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Steve Taylor
Posted on Tuesday, February 04, 2003 - 07:52 pm:   

Richard:

As a surreal/decadent writer, I wonder if you could tell us what authors you've been reading recently--who really seems to be taking up the legacy of those writers?
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Richard Calder
Posted on Thursday, February 06, 2003 - 03:43 am:   

Steve --

In a word, I'm not at all sure. But they would have to be authors who not only employ the decor and (by now) rather shop-worn furniture of Symbolism, the Decadence, and Surrealism, to new effect, but take on board genuinely transgressive ideas and themes. I greatly liked Michel Houellebecq's 'Platform' (far, far more than his two previous novels, 'Atomised' and 'Whatever'). He takes a perverse, cynical, disgusted-with-life stance on just about every issue you can think of. He's sometimes compared to Céline, but though he shares Céline's disgust, he lacks Céline's black humour (and he simply doesn't write as well; 'Platform' has its longueurs), but I admire his penchant for going *against the grain* (in Huysmans something of a pose, but with Houellebecq, real -- often heart-breakingly so) and for saying things so utterly non-pc. There're doubtless many other contemporary authors -- and doubtless some are working within sf/fantasy/horror -- who may be described as 'Decadent' but who also go against the grain and have outlaw sensibilities. I'd welcome any recommendations.

To conclude on a note of unabashed self-promotion: Four Walls Eight Windows published my 1998 novel 'Frenzetta' (previously available only in the UK and Commonwealth) last year. They'll be bringing out 'The Twist' (originally published in 1999) sometime in 2003. 'Malignos' and 'Dead Girls' (or 'Chicas Muertas') will be published in Spanish translation by Gigamesh this spring. I continue to scribble away ...

Richard
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Jay Caselberg
Posted on Thursday, February 06, 2003 - 06:42 am:   

Richard, just wanted to drop in and say hi. Also to say that I adore the Dead series.
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Richard Calder
Posted on Friday, February 07, 2003 - 02:24 am:   

Many thanks, Jay!
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Stepan Chapman
Posted on Monday, February 10, 2003 - 04:42 am:   

How do you do, Mr. Calder? I'm not very familiar with your work, but I did enjoy "Lost In Cathay" in Leviathan Two. That was a hoot and a half. I trust that you are well and keeping warm, wherever you may be.
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Liz Williams
Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2003 - 09:40 am:   

Richard, I'm just here to say 'hi' as well. Any chance of us seeing you back in Brighton any time soon?

cheers

Liz W
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Richard Calder
Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2003 - 10:32 am:   

Stepan --

Thanks. I happen to be in the UK at the moment, though, over the years, I've tended to move around so much, I often wake up not quite knowing *where* I am. I may well soon try to relocate to the UK on a permanent basis.

'The Troika' was wonderful.

Richard
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Richard Calder
Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2003 - 10:33 am:   

Liz --

Great to hear from you. As you can see from my reply to Stepan, I'm in London (I returned from the Philippines the end of last year) and may well try to *stay* here -- a nomadic existence can, over the years, be pretty wearying. And yes, I'd *love* to pop down to Brighton sometime. Hope to see you!

Richard
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Jay Caselberg
Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2003 - 01:17 pm:   

Richard,

If you're in London, you should try and make the BFS do on 14th March at the Princess Louise...
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Richard Calder
Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2003 - 03:51 pm:   

Jay --

Thanks for keeping me in the loop!

Richard
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JeffV
Posted on Friday, February 21, 2003 - 08:49 am:   

Just a brief mention that a story by Richard will soon be available on the Fantastic Metropolis Web site.

Somebody really ought to do a collection of your short fiction.
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Richard Calder
Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2003 - 09:55 am:   

Jeff --

Thanks for the update. I look forward to becoming a cog in the great, Rotwang-engineered machine of madness and desire that is 'Fantastic Metropolis'. And yes, it'd be great to have a short story collection put together. (I *do* seem to be writing more short fiction these days.)

