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Black Static


Getting To Know Tim Lees

4th May, 2011

Author: Peter Tennant

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Tim Lees was one of our featured authors in the Case Notes section of Black Static #22, with an interview and an in-depth review of his latest novel Frankenstein's Prescription. Having allowed him to pontificate about life and literature, philosophy and religion, I did my usual trick of posing a load of questions for the website bit of the whole Case Notes experience that will make everyone think Tim spends all his time dwelling on the content of magazines like Heat and Hello (though he appears to have given a worrying amount of thought to some of these).

(And I put the very same questions to Steven Pirie, our other featured author in #22, so that we can compare their answers and judge which one is veering closest to any lowest common denominator.)

Steven will be along later, but for now, hit it Tim:-

Q: Kylie or Madonna?

A: Weird and egocentric she may be, but you get the feeling you could actually have an interesting conversation with Madonna. (Conversation? Hmmm... I think this is a sign I'm getting old.)

Q: Your first book or your latest one?

A: The latest, obviously! Trumpet fanfare: FRANKENSTEIN'S PRESCRIPTION, pub. 2011 by Tartarus Press, Coverley House, Carlton-in-Coverdale, Leyburn, North Yorkshire, DL8 4AY, UK (see link below)  BUY!!!! BUY!!!! BUY!!!! (Was that subtle enough?)

Q: Black Forest Gateau or Lemon Meringue?

A: I'm on a low cholesterol diet.

Q: Star Trek: TNG or classic Star Trek?

A: Neither: classic Dr Who.

Q: Sport, prefer to play or watch?

A: You mean you can actually do that stuff? Really? But wouldn't that involve, you know, getting up out of the armchair, and, well, actually standing or something? Isn't that sort of... tiring?

Q: Watching the Royal Wedding or answering daft questions?

A: The evidence is before you.

Q: Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera?

A: As what? Instruments of torture?

Q: Would you rather be published in Interzone or Black Static?

A: Which reaches a bigger audience?

Q: Tea or coffee?

A: Coffee. In excess.

Q: Seen the most times - Halloween or Friday the 13th?

A: The 13th Halloween.

Q: A helicopter ride or a boat trip?

A: I've never been in a helicopter, and stole a friend's experiences for a recent story in IZ. (He won't miss them.) So I'd take the helicopter.

Q: Let's be macabre for a moment - cremation or burial?

A: I have left a request that I be cooked and eaten by my friends. It's like being an organ donor, only more fun.

Q: And now let's just be naff - Katie Price or Paris Hilton?

A: Ah! The "vacuous bimbo" question. There's always one. I could rant at length about the loathsomeness of celebrity culture, in which success comes in inverse proportion to talent and ability. (I worked in academia for a few years, only to find similar patterns of self-promotion there.) Still, I was surprised to find I actually have an opinion on this one. Katie Price (along with her publicist) has at least carved some kind of career for herself out of unpromising beginnings, and that deserves respect. (The impact on her personal well-being may be another matter.) Paris Hilton, on the other hand... What is the point of Paris Hilton, exactly? Does anybody know? I was genuinely horrified by a show called Paris Hilton's New Best Friend, in which a group of otherwise apparently sane competitors strove to please this already phenomenally rich woman... by buying her presents. If Ballard were writing The Atrocity Exhibition today, I wonder what he would have made of it. Segue:

Q: Would you prefer to read J. G. Ballard or Christopher Priest?

A: I'd prefer to read both, though Ballard is a personal hero. For somebody I never met, he had a colossal impact on me, and I still can't believe he's gone. Dying, he wrote one of the most joyful books I've ever read - Miracles of Life - in startling contrast to the grim work he produced in the prime of health.

Not that I would wish to slight Mr Priest, either. The world is big enough for both.

Q: Fast food options - McDonalds or Pizza Hut?

A: Pizza Hut.

Q: Which director's body of work do you admire the most - Lynch or Cronenberg?

