Meet the New Barbarians

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This interview with the late Steven Wells appeared in 3:AM Magazine in 2001:

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Attack Books!: Meet the New Barbarians

Steven Wells interviewed by Andrew Gallix.

3:AM: When did you launch Attack! Books and, more importantly, why?

SW: I was hacking away at a Stewart Home-influenced psycho-novel titled Tits-Out Teenage Terror Totty, about what would happen if everybody who has ever taken ecstasy suddenly went totally INfuckingSANE and started hacking up their nearest and dearest with garden tools and safety scissors.

Tommy Udo then invited me along to his “extreme spoken word” club The Shining Path where these mad scribblings went down a storm. It was the start of a brutally beautiful sado-masochistic sexual relationship. Tommy had some cash left over from his disastrously brief career as a Channel 4 TV presenter and wanted to start a publishing company.

Soon we had a name — Attack! Books. And a shitload of titles: Pagan Bastards!, Fat Goth Chick, Legalise Cannibalism, Apes of Wrath, Vatican Bloodbath, Prince Bastard (followed by King Bastard and Intergalactic Emperor Bastard) etc.

And a manifesto:

“ATTACK! WHERE THE NOVEL HAS A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN!

This generation needs a NEW literature—writing that apes, matches, parodies and supersedes the flickeringly fast 900 MPH ATTACK! ATTACK ATTACK! velocity of early 21st century popular culture at its most mEnTaL!

HARD-CORE ANARCHO-COMMIE SEX PULP

We will publish writers who think they’re rock stars, rock stars who think they’re writers and we will make supernovas of the stuttering, wild-eyed, slack-jawed drooling idiot-geek geniuses who lurk in the fanzine/internet shadows.

HORROR! SEX! WAR! DRUGS! VIOLENCE!

“Subtlety” is found in the dictionary between “shit” and “syphilis”. The self-perpetuating ponce-mafia oligarchy of effete bourgeois wankers who run the literary scene must be swept aside by a tidal wave of screaming urchin tits-out teenage terror totty and DESTROYED! ATTACK! ATTACK! ATTACK! Hail the Social Surrealist revolution! Death to Brit Lit! Meet the New Barbarians!”

And a concept:

“Attack is punk rock—but for books! We are the Tamla Motown of publishing! In your face, down your trousers and up your arse like a shit-eating rabbit on speed! Written by psychopaths! For psychopaths! Gratuitously violent, stomach churning two-fisted avant-pulp rock’n’roll fuck-fiction! Attack! is the literary equivalent of being spit-roasted by two horse-cocked muscle studs! (On crack, obviously.)

Our novels will be hacked out by ranks of glassy eyed author-serfs, the skeletal fingers of these mindless minions tip-tapping away at 200 words per minute for 24 hours of every day of every week of every year churning out an endless stream of pulp fiction classics with titles like: HUGETITTED SPUNKSUCKING NAZISNAKE SLUTNUNS IN CYBERSPACE!, FISTFUCK TO FREEDOM! , JOYRIDING INTELLECTUAL CRACKBABY BLOODFIENDS!, GASHCRAZED MEDICAL STUDENT CANNIBAL PARTY PAEDOPHILE CRACK-MASSACRE!, SUBMISSIVE BOOTBOY SMACK ADDICT SEXTOY!, I KILL FOR LAGER!, SKINHEAD TAKES IT UP THE SHITTER!, MENTAL SELF-MUTILATION FRENZIED KUNG FU GLUESNIFFER SPUNK RIOT!, I SHAT THE HOT-CUM OF A BILLION NEW LABOUR SPIN-DOCTOR SCUM IN A CRACK-WRAP LITTERED AND BADLY-LIT BACKSTREET, BOMBAY BUMBOY BROTHEL FOR BASTARD YONKS!, MY LIFE AS THE DRUG-DERANGED AND SAVAGELY UNDERPAID MAD MONKEY WAGE SLAVE OF CUTTING EDGE ENFANT TERRIBLE BAD BOY NOVELIST MARTIN AMIS FOR PEANUTS AND LOVED EVERY FUCKING MINUTE OF EVERY CUNTING DAY! And:

