The following is a transcription of an interview with Ian McDonald (IM) held at ConFuse 92. The transcription was done by Sven L Eriksson and Tommy Persson. To make the text more readable it was edited by Tommy Persson in some respects. Hopefully not to many errors were introduced in the editing process. The interviewers are Carina Björklind (CB) and Calle Dybedahl (CD). Voices from the audience are among others Anders Holmström (AH), Johan Anglemark (JA), Gunilla Jonsson (GJ) and Britt-Louise Viklund (BLV). <> means that what was said was unintelligible.
Would you like to say something about yourself to begin with?
Audience: A brief statement!
IM: A brief statement?
Audience (AH): Who are you?
IM: Can't you read? What are you doing here if you can't read?
IM: Hi, I'm Ian McDonald. It's very nice to be here. It's very kind
inviting me to be your guest of honor. If I sound a little incoherent, it's because I was up to three o'clock this morning. I was at a rave at an art college. Jet lag and ecstasy, no. Thanks to you all for inviting me over. If there is anyone to blame, blame Brian Stableford. I was his idea. It's good to be here.
CB: You are a full time writer?
CB: What did you do before you became a full time writer?
IM: I went to university to study psychology. And
I must have had some kind of little psychological breakdown myself because
I just stopped going. I just withdrew and
stayed at home and hid in my room and never completed the course and was unemployed for a couple of years. During
that time I had strange little jobs. One of which was marking exam papers in mathematics. Another one of which was working in a missionary society. Another job was escorting a Ugandan girls choir on a tour of Ireland. But during this time I
writing. I sold my first story in 1982 to the very short lived
Belfast based magazine Extro. And then, while I should have been doing things at the missionary society, I was sitting there typing out science fiction stories and sending them to Asimov's, and collecting all these rejection slips. But, I eventually went official as a full time writer in 1987 when I got married, for tax reasons basically.
CB: Your wife can support you?
IM: No, I support her!
Audience (JA): Did you start writing full time for tax reasons or did you get married for tax reasons?
IM: Both really.
What you can do on the British tax law is you can pay your wife a certain sum of money. Basically she has a job that does nothing just like proof reading and tea making. She doesn't do anything. I don't pay her any money but officially I pay her two or three thousand pounds a year which I can set off as <> tax. That's a quick guide to British tax law.
CB: So, it was more or less an, well accident is the wrong word maybe, that started you in writing?
IM: Yes, I got into it because I was just totally unemployable in
anything else. And still I am. There comes a certain time in writing
when you have committed yourself, there is no going back
. You will make your living by pen and papers, because there is nothing else you can do
. You can't go back to a dirty job because you aren't qualified
. I think it was about this time, about 1987, that I
made that covenant, this is what I am gonna do, I'm going to have to stick at it, and not do anything else, and my God I better do it right.
CB: What kind of, which authors have you ...
IM: Okay, okay, I'm out of here.
CB: Well, inspired you?
IM: When is the next flight?
CB: Lets say inspired you.
Audience (AH): Sampled?
IM: Yes, yeah, yeah, I agree with that, yeah, I like that, yeah! I can remember when I was very young, books having a great effect on me. I don't know if you get them over here. There is a British fantasy author called Alan Garner.
IM: The Weird-stone of Brisingamen, what a brilliant book,
wasn't it, really wasn't it? I remember, I read that when I was about
seven or eight and it scared the piss out of me. It was a terrific
book. Also, Tove Jansson's Mumin troll books. Fairly strange books,
very wonderful. I lost them all, and then I was in a bookshop about
six months ago, and I saw a Mumin troll book. I thought, I loved that
book when I was a kid so I bought it and reread it and all the magic
came back again. I think
what got me on to science fiction was that there was a friend of mine, who lent me all E.E. Doc Smith's Lensman books. Come on, you have all read them, haven't you? And the Skylark ones as well. And I can remember when I was about fourteen, or a bit earlier, about puberty, reading Harlan Ellison, which isn't good for anyone at puberty. Ursula LeGuin's The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, they blew me away, I was about 15, being as the saying goes totally gob-smacked by it. Also later Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, well actually first of all The Fifth Head of Cerberus. Has anyone read that? Is that still available in print?
