Interviewed sometime February-ish by Richard Prekodravac via the magic of telephone. It was early in the UK. Jim hadn't had much sleep. His computer had blown up the night before.I understand that you, Paul Hinder and Andy Lane are big Pertwee fans, is it also true that your novels tend to go for the Big Moral questions, or rather the questioning of established/indoctrinated morality? How does this fascination link into, not only your Doctor Who work but also your other work such as Babylon 5 Clark's Law?
As it appeared in Broadsword issue eleven
I think that's a really cool question actually, let me think about it for a year or so.
I think it all boils down to one very simple philosophy really. I reckon anything you do that is like a book, or a painting, or a film, or any sort of art needs to sort of do a couple of different things. It needs to communicate an emotional state, and I think it needs to thumb it's nose at established authority. I do believe that everything can come under the microscope very legitimately, and the more things that do the more reactions you get to what you write, particularly what you write. Although that's to say that's not just button pushing.
There are some things I personally feel ought to be explored, like um, I didn't realise exactly what rape was all about until I started doing the Cracker novelizations. Then I had to do quite a lot of research about that and came up with some information which I didn't really know before, you know I'm a sort of average bloke, and I guess a lot of average blokes don't know, really don't know what it's like to be raped for example. And I sort of feel that that sort of information needs to come, maybe you don't need to hammer people over the head with it quite so much as we all did in Cracker, but I do think those things ought to be explored.
The Babylon 5 book was also a bit of a hammer to the head really. It grew out of conversation with a friend of mine who explained that he had heard about a particular incident in American political history which I can't remember, he couldn't remember the specific names involved. But you know there was this guy, he was black, he was a killer, he tried to escape and they shot him, and they gave him brain damage, then they gave him loads of surgery and lobotomise him basically, saved his live, changed his personality completely and bloody well executed him, just to prove a point of politics. They were cracking down on crime. And that's a true story. They only regret is I can't find out what the guys name was, apparently it happened defiantly within the last 10 years, probably with in the last 5 years of American political history.
It's pretty intense isn't it. So basically that was the spring board into the Babylon 5 and then a lot of the moralising in Babylon 5 actually came directly from research that I'd done. There are in fact instances where characters that are almost quotes in verbatim forms from characters I'd seen being interviews in various documentaries about execution. There's a lot of quotes in there, you'll never find them, by a guy that used to be an executioner who was being interviewed.
He used to be a prison executive officer and he has killed people, he has pushed the switch and then people died. Quite a lot of the stuff that seems very moralistic in that book is in fact simply the truth, as rerepresented by me, and I almost didn't change one word of it to be honest.
I think that's why the Babylon 5 book particularly touched so many people in such an intense way, I mean its quite a frighting story really. And all the more frighting for being bloody true more or less.
What about your Doctor Who stuff, like Parasite, I understand that Eternity Weeps is pretty depressing?
Eternity Weeps is pretty depressing, it's also pretty funny really, I must admit it's also a bit of a- Eternity Weeps kind of ... well ... basically what happened was last year I had a bit of a weird fucked up year really, my dad died early on in the year.
So as a consequence I had a bit of a strange year, plus which my house was falling apart, didn't have any money, couldn't get any work. And then they gave me two books together, both of which I thought were going to be absolute bollocks.
One of which was a Hollywood novelization called Space Truckers, one of which was Eternity Weeps which I was quite looking forward to doing, and hell I had to rewrite the plot synopsis about 17 squillion times.
It was already an old story by then and by that point it was getting very boring, so I stopped doing that to do Space Truckers. Space Truckers was a really terrible script, and a really bad movie, and I started off feeling really depressed about it but about halfway through it I realised it was an opportunity to be funny. So what I did because it was supposed to be a funny movie, it just isn't funny. So what I did, was I did what I did with the Cracker I threw away the script, started again, made it humorous. That actually was a great deal of fun, by the time I was finished I was lapping it up, it was lovely, it was really good. And then after that, which was so intensely funny, and quite a letting off of steam sort of experience after nine months of a bit of a strange year, I had to get back to do Eternity Weeps, which I really didn't want to do by that point.
