Well, I know you've been quaking in your swivel-chairs in anticipation, for the full one day since I've announced it, but it's finally here! Andy Remic, in the e-flesh, submitting himself to a
Solaris: Hi Andy. Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. First things first, then. What’s that you’ve got in your hands?
The Rem: Ooh, that would be a spanking gleaming brand new slick copy of CLONEWORLD, a rollercoaster psychopathic uber-kickass military black-comedy SF novel set in my Combat K universe. It's probably better if you're drunk when you read it. That way, the insanity makes sense.
Solaris: Also handy as a close-combat weapon, or as a sandbag, I find. And this is, I guess, your ninth book? You’ve a couple of books out by A Rival Publisher at the moment as well, so I’m slightly guessing.
The Rem: Yes, you are absolutely right! My ninth published novel. Now I feel kinda old. I hope I don't go the way of the Ninth Legion..... And my tenth, Vampire Warlords, is out very shortly. I have a busy year ahead of me!
Solaris: So, counting past works, your work with our esteemed competitors, your work with us and your side-projects, I find international espionage, futuristic black-ops, savage barbarian warriors, serial killers. Your muse is clearly murderin’. How did this love affair start?
The Rem: I suppose James Herbert is to blame for the murderin’ horror streak. Dave Gemmell for the strong moral fibre streak.
And the twisted nature of humanity for allowing me to put it all into one barrel, mash it up, and distil a mad-mix of violence and death. Ultimately, death terrifies me – so I make sure it damn well terrifies my characters, as well! And somehow, it would just feel wrong if I wrote about daffodils.
Solaris: You seem to be a polite, quietly-spoken man. Are we going to hear about how you “seemed like such a nice, normal guy” and “we never saw it coming” on the news one night?
The Rem: Err. It certainly occurs to me that if, hypothetically speaking of course, I was on trial, head on the block, etc, for a crime I didn’t commit, you know how it goes, then the do-gooders of the jury would point at my writing works with long scaly fingers and say, “Ahh yes, but have you read the insane stories he writes? They make Robert Rankin look normal! He must be the lunatic axeman!”
I do try to be a nice person of strong moral fibre. It doesn’t always work out that way, of course. But I love my kids and bring them up to respect their elders, have good manners, always do the right thing, and generally be positive members of the human race. I only get mad at scumbags. :-)
Solaris: Okay, so let’s talk Combat K. It was our predecessors from BL Publishing who first commissioned War Machine from you. Talk us through that.
The Rem: I’d initially written three near-future SF thrillers for Orbit (Spiral, Quake and Warhead), and decided I fancied doing some far-future SF, but again with a large dollop of action and featuring a combat-based military squad - that's how Combat K was born. My agent started shopping around and Solaris jumped on it, apparently. Originally, the first novel was called Combat K, but my editor Christian Dunn thought that was a better name for the “series” as a whole, so I came up with War Machine to describe the novel - and indeed, the squad - itself. Unstoppable.
Solaris: And a legend was born. The aforementioned fourth Combat K book, Cloneworld, is out now. I’m going to pretend I didn’t edit it and ask you what it’s about.
The Rem: Cloneworld focuses on two of the characters from earlier Combat K novels, Franco – detonations expert, sexual deviant, chef, and Pippa – a death-dealing, man-hating, violent PMT-proud psychopath. Imagine Lara Croft, but without the manners. The Quad Galaxy is being overrun by an alien scourge known as Junks, and Franco and Pippa have been tipped off by a planet-sized half-God known as VOLOS concerning a pseudo-AI artefact which could be used in the war against the Junks. The only problem here, is that this potential saver of the human race lies on Cloneworld, an abandoned toxic hellhole populated by gangers (or clones, with the ability to clone themselves) and orgs, humans who have turned the art of mechanical self-improvement into a twisted religion of self-inflicted machine massacre. The gangers and orgs are at constant war with one another, from their respective fortified continents, and into this mess are dropped Combat K. Obviously, things go wrong very quickly, not aided by Franco who accidentally beheads the prime-time reality TV show host, Opera, on live TV, thus pushing the gangers and orgs closer to all-out war... Then follows a series of mad and wild and weird adventures through the violently opposed and differing landscapes of both the gangers and orgs world... and Franco starts to learn the horrors of machine “self-improvement”...
Solaris: Opera, of course, and there’s a passing mention of Van Gok, and one or two other popular figures subtly referenced, in this and earlier titles. Have you ever heard back from the people you satirise in your books?
The Rem: I've had some hate mail. Especially from Ronan. That guy hates me!! (see below). I had to get a court order to forbid Mr Keating from beating me up with a helve!! He's certainly not as squeaky clean as he looks! [Lawyers please note: that was a joke].
Solaris: So, what’s next? We’ve got at least two more coming from you, and for the next one, Theme Planet, you leave Combat K behind altogether. Give us some hints? Who or what are the Anarchy?
The Rem: Although I love writing Combat K, I felt I needed a break from Franco’s ginger insanity. I'm mentally overloaded by the little bugger. An excess of Franco. I've got a Franco-hangover. Indeed. And thus, for a little while I've come up with a new concept, set broadly within the same set of galaxies as Combat K, but with a more fast-paced and violent set of central themes, less humour, and tying together two ideas I’ve wanted to work with for a while. The concept of torture- and murder-model androids (the Anarchy Androids of the series title) and “Theme Planet” – an entire world dedicated to absolutely wild and insane and over-the-top alien theme park rides. So, a twisted alien theme park set across an entire world. A deviated alien Disney of the 51st Century. The novel begins with Dexter Colls, a policeman and nice family man, who takes his wife and children to Theme Planet for their annual holiday... but things soon turn very, very bad.