SHITSURFINGFISHNETS TOCKINGEDI NTELLIGENTJUNGLECRAZEDMUTANTFERRET SEXSLAVECANNIBALSPUNKADD ICTS INGLEMOTHERDRUGALIEN CRACKSMUGGLINGCOPKILLERAND ROIDRIOT GRRLWHORENUNS FROMREABCLINICCOLDTURKEY HELLVERSUSTHECOCKSU CKERMER CENARYSKULLFUCKEDPSYCHODRUG KOPSPACEFASCI STRANGERSFA NSFROMSPEED GABBAKEBAB PUKESMEAREDMINICAB HELLPLANET 9ONSMACK! 2—THE SCREENPLAY which will sell in their millions.

The stinking ranks of pulpspewing semi-android hacks’ hideously swollen heads will all sport heavy steel headphones which blast cutting-edge extreme pop sounds straight into their shaking skulls whilst banks of video machines spew looptapes packed with horrific images of slaughter, torture, kids’ cartoons and triple-X rated hardcore-europorn straight into each slackjawed slave’s visual cortex through a complicated spaghetti of multi-coloured wiring. Using these revolutionary production methods we aim to flood the English reading world with thousands of utterly psychotic surefire smash-hit but shudderingly subliterate teensploitation novels mindlessly churned out in a few hours by the utterly drugboggled brain of an anonymous kidnapped rock hack whose finer sensibilities have been mercilessly crushed by a relentless and totally desensitising non-stop barrage of gratuitously-violent, overtly sexual and utterly tasteless cultural effluent and then smashed into atoms by the computer generated super-orgasms that thrash their emaciated body as a reward each time they concoct a savage sentence, sordid sex scene or sickeningly violent pig-getting-his-ear-sliced-off-in-Res Dogs style scenario that leaps clean over the boundaries of civilised good taste and falls screaming into the abyss of barbarity, perversion and dangerously demented decadence beyond.”

And a press release:

“Attack! Books are gaudily painted ruffian whores blatantly flourishing the rouged lips of their distended genitalia and giving you the come on. You are aroused to passion. Feverishly fingering the cheap pages, you speed-read the sordid contents, your mind reeling under the savage mental carpet bombing of the fuck-frenzied prose. At last, satiated and weeping, you collapse in a heaving heap. Then you sit down at your computer and start to write. The world must hear of the glory, the frenzy, the dementia and — yes — the love that IS Attack! Books. The pulsating glory that you once thought could only be found in the screaming amplifiers of beautiful and tragically thin young proletarian sex-rock gods thrashing machine-gun fuck rock out of cock-level held and crude-slogan plastered electric guitars has now found its literary equivalent!

The doors of perception are ripped off their rusting hinges and smashed into worm-ridden matchwood by a barbarian horde of Viking berzerker skum who stomp into the darkest corners of the human soul, howling like crazed wolves, roaring like priapic mastodons, screaming like blood crazed bull-chimps and shitting in your spanking new trainers like naughty puppies. Did someone say punk rock? Fuck punk rock! Did someone say Acid House? Fuck Acid House! All cultural references are redundant. Attack! is like The Battle of Stalingrad experienced by a five-year-old psychopath on Jacob’s Ladder style CIA experimental combat acid! It’s like being butt-fucked to a bloody pulp by a detective chief constable with a hammer head shark for a cock. It’s like wading knee deep through a sea of used condoms casually tossed aside by the Ghaddafi trained lesbian terror squads whose mission it is to inject infected semen into the arteries of the common mind. But basically, chum, it’s about love. Let’s not forget that, OK?”

But unfortunately Tommy had no money left after having to pay for a series of operations following a disastrous move to America where he tried (and failed spectacularly in front of 7.8 million TV viewers) to make it big on the WWF pro-wrestling circuit.

So we hawked it around:

MAJOR PUBLISHER: So who’s the target audience for Attack!?
US: Um, working-class and lower-middle class males. Probably.
MAJOR PUBLISHER: Do they go into bookshops?
US: AAAAAAAAAARGH!

