Thoughts on Michael Hemmingson

I’ve been reading Michael Hemmingon’s work lately. I corresponded with Hemmingson while I was living in Beijing, a correspondence that stretched into my return to Michigan this last year. He curated a blog about pulp/sleaze paperbacks that was (and is) a real goldmine if you’re into that sort of culture. Our correspondence was minimal (a lengthy message about writing, another about Barry Malzberg, yet another about the sleaze genre). And then, due to his passing two weeks after my last message was sent, nothing.

I did send him a copy of The Mondo Vixen Massacre. I don’t know if he ever read it. I think I initially came across his work through Zack Wentz’s The Garbageman and the Prostitute. Hemmingson wrote a blurb for that book and I really dug his blurb. That blurb set me off down a Hemmingson rabbit hole that I’ve yet to fully traverse. Sadly, as I mentioned above, Hemmingson is no longer with us. He passed away early 2014 at a young age (Rest in Peace). And unexpectedly. But he left those among us with a wealth of incredible work to savor and enjoy. And study.

Hemmingson, in my eyes, was a masterful storyteller. From sleaze to pulp to crime to science-fiction, he knew the terrain and knew how to tell it. He wrote quick and you can feel it. His stories and novellas seem like they were written in haste like he had to get them out before they would disappear into his complex mind. They have urgency, strength. Beyond his literary output, he also wrote a wealth of auto/ethnographic essays, wrote a film (THE WATERMELON), and even hosted a radio show or two (THE ART OF DREAMING). Furthermore, It seemed like he was always on the move–from San Diego to Los Angeles to Tijuana, probably Arcturus, too. But the man had the habit to sit down and write. I imagine that if he had six hours to spare, he’d be able to crank out a novella or a feature-length script or a television pilot. And it’d be damn good. When I asked him about his method, he wrote, “No set method. Whatever is ready to come out of my head to my fingers and screen and paper is whatever comes out. I am usually working on five projects at the same time, be they novels, screenplays, essays…”

Second, like Barry Malzberg (one of his literary heroes), he utilized a variety of pseudonyms to great effect. I’ve counted at least five Hemmingson pseudonyms (mainly of literary erotica), but there’s probably more that I’ll never uncover. If you have a good list of his pseudonyms, please privately drop me an email or a public comment. I like the fact that he penned under fake names. It leaves readers like myself always on the look-out, always thinking that maybe, just maybe I’ll stumble onto more. It’s like a game, a mystery. I should have asked him while I had the time.

Finally, there was great debate that Hemmingson managed two blogs aimed at discrediting certain others and spreading dis-information (FORMER WHITEHAT and THE IDYLWILD GROUP). Both of these blogs have ceased to be updated since Hemmingson’s untimely death, though in a radio interview he denied his direct ties to both blogs. That said, I, too, have my doubts as to his honesty. I think one of his selves wrote them both. I don’t think he’d ever admit to writing them both. I believe his multiple selves were many and, while I’m not sure as to why he’d write blogs that spread dis-information, I suppose I’ll never truly know.

Michael Hemmingson holds a dear place in my creative heart. Was it his ability to crank out so many stories and books? Was it his love of the pseudonym and the traces of himself that he weaved through each? Was it his ability to never shy from the explicit, from what we normally keep hidden? Was it his ability to hone his mind to create so much in so little time? I don’t know, but there’s something truly magical for me in his work that keeps me turning those pages. There’s something in his energy that keeps me hunting for more traces. I’m going to let that energy fester and grow. Here’s to you, Hemmingson.

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