Mike Philbin is the author of “Bukkakeworld” and “Planet Of The Owls”, and the editor of the Chimeraworld anthologies. He was a good sport about all this, as I knew he would be. -Lynn Alexander
LA:You have been doing a lot of interviews, answering questions on everything from your work in the video games industry to vampire fatigue. Is there something people are missing, something you’d like to go off about but it doesn’t seem to come up in the process?
M.P. Is there something You The People are missing? Well, yes. Everything. Fact: You The People are stuck in a consumer loop from which you’re gonna find it very difficult to extricate yourselves in coming years of Obama-enforced austerity. You The People is the name of a novel I’m working on that will show just how asleep the majority of the general public are. It’s not a pitying book nor an admonishing book. It’s a work of genreclectic fiction in the same way that 1984 and Brave New World were works of genreclectic fiction. You The People projects contemporary complacency several microseconds into the future to show what happened to mankind as it languished in its societal slumber. It’s a stark warning to all 6.66 billion corporate persons of this cowed planet.
L.A.It seems like a particular challenge to make surreal horror, to push the boundaries of genre fiction, “genreclectic” fiction- and to also make it uniquely disturbing, distinct for the reader. Do you find yourself having to really work at staying away from some of the gimmicks and traps, do you ever start to fall into those grooves, or even into marketing grooves, then have to shake yourself out of it?
M.P. I think calling it ‘surreal horror’ is a bit of a misnomer. Surreal horror implies a subset of horror. And those who’ve read my interviews over the last decade know I don’t have the greatest admiration for the ‘dull grey horror product’. Genreclectic fiction is something that allows me to steer clear of the horror writer tag (and its legion of negative connotation) and simply write about all the horrors that haunt us when we have down time or when the demands of the world leave us staring into the middle distance with a high-pitched ringing sound in our ears. As far as marketing goes, you realise that ‘the reader is the enemy of creativity’ and kow-towing to his demands is like career suicide? How best to explain this, creative people never work to order, never tailor to audience, never truly ascend to the corporate-sponsored suck-top of bland popularity. Good for them.
L.A. Some of the art you seem to admire seems not to be necessarily or conspicuously twisted, but actually seems hyper-realist. For example, some of what I find unsettling is the way that some of the human figures in some of the artwork you are into are grotesquely natural- not distorted. Death-as we know but seem to forget when we are confronted by a realistic, albeit nasty element- is actually a pretty disgusting affair replete with fluids and strange positions. Can you talk about what draws you into a work, what kinds of qualities you seem to respond to more readily?
Vaginas, and back hair dripping with lamb butter. I mean, what did you want me to say, that art is the only thing that keeps us sane? That there’s a morality beyond our understanding that no law or dictat will ever be able to tame? Art, and creativity in general, is a way for modern man to proclaim the kills he can no longer make in his anodyne society. The ‘writer is a serial killer with a physical off switch’ is a very potent metaphor for the way a work of art should be approached. And it’s not all about gore. It’s mostly about expectations. As Sun Tsu would say, “Have your expectations been shattered with your first contact with the artwork?” If you can answer “Yes” to such a question, you’ve stood before a HYPER-REAL piece of art. That’s why I hate Picasso so much, tedium beyond infantile.
L.A. The song “I Feel Love” …. Orgasmic? Evocative?
M.P. You’re talking about the editorial piece I did about Gucci’s FLORA perfume advert, right? That advert was created by music video director Chris Cunningham. I’ve been a BIG FAN of Chris Cunningham’s work with Aphex Twin (Come to Daddy, Windowlicker, Monkey Drummer, Rubber Johnny) and found he’d also worked with Bjork (All is Full of Love), Leftfield (Afrika Shox), Squarepusher (Come on my Selector) and Portishead (Only You). Chris has done other stand-out commercials for BMW, Sony’s PSP campaign, Nissan, Sony’s Mental Wealth Campaign, Orange… I used music as a central motif in the conversation between a man and his owl-angel inmate in a recent novel called Planet of the Owls.
L.A. Do you have any plans at all of becoming a bon vivant Brit?
M.P. You mean, do I intend to over-indulge with food and booze as the years roll around my waistline? Probably not. I’m a living person, not the product of my warped imagination. My first ever book Red Hedz (1989 Creation Press) dealt with this cliché of the drunken self-absorbed artist confronted by the red-haired girl that haunted his paintings. Being an egotistical drunk like that, where inspiration is found at the bottom of a whiskey bottle, was a bit of literary fun but not a career move. For that you need heroine – ask William S Burroughs.
