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This is an excerpt of about the first 1/4 of the interview from Cyber-Psychos AOD #7.

The Physics of Cartoons: An Interview with Larry McCaffery
as Conducted and Compounded by Michael Hemmingson

Of his own interviews (which he has 3 books worth, plus many random floating singles, and a 4th book forthcoming), Larry McCaffery has told me many times that they are never finished. In fact, the manuscripts to many of his interviews tend to wind up being anywhere from 50 to 100 pages long and from there he must slice them down to a publishable, attention-grabbing, size. "The thing I have learned about interviews," he told me, "is that there can always be different versions. Versions," he said, "everything these days is broken down into versions." Hence, the interview I am presenting here is another version of the whole interview. The final word count was some 15,000 words, much too long to print in these pages -- or to hold your attention. Of the various versions I have made from the material I gathered, in this one I don't want to focus too much on the notion of Avant-Pop -- which is already being theorized, discussed, and raped by too many people right now; possibly some of the wrong people, but let's not get into that. The normal stuff: Who is Larry McCaffery and what has he done? For the readers of Cyber-Psychos AOD, you probably best know him as the cyberpunk-theory guru from his book, Storming the Reality Studio: A Cyberpunk Casebook (erroneously attributed by a stoned reviewer in #2 as edited by "Larry Green"), and his award-winning essays in collaboration with Takayuki Tatsumi in the pages of SF Eye (possibly the only magazine publishing SF theory worth reading), and from more academic journals like Mississippi Review and Critique. His 1st book, from the Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, was The Metafictional Muse: a study on Robert Coover, William Gass, and Donald Barthelme, which helped to promote the moniker "metafiction" to be used more and more during the mid to late 80s as postmodernism became fashionable in college classrooms. McCaffery has also edited Fictional International, Critique, and American Book Review, for a number of years where, as an editor, he has been instrumental in promoting underground writers to wider audiences -- especially younger writers. He also edited a Younger Writers Issue of Review of Contemporary Fiction which focused on William T. Vollmann, Susan Daitch, and David Foster Wallace. McCaffery is also well-known for his Black Ice Books anthology, Avant-Pop: Fiction for a Daydream Nation, which has garnered somewhat of a cult-following at this point. His latest pre-interview anthology is from a major house, Viking, and is much more commercial in intent and content than his previous endeavors -- it's called After Yesterday's Crash and features work by Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, Paul Auster, and Steve Katz. The abnormal stuff: Getting drunk with McCaffery is always fun, and I've done so on many occasions during his "Office Hours" at various bars. There was also his 48th birthday party, where I got really smashed and wound up sleeping with one of his students; Heather. But we don't want to get into that, not now -- this certainly isn't the time or place even though Jasmine would probably let me because deep down she's a perverse character. This interview took place over a pitcher of beer at Monty's on the San Diego State Univ. campus, a place where I am sort of persona non-grata right now. The interview stuff:

Larry: [mutters something about William Burroughs becoming a rock star and selling Nikes on MTV ads.]

?: I was half-asleep, or maybe I was drunk, when I first saw his face on the Nike commercials. I didn't think it was real. I don't trust TV. Let me rephrase that: I embrace TV. You mentioned the bondage/fetish fashion stuff in Japan. I've seen a lot of porn videos, bondage vids, from Japan that are hardcore. I mean extremely hardcore, more so than the stuff coming out of Europe. The Japanese seem to really be into that.

Larry: Oh yeah. I went over there one summer on a grant from the NEH to study postmodernism in Japan. This was not planned, but one of the topics that kept coming up in every single interview, with professors as well, was S/M. Partly because Takayuki Tatsumi, my buddy over there, had written an essay that he published in The American Book Review called Creative Masochism. Yes, we should talk about this.

?: It is Avant-Pop, in a way.

Larry: There was this 1st bondage fashion store in Tokyo. It was run by a woman who was a fashion designer and a guy who was a performance artist. These guys went to England and they got hooked up with this magazine. So they took the look there -- the leather, the rubber, a lot of science-fiction -- masks: a lot of stuff that looks like oxygen masks, not just costume masks but masks produced for underwater. Plus the usual rubber, dildos, the whole spiel, and they opened up this store in Tokyo; the first one. At the same time they opened this store, and partly as a way to promote their stuff, they started having S/M parties. These were public events. They had 2 types of parties: open parties where anyone could come -- the only thing is, if you went you had to be dressed in bondage or in a tuxedo or some formal wear. These became big events there, media events. The public things were almost fashion shows; there was a party, but the main thrust of it was for you to look at -- fashion. So it was a sort of, you know, a typical postmodernism thing. And it was something else...

?: What was the second type of party?

Larry: They also had private parties, that Sinda and I went to. These were maybe a hundred people -- an invitation thing -- held in a club -- a closed club; only people with invitations could be there. These were more intimate. Very strange. Everybody there was in bondage, most of the women were topless --

?: Japanese women or a mix of -- ?

Larry: Mostly Japanese women. I would say that half of the people there were really interested in S/M, and the other half were just interested in the whole "thing". One of the things that was interesting to me is that I interviewed these people because they seemed to be very "postmodern". You see, there's a long tradition of S/M in Japan. In particular -- and you can see this is everywhere in their art -- magna, the comic books, the movies, and their fiction as well -- beating the women: submissiveness, bondage, the victim is always the woman. The reason for this is very complicated. But the garments, the clothes, we have over here in the West for S/M -- rubber, leather, those kinds of things that signify bondage and that culture -- are of course utterly artificial in Japan. So what I found over there was that a lot of people would wear this bondage stuff. For example, Takayuki Tatsumi's wife is this very beautiful, very sweet, very innocent seeming woman. I went to this publication party for Takayuki, it was sort of a formal party, and she showed up wearing a total leather outfit -- bondage, the rubber & leather -- this totally outrageous outfit. But for her it was just a Fashion Statement. It really wasn't anything involved with S/M. So that in itself is a postmodern notion -- this clash of codes, the symbols being transferred to a different culture and taking a different meaning. That angle is very interesting; it turned out that this couple we interviewed were very sophisticated, widely read in Western culture -- Bataille, for example, the whole Mondo 2000 scene -- and also interested in S/M as well. And what this woman in particular said she enjoyed was the feeling of putting on masks and costumes, but in particular the full-on rubber masks; totally covering your face where you cannot see out, you cannot see anything --

?: Gimp masks.

Larry: She described her sensation there as being very akin to Buddhist meditation. The getting out of ordinary daily life. She wanted to be able to share this with people.

?: From what you've told me, and what I've read about it, the Japanese seem to be more receptive to the idea of Avant-Pop than Americans.

Larry: Americans will, eventually, be receptive to it. If postmodernism exists anywhere... let's back up for a moment... I think postmodernism is dead. It's time to bury the fucking thing, give it a proper burial -- or a handshake, a: "Thanks for being there but we don't need you anymore". I really believe that postmodernism as a term, even as a concept, is now actively counter-productive. Its time has come & gone. We need now to develop different categories and ways in approaching art that are not going to be so generalized & reductive.

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