelves were empty as people are stocking up in case of another emergency.

And yesterday my daughter and wife flew down south to join the in-laws in Fukuoka.

It makes me far happier to know they're safe(r) - especially since there are the melting-down nuclear reactors at Fukushima, 170 miles north of Tokyo.

These babies were initially damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, and are currently out-of-control, spewing forth radioactive particles that are being felt as far south as, well, here in Tokyo.

OK, so I've seen my fair share of Japanese disaster flicks; in fact in my time I’ve been a fair bit of a fan.

I loved Godzilla movies when I was a kid – the way in which he walloped little balsa-wood versions of Tokyo and Osaka – and I still DJ out the awesome theme song to 1961 monster flick Mothra, written by Yuji Koseki and sung by The Peanuts.

But this past week has been a little too close to home, and I say that not just because I currently live in Tokyo. The quakes and shakes this time were real, not cheap FX on celluloid with high-definition surround sound.

It’s eerily like the plot in Sakyo Komatsu’s novel Nihon Chinbotsu (Japan Sinks) – I saw both the spin-off movies made in 1973 and 2006 – but defies the page or the artificial image of a viewfinder.

Real people have died, and thousands of other bona fide human beings have lost loved ones and friends. They’re destitute, lacking basic provisions, and braving up to zero-degree temperatures up north.

This is going to take a long time to clean up and forget.

And while the Japanese people here have been astoundingly resolute – not here the looting and general mayhem on the streets you see in other lesser disasters elsewhere in the world – it's a mind-numbing situation and an emotionally debilitating one to see this country and these people go through all of this.

In the meantime the best thing to do as hang onto the coattails of a sense of humour about it all – and gaze somewhat wistfully at the Japanese kanji "kibou", which means “hope”.

Which brings me full circle to some untimely, self-indulgent navel-gazing... but I guess that's what blogs are all about, especially ones like this which have only a couple of entries anyway.

Amidst all this madness I'm releasing my novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, which is coming out through Another Sky Press in the U.S. on 31 March.

As previously mentioned here it's a sci-fi/noir tome that's set in Melbourne, Australia, but mostly rewritten here in Tokyo and heavily influenced by my 10 years in Japan.

I'm going to stop with the hype right now. It tastes wrong. If you're interested at all in checking out the novel, fantastic - thank you. If not, that's cool too - but please think in some way about how, in whatever small or seemingly inconsequential way, you can assist Japan. It all helps.

Rant out.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

On the Printing Press

Well, the novel is done.

After a couple of years of slugging it out, nutting it out, pulling ideas from our collective buttocks, head-butting grammatical rules, ditching my beloved semi-colons and ironing out my wayward non-standard dialogue tags, it's done. Big, big thanks to Kristopher, Bob, Christine, Justin and everyone else at Another Sky Press, along with Scott Campbell on art duties.

The next announcement on this blog will be the one that it's now available; we're just awaiting the test-pressing of the finished tome, but in the meantime if you're curious you can check out more and/or pre-order here.

Strangely enough I haven't had a chance to enjoy this moment - I've been sick as a dog since the very next day after we wrapped the project, with some weird virus/flu/bronchitis collaboration that's completely knocked me out and I've been woozie for a week and sleeping most days. Here's a picture, left, of what the über-bug might (or might not) look like up close and personal.

I like the star on it. Looks like Captain America's shield.

I know I pushed myself way too hard over the past couple of weeks (or should that read years?) with the novel, plus I had a huge story on sake that I was writing at the same time, a swag of techno industry interviews I'd stupidly committed myself to doing, an anime subtitles project, plus some music EP/album stuff... so this is prob'ly just desserts.

Likely my body is saying sod off.

Oh yeah, and I had an odd, rather feverish dream last night that a talking octopus was my pet, it called me "papa", and was otherwise downright cool. I made it a house in my kitchen blender (sans blades, of course!), and I don't think I can eat octopus sushi again for a bit.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Interview up @ The Writer's Quarter

A good old mate of mine in Australia, Jo Vraca, has started up a cool new writers and authors site called The Writer's Quarter and (surprise!) invited me to tag along for the ride with an interview we did last week.

I'm not sure that I qualify as an author quite yet, since TSMG hasn't been published (we're looking at February now), but I thought what the heck, was secretly chuffed, and loved her questions.

You can read all about it if you care to right HERE.