4W8W inform me that 'The Twist' will be out this winter. For all those who may be interested, I've so far had five novels published in the US (the 'Dead' trilogy, 'Cythera' [all published by St Martin's Press] and 'Frenzetta' [4W8W]). My other, UK-published novels are 'The Twist', 'Malignos', 'Impakto' and 'Lord Soho'.

Richard
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Luís
Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2003 - 10:20 pm:   

Yes, Mr Calder's stories (two of them, and not one as JeffV said) will be on the site before the next weekend. They are "Toxin" and "Mosquito", by the way.

Cheers, Luís
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Forrest
Posted on Thursday, April 17, 2003 - 03:07 pm:   

Richard,

Just wanted to drop in and say I've enjoyed your works over the years. Can't decide which of Cythera, Frenzetta, or The Twist is my favorite, or the Pike excerpts I've read in Interzone. In any case, keep up the great work.

I'm wondering which writers you feel have influenced your own writing? I have my guesses.

Forrest Aguirre
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Richard Calder
Posted on Friday, April 18, 2003 - 04:25 am:   

Forrest --

Thanks!

Aha, the old anxiety of influence. The achievements of others -- those you greatly admire -- really do represent something of a threat to one's own aspirations to originality; you have to devour your imaginative progenitors, digest them, and then regurgitate and recast their themes and tropes in a personal, if not wholly new way, in order to clear yourself a little imaginative space.

My own acts of cannibalism go back to when I was about fifteen and devoured Michael Moorcock and Mervyn Peake. Baudelaire and the French Symbolists and Decadents followed, Alexander Pope, English Romanticism, the Pre-Raphaelites ... oh, and on and on and on. When I was about 27 my diet extended to Angela Carter. Her work was a *huge* revelation. My first short story, 'Toxine', is something of a Carter pastiche. As for purely science-fictional influences: the twin events of the New Wave and Cyberpunk, I'd guess. But influence extends to so many things. I was quite involved with the mid-seventies punk scene, and the visual arts have always been important to me. It's formative influences, though, that prove the most lasting, and in many ways I still go about life half-in, half-out, of the gothic, baroque, or plain bizarre mental landscape that I associate with writers who excel at evocations of atmosphere, things forbidden, and all things *fantastique* and whom I pigged out on during my teenage years: Moorcock, Peake, Ballard, Burroughs ... and, of course, a great many others.

Burp.

Richard
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Scott Thomas
Posted on Monday, May 12, 2003 - 07:42 pm:   

Hi Richard,

Sorry to stray from the topics at hand, but I just wanted to thank you for the kind words over at Jeff V's music board. You have fine tastes --I tip my hat to you. Problem with Corelli is that the same series of concerti grossi and the same sonatas are recorded over and over. I'd love to get my ears on some of the other treasures that must be out there (somewhere!). There is a lovely cello version of his popular sonata music -- I'll give you the details on that if you like, although you may already have it. Thanks again!
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Richard Calder
Posted on Wednesday, May 14, 2003 - 01:42 am:   

Scott --

Lord knows, I'm no expert on Corelli, but I do greatly enjoy what I've heard. As I mentioned in my last post (on Jeff's board), there's a very nice recording (up near the top of the classic's chart here in the UK) of the Corelli sonatas -- Andrew Manze, violin, Richard Egarr, harpsichord. I'm a fan of Baroque music in general -- Baroque violin, certainly, and also, of course, music for harpsichord, particularly the work of Scarlatti, Couperin, Rameau.

The cello version of the sonatas sounds interesting ...

I notice you've written a story on Jack the Ripper. I've become quite interested in the Ripper of late (he's begun to feature in my own fiction) and have done a good deal of padding about Whitechapel soaking up the spirit of location. A whole anthology focusing on the Ripper? I'll have to try to get hold of it!
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luciius
Posted on Wednesday, May 21, 2003 - 09:22 am:   

Hey, Richard, I just finished "Malignos." Great f***ing book!
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Richard Calder
Posted on Wednesday, May 21, 2003 - 01:58 pm:   

Well, many f***ing thanks, luciius 'with 2 i's'! Seriously, *many, many* thanks ...

