Thursday, 28 May 2015

1998 Music Interview: MAN OR ASTROMAN?



MAN OR ASTROMAN: 
RETURN OF THE 
 ROCK ‘N’ ROLL ALIENS 


The Men in Black can’t stop ‘em. Mulder and Scully can’t find ‘em. 
But Andrew Darlington tracks down and interviews 
Man or Astroman, the weirdest and grooviest alien infiltrators 
on this, or any other world... 


‘We’re Man or Astroman, like it or not. And we’re here, like it or not.’

It’s maximum compression at the Leeds’ ‘Duchess Of York’. Man or Astroman are on-stage playing mutated cosmic Drag-Strip Surf-Punk, and playing it at scrotum-crunching volume. Sometimes they play it so fast it’s almost like the sound can’t keep up, and it comes along ten nano-seconds later. My ears are surging with monstrous ebbs and flows of radiation static and I’m watching so intently my eye-balls are clicking in my head. There’s a sweat vapour hung as low and toxic as Venusian atmospheric poison. A guitarist with a blazing TV impaled on his head. Galaxies like grains of sand on video back-screens. Neutrons zapping through microverses in jet-propelled sperm ejaculations. Saturn’s shimmering rings seen from Titan ice-fields…

It seems that Man or Astroman are light-years ahead of what passes for intelligence in the rest of the lower echelons of Indie. Why? ‘Cos they’re Aliens that’s why. This is the scam. They’re zipping through space in the galactic equivalent of an interplanetary Skoda with go-faster stripes, just grabbing some cosmic drag-strip action, right? ‘Right. And what happened was, we CRASH-LANDED here – and the ship scattered into a squillion pieces when we hit the atmosphere. You’ve got a pretty unique atmosphere on this planet. Our ship wasn’t designed to handle anything like that, especially at the velocity we were coming in at. We are lucky to even still be functioning in the way that we are. Anyway, we crashed in Alabama in the United States and ended up stuck in this small little College town. We sort-of got our heads together – so to speak! – and we took on human form.’ ‘Human’, that is, as distinct from their naturally vaporous gas-ball state. Allegedly.


This is Coco. He’s got cropped black hair, red jeans, a track-top, and a fibre-optic gleam in his eye which could be suppressed humour, or possibly faulty wiring. He’s the bass and sample-king. He also plays bizarre home-made Cocotronic theremins and instruments that defy rational explanation. On stage he wears a NASA uniforms. As does Star Crunch, who looks a little like ‘E’ from the Eels, with dark streaks in his blonde fringe and his cardigan low-slung over his slacker T-shirt. He probably imagines his name conjures images of fiery Solar Collisions in the silent immensity of intergalactic space. To me it sounds more like the name of a novelty-shaped breakfast cereal. He plays twangy guitar and provides occasional low-intensity vocals. And then there’s Bird Stuff on drums and Dexter X (about whom, more later). They’re all here supposedly to promote their latest CD ‘Made From Technetium’ (1997). 

But that’s all a cover, because – lemme get this straight, you’re aliens stranded far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western spiral arm of the Galaxy? But if you’re really superior alien beings with Shape-Shifter capability, and you’ve merely assumed covert human exteriors during your enforced stay on Earth, why choose such nerdily unimpressive forms to inhabit? ‘Because you can get away with a lot in Alabama, but not not not exactly what we had going on when we landed here. So we knew we had to blend in. We’re thinking ‘man, we’ve got to get our ship put back together so we can get out of here and get back home’... ”

With Man or Astroman it’s less an interview, more a Wind-’em Up, Let ‘em go situation. So OK – C’mon Barbie, let’s go party. He continues, ‘...at that time we assumed the rest of the surface of the Earth was going to be pretty much similar to Alabama. Like that was pretty much typical. Luckily we found out that wasn’t the case. And we soon noticed that periodically there’d be... like, a vehicle would come into town and it would be full of what seemed to be pretty technologically advanced equipment. People would get out. They’d unload a bunch of equipment. They’d do some sort of something-or-other for a couple of hours. They’d load it all back in. And then they’d take off. Nobody would really question it. We thought ‘that’s pretty similar to what we need to do. We need to drive around in some sort of vehicle, pick up a bunch of technological equipment, stay in a town for maybe a day or so...’ We tried to figure out what exactly they were. And we found out that what they were was ‘bands’. They were touring bands that were coming in, playing one night, and leaving. So we said ‘Hmmm, maybe we can disguise ourselves as a band and it’ll help us get around on the planet, pick up the parts that we need, repair the ship, and then we can leave’. So we disguise ourselves as a band. That’s how it started. And that fits in pretty good.’


Coco punctuates his discourses with phrases like ‘of course’ and ‘obviously’. That’s part of a conscious strategy to normalise the fantastic elements of the story he’s telling. But in truth the ‘we are aliens from Outer Space’ hype is as old as Rock ‘n’ Roll itself. Ask the Spotnicks. They were Sweden’s finest pre-Abba Popsters who once posed for album-sleeve photos in Trafalgar Square tarted up in six-armed bend-holdy spacesuits. Nevertheless, during their enforced sojourn on Earth, Man or Astroman? (the ‘?’ is an important part of the band iconography) have been far from idle. Beginning with a single called “Possession By Remote Control” in 1993 they’ve been fully occupied contriving a pretty convincing identity as a highly innovative and audacious band. Previous career highlights include startling albums like ‘Your Weight On The Moon’ (1994) and the seventeen-track ‘Intravenous Television Continuum’ (1995) on which they come on like Dick Dale’s Surf Guitar spliced with tacky Ed Wood-style samples from 1950’s B (C and D) Sci-Fi Movies. Link Wray through a Wormhole. Hank B Marvin breathing iron oxide through playful voice-overs from what sounds like Professor Stephen Hawking.

So – OK, I’ll buy it, how did you manage to get Prof. Stephen Hawking to do guest voice-overs on the current album? ‘Well... HaHaHaHaHa!’ For the first time the carefully contrived veneer slips and momentarily Coco actually cracks up. Until at last, with concerted shape-shifting effort he gets back on track. ‘We tend to watch Earth science very closely. We understand what it is you’re trying to do. But at the same time – sometimes it’s so frustrating for us because we want to help out. Just a little bit. But we know just how dangerous that can be. If we were to give you too much information too fast it could be too advanced for your stage of evolution – you know? Access to such dangerous knowledge has to be tempered with wisdom, which is only going to come through time. But we have sort-of, palled around with a few of the notable physicists on the planet and given them a few hints. We’ve left them scraps of paper with some equations, pieces of information, stuff like that to push them in the right direction. So, y’know, it’s one of those ‘you scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours’ deals which we have with a lot of Earth-based scientists.’

But let’s face it – even outside of the Rock Music ghetto, Man or Astroman’s situation is far from unique. There are any number of extraterrestrial species already here on Earth. TV’s galactically-challenged sitcom ‘Third Rock From The Sun’ depicts a family of aliens infiltrators. ‘Sure, sure’ Coco concedes carefully. Then there’s Mork from Ork. Tharg the alien editor of ‘2000 AD’ magazine. Not to mention the Greys and illegal Nasties hunted down by Mulder and Scully and the Men in Black. ‘Right. Yeah – the thing is, there are a number of us here. More than you probably realise. And most of them, for the most part, find themselves to be in pretty good situations. But equally there are situations... like, I’m sure you’re familiar with the Roswell UFO crash of 1947? Well – they were some friends of ours. It’s a shame what happened out there. So, there are some cases where things just don’t work out. A lot of it has to do with where you land, when you land, and who you first run into. Then there are the show-offs. You get Crop Circles, Cow mutilations, these kind of things. Some folks from space just think they can get away with whatever... you know?’

So we can safely assume that all these different alien groups aren’t working together on a sinister co-ordinated programme? ‘No, no, no. There’s a lot of different agendas going on on this planet from Outer Space. But I’m pretty confident ours is one of the most... one of the most thought out. One of the most feasible. It will work out. We’ll see. You’ll see. I’m pretty confident, y’know – ‘cos we can travel into the future. And in the future we sell billions and billions of records.’


What is Rock music like in the Twenty-Fifth Century, then? ‘Oh, it’s great. The current records that we’re putting out, the records that you’re hearing now, they are simply a transition stage towards this new music that’ll sell squillions for Man or Astroman in the future. The problem is – we could probably go down there and get it ready and play it live tonight, but if we were to play that music now it wouldn’t have the desired effect. It’s not the proper location in time for it to happen. Yet. So the thing is we have to actually, sort-of relocate ourselves in time. We have to build through this whole transitional phase. If you follow the course of Man or Astroman records there’s definitely a pattern. It’s one that’s not necessarily fully linear, but there is a path that’s leading us up to this next phase…’

In the meantime, do you have any favourite alien species? Klingons, Minbari, Cybermen, Treens, Ferengi? ‘I haven’t really. I’m pretty much impartial. As far as I’m concerned the human species fits right in there too in the grand scope of things. But I’m a pretty friendly spaceman. I get along with pretty-much anybody. But that’s just me personally. If you ask some of the other members of the band, because of their experiences with other species and stuff like that, they might have different opinions. I don’t want to speak on their behalf. ‘Cos y’know, I just don’t wanna do that....’

OK. So I’ll ask elsewhere…


--- 2 --- 

They’re Man or Astroman, like it or not. And they’re here, like it or not…

Then there’s Dexter X. He’s here now.

‘You’ve already spoken with Coco? He definitely represents the more scientific side of the band. Technology and stuff’ he explains encouragingly. ‘I guess I represent the more emotional and psychological side.’ He’s quieter, less excitable that Coco. And he’s wearing an expression of amused abstraction as he sips from what looks to be a glass of water, but could just as easily be liquid methane. (‘Are you vegetarian?’ ‘No, we eat human beings. We just don’t eat animals. Animals never directly want to hurt anybody. Benji. Old Yeller...’) He’s a sort of cooler more confident version of Brains from ‘Thunderbirds’, his reactions more considered than Coco’s, but just as entertaining.

