LINT THE MOVIE is screening on Sep 16 at the Idler Academy, London –
The event will also include stand-up from Robin Ince, an Aylett Q&A, Aylett books and Lint paraphernalia for sale.
There will also be a screening at the Nook Cafe in Northampton on Sep 2 –!/event.php?eid=241489719214970
In the US the movie will be screened at BizarroCon 2011 in November – 

Big Announcement: LINT the Movie!

LINT THE MOVIE documents the life and work of cult SF author and philosopher JEFF LINT, creator of some of the strangest and most inventive works of the twentieth century.

It stars Alan Moore, Steve Aylett, Josie Long, Stewart Lee, Robin Ince, D.Harlan Wilson, Jeff Vandermeer, Leila Johnston, Andrew O’Neill, Bill Ectric, Mitzi Szereto, Vessel [David Devant] and others.

  Read more about it – click here

Rocket Man: Thomas Pynchon Again

I thoroughly enjoyed Writers For the 70’s: Thomas Pynchon by Joseph Slade Here are some notes I took while reading, but keep in mind, these notes represent only a small part of what Pynchon’s work is all about. 

One of Pynchon’s preoccupations is that the 20th Century was the age of oil, from which we derive, not only gasoline, but plastics. Sure, the chemistry of plastics started much earlier: Pynchon talks about 19th Century chemist Friedrich August Kekule, who discovered the ring shape of the benzene molecule after dreaming of a snake biting its own tail. Benzene is an important chemical for the production plastics. Pynchon invokes an image of the “benzene serpent” announcing, “The world is a closed thing, cyclical, resonant, eternally returning,” but unfortunately, according to Pynchon, the announcement “is to be delivered into a system whose only aim is to violate the Cycle. Taking and not giving back, demanding that ‘productivity’ and ‘earnings’ keep on increasing with time . . .”

Pynchon seems to be saying that the original “serpent” represented the good and natural circle of life, only to be called “the devil” later by those who would steal and rape the land through Crusades and colonialism.

Plastic and oil are both polymers. The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Polymer Science of tells us “polymers are made up of many many molecules all strung together to form really long chains” that can “bend and twist and get all tangled up.”

There are natural polymers and man-made polymers. Natural polymers include the rubber that comes from rubber trees; silk from moth caterpillars and other insects; cellulose, which comes from the cell wall of plants; and even DNA, the molecule that stores genetic information. Man-made (synthetic) polymers include nylon, polyester, and Teflon.

Pynchon talks about the way motion pictures capture history. Each frame of movie film is like a brief segment of time. When I think of all that black & white battle footage of World War I and WWII we see on the History Channel, or the strangely slient 8mm Kodachrome Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination,  or the silvery transmission of the first moon landing, it does, indeed, seem like history is like a series of movies in my mind. Before plastic, there was nothing flexible enough, yet strong enough, to reel through the sprockets in movie projectors. Movie film was originally made from cellulose nitrate, which was highly flammable. A flame-resistant formula of cellulose triacetate plastic came into use in the 1930s. Since the 1990s, most release prints have used polyester film stock. There may come a time when all movies are digital and film is obsolete.

A character in Pynchon’s novel, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) says,  “We aren’t in the movies,” to which another character replies, “Not yet. Maybe not quite yet . . . someday, when the film is fast enough, the equipment pocket-size and burdenless and selling at people’s prices, the lights and booms no longer necessary, then . . . then . . .”

“Gravity’s Rainbow” is how Pynchon describes the vapor arc of a V2 rocket as it soars across the sky. The rocket becomes almost a religious icon in the book. Pynchon’s talks about, “Manicheans who see two rockets . . . a good rocket to take us to the stars, an evil rocket for the World’s suicide, the two perpetually in struggle,” and says, “The rocket has to be many things . . . it must survive heresies, and heretics there will be: Gnostics who have been taken in a rush of wind and fire to chambers of the rocket throne.” This reminded me of the farcical Cannon Sect in Steve Aylett’s Accomplice series. The Sect’s leader, Fusemaster Rod Jayrod, pontificates on the meaning of the Powderhouse shrine:

“Here resided our holy relic the Wesley Kern gun, until it was plundered from us – one day it will be restored and the culprit found fatally maimed and twitching in a turnip field.” The languid riddler gestured to a baby on stilts, who pulled on a rope – the curtains floated apart to reveal the titanic metal image of the revellers’ cannon-mouthed godhead . . . “Isn’t she a beauty? The slow smoke out of those urns gives it a doomy feel. The Powdermouth belches on the hour, purifying us all . . .” – The Velocity Gospel ( 2002), Steve Aylett

If you were able to film a V2 rocket in flight, and the film was fast enough, in theory, the rocket would never hit its target. This is because of Zeno’s Paradox, which says, if you shoot an arrow at a target, the arrow cannot reach the target without first traveling halfway there. Before it gets halfway there, it must get a quarter of the way there. Before it travels a quarter way there, it must travel one-eighth; before an eighth, one-sixteenth, and this goes on infinitely because, in math, you can always divide a space into a smaller space. Of course, this isn’t a practical real-life scenario for rockets, but Pynchon uses it to make statements about the nature of time and history, and about predestination vs. free will. Predestination says, “The rocket is bound to hits its target; just look at the last frame!” but free will says, “The only reality at this moment is this frame. Maybe the rocket will hit, maybe it won’t.” Maybe someone will edit the film.

