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And Your Point Is?: Scorn & Meaning In Jeff Lint's Fiction
editor: Steve Aylett
Raw Dog Screaming paperback $10.95
review by Patrick Hudson
Like God, if Jeff Lint didn't exist then mankind would have to invent him. And, like God, Jeff Lint doesn't exist but it didn't take the whole of mankind to invent him; in fact, just one fraction of a billionth of mankind was sufficient for the job, in the shape of the Steve Aylett. Lint is a kind of ur-form of a certain type of SF writer, most obviously Philip K. Dick, but with elements of Kurt Vonnegut, Theodore Sturgeon, and other science fiction writers of the 1950s and 1960s. He is irascible, eccentric, funny, imaginative, unique and deranged.
Lint has struck a chord with Aylett and his readers, leading to The Caterer comic, more mock-up pulp covers, and excerpts from Lint's legendary Catty & The Major cartoons, all found on Aylett's website www.steveaylett.com. On the heels of this comes Aylett's second book-length foray into the murky world of Lintiana, And Your Point Is?: Scorn & Meaning In Jeff Lint's Fiction. This volume purports to reprint a range of reviews and critiques of Lint's work from a variety of sources, discussing the impact and importance of Lint and his fiction.
Like Lint, it is a satire on SF and in particular on critics and academics that wring their hands and stroke their chins over the genre. I'm a hand-wringing chin-stroker myself, and the title - And Your Point Is? - is a challenge to those of us who waste our lives peeking under petticoats of science fiction.
As noted in the introduction to Inconvenience From Outer Space by Michael H. Hersh (or maybe by Steve Aylett?):
"Until 1971, fewer serious attempts had been made to understand the meaning of science fiction as a genre than had been made to understand the expressions on the faces of cats. Cats, after all, are funny, glossy, and basically just fantastic. The editors and writers of the pulp magazines too often saw science fiction as at best limited and at worst pathetically useless compared to even the least active or personable of these spring-loaded mammals."
When the comparison is made clear, it's hard to disagree with them.
I did wonder about the authorship of the articles not credited to Aylett. Of the Aylett pieces, some have definitely been published before, 'Rise Of The Swans' - Doing Bird With Jeff Lint, for example, is currently online at www.fantasticmetropolis.com), but googling didn't really answer any questions about the other authors. Eileen Welsome, for example, author of Review Of 'I Am Centrifuge', is also a Pulitzer prize winning journalist whose book The Plutonium Files on illegal US Army experiments on servicemen hardly seems to sit with the content of the collection. Alfred Bork (Deep Vanishing In Jeff Lint's Science Fiction) is a lecturer in computer science in the USA and a similarly unlikely suspect. Jean Marie Guerin (Beligerently Naked In Jeff Lint's 'The Retrial') is a 19th century French veterinarian, a music producer, or the European operations director of easenergy, take your pick.
Intriguingly, Dennis Hofstein (Stating It Plain In 'The Riding On Luggage Show') was a witness in the Warren Commission after the assassination of JFK. Is that a clue? Is he an unreliable witness? Is Aylett alluding to the intrinsically conspiratorial nature of the relationship between critic and author? Do you see how what I am doing here is precisely what this books parodies?
AYPI? extends the gag of Lint - the plotless novels, the bizarre phobias (waiters, mostly), the obscure feuds and impersonations, and Aylett's prose is typically thick with random-access gags, one liners and hilarious non-sequiturs. Lint is a rebel in a world that refuses to appreciate true originality while celebrating the shallow and unoriginal. Having met Jeff Lint, I always feel a tinge of regret when I browse the typically unappetising fare on offer on the SF shelves at my local Waterstones, but, until he actually somehow sidles his way into reality, we at least have Steve Aylett.
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