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Conversation with H.A. Eugene

H.A. scrutinizes his relationship to word generators, horrible customer service jobs, what music he writes, how to find focus as a writer, the value of dream journals, and ways for the average person to fight fascism.

Conversation with H.A. Eugene

H.A. Eugene is a Pushcart-nominated writer of strange stories about food and death. His work has appeared in X-R-A-Y Lit, Short Édition, and Flash Fiction Magazine, among others. Witness him talking to himself on Bluesky and Threads @h_a_eugene.

H.A. is the author of “I'm Only Going to Do This Once” from Radon Issue 6.

Q: Where did the dark inspiration for “I'm Only Going to Do This Once” originate?

I used to work in customer service, and I remember what it was like when people would come in expecting blood from a stone, and inevitably melt down and pitch fits. The question of why people were like this always came up, and the answer was never entirely straightforward. The world is a bad, hard place. People get crushed into weird shapes; pushed to outer boundaries of their characters.

In this way, this story is just the anatomy of a customer service meltdown. But included in the margins is the meltdown's real cause: an image, painted in relief, of a world far more broken than any one individual.

And that's the next element: gig-economy capitalism. Rampant growth, cost of living inflated to cartoonish levels. People work more for less—and in some cases, work multiple jobs for less. And this is normalized. I thought of how there's this layoff culture idea that more must always be gotten from less, and that this is just how work is now. Basically modern life as misery machine.

Q: What forms of music do you write?

What a funny question! Life is long, and I've written . . . things. Mostly abrasive, hostile things, if I’m being honest. But through the years, I’ve always been an electronic producer, whether it’s as singer/songwriter, or purely instrumental. My group Business 80 shares my sense of humor and dark aesthetic—albeit in an instrumental sense. We can be broadly described as dark electronic, yet playful. Our song “My Milkshake Brings All The Boys To The Hague” will be coming out to support the release of MEANS magazine (

For me, I see music and prose writing as co-dependently related. I once became blocked on a novella project a couple years ago and decided to compose and produce an EP that could function as its soundtrack. And—violà!—I now have both projects sitting on my computer, like cars on blocks. (I guess what I'm saying is that this behavior doesn't always offer any more insight than anything else. But it sure is fun!)

Q: What music do you enjoy playing to best get you into a writing mode?

I have had lifelong issues with distraction and focus. My social groups share similar ongoing jokes about me, pertaining to what I assume to be undiagnosed ADHD, but it's been so long, and I am so old that right now, I am pretty much just a writhing Indiana Jones snake pit of my own maladaptive coping mechanisms; something I’m not necessarily happy or sad about. It just is.

I have found that deconstructed industrial noise purges what I refer to as the front part of my brain of all external language, creating what I think of as a virtual white room. This is useful when trying to work in public, where people have the right to have their own conversations, play music, and also jackhammer the sidewalk or whatever. And I am in charge of reining in my own mind.

Merzbow, which sounds like broken electronics plugged in wrong, has been a good tool for this purpose. However, if nobody else is around and there is no need to aggressively isolate, I have found that Tim Hecker, who is decidedly not pure noise and has melodic elements, also works. So do movie soundtracks: Colin Stetson's soundtrack for the movie Hereditary comes to mind, as does Mica Levy's Under the Skin. In the past, I have used Ennio Morricone, but haven't done that in a long time.

Q: Congratulations on your first reprint coming out this year. Do you find yourself putting as much time into submitting reprints as originals or the other way around?

I definitely put more energy into originals, but I do have favorites among my older stories that I try and resurface when I see the right submission call. Some themes are evergreen. In my short story “Rolling”, which was originally published by X-R-A-Y Lit in 2020 and was published again earlier this year by Bulb Culture, that theme is mortality, which is as evergreen as themes go. But I have timely stories that I might try recirculating—"Long Time Listenener" was published in Writers Resist back in 2020, firmly within the Trump administration. And I think it's still unpleasantly relevant.

The other thing—and this is a big topic, so I don't know how much babbling I can do on it—is digital publishing feels to me like streaming media: you do have this distinct feeling that you're fighting a weird ongoing literary SEO battle against the river (or at least you’re motivated to see it that way).

Q: What is your relationship—if any—to word generators that help some authors come up with ideas or names of characters?

I saw an ad once for a product that helps writers. Basically, it adds an element of chance to plotting—I guess the target market here are writers that aren't 'pantsers'? Anyway, it was a card deck. Maybe it was like that card game Brian Eno developed in the seventies to add an element of the random to his creative work; I don't know for sure.

My old friend Hunter used to call me a 'random number generator' (see my 'maladaptive coping mechanisms' for profound lack of focus) so I've personally never felt I had this particular problem of running out of ideas for stories, characters, or names. But some people do. And this seems to be normal and okay. So I suppose these tools are fine.