Audience (AH): Yes it is still available.
IM: That really is a killer book, The Fifth Head of Cerberus. If
in print you should read it. It's among his best stuff. I remember I read that when I was about eighteen or so and I was very, very influenced by that. Nowadays I don't read much science fiction. I tend to read new authors. Paul McCauley I read, Simon Ings who you may not have heard of but he's going to be enormous. There is a brilliant book out called Hothead. You can get it at Copenhagen airport.
Audience (AH): You can get it in the next room!
IM: Can you? Right, it's very good! But most of the science fiction I don't read because either it's very bad and I feel ashamed or it's too good and I'm jealous.
CD: For how long have you been writing? Did you start at the same time you started reading, or was it later?
IM: Yes, I mean, any writer who says they don't do this is lying. I can
basically rip-offs of Star Trek when I was about nine or ten. When I was about fourteen
sex came into it and things like that. And it
went on and on. When I became unemployed, when I was about twenty, twenty-one, I wrote a novel and I sent it off to Victor Gollancz and they sent it back again because it was the most awful thing you ever read. I still have it. On days when I'm very, very depressed I go and look at it and feel much better. I can do better than this. My first story, as I said, was in Extro magazine in 1982. I got 60 pounds for it and I bought a twelve string guitar. What did you do with your first paycheck?
CB: The problems in Northern Ireland are present in your books, especially in the two last ones, King of Morning, Queen of Day and Hearts, Hands and Voices. In Sweden we see Belfast as a ruin were there is war all the time. And we see this on TV, British soldiers (IM: yes, the brats). That is all we see of Belfast.
IM: That's basically television for you.
It only shows what they consider newsworthy and what's newsworthy is usually what's violent and unacceptable. Hands up anyone who have been to Belfast? Right! Okay, how did you find it? Did you like it? Was it ruins?
Audience (JA): It's a perfectly normal city (IM: it is). The policemen do have bullet proof vests. And the police cars tend to be armoured vans. But apart from that <laughs>. It is a perfectly intact city and there is no violence to see.
IM: What do you think of it?
Audience (JA): Mostly I liked it and I like the beer. The beer is cheap.
IM: Do policemen carry guns here?
IM: Right, so what's the problem? Okay, the guns are bigger. They carry automatic weapons, but it's just a question of degree. They never use them. What was the question?
CB: The Irish problems (JA: The troubles, IM: The troubles),
in King of Morning ..., you obviously choose to write about it.
how much do we read in to Hearts, Hands and Voices? How much is it exactly what you think about IRA and all this?
IM: Hearts Hands and Voices actually started off as a novella,
which was a lot more in Northern Ireland day. As I was writing it, it
started off basically, it wasn't really about Northern Ireland, it was
more about Ireland itself in the 1920s, at the time of partition,
which ties into King of Morning, Queen of Day. All this
republican bit were, I have forgotten the name, oh yes, oh the girl of
the second part, I've forgotten her name. I wrote the darn thing
and I can't even remember the character's name.
She runs off with the IRA man, who later
appears to be
a mythical figure,
in Ireland, for both parties, the nationalists and the royalists,
history has become mythologised. What really happened doesn't matter. What people believe happened matters. I am a protestant, in inverted commas myself, so I know more of the protestant point of view. And there is some very strong mythological forces there. The battle of the Somb in 1916, is a very, very powerful mythological figure in protestant Northern Ireland thought, where fifty thousand volunteers from the Ulster brigade, almost all of them protestant, went over the top and were wiped out, in an hour.
And that is, in the Northern Ireland protestant mind, seen as the great sacrifice of loyalty. They were loyal to their country, they volunteered, they weren't conscripted to the army, they volunteered and they died for their country. And that has become a very potent symbol, which is why Armistice Day in Belfast has become a very, very powerful thing. A famous but ludicrous incident happened four years ago
involving the Lord Mayor of Belfast, a chap called Sammy Wilson.
