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The Brentford Mercury

An Interview with Robert Rankin

Robert Rankin nabbed at an art exhibition

by Michael Carroll


Far Fetched Fiction

Robert Rankin may not be quite as famous as Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett, but there is a growing school of thought that he's every bit as good a writer. There is another - also growing - school of thought that he's actually a lot better than the other two.

The author of The Antipope, The Brentford Triangle, East of Ealing and The Sprouts of Wrath (collectively known as the Brentford Trilogy and the other one), Mr. Rankin has recently published Armageddon: The Musical (based on his own play of the same name) and They Came and Ate Us - Armageddon II: The B-Movie.

Certainly - as attendees at the recent ISFA Art Show where Mr. Rankin appeared as a guest discovered - he's extremely entertaining. At the show Mr. Rankin let us in on the secret of writing a best-selling novel ("First get twenty copy-books and two thousand blue Biros..."), continually berated us all for calling him Mr. Rankin and not Robert, and generally kept everyone spellbound with his brilliant wit and incredible shirt.

Robert Elliott, Michael Cullen and myself joined him in the bar of his hotel and spent an evening chatting about his books, his career, who's turn it was to buy the drinks, whether or not my recorder was working correctly, monarchy and religion.

Robert Elliott started the ball rolling by suggesting that since he's a humorous writer, Robert Rankin is inevitably compared with Terry and Doug...

"I write far-fetched fiction," Robert Rankin said. "That's what I write, and I am a tall-story-teller, because my father was a tall-story-teller before me, and I think it's a family tradition."

I theorised that height has a lot to do with it.

"Yes, the first-born has to be a tall story-teller. I tell tales, that's what they are, the Brentford books, aren't they? Tall stories, you know. I wouldn't find necessarily that those Brentford books are Science Fiction, though the Armageddon books - by definition - must be Science Fiction. If you set a book fifty years in the future, how else do you define it? People have got holograms on their desks, it's Science Fiction, isn't it?"

Robert Elliott mentions that, as in The Brentford Triangle, having aliens invading is generally construed as Science Fiction.

"Yes," says Rankin, "And all the normal people believe it's the work of the council."

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