A tribute to sci-fi author Jeff Lint (“the burst sofa of Pulp”) by Steve Aylett (Arthur, 2002)

Jeff Lint: The Burst Sofa of Pulp 

by Steve Aylett 

Originally published in Arthur No. 2 (December, 2002)

Pulp sci-fi author Jeff Lint has loomed large as an influence on my own work since I found a scarred copy of I Blame Ferns in a Charing Cross basement, an apparently baffled chef staring from the cover. After that I hunted down all the Lint stuff I could find and became a connoisseur of the subtly varying blank stares of booksellers throughout the world. 

Born in Chicago in 1929, Jeff (or Jack) Lint submitted his first story to the pulps during a childhood spent in Santa Fe. His first published effort appeared in a wartime edition of Amazing Stories because Lint submitted it under the name “Isaac Asimov.” “And Your Point Is?” tells the story of an unpopularly calm tramp who is pelted every day with rocks, from which he slowly builds a fine house. The story already reflected the notion of ‘effortless incitement’ which Lint would practice as an adult. “Jack was fantastic,” says friend Tony Fleece. “Went around blessing people – knew it was the most annoying thing he could do. A dozen times, strangers just beat the hell out of him.” Lint perfected the technique when he stumbled upon the notion of praying for people. 

Lint’s first novel was published by Dean Rodence’s Never company in New York. The relationship between Rodence and Lint was one of complete mistrust, rage and bloody violence. When submitting work in person, Lint insisted on appearing dressed as some kind of majorette. “He was a large man and clearly wasn’t happy at having to do this,” explains Fleece. “He blamed Rodence, was resentful. I still don’t know where he got the idea he had to dress that way when handing his stuff in.” 

The first novel with Never was One Less Person Lying, in which Billy Stem must tell the truth or be transformed into the average man. Rodence persuaded Lint to change the title word ‘Person’ to ‘Bastard.’ On a night of pre-press jitters, Rodence then partially re-wrote the final sections of the book so that Stem puts on a spacesuit and goes berserk, killing an innocent stranger with a large rock. The book was published as simply One Less Bastard. In the 25 years of their association Lint never forgave Rodence for the incident, and often alluded to it by repeated use of the word “bastard” when speaking to him. 

Around the time of his second published novel Cheerful When Blamed, Lint met his first wife Madeline, who was attracted to him by a knife scar which led from below his left eye to his mouth. This was in fact a sleep crease and Lint managed to maintain the mistake by napping through most of the marriage. But after five months a bout of insomnia put paid to the relationship and left Lint with nothing to occupy his time but his writing–luckily for the world of literature, as he produced some of his best work at this time, including Jelly Result, Nose Furnace, Slogan Love and I Eat Fog, all of which appeared on Rodence’s new Furtive Labors imprint. Turn Me Into a Parrot took issue with the fundamentalist notion that the world was only a few thousand years old and that dinosaur bones had been planted by god to test man¹s faith. Lint asserted that the world was only sixty years old and that the mischievous god had buried sewers, unexploded bombs and billions of people. In my own book Shamanspace I make it clear that humanity arrived eons ago but, like a man standing in front of an open fridge, has forgotten why. 

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STEVE AYLETT on the whole Matrix bollocks (Arthur, 2004)

The Mattress Has You

Steve Aylett pulls you from the pod 

Originally published in Arthur No. 8 (May 2004)

Reviewed: The whole Matrix bollocks.

There was a time when bone-white-fellas-in-long-black-coats-and-shades like myself could enter a lobby without everyone screaming and hitting the deck. But then, over a decade after the heyday of cyberpunk, The Matrix launched the lite version.

By the time a subculture surfaces all clean in the mainstream it’s been simplified to a couple of notes–look at Goth in the timid world of Buffy–but by keeping it simple, the first Matrix also kept it precise and consistent (except for the tapped phone before the meeting at the bridge and all the battery nonsense). There was just enough story to stand up–newbies spoke of “wheels within wheels” but in truth it was only a two-wheeler, the simplest “reality inside a reality” plot. Compared to the works of Greg Egan, The Matrix was Where’s Spot? and left the cyberpunks in the audience waiting for a twist that never came. Harlan Ellison had no mouth and had to scream years before Neo.

