Halton Pickles continues his chat with Ed Spencer…
HP: So what made you write The People’s Republic of Absurdia?
ES: It started after the terror attacks on London in 2005. Blair’s 12 point plan to combat terrorism in the wake of 7/7 was a worrying stripping away of civil liberties. The government extended the time you could hold suspects in custody without charge – at one stage they were pushing for 28 days! Tony Blair called it an issue of modernity, not liberty. That made me shudder. Throw in the way we use surveillance on each other and often willingly hand over our personal data to all and sundry, I felt we were sleepwalking into a less-libertarian future.
HP: What did you hope to achieve?
ES: Still hope to achieve! That in light of the new legislation that most people seemed not to notice/not to care about, show how we could all be at the mercy of laws sold as protective measures. In my novel an environmental plague kills millions, and a raft of radical and increasingly spurious ‘green’ laws are brought in. Rampant consumerism is the bane of our lives! Advertising beat the hippies! Above all, I hope to amuse, frighten and strike a chord.
HP: And that this is all the result of a practical joke? To make it an accessible and enjoyable read, even for those with limited interest in politics?
ES: Yeah. And for those interested in politics too. If it’s not fun to read, it’s failed. But yeah, as has been said many times before, we’re all affected by politics, whether you like it or not. And the fact that not many people are really paying attention/seem to notice or even care is very worrying for our future. What if we had the equivalent of the Arab Spring happened here? It might you know.
HP: How long did it take?
ES: Oh Christ. If I must. It began in 2005, but I didn’t really commit to it til 2007, when I was voyaging around Argentina. I. pretty much finished it in 2012 and then tinkered with it FAR TOO FUCKING MUCH. I’ve learnt how not to write a book. And then of course there was the fandango with my previous publisher. Absurd brutalism could equally apply to the process.
HP: Given it’s a satire, are there any characters readers might recognise?
ES: Well naturally all characters are entirely fictitious. But… some readers I’m sure have imagined Tony Blair dabblin in the old nasal toot, wondering ‘what if Nick Clegg was a woman and George Galloway actually tried to start a revolution.’ There are others as well, but you’ll have to read it.