From an online interview on July 9 through 19, 2018.
First off, tell us a little about yourself. How do you see yourself as a writer?
My left brain hemisphere says that my name is Charles Cameron Mitchell; that I was conceived in the ’80s, yet born in the first month the ’90s in a city built on top of an extinct volcano in Mississippi.
My right brain hemisphere wanders off into a visual display of an ’80s and ’90s cultural montage set on a volcano, with blues musicians rising up from the delta to the north, above a sea of the greenest trees.
I’m somewhere in between.
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but a series of dreams and sychronicities I had back in 2014 served as the catalyst for a piece I’ve been working on ever since. With encouragement from Lord Running Clam, I began writing articles for the PKD Otaku zine in 2017, which I intend to keep up.
Lord Running Clam (self-named for a Philip K. Dick character) was pretty much the reason we met, since he was so instrumental in putting together that festival a while back. Would you mind expanding a little on those dreams you had?
Yes, without Lord Running Clam, there wouldn’t have been a Philip K. Dick Festival in 2017 and you and I probably wouldn’t have crossed paths. I met Lord Running Clam in California at the 2016 Philip K. Dick conference. As you probably already know, he is also a writer and, obviously, a big fan of Philip K. Dick.
As for my dreams, I plan to save the best bits for the book, but I can tell you this: I dreamt I climbed to the top of the pyramid El Castillo in Mexico’s Yucatan. This was before I knew that it was an actual place. There, I met a spirit guide and he told me that I would soon learn more about my past lives. I’ve remained vigilant ever since, despite my skepticism. I’ve done a good deal of research into sleep studies, aboriginal Dreamtime, reincarnation, and anamnesis. I make an effort to follow my dreams. This has allowed me to visit that same pyramid while awake.
Well, that sounds pretty mind-blowing. Now I know you’re a longtime fan of Philip K. Dick, so it’s safe to assume you’re interested in the nature of reality and the possibility that, frankly, this is all a dream. What do you do with that line of thinking? How do you separate fantasy from reality?
I often ask myself those same questions. I’ll get back to you when I figure all this out.
Late last year, I bumped my head skateboarding. The next day, my PlayStation console informed me that I’d earned a trophy the night before, in a game that I’m sure I hadn’t played in several months. Cognition is a fragile thing. I’m still picking up the pieces from my mind being blown out. Perhaps we’ll awaken from this dream eventually, but until then, I’ll try to enjoy the ride.
Sounds like a plan. So, where did you first hear of “dreampunk”? What does that term mean to you personally?
I’d heard people call Philip K. Dick’s work cyberpunk, and of Phil’s buddies creating the steampunk literary movement, but dreampunk? That came from you.
Dreampunk allows so many of my interests to fall into the same category. I feel that it’s a much more accurate classification of Philip K. Dick’s work, while being a broad spectrum of anything exploring the nature of reality. Though it is more noticeable, dreampunk doesn’t have to be a dream within a story. It can be a piece of music or visual art. When I hear the term “dreampunk,” I often picture a punk clawing at the fabric of time and space, as if it were a vale they were trying to get past. Just like reality, dreampunk is subjective.
Well, I didn’t invent the term, but as soon as I heard it, it clicked for me. Pretty much all my favorite stuff since I was a kid fits to some degree. In the context of “dreampunk,” how would you define a “dream”? Would a mystic vision count? A psychedelic trip? A system of delusions? How about an immersive computer simulation?
It all counts. Even floating in a sensory deprivation tank is a dreampunk experience.
Dreampunk is when you have to pinch yourself to see if you’re awake. Dreampunk is simultaneously the matrix and a glitch in the matrix. It’s that feeling you get as you become lucid in a dream and notice that the world around you is slightly askew. Dreampunk is a psychonaut wondering if they’re still in their trip. It’s Dorothy’s head spinning from that twister while Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole.
Could you name some specific works that really capture that dreampunk feeling?
There are so many examples of dreampunk out there, so I’ll just name a few of my favorites: As far as literature goes, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Slaughterhouse-Five rocked my world at a young age. Philip K. Dick’s Ubik did the same a few years later. In film, it was The Truman Show, Vanilla Sky, and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind that really got me. Recently, I’ve gotten into the dreampunk television series Westworld. It was you that pointed out that the British comedy series The Mighty Boosh is quite dreampunk. I couldn’t agree more. It’s a refreshing example, considering how serious dreamers can be. The visual artist M. C. Escher had an interesting take on dreampunk.
Interesting you mention M. C. Escher. I used to be really into him as a kid. I’d add in Salvador Dali and Max Ernst too. More colorful, still weird. So how would you like to shape the aesthetic of the genre with your own work?
Good question. I plan to keep dreaming and whatever happens, happens. I’ll just have to work on getting it from my brain to paper. The fluidity of the genre’s aesthetic is one of its most fascinating aspects. I’m certain that dreampunk shapes the dreamer just as much as the dreamer shapes it. I hope my work will serve as a light in a dark place; if it fails to, I promise to keep dreaming.
How can we show our support? Is there anything ready for us to read yet that you’d like to point us to?
The sense of community present in the dreampunk and Philip K. Dick societies serve as plenty of support to keep me going, but more is always welcome. Any feedback, positive or negative, will be used as a stepping stone. I can be reached though my email, which is CharlesCameronMitchell@gmail.com. The Dreampunk forum on Facebook is also a good way to contact me with criticism.
Most of my work is tucked away in a series of barely legible handwritten journals, but anyone that’s interested can check out my articles for the PKD Otaku zine. My work for them is a journalistic approach to some pretty dreampunk concepts. I recommend my article that compares the life and work of Philip K. Dick and David Bowie.
Next Profile: Stephen Coghlan