N O W A V
A I L A B L E :
B U K K A K E W O R L
Andy Laughton: Of all the extended
metaphors you could have used to symbolize corporate aggression/oppression,
why choose semen? The word "cum" appears in Bukkakeworld
270 times. Was the concept of semen raining from the sky the
genesis of the book, or did you choose the metaphor after deciding
on the plot? Which came first (pun intended), the metaphor or
Mike Philbin: Cum in the face
is the perfect metaphor for how the human being is treated by
the money-making enterprise. It happens also in the military.
Human rights are a joke. Either you're shat on by your superiors
or you're a pawn of your trade union. You're shat on either
way. And sperm is better then faeces. There's nothing more annoying
or insinuating than having those salty five ounces glancing
across your face whenever you try to make a creative point against
the corporate mindset, again and again and again.
Laughton: Building on that image, could you explain your
idea of the corporate mentality that this book rails against?
Surely not all corporations are bad? What are you fighting against
with Bukkakeworld, and why?
Philbin: My aim with this book
was to replicate each working day where you're a name and not
a number. This thesis was actioned by writing chapter one, copying
it twenty or so times, then slowly changing the content of each
chapter that would represent (what should have been) the same
working day. I wanted to set up a sense of continuation of each
drab day within the framework of some sort of dramatic narrative.
Laughton: Cats or feline imagery
are everywhere in this book. Why cats? Is this a not-so-subtle
attempt to inject some femininity to offset all the cock and
Philbin: Cats are cute. In Oriental
business, cats are reveered. Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman was
a bonus. Kittens' paws are so soft, yet they sheathe the claws
that can rip your flesh offkittens are the perfect corporate
Laughton: In Bukkakeworld,
you've employed a narrative style (second-person) that is largely
the ugly duckling of literature. Why did you choose to write
BW in second-person? To me, it personalizes, makes me
feel uncomfortable, and hints that maybe I'm a part of the problem.
Is BW a call to action? Do you think the book would be
nearly as effective in first-person or third?
Philbin: Well, it really is a
book about you, the corporate lackey, the number, the faceless.
You. Yes, you are a part of the problem. In a sense, we are
all a part of the problem. We're a complacent army whose war
has yet to reveal its uglier face.
Laughton: My favorite passage
in the book is the singsong call and answer of what the protagonist
is doing versus what Kitten is thinking (butterflies in the
sunlight)Kitten sees our hero in great distress but is
unmoved by this, her thoughts peaceful and playful, for the
first time hinting to the reader that greater things are hidden
in that little cat. Is this just a good piece of writing or
is there a more important message there?
Philbin: My suspicion is that
if I died tomorrow the literary world would be a better place.
Laughton: Building on that, it's
no secret that you're a controversial figure in many circles.
How much of that is affectation or self-perpetuated? Do you think
you take any of the Philbin hate into your writing process? You've
already symbolically "killed" your Hertzan Chimera identity,
so you tell mewould the literary world be a better place
without Mike Philbin?
Philbin: Hang on, I've just gotta
put on some mood music to get me into the zone... That's better.
What's not important is that a writer dies. All writers die.
The important thing is the culmination of their death. Not whether
it was valid or justified (like if they deserved that the shrieking
mob of naysayers got to them) but if it followed a spectacular
writing life. Well, I'm working on that last bit, day by day.
I just don't suffer mind-washed morons very wellget your
own ideas, follow not the herd.
Laughton: Is there anything you
won't write about? What's too taboo for you? You strike me as
one of the most fearless writers I've read, so what do you fear?
Philbin: [blank stare as the music
takes hold] There's really nothing to say to this. People think,
"Oh, Mike Philbin, he's such a rascal, he's such a scamp.