So I really had to sort of indulge myself and be funny again, but I had to be more blackly funny. I felt it was trying to be a bit, excuse me for being pretensions, a bit Tarrantino-esque. So I pointed out the humour and I pointed out the drama by making things too funny, stupidly funny and stupidly violent, in the hope it would come out a bit Tarrantino-esque, now whether I hit the mark or not I don't know. I think maybe stabbing people in the eye and killing them with a paint brush is a bit over the top, but there you go. Some times it happens in real life, not very often I'll grant you.
So basically the thought behind Eternity Weeps was I want to do a nasty, nasty story, but I want to make it really funny as well, I want people to laugh while they're crying. It's a bit of an experiment just to see whether I could do it. So far I've got dreadfully mixed responses which has been wonderful, I love getting mixed responses. Craig Hinton, who reviewed it in TV zone basically reviled it as a pile of dino doodoo, with no worth more than a crush insect on the sidewalk. Everybody that has actually written to me about it has actually said that it was brilliant, they read it in a day, it was great, the characterisation was really well handled, the marriage break up between Benny and Jason was really well handled, very easy to identify with. I mean it ought to be I've been through that situation.
So I guess the truth will out over time, I've got about forty letters in my portfolio at the moment saying they love it, but then again there's 20,000 copies being printed, so that's no guarantee of anything.
What was the planning behind Bernice and Jason split up? Was it something you decide or was that something that Rebecca asked you to do?
Well actually I wanted to kill him. I wanted to end that depressingly bleak and savage book with a depressingly bleak and savage killing. I wanted one of the to be responsible for the others death. Probably Benny being responsible for Jason's death, but they wouldn't let me, they need the characters in the future, so they weren't' letting me have that one. However after thinking about it for quite some while prior to this book and also after the fact that Ben's book wasn't delivered on time, I'm not entirely sure of all of that story behind the continuity in the last few books that Virgin are going to do.
But essentially what happened was Rebecca rang me up completely out of the blue one day and said "Do you want to do the divorce story?". And I just leaped up and down and said "Can they divorce each other with knives or pistols at dawn or something?" And she went "Well, [pause], d'no." So basically that's were it went from there, I just snapped up the chance to do a story that had character development in it which none of them very rarely do, which was to say any of them very rarely do. So that sort of thing appeals to me quite a lot because I love driving the characters a bit further than they really ought to go.
Eternity Weeps is the first book in a new line of Doctor Who, without the Doctor Who logo. Is there anything significant in that?
I think that they just forgot to put it on. No actually what it is, I'm not sure how much of a coincidences it is actually because when I sent them the original plot synopsis about a third of it didn't have Doctor Who in it. That was a very conscious decision on my part because at the time I had no idea they were going to do this Benny/Jason stories that they're planing to do.
And I really liked Bernice Summerfield's character, because she's a bit of a drunkard she's a bit of a bloody wino basically. And I just wanted to do this kind of a story that really delved very deeply into her character, so I thought wouldn't it be nice to bring her into center stage and have her take over the chief role in the story. And have the Doctor as sort of emergency backup, and having fucked things up a bit basically along the way.
So that's the way I presented the proposal to them and they bought that idea with a bit of tweaking and basically as I wrote it the Doctor was in it for less and less, and it worked better for him being in it less and less. Because there was less of a deus ex machine and to get them out of problems and in the end when he was in it he did fuck it up, about twice I think, quite badly, even though he managed to resolve the situation in the end, he did do it by completely killing off about a tenth of the worlds population, so that was a bit intense.
This is just me postulating, but after I had sold them the synopsis then they made a decision independently of myself to do a series of book where Benny takes center stage and becomes the main character. They may well have then decided to do this as the first book without a logo on it. However it may just simply be a coincidence, I know that their philosophy has been to date that what they wanted to do was take the Doctor Who logo off the Doctor Who books because what they want to do is lay the idea in the minds of peoples like the book buyers in Smiths, who apparently are extremely stupid, that Doctor Who books don't necessarily have the Doctor Who logos on. That way when they try and sell them as Doctor Who books that don't have Doctor Who in them and there is now logo on them because the BBC have taken back the license, the people at Smiths wont notice. Personally I feel this is rather denigrating to human nature, but there you go, that's their marketing decision and who am I to question it.