So eventually we fell in with Creation books (nothing to do with Creation records) and put six books out. Tits-Out Teenage Terror Totty by Steven Wells, Raiders Of The Low Forehead by Stanley Manly, Satan! Satan! Satan! by Tony White, Get Your Cock Out by Mark Manning (AKA Zodiac Mindwarp), Vatican Bloodbath by Tommy Udo and Whips & Furs — My Life As A Bon-Vivant, Gambler And Love Rat by Jesus H. Christ (edited by Stewart Home). But that relationship is coming to an end and we are currently looking to go solo and are in negotiation with some RICH PEOPLE to make this happen because we got TONS OF SHIT-HOT MANUSCRIPTS screaming to be born.

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3:AM: I believe you used to work for the NME. Is this still the case? What sort of music are you into today? Do you think there is a generation gap in British fiction today between writers influenced by pop music (from punk onwards) and the rest?

SW: Yes, I still freelance for the NME. I am into loud, fast, violent rock’n’roll music and mindless bubblegum pop that makes me smile. I think everybody over 40 should be allowed to carry a large wooden stick (with a knobbly bit at the end) with which they should be allowed to beat all teenagers sporting long hair, goatee beards, ridiculously baggy trousers and pierced genitalia.

3:AM: Your manifesto attacks the Britlit establishment. What about the Chemical Generation writers or the New Puritans?

SW: The Chemical Generation are BORING! What the fuck have they got to say? I put on some ridiculously baggy trousers and a tea cosey and went to a disco and took some drugs that made me want to twitch to music designed to be twitched to by people who’ve taken drugs that make them want to twitch to music designed to be twitched to by people who’ve taken drugs that make them want to twitch to music etc etc etc. And then we went back to someone’s house and took some more drugs and talked shit and then crashed out for 48 hours and woke up maniacally depressed having contracted Parkinson’s disease. It was great. BORING!

And what the fuck is up with the New Puritans? It’s all so minimalist! Good luck to anybody out to sir up the stagnant, class-ridden cesspit of “serious literature” but the New Puritans seem to be reformists and, as it says on the tattoo on Tommy Udo’s horse-sized cock: ONE SOLUTION! REVOLUTION!

3:AM: What do you think of other alternative publishers/imprints like Pulp Faction, or Canongate in Scotland?

SW: Good luck to them. But I don’t think that any of them have Attack!’s evangelical zeal or clarity of vision.

3:AM: You want a “NEW literature” for “this generation”. How would you define this new type of literature?

SW: That slogan: Punk rock for books! It’s a tad crude (hem hem). Especially when we’re talking about a medium which, in musical terms, hasn’t even had its bebop yet. We want literature that is the literary equivalent of “No Limits” by Two Unlimited, Gabba, Hardcore, Grindcore, The Sex Pistols, Digital Hard Core, Daphne & Celeste, Little Richard, Apocalypse Now, The Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl, The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Akira, amphetamine sulphate, The League Of Gentlemen, fucking on poppers, the screams of 80,000 assembled screaming teenypop fans, John Zorn’s Torture Garden, Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner, Brute!, the beach scene from Saving Private Ryan. ALL AT THE SAME TIME! We want literature that reeks of the sex, speed and violence of 21st century culture at its most mental! Writing that sucker-punches you in the heart, head, guts and gonads at the same time!

We’re offended by the very concept of “serious” literature. It’s so one-dimensional! We’re sickened by the constant elevation of prematurely middle-aged 19th century style wannabes as cutting-edge enfant terribles. A university English Lit course that fails to teach comics is as redundant as a media studies course that fails to mention television. Fucking hell! Robert Louis Stevenson’s wife burnt the first draft of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde because she thought it was shit. So the nutter hammered it all out again from scratch in 72 hours while off his fucking skull on medicinal cocaine. THAT’S Attack! It’s about dumbing UP! More is More! Screaming tabloid headlines, Stalinist aesthetics, situationist rhetoric, twisted morality, an ultra-modernist social-surrealist agenda, chip shops on both shoulders — who needs “character development” and “plot” when you’ve got a manifesto, a hit-list and a billion drugfucked chimps hammering away 24/7 on stained and battered Macs? “I wanna start with an earthquake and build to a climax!” — Sam Goldwyn

Avant-pulp is Social Surrealism.