So let’s try this angle on him. One of my all-time favourite bands – the Ramones, were supposedly brothers. But then the drummer left. They got a new drummer. And he became a brother. Does the same principle operate with Man or Astroman line-up changes? Do new members become alien? ‘No, no. Well – actually the line-up has changed a bit’ he admits cautiously. ‘Bird Stuff, Coco and Star Crunch are actually all from a similar region of outer space called Grid Sector B6/23. I myself am from a different planet. In fact I’m from various places but most faminously – ‘fame-(in)-ously’ is that a word...?’ It is now! ‘It is now – OK, that’s another thing I’m trying to do, I’m trying to re-write the English Dictionary while I’m here. But I’m actually from planet ‘Q’…’

Is that the Q-Continuum, as in ‘Star Trek: Next Generation’?

‘No. That’s Science Fiction. That’s made up’ scolds Dexter firmly.


‘And it’s not ‘Planet Q’ like the letter, or even the word ‘cue’’ adds Coco. ‘The whole system of your Earth alpha-numerics is kind of silly. It’s more like the idea Q, and the easiest way we can represent that here on Earth is by the letter ‘Q’, but there’s no real correlation.’

‘And Q is the most famous – or ‘faminous’ planet that I’ve conquered. I come from a different region. I’m also kind-of working on my own somewhat different agenda. So... no, I have not become a Ramone!’

Does that answer my question? I’m not sure. Behind and all around us jagged lurches of rhythm corrugate the air as support band Toenut, from Atlanta Georgia, go through the soundcheck ritual. It’s difficult to concentrate. And Toenut – what the hell is that about? An obscure pun on ‘Doughnut’. A reference to Foot Fetishism, Body Piercing... or none of the above? So I try Dexter X again from a different slant. I’d assumed that, as a superior alien species, you could perhaps enlighten us mere humans on matters pertaining to the ULTIMATE QUESTION – you know – Life, the Universe, and Everything? ‘No, only Douglas Adams know that’ he smirks, detecting and expertly fielding my ‘Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy’ quote.

‘And I wish I could help you with that’ he resumes. ‘But everybody wants the real story. Everybody’s after the facts. And I don’t know if there are any. Because we are also searching for the truth. I’m actually on my own journey to discover Ultimate Meaning. But so far all I’ve found is that the only thing that motivates me is apathy. I get bored with planets. I just seem to travel from planet to planet... conquering them! I do that as a hobby. And until I can find something more useful to do with my time I’m just gonna stick with the one I know. Which is – of course, World Domination and Planetary Overthrow. It remains my favourite pastime.’


So if we can’t crack the facade of inscrutable changeling alienness, let’s talk music. Do you create the music first, then fit the samples on afterwards, or do you select samples and then build tracks around them? ‘There’s not a specific schematic for the design of a Man or Astroman song’ admits Coco. ‘There have been some where it’s been ‘we’ve got these great samples, we can use them in songs’ or there have been songs that have been like ‘oh, this part of the song really sucks, can we – like, cover it up with something?’ So we put a sample there. But for most of the songs it’s been sort-of parallel. There’ll be an idea for a song and while the songwriting is going on we’ll be experimenting with different samples that we like. ‘Cos usually it’s a mood kind of thing we’re trying to convey there, so it’s kind-of a parallel process. But it definitely has gone either way. I get into the audio portions of old films. That’s where a lot of the samples obviously come from. The bulk of the samples actually. So when it comes to that, and that, and that – sure, we pop one of those Ed Wood or those Toho films on, and let ‘em roll. It’ll be running the lines out, and from that we get direction and inputs that we can plug directly into. We still have back-up batches of samples that we just haven’t used yet, which I’m sure we’ll be using in the future. Samples that I really really like and I want to use but we just haven’t done anything with them. Yet.’

‘Made From Technetium’ is an album definitely worth your attention. It has powerful bursts of manic cybernetic decibels capable of bending Space-Time into fractels as complex as a Martian Boy Scout’s Super-String knots. And it’s part of a continuum of albums that together forms the soundtrack for the Saturday Matinee serial that Flash Gordon never got around to making. ‘The group’s sine and square-wave generators emit a weird loud hum, similar to the type of music played in the Milky Way back in the second millennium’ observed ‘Melody Maker’s Everett True as long ago as October 1994. Creating ‘music guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of anyone under the age of five centuries.’


Are Man or Astroman hooked on 1950’s Sci-Fi films? Would they like to soundtrack an Ed Wood Movie? ‘That would be fantastic’ enthuses Dexter X. ‘Something along those lines would be great. It’s too bad Ed Wood’s no longer with us. But I don’t think even he could save the Sci-Fi Movies they’re putting out now. These days the imagination and a lot of the psychological overtones get completely overlooked by the latest technology and laser-blasting computer-generated things. Which is unfortunate. Unfortunate for the genre. I’m disenchanted. ‘Starship Troopers’ (1997)? Yes. That is a perfect example right there. I’ll go see it. But for reference only.’

‘Bird Stuff (our drummer) is into old Movies the most’ begins Coco quite rationally. Then ‘but personally I can’t perceive three dimensions when they’re displayed on a two-dimensional surface. It’s a shame, but it has to do with the way I’m set up. It’s in my wiring. I’ve been excluded to an extent from that whole TV and Film and Still-Image photography thing – ‘cos like, these posters...’ he indicates the ‘Duchess’ walls which are rich with the accumulation of a decade’s visiting bands, ‘I’m sure that a lot of these posters have really good three-dimensional representations in them, but – it’s basically just flat imagery to me.’ A pause, then Wind-’em Up, Let ‘em Go ‘...I can really relate to cats and dogs when they watch TV, because I can see the motion, I can see what’s going on, but I don’t necessarily perceive the implied depth. Similar deal with a mirror, because that’s the same type of thing. There’s a three-dimensional representation, but on a two-dimensional surface....’

They’re Man or Astroman – Multi-Dimensional Star-Trippers, like it or not. And they’re here, like it or not. Actually I like it. And as I leave ‘The Duchess’ I chance a glance back just in case... what if, I mean, it’s almost possible that, what if it’s not a pose and they’re really really for real...? Then naw, the moment of uncertainty is gone. I turn my back and go. Stepping out into knife-cold Leeds, my ears still abuzz with intergalactic vibrations.


Published in: 
‘ROCK ‘N’ REEL no.31: Late Summer’ (UK - Oct 1998) 
‘AURAL INNOVATIONS no.6: April’ (USA - May 1999)


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Live: HANK WILLIAMS III in Leeds



FESTIVAL REVIEW OF: 
HANK WILLIAMS III
WILT, and others 
at LEEDS 2000, Temple Newsam


What do you do when you’re Elvis Presley III? When you’re John Lennon III? You can’t escape it. Die alone in a roach-infested squat and they’ll point you out. Wear a smart suit and red braces and be a computer consultant and they’ll still point you out. Might as well go with it. Form a band. Whatever name you choose it’s still going to be your band. So you might as well use your name. So when Shelton Hank Williams III bellows “1-2-3, 1-2-3” it’s both a count-in to a solid wedge of jagged noise called “Turn You Down”, and also a defiant statement of his personal genealogy. But with titles as poetically apt as “Fuck You Motherfucker” he’s more amped-up than either of his predecessors could possible envisage, think Thrash-Country or C&Metal. While he may wear a Death’s-head T-shirt with a single braid of hair down his spine, and front a band with guitarist Dwayne from the Jesus Lizards, plus an audibly effective stand-up bass and a bald fiddle-player on a skeletal violin, it’s impossible to escape the ribs of some damn good stories beneath the volume.

But then, this is a strange event. In another tent Shack are doing a note-for note replication of Love’s “The Daily Planet”. On the main stage Retro-Rockers Supersucker are doing Thin Lizzy’s “I Am Just A Cowboy”. Two refugees of Madchester – Clint Boon, who brings Tuba-Kid and Opera-Chick on-stage, does an Inspirals ‘Name That Tune’, while Stone Roses’ Ian Brown – with his excellent band and his musical ambitions far exceeding his vocal limitations, still attempts Hendrix’ exquisite “Little Wing”... and Utah Saints triumph over their computer meltdown by bringing on Soul veteran Edwin Starr for a euphoric “Funky Music”. Until, by way of comparison, Wilt come burdened by a less obvious weight of history and a manifesto pledge about nothing much more than ‘giving the Security Guys some work to do’, thus encouraging the already enthusiastic crowd surfers to even greater excess. Their first song tosses in lines about ‘my hand hurts, and my eyes get blurred’ – but hey, Rock ‘n’ Roll sonic abuse tends to do that to you. And while there’s probably something of the early Undertones in their bratty energy, after announcing a song called “Never A Friend” he adds ‘who cares?’, and he probably doesn’t.


But Shelton Hank Williams III obvious does. He credits ‘Punk-Rock and Metal’, Black Sabbath and Nirvana as equally important inputs as Waylon Jennings and Hank’s I and II, and plays “We Buy It” short and hard by way of ‘paying my good respects to the Misfits.’ Apparently he also does a straight New Country set, but tonight he’s concentrating on the ethos of his ‘This Ain’t Country’ album (recorded 2003, but unissued until 2011 as ‘Hillbilly Joker’), with no compromise. Slurping from a paper cup of the sponsor’s beer, and temporarily hefting a battered scratched acoustic he does “Hanging On”, a song about some guy ‘doing speed’ and “Now He’s Dead”, and another called “Sweet And Addictive”, inoculated with all the diseased terminal romance his name would suggest. ‘1-2-3, GO GO GO!!!’ Pass the lyric sheet please.