On the 11th of November every year, they go to
lay a wreath in memory of first world war victims. And usually it's the Lord Mayor who lays the wreath. And he had a pair of fluorescent yellow towelling socks on. And it caused an uproar, an absolute uproar. It was seen as being disrespectful to the memory of the dead because he had fluorescent yellow socks on. And that's how powerful the mythology is ingrained.
It's not rational, it's not sensible. Of course it's not, it's beliefs, and faith, it's mythology.
From the nationalists point of view, 1916, the martyrs, whatever you want to call them, they used to arise in the mythology as well. It wasn't a grand and glorious uprising. In 1920 at the start of what they call the war of the independence in the republic, IRA units were sent out to every British officer in Dublin
they could find
. And they knocked on the doors and they walked in and shot them in their beds or where ever they found them.
It was nothing particularly great or glorious about that, but it's seen as being this great and glorious struggle for independence. It has become mythologised. And that was what I was trying to bring out. It is a very longwinded answer to the question. It's what I was trying to bring out, particularly in King of Morning, Queen of Day, that it's not the real thing, it's not real history, it's the mythology of history, it's what's important to people. And in Hearts, Hands and Voices, what I was trying to do was to open it up into the wider context. I started off writing about Ireland and Northern Ireland and then I saw that it was exactly the same thing between UN and Iraq, the Kurds and Iraqies, it's exactly the same thing in Sri Lanka between Tamils and Sinhalese. It's everywhere. It's the great disease of the end of the twentieth century, ethnic
conflicts. So I was trying to say: Yes, I'm writing from the Irish point of view but I'm trying to open it up to show that it happens everywhere.
CD: The troubles in Northern Ireland, are they very visible in everyday life? Do you notice it?
No, you don't. I've never been shot at. I've never been caught by a bomb. You hear bombs go off occasionally. It's like thunder, you can tell how far away they are from how long the sound is. If it is a distant thump it must be a small one about four or five miles away. You get used to it. You get used to anything. It's part of life. The violence is fairly well contained. Having said that, there was a while that got pretty scary. It's a very small element of each basic group that's actually carrying it out, I would say in total there are no more than three or four hundred people basically holding the whole country to ransom, on both sides. There was the taxi drivers war.
I touched on this in Hearts, Hands and Voices about taxi drivers being legitimate targets. There are, as in everything else, protestant taxi companies and there are catholic taxi companies. And what the people would do was that they would phone up for a protestant taxi driver to go to a catholic area and shoot him. And the protestants would then say: ''We can't have this.'' So they would phone up a catholic taxi driver, lure him to their area and shoot him. Back and forth, back and forth, shooting taxi drivers. God knows why. And each time they would say: ''Well, it's obvious he was a member of the IRA'' or ''he was a member of the UVF.'' Then a really scary thing happened. It probably hit the news here.
It was a betting shop where a person
walked in, and just opened up with machine guns. And after that it got pretty scary, because anyone could then be a target. Then the whole thing simmered down again and just tit for tat stuff.
We are talking about two totally different mind sets. Everyone tend to think it is protestants versus catholics or proths versus tigs, if you pardon my accent. It's not really.
I am talking the most grossest generalisations here, I don't believe this myself, most people don't believe it.
Protestants believe that catholics are their enemies. But the catholics don't believe the protestants are their enemies, their enemies are Britain, England predominantly and the forces of the crown. So it is a kind of a three sided thing in that the IRA aren't attacking protestants but are attacking ...
Where was I. Oh yes, protestants attacking catholics. It always comes down to this eventually. The IRA are shooting policemen, shooting soldiers, blowing up what they see as legitimate targets. Now, by there reasoning bread mean, bakers who bake bread and carpenters are legitimate targets because if you are supplying the police or you supply the army, or building an army base you are a legitimate target. But to the protestant extremist point of view all catholics are legitimate targets. It is bastard thinking
and it works like this. If you read Focaults Pendulum by Umberto Ecco it is what he calls moronic thinking.
