The Steve Aylett

by Bill Ectric

This interview first appeared on
Literary Kicks, May 25, 2006
Photograph of the Kray Twins
(Reggie Kray and Ronnie Kray)
taken in 1966 by photographer
David Bailey.
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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 later works include
Bigot Hall, Slaughtermatic, and his most
recent tour de force,
Lint. Aylett's work has been variously described as
cyberpunk, slipstream, postmodern, bizarro, or,
in the words of Grant
Morrison, “The Matrix choreographed by Samuel Beckett for MTV.”

Steve 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 parod
freely between the sci-fi genre, the Beats, and classic pulp
magazines. We follow a writer named Jeff Lint, who lived in the age when
“dozens of new magazines appeared with titles like
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

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, politicians,
zombies, factory workers, 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. “Organized
religion added Jesus to the food groups,” he tells us, or “Pause any country
and you'll spot subliminal torture in the frame.”

Jacques 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.

I asked the author some questions
and what follows are the questions and
his answers

Bill Ectric: It seems like you establish patterns of phrasing that are
independent of the plot but that the reader can enjoy in and of themselves.

Steve Aylett: Yes, there are several threads of sense going through it at
different depths. I think the mind picks up which bits link in to which other
bits. Some's almost a subliminal sort of thing going on, and then at the
simplest level there's the running gags or repetitions like the “Snail, Sarge”
conversation, which is just so stupid I really like it. And if you don't like all
that there's always the story to fall back on.

Bill: Even though Lint is a parody, you threw in some semi-profound ideas.
Like, commands materializing from thin air where someone's mouth happens
to be. The opposite of cause and effect.

Steve: The parody thing was secondary to the meanings I was putting in
there. I enjoy parody and stupid stuff, but more often than not I'll use it as
a housing for old-time satire, politics and bitter axe-grinding. That thing
about authority was about the fact that authority is actually quite
arbitrary, and doesn't manifest any inherent quality. Traced to its root it's
the result of luck, happenstance, crime and the sustaining of a set-up over
many years as people hold on to power. It has no moral weight that stands
up to a moment's scrutiny, and is enforced by the threat of violence.
Reduced to its constituent atoms authority doesn't really mean anything.
It's all just people.

Bill: When you refer to Karloff Velocet as the “Fall Marshall” is that a
reference to the idea of the “fall of man?”

Steve: As far as I can recall this was mainly from The Fall's album The
Marshall Suite -- and he is marshalling the various falls and collapses in the
circus. His circus is all about entropy.

Bill: Which is better -- for countries to worry continuously about other
countries' ability to build nuclear bombs, or the “stalemate effect” of each
country already having nuclear bombs?

Steve: As long as America has the 'pre-emptive' policy of attacking non-
nuclear countries without provocation, it's probably better that other
countries have nuclear weapons also, as a deterrent to the U.S. (which
doesn't like an even fight) -- but in any case there'll be a nuclear
catastrophe at some point, either through psychotic panic or a technical
error. It's inevitable.

Bill: Did you ever hang out with the Krays?

Steve: No, I never met the Krays, but I knew their lawyer, and Ronnie liked
The Crime Studio.

Bill: Now I'm sort of freaked out because I'm not sure if you are serious. The
Crime Studio was published in 1994, Ronnie was alive until 1996 ... are you

Steve: Yeah. Actually, Ron liked it so much he wrote a story of his own,
which he got to me via a mutual acquaintance. Unfortunately, it was crap. I
think I'd got the book to him because the small publisher that did
Crime Studio
originally wanted a quote from a 'name' of some kind, and I
didn't know anyone in the literary world back then. Unfortunate things
used to happen to people when I sent them books for cover quotes. I sent
the re-print of
The Crime Studio to William Burroughs and he died a week
later; I sent
Bigot Hall to Stephen Fry and he went insane -- temporarily.

Bill: Uncanny! Speaking of insane, did you do the artwork for The Caterer?
It is so classic.

Steve: It all started out as samples from a lot of 1970s comics -- that blond
grinning jock appears throughout those comics. Then I flipped them,
changed colors, changed expressions and body positions etc., blended
them into different backgrounds and with different characters, muted the
colors down again, then added dialogue. Often I was doing so much re-
drawing I was virtually drawing the character from scratch, by the end.

Bill: On some level, Bigot Hall made me think of Kerouac's Doctor Sax, even
though they aren't all that similar on the surface. Did you ever read

Steve: Yes, I've read Doctor Sax. Used to be a big Kerouac fan. Sax was
different from his others, of course, being sort of cinematic and

Bill: You write a lot about other dimensions; did you ever read Flatland by
Edwin Abbott Abbott?

Steve: I have read Flatland, though I still believe he cribbed it from Charles
H. Hinton, author of
The Fourth Dimension (who I mention often in my

Bill: If they made a Lint movie, who should portray Lint as an old man --
Patrick McGoohan or Christopher Lee?

Steve: McGoohan is more grouchy, so I'd go for him.

Bill: I knew it! That would be my pick as well. So, do the English really say
variations of “isn't it” all the time?

Steve: English people say isn't, aint, aren't, innit, wot, and other things.
Above: One of the Accomplice trading
cards created by Aylett