Solaris: Any reason for wanting to move away from the humour?
The Rem: I enjoy the humour, certainly, but as a writer it’s healthy to do different things, to always challenge yourself. I’m just changing gear for a bit; don't worry, before long I’ll change back again.
Solaris: Okay, back around to Combat K for a moment, then. Specifically, Franco Haggis, who is clearly your favourite character, and seems – forgive me – at least a little bit like your good self, even setting aside your repeat performances as him in promotional videos. So level with me: is there a little of you in Franco? Or, God forbid, a little of Franco in you?
The Rem: [I’ve had to have a break while I laugh at that question!] Okay. Just for the record, I am not Franco Haggis, and if I found myself hanging on a cross with fellow Sciffy writers when SF is no-doubt eventually outlawed, like at the end of Spartacus, I would NOT cry out, “No! I am Franco Haggis!” Of course, there’s elements of me in every character I write, and sometimes, maybe, (or maybe I’m just a deviant), elements of characters creep back into me. Does that sound wrong? Weird? I apologise. There used to be a running joke at the (old) BL Solaris, where they threatened to take lines from my novels and wear them on t-shirts. They were always lines from Franco. Lines like: “Damn that alien VD!” So yes, to answer the question, there’s a bit of me in Franco, and unfortunately, Franco seems to leak out and pollute a bit of the world in which we live. God help us if they ever make a film. I would hate for the little deviant ginger monstrosity to become fashionable, which he no-doubt would – in a Jackass kind of way.
Solaris: And may I ask? What brand of horseradish, particularly? If I should ever get my hand on some CubeSausage and need something to wash it down with.
The Rem: Knowing Franco, that would be “the cheapest.” He’s a little feral scrote.
Solaris: I’ll get a jar in specially. Never know when I’ll need it. Moving on, then. You do a lot of work with th3 m1ss1ng, a music/video/art collective whose music appears in your book-promo videos and side projects. Care to give them a quick pimp? What are they about?
The Rem: I’m a massive fan of th3 m1ss1ng’s music, and we've been working together for quite a few years now. They’ve composed music for several of my short films, book promo films, my (work in progress) full length horror feature film GEHENNA, and have just written a full album to go alongside Serial Killers Incorporated, the little ebook thing I’m about to launch, the aim of which is to promote my work that falls outside the normal SFF genres in which I write - or stuff that's a bit weird, even for me. th3 m1ss1ng describe themselves as: “an art project consisting of industrial/electronic/independent music and film involving collaborations from many others including writers, artists and filmmakers.” They have a website. It's www.m1ss1ng.com and I recommend you go there :-)
Solaris: You joined us at the “San Diego of the South,” the SFX Weekender at Camber Sands. What were your thoughts? Would you do it again?
The Rem: I absolutely loved the SFX Weekender, genuinely one of the best (if not the best) convention I’ve ever attended. I took my kids for the first time - their first con - and there was so much for them to see and do. They had a ball!! Stormtroopers and Daleks and Craig Charles, of all people, bloody Craig Charles!! I got to chat to him in the bar! Take photos! And drink beer! You hear that? Drink beer with Dave Lister!! Damn, I think I died and went to Red Dwarf Heaven. :-) I’ve just been talking to Dave Bradley at SFX Magazine, and it's looking like I'm going to be doing some writing for the SFX blog in the near future. Now, that's going to be super-cool!!
Solaris: Now, those of our readers who have seen the promotional video or were there at the Weekender will know what I’m talking about when I ask about that hat. You said you nicked it from Ronan Keating. We’re all kind of aching to hear the story.
The Rem: Err. I really do set myself up, don’t I? Damn. Okay. I actually nicked it from “a Ronan Keating obsessive.” And by Ronan Keating obsessive, and I think there’s many guys out there who are going to sympathise with me here, I mean “my wife.” Her and some of her chums went to a good ol’ Ronan gig in Manchester, and for some reason, Ronan seems to enjoy his fans wearing pink cowboy hats. Now, I’m not sure of the psychology behind this act of rockgod worship, but if fans of my novels started wearing pink cowboy hats, then somebody would get a good kick in the happy sacks. [You know what? People are going to start doing this now, aren't they? Just to wind me up? Hmmmmm?]. Anyway. After the gig, me and a good mate were sat out in the back garden, with a roaring fire and some cans of *ahem* pop (let’s just says Milk+, or Milk with Knives in it, reet?) and we found it hysterically funny to have a photo shoot where we all paraded in said pink cowboy hats. Fast-forward a few years to the making of the Cloneworld video. I was casting about for a comedy item to wear, and nothing struck me as so much fun as Ronan's pink hat. Come on. You just *know* he wears one on the kludgie ;-)
Solaris: Finally, a hypothetical. You’re putting together your own Combat K unit. Which two other authors would you take with you deep into enemy territory, and why?
The Rem: Hah! That would have to be Gary McMahon, author of Pretty Little Dead Things and The Concrete Grove - for his uber-military kick-boxing skills, his stern, steely gaze, and his twisted horrifying imagination of horror (and his sexy bottom, of course); and also the debonair, the sophisticated, the intricate, the charming, the one and only James Lovegrove, author of The Age of Odin and Redlaw, and the man who should have beat Daniel Craig to become the next James Bond.
However, I fear in military terms, we would no-doubt perform more like the crew of Red Dwarf than a crack military Combat K unit. We might put a little dent in the enemy fortifications. Although, in reality we’d probably all be back at the SLAM dropship arguing about the horseradish...
Solaris: Thanks a lot for coming in.