The IRA are catholics, catholics are nationalists, therefore all catholics are in the IRA, that's the conclusion. Therefore, because all catholics are in the IRA all catholics are legitimate targets. That's how it works and that's how it goes. It is not a straight
one side versus the other it's more a triangle of forces. It's very strange. It's fucking ridiculous if you pardon me.
Desolation Road, Out on Blue Six and Hearts, Hands and Voices are they in some way set in the same universe?
IM: No, next question. It's something lots of, well I cannot say
lots, I have not met lots of other writers but other writers I meet
seems keen on doing universes
and I am not!
Desolation Road is a one off, a free-standing thing. So is Out on Blue Six which by the way I hate. I wish I hadn't written the damn thing. Hearts, Hands and Voices is a totally free-standing, independent, thing as well. They are all different. The only universe I have is in here (pointing at head), you know, this kind of warped mind of things
. I don't know why people want to have universes. (Audience: <>) Well, yeah, we need them. From a fictional point of view I suppose in a sense
a writer likes to be in control. It is really a control thing,
the writer is controlling the reader
and they want to have some kind of great master plan that covers the whole thing, the ultimate key to it all.
CB: But that can't be the whole answer since they allow other writers to write in their universes.
IM: Only if they pay an awful lot of money.
Audience (AH): That's the key.
CD: I have a question which is in some way related.
How much do you develop and research the backgrounds of your books? As in Desolation Road have you ...
IM: Been to Mars?
CD: Have you thought about how this company Rotec created the world? Have you developed the history of the planet?
IM: Yes, actually it started originally with an article in Omni
for about 12 years ago on terraforming the planets where they
you bombard Mars with
comets. You warp the orbits in decreasing orbits. By transferring momentum it is supposed to speed the rotation up or something like that but also it increases the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere.
It was something Carl Sagan did about planting black tulips on the polar caps of Mars. I mean this is from a man who floats around the universe in a big ball of <>
. Black tulips on Mars, these cute little robots go around planting black tulips on the polar caps to soak up heat and basically start getting the green house effect going. The big problem on Mars was lack of a magnetic field. There was no way I could see you could start up a field so in Desolation Road it had to be done with orbiting super conducting satellites and an awful lot of them. Desolation Road
doesn't really make that much scientific sense, it makes enough sense to
be believable, just about. Does that answer that the question? No, it doesn't (in a funny voice).
CD: You didn't touch the research. In King of Morning, Queen of Day I thought that how you described the Kenjutsu the last girl uses was -- well I have studied the Kendo and I recognized, I think, all of it. And it ...
IM: Was it right?
CD: Well I thought so, as far as I knew.
IM: I actually wanted to do something about that so I bought me
Misashi's The Book of Five Rings which is the classic, basically it's
what gives Japanese industry the edge.
We are reading The One Minute Manager or things like that, they are reading Misashi. This guy was the master samurai swordsman, he was never ever defeated because he didn't fight with the swords if he could possibly avoid it. He would hit people with oars and boats and things like that. He won because he attacked in an unexpected manner. All Japanese executives read this and which is how they have the edge on European and American industry. So I read that and I discovered in a London bookshop
a guide to Kendo and believe it or not in Belfast there actually is a martial arts centre and I phoned up the chap who runs it.
He calls himself sensei Beetles and I
invited him out for a drink and he
basically checked it all out.
He was very good and I should have actually thanked him in the book.
I am glad I convinced you. Do you use bamboo swords or the proper steel swords?
CD: When hitting each other you use bamboo swords. <>
IM: I'm impressed.
IM: He's got his hand up.
Audience (AH): You seem to be very much impressed by Clive Barker.
IM: I have never read anything by Clive Barker.
Audience (AH): You have seen his movies or what?
IM: Never seen anything.
Audience (AH): Because there are especially in King of Morning, Queen of Day constant references to Barker and Barker's movies.
IM: Are there ... there are? Have you been reading the right book? You've got me there. I have never read anything by Clive Barker. I don't actually like horror very much and Clive Barker especially.
