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Friday, June 15, 2012

Down the rabbit hole with JMR Higgs!

Author J.M.R. Higgs, aka John Higgs, seems to be quite the guerilla ontologist.

I recently read (and very much enjoyed) Higgs' new short novel, The Brandy of the Damned, available as a cheap ebook on Kindle. So when Higgs' Tweeted that he'd been interviewed about the book, I dutifully read the interview.

I'll post about the book soon, but for the purpose of this blog post you need to know that there is a character in the book named Orlando Monk, who is both a fictional character dreamed up by one of the characters and a man who pops up in "real life" (in the pages of the novel) to mess with the main characters. Orlando Monk apparently will return in an upcoming Higgs book.

Anyway, after I read the Higgs interview I noticed that the Web site where it appeared, The Big Hand, had a link labeled "Free Books," so naturally I clicked on it. One of the free books is The Trials of Arthur, co-authored by one "Arthur Pendragon." The credits for the book say it was "uploaded by Orlando Monk." The other free book, The Nabob of Bombasta, is listed as "Produced and Designed by Orlando Monk."

At this point, I began to wonder if all of the people listed at The Big Hand are fictional creations of Mr. Higgs, or whether Mr. Higgs is a fictional creation of one of the other people listed at the site. I'm fairly certain that most of the people listed as "Authors" at the site are real people (although I'm a little worried about "Arthur Pendragon") but how can one be sure?

I clicked "About" at the site, which helpfully explains, "The Big Hand is a publishing company that explores the boundary between the extraordinary and the bat-shit crazy." Orlando Monk is listed as the proprietor of the publishing company.

Incidentally, Youth is listed as the illustrator for The Nabob of Bombasta. There have been a series of ambient and rock music albums credited at first to the pseudonym The Fireman. It was eventually revealed that The Fireman is Youth and musician Paul McCartney.

So it appears that at least one of the listed authors is a real person, albeit one who apparently has used a pseudonym for years, then used ANOTHER pseudonym, so that he can retard his musical career by hiding the fact that he was working with the most famous living musician on Earth. That's clear, isn't it?


John Higgs said...

Heh! Yep, that about capture the spirit of the thing. I can clarify a few bits.

Certainly all the authors and illustrators published by the Big Hand are real, although all have had cause to change their names (or adopt their initials) at some point, apart from one guy, Brian Barritt, and he's dead.

(Some notes on his death here: )

Arthur Pendragon, or King Arthur as he is commonly called, is definitely real. He's more real than most, that's for sure, as you'll see if you read that book. Not everyone agrees that he is King Arthur, of course, but he certainly acts like he is.

Youth is also real, and best known as the bassist in Killing Joke and from his side project with Paul McCartney that you mention.

Orlando Monk, however, is definitely not real, no matter how much he pretends otherwise. He's your archetypal trickster figure. Annoyingly, he's declared himself Pubic Domain, so he's escaped us a bit. There's been a fair few fictional characters who know that they are fictional - the end of Illuminatus springs to mind, of course, or Grant Morrison's Animal Man. But AFAIK he's the first to pull the 'public domain' stunt, the bastard.

Flinton Chalk, who did that interview you link to (thanks!), was also not raised with that name.

Hopefully that makes everything clear.

Now, I'm not supposed to talk about my next book with The Big Hand yet, but it's *very* RAW-heavy and I think you'll find it interesting so I'll send you an early copy in a month to two.

Incidentally quite a few of The Big Hand folk will be at Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice next week so if anyone else is going give me a shout and say hello.

Cheers, jh

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