Published in:
‘ROCK ‘n’ REEL no.35: Winter 2001’ (UK - Jan 2002)

Monday, 25 May 2015

Cult SF writer - JOHN KIPPAX: Science Fiction's Jazz Humourist


JOHN KIPPAX: 
SCIENCE FICTION’S 
JAZZ HUMOURIST 


Because of his ‘Venturer Twelve’ novels written with Dan Morgan
John Kippax is frequently seen as a hard-science writer of 
relentless Space Opera. But this is unfair. 
 He could be better than such detractors suggest. 
Andrew Darlington examines the evidence… 


The opening art-panel, in atmospheric black-and-red, is luringly striking. A ringed Saturnian planet suspended top-left in the dark star-spangled sky of arid world Krodos Seven. Two spacesuited figures stand besides their damaged scoutship. The taller, adult male – Lieutenant Jim Roberts, is pointing at a distant range of rugged rocks. The smaller, younger figure – Ensign Phil Wallace, looks up at him, questioningly. This dramatic art draws you into “Call Him Friday”, a text-story featured in the 1958 edition of the ‘Daily Mail Boys Annual’. Elsewhere within the book there are western tales, jungle adventures, hobbies pages and historical features targeted to excite schoolboy readers.


There’s a Captain WE Johns ‘Biggles’ yarn, and a crime-detection case for prolific Eric Leyland’s ‘free-lance adventurer David Flame’. There’s even an opening speculative fact-feature, “Into Unknown Space” by AM Dutton, which beguiles its readers ‘I think it can be stated with some degree of certainty that within the next fifty years (that is, within your lifetime) man will be ready to make the journey into outer space’. Despite the accuracy of this prediction, John Kippax – author of “Call Him Friday”, doesn’t mess with such trivial predictions, he sets his space-adventure heroes in the far-future year 3127AD!

In a cave the stranded duo find the skeletal remains of a space ‘Robinson Crusoe’, the sole member of a three-hundred years old expedition previously marooned on Krodos Seven. But who, or what, is the Man Friday referred to in his ancient journal? Then they meet the dead spacer’s loyal robot companion, still functioning by cannibalising other robotic components from the original wreck, and operating sufficiently well to construct a radio, using antiquated acid-batteries, to send out a ‘Mayday’ signal for its two new ‘masters’. With touching pathos, as the rescue ship embarks in response to their message, Friday finally ceases, ‘no pilot light glowed’. As the pair prepare to leave, ‘there, now almost obliterated by drifting sand, they could just make out the almost human foot-prints’ left by the robot, faithful to, and beyond death.

Forgotten, and omitted from most of John Kippax’s existing bibliographies, this neat little seven-page story in a boy’s adventure annual shows all of the narrative skill and range of the more mature work he published in the Science Fiction magazines of the time. Indeed, the full wealth of fiction that Kippax produced across the span of the 1950’s and 1960’s is itself neglected and virtually overlooked. When he is discussed at all it is usually in terms of the militaristic Space Opera content of his ‘Venturer Twelve’ novels which lapped over into the 1970’s. There have even been critical accusations of unreconstructed sexist and racist attitudes. But this is unfair. He could be better than such detractors suggest.


Now think ‘Avatar’, James Cameron’s 2009 movie. A soulless rapacious corporation asset-stripping an idyllic planet, where the aliens live together in harmonious unity with each other and with their environment. But think, not 3D CGI depth of widescreen wonder. But just eleven pages of tight text in an April 1958 issue of modest Science Fiction magazine ‘Nebula’. This slight story – “End Planet”, goes some way towards refuting the easy stereotyping of John Kippax as a hard-science writer of relentless Space Opera. The aliens are thin pieces of shimmery colour named Half Crow, Long Yell, Tallpot, Footping, Troppo and Wallache. Although not native to the planet, they can merge into a single entity, and teleport around the world – and across space, helping other smaller native arachnid beings to shrink-wrap the corpses of their dead. The reason for this becomes gradually apparent. Seen from the alien’s uncomprehending point of view, the advance exploratory team from Star Trade Incorporated do not appreciate that, ‘on this planet, what they call death is infectious.’ Their killing, butchering, and meat-eating will trigger its own lethal retribution. A neat little parable with a wholesome eco-message.

A follow-up story, “Thy Rod And Thy Staff” in the December issue of the same magazine, has a similar pacifist spine to its theme. This time it unobtrusively features a priest as its central protagonist, Bill Kibbee, visiting planet Moen III, a superhot world haunted by elusive red-eyed aboriginal Moes. In a taut and tightly-constructed group-jeopardy plot, Kibbee and pilot Sims are stranded when a helicopter they’re using is brought down by a flight of birds, and it’s the hated and hunted psi-enabled Moes who help them survive the hostile conditions. But only when the two humans have exhausted their arsenal of weapons, and are unarmed.

As these brief plotlines suggest, each story is distinctive, and distinctly different. Which is another aspect to any attempted appraisal of John Kippax fiction…


UNFINISHED SYMPHONIES 

Born 10 June 1915 in Alwalton, Huntingdonshire, ‘John Kippax’ was actually the pen name used by John Charles Hynam. His literary collaborator and close personal friend writer-guitarist Dan Morgan recalls that ‘John had a larger-than-life physical and psychic presence. Likeable, eccentric, egocentric, kind, brusque, take your pick from the thesaurus to describe him, he was all of these and more’ (in the postscript to the novel ‘Where No Stars Guide’, published posthumously in 1975). Round-of-face, dark-haired and bespectacled, Kippax qualified as an English master at a grammar school where he was soon writing ‘at least one thousand words a day despite the inroads on his mental health by small boys.’ He claimed ‘voracious reading habits’ and wrote non-genre fiction for children’s literary magazine ‘Young Elizabethan’, and for Putnam’s ‘Pick Of Today’s Short Stories’ (1954) edited by John Pudney, but – as he confided to a ‘New Worlds’ Writer Profile ‘I began to write science fiction almost as soon as I started to read it,’ calling it jokily ‘a disability from which I never expect to completely recover’ (no.58, April 1957).

The debut Kippax tale – “Dimple”, in ‘Science Fantasy’ (No.11, December 1954), is an impressively assured piece narrated in a jaunty first-person style. Framed as a message from pfc Herman J Herman on the Mars colony it describes Master-Sergeant Miller as a man who’s ‘face would not only stop a clock, it would make it shout for mercy too… my buddy Satchmo, who drives a truck for the service corps says why don’t we find a nice big bug-eyed monster and throw him to it? Because, I say, the BEM would throw him right back.’ This satire of the ‘brutal and licentious soldiery’ anticipates Harry Harrison’s ‘Bill, The Galactic Hero’ (1965), and while positively introducing racial diversity into the Ordnance Corps, Satchmo is dubiously described as ‘a southern states American whom you would miss completely on a dark night.’

Satchmo is also a clue to another passion. Introducing a story called “Solid Beat” (for ‘Science Fantasy’ no.25, October 1957) editor John Carnell observes that ‘for a long time jazz has been in close affinity to fantasy fiction – it is surprising the number of writers and readers we have who are keenly interested in both – and perhaps a psychologist could give good reasons why this is so. It is not surprising, therefore, that John Kippax who is himself a jazz-man has chosen a theme incorporating both mediums.’


Kippax was a musician who played in a dance band alongside Dan Morgan, and he wrote authoritatively about music for ‘Melody Maker’. His humorous tale of a mysterious bass-player recruited by saxophonist George Vallis’ Quintet attempts a knowing insider’s peek into the Beat Generation sub-world. Portraying guitarist Dan who ‘stuck to beer and guitars and science fiction,’ and a madcap drummer with a drink and gambling problem, while taking amusing shots at bop prosidy such as ‘Sid Farrar was a boy headed straight for the main furnace. What a drummer. What a louse!’ and expletives such as ‘not corpuscular likely!’ (a Beat-elaboration of ‘not bloody likely’).

The problem with writing a detailed analysis of John Kippax’s work is its diversity. It’s difficult to pin down a unique trait, or stylistic continuity – except, maybe for this jazz-thread, and for what Ken Bulmer calls his ‘elusive spirit of comedy.’ He was many things in many stories, but questing for that key to Kippax fiction, maybe it lies here – as British SF’s Jazz Humourist?

His stories reflect the tone and attitudes, and in some ways preserve snapshots of their time. George Mossendew is a socially-dysfunctional obsessive model-making hobbyist. What we’d now term a nerd, who gets the opportunity to do backgrounds for what Kippax calls ‘a series of puppet advertising films’. But commercial television was in its infancy. The very first TV-ad (22 September 1955) – for Gibbs SR toothpaste was broadcast the same year, but prior to the story’s publication. So if the model-making wasn’t for TV, what exactly did Kippax have in mind? Gerry Anderson’s ingenious animations still lay years into the future (including his own work for ‘Fireball XL5’). So maybe it was a Pearl & Dean cinema-ad? Whatever, Mossendew’s success leads to a commission for a film being produced at Elmwood Studios – ‘Conquest Of The Moon’, where Kippax slyly name-checks George Pal (of ‘Conquest Of Space’, 1955), and Chesley Bonestell whose photo-realistic art was used for Pal’s film. For Elmwood, read Elstree Studios.

Readers of ‘Science Fantasy’ would knowingly pick up these in-joke references, just as they would know what ‘Gilbert Harding spectacles’ look like. The fantasy element enters when, pushed to meet an impossible deadline, he buys large-format astronomical photos from a secretive contact who approaches him in the pub, one of which turns out to have been ‘taken with a flash bomb from the side of the moon we never see – the dark side.’ Of course, prior to orbital probes, nothing was then known about the moon’s hidden face. The only clue is supplied by the story title – “Mossendew’s Martian”.


