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The real Pyat

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  • The real Pyat

    I've just finished (and loved) the Pyat novels. I guess I was lucky in discovering them after they were all published - I happened to see them in the literary section at a bookstore, and thought "what's a fantasy author doing over here?" So I bought the first on faith from that, and .. wow.

    I was wondering: Where can I find out more about the real story behind these novels? By "real", I mean both the real story, and the actual history. A great deal of thought seems to have been put into both. A lot of the real story shines through, of course, but I'm wondering what lies I've missed. For instance: How naive should we accept that Pyat is about what happens around him? From the way the story is told it seems to me that he is fairly naive, that he deceives himself just as much as others, but I've seen him described as a "con man", which implies that he is more in control of events than he lets us think.

    As for the actual history, I'm fascinated by all the secondary characters. Clearly some of them are real, and some are invented, but how much of each? And what is the historical basis for the invented people? I'm interested in the history of the period, and especially in the flora of fascist thought, (I think we stereotype the era to avoid confronting the connections to our own worldviews) - which is why these novels were such a lucky find.

  • #2
    Tasty questions. Tasty world.
    Infinite complexity according to simple rules.

    Comment


    • #3
      So glad you liked -- and understood -- those books. As you can imagine they took huge amounts of research and most of it was personal accounts (including those of the few Nazi survivors who knew Hitler, Rohm etc as personal friends and who fled after the Night of the Long Knives) so the list of books, movies, magazine articles and personal interviews would be huge. Not having much in the way of academic instincts, I got rid of almost all my research materials once I no longer needed them, frequently to dealers, so much of the Russian/Ukrainian material went back to the specialist dealers I'd got them from, as with Hollywood stuff, Egyptian stuff and so on. Many of the books were of the 'I was Makhno's office boy' variety and more still were simple naive accounts of people who survived the Russian Revolution or found themselves in Paris among fellow emigres in the early 20s and so on. There's a core of made-up characters who can be found in other books of mine -- Major Nye (based on Major Fry with whom I worked as a boy), Mrs Cornelius and so on, all fellow characters of Pyat in the Jerry Cornelius novels. I have a habit of using the same characters from book to book, partly to continue their story, partly because, like historical figures, they bring a layered narrative with them (rather like Vautrin in Balzac, say, though I didn't 'borrow' the notion from Balzac, just came to it as a useful technique, as he did). Each novel in the sequence has characters independent of other novels who are made up, though not many -- Esme, of course, being one, and most of the minor Hollywood characters.
      Pretty much all the Italian characters are real.
      Pyat is meant to be terrified (thus his lies, his denials) and convinced of his own genius (his nutty inventions) so is a sort of classic con man in that he believes his own protestations, unlike the more knowing Felix Krull. I think there's one article I wrote for The Daily Telegraph in the section on this site where you can find my journalism, telling how I came to conceive him. He is based on a neighbour of mine in Ladbroke Grove when I lived there, whose house was full of junk supposed to be material for his 'inventions' and I was also wondering about the mechanistic notions of the 20th century when systems and machines were going to be the solution to all human problems -- which continued to be found in the work of American sf writers associated with Astounding/Analog. Scientology was, if you like, another 'target'. I was suggesting that an imposed invented system is more likely to set the world askew than ordinary, albeit idealistic, pragmatism and I felt the last volume spoke to some degree to the neo-con notions which, for instance, got us into our (USUK's) current conflicts. Like a lot of old-fashioned liberal humanist writers, I tend to have a horror of imposed systems, whether from left or right, though I have nothing against ideas which analyse our conditions (I'm otherwise an engaged citizen, I hope!). Have I dodged any part of the question ?

      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


      • #4
        "so is a sort of classic con man in that he believes his own protestations, unlike the more knowing Felix Krull. I think there's one article I wrote for The Daily Telegraph in the section on this site where you can find my journalism, telling how I came to conceive him."

        My idea of a con man is someone who is skilled at fooling other people, but knows the truth themselves, (ie. you have to know the truth to be a good liar). Are you saying that's a media myth, and that actual con artists tend to believe their lies? I'm reminded of the kid at school (we all had one, I'm sure) who told about all the _amazing_ things he had done. Do such people come to believe their stories?

        Would a good word for Pyat be a bullshitter? Someone who mostly doesn't care what the truth is, only about what is convenient to be and say at the moment? That doesn't fit everything he does, but it does fit other things, and it would put him even closer to the spirit of the century. ;)

        "Have I dodged any part of the question?"

        I asked an impossible question. I guess I wish the novels came with a historical appendix, or that somebody had given it the Wikipedia TV-show treatment, with a full list of characters and all kinds of trivia. The things in the novels I do know something about make me want to learn about all the things I haven't heard about. For instance, I loved the Things to Come references in Vengeance of Rome - I had actually watched it a few weeks earlier, and wondered what Pyat might make of it, (I wasn't sure if he'd oppose the socialism or support the technocratic utopia - thanks for settling it). And I wasn't surprised by the appearance of pro-fascist American journalists - this was the time of Walter Lippmann and Edward Bernays, people who believed that democracy just didn't work, and called for manipulation of the masses by benevolent elites. (And now we live in the world they created, where everything is PR.)