Richard
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Claude Lalumière
Posted on Wednesday, May 21, 2003 - 06:19 pm:   

I agree with "luciius". Malignos is fabulous. It's my favourite RC book.
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Mastadge
Posted on Wednesday, May 21, 2003 - 07:21 pm:   

I recently ordered it from Amazon uk, but they say it'll take 4-5 weeks to ship.
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Richard Calder
Posted on Thursday, May 22, 2003 - 01:58 am:   

I'm pleased to hear that Amazon actually have copies (or at least, can get hold of some) -- books go out of print so quickly these days!
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Scott Thomas
Posted on Tuesday, June 17, 2003 - 07:29 pm:   

Hi Richard,

I apologize for not responding (to your post above) until now. Sorry! I don't believe I have that particular recording of Corelli sonatas...I'll have to keep an eye out for that. Thanks for the tip! I've yet to add Scarlatti to my collection, but recently heard some very appealing stuff of his on radio.

I was a bit off key about that cello recording; actually it features viola da gamba. It's a lovely treatment. It's called ARCANGELO CORELLI, Sonate per Viola da Gamba and basso continuo, op. V. It came out on the Symphonia label in 1998. It's listed as SY98163.

So you too are intrigued by Jack. I've done two stories about him now. There are some fine web sites focusing on the case, a good deal of atmosphere and such, but I envy your actually visiting White Chapel! How fascinating!

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Richard Calder
Posted on Wednesday, June 18, 2003 - 03:14 am:   

I enjoyed Paul Begg's new book on the Ripper 'Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History'. It's exceptionally well-researched. I've always found Whitechapel/Spitalfields to be an interesting, and indeed exciting, area of London ...

Thanks for the tip regarding the recordings!
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Scott Thomas
Posted on Saturday, June 21, 2003 - 07:11 am:   

Hi Richard,

I've heard of that book -- sounds like it would be worth picking up.

Spitalfields sounded like such a depressed, nightmarish place in Jack's day -- I wonder what it's like now.
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Richard Calder
Posted on Sunday, June 22, 2003 - 03:57 am:   

Scott --

Regarding Whitechapel/Spitalfields: A great deal of Victorian architecture has been demolished, but much still remains, including Spitalfields market (no longer a fruit and vegetable market, as it was in the 1880s, but a collection of independently owned stalls selling clothes, trinkets, second-hand goods, and some really quite palatable al fresco food). Opposite the market, on the corner of Fournier Street (once Church Street) and Commercial Street, stands THE TEN BELLS pub, still pretty much unchanged since Jack the Ripper's day. (Mary Kelly is, as you know, reported to have had her last drink there.) And next to THE TEN BELLS stands the monumental (and rather sinister) pile of bone-white masonry that is Hawksmoor's Christ Church. From this point you can look south, down Commercial Street, to where Mary Kelly was murdered. (Her lodgings in Miller's Court, like Miller's Court itself, have, however, long been destroyed, and are now replaced by a multi-storey car park.) THE BRITTANIA pub, which stood on the corner of Dorset Street and Crispin Street (and which features in much Ripperology), has also disappeared.

As for the rest of Whitechapel and Spitalfields: all the rookeries have long gone. The street names of Thrawl and Flower and Dean remain, but they are lined with modern council houses and flats. But there's still a substantial amount of Victorian architecture left -- for example, in Fournier Street (which connects with Brick Lane). There, the old low-rent lodging houses have been gentrified, and are now very attractive, expensive, and much sought after.


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Scott Thomas
Posted on Monday, June 23, 2003 - 06:55 pm:   

Hi Richard,

Thanks so much! This is absolutely fascinating. I've seen a few stills of the area, but your evocation here is excellent! Despite the changes, it certainly does sound like an interesting place.

Imagine that, THE TEN BELLS still exists! Good to hear that some bits have survived, for history's sake.
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Rich Patterson
Posted on Tuesday, July 22, 2003 - 08:23 pm:   

Hi Richard,

I’m new to your work and I was hoping to get a recommendation for where to start reading Calder directly from Calder himself.

