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The Golden Barge

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  • The Golden Barge

    Mike, how old were you when you composed this story?
    I wonder because I heard you were younger than 20 when you wrote your first novel, and if this is true, this bespeaks an astute mind with a keen finger on the pulse of the individual in a world such as this. When I was seventeen I did not have the frame of mind to actively interpret political and religious subtexts(perhaps this is the american laziness); how does one get into being so concerned about politics, individualism, and the state of the world at the time at so young an age? What were your guiding factors in your development as a writer?

  • #2
    I was 17 or 18. Believe me, it's noticeable to Europeans that Americans aren't particularly engaged with politics in their teens the way so many of us used to be (I can't speak for the present generation, of course). We were all sort of amazed when Jerry Rubin, for instance, came over, and started lecturing us about politics. We'd been expecting this sophisticated political dude we'd heard so much about and frankly he was naive and condescending, with no clear idea of politics. This wasn't always true in America, however. The WW2 generation, essentially before McCarthy got everyone running scared, was far more politically sophisticated, but there seems to me to have been a serious dumbing down in politics in the US really from McCarthy on. There was a resurgence in the 60s, of course, but it never seemed to gather momentum. One of the reasons I miss living in Europe is the way in which so many reasonably sophisticated political ideas are part of the common discourse. You don't have to be a communist or a right libertarian or whatever to take part in discussions, but at least you tend to know the logic behind another person's arguments. I knew American Stalinists as well as American Constitutional Fundamentalists when I was growing up.
    They enjoyed a lively debate but one didn't demonise the other, the way so frequently happens now. I've told the story of my saying that I'd voted socialist (or so I thought) in the first election which got Blair in, in a Texas bar and the bar going deathly still... As it happened, Texans being Texans they saw that more as moxy than demon-worship and all ended well, but it seems all an American politician has to do to get ideas buried is to accuse them of being 'socialism'. Phil Gramm did this with the Clinton health-care plans when I first came to live in Texas. I heard a stream of lies coming from his mouth about what would happen if people voted for the health-care bill and of course he word 'socialism' was enough to scare a lot of people off. I'd love to see this country getting back to its old poliical sophistication some day! But as for Golden Barge, what can I say, I was a bit of an infant prodigy. Chances were I wasn't even sure what I was talking about half the time. I'd written another novel before that one, which was probably more romantic and 'beat' called The Hungry Dreamers which, as I like to tell, was actually eaten by rats (in the basement I'd stored it in). Bits of that were done in a fanzine I did, which might emerge some time. It's also fair to say that politics were livelier in the UK at that time, too. I was already a member of the West London Anti-Fascist Youth Committee, infiltrating the fascist HQ in PortlandRoad, when it seemed that a fascist candidate might just get in in Notting Dale (no chance, as it turned out). And there are still actual fascist candidates in the UK, in the form of the BNP, as well as communist candidates implacable opposed to them. US politics has become a bit bland, I guess. And you only have to tune in to a UK BBC programme like Newsnight to see how politicians are treated by journalists -- they are given far less automatic respect than politicians in the US are given and the journalists are much more aggressive in calling them on their lies and evasions. Not that it stops them lying and evading, of course! For a country which invented 'rugged individualism' the US tends to respect leaders a bit too much, by my standards. I remember how he US was shocked by Nixon. Europeans already thought he HAD to be tricky to have got where he was. About the only non-tricky prez, I'd say, was
    poor old Jimmy Carter, who in a sense was too arrogant to be crooked!
    The tendency for Americans to expect their politicians to be super-clean and then get horrified when they're not, has often been remarked outside the US. By and large Europeans expect politicians to represent their interests and their own interests and as long as they keep more or less both in balance, that's fair enough. It's only when people are sick of a party in power (as they tend to be with Blair now) that the moral failings of he politicians become a matter of issue. I really get the shivers at the idea of someone like GWB having no vices (apart from greed, envy, pride
    and so forth, of course ), I far preferred Clinton, knowing that the likes of Lloyd George did more for the ordinary people of Britain, yet were rather loose in their private morals, than any number of 'purer' PMs
    Of course, the scale of corruption in Washington can be more of a problem, just because of the vast amounts of money involved. Which is why I feel stronger about State sovereignty (on the European model -- where everyone's signed up to the Human Rights Act but is otherwise
    still allowed to raise their own taxes and simply pay a levy to Brussels) here, where people can keep a better eye on how their money's being spent. Part of this country's problem, as I've said before, is that it is so big. Nothing wrong with federalism, common currency and language and so on, but I do think it's time to rethink the actual business of running
    such a vast federation from a central bureaucracy. This, it seems to me, is one of the central issues of 'the national conversation' at the moment and isn't given enough emphasis at the moment.

