A Letter to the Consulate
For a time my publisher, Joyland, was experimenting with soliciting “literary scouting reports,” in which readers recommended writers for Joyland’s editors to investigate. The project is on indefinite hiatus pending a site upgrade, but I finally finished my report on Polish tech-absurdist Nick Name [above] and I didn’t want to wait to nominate him to the Consulate. My scouting report follows.
If Nick Name did not exist, someone would have to invent him—although I suppose someone already has. Nick Name is the pen name (if this is an appropriate term) of Polish writer—and self-proclaimed tech-absurdist—Piotr Kowalczyk. (He has a completely different pen name he uses in Polish, Nizej Podpisany.)
After many years spent loitering in the narrow alley between literary and DIY fiction, Nick/Piotr/Nizej is the figure whose work and persona sticks with me. His stories are reminiscent of his countryman Stanislaw Lem, exhibiting the same absurdity and sense of cheery darkness. (Do the Polish have a word for this, perhaps?) You can examine them for yourself in Nick’s first collection, Password Incorrect, which is available as a free download from Feedbooks and elsewhere. There you will find an office worker who becomes a part of his chair (“The staff at 0-1 Computer were disappointed, they had expected Cod to fuse with a desk.”) and lab workers who invent a form of hockey played with a deadly virus as the puck. The translation could be better, probably, although even that frequently charms, as when a character concentrates his effort on “viewing sites specializing in kinky naked everything.”
I have a recurring daydream in which I persuade Nick/Piotr/Nizej to let me handle his U.S. rights. (He hardly needs my help. His stories have been downloaded far more times than mine.) In the dream we clean up the translation—just a little—then sell the whole batch to Urban Outfitters, where the born digital crowd downloads it the way us analog types ripped through Mark Leyner in the 90s.