archive - issue 14

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  • /

    By Ruth Barker
    On the QWERTY layout of my computer keyboard, the symbol / appears beside the questioning symbol ?. They are represented together on the same key, and
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  • Apartment / Containers

    By Vincent Bezuidenhout
    These diptychs are the start of a series of images I have been working on regarding the visual landscape we choose to surround ourselves
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  • I returned home after my first year in college to discover my younger sister had turned gorgeous. This was a disappointment, but not an
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  • Butterfly

    By Adriana de Barros
    The pupa, a silk wrap of emotionsIsolated, within breathing, wanting to bethe intense pronoun of selfIt is silly to be one's own pronounShe giggles
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  • Collage

    By Claudio Parentela
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  • Drag and Snap

    By Leigh-Anne Niehaus
    This series is inspired by the childhood game of "snapdragon", which allows for simplistic and delightful decision-making through random selections of colour and number.
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  • Evidence of Life

    By Tamlyn Martin
    Below is an extract from a series of 11 poems created in parallel with visual artworks. 5. Memories laced with visceral realityFlooding herThe gentle
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  • Forward! Slash!

    By Travis Lyle
    You think you're a forward-thinking kinda person, do you? Lemme be the one to break it to you, sunshine – you're as lame as the
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  • Human/Nature

    By Lydia Anne McCarthy
    This series explores moments between nature and human beings that are at once idealistic and unsettling. Each picture is an independent narrative, but placed
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  • Immigrants

    By Stanley Onjezani Kenani
    you want to livenothing leaveto liveyou swimor like fresh sardinesyou are packedin boatsyou leaveto live.  you leavegold in the belly of Africaoil in
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  • In Between

    By Tania van Schalkwyk
    Raised in an Arabian land of heat, fire and temper,sometimes the calm of England clamps downlike damp in a bathroom with no windowand a
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  • Letter to the Editor

    By Elan Gamaker
    Dear Sir/Madam I should like strenuously to object to the subject matter ("/") of your current issue. It must first be mentioned, however, that it
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  • Or: a line drawing

    By Gabeba Baderoon
    Pencil and nothing. Her face turned almost entirely away. Forehead, cheekbone,jaw,the bun low in her neck,shoulderand down,the long linejust enoughthen left alone.
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  • p u n c t u a t i o n

    By Ula Einstein
    Einstein works with a diverse range of media, including drawings and installation with fire, thread, and blades. The series of drawings and installations with
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    By Sean Hampton-Cole
    Keys. John speaking. 'Lo?Good morning. May I speak to Bob Mitchell please?Bob in Bonds?I'm not really sure. I'm trying to...You want extension 125. This
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  • Pretty Babies

    By Peregrine Honig
    With the premise that "/ " presents what is IN and what is OUT, the "Pretty Babies" series explores the fashion industry's well-published and syndicated DOs
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  • River Bank

    By Mario Sughi
    The symbol / is intended initially as a symbol of division. A real or unreal line divides the girl from the water, the girl from
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  • Scissor

    By Charlotte Gait
    There was a time when you and I were connected by iron, acid, vitamin and blood. Where every mouthful I took was with the
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  • Seasaw

    By Sol Kjøk
    Here, the motif is conceived of as a seesaw (the typo in the title is intended, as this drawing is part of a series
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  • Series Seven Up

    By Noel Fignier
    Text by João Branco Kyron, HipnóticaThe collision is imminent and in the fraction of time left, the eyes shut and the vision is superbly
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  • A battle over samoosas between the snobbish Cinderella and a homeless electrician is mediated by Cinderella's boyfriend JJ. The samoosa battle is conflated with
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  • Wayne Porter, freelance journalist, donned his anthropologist's birthday suit and hit the bowling alley. Bar the bowlers hat tipped gently off centre, the man
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  • The Incised Wound

    By Joanne Hichens
    "Please, for me, Dave," I placed my hand on his, and really, no begging, just asked him nicely, "Lay off the booze tonight." Whether
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  • He had been driving for hours through that unstable, somnambulist night when he fell asleep at the wheel. He awoke with a start and
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  • The space between.