I wish he would fuck me up the ass with a rolled up copy of
one of his thin books." Actually, no they don't, but I'd
like to think that me writing this might make more people go
outside and talk among their comrades and ask what their own
elected government is doing to them in that ass every fucking
Laughton: From the covers to the
formatting, Bukkakeworld and Planet of the Owls
show some striking similarities. Was this simply a design decision,
or are the books in some way connected in terms of content?
Are they parts of a whole or two distinct books with only looks
Philbin: There's a distinct dichotomy
going on between New World Order and Perceived Alien Threat.
Very soon we might see a culmination of this global effort.
And it'll not be very pretty for planet Earth. The coming events
might make the content of even Bukkakeworld and Planet
of the Owls pale into insignificance. Yes, there's Stanislaw
Lem-like subtexts in the books, there has to beotherwise
they're just too stupid for even me to bother writing.
Laughton: I'm sure you've had
to explain what "bukkake" is to someone who was unaware
of the concept beforewhat was the most memorable reaction
of someone when you defined the term for them?
Philbin: When someone goes, "Japanese
delicacy... right." And winks. But they're stepping back
as they wink. They're afraid. And reader fear is where I'm most
excited. Not fear as in they get a girly-little cheap three-act
narrative thrill as the panting antagonist chases their third-person
heroine or hero down corridors of dark cliches blah de blah
de blah. But the other fearthe I DON'T WANNA OPEN THAT
BOOK fear. And they still do. Because that sorta fear is irresistible.
Laughton: Can someone ever really
escape from Bukkakeworld, or is this all there will ever be?
Philbin: The Corporation will
eat all of mankind, if we're not careful. As a race, we're about
to find out how mortal we are. Whether any of us survive is
just the toss of a coin at this point.
P L A N E T O
F T H E O W L S :
Mark R. Brand: Hey Mike, thanks
for taking some time to talk with me a little bit about Planet
of the Owls. I've just finished reading it and I have to
say I'll never look at birds the same way again. I heard Paul
is shipping the first bunch of copies with a feather included?
Mike Philbin: Feathers as the
new filler content? I heard Paul's attempt to spread bird flu
and lice faltered at the first hurdle. The art of true understanding
with Planet of the Owls (and Bukkakeworld) is
to remember the works of Stanislaw Lem in Soviet Russiait
was all subtext. That's the only way true understanding will
prevail: to think, to question. If people are looking more closely
at the way the world is, then my job is done and I can retire.
Brand: Your two main characters
are teenagers. One is in Oxford, UK, the other in China. I was
wondering what the significance of their ages and the separation
by geographical location was? I've also read your recent book
Bukkakeworld, and it occurred to me that Planet of
the Owls might have been slightly influenced by Japanese
anime (teenage protagonists, bizarre plotlines, psychedelic
God imagery, horrific themes, etc.).
Philbin: I am a big fan of certain
Mangathey just project reality onto another plane and
deal with it. There are no misconceptions of it being reality
based. It's a new place and everything has its own morality.
I like that, arbitrary moralitythat's how the judicial
system in which we all live works. My favourite Manga are Akira,
Princess Mononoke and Almost Transparent Blue (this latter specifically
for the proper adult story that something like Legend of the
Overfiend sorely lacks). I'm a big fan of other worldsand
other worlds always have a real body horror aspect to them;
it's just he way humans are wiredthe new is horrific.
The question of age comes about to represent man's immaturity
in global matters.
Brand: Additionally, I was curious
if Hitchcock made it into your pantheon of influences. Hitchcock
himself was somewhat genre-defying and did make a movie about
Philbin: Hitchcock was a unique
director, but Planet of the Owls has more to do with
Planet of the Apes than The Birds.
Brand: What was the editing process
like for this book? Paul and I worked for several months on
Red Ivy Afternoon, and it evolved several different times
with additional plot development and small changes that brought
about continuity. Did you work largely with Paul on this one,
or was this a more-or-less finished product when you brought
it to the table?
Philbin: It was more or less finished.