Voltaire and Aylett: Two Peas in an Alien Pod

It’s a good thing Steve Aylett writes “little books,” as The Complete Review  calls them. Aylett’s books are so dense with information and ideas, if they were any bigger they would sink like slabs of gold into our gray tributaries. This is one of the reasons I enjoy them. In fact, I deliberately chose gold over lead as the metaphor here, because lead implies sluggishness, and these books are anything but. They move briskly and shine off the page. Rudy Rucker defines cyberpunk as “fast and dense… a lot of information . . . will try to reach a high level of information-theoretic complexity.” Rucker says that the visual representations of “punk” (spiked hair, safety-pinned britches, etc) will gradually fade with fashion, but the essence of punk, and by extension, the essence of cyberpunk, will remain.

It took a few pages to acclimate my senses to the Aylett style, but it’s no different than the transition from, say, J. K. Rowling to Mary Shelley, or from Hunter S. Thompson to Thomas De Quincey. After a few pages you’re fine.

I definitely recommend reading the four Accomplice books in the order they were written. I unwittingly started with Karloff’s Circus and it was like arriving in the middle of the night. It was a wild and memorable visit, but you will appreciate Accomplice more if you read Only An Alligator, The Velocity Gospel, and Dummyland first. Your best bet is to get the Complete Accomplice, four books in one.

I even used the trading cards! You don’t have to, but it’s fun. I laid the cards out beside me while reading and referred to them often until I could see the characters clearly in my mind. For those who don’t normally associate these kinds of illustrations with quality literature, I should point out that some award-winning graphic novels have emerged in recent times to assist in the reproduction and transmission of literary DNA into the universal text of tomorrow.  

Speaking of the future, it has just come to my attention that Voltaire probably wrote the first science fiction story. I became interested in Voltaire when Steve Aylett named him as a major influence. Known mainly as the author of Candide, Voltaire also wrote a philosophical close encounter story called Micromegas. Thanks to The Wondersmith, a.k.a. Blake Linton Wilfong, we can read Micromegas and other selecteions free online here!

Satire, Cyberpunk, and Synesthesia

"This was preferable to Sweeney in a good mood as he had a spiral smile which operated like a Chinese finger trap, inescapable up to your shoulder." - from Book 1 of The Complete Accomplice: Only An Alligator, by Steve Aylett

Preliminary notes on my Steve Aylett thesis. 

I used to called Aylett’s work a combination of cyberpunk, satire, and psychedelia. But “psychedelia” is too limited, too narrow. 

Aylett’s work is characterized by three things: Cyberpunk settings, classic satire, and a visual image orientation. 

I. Cyberpunk

a. Rudy Rucker’s definition of cyberpunk: “Fast and dense. It has a lot of information . . . will try to reach a high level of information-theoretic complexity.”

Rucker says that the visual representations of “punk” (spiked hair, safety-pinned britches, etc) will gradually fade with fashion, but the essence of punk, and by extension, the essence of cyberpunk, will remain.

b. Michael Moorcock says, in his review of  The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry, in the

Cyberpunks were what the likes of Bruce Sterling and William Gibson called themselves when first signaling their break with conventional SF. What identified cyberpunk was a sophisticated interest in current events, a guess that the Pacific Rim might soon become the centre of world politics, a keen curiosity about the possibilities of post-PC international culture and a love of noir detective fiction. Characteristically, cyberpunk revived the noir thriller and might as easily be considered a development of the mystery as of science fiction.  

II. Satire

A. From Well Read Bear:

Roy Christopher: From this angle, your work is very slippery. Actually from every angle. What is it that you are you trying to do?

Steve Aylett: Most of my writing is satire, and most of that satire talks about manipulations, lies, and evasions, mainly in regard to power manipulations. But I go on about other stuff as well . . . I do old-time satire in the Voltaire/Swift tradition. Real satire, by taking people’s arguments (or evasions or justifications) to their logical extremes, snaps people back to the reality of the situation — i.e., that their evasions and justifications are cowardly bullshit. Of course it only works if there’s a scrap of honesty in the reader to begin with, so it doesn’t always work, and the way things are going socially, it’ll work less and less. There’ll be no honesty to appeal to, and no concept of that. There’ll be no admission that there are facts and nobody will even remember the original motive for that evasion — that to deny that there’s such a thing as a fact, means you can do anything to anyone without feeling bad about it. If you tell yourself they didn’t feel what you did to them, they didn’t feel it. To deny you did it means you didn’t do it. Welcome to the swamp.