Half way through last year we got Happy Endings but you didn't turn up, what happened there?
Can I be honest? I just thought is was a really crap idea, and I hate continuity, and that sounds terribly arrogant doesn't it? And I could think of anything to write because I was not inspired at all by the idea. The only thing I was inspired to do, which I never got to do in the end, was I wanted to do a telegram from Bernice aged about 93 which basically said
"FOR FUCK'S SAKE DON'T DO IT. There are going to be big problems if you marry this boy." and then the telegram breaks off halfway through. And it's delivered by time capsule and I couldn't get to do that so I didn't do anything.
Well I suppose you get your revenge by divorcing them.
Well, that was accidental and there was nothing horrible about it on my part. It was just a sort of gleeful playing around with the characters really. No I mean it [not being in Happy Endings] was partly because I didn't like the idea, partly because, without wishing to sound wanky about it, I am a Doctor Who fan, I love the series, but I love the potential of the series. The thing I hate most about the series is all this fucking absolutely ridiculous and tiny attention to continuity details which absolutely have no baring what-so-ever of anything important that anyone could write about. That all sort of started when JNT started producing the program and that's basically my take on it... and I'll get off my soap box because otherwise you'll get bored. And it will become unprintable.
So nothing personal involved, I mean Paul Cornell is a great writer and he just happens to write stories that I don't find particularly inspiring in certain details. Some of his ideas are great, some of his ideas are really fine. But that's the same with everyone. I mean my best mate Paul Hinder writes fucking cracking books and there are still scenes in them that I think could be done differently or better, but that's just my opinion as a arrogant ol' bastard that thinks he can do better than anyone else. So it's more a fault of me than anyone else.
Okay, if there was one thing Virgin could be congratulated on, was their encouragement of new authors and a great deal of the New Adventure readership are also hoping to become authors. What techniques do you use when writing?
Well, I'd just like to add, and of course it's cheaper. Well I've got this technique, I always write a plot synopsis first and that sort of never comes out to the same length twice, what I generally tend to do is start writing the plot synopsis and then realised I don't know the characters, so then I go back to the front of the document and write the characters and then what I do is I continue writing the plot synopsis when the characters are more firmly in my head until I get stuck again, and then I realise I've got to change a bit of the characters to make the plot work, so then I go and change them and come back and do a bit more plot, then I realise I fucked it up a bit and I've got to make the plot change to fit the characters, so I do that. And then the plot is finished with a conclusion and a climax, and then I look at it about a day later and think, this is half way through, and then I write the rest of the plot. The really big endings, like I did with Parasite and Eternity Weeps, the second half of the book is another story with a bigger conclusion which derives from the first story. And I do that because I feel that most stories I read. I do that because a) I like doing it and I like complex plots and I like sophisticated characters and I like interesting character relationship and developments I also like to see characters changed by the plot, which is what Parasite was about basically, it was also what Blood Heat was all about.
But mainly I do it because I just hate short stories that have been stretched out to novel length and grossly overwritten. When your faced with a job of writing 80000 to 90000 words, that's quite a lot of words really to put "there was this guy, the Doctor, and there was this thing on earth and he saved the earth. the end." You cant do that sort of story it's too big, too many words to put it in. Short of actually doing a book that is entirely composed of descriptions of people and places, you've got to stretch the plot out, doing interesting things, catch peoples interest, play little games with them [the readers], I love that when the writer plays games with you, you think you know things. Subvert all the cliches, that's another thing I like doing, set up a big cliche and then subvert it. There's a scene in Eternity Weeps where Jason gets blasted back through millions of years of time to this alien planet which has been terraforming the earth, and he gets swallowed up by this see monster and he starts talking to it telepathically and he thinks he's talking to the monster for ages and he thinks it's intelligent and then he realises it's just a vehicle for carrying this intestinal flora around, he's actually been talking to the things stomach. It's silly, but it sort of make you think, it takes an established cliche, switches it on it's head and drops it off a tall building. And I really like doing that, when you do that well there's a nice scene of completeness about it. It doesn't work for everybody, I like it, sometimes it doesn't work, sometimes you just end up being daft. But there's always a point behind it I think.
You and Andy were the first to have a two man team writing a book, and several authors in the BBC books are also writing as a two man team. How the hell did you manage it, because it basically looks perfect?