Is it important to read the Dead trilogy before anything else? I’ve read Toxine and Mosquito on the FM site and I’ve been checking out your website (the Blog is very interesting)… I notice, according to the reviews, that Mosquito in particular seems to introduce several of the important themes that run throughout the Dead stuff. Is it necessary to have read the Dead trilogy to figure out what’s happening in Cythera? Should I start with Malignos? I’ll be ordering from the UK, so my choices are as wide open as I guess they can be.

BTW I live in China and I feel empathy for your writing Cythera while listening to the BBC world service. I agree, it really is like a different planet over here.

Cheers,
Rich.
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Richard Calder
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 04:00 am:   

Rich --

So you live in China? Interesting. I've only ever visited Hong Kong. Of course, once the bug of ex-pat life bites, you pretty much become infected for the rest of your life. (Once bitten, twice bitten, you might say.) I hope to see something of China myself sometime in the future -- if, that is, I can construct some kind of sufficiently powerful financial springboard to launch me out of London's East End.

All my novels are stand-alone affairs, so you can pretty much dive in wherever the fancy takes you. The 'Dead' trilogy is probably the most *radical* thing I've written (or so I believe), and you *might* want to try it first. But then, people seem to agree that 'Malignos' is my most *accesible* work: a kind of homage to Moorcockian sword-and-sorcery, though told from the viewpoint of a conceited, arrogant, womanising, snobbish first-person narrator, a sort of 'Flashman' figure who (finally) seems to better himself. 'Frenzetta' is something of a prequel to 'Malignos' and 'Lord Soho' something of a sequel ... but I emphasize, again, that all are stand-alone affairs.

If you're looking for SF, try out the 'Dead' trilogy compendium (published by St Martin's). If you'd like to try out Calder as far-future fantasist, you might want to start with 'Malignos' and then try 'Lord Soho' and/or 'Frenzetta'.

Of course, from my viewpoint as an impecunious author, I should recommend that you go ahead and read the lot!

Best wishes, and may your stay in Cathay be a happy one,

Richard

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Rich Patterson
Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 07:13 am:   

Thanks Richard,

I appreciate your advice. What I'll do is start with the two extremes (the 'Dead' books and 'Malignos') and branch out from there.

The old Chinese wages stretch pretty far here, but they don't buy a lot back in the world... :-)

Rich.

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Paul James
Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2004 - 03:38 am:   

Hi Richard,

I just wanted to express how much I enjoy your work. I have read a few of your books already, and am just working my way through the 'Dead' trilogy. Awesome. The website looks great too! Thanks.

Paul, England
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Richard Calder
Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2004 - 03:48 am:   

Paul --

Thanks for your kind words. Much appreciated!

I've recently completed a new novel, which is currently with my agent. I'll doubtless be posting developments regarding its sale (or hoped-for sale, I should say) on my website during the coming months ...

Richard
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Paul James
Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2004 - 03:51 am:   

Richard,

Sorry to send over two messages what could have easily been squeezed into one, but a couple of questions came into mind immediately after posting my initial spontaneous burst of praise!
Did you have any sort of academic training in writing (collge, uni...), or did you just jump straight into writing your own pieces. Also, are there any tips you can give for people hoping to start out writing, and maybe getting published?
Thanks,

Paul again, England still.
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Richard Calder
Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2004 - 11:43 am:   

Paul --

No, I've never attended any form of creative writing course, or workshop; my academic background is limited to a B.A. in English from Sussex University. I wrote my first novel when I was 19. It was pretty awful -- completely unpublishable, in fact; but years later some material from that sad, horribly flawed, first attempt found its way into 'Dead Things', notably the scenes (substantially re-written, I'd add) set in the Hua Hin nightclub called 'The V.Berg' and the names 'Archangel' and 'Lipstick'. Apart from that early proto-novel, I was writing poetry, some of which was published in small magazines. (Later, those poems similarly crept into the 'Dead' trilogy). But it wasn't until I was in my late twenties that I sat down and made a serious attempt to write something that someone might want to conceivably buy. I'd picked up some copies of 'Interzone', liked the stories they carried, and submitted 'Toxine' to David Pringle. The story was subsequently published in 'Interzone: The 4th Anthology' (1989).