        Well, never mind the question - I'll reread the novels one day, and look it all up then. What I'm really saying is that I'm happy you've spent two decades researching and writing about a subject I usually feel alone in being interested in. Thanks!

        Comment


        • #5
          And here I was thinkin' it was about the guy that invented jet-packs!

          Or the treatise on "Cumulative Effects of CNS Stimulants in the Borderline Personality When Immersed in Wartime Traumata - A Case Study".

          Or What is Mrs. Cornelius Really Up To?

          I suppose it's all that and a whole bunch moore ... er, more. (Well, you and Alan both densely layer your stuff, do you not?) The only bit Mike missed with Pyat in old Hollywood would have been them eating at The Original Pantry, where my dad was managing for a while (before Ollie Hammond's, before Chasen's Mike, FYI).

          Cool stuff, nyet?
          Miqque
          ... just another sailor on the seas of Fate, dogpaddling desperately ...

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Bjّrn Stوrk View Post
            ...

            Would a good word for Pyat be a bullshitter? Someone who mostly doesn't care what the truth is, only about what is convenient to be and say at the moment? That doesn't fit everything he does, but it does fit other things, and it would put him even closer to the spirit of the century. ;)

            ....
            No,no, no. I don't think he's a bullshitter. He's desperately tried to shape a reality that allows him to dodge his deepest fears, his insignificance, his failures. Vicious circle, but fully self-inflicted. Only at the very seams of his existence does he sense there's a flaw in hs thinking, but he quickly "mends" it by finding a scapegoat who he reasons has perverted his perfect plans, ultimately "the Jews".
            Google ergo sum

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by L'Etranger View Post

              No,no, no. I don't think he's a bullshitter. He's desperately tried to shape a reality that allows him to dodge his deepest fears, his insignificance, his failures. Vicious circle, but fully self-inflicted. Only at the very seams of his existence does he sense there's a flaw in hs thinking, but he quickly "mends" it by finding a scapegoat who he reasons has perverted his perfect plans, ultimately "the Jews".
              I completely agree with this. To co-opt your ideas, L'E, I would suggest that his deepest, if unspoken, fear is that he is an insignificant failure.

              Comment


              • #8
                He's terrified at being taken for a Jew, too. It's fairly evident that he is prepared to make every sacrifice in order that he should not be 'mistaken' for being a Jew. He is a familiar type to Nazy and Jew. I wanted to imagine, if you like, the worst sort of human being I could inhabit and possibly understand.

                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
                  Originally posted by Michael Moorcock View Post
                  He's terrified at being taken for a Jew, too.
                  I got that much even from his early remarks in BYZANTIUM ENDURES about the shape of his nose, and how it was often mistaken for such a horrid thing as the nose of a jew.

                  My own personal interpretation of the novels, is that he is, at the very least, half-jew. Much of the ironies, of course, depend on his denial about this.

                  Pyat is actually a sort of Basil Fawlty or Hyacinth Bucket character elevated to literary proportions, as I see it. They're actually horrible persons, even if we can sympathize with them on some level when they feel pain -- but in the end, they're actually extremely destructive forces.

