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  1. Ian Watson: bibliografia
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Although you've got a nice line in Third World locales, I'm surprised we don't see more use of your experiences of science-fictional Tokyo? But I don't really write autobiography, you see, I'd just as soon steep myself in a country I've never been to, and then invent it. Langford: Let me have a tiny pinch of salt for my chip butty before I ask about Watson Characters The Encyclopaedia of SF , here a mere mouthpiece of Peter Nicholls, would have it that your characters are mostly afflicted with anomie to the point where they become indistinguishable.

How do you plead? Watson: Actually, most people are indistinguishable from each other, most of the time. They are in a ground state, and tend to collapse back constantly into the ground state, from their brief moments of high existence. Constant high existence, and wildly differentiated individuality, is a consoling artistic fiction A theme of my books is the self-reprogramming of human consciousness, to escape from this ground state.

I had visions of it starting with a phone call: "Hey, Ian, can you do me some metaphysics? Watson: I was fascinated by Mike's alien Cygnusians in CY and ALK and wrote — we write to each other frequently — asking if he was going to do a story set on their home world, since they certainly deserved it.

He said he wasn't planning such, but why didn't I do it, or why didn't we both do it together? So I nipped out and did some research on 61 Cygni separation of the binary stars, spectral classes, etc. So I invented the Gemini system instead, and wrote sections of the tale which was going to be a novella at this stage and mailed them to Mike. Looking at the sections I wrote, in retrospect, it doesn't really seem to me as though I wrote them at all — as I was doing my best to think in Bishopese at the time.

I'd say we can both do that for each other. Though we've never met, or even spoken on the phone, we can become a two-headed entity; so it isn't all that easy to dissect out who did what. Anyway, Mike expanded what I'd written, altering and mutating it; and I added in extra chapters such as the Prologue, or Chapter 20 for example, where the Kybers try to scale the platform to escape; Mike thought this had surfaced from my unconscious memory of news footage of the last US troops scrambling for the last helicopter out of Saigon, and I think he might have been right.

I arrived at the 2nd French SF Congress in Angouleme, after two days out of touch, to find everyone in the hotel lounge staring at the TV screen, just as the last helicopter was lifting off. We both polished the text, and it was all done, pretty speedily and without problems or disagreements. The book grew outwards organically from a centre, rather than being written chapter by chapter, turn by turn. Watson: The story in Omni , yes.

Ian Watson: bibliografia

Actually, the novel has some of the same scenes, but otherwise a different setting entirely; and characters are shifted around and renamed. Deathhunter is an expansion of the idea, rather than of the text of the story. Langford: I suppose the novel and short-story forms are so different that the odds are against such an approach working. Watson: Well, exactly. If a short story works successfully as a story, then simply making it into chapter one of a novel verbatim by no means guarantees a successful novel.

If anything, the opposite is likely! Langford: Just been reading proofs of Deathhunter got my chip butty wrapped in them, actually : I liked the way an almost conventional and vaguely satirical narrative suddenly starts throwing up disorienting shocks, beginning with the onstage appearance of Death itself from "Cage" and then topping even that several times. An accessible book, especially since the point of death, and after, must be where metaphysics becomes important to everyone.

An "innocent", spontaneous book, or another which dragged you into its questions? Watson: Midway between the two, I'd say. Deathhunter grew from a short story which ended with a massive question mark: what on earth happens next? So initially, this was a narrative, story-telling challenge, rather than a metaphysical question mark.

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The novel really grew out of the image , of the death-creature caged — rather than any pre-existing theory about death. But then, the solving of the problem required relocating the action of the story, into a society much more occupied with their own theory of death. Out of which the narrative of the novel could then evolve. Then spontaneous narrative took over, since the ending of the book — the last two chapters — came as a complete double surprise to me. Langford: Me too. Now, all I know of the novel after Deathhunter is that you've mentioned a "comic" approach Watson: Yes, that's the book we're talking about.

It's a slapstick comedy, concerning the theme of the superhuman.

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Maybe there's too much slap and not enough stick? But it was the book that I felt like writing at the time. Now I'm in the preliminary stages of a wholly new SF novel, about which all I'm prepared to say is that it is set in 19th century Russia.

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I'm back from off-world, with a vengeance. Langford: But your latest book is in fact your first attempt at editing an anthology, Pictures at an Exhibition. This, as I know too well, has the most warped approaches of any original anthology I've met: what sparked it off? Until I met Lionel my kneejerk reaction was, "God, that foul hack! He was wanting to publish an original anthology We batted ideas around, and as I'd just written Gardens , set in a Bosch painting, I thought of all the other paintings that it would be interesting to enter; hence the original idea.