He plays literary pranks too. In “By The Forelock” (‘Authentic Science Fiction’ no.77, February 1957) he enters the fiercely contested academic debate about the true provenance of William Shakespeare’s plays. Determined to discover the truth, Uncle Pyropeles uses Time Tours to travel back to February 1602 where his memorised quotes help the Bard complete a troubling passage in ‘Twelfth Night’. Until his interference provokes a duel in which Francis Bacon runs Shakespeare through with a sword, killing him. So, contrary to Time Tours policy, Pyropeles determines to stay in the past ‘helping Francis Bacon to write the later plays of William Shakespeare’.

It’s true that the Bard has figured in other excursions into fantasy. Only a few years previous, Isaac Asimov’s “The Immortal Bard” (‘Universe’, May 1954) had used time-travel to bring Shakespeare forward to the present day, only to have him humiliated by failing a university course in his own work. But the paradox of replacing a historical figure in order to ensure cultural continuity looks forward more to Michael Moorcock’s ‘Behold The Man’ (1969), in which his time-traveller, Karl Glogauer steps into the role of a flawed Jesus, to live out the biblical account of his life. The Kippax story might be a brief playful piece, but the circular conundrum remains, if Pyropeles is writing the plays from memory, who was actually the author?

There’s more indeterminacy in “Salute Your Superiors!” (‘Authentic SF’ no 79, April 1957). Former-astronaut Wrokel is confined to a mental hospital where he writes his highly-fictionalised memoirs of adventures across the solar system, which affectionately recall the contents of some of the more trashy SF magazines, while in reality ‘we’ve never yet come across a scrap of humanoid life outside Terra.’ So what happens when he encounters a genuine visitor from Arcturus IV?


There’s evidence of a change in his writing towards the mid-sixties. Partly due to shifts in the market itself, as the mainstay magazines fell away. But also as a result of altered literary emphasis. Anthologising one of his stories for the ‘Weird Shadows From Beyond’ (1965) collection, John Carnell notes that Kippax ‘has had a wide variety of short stories published over the years, mostly in the Science Fiction and Fantasy categories, although his output is now relatively small – under another name he now writes radio and television plays and serials.’ Which is true. But around the same time, Kippax also commenced a parallel career writing supernatural fiction under his own name, John Hynam (but also wrote as Joan, or Jane Hyman, or Julian Frey). Indeed Carnell had already argued that ‘we have always maintained that John Kippax is a natural fantasy writer rather than a science fiction one, although he strongly disagrees with its contention’ (introduction to “The Underling” in ‘New Worlds’ no.62, August 1957).

Kippax quotes the aspirational examples of Arthur C Clarke and John Christopher as not only great SF writers, but better quality writers than their American counterparts. While, with regard to his own creative process, he explains ‘I believe in the ‘think piece’ method of working out a story, which is to put a bare notion at the top of the page and pound the typewriter for as many thousand words as it takes for the story idea to emerge.’ Admitting modestly that ‘this system does not often fail.’ Yet despite this improvisational free-flowing methodology, Kippax was never destined to join the pantheon of greats he quotes as models. Maybe clues to why this is so lie in the story which best draws on his jazz authenticity, cover-illustrated by Brian Lewis for ‘Science Fantasy’ (no.34, April 1959). “The Lady Was Jazz” – almost a Beat Generation Bop paean to the magic of jazz, and one of his finest tales, features jazz trumpeter Lou Joris who ducks the temptation of greatness for a more comfortable mainstream competency, he ‘was not of the stuff from which truly top flight jazzmen are made; he just didn’t have that kind of greatness. He was a good musician, with a good band, and he had a good woman who loved him. That would have to be enough.’


John Kippax was a good writer, who contributed many fine stories to some great magazines. But maybe he lacked the stuff from which truly top flight fantasists are made? If so, according to his own logic, that was enough.

Which may also explain the genesis of the good-natured ‘Venturer Twelve’ novel series, co-authored with Dan Morgan. His link with Morgan goes all the way back to John’s fiction co-debut – “Trojan Hearse”, co-written with Dan as early as 1954, and published in ‘New Worlds’ no.30. Morgan had a two-year start, having begun in ‘New Worlds’ no.13 in January 1952, with a story called “Alien Analysis”. The long-term association culminated in the two writers collaborating on the first three volumes of this widescreen Space Opera series. Kippax wrote the fourth book himself, trading in the distinctive oddness of his short fiction for these mainstream hard-bitten – but essentially soft-centred, action-adventures.

The first volume – ‘A Thunder Of Stars’ (1968), introduces Commander Tom Bruce whose commitment to the ideals of the Space Corps mission are placed above and beyond his own and anyone else’s humanity. Even to the extent of axing his relationship with courageous, dedicated and sensitive former lover Helen Lindstrom. Only for the tough macho spacer to demand her as Second in Command of their crew when he’s given command of the Corps’ newest ship ‘Venturer Twelve’ itself – variously described as ‘a giant egg on stilts’ or an ‘enormous oblately spheroidal bulk on three angled tripod legs.’

Space Corps is a constant through his earlier short fiction, but then again, it’s a fairly routine variant used as a catch-all for Star Fleet or Space Patrol. There’s doggerel verse at the opening of each chapter, some questionable sex scenes, and militaristic techno-porn consistent with Robert A Heinlein’s ‘Starship Troopers’ universe. Arguably there are sexist and racist elements too. He positively introduces multiracial crews with strong female members, yet the downside is that this allows what we’d now consider dubious humour, and if they’re products of their times, they seem to be unquestioningly accepted. But there are tongue-in-cheek elements too. As noted by Morgan, the character of Admiral Junius Farragut Carter, Captain Bruce’s boss, is ‘Hynam’s own wryly conceived self-caricature.’


Bruce takes tough decisions even Captain Kirk might baulk at. In ‘Seed Of Stars’ (1972) he exterminates an entire colony that’s fallen victim to alien experimentation. But instead of tracking the malevolent aliens down, he gets sidetracked on a diplomatic mission to Kepler, a colony world governed by its founding Japanese corporation. A parallel narrative follows Mia and Piet’s shipboard romance. In the Corps it’s permissible to have sex with a crewmate, so long as it doesn’t contravene command hierarchy, which crewperson Mia and medical doctor Piet’s relationship does. Piet even disables Mia’s contraceptive implant in order for her to have his child. They plan to abandon ship at Kepler, which is petitioning for independence enabling it to conduct its own affairs. Again Commander Tom must make seemingly heartless decisions.

In ‘The Neutral Stars’ (1973) ‘Twelve’ and her sister ships are tasked with protecting space-faring humanity as best they can from escalating incursions by the mysterious aliens. Their origin and nature never clarified, beyond having ‘come from somewhere within the holes in space.’ In response, United Earth Government needs to commandeer an entire world – sufficient to contain the forces unleashed by warp-drive research, but is incapable of raising the finance, while knowing the aliens already possess such sub-space technology, and unaware that their worst enemy is right here on Earth. The fourth novel – ‘Where No Stars Guide’ (1975), by John Kippax alone, sees Earth faced by the arrival of an enormous shimmering gold space-sphere, with its strange problematic cargo. Surgeon Lieutenant Creighton needs the ‘Twelve’ to capture a living alien, just as Tom Bruce is assigned to protect Elsa Niebohr, who has chosen a Balomain planet for Excelsior Corp’s research into the elusive warp-drive, as the home-world’s need for it becomes even more vital.

These readable, if undemanding novels, sold respectably well, gathering a loyal readership. And with the interstellar struggle gathering momentum, it clearly indicates exploits ahead for Commander Bruce and his Space Corps team, were it not for John Hynam’s tragically premature death. Dan Morgan signaled his intention of writing a fifth volume, but he died 24 November 2011 without having done so, leaving ‘Venturer Twelve’ poised on a permanent cliff-hanger, doomed never to be resolved.

John Hynam was killed on the sunny afternoon of 17 July 1974 – aged just fifty-nine, when a lorry hit his newly-acquired Mini at Werrington, a few miles outside Peterborough. He left a wife, Phyl, and a daughter, Jennifer – who a week before had given birth to his first grandchild, a son, an event he was eagerly anticipating.

As Dan Morgan’s postscript to ‘Where No Stars Guide’ recounts, John Kippax was ‘a man of enormous enthusiasms, he died as he lived, at full speed.’



JOHN KIPPAX: BIBLIOFILE 
SHORT STORIES 

1954 – “Dimple” (‘Science Fantasy no.11’, December 1954) Marsport is ‘a great expanse of sweet Fanny Adams, flat and hard’, where a rodent-problem is solved by Aunt Gertrude’s smuggled dachshund. Herman doesn’t admit the rats were inadvertently imported in a compartment in Dimple’s box! Knockabout humor

1954 – “Trojan Hearse” (‘New Worlds no.30, December 1954) written with Dan Morgan. Illustrated by Brian Lewis. ‘It has always been a recognised prerogative in wartime that opponents allow the Red Cross to succour the injured although there have been many incidents where this humane cause has been ignored. How would an alien race react to such a measure during a space battle? Especially if there had been no common basis of negotiation beforehand’ Earth is besieged behind force-field defense-screens by an alien fleet, neither side able to break the impasse. Robert Wallace, Commissioner of Terran Security Police, uses the Red Cross truce as a cover to attack and destroy the enemy ships, unaware that they’ve also used the truce to infiltrate the bodies of the dead humans he has retrieved from space…

1955 – “Mossendew’s Martian” (‘Science Fantasy no.13’, April 1955) illustrated by Quinn. ‘One of the biggest difficulties being experienced in the making of science fiction films is necessity for ‘accurate’ extra-terrestrial scenery. Until the first on-the-spot photographs from the Moon or Mars reach us, the artists’ imagination must serve instead’

1955 – “Down To Earth” (‘Authentic Science Fiction no.57’, May 1955) ‘In Africa, as here, you never can tell what children may get up to!’ A missing Postal-rocket over Nairobi, and a dematerialising car leads George Chaffee to Billy Pado, a young African boy with psi-telekinetic abilities. Finally, flying him to London for ‘corrective’ brain-surgery Chaffee seems to be about to use him to ‘wish away’ tyrannical boss PP Matthews! The issue also includes ‘Kwakiutl’ – a consumerist satire on conspicuous consumption by Dan Morgan and ‘Pogsmith’ – about a shapeshifting alien on a Galactic Zoo on Mercury by Brian W Aldiss

1955 – “Special Delivery” (‘Science Fantasy no.14’, June 1955) illustrated by Woodward. A second ‘Dimple’ story, fizzing with snappy humorous prose, ‘today three freight ships have come in, a thing never before known, not even on our colonel’s birthday’, and ‘a nightmare ship with little men in plastic suits operating it’ seen from a Venus orbit station – ‘Bug Men Seen!!! Space Station Men Go Crazy!!!’