Well, thanks, Andy and I thank you from the hearts of our bottoms, or even the bottoms of our hearts. It's perfect? Well it isn't because they didn't print the cover too well. The insides I can't vouch for. How did we do it? Well many people have asked me this story and in the end I've developed this very slick response, so basically it goes like this.
We wrote a plot synopsis which Virgin accepted, we then wrote alternate chapters and basically I wrote alternate chapters and I wrote them and well and as quickly as I could possible do them, and I really worked hard them, really worked hard on them, then I sent the to Andy and he told me they were crap. So rewrote them and rewrote them and eventually he told me they were good. And then he wrote all these chapters and he worked really hard on them and sent them to me and I told him they were crap. And by god they were. And then he rewrote them and rewrote them and rewrote them, And then no matter how hard I wanted to, and I really wanted to, because I'm a negative bastard really, I couldn't tell him they were crap any more because they weren't, they were really good. Then we sent the whole thing to Peter, he told us the whole thing was crap and we had to do it all again. And eventually through a three way process of umming and ohing and seesawing backwards and forwards we shaped that book up into the thing that it is. It was good actually, that's the silly story.
The serious story is that Andy did most of the hard science, I did most of the symbology, American Indian stuff and history. Andy did a lot of imagery himself, but it's different to mine and you can tell if you read it which bits he wrote and which bits I wrote. I actually think it meshed together pretty well in the end, because we ended up rewriting each others chapters to be more like how we would have done if we had done them which I guess is a good thing to do, but it destroys a bit of the uniqueness of the writers skill, it actually homogenises the chapters to the point where the whole thing looks like it's been consistent and well thought out which of course it wasn't. It was the first book that either of us had ever written, far longer than anyway, and it was written on the fly. I was working on a laptop computer with an LCD screen that was about ninety years old, and I couldn't read it, it was word perfect version 2 or something like this and it was dreadful. We were shipping each other disks, and you know. Andy kept it together in the end because he's a bit of an administrator. Some chapters went better than others, in the end they bought it. We got my mate Lee Brimmicombe-Wood to do some illustration for it which I think are rather swanky. Painted the cover for it myself and had it grossly misrepresented in print. They sent me a proof and I sent it back, this is fucking terrible, there's too much black, there's too much red, I am a printer I know what I'm talking about. Get it done again, as is says in the contract. They didn't bother doing in, that's why the cover stinks.
There you go, that's the story of Lucifer Rising.
[Alden Bates] noted about a couple of months ago that (we were having some fun with the New Adventures), and he suggested that if the Doctor starts getting tortured you're in a Kate Orman novel but if everyone starts getting tortured you're in a Jim Mortimore novel.
[laughs] This is the kind of thing I like to here. Every one and their brothers and sisters gets tortured. Everyone dies. That's my catch phrase at the moment, every one dies even the sheep. Because there is the wonderful bit in, you haven't read it unfortunately so it probably wont mean much to you, but there a whole loads of silly sheep gags all through this book which were leading up to a sheep story that is so disgusting that I eventually couldn't put it in there. Unfortunately it's really gross, I'll tell you what it is but your not allowed to print it because it will cause lots of offence. So all I could do in the end is have someone say, "You mean the sheep saved the Earth". And the Doctor says 'yes' because it' true, he says 'think of it like mad cow disease in reverse', he's infected it with an antiviral agent and all the other people that were with him at the time and the idea is that the antiviral agent infects the people and it gets spread out into the population through the food chain and all sorts of things. But of course the implication is not that the sheep saved the earth, but that a sheep went out, cropped a bit of grass for a while, got chopped up and turned into mutton sandwiches and eaten by the human population and then saved the earth. Only you don't say as much. So poor old sheep, even the sheep die heroically, although it dies heroically off screen as it were.
And I can't possibly tell you the disgusting sheep story.
Going on to violence, your stuff is particularly violent, is that something particular with Doctor Who, or is just something that reflects the current cultural status of violence?