Most novels take one or two good ideas and string them out over 200 pages. Fuck that. We want TEN great ideas. PER PAGE. Grab the reader by the throat and pummel him or her to a bloody pulp. And then fuck the corpse. Live on prime time terrestrial TV.

The swearing, violence, drug abuse and sex in Attack! Books is extreme, savage, frequent and utterly gratuitous. But we’re NOT into middle-class ooh-mummy-look-at-me “mondo” decadence. Pornography is dull. Avant-pulp is mindblowing. And Attack! avant-pulp is “moral” — from an extreme nutter anarcho-commie perspective. Ie all Tories, smothermummies, wankers, fascists and bastards DIE! Spectacularly.

It isn’t “literature.” Oh GOD! Fuck NO! The “serious”, “psychological” novel is the most tedious genre going. It sucks. It’s boring. Who wants to read about the inside of some knuckle-suckingly middle-class fucker’s head when they could be reading about vampires, aliens, mutant alligators, drug-crazed zombies, Margaret Thatcher sex golems, deranged ex SAS assassins, killer-priests, frankensteins, satanic rockers, football hooligans etc etc etc? You know — exciting, fun stuff. Mad POP stuff. Most of the manuscripts we get sent try to be “literature”. They fail miserably. Don’t give us “an idea!” Give us a universe! Preferably one per chapter. Be honest, face facts. You know three chords. So hammer out some hilarious, ranting, frenetic, breathless punk rock. Leave the symphony till later. Get loose, Let rip. You’ve got the rest of your life to be boring.

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SO — TO SUM THE FUCK UP — WHAT IS ATTACK!? * It’s Motown for Pulp. * It’s literature that reflects the insane revved-to-fuck flick’n’fling pace of the century that spawns it. * It’s extreme digital hardcore punk rock’n’roll speed gabba for books. * It’s about whacking 50,000 volts through the corpse of an artform that is so moribund and up its own middle-class arse that it considers sad bastard public school Oxbridge junkie Will Self to be a punk rock enfant terrible. Is he fuck! He writes like a sanatogen-sodden geriatric! And you can stick Martin Amis up your arse as well. * It’s in your face, down your trousers and up your arse like a shit-eating rabbit on speed. * It’s a REVOLUTION!

To save the English novel we must first destroy it! Attack! is an unequal-opportunities employer, we’re out to finally and irrevocably destroy the Oxbridge upper-middle class death grip on “literature”. Our bible is John Carey’s The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia (Faber, 1992). We have swallowed wholesale the knowledge that the reason novels got so tedious, self-referential and dull in the early 20th Century was as a reaction against mass literacy. They didn’t want the oiks to read books. God no! Well fuck you, you snobs! The oiks are biting back.

We’ve gone back to Swift, Defoe and Austin and brought them screaming forward into the 21st century. We’re sick of desiccated and prematurely middle-aged bores telling us that comics and action movies should be more like novels (character development, grandiose statements about the human condition witter, drone, bore blah blah blah). Fuck that! Novels should be more like comics and action movies! Visceral, gaudy, exciting, vulgar, cheap, nasty, banal, cheesy, tasteless, head-exploding and gut-wrenching technicolor roller-coaster rides through the nerve-shredding extremities of human behaviour. Cheap thrills! Books that spew 10 ideas a page at you, that leave you breathless, sweating, frightened, excited, inspired and with urine-drenched trousers. Novel writing isn’t an “art form”. It’s typing on drugs.

3:AM: What do you mean by “avant-pulp”? Hasn’t the concept already been used by Jeff Noon?

SW: Yes, we nicked it of Jeff, Fuck him. He’s not having it back.

3:AM: Could you tell us when and why you started writing?

SW: God no. I’m knackered!

3:AM: What sort of submissions are you looking for? Do you also intend to publish fiction on your website as well as on paper?

SW: See above and yes.

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