                  [EDIT:] The most effective bullshitter, after all, is the one who can convince himself of his own bullshit in the first place.
                  "If the environment were a bank, we would already have saved it." -Graffitti.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Pyat would have been fine if someone had not installed a Sputnik in his tummy!
                    Miqque
                    ... just another sailor on the seas of Fate, dogpaddling desperately ...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Miqque View Post
                      Pyat would have been fine if someone had not installed a Sputnik in his tummy!
                      LMAO, as they say. I suspect, though, that those intrigant people who so deviously implanted the Sputnik in Pyat's tummy also left a sawed-in-halves shutgun and maybe even some cluster bombs there.
                      "If the environment were a bank, we would already have saved it." -Graffitti.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Michael Moorcock View Post
                        So glad you liked -- and understood -- those books. As you can imagine they took huge amounts of research and most of it was personal accounts (including those of the few Nazi survivors who knew Hitler, Rohm etc as personal friends and who fled after the Night of the Long Knives) so the list of books, movies, magazine articles and personal interviews would be huge. Not having much in the way of academic instincts, I got rid of almost all my research materials once I no longer needed them, frequently to dealers, so much of the Russian/Ukrainian material went back to the specialist dealers I'd got them from, as with Hollywood stuff, Egyptian stuff and so on. Many of the books were of the 'I was Makhno's office boy' variety and more still were simple naive accounts of people who survived the Russian Revolution or found themselves in Paris among fellow emigres in the early 20s and so on. There's a core of made-up characters who can be found in other books of mine -- Major Nye (based on Major Fry with whom I worked as a boy), Mrs Cornelius and so on, all fellow characters of Pyat in the Jerry Cornelius novels. I have a habit of using the same characters from book to book, partly to continue their story, partly because, like historical figures, they bring a layered narrative with them (rather like Vautrin in Balzac, say, though I didn't 'borrow' the notion from Balzac, just came to it as a useful technique, as he did). Each novel in the sequence has characters independent of other novels who are made up, though not many -- Esme, of course, being one, and most of the minor Hollywood characters.
                        Pretty much all the Italian characters are real.
                        Pyat is meant to be terrified (thus his lies, his denials) and convinced of his own genius (his nutty inventions) so is a sort of classic con man in that he believes his own protestations, unlike the more knowing Felix Krull. I think there's one article I wrote for The Daily Telegraph in the section on this site where you can find my journalism, telling how I came to conceive him. He is based on a neighbour of mine in Ladbroke Grove when I lived there, whose house was full of junk supposed to be material for his 'inventions' and I was also wondering about the mechanistic notions of the 20th century when systems and machines were going to be the solution to all human problems -- which continued to be found in the work of American sf writers associated with Astounding/Analog. Scientology was, if you like, another 'target'. I was suggesting that an imposed invented system is more likely to set the world askew than ordinary, albeit idealistic, pragmatism and I felt the last volume spoke to some degree to the neo-con notions which, for instance, got us into our (USUK's) current conflicts. Like a lot of old-fashioned liberal humanist writers, I tend to have a horror of imposed systems, whether from left or right, though I have nothing against ideas which analyse our conditions (I'm otherwise an engaged citizen, I hope!). Have I dodged any part of the question ?
                        "Pretty much all the Italian characters are real."

                        Big Spoilers:


                        "With a deep, not-unhappy sigh, Elric prepared to do battle with an army." (Red Pearls)
                        - Michael Moorcock

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          For some historical information, Giles Milton covers a good bit about the Greek-Turkish war and the massacre at Smyrna. A very readable account.

                          http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paradise-Los...9879611&sr=8-1

                          Milton has written about the Arabs slaving on the coasts of Northern Europe before it developed in the following centuries, this covers Morocco and might give you a feel of the place. This book is called White Gold. In Robinson Crusoe is a slave for a while before escaping to Brazil and his famous Island.

                          http://www.amazon.co.uk/White-Gold-E...9880192&sr=8-3

                          More of the same, but from the 17th century. The Stolen Village and how the whole town of Baltimore was lifted by Moroccan pirates and send into slavery. This was typical Arab tactics at time, the vast Ottoman fleets also raided along the southern coasts of Europe.

                          http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stolen-Villa...9880612&sr=1-1

                          He is also writing about the Allied Intervention in Russia for his next book; but you might find Churchill's Crusade, a wider read.

                          http://www.amazon.co.uk/Churchills-C...9880364&sr=8-1

                          Though I suspect that the author had an axe to grind here, but again a good point of reference for all the 'invasions'. One of the interesting facts is that the General Perceval who surrendered Singapore was in Northern Russia and then went to Cork, Ireland. Serving with Montgomery during the Troubles there.

                          Perhaps Mike will be able to write a 'Between the Wars' for Major Nye one day.

                          Channel 4 did a History of Pornography, which might give some background for book 2, not sure if this is available to view. Only watched an episode, but part of it was about a London photographer selling postcards to American bankers in New York in the 1880s. Hence, some 'obscure' postal law now, that was used to crack down on this sort of thing.

                          You might want to read John Dos Passos' -USA trilogy. A Lost Great American novel?

                          http://www.amazon.co.uk/U-S-Penguin-...9881112&sr=1-1

                          This covers the early part of the 20th Century using multiple character viewpoints, a stream of consciousness and inserting contemporary news articles, which was revolutionary for its time.

                          Hollywood Babylon also covers a lot of the early part of the cinema as well.

                          http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hollywood-Ba...9881385&sr=1-1

                          Not too hot on the Italian Fascism or Hitler's rise to power, but there is bound to be some good reads out.
                          Papa was a Rolling Stone......

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            As it happens, quite few of Mike's resource material turns up on eBay every now and then. One imagines just the tale end of that material got a signature/notation thereof. There's quite a lot. So if that was just the tale end, just 20% or so, I'm astounded by the work that went into Between the Wars.

                            My fav book of Mike's may well be Gloriana but, in 300+ yrs, I suspect Between the Wars will still be doing the rounds. At least, I hope so: as an exploration of human weakness and self-delusion, it is a tour de force. And those failings in our kind won't be changing all that much for a good while yet.

                            PS: Note while Pyat shows us the worst a 'quiet' man has to offer, the very same books show us various true heroes; which given Mike's Eternal Champion backdrop are all the more remarkable for their mundanity, their frequent failure and their lack of "heroic" status. I'd argue it was the Hawkmoon message again, but in a significantly broader and subtler manner.

                            Comment

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