Audience (AH): Mainly in the last part you have this modern horror,
you must have been a close personal friend to him or something like
that. Clive Barker is considered to be
master mind of the present mythoconsciousness.
IM: In a word, NO! I have never read anything by Clive Barker. I am aware of him. Did he do those Hellraiser thing, I have seen the video of course but I have never actually seen or read anything by Clive Barker. Du du du du ...
Your main characters are very often women and I must say I am impressed because they are very believable.
Usually there is some tough guy who is the main character, and females they are just there to make the hero look good, but yours are very believable, they have depth and courage and (IM: politically correct, is this a personal thing or, go on, sorry)
it must be on purpose I guess.
I think in all your books you have at least one main character that is a female
and it is unusual with these strong female characters.
IM: I like women. <laughs> Not like that, your dirty minded mob. I
like women. I enjoy their company. I think in many ways they are more
interesting than men. <applause> That's the feminist spokesman.
She is not here for me to say so but it comes from being married, basically, in that being married you are in this very close relationship with a woman and you get to know and understand what a woman is like. And they are a lot more interesting.
Audience: But shouldn't that be true of Asimov and Heinlein?
CB: A lot of writers
obviously haven't reached that understanding even though they are probably married.
CD: Perhaps they weren't psychologists.
IM: I'm only half a psychologist. I think it was Samuel Delany
talked about people being divided in heterophilic and homophilic. Nothing to do with sex.
They like to make friends amongst there own sex or amongst different sex and I like having women as friends. I am very fortunate to have women as friends. My wife doesn't always agree with this.
I think it's a good question and I was hoping you wouldn't ask that question. I thought someone is going to ask about the female characters ...
CD: We have heard some nasty theories that who is really writing your books is your wife.
IM: Well actually ...
Audience: Is it intentionally? Do you try be PC?
CB: You are trying to be politically correct?
IM: No, yes it is a certain amount of that.
I try to be very conscientious about that.
I try to think, am I writing about women from a man's point of view?
You are getting into very complicated stuff here about the way women write about women and the way men write about women. Is the way men write about women the way women would want to be written about by men?
I have read King of Morning, Queen of Day, and
something is puzzling me because the book was pretty good, politically correct, most of it, but (IM: Oh, oh). This interlude after the second part of the book (IM: Yep, where she looses her virginity), yes, right, and I got the impression that now she looses her virginity and now everything is all right.
IM: Well isn't it?
CB: I rather recognised this
as the prince on the white horse dream.
IM: That was actually a nod towards James Joyce, getting very arty
here. It's like at the end of Ulysses Molly Bloom has the sex
soliloquy. That's the same thing, it's just one chunk of
writing. The proof reader actually put full stops in and I had
to take them all out again.
It ties in with the book in the fact that sex and mythoconsciousness are linked in a sense. The way that, if you believe in it,
supposedly poltergeist and puberty are linked.
That's, when Jessica
lost her virginity she could actually give up her mythoconscious power to a certain extent.
That's probably not very politically correct at all but ...
Audience (AH): It's true!
IM: Speak for yourself.
Audience (JA): About
your portraits of the females. Are you taking your own view entirely or are you taking your wife's opinion? (IM: I always take my wife's opinion.) Do you write and leave it more or less as you have written it or do you let her read it and give her judgement whether this is credible or not?
IM: She reads most things. The only thing she didn't like because of
a lot of sex in it was the story ''Toward Kilimanjaro''
published a couple of years ago. It is coming out in the forthcoming, plug, plug, the forthcoming short story collection Speaking in Tongues.
The essential character is a female, she is actually a first person female who I identify even more with ... What was the question?
Audience (JA): The question was whether you take your own view of women or do you let your wife read what you write about women and take her opinion or do you trust your own senses?
IM: I trust my own senses. My wife reads the stories but she has never
actually been able to get all the way through one of my books.
King of Morning, Queen of Day was the nearest she got to getting all
the way through. Though the whole question of central character
is a kind of static decision.