The Human half was written in 2005. The Owl half was written
in 2006. The idea of meshing them together chapter-by-chapter
became a natural development as the stories ran parallel (yet
outside of the limiting linear time matrix) and this concept
will be more easily illustrated simply by reading the book.
Paul is a very good editor and open to creative suggestions
about all aspects of the novel creation process. I do tend to
go off on creative tangents and Paul helped me carve the intricate
Brand: The imagery of angels in
this book was one of my favorite things about it. That they
might be some sort of prismatic, unknowable meta-creature I
found to be very imaginative and engaging as a reader. What
made Planet of the Owls different, though, is that even
though these creatures are beyond the scope of human comprehension,
we could comprehend them for the sake of reading the story.
When we get angelic or immortal characterization in ordinary
fiction, it generally leaves me feeling like the writer just
isn't trying hard enough. I felt exactly the opposite about
Planet of the Owls. It was almost as though the "angels"
were a steady still-point that the rest of an otherwise occasionally-wobbly
narrative revolved around. Tell me more about where this came
Philbin: The 'narrative wobble'
is probably because I don't write to storyline. I hate clean
and tidy narrative resolutionit's a scourge on the book
industry. A writer should write, anecdotally, with passion,
and the reader will be carried along by his voice. Stories should
evolve at their own behest. Most of what Planet of the Owls
is about is DISCOVERY. The main characters on both sides have
no idea of how and why; they're both lost. Do they find themselves?
Does anyone? The idea of Owls came from the staring eyes that
I used to dream about when I was a small child. The idea of
the angels came from the very simple concept of "We can
never truly understand what those who rule us have in store
for us". As far as the angels being a steady still-point,
remember, the angels are everywhere at all times, they are everything
in between, they are not to be trusted.
Brand: I want you to know that
the scenes in the Oxford apartment with the owl, the feedings,
the (gulp) nesting, are some of the most gut-wrenching, lunch-losing
things I've ever read, and you own them. That's not a question,
that's just a statement. Slash-by-strangle recounts of the careers
of serial killers read like children's board-books compared
to some of this stuff. Here's a question: You DO realize that
no one who reads this book will ever look at you quite the same
way again, right?
Philbin: I owe all my love of
the heinous, sinister and criminal to that great thinker David
Cronenberg. There was a radio interview back in the late eighties,
I think it was BBC Radio 4, and he was rattling on about body
appreciation being more than skin deep: "We should have
an award for best spleen, most efficient kidney and most symmetrical
vulva." Horror should never be merely entertaining, it
should get to the root of prejudice and jingoism. In a Hertzan
Chimera past life I did a collection of stories called Animal
Instincts and it's a theme I've been fascinated with all
through my twenty years of writing. Anything to break the complacency
of the reader.
Brand: To follow up on the question
of the extremely (I don't know, "graphic" isn't really
the right word in the context that you wrote it, "disconcerting"
is probably better) disconcerting content of Planet of the
Owls, what has been your strategy to avoid being pigeon-holed
(pun intended) as the literary equivalent of Marilyn Manson?
I would think it might bother you equally to be profiled as
a marginally-talented shock-jock as it would to be labeled as
a genre fiction author.
Philbin: I certainly don't wear
eyeliner when I writeis that the correct answer? As far
as Brian Warner (the man behind the Marilyn Manson persona)
goes, good on him. He knows what he likes and he's not afraid
to tell anyone who'll listen. He's clever and charming in interviews,
and his fans are all dicks. The answer to all these questions
is audiencewhen I write, I don't perceive the audience
at all. That way I can't be worried about offending any of the
poor souls. Most writers pander far too deeply to their perceived
audience, to the detriment of their creative freedom. Screw
the reader, screw with the reader, he fuckin' loves it.
