Howling Metal: Cyberpunk, Vietnam and The Shape of Trauma

Dr Tim Napper

Monday, 13 September 2021

For my Donald Horne Fellowship, I produced a science-fiction noir novel titled Howling Metal. The manuscript flowed directly from my PhD – The Dark Century: Noir, Cyberpunk, and Asian Modernity – wherein I explored the noir traditions of four countries: Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, and Vietnam. The new novel is set in the same universe as 36 Streets – the creative product I wrote as part of my PhD. 36 Streets subsequently sold to Titan Books (UK) and will be released in January 2022. Through my creative works, I explore the four key areas of Apocalypse Noir identified by my PhD. First, the veteran as a noir archetype. Second, the shape of trauma: the use of fractured narratives to represent PTSD (Robinette 2007). Third, ghosts and memory: the cultural importance of ghosts in Vietnam; and fourth, the impossibility of return: the alienation and dislocation caused by the traumatic experience (Tran 2019). My experience writing both 36 Streets and Howling Metal also revealed the challenges in communicating trauma, the expectations of an audience, and the necessary limits on how academic study may influence creative practice.

Tim Napper is a former diplomat and aid worker, having lived throughout Southeast Asia for over a decade delivering humanitarian programs. During this period, he received a commendation from the Government of Laos for his work with the poor. Tim Napper completed his PhD (The Dark Century 1946 – 2046: Noir, Cyberpunk, and Asian Modernity) in 2019. On the strength of his doctorate, he was awarded the Donald Horne Creative and Cultural Fellowship in 2020. The creative component of his thesis, a novel (36 Streets) was acquired by Titan Books (UK) and will be published in 2022. Writing as T. R. Napper, he has won multiple awards for his fiction, including the Aurealis twice, for Best Short Story (2016) and Best Novella (2020). His work has been published in respected genre magazines in the US, the UK, Israel, Austria, Australia, Singapore, and Vietnam. His debut short story collection (Neon Leviathan) was released in early 2020. He is represented by UK literary agent John Jarrold. Currently, Tim works as a professional dungeon master, running games for autistic teenagers and young adults for a local charity.