Why did the first Matrix work, when the story was so old? Virtual reality is old hat–William Gibson moved on from it when the first Matrix was a mere gleam on the shiny vinyl arse of Carrie-Anne Moss. The Matrix marked the first time VR had been done well on screen–the technology had finally got to the point where real images and CGI were genuinely indistinguishable. Compare this to Wild fucking Palms

The Matrix’slook is a mix of Dark City, Hardboiled, Blade, Accion Mutante, Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles and my own “Beerlight” stuff, but it established a cool of its own, working from the theory that the more blank faces there are on the screen, the fewer there will be in the audience. An actress like Fairuza Balk, whose face can really move, would have upset the whole deal. The blankness worked great, though, for Agent Smith, who would be hilarious just reciting from the phone book. In keeping with the “more quantity, less quality” scheme of the sequels, Smith uncoupled himself from the Matrix in Reloaded and duplicated himself hundreds of times. His “now it’s personal” thing went too far–Hugo Weaving’s restraint was what made him funny, and many characters and concepts fall apart when uncoupled from the rules–when Pinhead became a free agent in the third Hellraiser movie, he was no longer Pinhead, just a declaratory tosser. (In fact, Hellraiser III: Declaratory Tosser was one of the titles mooted for that sequel.) In Matrix Reloaded the balanced repartee of Weaving was taken up more successfully by Lambert Wilson in the character of the Merovingian, for whose scenes I woke up briefly. Even his girlfriend (Monica Bellucci) was a nice departure, in that she appeared to weigh more than a kilo. Meanwhile the good guys, two-note characters in the first film, were reduced here to a single robotic note–to the extent that the blank Keanu and stonier-than-thou Fishburne were often replaced with CGI stunt borgs. 

The Matrix movies have opened up “meaning-spotting” to the casual viewer, with a few very deliberate meanings and the most impressively inadvertent ones since Willem Dafoe’s 9/11 prophecy in Faraway, So Close and the characters Mac and Windows in Carpenter’s The Thing (which one contains the nasty bug? which one will last longest and operate most creatively?). The “there is no spoon” notion of changing the Matrix by thinking differently about it is meant to push the Buddhist/postmodern folly that believing something makes it so, thus removing the expectation of having to physically do anything about it. “There is no fact” is beloved of government because it helps people to accept anything that’s done to them. And it’s more glamorous to talk about evil machines (or aliens, demons, vampires, Satan …) than it is to deal straight with the utterly bland human bastards who actually fuck us over. Real evil is too crass and low-res to work as an industry pitch. This is the problem with science fiction–the more compelling the world created on screen, the less likely that anyone will translate it back into an active meaning in the real world. So this remains a story about energy-battery humans plugged into VR, and not about the constant re-examination of thought premises leading to practical action.

I liked the first Matrix okay but I wish it was braver and more specific. The IRS is mentioned in passing but not the PNAC–such surgical opportunities are regularly missed. Fans look for rabbit references–Night of the Lupus is on TV in the Oracle’s apartment–it’s a safe little parlor game. Maybe the Matrix trilogy will make mental activity glamorous by making it synonymous with kicking the hell out of people, but in doing so it may remove people’s understanding of how and when to physically do so.

I briefly hoped that Revolutions might throw some folds into the cyberpunk lite routine, with Smith ending up as a deadpan stand-up comic in the style of Richard Belzer. The “humans and machines should work together” bit–obvious enough to be unavoidable even for the arch-evaders directing this mess–could in fact have been dodged at the last minute in favor of a splodgy, wading pie fight like something out of The Great Race. Get in there, Monica! But no–the requisite lusty enthusiasm and flushed, giggly humanness would have been a universe out of place. 

I was hoping that at the very least the wasteland and Zion could turn out to be another digital reality inside another inside another etc all set up for the amusement of the cat which Neo saw twice in the first film–the cat is called Ramone and is having the time of his life. “And that’s what I did for the weekend,” the sock-puppet cat says in the final frames of Revolutions, and smiles open-mouthed like Kermit the Frog. Fade to black. Instead we have Smith the Terrorist, designated villain, ultimate cop-out distraction from the real manipulators. 

Like Nebuchadnezzar, the namesake of Morpheus’s hoversub, viewers will always evade what the dream really means, for fear of having to actually do something about it. Don’t really get out from under, just pretend you’re Neo and that you could any time you wanted. It’s a portable adventure you can carry anywhere and superimpose over any situation as a prophylactic against real action. There will be no Revolution. You’re still asleep, smartass. The mattress has you.

Steve Aylett is the author of Slaughtermatic, Atom and Shamanspace

Visit http://www.steveaylett.com

ARTHUR'S ASTROLOGY by Steve Aylett (Arthur 12/March 2004)

By guest astrologer Steve Aylett

first published in Arthur No. 12 (March 2004)

(August 23 – September 23)
You will develop the frictionless face of a dolphin and thus enter the bar at greater speed. All present will address you as a “bottlenose bastard.” Incapable of human speech, you will not be able to order. The anecdote will flourish on the rubber-chicken dinner circuit, bringing precious little benefit to you, Virgo. Yet in September your huge button eyes will fall upon a new love and romance will blossom. Understand that this is a time of regeneration. A man who believes in a billion things has a billion used tickets to sell. A clean slate awaits the squeak of a lie—don’t blow it, Virgo!
Reading: Whatever it purports to be, if everyone stops to watch, it is not advisable to drink it.