Brand: Do you have any sort of
strategy to minimize and contextualize the fallout from your
work? By this, I mean take Marilyn Manson for example again:
he has never apologized or waffled in his conviction toward
bringing his vision of music to us. He takes the rest of the
world lightly, but his own work very seriously, and he expects
others to do so as well just offhand. I get the same sort of
feeling about you and your work in general, as evidenced by
your general professionalism in the community as well as your
enthusiasm for promoting not just yourself but the entire institution
of independent speculative fiction. Some would say that the
best way to deal with random, unfocused criticism is to just
ignore it, which you seem to do well. On the other hand, how
do you hand this book to someone close to you? Do they have
any inkling of what they're about to delve into? That is to
say, is the Mike Philbin we might meet in a Starbucks the same
guy that writes about bestiality and other hideous topics? How
does that all play out?
Philbin: The Mike Philbin you'll
meet in Starbucks is staring right at you asking WHY ARE YOU
ASLEEP, HUMANITY? The only acceptable fallout from my work would
be that writers realise they can write whatever they want, share
with 'the reader()' whatever horror they can imagine,
bring out in the reader their true personal horrors in a way
that will make that reader go, "Christ, horror's really
horrific again. That hasn't happened for a looooooong time.
I don't even wanna open the book for fear of where it will take
me." That's the fallout I want from my writing, that people
have a preconceived fear of it, even before they open it. That
they'll feel uncomfortable even having the thing open on a bus,
train or aeroplane in case anybody sees them at it. The reader
should be ashamed that they're reading these books.
Brand: In view of your discomfort/distrust
of labeling, I won't bother trying to locate you in any sort
of plane of speculative fiction sub-genres, but perhaps you
could share with us some of the sorts of material that inspire
you or you just plain enjoy? You seem to enjoy movies as well
as books, which most current writers in all genres could say
is true of their influences. You talked above about modern fantasy,
social writings, and classic science fiction and horror as potentially
influential to Planet of the Owls, but the same could
largely be said for most of the fiction that Silverthought puts
out. What influences or atypical points of view do you have
that would surprise us?
Philbin: Wow, this makes me sound
like I should give a shit if you're entertained or not. Here's
what I think: all genre is a scam to belittle the creative power
of an artist. Don't trust publishers, don't trust agents, don't
trust your mommy and your daddy. Carve your own furrow in the
ground with your own gouging manhood. AKA get a pair and don't
be afraid of 'someone giving you a funny look'. You're dead
soon and then it won't matter.
Brand: I realize this might be
a somewhat exasperating question due to the fact that your two
novels are just now coming out, and have no doubt been a long
time in the making, but what's next on the horizon for you?
Have you got anything new in the works you could share with
Philbin: I have two novels out
with publishers, YOROPPA and VIEW FROM A STOLEN WINDOW, and
there's always the collaborative sex-horror project BOYFISTGIRLSUCK
(a Shocklines #1 bestseller in its first incarnation) that Alex
Severin and I completely overhauled, restructured and rewrote
last year. But my current project (because a writer just writes)
is called ONE OF US. What was missing from my books? A good
old traditional three-act narrative... Now, contrary to populist
propaganda, I'm a clever enough sorta bloke and the new novel
I'm working on has three serious acts dictating the character
development and linear theology of the narrative drive. I've
made a promise this'll be my first bona fide 'writing by numbers'
INITIATION: How does one endure the gruesome
ins-n-outs of life in The Industry?
NEW FAMILY: Why is a fair war a futile
FINAL SOLUTION: How does one become a
martyr in a morally bankrupt world?
Has Philbin sold out? Only in the most
spectacular (horrific) way. ONE OF US takes place in 1930s Dusseldorf
before the rise of the Nazi party in Germanyyeah, that's
surprising to y'all, innitanyway, the revolutionary theory
of story reading I've come up with involves a radical concept
called Beginning, Middle, End (sarcasm engine disengaged). Will
there be horror? Oh, yes, oodles and oodles of horror. Will
there be social satire? Well, if I understood what society was,
I'd have a gobut the jury's still out. And civilisation,
don't talk to me about being civil.