been a fan of British author Steve Aylett's work for almost
a decade now. I first heard about him in a review of his meta-science
fiction novel, Slaughtermatic, which was published
in America in 1998. A finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award,
Slaughtermatic unifies the milieus of Franz Kafka and
William Gibson in an unprecedented way. Imagine a roid-raging
Joseph K. walking the neon streets of Chiba City with a Tommy
Gun tucked beneath his armpit and you'll get my drift.
then Aylett's library has grown exponentially. He is the author
of over ten novels, scores of short stories, three comics, and
enough apothegms to maintain the (im)morality of a Welsh village.
To varying degrees, his writing is a multigeneric tapestry of
science fiction, horror, fantasy and detective fiction. Most
distinctive is Aylett's use of language. Overflowing with witticisms
and figures of speech, his bombastic, pyrotechnical, carnivalesque
vernacular masterfully reflects the schizophrenia indicative
of the (post)postmodern landscape.
most recent projects include LINT
(2005), a fictional biography of fake pulp science fiction writer
and Isaac Asimov impersonator Jeff Lint, and Fain the Sorcerer
(2006), a genre fantasy novel that breaks all of the rules of
genre fantasy. On deck is And Your Point Is? (2006),
a collection of essays on and reviews of the unspeakably quixotic
Your most recent novel, Fain the Sorcerer, recently
won the Jack Trevor Story Memorial Cup. Tell us about this award
and your book. Is this the first award youve won for your writing?
The award wasn't for Fain or any book specifically.
It goes to a writer with imagination, idiosyncratic humor, and
no money. It was really just Mike Moorcock trying to help me
out a bit. No, I haven't won anything before — nearest
I got was the shortlist for the PKD Award. As for Fain the
Sorcerer, it's basically an accelerated fairytale revolving
around the "three wishes" thing. It's a dense and
fizzy little novella.
Moore frequently plugs your books and wrote the introduction
to Fain. What is your relationship with him? Any chance
that you two might collaborate on a comic?
me up out of the blue a few years ago to say he liked my stuff
and we became friends. We chat on the phone and meet up occasionally.
He's a nice bloke, very funny and genuinely creative. He's positive
in a non-vapid way, through the fact that he's creatively fertile.
I sometimes whine at him and he cheers me up quite effortlessly.
I doubt that we'll ever work on a comic together. At the moment
he's working on a huge novel that'll take a few years.
writing has been called many different things. Postmodern, irreal,
surreal, slipstream, absurd, satirical, Kafkaesque, experimental,
parodic, avant-pop, splatterpunk, and most recently Bizarro.
What do you think of the latter insignia? What is your understanding
of the Bizarro movement — purely a promotional phenomenon,
or something more?
I like the
idea of the Bizarro thing, that it exists. It calls people's
attention to more colorful and interesting writing and that's
a good thing. A label is sometimes an attempt to say "look
at this stuff," and in the case of the Bizarros there's
enough good stuff there for it to be worth looking. It attracts
a share of crappy writing also, but that's true of all categories.
There's also a thing in England called the Off-beats which is
a little label that's interesting.
are the origins of your writing career? Have you always wanted
to be a writer? If you could be anything else, what would it
written stuff. I think I wanted to be a writer since I was eight
or nine. If I was anything else I would have liked to be a marine
biologist, as I like sea animals and snorkeling and so on. Some
of those fish are like aliens and really beautiful.
has the reception of your work differed in England and America?
on which is the more conservative at any one time, England and
America take turns at being either baffled or impressed. During
the conservative/fearful phase people pull up the drawbridge
and put a lot of energy into being puzzled and obtuse, so that's
what happens. At other times, when people are more relaxed and
not acting, they're more interested. Very generally, people
are more generous in the States, partly because a lot of people
live in the middle of the big expanses of repetitive emptiness
that exist over there and they're grateful for something a bit
fertile and different. I hear from kids just saying they really
like it, it's different and non-insulting, and that's really
nice to hear. In England people are a bit more miserly with
that sort of thing because they don't have so much spare energy;
the desperation here is different, having more to do with basic
survival on this tiny crowded island of keening zombies.
comedic, your fiction revels in the dark side of the human condition.
Is this intentional? To what degree do your real life experiences,
idiosyncrasies and/or traumas inform your fiction?
is affected by my finding this world to be a lot more bland
than it has to be, in terms of ideas, so I load my books with
a sort of hyper-concentration of color and interesting or funny
stuff, in the vain hope of redressing the balance. I like constantly
doing the supposedly impossible thing of creating original ideas,
because it just really fazes people — well, it annoys
them actually. It really pisses people off because they don't
know what to do with it. Also I deal a lot with "hypocrisy
too extreme to process," which is basically the modus operandi
of today's societies — so that's the satire side of things.
My general view of the world is that we're in hell. I find it
a hair's breadth away from unbearable, and I'm sure that informs
my books. In any bit of reasoning concerning this world I start
with the basic assumption of a constant and extreme pitch of
of your books are preoccupied with technology on some level
and set in or concerned with science fictional diegeses. What
is it about science fiction that interests you?
really that obsessed with tech but there are a few things about
it. The fact that despite technology advancing and people pretending
to be more advanced, human beings are basically the same as
they were a couple of thousand years ago, and absolutely determined
to learn nothing from history. So the new tools are used with
the same motives as the old tools. Also I look forward to what'll
happen when large parts of the power grid and/or the web go
down for the first time, and so on — things that most
people have come to depend on. Thirdly, certain advances will
never be made because civilization is going to stall before
we get there — people will be less concerned with personality
uploads than just trying to find food and water, and avoiding
their cannibal neighbors. Fourthly, certain speculative technology
is useful for satire, like my "denial-allow" cloaking
system whereby a stream of images are projected portraying whatever
the observer can't accept or doesn't want to think about, so
that that area of his vision becomes a blind spot (and you're
rendered invisible like a beggar). This is also used for propulsion
in some of my books. It's just beautifully sarcastic, that stuff.
is your educational background?
I left school
at about 17, and should have left earlier. I found the education
system to be destructive, non-creative, anti-learning and almost
100% toxic, really. School is something to spend the rest of
your life recovering from.
worry about death?
No, so long
as it's absolutely final. When I hear people describe hell it
just sounds like life, but eternal — which would be quite
a punishment, eternal life. I'd prefer everything to be finished,
without any sequel.
do people seem so stupid today? Because of the desensitization
of subjectivity by media technologies? Or can we attribute twenty-first
century stupidity exclusively to people like George W. Bush?
A lot of
modern stupidity seems to come from people not really caring,
people being comfortable as they are and not really wanting
to know. Why should they learn? As a result they're very easily
led, and so long as they have their comforts they're happy to
be led wherever. Until the gas chamber door slams behind them
they won't really complain or suspect.
you tried your hand at screenwriting?
some screenplays a few years ago but nobody was interested.
Movies have to be very broad and a bit bland to be taken on
— because there's so much money involved, studios will
want a film to appeal to the largest number of people, which
is why films end up very generalized and lacking in personality.
My scripts weren't like that, and didn't stand a chance. I haven't
bothered with the film world for several years.
there any television or film adaptations of your stories, novels
or comics in the works?
a Crime Studio TV series idea floating around in the
States, but I don't know if it'll happen.
to And Your Point Is?, which will be released by Raw
Dog Screaming Press late this year, what other projects can
we expect to see from you in the near future?
a couple of big books that'll take ages to do and aren't worth
talking about yet.
who do you think was Jack the Ripper?
know, and I've never been interested in that stuff. Serial killers
are boring. Why do the same thing repeatedly?