    By Mehita Iqani
    It's a handy little line, the one that we use to make our options known. Either/Or. Paper and ink or binary code? Its clichéd,
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  • Un Hombre Fuerte

    By Tamo Vonarim Written these words are, at times of a subconscious flow – whether they are mine, I don't know. All I know is that I
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  • Unbroken Awareness

    My life is now a floating shellI am a vessel on that river.The storm, the ship, the sea,Whose shores we lost in crossing.  I
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  • Untitled

    By Wilhelm Saayman
    This series of images, made using pen and ink, photographs and Photoshop, explore alternate/dream realities.
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  • Untitled

    By Aryan Kaganof
    /At R550 rand I thought I'd rather die/ My mother: can I trust this woman?/ I thought the Romans were coming, dinkum/ …and always
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Monday, 11 November 2013 10:48

Q&A with Helena S. Paige


A little over a year ago, three friends walked into a restaurant as Sarah Lotz, Nick Paige and Helen Moffett, and walked out as Helena S. Paige, the author of the "Girl" series that is making waves in the literary world. Over lunch, the three successful writers conceived of a series of "choose your own erotic destiny" books which made international literary headlines by scooping up almost two dozen publishing deals within a few weeks of being pitched to an agent. The first title in the series, A Girl Walks into a Bar: Choose Your Own Erotic Destiny, has been available as an e-book since July and has been released as a paperback in South Africa in November by the local publishing house, Jonathan Ball. The next one, A Girl Walks into a Wedding: Your Fantasy, Your Rules will hit the electronic and literal shelves this year.

KMS: It is not difficult to imagine that you have had a lot of fun writing the first two books of the series. Could you share some of your funniest moments of the past few months when you were working on A Girl Walks into a Bar, and its sequel, A Girl Walks into a Wedding?

PAIGE: Some of the conversations we find ourselves having are hilarious. I remember a very long, serious, detailed conversation about whether one could have sex while flying a helicopter. And then there was The Great Cock Ring Debate of 2013. We have to be careful what restaurants we go to, as not all are appropriate for the kinds of conversations we tend to have, mostly while shrieking with laughter.

HELEN: The best thing about this entire adventure is the laughter. When we're editing and collating, we circulate the manuscript and write comments to each other in the margins, some of which are hysterical. (Sarah still hasn't recovered from my description of a hero's "artisanal baked goods", and no, I have no idea what I was smoking that day.) One day we need to publish "The Girl – The Annotated Edition".

KMS: What was the most challenging aspect of writing the books?

PAIGE: Finding new words for vagina, penis, groan, thrust and pant. At one point Helen suggested that after this we write a sex thesaurus. As in sex, so in writing sex, variety is the spice of life. We tried very hard to keep things original and not use cheesy terms like lady garden, or throbbing manhood. And we banned all lip-biting, by way of homage to Fifty Shades.

SARAH: I find writing sex scenes extraordinarily difficult, and I'm not sure it's a skill that can be learned. Thankfully, Paige and Helen write all the sex in the books, and do so without the cringe factor that can make reading sex either uncomfortable or unintentionally hilarious. Maybe one day I'll have learned enough from my co-writers to take the plunge – I'll probably have to be drunk though.

KMS: Sex sells, always, but there seems to be a renewed, more intense interest in erotic fiction since the publication of EL James's Fifty Shades of Grey. Why do you think is this the case?

PAIGE: It might be a matter of main-stream acceptability. A friend was on the tube in London last month and there was a lady in a full burqa reading book two of the Fifty Shades series. The almost inexplicable phenomena of this book (right time, right place, maybe?) has done so much to make this an acceptable subject, whereas before perhaps it was more of a taboo subject in many cultural circles.

HELEN: Maybe it's related to the resurgence of erotica for women at exactly the same time that ebooks have gone mainstream. I think this has created "perfect storm" conditions for circulating and marketing erotica.

KMS: Have you had some surprising fan mail?

Surprising, no. I think when you write a series of choose-your-own-adventure erotic novels, you can't be surprised by some of the feedback you get.

KMS: Is there a topic that would be taboo for you to write about, individually or as Helena S. Paige?

PAIGE: For me it's not the topic you write about that's taboo, more how you write about it. I think any subject can be written about, if it's done sensitively and from the right perspective.

HELEN: Paige is braver than me. As an individual writer, my taboo list is quite substantial: I could not write scenes in which animals or children got hurt or killed, for instance. And although I write about sexual violence as an academic in a non-fiction context, I could never create fictional scenes involving that kind of violence, or even the threat of it. But then I am a famous wimp. Fortunately, erotica is all about pleasure, so (perhaps, ironically) for me as part of HSP, the writing we do is the opposite of taboo. It's all feel-good stuff – ahem, literally.

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Karina Magdalena Szczurek

Karina is a writer and literary critic based in Cape Town.