Novelist Steve Aylett was recently described by Michael Moorcock as “the most original voice in the literary scene… become, if you like, his own genre.” I’ve loved his work since SLAUGHTERMATIC back in ’97, and enjoyed seeing him receive The Jack Trevor Story Memorial Prize in 06, the conditions of which are that, in the Jack Trevor Story tradition, “the money shall be spent in a week to a fortnight and the author have nothing to show for it at the end of that time.” He’s been a sort of distant acquaintance to me for years — I think, the last time Grant Morrison tried to get us together, I was in Denmark or something. Nonetheless, we’ve vaguely stayed in touch to the extent that I felt okay about throwing burning stuff at his shack in the woods until he agreed to write to you about whatever was in his head that day. And this is what he’s thinking about:
AYLETT: IMPERVIOUS TO POPULARITY
Lately I’ve been considering the specific elements that brought my career to the miasma of screaming chimps and burning wreckage it is today.
APPEARANCE: These days it’s good for an author to have an attractive visual. For instance, China Mieville looks like Conan the Barbarian emerging annoyed from a beauty salon. I myself, who more than anything resemble a giant hen, have to compensate by being a better writer.
PREDICTING THE FUTURE: Very easy to do, but people think it’s hard and no-one likes a smart-ass.
INOCULATION: Readers tend to quote my stuff to their loved ones while gasping with laughter, so for every rabid fan a minimum of one bitter enemy is created.
KILLING FROM A DISTANCE: I sent a copy of my juvenilia The Crime Studio to William Burroughs – a week later he was dead. I sent a copy of Bigot Hall to Stephen Fry and he went temporarily insane. It really began when I got a copy of The Crime Studio into Broadmoor to get a blurb remark from Ronnie Kray. He didn’t provide a blurb remark but decided he wanted to be a writer, and sent me a story about a young man on the way to be hanged, a tender bloom to be cut down like a flower. Fearing reprisals if I said it was crap, I decided to ignore the entire situation. This worked well for me, as Ron subsequently died. Years later I had forgotten these phenomena and sent a copy of LINT to Kurt Vonnegut, who immediately died.
MISSING THE POINT: When I got a big deal from Orion to write four books I was as happy as a dog in a sidecar, but failed to realise that this was my time to ‘sell out’ and write some sprawling fantasy containing nothing conspicuous. Instead I wrote the four Accomplice books (now collected in one volume as THE COMPLETE ACCOMPLICE), deemed some of the strangest and most unduly interesting books ever written, an inconvenience that ended my commercial career. One editor hinted that he wanted to break every bone in my body, forcing me to point out that the hundreds of tiny cartilaginous ones in my ears would take weeks of precision work, and that by the time he’d finished the second one the first will have healed and he would have to start the whole process again. It would in effect be like painting the Forth Bridge.
CORNERING A MARKET NO-ONE WANTS: People claim to want originality but when confronted with the real thing they’re repelled . Because it’s new there’s no receptor slot in their head to comfortably receive it. But since this is all I write, I’m stuck dealing in a thing deemed poison to all.
SATIRE: There’s a notion that if something is funny it’s not to be taken seriously. Anyone who has suffered a hernia can tell you this isn’t so.
STRANGE CONCERNS: Chefs, mimes, waiters. What do they want? Dogs, what do they mean? Snails, why? Let’s tackle waiters – the restaurant represents a society in which those claiming to serve us are in fact our masters. They are called waiters but it is we who wait. Throughout the experience we are baffled and powerless, but will do anything to avoid admitting it. Waiters can go to hell.
EFFORTLESS INCITEMENT: I cause rage and concern by pointing the way with my elbows when asked for directions, bulging my eyes at arbitrary moments, saying ‘Don’t kiss me, I’ve got a cold’ to men, addressing people as ‘my liege’, replying to the wrong person, inflating my forehead like the throat of a bullfrog, stepping with both legs at once, and carrying out every activity in such a way as to covertly draw attention to my chin. I am despised and pelted with fruit, which I catch in my mouth.
BEING CONCISE: What could be more unfashionable than an epigram? The devil is a black glove we wear to hide our own fingerprints. I blame you.
Steve Aylett is the author of LINT, Slaughtermatic, The Complete Accomplice, Smithereens and Rebel at the End of Time, as well as THE CATERER comic.
- GUEST INFORMANT: Charlie Huston (warrenellis.com)
- GUEST INFORMANT: Rita J King (warrenellis.com)
- GUEST INFORMANT: Steven Shaviro (warrenellis.com)
- GUEST INFORMANT: Jamais Cascio (warrenellis.com)
- The Complete Accomplice, by Steve Aylett – review (guardian.co.uk)