L.A. Do you have a fixation with apocalyptica?
M.P. Who doesn’t?
L.A. Our angels don’t care. Are we striated, are there rungs on the path to the dust bowl?
M.P. You realise I’m an atheist, agnostic, non-believer in the moral afterlife and creator, right? Sure, I wrote about angels but they were Death Angels, a hierarchy of the blighters brought into existence by the varied and creative manners of human death over the centuries. The Death Angels can’t exist without humans, we are their fathers and mothers, by our deeds we give them life. And what a life. Why should Death Angels care about us, we are nothing to them. And by this I mean we are separated from them by dimensional factors, it’s the ultimate ‘never the twain shall meet’. There’s no reason for them to be even aware of us, we are to them, as they are to us; INVISIBLE. When they abandon this planet, it’s because they’ve got itchy feet, and there’s nothing less faithful than a Death Angel with itchy feet.
L.A. Can a writer make a living without The Corporation? Should they?
M.P. There is no real shame in being a corporate whore – you do what you can within your cultural remit, your allowed budget, your directed moral compass. You can convince yourself that you’re producing, you’re making the thing, the content, the stuff. You don’t know why you’re making that stuff, you don’t have any personal connection with it, you don’t even believe in it, but it’s paying for your gadgets you think you need, it’s helping you up the ladder of success (whatever that is), it’s your immersion in the world of genre knowledge and how to play the game. But such knowledge is a lie, such games fabrication; corporate sponsorship is a choking shackle around the creative urge, tempering, negating – obfuscating the real visceral drive. The corporation is something that strips the MAN from his NAME; only the chattle-like asset value of debt interests the corporation. All this is covered in my anti-corporate slap-in-the-face Bukkakeworld.
L.A. What can you say about your publishers, at Silverthought? Generally good things, probably, but what about their specific support for what YOU do? Their view of emerging, experimental, speculative fiction writers?
M.P. Wow, you sound like you wanna submit a novel to them… Silverthought Press did dabble with the more violent end of the splatter market with their OFFENSE MECHANISM imprint, and that’s why I approached them in the first place. Offense Mechanism – yeah, sounds like my sorta stuff. They liked both books I submitted. But there’s no money in offending the reader, as much fun as it is, and they discontinued the line, brought out my two short novels Bukkakeworld and Planet of the Owls in July of 2008 under their sci-fi banner Silverthought Press. I don’t know what’s happening to horror or contentious fiction let’s call it. I don’t know what’s happening to people – they seem more and more removed from the essential spark of life, it’s like the majority of the population is quite willing to commit suicide before their digital masters. Talent shows prove that anyone will piss on themselves to be shine in the corporate spotlight.
L.A. When did you decide to stop using pseudonyms? Did you have concerns about a presence, a unified identity?
M.P. I’ve played around with a lot of pseudonyms (Michael Paul Peter, Vierland Brecke, Jane Louxis and Hertzan Chimera) and it was the latter ‘keyboard entity’ that finally weened me off this stupid fetish. I was at a writer convention in Birmingham some years ago and this guy comes over to our group, starts chatting. After a while, he glares at my writer nametag and goes, “Wow, Hertzan Chimera,” shakes hand, “I always thought you were an American.” I’m actually a northern lad from near Liverpool in England. And from that moment on, I decided to scrap all arty pretence and simply create as me, write as me, be me; Mike Philbin.
L.A. Can you talk about the next Chimeraworld anthology?
M.P. Well, only a few spaces remain in Chimeraworld 6 THE WORLD AFTER THE COMING REVOLUTION so get your stories in quickly. I’m looking to release Chimeraworld 6 through Chimericana Books at the end of 2009, the perfect Christmas gift for all the family, LOL. In this year’s literary exposition, mankind returns to a life stripped of Capitalism and Mass Media Propaganda. I want Chimeraworld 6 to be a testament to the awakening of mankind, stories about immersion in the galactic melting pot – hard-core experimentation, dimensional travel, body-swapping with alien races, DNA bartering, galactic superheroes, real cultural exchange. Everything is permitted. Nothing is a crime. Surrealism is your mentor. Currently, that’s all I’m accepting submissions for. I’ve no idea yet what Chimeraworld 7’s theme might be.