But they needed a framework, and this emerged from the fertile brain of Roger Campbell, a member of the Norwich SF Group. And a very ingenious framework it is indeed. By a marvellous synergy, all the stories by different hands fit this framework, and dovetail into each other wonderfully, even though they're all quite independent of each other at the same time.

But as to the framework which Explains All, I'm not giving the game away! Watson: It's part original and part reprint, and should appear from Ace Books in the summer of It's about sudden metamorphosis. Martin and Chris Priest. Harlan Ellison read a story over the phone to my co-editor, but unfortunately Mike doesn't have a speakwriter attached to his phone, and we haven't been able to extract the words in written form Langford: Um.

Speaking of metamorphosis, haven't I heard that word or one very similar mentioned in connection with your "slapstick" book? Watson: Yes, Metamorphoses as in Ovid's is the title of the slapstick book.

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  7. Whose fate is unpredictable. Langford: Does that in conjunction with the fact that your anthologies are first appearing from other publishers imply that not all your future novels may be issued, as traditional, by Gollancz? Langford: We've heard from Watson the Novelist, the Didact and the Editor — after standing as Helmdon's Labour candidate in the May council elections and getting a respectable third of the vote, too , what does Watson the Politician have to say?

    Watson: I would like to see a socialist government in Britain. Michael Foot has proved to be a disappointment; he has waffled, and betrayed the cause of unilateral nuclear disarmament to which he was committed. Conceivably Tony Benn may betray his principles too, once he is in a position of real power — though I sincerely hope not. But if so, there will be others who will put into practice what they have preached. Watson: Heroic stuff.

    Judy and I canvassed 29 villages, in blizzards and freezing rain and other manifestations of the British spring. Apart from help from some leafleteers, there were only us two. But instead of sitting back laughing, the Tories pulled out all the stops: setting up committee rooms, laying on transport to take sick, mummified and senile voters to the booths. The turn-out was very high, so I think we probably got the maximum possible Labour vote in this political Blue Hole; but the Tories likewise whipped up a huge turn-out Watson: SFWA is a slightly disorganised organisation at times.

    I may be the British Rep, but I've been missed out of the Membership Directory, and my new computer mailing label altogether omits the name of the place where I live. Which makes it miraculous that the mail still arrives, pencilled with queries and speculations by the post office. But SFWA is getting itself sorted out.

    And of course overseas members can have an influence — in proportion to the number who join. If everyone who is eligible in Britain, Europe, etc, joins Eligibility does not at present depend on publishing in America, or even in the English language. Merely on professional publication. Watson: The British market is still on its knees because of that crippling element, Blue Thatcherite. The situation in America seems reasonably healthy. Some publishers are axing, but others are expanding.

    Some magazines go under, but others are emerging, or being reborn. Galaxy could well be refinanced again soon, for example. Omni is spinning off a new SF magazine. Langford: Meanwhile, do you ever find that shadow of market requirements failing between the idea and the reality — the ideal and the finished novel?

    Or between the novel and the large advance? Watson: What large advance? On the whole, I write what I want to write.

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    Subsequent editorial suggestions are often quite helpful ones — helpful to the work itself. To a reasonable extent, one can create one's audience, though admittedly there are a lot of adverse market pressures around. Well, there are also quite a lot of markets, too.

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    For instance, right now the Germans are getting fed up to the teeth with horror and with dumb SF. As one zone sinks, so another rises. Langford: I hope that's true. As for being fed up to the teeth, what's your favourite way to make chip butties? Watson: I use oven-cook chips, myself. Incidentally, there's a good pub in Daventry near Moreton Pinkney that sells chip butties. Langford: Last question. I'm afraid I'm going to say it. They all say it. London: Gollancz, ISBN Orgasmachine. Paris: Editions Champ Libre, The Martian Inca. London, Gollancz, ISBN Converts.

    London: Granada, paper. London: Headline, London: Paladin, paper. ISBN Meat. ISBN Oracle. ISBN Mockymen. Brighton: GW Books, paper. ISBN Harlequin. London: Boxtree, London: Boxtree, paper. A theme dear to Ian Watson is that of the reality we perceive as subjective and partial. In many of his stories, the author explores many different ways to generate broader realities, which are never completeteley successful due to the limitations of human beings.

    Watson really has a great imagination and his novels are rich in ideas. Skip to content. Home April 20 Happy birthday Ian Watson!