This interview with Paul David Adkin was carried out by the Spanish literary magazine “Galimatias” in March, 2015. We have translated it here into English and have published it in five parts. This is the final part.
GALIMATIAS: In When Sirens Call, your hero Robert says: “This book is my Trojan horse, sent into the interior of capitalism to burn it down.” Was that meant to be a mirroring statement referring to When Sirens Call itself?
ADKIN: Oh no, not at all. When Sirens Call is a novel. It has no ambitions to bring the system down. Nevertheless, it was a mirroring statement. Robert is referring to his philosophical work which is a mirror of my own philosophical work.
GALIMATIAS: Which has not been published yet.
ADKIN: No, I haven’t found a publisher for it yet.
GALIMATIAS: But you think it will bring down capitalism?
ADKIN: Of course not. Yet it could be considered as one of its objectives.
GALIMATIAS: Getting back to When Sirens Call … it is a novel, but there is also a lot of politics in it. Can’t we see it as a political novel?
ADKIN: Not really … Politics is discussed by the characters, but the book itself takes no obvious political position.
GALIMATIAS: Is Art Wars political?
ADKIN: It’s critical of the system – from the artist’s point of view. It’s cynical. Was Diogenes political?
GALIMATIAS: The one who lived in a barrel?
ADKIN: Yes. Diogenes was a social critic and he would have loved to have been in a less hypocritical place, but he was not a man-of-action.
GALIMATIAS: Placenta in Art Wars does act.
ADKIN: Yes, and she also goes mad. No, I don’t think Art Wars is really a political work either. To be political, I write philosophy … and plays. I, Consul, 1808, and The Queen who could not Rule were political plays. Each one of them used history as a mirror to reflect the current political situation. I, Consul was anti-war and a satire on Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, while 1808 and The Queen were anti-neoliberal plays. But plays can be political in ways that novels can’t be – haven’t I already discussed that.
GALIMATIAS: Yes, but I’m trying to clarify it. Novels have to disguise their statement and so therefore they can’t be political.
ADKIN: Something like that. Although, having said this … at the moment I’m working on a piece of science fiction, which will be a political book – that’s because I think that science fiction is an exception … as would be satire. The best sci fi is deeply philosophical and, because it writes about society from a philosophical perspective it is also very political.
Nevertheless, let me reiterate my main argument here – the literary value of sci fi writing is best achieved when it sublimates the big question as well. Once you set your book in the future, it immediately has its political connotations – whether it’s a Utopian or Dystopian vision we see a social and technological development or regression. In this way every descriptive scene has an innate political weight. The writer can just forget about politics as such – the setting itself will bring it all out for you.
If we think of the film Blade Runner, for example. That has a deeply political narrative embedded in it through the Dystopia it creates via the setting. The story itself is deeply ontological, although the depth comes through quite naturally through the existential predicament of the androids. And the big question .. which runs through all of Ridley Scott’s films … is the Oedipus complex. And that is buried in the subconscious of the film, as it should be.
GALIMATIAS: So you like Sci Fi?
ADKIN: Yes, I do. But I don’t read much of it, because the writing too often disappoints me when I do.
GALIMATIAS: And so your next novel will be a work of science fiction?
ADKIN: Perhaps, but I’ve got four things fairly well developed at the moment, I’ve no idea which will be finished first