It's just peculiar, I don't know, maybe I'm just a sick twisted bastard that likes writing violent in my nice warm childhood heroes. Maybe I've grown up warped and twisted. I don't know, I had a really cool upbringing, my parents are great, nobody ever abused me, nobody ever didn't anything nasty to me. The only nasty things that ever happened to me happened because of my own blind stupidity and immaturity, so I've got no one to blame but myself, for any warp twistedness of my personality.
However violence in stories has always attacked me because people have such an outcry about it, I hate Mary Whitehouse. What Mary Whitehouse said about Phillip Hinchcliff era of Doctor Who, which is almost my favourite era, just is obscene. Censorship is obscene. And Virgin are brilliant, because they almost never do it, which is kind of dangerous in a way, because people like me can get on their soap box and say, look, look I'm being violent, I can do this, ha haaar.
But there kind of is a point behind it as well, most of the really violent things in Eternity Weeps, all the violence that I write is emotionally driven, because I really firmly believe that violence is rooted to emotion and emotion in human beings is a very complex, sophisticated thing which has little self understanding. I believe that a lot of fiction does not reflect this. I believe that, for example, the current trendy fad of violent movies that Tarrantino makes, like, I don't know, name one, that French one Man Bites Dog, stuff like this. Well there is no real reason for the violence, it's just fucked up people doing fucked up things and kind of that's sort of true in a way. But in a way it quite irresponsible to make a sweeping statement to say that in your film that there is no balance to the fact that violence happens because lots of different things, but basically rooted back to human nature really.
So I mean everything I write I write intensely, because I'm an intense person and I like to experience things intensely. I'm circulating around the point here and kind of thinking out loud a bit but it is not breakfast time here yet and I haven't had my cornflakes and stuff. I'm sort of crunching up this hot water bottle in my hand and being violent to it because it's rubber and it springs back, people should be like hot water bottles and then there'd never be any problems. I like intense emotions, I like intense violence, I like intense responses to situations because my personal feelings is that entertains me, but there you go, I'm not everybody, this is true.
I also like realism, I like realism in science fiction particularly because the more real you make a fantastic thing the easier it is to believe the world is over run by dinosaurs and hibernating Silurians, you put a nuclear sub with a fucked up crew in a world full of dinosaurs and suddenly it's a real play because your providing a balance, there's the fantasy, there's the reality. Now the reality is also a fantasy, it could never happen in real life, put the point is you play it as if is could and suddenly you've got a more complex story. You've got the possibility for all sorts of complex story lines, you slap the potential for alzheimers disease into the Brigadier and suddenly you've got a real guy. As soon as you assume he may or may not have alzheimers you've got a moral soap box to stand on, and one of your character can explain away a bit of moral research, a bit of philosophy. Suddenly you've got a sophisticated story that's touching people in all sorts of different ways. Its not just "Jesus is that Dalek gonna get up them stairs, is it, is it, oh god it, oh it didn't, oh well never mind, we never thought it would anyway, cause it hasn't got feet."
I like trying to be clever, I like pushing myself, I like breaking my own limits and if my audience has to suffer along the way then I'm dreadfully sorry. Writing is a growth process for me, and its also communication, it's also communicating. Its arts and story telling, its personal growth, its getting on a soap box. I don't know, its all those things plus loads more I cant think of at the moment.
Both Lucifer Rising and Parasite are Artefact novels, Ben Aaronovitch in a previous interview remarked that more often than not Artefacts tend to be unknowable, abandoned or on the brink of disaster.
Can I interrupt you for a moment, I believe artefacts should be on the verge of giving birth. They're all cliche, Parasite subverts the big artefact cliche. Now I shall uninterrupted you and you can continue, sorry about that. I had to get that in because I cant remember things quickly this time in the morning.
What do you think Artefact stories are about? Why have you chosen two of your novels to be set on Artefacts. Why the Artefact?