  III. Visual

a. Synesthesia – (also spelled synæsthesia or synaesthesia, plural synesthesiae or synaesthesiae)—from the Ancient Greek σύν (syn), “together,” and αἴσθησις (aisthēsis), “sensation“—is a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes.

 b. From the Rick Klaw interview on Fantastic Metropolis:

Rick Klaw: Many of your projects feature your own artwork. Are you a frustrated artist who became a writer or are you a writer who dabbles in art? Do you enjoy producing the art that accompanies your writing?

Steve Aylett: I’m a writer but I like drawing, music and stuff like that. In art I like extreme color, as I’m synaesthetic and get really interesting stuff from colors. There are reversed-acidic colors you can get with Photoshop artwork that’s difficult to get by painting unless you’re using metal flake. I did a lot of fun stuff for the LINT project, and I’ve just done a cartoony cover and title page for the US edition of The Inflatable Volunteer (Wildside Press)—though they inevitably chose the less colorful of the cover options I sent them. I get music from color and color from music, so I also do music projects like the music/textures/shrieking bloody vortexes I do with The Wesley Kern Gun, of which there’s a CD coming out soon from Humbug in Norway, who specialise in weird music. I’m also doing a project with Stephen O’Malley of the subsonic guitar band SunnO))). And it’s fun doing mindlessly stupid comedy like Lord Pin too, which is just mumbled stand-up.

Rick Klaw: When did you first use your own art in conjunction with your writing?

Steve Aylett: I remember writing a version of Jason and the Argonauts when I was about five or something, with illustrations of the monsters. But the sailors would always run away when they saw the monsters or the seven skeletons—Jason would shout “Get back to the ship” and they would sail away from the island. They never had a fight. That’s me: lack of appropriate conflict, too much conflict in areas that aren’t meant to be disputed.

c. Alan Moore 

D. Harlan Wilson talks to Aylett about Alan Moore

This is only the beginning.

Bill interviews Steve Aylett

                                                           Peter Lavery, Tanith Lee, Jeff VanderMeer, Richard Calder, Steve Aylett and Becky Ohlsen,  photo by PaulBrazier 

This interview first appeared on Literary Kicks on May 25, 2006 and later on the interview page of my website.

Postmodern novelist Steve Aylett was born in 1967 in the Bromley Borough of London, England. His first book, The Crime Studio, was published in 1994 and his novel Slaughtermatic was nominated for the Phillip K. Dick Award in 1998. Aylett’s other works include Bigot Hall, Lint, and his most recent tour de force, Fain the Sorcerer. Aylett’s style has been variously described as cyberpunk, slipstream, postmodern, bizarro, or, in the words of Grant Morrison: “The Matrix choreographed by Samuel Beckett for MTV.”

 Aylett’s Lint is to literature what Spinal Tap is to heavy metal music: a brilliant send-up of anecdotal, cult-of-personality biographies. The parody swings freely between the sci-fi genre, the Beats, and classic pulp magazines. We follow a comix legend named Jeff Lint, who lived in the age when “dozens of new magazines appeared, with titles like Astounding, Bewildering, Confusing, Baffling…Useless…Appalling, Made-Up … Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Swell Punch-Ups” and editors would order up “an octopus, a spaceman, and a screaming woman” for the cover of a typical issue.

I like to call Aylett’s work a combination of sci-fi, satire, and psychedelia. His sentences are not only sublimely expressive; they are beautiful in and of themselves. It’s like opening a pop-up book to see gemstones and charms strung together on bracelet chains, rising to display the black noir onyx, the blood-red ruby, the diamond center of the mind, the flaming gold-leaf giraffe trinket of surrealism.

Karloff’s Circus lights up the town of Accomplice with an anarchic assortment of demons, clowns, factory workers, zombies, politicians, and giant Steinway spiders. The action seems absurd until one realizes that the real world is no less freakish. Even today, we have people kept alive in hospitals against all laws of nature, connected to machines by tubes. We see self-mutilation in the form of extreme piercing and grotesquely overdone plastic surgery. Our children are sent to war by incompetent politicians. Well, you get the idea. Once we establish that our world is crazy, it makes no difference whether Aylett is using surrealism to parody reality, or if he is writing a straightforward story about paranormal creatures in a parallel universe.

Aylett cites Voltaire as an influence, and the influence shows. “Organised religion added Jesus to the food groups,” he tells us, or “Pause any country and you’ll spot subliminal torture in the frame.”

Jacque Derrida maintained that all words have varying shades of meaning to each reader; therefore, every reader brings a certain amount of the story with them to a book. Maybe that is why I like Steve Aylett’s prose so much — he gives us plenty of raw material to process.

Read Interview