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The Brentford Mercury

The S.F.X. Interview

The full text of an interview from SFX magazine

by M.J. 'Simo' Simpson



M Are you going to write any more books about Max Carrion?

R The next one I hope to write is going to be one more. It should be a big epic, a big sort of quest. The thing is that when Jack Vance opened up that genre, there’s an awful lot of books like that. And I don’t want to write books like other people’s books. I’m a bit afraid that people might say ‘Oh, you know, he’s now on his pure old science fantasy. He’s got a bit of magic in there, and all that. What’s Rankin doing?’ So, I dunno. Iffy, isn’t it?

M The other thing that struck me is: the whole book, Pooley! O’Mally! Where are they? They’re not even mentioned. There’s not even ‘He walked along and Pooley and O’Mally weren’t there.’

R Oh, shit. I’m sorry, I did leave them out of that one, didn’t I? Don’t worry, they’re in the next one.

M Is that the only one they’re not in?

R Probably is. They always get a passing, fleeting... They didn’t get a mention in The Greatest Show Off Earth, but that was set here. Time and again, people always say ‘Are you going to write another one? Are you going to write another one?’ But I think I’d have to be really famous before I dare. It would also have to be a hell of a good idea. They were complete, those books. I’m really iffy about writing another one.

M All your books seem to connect in some way, however minor. Do you have some grand plan, or do you just enjoy putting in in-jokes’?

R It’s always hard to find a place to set things and obviously it’s always hard to find new characters, and as I always base all the characters on people I know, and always have – with the exception l think of probably Barry and Elvis Presley – then it’s easier, isn’t it? It’s easier to re-write old characters, but in a way it’s a cop-out. You can give them a brief mention, and people who’ve read your work will share the joke with you, but I worry about it. Because you do feel that each book has to be a separate entity. You want each book to be a real good’un, and you worry if you do that too often. The publisher’s always looking over my shoulder, saying ‘Hey-hey, watch it!’

M The thing that struck me and my friends when we started reading your work, around the time of Armageddon, was all these terribly obscure little references. When we came across that reference to ‘Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child’, there was about three of us who had ever heard of Mojo Nixon. And we were Just cock-a-hoop, going ‘Yes! Somebody else has this album!’

R A good example lately is a band that I put in Armageddon, a band I’d heard of, called The Lost T-Shirts Of Atlantis. And I got a letter from them, sent to the publishers: ‘We understand that Mr Rankin likes our songs. Would he like to write the sleeve notes for the cover of our album?’ Fucking yeah!!! So they sent me all this stuff, they sent me T-shirts and stuff. I thought ‘Cor, that’s great! Shall I name-drop some other people that I 1ike?’

M Has that come out?

R No. In fact I got a letter today saying the band’s broken up! But the thing is: I’m always accused by people who don’t get the joke, or haven’t read the book, of being obscure, but the point is that that’s the world I live in. I’ve got all these albums, I’ve got all these books, and I’ve seen all these films. But then I talk to somebody up in the pub, and I say ‘So-and-so, he was in that movie.’ They say ‘I’ve never heard of that movie.’ You say ‘You must have listened to that record?’ ‘No.’ ‘Well you must have read that book?’ ‘No.’ Who are these people? Don’t they read anything? Don’t they listen to music? Don’t they go anywhere? So it never occurred to me until probably quite recently that people were saying ‘Oh, these obscure references.’ Because I’d never thought they were obscure. I’d naturally assumed that people thought like me.

M But you can’t have assumed that everyone listened to Mojo Nixon records’?

R No, but they should. Actually, the book I’m writing at the moment is going to have a soundtrack. Because books never have soundtracks, do they’? There’s all these films, and they’ve always got a soundtrack album. Have you seen Batman Forever? Could you find the records from that soundtrack album? No! So I thought it’s about time there should be a book with a soundtrack album, you see? And you’ll have to make this up, and you can play it as you damn well please as you’re reading the book. Some of them are going to be right bastards to find!

M There’s only one book that I know of that has got a soundtrack a album...

R Oh no!

M It’s Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth.

R Really?

M There’s this soundtrack LP which somebody bought for me, written by Hubbard, and it’s diabolical.

R Yes, but what a collector’s item.

M It’s very rare,. and justifiably so. Something I want to do sometime as an article is science fiction writers and their Urges to be rock stars.

R Well, Michael Moorcock had a lot to do with it.

M He actually made an LP, New World’s Fair. Now that is a collector’s item. lain Banks has worked out the soundtrack to the film of one of his books In case it ever gets made.

R Well, we’ve all done that!

M Yes, but he’s written the songs for it.

R I wrote all the songs for Armageddon, you see, because when it was on the stage it was a musical.

M Is that ever going to be revived?

R Every year you do things, which is: sell your rights to the TV, who never ever make them. People come along and say ‘I’m interested in Armageddon The Musical, that would make a great stage play.’ I say ‘Well, it was a stage play.’ ‘Oh well...’ ‘If you want to organise it...’ Nothing ever comes of it. A lot of good intentions.

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