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The Brentford Mercury

An Interview with Robert Rankin

Robert Rankin nabbed at an art exhibition

by Michael Carroll

 

About Religion

So, basically he doesn't approve of religion.

"I can't approve. The whole point of it is, nobody knows anything about what's out there. There's not a single person on the face of this Earth who knows what happens when you die, and nobody has ever come back from the dead and told anybody. I been studying this, I used to go to spiritualist circles. I used to wet myself with laughter. It was just so painful. I mean, every time the virgin Mary comes back, what does she say? `People should be peaceful to each other, and stop the wars.' Thank you very much Mary, nice of you to drop by. Anything else you'd like to say? Every time somebody comes back from the dead, or something, what they say is so banal that only the Wiccans can believe it.

"Do you ever read the Fortean Times? They present these sort of things in a very level-headed way. They started cataloguing the appearances of the Virgin Mary, and they realised that she was appearing in three different places at the same time! Trilocation!"

And saying the same thing in each place?

"No, no. But they're all banal! In Armageddon Christeen, the daughter of Mary, says `Oh, it's all right for Jesus, he got his face on the Turin Shroud. And mother's statues, they keep winking at people. Isn't she a schmuck when she comes back? What a boring woman.'"

How can a book like that be promoted?

"Corgi took a very good line. One of the heroes of this book is Elvis Presley. I'll give you a basic run-down of the plot. Everything that's ever happened on this planet is a soap opera, which is being viewed by these aliens. On their planet, televisions grew wild, and they were in the stone age, watching television, and they became totally hooked. So when they evolved they had to get more and more programs to watch, they sent out spaceships and found Earth ideal for viewing. So they sowed Earth with vegetation which beams it all back. They have these great editors out there who go through it and pick out the best bits. But Man wasn't getting it right, they hadn't discovered fire. So they sent down a script editor who bunged Man fire [he mimes an alien script adviser bunging prehistoric Man fire]. And then the script adviser would go along and say `Now would be a good time for a war', because it's pretty good for the ratings. He would be Napoleon or someone.

"So all through history these script advisers have played the key roles. We think Adolf Hitler was a human being - he wasn't, he was a Phnaargian script adviser. And what happens in the year 1999 for the ultimate screen ratings would be the nuclear holocaust. It really pulls in the crowds on this planet - they love it. But what happens afterwards is life on Earth is just all these little people sitting around in bunkers watching television - which is in fact all they do on this other planet. They decide they have to do something to get the ratings up. So they come up with this idea of the time sprout, which has to travel back into the twentieth century - they're going to change the plot. So they have to find the one character, who, if he did something different, would change the whole course of human history. Elvis Presley.

"If Elvis Presley hadn't taken the draft, a whole generation of American would have said `If the King's not going, we're not going.' There'd be no war in Vietnam. So in the new plot, Elvis refuses to take the draft, goes to prison, and in 1967 becomes the president of the United States on the youth vote. But things go wrong, because when you go back in time, when the present becomes the past, it decays. When you go back to 1959 there's some bits of 1962 and 1956 in there!

"So they escape from Graceland with Elvis, drive down the road and arrive at the Bates Motel. They tie Elvis up in a room, because they have to tell him to change his mind, and of course Norman comes in... And from there things get worse and worse.

"In the second book, when Elvis has been unable to change anything, he goes back himself to make up his own mind. He's got this time sprout inside his head, which keeps him young, and he goes through his whole life with prosthetics to make himself look older and fatter, and at the end he fakes his death. He goes to kill the president of the United States who pressed the button in 1999 and caused the nuclear holocaust, who Elvis knows is the Antichrist. The Antichrist has been orchestrating everything that's been going on in the world for the Phnaargs - the other planet - because after the bible ran out he knew he was going to get the chop. Armageddon was supposed to come in the year 999, but he kept forestalling it. Anyway, Elvis can't stop him, so in the third book he decides that there's only one way to stop all this, and that's to go right back to the garden of Eden and have a personal word with God, and say `Look, let me deal with this.'

"So God says `Okay, you go ahead.' Elvis changes the whole course of human history. He knows every time an Antichrist is about to be born, so he goes and chats up the mother, so the Antichrist never gets born. Unfortunately, society changes immensely, and people start worshipping Elvis as the god who stopped Armageddon. So then Elvis becomes the Antichrist and he's really pissed off!

"And the doctor says if I keep taking the tablets..."

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