06 Dec 2013

Ian Hutson: “NGLND XPX”

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From the Isles that brought us Oscar Wilde, Willaim Shakespeare and the Monty Pythons I present to you another literary delight today: Ian Hutson and his own blend of literary humour: original, absurd and hugely entertaining.

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“NGLND XPX” by Ian Hutson is a very entertaining collection of humorous short stories, some absurd and off the wall, others more satirical and tongue in cheek.
The subjects of the stories range from science fiction and futuristic ideas to more traditional British and political themes. 
As a non-British person living in the UK much of the stories that were rooted in persiflage and caricature of the contemporary Britain were particularly funny for me but even if you do not know who Boris or Blair are, you will be able to appreciate the jokes and ideas behind the stories.
Immigration and the future of humanity are some of the more serious subjects, Androids and Zombies are fleshing out the collection of original scenarios and ideas with some very cleverly written puns.
This is very enjoyable and a pleasant way to spend a few hours. It is non-offensive and easy to read. 

 

INTERVIEW WITH IAN

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Tell us a little about yourself as writer and a person.

The notes in my file attached to my cage here in the laboratory read as follows. Born in Cleethorpes, England. Moved immediately to Hong Kong (fortunately parents went too). Spoke only Cantonese as a child, then a little pidgin English on return to Blighty and now reasonably proficient. Mother was a complete enigma; a factory worker when necessary and a toff-hobnobbing socialite. Father was a deep-sea trawlerman turned Cold War spy, courier and electronic warfare expert, hopping from RAF station to RAF station. As a brat, Hutson minor was of the opinion that the family was on the run. We probably were. Accidentally joined the British Civil Service himself for ten years, then sold his own contract to multi-nationals. Escaped, started own businesses, nose-dived like a doomed Spitfire into personal bankruptcy losing home, car and valuables – and re-gaining freedom. Has only ever been deliberately shot at once (they missed). Once forced a dark, violent, nebulous “something” out of his ancient farmhouse in the Norfolk countryside and bade it haunt elsewhere forthwith. Once crashed his brother’s Rolls-Royce into a pile of pipework on Grimsby Docks (disappointingly unspectacular). Now lives as a pragmatically peacenik, rabidly atheist, fluffy vegan hippie in a hedgerow at the side of a lane in Lincolnshire. Spends his days writing or prowling the lanes ranting at sparrows, walking with a Morse-esque limp (an injury from Civil Service days has resurfaced).

What made you become a writer?

The encouragement of my invisible childhood friend. The encouragement of my invisible teenage friend and my invisible adulthood friend. That and the less insane encouragement of two teachers – the lady at The Nicolson Institute, Stornoway, who taught me to read and write when I was aged nine, and a young newly-qualified teacher at a vast and inhumane, very rough comprehensive school in Huntingdon who was still fresh enough to take an interest.

Have you always written?

Since I could, yes. When at a twenty-pupil (all ages) one teacher village school in the wilds of the Isle of Lewis we were all encouraged (with the tawse – the leather strap) to enter a national competition – and my story ‘Tarka the Otter’ won first prize… Yep, ‘Tarka the Otter’. I don’t have a copy of the story but I’m assuming, I’m hoping that it was original and the title was just some horrible coincidence. Otherwise my first commercial success was a dreadful example of plagiarism that somehow got past the panel of judges in Edinburgh!

Was it always going to be comedy?  1477008_769574226391831_1676148633_n

We’re a recently evolved, very short-lived, fur-less species living on the surface of a barely cooled blob of magma, in a very thin, necessarily very precisely mixed layer of gases, rotating at a thousand miles an hour and spinning at sixty-seven thousand miles an hour around a nuclear fire – with the whole arrangement itself spiralling at half a million miles an hour through space. There are comets flying about, asteroids landing on Russia and our best guess is that the whole thing, including time and thirteen dimensions (most of which are denied to us for some reason), sprang into life in a massive explosion about thirteen thousand million years ago. Massive, toothy dinosaurs once ruled our neighbourhood. Something killed them all off in one fell swoop but we rarely worry about that because it’ll never happen to us. In the midst of all of this, whenever it gets dark and we’re at our most vulnerable, we shove ourselves under a blanket for a nice snooze and we have to set an alarm clock in case we oversleep. How can that not be funny?

Can you be serious?

I’m really not sure. My next book is edging about two percent along the scale towards “more serious”, but that hardly counts. I haven’t really tried yet. I wonder if deep down I am scared of being serious? I’ve seen enough seriousness to last a lifetime, I’m not certain that I want to add anything more to the human race’s pile of “serious”. Let me get back to you on that one.

Tell us a little about the history of the book.

NGLND XPX includes a couple of stories written years ago (you’ll be able to tell by the names) but the rest were all written recently. There were about thirty of them waiting at the dockyard gates for work but I chose the ten that waved at me the most eagerly.

