One of the idiosyncracies of The Postmodern Mariner
is that some of the action takes place on this blog rather than in the book, specifically the interviews with the pirates in 'Rommel Cobra's Swimming Carnival'. Unfortunately I have been rather lazy in writing and posting those interviews! The first interview (with Charlotte Gallon) was posted way back in October 2006
But the second of the conversations is with the pirate of the south-western zone, China Melville, and it goes something like this:
PM: You are bald and often seem to have socialist cheeks. Can you offer an explanation, convincing or otherwise, for these factors?
CM: I can, and what's more, I will. First the convincing explanation. A life on high seas, higher teas or highest sighs tends to be rough and ready, like the knuckles of honest workers; and coincidentally, the honest workers on my
ship all have knuckles that resemble rough and ready lives, viewed from afar, or down the wrong end of a telescope. To express solidarity with my crewmen I wear my head in the style of a knuckle, that working
joint of an honest fist!
PM: And the unconvincing explanation?
CM: My head and cheeks were rented out from Lenin, shaved clean with a working razor and inflated with protactinium gas. As you may know, thanks to your bourgeois education, protactinium is highly toxic, radioactive and scarce. But it’s the only element that sounds even vaguely like the word proletariat
, so it’s the bright silvery actinide for me! Harbour no doubts about that…
PM: Yes, that really is quite unconvincing. But talking about harbours, what is your favourite port city?
CM: I don’t subscribe to favouritism. I don’t even subscribe to subscription. Both are capitalist tricks. If some reactionary force tried to compel me to choose, perhaps with threats of torture, including the gluing onto my bald pate of a ticklesome wig, I would resist while crying communist slogans! On the other hand, if an heroic figure of major socio-political importance, for instance Lenin, politely asked to make the choice, then I would respond with this answer: “only a port city whose workers are fully in control of the means of production will ever have its quaysides scraped by the barnacle-encrusted hull of China Melville’s ship as it prepares to dock!”
PM: You are relentlessly political, are you not?
CM: Only revolutions are relentless. No individual should compare himself to a revolution, partly because individuals don’t really exist. Man is a socialist animal and has only one context: the societal. Woman is also a socialist animal, just to redress the balance.
PM: Do you enjoy redressing women?
CM: That’s exactly the sort of humour I despise. In fact I hate all kinds of humour. Laughter was invented by the establishment to keep the proletariat
in place. When an exploited dockworker or miner is giggling at something, his mind is off the struggle against oppression. Laughter tricks the lower classes into believing that life isn’t so bad after all. The only double act I ever laughed at was Lenin and Hardy and it was good socialist laughter, I assure you.
PM: As well as despising comedy you have also expressed a distaste for metafiction, by which I mean that you don’t like works of fiction that acknowledge their own status as an artificial construct. You seem to believe that if a character suddenly demonstrates an awareness of his or her own fictional status, perhaps by addressing the reader directly, then some sort of betrayal has taken place?
CM: That’s exactly right. And the fact that I’m also just a fictional character lends even more poignancy to my opinion, wouldn’t you say? What are readers, genuine readers? They are hardworking members of the proletariat
who wish to relax their minds and simultaneously acquire new knowledge in the little free time they have at their disposal after the capitalist exploiters have stolen away most of their days. These hypothetical but real readers, with spanner blisters on their hands and sickle wounds on their knees, don’t want to be herded into a labyrinth of in-jokes, elitist allusions and ivory tower escapist japes…
PM: But surely fiction that refers to its own fictional status and thus constantly implies the existence of the real world is less escapist than fiction that exists inside the circumference of a closed loop?
CM: Please don’t interrupt without a consensus… Anyway, as I was saying, the true working reader prefers his truths to exist in a parallel dimension hermetically sealed, in other words in a non-metafictional story, than in a work that constantly reminds them it’s unreal – if you are reminded of that fact too much you start to instinctively attribute a quality of unreality to all phenomena, including real world objects and conditions. Ultimately you imagine that pain, suffering and the endless struggle against our oppressors is also unreal, which is exactly the situation that our oppressors desire.
PM: Who are your oppressors now? Haven’t they changed since you became successful? And why do some authorities often mispronounce your surname as ‘Miéville’?
CM: My oppressors are still the same. It’s just that I have the luxury of regarding them from a different height. Yes, I’m going up in the world, but I’m not climbing the same ladder as the capitalists. As for ‘authorities’ who mispronounce my name, I’m against all authorities except the future communal authority of the proletariat
. That’s one authority that will never mispronounce anything. It’s barely literate as it is. If you can’t do something at all, how can you do it badly?