Sometimes it’s great to be out of the loop (and aren’t we all by degrees most of the time anyway?). You suddenly find there’s a ton of material out there making waves or bubbling away that you can have a full-on blow out on. Case in point, I’d barely only recently just discovered Michael Faber (The Book of Strange New Things, Under The Skin etc.) before my old pal I-S added to my ‘To Read’ pile and passed on a copy of Tim Maughan’s Paintwork during my last trip to NYC. The lesson: I should try and read more print!
Even if you don’t normally read Sci-Fi, you need to read this! It’s very on point thematically, streetwise but not at all ‘cyberpunk’ (as it was inevitably labelled), and like Jeff Noon’s recurring settings in a not too distant future Manchester, finally tuned to the under currents and forces at play in his Bristol. Nothing he predicts or describes seems preposterous or outlandish but feels firmly developed from careful mulling over of contemporary shifts. Conversely by comparison, I must admit I struggled with William Gibson’s latest ‘The Peripheral’. The anorexic, fast jump-cut chapters, the ‘stub’ time travel proposition, the bored dialogue of the detached characters – I didn’t really understand what the hell was going on until about a third of the way in!? Paintwork is far less alienating, accessibly near-future, short and sweet and most importantly leaves you wanting more.
As you can read from the various interviews out there already (see below), there’s particular exploration of not only ‘authenticity’, (which should resonate with any creative individual) but also as Maughan himself says, “male pride, and the role of young men in urban society; how they struggle with having significance and standing out and making their mark on things”. Needless to say, these are keenly relevant and ever present (but rarely spoken about, often skirted around) tensions within music/genre tribes…
Struggling to find out who is dissing his art with stunningly on-point and beautiful two-dimensional paint-overs, one of my favourite exchanges sees the 3D street artist protagonist 3Cube face off with an arch rival at a virtual rave:
“…You stuck up a painfully fucking clichéd toy, and someone came by and saw it for exactly what it was, and reckoned they could do a whole lot better. That sound ‘bout right to you, ‘Cube?”
“Yeah. Clichéd. Played out. You wanna know the truth? Yeah, I am getting back into 2D. 3D is dead. Augmented is over. It’s just fucking background noise. It’s just fucking TV and Twitter and all… this – ” He waves a dismissive shadowy hand at the rave behind them. “It’s all this shit. Disposable, infinitely fucking copyable digital noise. Mass-produced and instantly forgotten. 3D is over.”
The scene ends with this wonderfully precient and utterly believable snapshot, as paired down and hopeless as a death bed haiku.
“The music stops. The sound waves disappear. The crowd vanishes, leaving just a group of ketamine-heads in one corner and a handful of dancers, shuffling in puddles of piss and vomit to a beat only they can hear. Everything is gone, and instantly forgotten.”
Shattering, bleak stuff. Looking forward to his first full length novel.
Philip Bates’s Interview
Imperica interview discussing the short film of Paintwork