At the start, will the character be female or will the character be male? In Hearts, Hands and Voices, Mathembe, the female character was sort of important in that she was in a sense what's historically been the oppressed sex. Because oppression was the central theme of the whole book. She was oppressed because she was a women,
she was oppressed by the ruling imperial forces because she never spoke. All these things where part of it and it also was her coming to terms and breaking free from all this. It wouldn't have worked if it was a man.
It's not really a conscious thing,
I get the idea and I just know what the characters are going to be.
Audience (AH): Why do you hate Out on Blue Six?
Audience (JA): It has some good parts.
IM: That's it. It has some good parts.
Audience (JA): It make you want to read more of Ian McDonald.
Thanks, I by you all of these ....
JA: You are welcome
IM: I hate it because it tries to hard
. Tdklakda. This is from raving to three o'clock in the morning. I have to go back to Desolation Road which
had five pages of notes for it and that was that, the thing wrote itself. For Out on Blue Six I think I made the conscious decision to do something even more bizarre, and it is too forced, it tries to hard, everything is too artificial in it. If I read bits of it it seems all right but the book as a whole it's a bit ...
Audience (JA): It's probably your worst book but (IM: I didn't
say worst) still
in some ways it is one of your most interesting books because it has promise if nothing else.
IM: Anyone else?
Audience (JA): Some parts, some ideas, were so fucking good I didn't believe them.
IM: Actually, whenever I wrote Out on Blue Six, it was a subtitle
to it which got lost.
The whole title was ''Out on Blue Six: A Totalitarian Comedy'' and that would have explained the whole thing I think. It wasn't a serious book. It is supposed to be funny. It's basically a combination of the The Pilgrim's Progress, Terry Gilliam's film Brazil, a brilliant movie, a great film and the Genesis album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Those three all fused together.
Audience (BLV): You love that movie Brazil. In Desolation Road
there are this scene where ...
IM: Yes, I love Brazil. I can remember seeing it in a cinema
once and just being absolutely sort of <PLONK>. How can anyone make a
film this strange. I have it on video and I watch it every couple of
months. I am not ashamed to steal things if they are good. (AH:
samples) Samples, exactly, yes. Sample is the word.
In King of Morning, Queen of Day toward the end Elliot
is talking about remix being the dominant culture of the end of the twentieth century. This I am going to be talking about in my speech on Sunday. That's the way I work. I pick things up and more or less jam them together and
if they work they work, sometimes they didn't.
Yeah, exactly, It's all remix. It's my particular philosophy and as I said I will be talking about this later.
Music is all sampled and remixed.
Movies are all remixes basically from each other,
the sequels are just the originals remixed in a different way. The plots move around remixed. I don't know if it has happened here but certainly in Britain and Northern Ireland furniture was remixed and house interior decor was remixed. All of a suddenly it was remix Victorian, everything had to be Victorian looking. It wasn't originally Victorian. It was how
the 1990s looked back and imagined how Victorian should be.
It's going back to Remixing
is how I work. A bit of this, a bit of that, a bit of that, oh that connects to that, that connects to that, I like this, I am interested in this, just throw this in as well and jam it together.
It's rave time folks.
CD: Do you feel that your books have a message?
Supposed to be a writer you have to be kind of egotistical anyway to think that what I write people would enjoy reading. You have to be kind of big headed to think that.
This is why I am a little worried about Hearts, Hands and Voices. I think it might
spoon in to much morality, have some moral here, shovel, shovel. It's back to the remix thing again. I want to present stuff and people can mix them together and draw their own conclusions out of it. I am
wary of drawing morals. Probably because my moral status is in a state of collapse.
mentioned James Joyce and there
was a story by you in Interzone. I don't remember the exact title (IM: ''The best and the rest of James Joyce <>'' so what is your relationship to James Joyce?
IM: I don't know. Ask my mother.
IM: It's kind of complicated in that in Ireland you are only respected
as a writer if you are a poet. Poets are brilliant, poets can do no
wrong, poets are wankers most of them. I could write better poetry, I
mean they really are bad but they are so respected. And in Ireland
there is this huge literature heritage to which you have to pay
homages. The James Joyce thing is my
being rude to the literature heritage. It's nice for people to write
homages to James Joyce
be respectful and mention him but I am
disrespectful to him.