1955 – “Hounded Down” (‘Science Fantasy no.16’, November 1955) illustrated by Alan Hunter. A third ‘Dimple’ tale, ‘life in the Ordnance Dept of Mars Base will never be dull as long as Herman’s dachshund Dimple continues to poke her nose into other people’s business – this time it is a case (or some cases) of stolen supplies’. Essentially, National Service humorous scrapes which just happen to be set on Mars

1955 – “Mother Of Invention” (‘Authentic Science Fiction no.64’ December 1955), story in the form of a resignation letter, George Donnison tells how he met Skirmer in a Bar, one of two retired-scientists who used ‘Project Brooklyn’ as a cover to invent the Tomasso-teleport, and how to synthesise the uranium atom. Not a strong story, its strengths lie largely in wacky dialogue interplay

1956 – “Again” (‘Authentic Science Fiction no.65’, January 1956). Poor, clumsy, what Michael Moorcock calls a ‘shaggy god’ story. Robot Faraki from an Earth decimated by the Gripping Sickness regenerate a human on a new world. His female companion says ‘my name is Eve’

1956 – “Fair Weather Friend” (‘Science Fantasy no.18’ May 1956) thefts from struggling ‘Blane-Moskowitz Rainmaking Inc’ are due to Men-O-Tah, time-travelling ancient Egyptian who is subsequently inadvertently responsible for Noah’s Flood. American setting with Ginny ‘as nicely stacked a little bundle as you’re ever likely to see in this neck of the cactus’

1956 – “Waif Astray” (‘Authentic Science Fiction no.67’, March 1956) Told in folksy American, little Billy is a misfit in Little Corinth, until Mr Dirim, who shrinks folk and puts them in his bag. Sam is skeptical at first, but watches it through a telescope from the Vogelsang cave-mouth. Seems Billy is a zif-bomb planted by the alien Dirimi, who will detonate when the cops take him to New York, where Terra’s leaders are meeting

1956 – “We Are One” (‘Authentic Science Fiction no.73’, September 1956) ‘It is important to any culture that visitors to that culture conform – one way or another’ On triple-sunned Khios Seven they welcome death as part of a cycle of renewal, as part of the ONE, when Creed murders Simister, it seems the humans are also part of ONE

1956 – “We’re Only Human” (‘New Worlds no.53’, November 1956) John Carnell commends its ‘double approach’ to ‘both robotics and child psychology’, yet it’s a simple – almost juvenile tale, of a schoolboy who wants a personal robot like all the others boys, so his Gramp adapts an old model, it turns out to be an outlawed ‘freewill’ thousand-year-old model which protects and helps him


1956 – “Cut And Come Again” (‘Science Fantasy no.20’, December 1956) Piotr Lugan is commissioned by grotesque clients to construct a guillotine unaware that, in a partial dream-sequence, he is also to be the executioner. On waking he’s been paid in full, in eighteen-century guineas

1957 – “By The Forelock” (‘Authentic Science Fiction no.77’, February 1957) ‘Did Bacon write Shakespeare? Did Shakespeare write Bacon? Or is there another solution?’


1957 –“Finegan Begin Again” (‘Science Fantasy no.21’, February 1957) ‘Take a tired and jaded leprechaun with failing powers who passes on to a mortal some of his own magic, add an eligible bachelor and some designing women and you have a high-powered story.’ A silly comic fantasy

1957 – “Salute Your Superiors!” (‘Authentic Science Fiction no.79’, April 1957) ‘It was such a pity that the visitor was weak on procedure. It was even more of a pity that he met the one man who couldn’t tolerate insubordination’

1957 – “Point Of Contact” (‘New Worlds no.58’, April 1957), on planet Lemnos III, crewman ‘Bingo’ Bingley’s simple juggling skills connect with the previously uncommunicative natives, plus a ‘New Worlds Profile: John Kippax’ page

1957 – “After Eddie” (‘Science Fantasy no.23’, June 1957) on his way to a ‘World Laboratories’ job-interview scientist Henry Soames calls off at ‘Neyto’ in Leather Street for a haircut with a talkative barber. The name is abbreviated from ‘(Swee)NEY TO(dd)’, the barber a purple-haired alien

1957 – “The Underlings” (‘New Worlds no.62’, August 1957) ‘The following story certainly conforms to our science fiction requirements – yet it could just as easily be published in ‘Science Fantasy’. You will see why as the story unfolds’ The coming of the quiet beautiful Terrans seen through the poetic perspective of Kolem musician Efran Klira, who’s love for Jacqueline leads him to overhear her message ‘multiple aptitudes robot two-three-one signing off’

1957 – “Solid Beat” (‘Science Fantasy no.25’ October 1957) jazz drummer Sid Farrar reads ‘Melody News’ – a fictional amalgam of ‘Melody Maker’ (to which Kippax was a contributor) and ‘Jazz News’, and claims to get messages from the future. So what will the top drummer’s kit consist of in 2055 – ‘a couple of shinbones and a hollow log’. A mention of Theodore Sturgeon’s novelette ‘The Education of Drusilla Strange’ (‘Galaxy’ March 1954), about a young criminal sentenced to life on Earth, perhaps provides a clue

1957 – “Send Him Victorious” (‘Science Fantasy no.26’, December 1957) the university Quadro-Cyclotron accidentally projects Herbert Cole into a parallel Earth of 1996 not 1986 with a different National Anthem played at the cinema, in which his married girlfriend Edith is single – but he is married! A comic-fantasy, he accidentally escapes into yet another Earth, where there’s not even a Jerningham University…

1958 – “Me, Myself And I” (‘Science Fantasy no.27’, February 1958) ‘Just how active can one’s subconscious mind be stimulated? With five-sixths of the brain still very much a mystery there is plenty of scope for a fantasy writer to produce off-trail ideas centred around this theme. For instance, have you ever tried to be the person you would like to be?’ Meek unassuming Gordon Beale finds a book ‘Be Yourself”, and spins-off a more assertive alter-ego he calls ‘Harry’ who goes to work in his stead, does better, seduces the lovely June Daly, then defrauds the company. Harry then spins-off his own alter-ego…

1958 – “End Planet” (‘Nebula no.29’, April 1958) illustrated by Arthur Thomson. ‘The problem of this little planet had been solved by the infinite patience of alien minds – and then the Earthmen landed with their lust for blood.’

1958 – “Destiny Incorporated” (‘Science Fantasy no.30’, August 1958) Brian Lewis cover-art, ‘Is Man the master of his own Fate, or destined to follow an ordained path?’ Impressive novelette with Japanese-American Matsumura ‘Matty’ Tomokatsu in a baffle of illusions following accidentally running-down eight-year-old Rowena Temple at Bruton Springs, big corporate manipulation versus alien Predestinators who guide human destiny, anti-Japanese prejudice and love interest in nurse Yoko ‘Shirley’ Mishina

1958 – “The Dusty Death” (‘New Worlds no.77’, November 1958), John Carnell says ‘a fairly simple story of just how much a death trap the Moon will be when once Man manages to place a foot on it’ – as two antagonistic crewmen reconcile as they work together to escape a crevice in Aristarchus crater. Republished in the ‘Out Of This World no.2’ anthology edited by Annabel Williams-Ellis & Mably Owen, Blackie, 1961 and ‘Out Of This World Choice’ September 1972

1958 – “It” (‘Nebula no.36, November 1958) illustrated by Kenneth Barr. ‘He was but a pawn in the hands of a bitter enemy – and then fate too decided to intervene’. In an act of revenge for adultery, Dirck Huygens – ‘wolf of the spaceways’, is deposited on planet Lidar II with Rider, a ‘poisonous little drip’ of a man. Together they confront an invisible energy-being which dies after part-consuming Rider, ‘so, it couldn’t eat men. It had tried with his companion, and it had sicked him up and killed itself’. But with both Rider and alien gone, Huygens will be the only suspect for the man’s disappearance…

1958 – “Thy Rod And Thy Staff” (‘Nebula no.37’, December 1958) illustrated by John J Greengrass. ‘They were stranded on a strange and hostile world – and then its natives came to read their minds’

1958 – “Tower For One” (‘New Worlds no.73’, July 1958) having achieved financial independence as a water-engineer on Mars, Margesson devotes his life to art, but in a ‘symbolically dramatic fashion’ when his paintings are critically savaged he leaves Earth for idyllic colony-world Krios V. All the children there are art-geniuses far beyond his ability, the properties of the sun induce colour-blindness, and he is valued as a water-engineer, not an artist. A strangely ambiguous moral about hubris and maybe not ‘rising above your station in life’?