(September 24 – October 23)
Arriving at work in early July, you will remove your coat and calmly push it into the mouth of your employer. Congratulations! Sympathising with their arrogance might encourage them to rule over you. Evade your responsibilities in September by mounting an adroit display of wasting sickness. A tip: cotton wool soaked in red dye looks like guts! Atone for your work by hurdling gravestones wearing a tail like an arrow. But beware—sooner or later the Supreme Court will have you by the legs. The scales of justice mirror those of your own sign, Libra. Make a freakshow of your tears and tell them a fire-breathing wren told you to do it. This is the sort of nonsense of which courts are disposed to take a tolerant view. They’ll send you away with pity and laughter. Unguarded remarks about Larry Hagman will earn you a smack in the mouth. Keep digging the tunnel.
Reading: Never refer to a large dog as a friend—he is in custody and he knows it.

(October 24 – November 22)
One of your henchmen will betray you to the fuzz. Saturn in Gemini in your second house leads to the confiscation of illegal earnings, which is how you could afford the second house in the first place. Traitors, all in rare form, are straining every nerve to keep from sniggering. In the festive season eleven bullets will unexpectedly take up lodging in your back. From your wounds the ballistic route will be triangulated to the fuzzy image of your mother, caught in the background of a tourist’s snapshot. She is holding a rifle and has never looked so fulfilled. The corpse of your first victim will be dug up on a nutmeg plantation. A deposit of Iron Age snot will also be detected. In court your shouts of explanation will stray off the charted edges of the alphabet. “Our only option was a grisly disposal at midnight” is no defense, Scorpio. Begging for leniency, you will come to regret that you have only two knees upon which to crawl. I see you in a turmoil of mistrust, weak amid a crowd of cheesy quavers. When you can’t find your pants but can find the front door, a message is being sent. Abandoned by all, you will spring off a building wearing a Hawaiian wreath of donor cards. Closed coffin if you get my drift.
Reading: Knives delight in a snug enclosure—for them it’s freedom.

(November 23 – December 21)
Saying “Advantage mine” when overtaking someone on the pavement is not a winning attitude. Your pursuit of notoriety comes of the duty to compare. Your ideas end where most people’s begin, Sagittarius. Picture after picture buries your real face. You kiss only the superior graves. You pretend to be a populist by fainting near a barricade. Serenity is painful for you. Status looks outward so unremittingly its heart may stop without concern. Pretty soon you’ll be batting at invisible serpents. A faked photo of you with a smile and yacht bevy will be the last your friends hear of you. An obscure East End chef will serve an elaborate sugar sculpture of your arse. The first incision will reveal that the real arse rests within. Yet even this display of your charms will only reach the latter pages of the tabloids. Disintegration is the constant season.
Reading: Your contribution is condemned to the crowd.

(December 22 – January 20)
Put it all on Deathbed Pioneer in the fifth—it’s a lock. The optimist sees the future as a rabbit sees the oncoming truck—getting bigger, not closer. No sense getting all steamed up about things. Remember the philosopher Pandemal who went to hell with the words, “Fatal place, have another bit.” Impish devilry is the order of the day, Capricorn. Attend the theatre in a waterlogged box jacket. Flick a poison spider into the orchestra pit. Slap a musician on the back so he gets his face caught in the thin end of the trumpet. Stare through a grating and frighten the children. Then sit and watch the money roll in.
Reading: Snack in a sniper’s nest —calm before the storm.

(January 21 – February 19)
You will celebrate Christmas Day under a fallen door. “Freeze on day of purchase”—there’s a grim double meaning there, Aquarius. Hesitation at the crucial instant releases mayhem, attacks by a screaming chimp, all poise lost. Feeble cries will bring eventual rescue and recovery in time for the multiple tragedies of the New Year.
Reading: A poet can often be found in a block of tar, still expressionless.

(February 20 – March 20)
The grim task of wedding a loved one is endured amid prolonged silences. This absurd and demeaning farce will take its toll on you, Pisces. A flower is coloured silk in the dirt, not a symbol. Cross the threshold of pity; can’t get back across the armature. How to compensate for giving up a whole human in bits and pieces? Medication enters your mind like a sinner through the gates of heaven. Starvation is portable almost to the end. Able to do anything, you merely answer the door. Talk of “suction rhythm” will be met with a revolted silence. Escape, Pisces. Don’t even make a scene. Punching a clown makes it hard to steer.
Reading: We bring death and those who claim to be our rivals bring death also. It’s investing everywhere.