I like to think if he was alive he'd enjoy being someone being disrespectful to him.
Just in Ireland there are these huge literary icons, these gods,
James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and W. B. Yates. All these people have walk on parts in King of Morning, Queen of Day and walk off again.
Exercise for .... Right folks the finger work out.
IM: I read Ulysses several times and from my point of view he is the master remixer. Each section has a different style. There are all these different influences jammed together in one day in Dublin.
Audience: Why are you mentioning James Joyce as a good author. Do you wish that you were not a science fiction author, that you were a respected normal author?
IM: Yes, I do. Because I get no respect in Northern Ireland because I
am not a poet writing little poems. From my point of view, between
you and me, there are writers in Northern Ireland and they write books
and they get praise heaped on them. And I look at them and think I
could write something twenty times as good as that and they get all
this praise and I get shit and I get jealous.
So now you know what I am. I'm a monster.
Audience: Oh no, you are a perfectly normal artist.
Audience (AH): There was a poem in King of Morning, Queen of Day.
IM: There was, it was supposed to be the kind of poem a fifteen year old would write. I hope it was. This is getting out of control.
CB: Do anyone have any more questions?
Audience: So why don't you become a mainstream author?
Audience: Instead of writing that science fiction crap.
IM: That's exactly the attitude. I think that kind of
attitude makes me write what I write. Science fiction isn't
about big breasted women being rescued (Audience: <>) okay
big breasted politically correct women being rescued by men in
scarlet skin-tight space suits with big crotches and ray guns.
Okay, I'm out of here again.
IM: There is more to science fiction than that and
I hope it can be well written, it can be a good book, it can make people think. Good writing is good writing wherever you find it. You can have brilliant crime novels that are as good as things like the English social novel. Thankfully you are spared. The English social novel these days is about a middle aged Jewish polytechnic college lecturer who has a sadomasochistic affair. That's it, they are all the same. What's the Swedish ones like?
Audience: Skip the sadomasochism.
Audience (JA): In your two latest novels you have drawn quite heavily
on Ireland and Irish history. Do you write with an Irish or educated
Anglo-Saxon audience in the mind? Or do you throw it in and suppose
that everybody will understand it without having access to Irish
IM: When I write I want to write things on several different levels.
In my artistic carrier, If I can call it that, good God what have I
said, one of the key things was a programme I saw
on BBC 1.
It was about the film China Town. Did you know there are image systems in China Town? Things that run throughout China Town. The image of the eye runs throughout, at the end where the woman got shot in the eye, all throughout the film there are references to eyes. References to water as well because water is a symbol of corruption it's all about power, anyone who is drinking, there are fish, a fishing club is a very important part of it, all these references goes throughout it. This was a revelation to me. I thought that here is something that can work on more than one level.
China Town is a brilliant thriller,
beautifully filmed, intriguing, brilliantly acted, but also there is this additional level of symbols throughout it. And after that I thought I would like to do that. I want what I write to work on different levels as well. King of Morning, Queen of Day was designed around that. First of all each section is about a woman's relationship with her father. Also each section is a different literary style of the twentieth century. The first bit is
the novel of letters. The second bit is the 1940s stream of consciousness. The third bit is whatever, what is post modernism, does anybody really know, it's whatever you want it to be. I also wanted to
Irish history throughout. It start of with the Celtic twilight and everything is very romantic. Then it gradually fades bit by bit until the end Ireland is just another part of the European Community.
CB: We are running out of time.
IM: Basically, working on different levels.
CB: Calle and I have one last question. Do you listen to Kate Bush.
CB: Because we are fanatics.
Audience: Do you have any contact with Walt Willis.
IM: Yes, occasionally, the great Northern Ireland fan, I have met him once or twice but he was drunk on every occasion.
CD: I don't think we have any more time left.
IM: Why Kate Bush?