1958 – “Call Him Friday” (‘Daily Mail Boys Annual no.3’), adapted as adult variant for ‘New Worlds’. This juvenile annual-format edited by John Bellamy, with uncredited black+red art, also includes Capt WE Johns (“The Case Of The Two Bright Boys”) and Eric Leyland (“Flame Of The Trail”)

1959 – “Friday” (‘New Worlds no.80’, February 1959) adult variant of ‘Call Him Friday’ from the 1958 ‘Daily Mail Boys Annual’, republished in the ‘Out Of This World no.1’ anthology edited by Amabel Williams-Ellis & Mably Owen, Blackie, 1960 ‘for grammar school readers’ according to Carnell

1959 – “Call Of The Wild” (‘Science Fantasy no.33’, February 1959) Roberts can over-hear insects plotting to take over the world, is it paranoia or over-developed imagination? When his secretary, Miss Torrence ‘runs lightly up the wall’ he understood… a silly humorous fantasy

1959 – “The Lady Was Jazz” (‘Science Fantasy no.34’, April 1959) Brian Lewis cover-art. The Lou Joris Seven play at the ‘Belle Marie’ in Teak Street – maybe ‘Ronnie Scott’s’ in Frith Street?, Lou is torn between the ambitious urgings of Lee Cayou the muse who knew Louis Armstrong and Bix and ‘was from all the races which had contributed to jazz – the pure African, the French, the Spanish, the Indian’, and piano-player Mae Becique. Lou rejects the lure of genius, ‘he had had his taste of immortality, and he didn’t like it’, and reconciles to his own musical ideas, with Mae…

1960 – “Last Barrier” (‘Science Fiction Adventures no.16’, September 1960) discussed in ‘New Worlds: Before The New Wave, 1960-1964: The Carnell Era Volume 2’ by John Boston (Wildside Press, 2013). It is ‘about Kanov, a member of the Steel Legion engaged in colonial warfare, who is manning an outpost in the company of his dead brother. A mysterious figure who claims to be a general, and has the proper ID shows up, and they engage in portentous conversation. The general is a veteran of campaigns including Gallipoli, Austerlitz and Bunker Hill, none of which Kanov has heard of. The whole rationale for Kanov’s existence and the Legion comes unraveled and Kanov dies begging for ‘resolution tablets’ (for the General was a plant, of course). This is actually a more effective antiwar screed than it sounds in synopsis’


1960 – “Unfinished Symphony” (‘New Worlds no.100’, November 1960) prestige celebration issue – as by John Hynam, art by Thomson, composer Jasper Crane is shocked through time so ‘Sunday Observer’ music critic Julian Frey can play him tapes of his own music he hasn’t written yet, up to the final work unfinished due to his car-crash death

1961 – “Blood Offering” (‘Science Fantasy no.47’, June 1961) republished in the ‘Weird Shadows From Beyond: An Anthology Of Strange Stories’ anthology edited by John Carnell, Corgi 1965, republished by Avon August 1969. Carnell writes ‘the selected story here shows that superstition may be something the white man can laugh off, but to the native it is a vastly different thing’


1961 – “Nelson Expects” (‘New Worlds no.110’, September 1961) John Carnell calls this ‘a story that could well have been published in that magazine (‘Playboy’)’ with conformist Mr Nelson James space-wrecked on an idyllic tropical island with fourteen-year-old Edwin, and four nubile sexually-predatory stewardesses


1961 – “Reflection Of The Truth” (‘Science Fantasy no.49’, October 1961), demonstrating Kippax stylistic diversity, this vaguely Poe-like story within a story has Balkan castle tour-guide Lazlo Janaçek relate the Gothic tale of Ladislas III, king of Bohemia and his wife Violetta’s accursed dalliance with sorcerer Skimalis, which seems to echo with Lazlo’s own young wife Jovanka. Story republished in the ‘Tales Of Unease’ anthology edited by John Burke, Pan Books 1966, republished by Doubleday 1969 and Curtis Books 1970

1961 – “Stark Refuge” (‘Science Fiction Adventures no.23’, November 1961), ‘among the many colonial worlds some were closed against visiting Earthmen, whether in distress or not. There were, of course, very special reasons’


1962 – ‘FIREBALL XL5 ANNUAL (1963)’ although individual features are uncredited, he contributes under his own name, as John Hynam. He also contributes to the ‘Cherry Ames Girls Annuals’ – ‘Behind The Cameras’ in the 1960 Annual, ‘Chupo’ (as Jane Hynam) in the 1961 Annual, ‘Spilt Ink’ (as Joan Hynam) and ‘A Café In Normandy’ (as J Hynam) in the 1962 Annual


24 October 1962 – “Closed Planet” although he wrote a number of mainstream plays, as John Hynam – including ‘Someone To Talk To’ with Wilfred Pickles (as George Bell), Jean Anderson, Joan Newell and Barry Letts (20:30, BBC-TV, 2 August 1960), ‘Closed Planet’ is the only one with an SF basis. Another with a Stone Age setting, ‘A Different Kind Of Woman’ was published in ‘The Fifth Windmill Book Of One-Act Plays’ (1970)


1966 – “Look On His Face” (‘New Worlds no.165’, August 1966) under editor Michael Moorcock, following a tip-off from a dead bar-girl on Lemnos Three, roaming Christian Priest Bill Kibbee journeys to restricted company-work Kristos V where a new messiah ‘Passion’ is being enacted, until Jahveh-lis tomb is struck by storm-lightning

1969 – “Four And One More” – as by John Hynam (‘The Fifth Ghost Book’ edited by Rosemary Timperley, Barrie & Rockliff, 1969 with paperback edition by Pan Books 1971

1970 – “Restless Lady” – as by John Hynam (‘The Sixth Ghost Book’ edited by Rosemary Timperley, Barrie & Rockliff, 1970 with paperback edition by Pan Books 1972, republished in ‘The Sixth Ghost Book, Book 2: The Judas Joke And Other Stories’ 1972

1971 – “The White Eyes Of The Little Grey God” – as by John Hynam (‘The Seventh Ghost Book’ edited by Rosemary Timperley, Barrie & Rockliff, 1971 with paperback edition by Pan Books 1973

1972 – “A Legion Marching By” – as by John Hynam (‘The Eighth Ghost Book’ edited by Rosemary Timperley, Barrie & Rockliff, 1972 with paperback edition by Pan Books 1974, republished in ‘Ghost Stories’ edited by Robert Westall, Kingfisher March 1988 in various editions

1973 – “The Time Wager” (‘New Writings In SF 22’, April 1973) first volume edited by Kenneth Bulmer, hardback Sidgwick & Jackson, paperback Corgi 1974. Subtitled ‘or; an extraordinary extrapolation of juvenile zeal resulting in a magnificent leap forwards (or backwards) into future (or past) trouble of a now-too-well-understood and rightly detested order of human endeavour.’ American exchange teacher JFB (Julian Ferrier Birtwistle) at Revell’s 1950’s-style public school, which uses corporal punishment, supervises a pupil’s time-transport into prehistory where a ball-bearing fired from a mischievous catapult causes Pithecanthropus to become Erectus. A frivolous ‘cheeky speculation’, according to Bulmer

1973 – “One For My Baby” – as by John Hynam (‘The Ninth Ghost Book’ edited by Rosemary Timperley, Barrie & Rockliff, 1969 with paperback edition by Pan Books 1975

1974 – “No Certain Armour” (‘New Writings In SF 24’ edited by Kenneth Bulmer, April 1974) hardback Sidgwick & Jackson, paperback Corgi July 1975) ‘a story of Venturer Nine, a shorter companion piece to the successful series of Venturer Twelve novels’, a mild conventional tale of a racially and gender-mixed crew, bantering cadets and efficiently-drawn characters on Kindros V, an exactly Earth-like planet on which they discover evidence they’re not the first human visitors. What killed the two buried pirates? Giant bees. No innovation, no shocks. Less ‘New Writings’, as though more pitched at a juvenile audience

1974 – ‘John Kippax Dies’ (‘Locus no.167’, 20 November 1974) obituary by Dan Morgan


NOVELS 

1968 – ‘A Thunder of Stars’ – with Dan Morgan (Macdonald, 1968 then Ballantine Books May 1970, and Pan August 1974) reviewed by Harry Harrison in ‘Vector no.52’,Winter

1972 – ‘Seed of Stars’ – with Dan Morgan (Ballantine Books February 1972, Pan Books August 1974)

1973 – ‘The Neutral Stars’ – with Dan Morgan (Ballantine Books February 1973, Pan Books February 1975) cover-blurb ‘The Stars, all space could be their hunting ground – as it already was for some unknown alien…’

1975 – ‘Where No Stars Guide’ (Pan Books, 1975) fourth and final book in the ‘Venturer Twelve’ series of Space Opera novels, by John Kippax alone. There is no American edition

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Poem: 'Red Sky At Midnight'




RED SKY AT MIDNIGHT: 
HOW TO DISEMBOWEL A CLOSE FRIEND 


it’s 4:30 am

i’ve just been
woken by a strange
marmalade-striped cat
i’ve never seen before

it came in over the roof and 
through the dormer window
left slightly ajar for
air-conditioning purposes

we watch each other

I get up, it slithers purring
around my bare legs,
so I make coffee, too
awake now to sleep

perhaps it’s a feline muse
a succubus, a witchy familiar,
Jerry Garcia’s wandering ghost,
or an alien shape-shifter

it’s 4:30 am,
i’m 49 years old, i’ve been
reading Henry Miller again
in his centennial year, sex
in Paris will never be
that good again

so I write this poem
to you, while it dictates


Published in:
‘INTERNATIONAL MAG no.7 (July)’ (Italy - June 1999)
‘OUTLAW MAGAZINE no.1’ (Dec 2002 - UK)
and E-anthology:
‘WORDPLAY: edited by Samie Sands’ (UK – 17 April 2015, Smashwords) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/535964

'The Divine Marquis: The Marquis De Sade'



‘THE DIVINE MARQUIS’: 
THE MARQUIS DE SADE 

 Is the ‘Divine Marquis’ more sinned against than sinning? 
 Does De Sade deserve his evil reputation? 
Andrew Darlington weighs the evidence… 

The Marquis de Sade was caught up at the storm-centre of social convulsions. As an aristocrat born into the despotism of the corrupt, cruel and venal Ancien Régime of pre-revolutionary France, he yet later became a magistrate under the founding father of state terror, Maximilien Robespierre. And as a writer, his legacy remains muddled. His biographer Donald Thomas points out ‘for the few who regard him as a materialist philosopher using the literary devices of pornography to embody his views,’ there are as many who see him as ‘a pornographer self-justified by philosophical pretensions.’