How long did it take you to write and publish?

Putting the book together was about three months – getting together a collection is like herding cats through town on market day. Slide one into place and two others fall off the shelf. The technicalities of publishing it were approached with my usual philosophy – ‘Suck your gut in, Princess, and do it step by step the long way because you know what happens when you try shortcuts. Then draw a line and finish it, because if you don’t finish it you’ll never finish it.’

What was the easiest about writing the book and what was the hardest?

My favourite part of the process is after the first draft, going back and re-reading, sorting, putting the pieces together and sometimes getting that elusive “ooh yes” feeling. The hardest part is actually deciding to put it out into the world, wondering if it is complete talentless nonsense. 

Would you say there is a message in the book?

If there is then it’s well hidden. All of my thought processes are born out of some quite old-fashioned values. If you give your word you keep it. Honesty is still important even when no-one is watching (because honesty is something you “do” for your own benefit). The difference between a lash-up job and a proper job is usually only about five minutes’ work. Communication with other creatures, including with fellow humans, is a very hit and usually miss affair since it all has to be filtered through my idea of language and symbols, across the aether and then through the target’s idea of language and symbols. I hope that at least a little of those values shines through, but I don’t worry about it.

Do you find it is well received and picked up by the reviewers?

It’s early days for the book, and I worry that a lot of folk will open it expecting either hard science fiction or else bombastic colonial nonsense – when in fact it is just a flavour of both and also neither. I love the English language (original, current, proper – not this new-fangled “global English”) so the words and their flow are as important to me as the message and the story. There have been some excellent reviews so far, for which my tension-headache is extremely grateful!

What do you like most about your characters?

I’m a bit of a flibbertigibbet when it comes to my writing and to my characters. They make me chuckle when I am with them but the relationship soon loses its lustre and I move on. There are plenty of characters to savour in real life, I don’t need to tow along all of my imaginary friends too. I have yet to use the dear neighbour, a sitting Lord, who had half a dozen dogs and always took them with him wherever he went – because only the dogs could find their way home again. Then there’s the relative of an in-law’s cousin’s second twice-removed something who, during a discussion on buying houses once put down her sherry and remarked ‘Oh I see! You borrow the money to buy the house and then repay to the building society. What’s the advantage?’ With souls like those wandering around without supervision you surely have to love real people more than characters in a book…

Which one is your favourite?

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I honestly can’t point to a favourite. They’re not drawn to vast depths (most of them are as shallow as summer puddles), and can’t exist out of their immediate context.

Are you like any of them?

I do confess to being a clumsy gestalt of my characters. I was brought up in an old-fashioned and most peculiar family, beginning in an isolated pocket of the tail end of the British colonial era and mixing more with adults than with other children. Later, as a putative adult myself I continued to hop about like an influenza virus on a turkey farm and I have never put down roots anywhere, so I’ve never settled on just one form or disguise. I blather a bit – but I do it deliberately, half seriously and half for fun. I like people to defend and to take pride in whatever roots they do have, because I rather defend and take pride in mine, such as they are. It is possible to have a splendid and distinct England (not “Britain” or – ugh – “the UK”) that is free from jingoistic twaddle, just as it is possible to take pride in a fantastic Germany or Ethiopia or China or wherever, whenever. I won’t apologise for the past because I wasn’t there, and I won’t apologise for the present because I’m not the only one responsible for the way it all turned out! Now, what was I talking about? Oh yes – yes and no is the answer. More tea, Vicar?

Who would play the characters in a film?

Peter Ustinov, Prunella Scales, Bill Nighy, Margaret Rutherford, Alastair Sim, Joyce Grenfell, Dirk Bogarde, James Robertson Justice… the list goes on and on for an ideal cast. Don’t get me wrong, more recent and current actors are fantastic – well, one or two of them are – but for the world existing in my mind only those of that brilliant, star-spangled era will do. Bill Nighy is the exception; he’s a walking, talking, slightly creepy and disturbing bucket of talent who is still working (and long may he do so).

What are your next projects?

I am busy at the moment with two short stories for separate anthologies. One is a “B-Movie” spoof combining Miss Marple with One Million Years BC. The other is a science fiction story in the Dan Dare mode with lots of proper rocket ships. There’s another collection of my short stories in the offing as well but the major project has the working title ‘Rupert of The High Seas’ – time travel, pirates, treasure and a happy ending for all but one of the characters.

What is your life like?

Currently I live in North Lincolnshire (the wolds) on the outskirts of a small village. When I’m not dissolving steel spoons in free-format curries I can be found writing furiously, sleeping furiously or striding around the lanes ranting at hedgerows and dodging maniacal tractor drivers. At the moment I am hors de combat and sport a “Morse” limp – if it goes on much longer I may allow myself to take up a walking stick, the better to lash out at any traffic in my way or to poke at bodies in ditches.