W. H. Auden wrote in 'The Dyer's Hand' that ‘Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.’ And it seems to me that that is really all a writer -- whether published, or 'hoping to start out writing' as you put it -- can hope to do: to go to the heart, the source, of their own inner lives, and to body-forth the truth of its language. Authenticity is essential, I feel ... but it's also terribly difficult to achieve. My own writing, I hope, is at least underwritten by the attempt.

Best wishes

Richard
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Charlie Stross
Posted on Friday, January 16, 2004 - 06:22 pm:   

Hi there!

Was just passing and discovered your blog -- fascinating stuff! (And brought back memories of stories that leapt off the page and bit me, from the early Interzone days.) Out of curiosity, regarding the Flook material and the screaming performances, are you familiar with the work of Diamanda Galas?


-- Charlie
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Jimmie Wing
Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2004 - 12:36 am:   

Mr. Richard Calder,

Thankyou so much, The Dead series is utterly fascinating. A joy to re-read and fletcherize your paragraphs. What drives you? Where do you get the focus and energy to create and continue creating?
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Richard Calder
Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2004 - 03:52 am:   

Charlie --

Thanks! Good to make contact with you. No, I'm not familiar with Diamanda Galas, though it seems I should be. I think the 'screaming performances' of the Flook Troupe may have been influenced by a certain section in Elric of Melniborne featuring a curious musical organ (if I remember rightly, that is -- I read the book several centuries ago when I was about 16). The organ inflicted various torments and thus produced a harmony of pleasing hollers, yowls, cries, and ululations from its human pipes and stops ...

Jimmie --

Many thanks for your kind comments. I think the question of what 'drives' a writer to be a genuinely mysterious one. In the end, I'd have to risk sounding portentous and suggest that any writer -- any artist -- is in some sense possessed. Books, or narratives of any kind, seem most successful when they have, or create the illusion of having, a life of their own, that is, when they seem like transcriptions of independent worlds, people, realities. When a particular idea for a fiction occurs to me I do have the feeling of 'listening in'. (There's a wonderful scene in Cocteau's 'Orphee' when the poet is listening, and transcribing, random messages from a car radio -- and which later, of course, he learns come from the underworld, or land of the dead.) And that's what drives me, I suppose: an abiding fascination with listening to inner voices, and the notion that they just may embody a reality greater than my own.
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Charlie Stross
Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2004 - 05:51 am:   

Hmm, sounds like Moorcock's organ was influenced by various accounts of Cat Organs or Cat Pianos (the link is to the monograph on the topic in Bruce Sterling's Dead Media Project). Probably worth taking with a pinch of salt (or catnip).

Diamanda Galas ... well, if they made a fly on the wall documentary about her it would have to be titled "when opera singers go bad". She's got an unforgettable voice, and your description of the screams reminded me strongly of her album "Schrei X", which I have never been able to listen to more than three and a half minutes of at a time. (Think, opera singers. Think, shrieking in a variety of agonies. Think, for a whole CD!)

(Oh yeah: in case you were wondering, I am here.)
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2004 - 08:12 am:   

Another interesting screamer was the jazz singe Patty Waters who flourished (?) in the sixties and often appeared with the excellent pianist Burton Greene. I used to use her recording of "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" as a roomclearing device for parties. In it, she breathily announces the lyrics of the first verse over delicate piano work and then, beginning with plaintive, almost quizzical cries tthat rise into increasingly violent and inarticulate screams, she repeats the word "black" for approximately 20 minutes.

Hope all is well with you, Richard....
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Richard Calder
Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2004 - 11:03 am:   

Charlie --

Thanks for the links. The 'cat organ' is most interesting, particularly given my colleague, Dr Flook's, academic hobbyhorse. (For those interested, I reproduce some of the text below. It almost seems as if it might have been culled from Christina's upcoming 'The Catgirl Manifesto, Part Two: A Glossary'.)