Those who make claims for his work as a philosophy at the roots of Existentialism, can be explained largely through his antagonism to the hypocrisy of organised religion. He aims his blasphemously satiric attacks at priests and the religious establishment to the extent that Thomas claims ‘his greatest mania was religious rather than sexual.’ But the Church was also the revolution’s primary target. It was the bastion of irrational belief and superstition. It insisted on blind, unquestioning obedience to apparently absurd dogmas while obstructing by censorship and persecution the spread or even the holding of other opinions.


The problem is that de Sade frames his justifiable rejection of theology in a way determined by the religious binary of good and evil. Without god there’s only the laws of nature, red in tooth and claw, but by denying the existence of a deity, he moves not to a sensible middle ground of rationalism, but to its farthest opposite pole. In a calculated act of defiance, he shakes his fist at an absent god, by purposefully embracing every aspect of a mirror morality. Without religion, there can be no moral absolutes, and no behavioural restraint. In a valueless cosmos, acts of goodness are as essentially meaningless as acts of evil. As Dostoevsky says, ‘if god does not exist, everything is permitted.’ But no, it isn’t.

William Blake’s ‘Orc’ – the spirit of revolutionary energy, proclaims ‘sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.’ As a literary gesture or artistic pose that works just fine. But no further. Such an argument admits no possibility of social self-interest or co-operation through mutual need in ways that are not enforced by conformity to religious belief. In this extreme reductionism, human beings are ‘miserable creatures thrown for a moment on the surface of this little muck-heap.’ We are ‘matter in motion’ with no spark of divinity and no eternal soul. We are what we are, until death extinguishes us, and we become nothing. Our only duty is to the enlivenment of the senses, to what de Sade calls ‘the divine laws of pleasure.’ In this way, yes, he anticipates elements of Existentialism.

His name may have become shorthand for a kind of moral poison, but the extent to which he lived the philosophy he claims is debatable. It’s more likely that his writing is predominantly fantasy. Donatien-Alphonse François, the Comte de Sade was born 2 June 1740 into one of Provencal’s premier aristocratic families, he died in the Charenton asylum 2 December 1814 after having spent more than twenty-seven of those years in various kinds of incarceration under both royal and revolutionary regimes, including confinement in the Bastille, where much of his writing was done. There are early behavioural clues in tales of abusive behaviour inflicted on his domestic staff. Young de Sade certainly had a Parisian mistress, as well as engaging prostitutes for more extravagant sexual experiments. Although that was hardly unusual for his time or social class. He was unwillingly married to Renée-Pélagie Cordier in May 1763, but promptly ran off with her sister Anne-Prospére, which earned him the eternal enmity of his influential mother-in-law, Madame de Montreuil, who was responsible for many of his subsequent travails. It has been suggested that his wife, and her sister, were the source of his ‘Juliette’ and ‘Justine’ characters.


His documented, but subsequently embellished offences include stripping and whipping a woman called Rose Keller. Inevitably, their accounts of the event differ. He claims she consented. She says otherwise. She claims he cut her buttocks with a knife, then poured melted wax into the incisions. He says there was no knife, and the ‘wax’ was ointment for her abrasions. An examining surgeon confirmed beatings had occurred, but the skin was not broken. Regardless of the degree of consensuality, she seems not to have suffered unduly and was well-recompensed by the fine imposed on de Sade. So, no angel, but hardly the monster of myth either. And despite such ghoulish exaggerations, both of his wives continued to be loyal and affectionate to him.

They were violent times, ferocious beatings were routinely administered as disciplinary measures in the Army and Navy. Corporal, as well as capital punishments were accepted aspects of the judicial system. Not that that exonerates Sade. The other authenticated case is when he administered the supposed aphrodisiac cantharides – ‘Spanish Fly’, to three willing Marseille brothel-girls who accepted his gift while exceeding the stated dosage. One of them – Marguerita Coste, became violently ill as a result. Although she speedily recovered with no long-term effects, Sade – accused of sodomy and poisoning, was forced to flee the country to escape legal retribution.

By the autumn of 1772 he had set up a refuge in Savoy as the ‘Colonel Le Comte de Mazan’ alongside his loyal Anne Prospére. He was briefly imprisoned, escaped, and returned to France. Again there was outrage, the so-called ‘Scandal Of The Little Girls’ during the winter 1774-5 in La Coste – a six-week debauch involving a fifteen-year-old male secretary, five servant girls of a similar age and a twenty-four-year-old nanny, after which he was again forced to flee to Italy. Strangely he declared himself shocked by the degenerate sexual dissolution he encountered in Florence and Naples.

He was tricked into returning to Paris where he was finally arrested in 1777 under a Royal ‘lettre de cachet’, and imprisoned in the Château de Vincennes, then the Bastille. It was during this long period of incarceration that his frequent letters developed into florid fiction. Days before the revolutionary masses tore the Bastille down, de Sade – as one of the agitators who helped incite it, had been transferred to the Charenton asylum. He was freed as part of a revolutionary amnesty, but penniless, moved in with a new mistress, former actress Marie-Constance Quesnet. As a magistrate under Robespierre’s Committee Of Public Safety, he actively opposed the guillotine, saved enemies from prison, campaigned fearlessly against state terror and injustice, and as an exemplary democrat supported the direct vote. Unlike other philosophical fathers of the revolution, he didn’t anticipate instant utopia, but believed that with economic and sexual equality, the human lot could be greatly improved. Hardly the actions of the monster portrayed by his legend.


His novels ‘Justine: The Misfortunes Of Virtue’ and ‘Juliette: The Prosperities Of Vice’ contrast the diverse fortunes of two sisters, the former who attempts to retain her virtue but is systematically debauched, and the latter who embraces vice, only to thrive and prosper. With Juliette just fifteen, and Justine twelve, their father is made bankrupt and flees to England, and with their mother dead they’re thrown back on their own resources. ‘Juliette’ has early experience of lesbian attentions and those of diabolic priests in a convent, so goes on to spend two years in a brothel, selling her virginity eighty times in four months while perfecting her erotic skills. Relying on her own ruthless energies she climbs from one man to another, from Noirceuil to Saint-Fond ascending the corrupt social ladder. She marries a nobleman, poisons him, runs her own brothels and gambling dens, organises a ‘Theatre of Cruelties’ for the King and Queen of Naples, attends a Papal Black Mass, and ends up the Countess de Lorsange.

  
The first draft of ‘Justine’ was penned in just fifteen days in the Bastille, and completed 8 July 1787, although four extended revisions followed. Justine – who confusingly conceals her identity as ‘Sophie’ throughout, and ‘Therese’ in a later revision, falls hopelessly in love with a profligate gay libertine who tries to persuade her to collude in the murder of his mother, Madame de Bressac by poisoning her morning chocolate, in order to get his hands on his inheritance. When Justine attempts to warn the proposed victim, Monsieur does the poisoning herself, ties Justine to a tree, strips and beats her, then blames her for the murder.

As a fugitive she stays with Rodin, a surgeon who at first offers her asylum, until she observes him abusing children in his care. Attempting to save Rodin’s daughter, Rosalie from abuse, Justine is captured and tortured. A toe is severed from each foot, teeth are torn out, she’s branded and then abandoned in the forest. While Rodin prospers, appointed as surgeon to the King of Sweden at a considerable salary, she seeks sanctuary with Father Clément at the monastery of Saint-Marie-des-Bois where she is systematically debauched by four monks – the first takes her anally (he ‘satisfied himself outrageously, without my ceasing to be a virgin’), the next orally (‘in a place which prevented me, during the sacrifice, from expressing any complaint as to its irregularity’), only then does she finally lose ‘the treasure of my virginity, for which I would have sacrificed my life a hundred times.’

She becomes one of four prisoners held in their seraglio, although there are suggestions of other girls held in other towers. The inconvenient pregnancies that result are treated with a ‘tisane’. But Justine is fearful of what happens to the girls they tire of, the first – Omphale, disappears after just six weeks. Presumably they are killed. After two years, with Justine the only survivor of the original four, they are liberated only when the monks themselves move up the church hierarchy, and are to be replaced.

 
Justine’s generosity and goodness is further betrayed. She is mugged by an old woman beggar she’s about to aid, and, helping a man named Dalville after he’s trampled by horses, she’s tricked into enslavement by him. Forced to join two chained naked women in a deep pit she must continually turn the wheel that draws water for a counterfeiter’s stronghold. Inevitably she is raped and flagellated too. A year later evil is again rewarded as Dalville’s criminality brings him wealth, he leaves for Venice after brutally shooting one of his manacled ex-mistresses in the head. Soon after, the fortress is stormed, the counterfeiter’s tried and executed, and Justine, as a prisoner of the villains, is released. But her troubles are far from over. She falls in with the devious Madame la Dubois for further torment before being reunited with her estranged sister, Juliette.

