i.e. people who by and large do take certain things for granted which are regarded as shocking by the average middle-class person. I'm not here suggest- ing that this is good or bad, but it is a fact. Judy Merril, for instance, regarded The Final Programme as an "evil" book. Other people have expressed similar reactions. I find them almost impossible to under- stand. Perhaps people will get a better idea of the JC novels when the whole tetralogy is complete. The English assassin will be out in England this year, after three years in the writing. I don't know when the last book, The Condition of Muzak, will appear probably in a couple of years, maybe three or four.
I'll just have to wait patiently until then. At present, while having reservations about the first two books, I'm very satisfied with assassinit's the first book of mine I've been able to proof-read without wincing all the way through. Presumably Holt Reinhardt, who did Cure, will be doing assassin in the States sometime next year. I haven't had any information either from Avon or from Holt, as yet. Maybe Final Programme will get its points across better as a film.
The rights have been bought and the script written and it's being produced by the company who did Performance (which has something in common with Final Programme). I heard Jagger turned down the JC part as being too freaky and I don't know if the film ever will be made, but it would be interesting to see how the public reacted to it. I think the JC stories have matured considerably since Final Programme becoming better written and more complexand it does disappoint me when people don't enjoy them or find them obscure. I remember the delight I felt at producing a book which I was sure everyone would find at very least entertaining. I was puzzled when some people reacted in a puzzled or even antagonis- tic way. My own wavelengths changed somewhere at some time. These days, for instance, I can't un- derstand SFI read the words and they no longer mean anything to me, even when written by a writer I used to enjoy. So I suppose I can appreciate how people feel when they find a JC story they can't focus on. It isn't incidentally, anything to do with radical alterations in life-style on my part. It just happened at some point. Ho hum.
(Letter to reader)
In Lighter Vein
A Note on the Jerry Cornelius Tetralogy
PART of my original intention with the Jerry Corne- lius stories was to "liberate" the narrative; to leave it open to the reader's interpretation as much as possibleto involve the reader in such a way as to bring his own imagination into play. The impulse was probably a result of my interest in Brechtan interest I'd had since the mid-fifties.
Although the structure of the tetralogy is very strict (some might think over-mechanical) the scope for interpretation is hopefully much wider than of a conventional novel. The underlying logic is also very disciplined, particularly in the last three volumes.
It's my view that a work of fiction should contain nothing which does not in some way contribute to the overall scheme. The whimsicalities to be found in all the books are, in fact, not random, not mere conceits, but make internal references. That is to say, while I strive for the effect of randomness on one level, the effect is achieved by a tightly con- trolled system of internal reference, puns, ironies, logicjumps which no single reader may fairly be expected to follow.
Thus, in a scene in Condition of Muzak (the end of the section called "Outcast of the Islands"), there is a short discussion about the j.a.panese invasion of Aus- tralia and Jerry makes a reference to big egoes and Hitler. Shakey Mo then asks if he was a character in a children's comic and then immediately asks if Hit- ler wasn't a police chief they'd met in Berlin. The first reference is to Big Ego (a cartoon ostrich in The Dandy or The Beano); the second reference is to an earlier story of mine (a "key" story, in my view) called The Pleasure Garden of Felippe Sagittarius (where Hitler was a rather pathetic police chief in an imagi- nary Berlin), leading to a reference to the fact that the historical Adolf Hitler doesn't exist in this world.
All this happens in a couple of sentences or so and should give the effect, among others, of time in a state of flux, men in a state of introverted confusion, close to fugue, and so on. But its internal logic is straightforward: the two characters know exactly what they are talking about. To "explain" all this, to editorialise, would be to break the mood, break the dramatic tensions, and ruin the effect I was trying to achieve. The apparent obscurity should not confuse the reader because the narrative should be moving so rapidly that he shouldn't care if he doesn't under- stand every reference. Similarly, if he was watching a richly textured film, he would not expect to per- ceive consciously every detail of every scene, dia- logue, music, etc. They are maintained primarily by a complicated series of prefiguring images which are developed as the book progresses.
(Note to bibliography)
The Stone Thing
A Tale of Strange Parts
Our OF the dark places; out of the howling mists; out of the lands without sun; out of Ghonorea came tall Catharz, with the moody sword Oakslayer in his right hand, the cursed spear Bloodlicker in his left hand, the evil bow Deathsinger on his back together with his quiver of fearful rune-fletched arrows, Heartseeker, Goregreedy, Souls.n.a.t.c.her, Orphan- maker, Eyeblinder, Sorrowsower, Beanslicer, and sev- eral others.
Where his right eye should have been there was a jewel of slumbering scarlet whose colour sometimes shifted to smouldering blue, and in the place of his left eye was a many-faceted crystal, which pulsed as if possessed of independent life. Where Catharz had once had a right hand, now a thing of iron, wood and carved amethyst sat upon his stump; nine- fingered, alien, cut by Catharz from the creature who had sliced off his own hand. Catharz' left hand was at first merely gauntleted, but when one looked further it could be observed that the gauntlet was in fact a many jointed limb of silver, gold and lapis lazuli, but as Catharz rode by, those who saw him pass remarked not on the murmuring sword in his right hand, not on the whispering spear in his left hand, not on the whining bow upon his back or the grumbling arrows in the quiver; neither did they remark on his right eye of slumbering scarlet, his left eye of pulsing crystal, his nine-fingered right hand, his shining metallic left hand; they saw only the fearful foot of Cwlwwymwn which throbbed in the stirrup at his mount's right flank.
