These are mainly fragments (sometimes ending mid-sentence) from an interview by Robert Lightfoot and David Pendleton in the 18 July 1969 edition of International Times (IT), that was later published in Friends. Typos, etc. have been corrected. The sentence beginning “I think he has isolated …” appears to be about William Burroughs and did not appear in the Friends final version.
Pieces from an interview with
By Robert Lightfoot and David Pendleton
I think that the great strength of science fiction is that there is no past -- it's all future in science fiction. It tallies with the way people look on their lives today. I mean look at most people and you find that they have completely declared a moratorium on the past; they are not interested. One is constantly meeting people who have only the haziest idea of their own parents -- who have changed their life styles since their childhood in every possible way, in a genuine way have transformed themselves. It is rather like Los Angeles where people can assume any role they like and can be convincing in that role -- I think this is probably true of Europe as a whole -- that it is coming here as well. And when it does there is going to be the most stupendous renaissance. I see the year 2000 AD as an incredible one.
A hundred years ago one has the impression that people had made a clear distinction between the outer world of work and of agriculture, commerce, social relationships -- which was real -- and the inner world of their own minds, day-dreams and hopes - which was the world of fantasy. Fiction on the one hand; reality on the other. This seems to be ended. And given this fixed reality which surrounded individuals, the writer's role of inventing a fiction that encapsulated various experiences going on in the real world and dramatising them in fictional form, worked. This is a marvelous role for the writer. Now the whole situation has changed and been reversed. The exterior landscapes of the late ‘60s and the early ‘70s is almost entirely a fictional one, created by advertising, mass merchandising -- politics conducted as advertising.
Science is now the greatest producer of fiction -- there are thousands and thousands of scientific journals produced, particularly the soft sciences, the psychological sciences, the social sciences. But the material they are...
I'm not hung up on automobiles. It is just that it struck me as a metaphor and a key experience that no one had ever looked at. The attitude to the motor car accident was rather reminiscent of the Victorian attitude to sex in dreams. That people all assumed an attitude to the accident which was altogether different to what they really felt. Take the deaths of people like Jayne Mansfield, James Dean and so on… even Kennedy's death which was a kind of modified automobile accident. The role of the car seemed to be a key to the significance of whatever had happened.
It is the most dramatic experience that anyone will ever go through in their whole lives apart from their own deaths, simply because one is insulated in late Twentieth Century life from real and direct experience. Even sexual experience is muffled by a whole overlay of conceptualisation... fashion, chit chat and everything else. The automobile accident is real. It is a violent experience of a kind that you are not likely to get in any other area. It is a massive collision of the central nervous system.
The future is probably going to be something like Las Vegas for example -- this is already coming to some extent. And therefore one is going to need… -- the trouble with Marxism is that it is a social philosophy for the poor -- what we need now is a social philosophy for the rich. One needs for the year 2000 AD a literary tradition which is capable of making sense of life as we actually experience it. In the visual arts this has already been done, look at the pop painters who discovered the beauty and the importance of the iconography of everyday life. From coca cola bottles to radiator grills. Not just the world of these objects but the way in which these objects interact with our own personalities, our own movements through time and space. They have discovered the importance of the present and they have gone completely away from the other figurative traditions. The tendency for example to put guitars and jugs on tables to formalise objects within the traditional narrative space of painting whatever the particular figurative…. the pop painters discovered a completely new vocabulary that was really relevant to people, that made sense of people's lives.
As each gesture and movement becomes more significant, a simple action like crossing one’s legs will soon have more meaning than a whole novel.
I think he has isolated in a series of metaphors which he has found for describing mid-twentieth century life: the mental institution, the prison & the invisible society of drug addicts -- the hinterland of empty hotels and amusement arcades. His image of the city as a kind of institutionalised paranoia. These metaphors that he has chosen and also the organic metaphors he uses... where science fiction and mythology cross over... the social perversions dressed up in the organic science fiction of the Theodore Sturgeon type, these sort of images that he has picked seem to me to be marvellous in their accuracy. They are perfect devices for making sense of mid-twentieth century life. He has been able to animate and dramatise these situations with his incredible imagination and verbal skill.
I do not think that the writer is going to be able to rely so much on the materials of his own imagination. I think that he has got to adapt and take the materials of his fiction from the world around him in the same way as the pop painters have done. The writer’s role is more analytic. He is going to be more of a commentator than an inventor. The writer cannot compete with the world of the media landscapes inventing enormous fictions at a rate of authority and conviction that no writer can match.
One's own state of mind is the only reality one knows. One is moving through a landscape entirely composed of fictions, and our own minds, the postures of our bodies, the world of our own senses, is the only reality. Given this position one's own personality becomes the yardstick by which one constructs measuring rods and constructs the architecture of any kind of possibility... within ordinary life or within the novel or sculpture. One’s own responses....
[Below] The actual pages from the IT website. Top layout is the top half of page 21, bottom is the top half of page 25. Ahh, that wacky late 60s design... almost unreadable.