Even then, what would seem to be a promising conclusion is frustrated when Justine is killed in a meaningless way by a random lightning strike. Even when I first read these books as a sexually highly-suggestible teenage apprentice it was impossible to see them as anything other than horror-comic cartoons. In their grotesque absurdity the two novels can be read as tales of amusing excess in the strangely Gothic fashion of Matthew Lewis’ ‘The Monk’ (1796) or Ann Radcliffe (‘The Mysteries Of Udolpho’, 1994). Everyone – except Justine, are corrupt and vile. Juliette’s career forms an argument that women have as much right to cheat and scheme, and to be as sexually devious as men. Both Simone de Beauvoir (‘Must We Burn Sade?’, 1955, Grove Press) and Angela Carter (‘The Sadeian Woman’, 1979, Virago) have portrayed de Sade as an advocate of individual liberty above gender, or gender orientation. Absolutely free. Parallels can be drawn between him and ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’ written around the same time, in Aix between 1780-’81 and published in Amsterdam a year later. Choderlos de Laclos’ theme is also sex and malice – with playful flourishes such as Valmont lying in bed writing a letter, using the naked body of a girl as his writing desk. Although malice and viciousness triumph, de Sade’s bleaker perspective contrasts its more frivolous cruelties.


But if literature is to be more than just escapism, if it is to explore and accurately mirror aspects of human experience, it has a duty not to neglect these forbidden realms of darkness. There are periodic debates over the restriction of what can and cannot be said in fictional form, arguments that resurface from Flaubert’s trial over the immorality of ‘Madame Bovary’, to the 1960 trial of DH Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, from John Cleland’s ‘Fanny Hill’ – published in 1748 in London but put on trial in the USA in 1966, to the paedophile yearnings of Vladimir Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’. There’s an obvious interface between the art-for-art’s-sake notion that fiction exists in some rarefied realm above and beyond conventional morality, or the dirt-for-dirt’s-sake idea that literature has an absolute imperative to represent all aspects of experience, including the most unpleasant and the sordid. That the archives of literature must be broad enough to encompass the full spectrum of the imagination. If there’s a test to be made, de Sade provides the litmus.

‘La Philosophie Dans Le Boudoir (The Philosophy Of The Bedroom)’ (1793) is more philosophy than it is bed. In the preface – ‘Aux Libertins’, de Sade declares, in a very 1960’s way, of a youth ‘for too long restrained by the dangerous fantasies of grotesque and absurd virtue, by the chains of a disgusting religion,’ and urges them to ‘destroy and trample on those ridiculous precepts inculcated in you by imbecile parents.’ Right On! Yet there’s unbridled nastiness as fifteen-year-old Eugénie is given a moral and sexual education by three older libertines at the request of her father. When her mother, Madame de Mistival, attempts to intervene she’s hideously punished by having her vagina symbolically sewn up, and expelled from the ongoing activities. 


There’s also a shower of bawdy de Sade short stories, farces and sketches collected into ‘Les Crimes L’Amour (The Crimes Of Love)’ (1800), with “The Self-Made Cuckold”, translated by Margaret Crosland, still considered racy enough to qualify for inclusion in ‘Penthouse’ (August 1965, Vol.1 no.6). But ‘Les 120 Journées De Sodome (120 Days Of Sodom)’, although fragmentary, flawed and incomplete, is a more conscientiously offensive work detailing the inexcusable torture and murder of children. But again, the purpose is less pornographic in the sense of inducing arousal, and more a deliberate exploration of the most transgressive, the most forbidden, the most morally repugnant outer limits of unfettered human appetites. What he proclaimed as ‘the most impure tale that has ever been written since the world exists.’ Both the ultimate in morbid gothic excess, and a precursor to the torture-porn of twenty-first-century CGI-effect splatter- horror movies. 


Four nobles – the Duc de Blangis, Président de Curval, a Bishop, and banker Durcet, travel to the gloomy gothic Château de Silling in the depths of trackless forests and surrounded by mountains, to indulge in their systematic orgy. In a later study Havelock Ellis numbers six-hundred distinct deviational activities, calculated from the narratives of four procuresses who preside over the fetishistic debauch, each describing 150 perversions to be acted out on the retinue, which includes entrapped boys and girls chosen for their beauty. It’s an almost mathematical exercise in configurations after which, at the end of the 120-days of continual incarceration and depravities, the survivors are massacred. 

How is it possible to defend a man who advocates such unmitigated horrors? In fact, there’s never a suggestion of approval, on the contrary, the protagonists are never portrayed as being anything less than repugnant. And why a Bishop? Because, to de Sade, such status equates with the greatest hypocrisy. He had no illusions about human ‘natural goodness’. While – let’s be absolutely clear about it, this in no way constitutes child-abuse. Unlike online kiddie-porn, no child is involved. Everything happens inside the confines of de Sade’s head. These are wild fantasies written by a man in the Bastille during the thirty-seven days following 22 October 1785, charting the very extremes of human vileness. And if it’s masturbatory in nature, then it’s on an exhaustively epic scale. De Sade initially believed the forty-foot manuscript-scroll lost, but it was retrieved and first printed in 1877. In fact, the first fully unexpurgated version was only published in New York as late as 1989. Yet the scenario portrayed is sufficiently timeless for director Pier Paolo Pasolini to recast it as ‘Salò – The 120 Days Of Sodom’ (1975), setting its coprophiliac excesses within the last outpost of Italian Second World War fascism. 


De Sade academic Alan Hull Walton emphasises, ‘there is nothing aphrodisiac in Sade.’ The Marquis treats sex with brevity and a ‘cold and cynical objectivity.’ Aldous Huxley agrees that, although sex permeates de Sade’s writing, there is ‘more philosophy than pornography.’ Walton points out that there were sadists long before de Sade’s name was first grafted onto the psychopathic condition as a clinical term of description by Richard Freiherr Von Krafft-Ebing. He lists the likes of ‘Bluebeard’ Gilles de Rais, the lives of the Caesars as recorded by Suetonius and Tacitus, and Ivan the Terrible. 

But to state the obvious, characters on paper feel no pain. As fictional characters in misery-memoirs, Justine and Juliette feel no more real pain than the eternally tormented souls in Hieronymus Bosch’s painting ‘The Garden Of Earthly Delights’. Certainly de Sade witnessed acts of unbridled vileness and immorality during the ‘Reign of Terror’ to equal anything in his writing. And, although monstrously exaggerated, the acts he portrays can in no way be equated to the real inhumanities inflicted on the real victims of – say, the Catholic Inquisition, the Moors Murderers, or the cruelties perpetrated by Irish Catholic clerics of the Christian Brothers upon their charges into the mid-twentieth century. 

Yet for the Marquis there was worse to come. With the revolutionary ‘Reign Of Terror’ fervour extinguished by Napoleon’s return to moral normality, he was re-arrested. In a timely intervention by his family he was declared insane and returned to Charenton. This is the period envisaged by director Philip Kaufman in the film ‘Quills’ (2000), with de Sade (played by Geoffrey Rush) subject to the strange asylum regime where he’s initially able to direct plays involving the inmates. This has also been dramatised by Peter Weiss as ‘The Persecution And Assassination Of Jean-Paul Marat As Performed By The Inmates Of The Asylum Of Charenton Under The Direction Of The Marquis De Sade’ (1963). Ironically it was due to the enlightened François Simonet de Coulmier – a Catholic priest, that de Sade was able to continue writing, and was permitted to have his wife live with him. Although Coulmier was later replaced and de Sade endured fresh periods of solitary confinements, he developed a relationship with fourteen-year-old Madeleine LeClerc, the daughter of a Charenton employee, which lasted for the four remaining years of his life. De Sade shared the same time period as another destined to give his name to a branch of sexuality. Giacomo Casanova died in 1798, de Sade 2 December 1814, aged 74.


Ever the subject of fascination as well as repulsion, his skull was removed for analysis, providing Robert Bloch with the theme for his short story “The Skull Of The Marquis De Sade”, inevitably filmed as ‘The Skull’ (1965), with both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, by Amicus. While the advent of Freudian analysis and Surrealism shone new light on the legacy of the ‘Divine Marquis’. Poet Guillaume Apollinaire not only rediscovered ‘Justine’, but helped rehabilitate de Sade’s reputation with his hefty ‘L’Oevre De Marquis de Sade’ in 1909. While in the fictional subworld of Gothic pornography, and the highly ritualised S&M subculture, dungeons, manacles, flagellation and total slave-control maintain their online currency in ways that de Sade would surely recognise, in new media-forms he might not.


De Sade remains on the very bleeding-edge of what should, and should not be expressed. Cicero suggests that ‘if we are not ashamed to think it, we should not be ashamed to say it.’ Correct, irrefutably so. Until we get to Somerset Maugham who puts such open idealism into some kind of social context by pointing out that if thoughts were subject to the law, he – Maugham, would spend most of his life in prison! Or unthinkably worse, to poet/artist Jeff Nuttall ‘to Ian Brady, de Sade was a licence to kill children’ (in ‘Bomb Culture’, 1968) – which is also true, but it’s surely impossible to police the media to eliminate everything deemed likely to corrupt the vulnerably impressionable? 

And as recently as October 2011, the fiftieth anniversary Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of the ‘Marat/ Sade’ provoked eighty walk-outs at the preview show. Jeanie O’Hara who curated the programme justifies the play’s inclusion by stating the obvious, that the de Sade ‘philosophy is alive and well and streaming into our teenagers’ phones in the form of pornography. He is the ghost text behind every pornographic film ever made. He is alive and well in our culture…’ 

Yet in crime fiction, serial killers leave a grisly trail of mutilated corpses. But no-one actually dies. In Science Fiction civilisations fall, worlds explode and entire species are exterminated. But the ecological balance of the cosmos remains serenely undisturbed. It’s worth remembering that in pornographic fiction there’s lots of sex, but no-one actually gets fucked. It all happens on the page, and in the mind of the reader. As the tagline for ‘Quills’ phrases it, ‘there are no bad words… only bad deeds.’