The foot of the Aching God, Cwlwwymwn Root- ripper, whose ambition upon the old and weary Earth had been to make widows of all wives; Cwlw- wymwn the Striker, whose awful feet had trampled whole cities when men had first made cities; Cwlw- wymwn of the Last Ones, Last of the Last Ones, who had been driven back to his island domain on the edge of the world, beyond the Western Ice, and who now came limping after Catharz screaming out for vengeance, demanding the return of his foot, sliced from his leg by Oakslayer so that Catharz might walk again and continue upon his doomladen quest, bearing weapons which were not his protec- tion but his burden, seeking consolation for the guilt which ate at his soul since it was he who had been responsible for the death of his younger brother, Forax the Golden, for the death of his niece, Libia Gentleknee, for the living death of his cousin, Wertigo the Unbalanced, seeking the whereabouts of his lost love, Cyphila the Fair, who had been stolen from him by his arch-enemy, the wizard To'me'ko'op'r, most powerful, most evil, most lustful of all the great sorcerers of this magic-clouded world.
And there were no friends here to give aid to Catharz Godfoot. He must go alone, with shudder- ing terror before him and groaning guilt behind him, and Cwlwwymwn, screaming, vengeful, limping Cwlwwymwn, following always.
And Catharz rode on, rarely stopping, scarcely ever dismounting, anxious to claim his own ven- geance on the sorcerer, and the foot of Cwlwwymwn, Last of the Last Ones, was heavy on him, as well it might be for it was at least eighteen inches longer .than his left foot and naked, for he had had to abandon his boot when he had found that it did not fit. Now Cwlwwymwn possessed the boot; it was how he had known that Catharz was the mortal who had stolen his green, seventeen-clawed limb, attach- ing it by fearful sorcery to the flesh of his leg. Catharz'
left leg was not of flesh at all, but of lacquered cork, made for him by the People of the World Beneath the Reefs, when he had aided them in their great fight against the Gods of the Lowest Sea.
The sun had stained the sky a livid crimson and had sunk below the horizon before Catharz would allow himself a brief rest and it was just before dark that he came in sight of a small stone cottage, shel- tered beneath terraces of glistening limestone, where he hoped he might find food, for he was very hungry.
Knocking upon the door he called out: "Greetings, I come in friendship, seeking hospital- ity, for I am called Catharz the Melancholy, who carries the curse of Cwlwwymwn Rootripper upon him, who has many enemies and no friends, who slew his brother, Forax the Golden, and caused the death of Libia Gentleknee, famous for her beauty, and who seeks his lost love Cyphila the Fair, pris- oner of the wizard To'me'ko'op'r, and who has a great and terrible doom upon him."
The door opened and a woman stood there. Her hair was the silver of a spiderweb in the moonlight, her eyes were the deep gold found at the centre of a beehive, her skin had the pale, blushing beauty of the tea-rose. "Welcome, stranger," said she. "Wel- come to all that is left of the home of Lanoli, whose father was once the mightiest in these parts."
And, upon beholding her, Catharz forgot Cyphila the Fair, forgot that Cwlwwymwn Rootripper limped after him still, forgot that he had slain his brother, his niece, and betrayed his cousin, Wertigo the Unbalanced.
"You are very beautiful, Lanoli," he said.
"Ah," said she, "that is what I have learned. But beauty such as mine can only thrive if it is seen and it has been so long since anyone came to these lands."
"Let me help your beauty thrive," he said.
Food was forgotten, guilt was forgotten, fear was forgotten as Catharz divested himself of his sword, his spear, his bow and his arrows and walked slowly into the cottage. His gait was a rolling one, for he still bore the burden that was the foot of the Last of the Last Ones, and it took him some little time to pull it through the door, but at length he stood inside and had closed the door behind him and had taken her in his arms and had pressed his lips to hers.
"Oh, Catharz," she breathed. "Catharz!"
It was not long until they stood naked before one another. Her eyes travelled over his body and it was plain that the eyes of scarlet and crystal were lovely to her, that she admired his silver hand and his nine-fingered hand, that even the great foot of Cwlwwymwn was beautiful in her sight. But then her eyes, shy until now, fell upon that which lay between his legs, and those eyes widened a little, and she blushed. Her lovely lips framed a question, but he moved forward as swiftly as he could and embraced her again.
"How?" she murmured. "How, Catharz?"
"It is a long tale and a b.l.o.o.d.y one," he whispered, "of rivalry and revenge, but suffice to say that it ended in my father, Xympwell the Cruel, taking a terrible vengeance upon me. I fled from his court into the wastes of Grxiwynn, raving mad, and it was there that the tribesmen of Velox found me and took me to the wise Man of Oorps in the mountains beyond Katatonia. He nursed me and carved that for me. It took him two years, and all through those two years I remained raving, living off dust and dew and roots, as he lived. The engravings had mystical sig- nificance, the runes contain the sum of his great wisdom, the tiny pictures show all that there is to show of physical love. Is it not beautiful? More beau- tiful than that which it has replaced?"
Her glance was modest; she nodded slowly.
"It is indeed, very beautiful," she agreed. And then she looked up at him and he saw that tears glistened in her eyes. "But did it have to be made of Sandstone?"
"There is little else," he explained sadly, "in the mountains beyond Katatonia."
(From The Outcast of Kitzoprenia Volume 67 in The History of the Purple Poignard)