Well basically when I was very young I had a really, really near terminal dose of 2001itisis, you know Arthur C Clark promptly leapt into my blood stream and has been there ever since. He's the only guy that I've ever read, he's the only western writer that I've ever read that could instil a total unblemished sense of wonder in me. Even when his characters die the die serving the sense of wonder in his stories. There's a guy, can't remember the guys name Chandra or Karra or something like that, the guy in Phantom of paradise eventually dies, I think the last thing he sees is a whole bunch of butterflies on top of this mountain me has just build a sky hook on, so he dies, he has a heart attack and dies, nobody gets to him in time, its dreadful, you know, but he dies serving this sense of wonder. Jupiter explodes, gets completely blown to buggery and it all done to serve this sense of wonder and advance the cause of human nature and its terribly optimistic, as my mate Lee Brimmincombe-Wood constantly tells me, its dreadful over optimistic probably but I love it because it touches some bit of resonance in me and that's what any good writing, any good art should do really. If you look at a piece of art or writing and say "that was okay" throw it away and get on with the next on then that piece of art has completely failed on every level.
Which is why I love it when people say "Why the fuck did you do that in your book, you bastard!". I got a letter the other day which basically said "I read the end of the book first because I always read the end first, you bastard." And I just went "oh, good". Sometimes it's negative, sometimes it's positive, provoking the response is the thing, you know, touching someone. And I don't mean pushing buttons to provoke someone, like Jim McGovern does when he writes Cracker. I mean genuine, I feel this, this is me, this is me down there, and I am communicating with you some how on an emotional level while I am writing this story, and it might even be subconscious. It all goes into the multilevel of art, the multilevels of storytelling, which I think makes good storytelling.
Why artefacts? I was abused as a child by good science fiction and I cant get it anymore, so I've got to write it, or I've got to write what I feel is a good imitation of it, you know. I think Kate Orman described Lucifer Rising as our tribute to Larry Niven. Basically Parasite is my tribute to Arthur C Clark really. That's very deliberate. But again I cant resist subverting the cliches which is why the Artefact is as big as half the solar system and the whole point of it is that its giving birth and its an animal, it's got no more intelligence than a flat worm. There is nothing wonderful about it, its just a thing. The only wonderful thing about it is instilled in the minds of the people viewing it, by themselves, and that is in fact human nature, that was an exploration of how we project our emotions and responses and needs and wants on the things that we see. Oddly enough nobody that has ever read the book has ever got that, nobody has ever said "ow, that was a really clever thing you did", so either the people the read Parasite are not typical human beings, therefore they must be aliens or something, or I did it wrong.
That's my philosophy, beyond the fact that its a big flat worm, about as big a 12 or 15 times as big a Jupiter, and its just about to give birth and its egg is a big a planet, and the tiny little monkey culture that is inside it which everybody assumes to be the decayed remnants of the builders, ha ha another cliche subverted there, are in fact nothing more than the blooming DNA banks that carry the genetic code, you know sperm effectively. That whole book is completely made up of wall to wall cliche subversions and observations about human nature and what we do to each every day with out even realising it. And I guess its probably no surprise that people never realise which is why they never worked out what it was about. End of soap box.
You mentioned you like Arthur C Clark, which other authors do you like?
Okay I love Robert Heinlein, he was one of the first two writers I got into as a kid, fascist bastard thou he is, he is a dam fine story teller, don't agree with his politics at all, don't agree with his soldiering at all, however having said that he is a superb writer of adventure stories. Love C S Lewis, love the Narnia stories. Love John Christopher's Tripod stories. More recently I got into Alfred Besters books Tiger Tiger, the Demolished Man, you know stuff like that. Which are beautiful and very deserving of whatever award they won. But I love pulp fiction as well, I love Doctor Who, its my favourite TV show. I really like the old Doc Savage books. Pulp fiction, pulp science-fiction particularly written by really famous people like E T Kubb(sp?), but they use pseudonyms to write pulp fiction.
I love pulp fiction of any description, which is why I love Tarrantino's Pulp Fiction, because he's not pretending it's anything else, and I respect it for that. I love good movies. Certain little bits of Manga I like, because there the only people that do the big ideas, I've watched a little bit of Manga, which is a three hour movie version of a condensed TV series that never got made. Its a war story, its goodies verses badies, its the second world war were the Japanese are human beings they're morally in the wrong against the alien invaders but they've got to kick their arse anyway, so what they do is they take Jupiter and they crush it down into a black hole and they launch it into the center of the galaxy and they destroy the invaders and half the galaxy with it. Obviously a commentary on the atomic bomb, and it's a wonderfully sophisticated piece of story telling even though it's a cartoon, and it was tremendously engaging, the big ideas in it I haven't seen since I was reading Arthur C Clark as a kid.