A: Lynch. Cronenberg is good, but a bit hit and miss. Lynch can be extraordinary. Even when he doesn't make much sense (and I recently re-watched Inland Empire), there is still a feeling of some ungrasped rationale behind it all, something that can't really be pinned down or put in words but that exists, nevertheless. Our own lives are unknowable. The lives of others are unknowable, much as we may think we know them. When Lynch provides a kind of "explanation" (Mulholland Drive, Fire Walk with Me), it's so enormously satisfying that you forget how much else in the film still makes no sense whatsoever. It defies conventional critique and that, to my mind, is a good thing.

Apparently Lynch practices TM and claims to be a very jolly little soul. Who'd have thought it?

Q: For a family day out - trip to the zoo or visit to a theme park?

A: Zoo, every time. I love looking at animals. They're the only alien beings we encounter regularly in our daily lives.

Q: Do you prefer to read an ebook or a paperback?

A: Paperbacks, though I recently saw a Kindle and was impressed by the quality of it. I suspect this is the way that things will go.

Q: If you were trapped in a dungeon with them and had only one stake, would you use it on Count Dracula, Carmilla Karnstein or yourself?

A: Obviously, we'd do a deal. Eternal life? Sounds like a bargain to me.

Q: Who do you consider the better writer - M. R. James or H. P. Lovecraft?

A: A confession of ignorance: I've never knowingly read M.R. James, though I presume, on a purely sentence by sentence level, he's the more proficient writer. Lovecraft, on the other hand, is unique, and all those rather dodgy attempts to produce "Lovecraftian" fiction only go to emphasise his uniqueness. Amazing stuff, but I'm glad I read it when I was young enough not to baulk at the prose style or the logical inconsistencies ("Yog-Sothoth! The three-lobed burning eye!" - and he continues to scribble in his notebook even as the monster rips his head off. Oh, yeah, right.)

Q: Whisky or brandy?

A: Are we talking oral or intravenous here?

Q: Which are you looking forward to the most - the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie or Green Lantern?

A: Neither. I find the current glut of superhero movies rather belated, and wish they'd been around when I was young. I'm curious about them, but not enough to fork out seven or eight quid to see them on the big screen. Plus, as with SF movies, the films are miles behind the kind of thing the best writers are doing. There have been a couple of good comics adaptations, in my view: Watchmen certainly had its moments, and was reasonably faithful to the original (ironic that Alan Moore took his name off it, when it's actually the best cinematic adaptation of his work), and Constantine (another Moore character!) remains a movie I'm fond of, despite bowdlerisation. But if I have to answer the question... well, Johnny Depp is usually pretty interesting, whatever he's doing.

Q: Tate Modern or Tate Britain?

A: I love modern art when it works, which is about 5% of the time. The rest is junk, bolstered by pretentious and/or banal philosophy. I have an unmade bed of my own, thanks very much. But of course, I'm not an artist, so my bed is not art. (Well, I can agree with that...)

Actually, I don't object to such attention-seeking exhibits in themselves. Some can be interesting, or amusing, or whatever. But they're the sort of stuff a truly major artist would produce for a bit of fun - a jeu d'esprit between more significant works. Now the japes have taken over. Pickled shark, anyone?

Q: Which do you prefer to write - short story, novella or novel?

A: Long short stories. But I would really like to have written (note the tense) lots and lots of novels. Novels tend to stay around, short stories vanish. But novels just take so damn long to write...

Q: If you were to join the circus, would it be as clown, lion tamer or trapeze artiste?

A: Clown.

Q: The short stories of Angela Carter or those of Shirley Jackson?

A: Second confession: I have never knowingly read Shirley Jackson. A big oversight, I think. But this question, like the James/Lovecraft one above, seems to be asking something broader: do you like your fiction subtle and semi-naturalistic, or bold and baroque? The answer is both, but I've got a leaning towards the baroque.

Q: For starter - garlic bread or corn on the cob?

A: Guilt says corn on the cob; greed says garlic bread.

Q: Dracula/Frankenstein - the Universal or Hammer versions?

A: Either. Both are now part of a specific period in history, and interesting for that, as well as their intrinsic merits as cinema.

Q: Would you rather win a Hugo or a Stoker?

A: Are you offering?

Q: The film of your life should be directed by - Danny Boyle or Tim Burton?

A: Well, you've seen Ed Wood, haven't you? Just lose the angora...



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