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

    Comment


    • #3
      I might sound naive for saying this, but I've always thought we'd be better off as a loosely-affiliated gathering of nation-states. The U.S. is too complex to be considered as a whole, and there's no way the current bureaucracy can effectively meet our needs without wholly redefining the bill of rights.
      Last edited by echolocator; 06-18-2006, 09:18 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
        The tendency for Americans to expect their politicians to be super-clean and then get horrified when they're not, has often been remarked outside the US.
        This ostensibly goes on in the UK too, but I think there's a big difference. The British newspapers make a big deal out of politicians' seedy private lives and their inability to live up to their own ideals, but I don't think that there's any high-minded ideal behind this, it's mostly a gossipy interest and a delight in seeing the mighty brought low.

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        • #5
          The president of the US has an arm shoved up his arse, and the hand is moving his mouth in manners that will pacify the mainstream.Its always been that way.If the government published the truth everyday the suicide rates would surpass the casualities of WW2. George Bush is the tomato target that we can all aim at, but do you truly believe that he is intelligent enough to control the Space Programs,Liberation Of Iraq,Nuclear control over Iran, etc.
          No one man can control the US and its complexities.

          Comment


          • #6
            As a french citizen, i must note that french voters are more and more cinycal about politicians, not trusting them and dispizing them.

            The result is that people vote less and less, noyt because they are not interested but because they feel that politicians don' t represent them.

            The referendum about the european treaty was the proff : eighty per cent of politicians, elites, philosophers and specialists were for the treaty and it was rejected.

            the problem is not limited to politicians. When the Tchernobyl disaster took place, scientists explained that the cloud did not pass the french border ! The aim was not to break the good will of french citizen in nuclear power. The result is that contaminated milks, fruits and vegetables were eaten for months.

            About amiante, french scientists declered in the begining of the seventies that there was not danger ....

            and so on .....

            Comment


            • #7
              McCarthyism is quite frightening in retrospection; it shows the dangers of repressed homosexuality.

              As for America, well we were brought up with Puritanical roots, without the millennia of history behind Europe. So it is no surprise we act the way we do. It is not much different from a two year old toddler filled with violent infantile rage, figurative legs and arms lashing in all directions, upon not getting what s/he demands. The country's view of itself is so optimistic, and I wonder how much of that optimism derives from USA being a superpower. It'd be a different story if it were France or Germany. Also the problem with america is that success for the masses is confused with personal wealth. Politicans fatten their wallets and vote for bills that benefit corporations or the government in the guise that it is helpful to the public, when it is really in turn also padding the wallet of chuckling (through a jaw-clenched stogie, the sound modulated, somehow mollified by bourbon) corporate fat cats.

              In The Golden Barge Tallow's navel was emphasized at the beginning of the story, and it seemed to me that it was an important piece of the story... but near the end (is this story even finished? It seems you stopped halfway through), the navel is rarely mentioned, and focus is put on Tallow's inner torments about external influences hindering his obsessive pursuit of the barge. The missing navel is his primary motivation in searching for the golden barge. What did you want the navel to signify? His missing humanity? One could reckon, from certain perspectives, that a person without a navel would not be exactly human. One theme that resonated within me is 'It's for your own good...' It is scary how much of that has happened over the years, how much human brutality has been inflicted with this ideal in mind.
              Last edited by zxvasdf; 06-19-2006, 07:49 AM.

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              • #8
                The no navel image was repeated by me in a later story. I think it had to do with the idea of 'the first man' -- not born of a mother. I did finish the book, I know, but I can't vouch for being clear about ALL the symbolism at that age!

                Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                Comment


                • #9
                  The blue-skinned homunculus in 'The Deep Fix', wasn't it? (I can't refererence the title with certainty as I don't have my copy of 'Dying for Tomorrow' anymore.) The hero in that piece was an early analogue for Jerry's absentee dad in 'The Final Programme'...

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