"'The organ,' says Cristoval, 'was carried on a car, with a great bear for the musician. In place of pipes, it had twenty cats separately confined to narrow cases, from which they could not stir. Their tails were tied to cords attached to the
keyboard of the organ. When the bear pounded the keys, the cords were jerked, and this pulled the tails of the cats, and made them mew in bass or treble notes, according to the nature of the airs.'

"Such an invention could have afforded, at best, but doubtful entertainment; yet the cat organ was so widely appreciated that German humourists undertook to alter and improve it; and after a time a choice variety of instruments were constructed, in all of which cats were induced by some well applied torture to furnish forth the necessary music."

I really must try to get myself one ...

And thanks for pointing me towards La Galas: I'll have to track down one of her CDs. Nothing finer than the plaintive and cruelly beautiful sound of a caterwaul carried on the cold, midnight air ...


Lucius --

Well, seems I'll have to catch up on my jazz listening, too. I rather like maniacal pieces, though sometimes there comes a sort of Pythonesque moment when (as you suggest) a performance like this simply reduces you to hysterics ...

All the very best ...
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Jimmie
Posted on Monday, January 19, 2004 - 05:10 pm:   

Richard --

Thanks for your answer. I think anyone reading it should be indebted for a reply so insightful and revealing.

After reading above that you were quite involved with the mid seventies punk scene I can't help but wondering: Iggy and Primavera -- Sid and Nancy?

I've spent the last 25 years living, working and exploring various sub-cultures all over AustralAsia. The Dead series reeks of authenticity, I can't wait to read your take on the P'pines.

The following might best be re-formatted as a new topic. Anyway:

When are we going to see your work in film? (It would be my great honour to be your stills photographer.) Whom would you have direct? Cronenberg is of course an obvious choice. What actors would you prefer? Have you already sold film rights? Where would you like the film(s) to be made?
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Richard Calder
Posted on Tuesday, January 20, 2004 - 06:49 am:   

Jimmie --

Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen weren't conscious influences (though I seem to recall that they're referenced somewhere in 'Dead Things') , but I think I did rather conceive of Ignatz -- physically, at least -- as resembling the young John Lydon. Something to do with those perpetually surprised, somewhat out-to-lunch, goofball eyes.

Interested to hear of your time in SE Asia -- 25 years! Good lord.

'Malignos' and 'Impakto' are both set against the backdrop of the Philippines ...
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Paul James
Posted on Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - 01:14 pm:   

Hi Richard,

Just a quicky...Ignatz Zwakh - how would you pronounce that?? I named my kitten 'Iggy' after our loveable hero, but have often wondered how to refer to him when he deserves a "full name" style telling off!

Cheers,

Paul, England
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Richard Calder
Posted on Thursday, March 25, 2004 - 02:43 am:   

Paul --

If my memory serves me correctly, I snatched the name 'Zwakh' from Meyrink's novel 'The Golem'. I can only say that *I* pronounce it to rhyme with 'Jack' or 'Thwack' -- but I suppose you'd have to check with a Czech to make sure that
this is really the *right* pronunciation.

My salutations to your cat.

Best,
Richard
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Jason
Posted on Sunday, May 23, 2004 - 10:43 pm:   

Hi Richard,

Just wanted to say how much I love your work. I just finally found Malignos to complete my collection of your books :-)

If you wouldn't mind answering a dumb question, at the end of Dead Things you said that Primavera never really existed. Was that meant literally? Was she just some manifestation of Meta in Ignatz's mind?
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Richard Calder
Posted on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 - 02:54 am:   

Jason --

It's difficult to reflect upon these things after so many years (I wrote DEAD THINGS in 1994-95), but I rather think that Primavera was revealed to be the *only* thing that existed: all else -- Ignatz, the universe, everything -- proved to be something of a cruel illusion, a 'toy' universe. The novel ends by speculating that, in respect to Primavera, at least, names simply didn't matter any more. But, as they say, never trust the author, trust the tale ...

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