PIMP MY PUBLISHING: AN INTERVIEW WITH RANDOLPH CARTER
Recently I grabbed a few words with 3:AM's resident pseudonymous Tim Westwood lookalike and one man maverick publishing house Randolph Carter, as he prepares to launch (or unleash) his Neo-Attack operation on an unsuspecting publishing world still quaffing down the last glass of Shiraz and looking for the last vol-au-vent:
3:AM: You seem to bring a singular dynamism to the 3:AM events you've compered for the past few years, is this something you take into the Neo-Attack project you've just founded?
RC: What I'm doing at the 3:AM events is trying to get people to hear what other authors are trying to do. At Neo-Attack there's a need for everyone to be handed a pen so they can start writing on the books. They're like puzzles, like mazes and are the sort of books that people should read and write. Usually you get to just read. So that's new already. The books are very cool to me. They look good. Feel good. They were done fast. There was no time to worry about anything. Even before they got out they were making waves. They've already run up against censorship. People in uniforms took one look at the cover pics and called it 'porn'. That was OK. But stopping it from coming into the UK, that was idiotic.
The energy comes from the books. They're upsetting for all sorts of reasons. Those who want to know what they're getting will be upset. Those who want just one thing again and again will be upset. Those who want one book at a time will be upset. I mean, think what reviewers will have to do, if they can be bothered to review them. Eleven books and all of them pretty different from each other. All by the same author! It's an assault on the idea of the usual man or woman of letters who manages to artfully produce one book every year or every five years or whatever. This is one guy and eleven books in one go. Publishers won't be queuing to sign this guy up, will they? They'd have to publish too many at a time and have no idea how to do it. Jeremy Reed works like this and he's a genius too. It's industrial almost. But then there's the lack of mass copies. A hundred copies per title. Limited edition, limited run. The usual restrictions. So that turns the whole thing back again into something else. It'll upset a lot of people. Of course, most people will just ignore it. So actually, it'll upset more or less no one. That's cool. All it takes is for one great reader.
Credit to 3:AM for picking it up, and Scarecrow and those outfits that take a risk with their reading. They've got their eyes open even if they don't like everything they see. But with this stuff, there's a lot of variety so they can pick and choose. There's no way you can compare Weird Bottle, say, to 8 Billion Vinnie Jones'. So there's a lot of scope for people to have fun reading and then writing.
3:AM: Most people won't be familiar with any of this, so what's the idea behind Neo-Attack?
RC: No one will be familiar with any of this. The game was to get ten novels and a collection of short stories out all at once. Quality production values for the books and no editing as such. The books can be read individually but of course they're all related. A decent reader will soon be able to un-tangle the puzzle. Hopefully there'll be some decent readers! They were written fast. Put out fast. Hopefully they'll disappear more slowly. I think that the quality of the writing is very good. Pretty good width too. The influences are all in the books and the stories. I think the major writers have to sit up and notice this stuff. It's not messing about. If there's anyone you rate then he or she will be in here. But the idea is that it's not asking for any favours. The mainstream publishers don't have any control over this. Nor the outlets. Distribution's no problem -- we'll sell them to anyone we meet. If we can't we'll give them to friends. They'll get out there on their own. And places like 3:AM Magazine help. It's like the pamphlet culture in the late eighteenth early nineteenth century. Hazlitt and all that. Tom Paine later. Small groups and individuals pumping out strange dissenting stuff. But I think all sorts of people are heroic. Some of them are writers but not all. I like teachers, all the good ones. And I know a particularly great fireman.
3:AM: Being blunt, aren't you just riding on the coat-tails of Steven Wells' Attack! Books? Those authors [Stewart Home, Tony White] got this pulp indulgence out of their system six years ago and then moved on.
RC: Steve Wells' Attack! Book imprint was a great idea I thought and those authors are brilliant too. I've got no problem with indulgence. I've got no problem with riding on coat-tails either. The Swells manifesto included the instruction that in his books they should have at least three acts of mind-less violence and three acts of mindless sex on every page. Well, that's good advice for anyone starting to write. And he also said you should finish the book in no longer than two weeks. Gives you plenty of time to do other things. And you'll be able to knock out quite a few in a year too. But Neo-Attack doesn't just do that. I think Swells would only seriously consider five of the current titles. The other six he'd not sniff at! There's no way anyone can put them all together in terms defined by Attack! The other difference is of course that there's just one name attached to these -- Johnny Pulp -- so it's not a list of star turns. Although Johnny Pulp is a star of course. And he's a damn sexy girl too.
3:AM: What was the problem getting them into the country?
RC: We got an outfit in Pakistan to print them. They did a great job. The trouble came at the airport where a few of the authorities there decided to impound them on the grounds that they thought they might be some sort of backlash connected with the Danish cartoon scandal. They wanted a release fee to be paid. This seems to be normal business practice actually so it was just my ignorance that let me get caught out. But then they were impounded again after paying out for the first release. This time they were considered pornographic. It was the cover art. Well, I guess again it was something I should have thought about but didn't. There were a few nipples and girls in sexy underwear to be sure so it's hardly surprising that trouble came. They're still stuck but I'm using influences and connections to get them over. Plus paying out some extra money.
3:AM: Very Girodias-like in that brush with state censorship. What does that say to you about the limits on artistic freedom all these years on?
RC: The books are out to be disgraceful at all levels so it's good that there are countries who have such close readers working on their frontiers. I'm old fashioned. Dissent isn't about getting high and using other people. It isn't about having a party. I think this is pretty post 9/11 stuff -- it's bothered about making the world a better place and that means getting people to connect. Liberal people at the moment think they are troubled by Islam but they are making the mistake of thinking that the problem is Islam. It's just people they have problems with, and attitudes and soon. The fact that some people act badly and claim that it's underwritten by Islam is true. But people can do good stuff and claim its underwritten by Islam too. So Islam isn't the problem. In any system used to underwrite actions and beliefs there'll be ways of justifying good stuff and bad stuff. The issue is whether you want the good stuff or the bad stuff. So dissent needs a critical engagement with everything. The books are one way of doing this. But writing has never been the only way. That's a dumb idea. Some of the most dissenting people are working in old people's homes, driving buses, teaching kids, nursing, working in offices, not working at all. Everyone has potential. These books are for them. One or two, they're a laugh. A joke. The kind of thing a fifteen year old would like, I think. A bit rude. Others, they might be deemed seriously serious. I like the variety. Something for everyone. And all just damned strange.
3:AM: Putting the world to rights aside, what next for Neo-Attack?
RC: Once these finally make it into the UK then there's a matter of getting people to get hold of them. It should be fun. They're like a sign. Hopeful. Writing and reading should be about fun and energy and play. These are serious times. I like people who are serious. So we should play seriously. These books add another perspective to everything we hold dear. So they can talk about poverty and power and politics and sex and violence and love and death and monsters and money and existence and art and nature and poetry and music and food and so on in a mouth that's a bit different. I don't think there's anything like these books out there at the moment. So readers looking for something else, I think these titles will do a job. And next year, Johnny'll do some more.