I do think things like this and word generators are part of a related but different discussion about LLMs. LLM-based media generation is basically like you being project manager to a genie who will GirlTalk-you a “story" remixed from prior publications it “learned” from—mostly without crediting—based on your prompt. In my opinion, this is a different thing than—for instance—using BabyCenter's name generator to crank out lists of popular baby names from the 1980s.

(Full disclosure: I did use an online "New England Town Name Generator" to come up with—well, a New England town name—for a micro fiction piece that will come out some time in the future on Vine Leaves Press 50 Over 50 Give Or Take email newsletter)

Q: From 2014 to 2019 you kept a dream journal on your writing website. What made you stop?

In the past, the dream blog functioned as a way of tracking and appreciating time, as well as a collection of writing prompts. I have written stories from dreams, and will always continue to do so.

For a long time, I stopped having dreams with recallable, sequential events. For the greater part of the Trump administration my dreams were more like feelings or impressions of things. I stopped tracking them in the public facing blog as a result.

Lately, I have returned to having dreams with actual images and things in it. A few nights ago I dreamt that somebody gave my son a physical telegraph cable that went to Tel Aviv, and that this cable would follow him wherever he moved, whether he wanted it to, or not.

I guess I'm going to fire up that dream blog again!

Q: What is the origin of your online and music pseudonym, Autobono?

This is, for the most part, a twenty-year-old joke among friends that I have steadfastly refused to surrender: that Bono had an evil twin named Autobono, who was basically everything U2 wasn't: uncouth, illiberal, and lacking a reliable service interface.

I guess using old, tropey sci-fi multiverse rules, whether or not Autobono is the good twin or the evil twin would depend on what universe he were in. And I don’t think it’s any more possible to tell if one were in the ‘good’ or ‘evil’ universe than it is to determine, with certainly, that one is one’s ‘good’ or ‘evil’ twin. (Like being able to truly smell yourself, that’s not how that works!)

Q: In your opinion, what are some ways an average person can help fight against fascism?

I think a big thing may be recognizing the role individuals play in groups. Tiki-torch bearing mobs of crew-cut white nationalists are made up of individuals, and they all have individual stories. They didn't come out of nowhere.

For me, I try and consider the role I play in my community, and appreciate that role for what it is, not what I imagine it, or wish it to be. I read and learn, but also actively filter and contain garbage—this is very important in the context of modern social media, where everything is "filtering and containing garbage". Some of your friends and family may need help with this.

My belief is that if a person can properly appreciate the role they inhabit in their community, then maybe learning, and performing this intellectually hygienic filtering behavior will take on a heightened level of importance that transcends the personal. It allows them to face the smell of trash but also not be subsumed by the filth. Which is important these days, because we are all so alone, and isolated. And this seems to be how the fight club-slash-online radicalization machine finds so much of its cannon-fodder.

Q: Have you found that residing in Brooklyn assists you in your creative inspiration and pursuits?

Brooklyn is its own weird kind of haunted house. Cartoonishly high rents, stark contrasts between different socio-economic groups and risk factors, everybody swimming through the same channels—it has a lot in common with where I came from, in the California Bay Area of the 90s and 2000s; albeit at a much different scale and texture.

Costs notwithstanding, it has turned into a good place to raise a child, and that is pretty inspirational. I have met some wonderful people here and feel very much at home now.

I also have a wonderful writing community, which really helps to tie the whole thing together.

Q: What writing group has helped you the most with your prose?

Being introverted to a fault, I used to be deeply allergic to workshop environments. But this changed. I now am of the thinking that there is always a stage in a work when it is very important to begin collecting feedback, but you have to know how to receive this feedback and what to do with it. 

Conversely, it is also equally important to learn to give effective feedback. Separate from the lifelong experience of reading, the concept of workshop groups and how to use them has been the single biggest driver in my development as a writer.

Bushwick Writer’s Group has been my main home haunt. On the purely virtual side, there's Pencilhouse, which runs a monthly critique service ( These organizations have different strengths. I have found a nice groove bouncing manuscripts between these two.

Q: What are you currently working on?

My wife jokingly asked me (with some variation) why I don't ever write stories about people I like. This has bothered me for some time, and I have been sitting with it ever since. So I guess you can say this has been an ongoing story prompt that I have yet to fully explore.

Also, for some time now I have been curious what a haunted house would look like in a totalitarian, or fascist universe. How would a haunting be received? What would a possession look like to those people? And from a procedural level, how would that situation be remediated or otherwise resolved? Working through the idea of what a ghost is, based entirely on the living culture that perceives it, is a fun exercise.

I don't think people realize the extent to which they come pre-haunted. Or the extent to which they haunt others.

Actually, let me restate that—I don't realize the extent to which I come pre-haunted. Or the extent to which I haunt myself!

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