What do you do for pleasure and work when you are not writing?

I can sometimes be found on the business end of Victorian or Edwardian cameras in my alter-ego guise as a flash-bang-wallop vintage photographer – the full velvet dark cloth, mahogany camera and pyrotechnic powder-flash job. I’ve worked at venues as diverse as Leeds United stadium, Southbank in London and private country house weekend parties. For pleasure though I oik out my bag of electric Nikon digital camera gear and gallumph around the countryside photographing motorsports – motorbikes and car rallies. The former means period costume and customer deference, the latter is a more splendid mix of sitting on my backside in a water-filled ditch punching the air because I got the shot I wanted. My last close shave was a BMW rolling end over end at speed towards me – I took the photograph and then threw dignity to the wind and ran, screaming.

Who are your literary influences?  images (7)

W E Johns (Biggles), Enid Blyton (Famous Five), Robert Heinlein (Time Enough for Love, Number of the Beast, and that era), Tom Sharpe (Wilt, Blott on the Landscape, etc)  Asimov, Aldiss, Huxley, Wyndham . I’m a bit stuck in that era.

What are your favourite books/ films/ albums?

Films? Withnail and I, Alien (almost all of them), Carry on Up The Khyber… far too many and diverse to list. Books? I love all sorts. All of my books are currently in storage and I miss them terribly. All by the authors listed above and lots of new works too – books are there to be vacuumed up like tasty morsels at a banquet. My shelves – when I have them – include everything from Principia Mathmatica to Clive Cussler. Albums? As far as music goes I’m an old rocker. And a new rocker. And a Glam rocker. Also a pop-music enthusiast. A lover of classical. No one genre is sufficient – from Genesis to Falco, from Dwight Yoakam to Delibes, from Shirley Bassey to Muse to Whiny Amehouse.

What are your views on independent publishing?

 

It’s brilliant. The old dinosaur industry has had its day. It abused the public dreadfully when it was the only source of books and it’s paying the price now. I dance on the grave of multi-national corporate publishing and I throw what rose petals I can find in the path of small publishers and independent authors.

Can you recommend any indie books/ authors?

Oh yikes – I am a member of several indie author groups, love loads of the books I’ve found there and I am not about to offend anyone by singling out names! Your own books aren’t bad… Mr Christoph Fischer.

What would your friends tell us if we asked for your best and your oddest qualities?

I have been constantly and genuinely puzzled why anyone would want to associate with me so I’m not at all sure what they would say. Probably ‘he went away when asked and hasn’t really bothered us since’.

What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?  images (6)

Animal – dog (mutt, friendly). Colour – that’s a difficult one, I love blues, greens, an odd shade of faded tangerine and white. Outdoor activity – walking (civilised walking, we’re not talking Olympic-level fell-walking or crossing deserts here) and chasing motorsports.

What would you take to a remote island?

My library, a supply of Scottish single malts and Christian Bale.

Who would you like to invite for dinner and why?

Odd one here. I’d like to invite my parents. I lost them years ago and I will always miss them.

 

NGLND XPX on Amazon – http://viewbook.at/nglndxpx What are you writing at the moment and where would we find out about your next projects?

FLIGHT on Amazon – http://viewbook.at/FLIGHT

 

 

There are a few snippets of detail about my current larger project, ‘Rupert of The High Seas’ at my website and blog, both of which can be found at

www.dieselelectricelephant.co.uk

along with links to me on

FacebookTwitter @dieselelephants

where you can read as I whine about the process of writing it.

What else would you like us to know about you and your books?

I’m hungry, I have bills to pay and all of my books are for sale on Amazon and in all major outlets.

 

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‘FLIGHT will transport you to an insane world of elderly, talking, pole-dancing dogs, intelligent pheasant, screaming sheep and cute mendicant monk rats with little rat-tonsures and sandals. A verbose world, a delicious world with absolutely no sub-plot, no meaning and dashed little in the way of d’etre raisins. There’s a wheezy badger with the transplanted lungs of a sparrow, an all-pheasant pub quiz team and a dog that, but for her flatulence problems, would be able to successfully disguise herself as a eucalyptus tree by standing on one leg and freezing. There are three rather philosophically-minded hens, one of whom is the local Police Constable and has replacement steel buttocks and a Taser. Elvis and Amelia Earhart re-appear (quite separately; there’s been nothing untoward going on) and there’s a right royal punch-up when Santa d’Claus croaks, assumes ambient temperature, puts on a wooden overcoat and Christmas is summarily cancelled. It’s all splendid blathering nonsense such as one might read as a bed-time story to one’s pet dog or read while waiting for the cistern to refill in the smallest room in the house.’

 

 

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written by
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany in 1970 as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ is his first published work. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.
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