(March 21-April 21)
You appear to be worried about your plan to steal from the company, Aries. Do not be concerned. You will be fired before the opportunity arises. Collect those crumbs from your eye—they’re trying to tell you something. Despite bearing more than a passing resemblance to a hen, you are despotic and surly. The world has already lost patience with you and your so-called “mystery ears.” Broke in a tux, you impress nobody. Your diatribes send passersby recoiling in disinterest. Yet believing the patronising words of a professional, you will change your name by deed poll to “Babylon Tiger” and wear some sort of wrestler’s cape. In early Fall you will slam into a bar full of mirrors, ferns, frogstands and icy women, vomit against the indoor water feature and wake up naked in a wild bird reserve. Your hoselike nose and tubular morality will not help you then.
Reading: Lady luck means to feed.

(April 21 – May 21)
In September your head will twist open like a flower revealing a small platform upon which a puppetlike drama will unfold, toy maidens dancing about a well which is in fact the stump of your spinal canal. One of the tiny figurines will have the face of your father and as it shuffles across the platform it will whisper “Never to forgive.” And this is only one of the bounties awaiting you this autumn, Taurus. Efforts of the past few years will finally pay off, as an eye defect will superimpose the image of flamingoes in surgical masks over everything you see. This will make your moods unpredictable and often dangerously explosive, the influence of Mars pissing about in the usual way. You may learn that you can justify any atrocious act by connecting it with several years of a stranger’s success—no-one condemns altruism.
Reading: Hang up the phone on a vampire—the definition of carefree.

(May 22 – June 21)
Your crime will be discovered through carelessness. A single omission lays waste to many precautions. Not all publicity is good.
Reading: Fractured masks, the house empty.

(June 22 – July 22)
Put aside all doubts about your sexuality—the spaniel in question is The One. Yet an entrepreneurial enterprise which is close to your heart requires further consideration. There are no such things as “Deluge Pants” and there never will be. Remember the tale of the man who, watching evenly-matched nuns in a bare-knuckle fight, bet on the one with the scariest face. Sharp bones are brittle! Consider every angle before making an announcement. You have shown taste and split-second timing before, Cancer, as when you pushed that waiter against the passing student.
Reading: Only the English clear heaven for dignitaries.

(July 23 – August 22)
Couples: when feeding a guppy, spread the work—one to sprinkle the food, one to frown. You value domesticity, Leo, but sometimes you have to kick your heels and fire a gun randomly into a crowd. A brawl in a sawmill will leave you shaken and drenched with aviation fuel. Friends find your rage unfathomable and frightening—why not make amends? Avenge all wrongs against them, arriving unannounced and fluttering, orbiting the foe in jittery trouble, punching, punching. Take no credit for the vengeance. They will hear of their enemies’ misfortunes and privately bless an angel. Love is granted before we know it, like an escaping bird. Respect is more slow, like a tired badger.
Reading: Tinsel on a man—happiness is dead.

Steve Aylett is the author of cybersatire classics Slaughtermatic, Toxicology, Dummyland and Shamanspace. http://www.steveaylett.com

ARTHUR BEST OF 2007 LISTS No. 15: Steve Aylett

Steve Aylett: Good stuff from my stupid year –

Efterkland Parades CD – strange toytown parades & ghosty nebulae from Copenhagen.

Josie Long – comedian who is happy, optimistic and basically the opposite of me in almost every way, while somehow not being irritating.

Cardiacs gig at London Astoria – Tim looking like a school headmaster, Jim and the other guy looking like Lord Mayors, plus two strange women in red. All was happy in the pond.

The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky). Shut up, that’s why.

7-Inch Stitch’s Phosphorus Tarot of Matchbooks CD – band from Austin Texas bases an album around the works of Jeff Lint. Really.

Monique Ortiz – big & hot angst from the singer/guitarist of AKACOD and Bourbon Princess.

Colette Phair’s Nightmare in Silicon – the cold horror of a roboticized human is perfected in the chill of this book.

Catherynne M. Valente’s Orphan’s Tales books – rich fairy tales within fairy tales.

Joanna Newsom’s Ys CD – obviously.

Scott Lynch’s Locke Lamora books – rip-roaring con-games and pirate shenanagins.

Steve Aylett is an author, Lintophiliast and real live wire. He discussed the obscure pulp author Jeff Lint in Arthur No. 2 and the Matrix films in Arthur No. 8, and, in Arthur No. 17, he presented a two-page excerpt from a vintage Jeff Lint-penned comic book, sparking a new round of eBay bidding war madness that has yet to subside.