A sense of wonder is what its all about, or a sense of amusement, a combination of those two and you've got it dead right. Buzz Aldred and John Barton Healy did it with Encounter With Time, Steven King has never done it although he has shit me up very tremendously in a couple of his books. There's a guy called Thor Heyerdahl who wrote about the Easter islands and sailed his little Ra raft around the world a couple of times he's a sort of explorer type character and his books install a sense of wonder because they describe reality in such a wonderful way, his experiences and travelling experiences are really cool, he did a Kon Tiki expedition and he went to Polynesia and places like that. I've been reading a bit of Oliver Sacks who is a bit of a psychologist/psychiatrist, one of the two anyway, and his case studies are very, very interesting, wonderful people like there was a story he wrote called The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat and its all about a guy who had an illness where his brain substituted the word wife for the word hat, but it didn't just substitue the word it substituted the image as well, when he saw his hat he saw his wife, and when he gestured or spoke towards his wife it was his hat. Interesting, quirky little bits of human nature really appeal to me. Ian Banks doesn't, Ian banks is boring. I love the Sweeney, I really love Space 1999, I could go on forever.
I found [psychological disorders] very fascinating while I was researching it for Cracker, but to be honest its intense. I don't think I'd be able to help anyone, I don't really think I'd be able to understand what was going through peoples heads if someone hadn't actually written it down in a book or told me. I could use it, I know how to use things, I know how to use the tool, I could never invent the tool if you know what I mean.
I'm some what of an imitator, but I'm a sort of developmental imitator. If I see an idea that I like but it isn't developed fully I will steal it, absolutely shamelessly, but I will make it 20 times better than it was. Well in my opinion anyway. I stand to be corrected on that, I may be wrong, which is I guess what doing art is all about really.
But I like originality and I try to employ it whenever I can, and whenever I can't I try and disguise it.
Your novels are probably the most hard SF in the series but they also go for the Big Moral Questions, such as in Parasite we look at various aspects of Life, also at religion. Do you think that hard sci-fi and morality go hand in hand? What do you start with? A moral question and then a plot or situation such as the artefact., or do you start with the plot/setting and tailor a theme around it, which invariably turns out to be a Big Moral question as fandom seems to label them.
That's a good question, a really good question. It implies I have a lot of control over my work, in fact I have no control over my work. I write completely from the balls really, Andy on the other hand plans everything out the on the nth degree, I don't, I can't, it never stays the same, something always changes, something always goes wrong. I'm not skillful enough to stick to a plot synopsis, I always get better ideas, or let the ideas develop over the three or four months it takes me to write a book.
Somebody once actually wrote a letter to Dreamwatch or to one of the Doctor Who magazines in which he said "my god, Parasite, just this, what the fuck is going on, all it is is a huge commentary on abortion, what's going on, this isn't Doctor Who" I read that letter and leapt up and down with glee, because obviously that thought was no where near my mind from the day I conceived it to the day it was published. There was nothing to do with abortion in that story and I read that letter and I thought "oh my god, there was my subconscious working, maybe there is something that could be interpreted as a commentary on abortion in that book". So there's that person projecting they're experience and needs onto my book. I absolutely guarantee there was no deliberate commentary on abortion in that. All it was a genre subversion, subvert the cliches, you know, its not a big artefact that's clever, its a big artefact that dumb and its giving birth. And maybe what was in there was the commentary, which was absolutely subconscious on my part, but if it wasn't I'm totally unaware of it. I've read the book several times since and I suppose I can see where someone would think its about abortion, but as far as I'm concerned there's fuck all about abortion in there.
To have somebody say that about something I've written is actually rather wonderful because it means that a) your subconscious actually works a lot better than conscious, which is great because it mean you never have to think about anything again b) it means your a bit lucky, which is nice when you do art. I think there's a lot of subconscious equals luck really and also it means that I've managed to do something with a few layers in, make it a bit cleaver that the average ho-hum every day science-fiction novel. And that for me is the root of why I do it. I just don't see it done very often. If there were two or three writers out there that were writing what I like, I wouldn't be writing basically because someone else would be doing it and what would be the point. I'd have to try and do something else, I'd probably end up writing romance or something.
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