Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Interview With Kneel Downe The Man Behind Virulent Blurb

Every now and again something comes along that is pretty cool and interesting.  Like Virulent Blurb.  Virulent Blurb is an original story that is published on Twitter.  For those that don't know you have only 140 characters to get your message across on Twitter. So imagine writing a story at 140 characters at a time.  Pretty cool huh.  So I decided to ask the man himself all about his ongoing Twitter story @Virulentblurb and see what made him want to take on this different type of endeavour. So here he is Kneel Downe.

1.  What was the inspiration behind your Twitter story Virulent Blurb?

Hello! The inspiration behind Virulent Blurb was, as always, a case of the Universe colliding in a series of unexpected and surprising ways. Back in the late 90’s and early 2000 I had published, online, a number of books and had also found some of my short stories making their way onto the printed page. However, due to a rather severe illness and real life raising its ugly head, I had turned my back on the Internet and this part of my life.

Last year I finally relented and rejoined the modern world. I instantly fell in love with Twitter, as I knew I would do and over the coming months I made a number of valued friends. This eventually led me back into my old job as a freelance journalist.

I noticed with some interest that one of my most trusted of these new friends, @renzelen was using a similar model as I used to use, of publishing her stories online but then collecting them and selling them via Kindle. I was intrigued but not really ready to plunge into large scale fiction again. Then, almost by accident, I discovered that my favourite writer of the last two decades (@jeffnoon) had made a reappearance after nearly ten years of silence. I tracked him down on Twitter and to my surprise we began conversing. This led to me interviewing him for the Cult Den; the interview was fascinating but what excited me even more was the way he had taken Twitter itself and turned it into a delivery tool for tiny contained stories.

Suddenly all those small fragments of writing I had continued to jot down over the years made sense to me. I dug them out, added some new ideas and began to ‘remix’ them into the framework of an older novel…

The result is Virulent Blurb.

2. How would you describe Virulent Blurb and what direction would you like it to take?

Virulent Blurb is an ongoing story set in an as yet unspecified reality. It would seem that 50 years ago a conflict has taken place and left the world ‘broken’ in a number of ways. This is a world of intelligent ink tattoos, gene splicing (where people can adopt animal and bird traits), old information technology and a certain mystical quasi-science. There is unrest and the hints of an upcoming revolution against a, so far faceless, ruling class.

The story is told via individual tweet ‘fragments’ which take the place of more normal paragraphs. I try to make each fragment as visual and intriguing as possible; essentially a blending of poetry and prose.

We are currently in Phaze 3 which has given me the chance to ease back on the action and paint a broader picture of this strange world. Phaze 4 will jump straight back into the action…people have complained I left the story on something of a cliff-hanger.

As for the direction I would like to take it in? I’m as unsure where this is going as the rest of you. I have the barest of story arcs but the joy of this project is that it changes day by day. Hour by hour to be brutally honest. I’m enjoying the trip. I hope you are as well.

3. Are there any plans to make Virulent Blurb more accessible to those who are not on Twitter. Like a website with illustrations maybe?

I had a rough idea of perhaps gathering all the fragments into one place some day but nothing concrete. However, I’ve been truly stunned by the response to Blurb and so yes, a website is currently under construction.

I would love nothing more than to illustrate the story with contributions from people who have been inspired by the piece. I have already got two of my favourite artists working on a few illustrations and am looking forward to hearing from more people.

It will, unfortunately take a little while yet, as real work needs to be done at the same time. My trusted friend Paul (@time2wonder70) is currently working on the site’s graphics and we are trying our best to make it clean and unique in its own way.

Interestingly, I was just contacted by an independent film maker who has expressed an interest in providing mini 30-60 second clips based on individual fragments. This has excited me more than a little!

4. What authors did you get inspiration from to do Virulent Blurb and who are some of your favorites?

This is a tough one. Due to my work I read an incredible amount of books. To tell you the truth, there has been very little that has inspired me recently. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy many novels a year but that all important ‘Whoompff!’ has been missing for quite a while. I did love Zoo City by Lauren Beukes and recently I’ve fallen in love with The Hathor Diaries by Ren Zelen-you can find it on kindle or check out her new work on her website.

More long term I’ve been influenced by writers such as Burroughs, Hunter S Thompson, Carroll, Ballard and of course the perpetually wonderful Philip K Dick.

However, the moments in my life where an author has physically taken my brain and shook it to within an inch of its neurons are few and far between. The first was probably Robert Anton Wilson and his work on and after The Illuminatus Trilogy. Here was narrative that jumped between first and third person, space, time and location all within one paragraph. Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles did something similar for me via the medium of graphic Novels. A truly outstanding work.

Warren Ellis smashed into my life with Transmetropolitan and totally redefined what a comic story could be. Despite being hailed for his creation of Spider Jerusalem I tend to think many people overlook the damaged poetry beneath the work. Indeed, the city in Virulent Blurb owes more than a little to his vision.

It was in 1993, though, that I discovered perhaps my greatest inspiration. They say that philosophy is just the obvious truth related back to us in a way we understand. For me I found something similar in Vurt, by Jeff Noon and this continued with his later works. Noon pointed out, quite rightly, that language and the written word were not fixed points but rather, like music, fluid and malleable. It may seem odd to you but for me this was one resounding Eureka moment. Someone had pointed out to me what I knew all along!

Here I must take the time to point your readers in the direction of Jeff and his work. Virulent Blurb is perhaps worth a tenth of what he is creating via his two Twitter accounts @jeffnoon and @temp_user9. Here is micro fiction at its mind bending best.

5. So a bit about you.  How did you get yourself hooked on sci-fi and what are some of your favorites in the genre.

Ok, here’s where I may ramble for a while. I was lucky, in some ways, to have an older brother who was deeply smitten with Doctor Who, so my very first memories are of a slightly comic, black and white fellow fighting Cybermen and all manner of beasties. This love has endured my whole life, for all its flaws Doctor Who is still my abiding love. From such Sci-Fi tainted beginnings sprung a lifelong obsession. Star Trek, Space 1999, Hammer Horror films…the creepy joy of Quatermass, all of these things shaped and distorted my view of the world.

But now, a confession.

In 2004 I had gained an agent and a publisher for my novel Veil. Within the space of one week my agent tragically died, the imprint publisher folded and my Multiple Sclerosis kicked back in in a big way. Taking this as a message from the gods I did what any right thinking person would do. I climbed a high hill, built a fire and burned all paper copies of my work. I then sold my house and moved to Menorca.

For three years I was cut off from the world I knew. My only treat was new Who, in a bar full of drunken Spaniards. It was, in some ways a healing process. I can still no longer tolerate TV. I watch all the latest Genre fare of course but at my leisure, when I see fit.

Most days are spent listening to the radio, I love the sound and play of voices, or blasting obscure and varied music at myself. The Internet is again a major part of my life and Twitter has proven to be the joy that Warren Ellis hinted at with his ‘news feeds.’

Current favourites include, of course, the good Doctor, the fades amused me and I will happily sit through most genre shows.

I do feel, however that the visual media has hit something of a wall…I’m patiently waiting for the next big thing.

6.  Besides reading your story @VirulentBlurb where else can people read your writing?

Well, if people are really interested they can keep an eye out for my frequent reviews, interviews and articles that pepper the web, usually at The Cult Den. Fiction, however is a different beast.

I do still have, on some dusty hard drive somewhere, my first two books-SOMEWH3RE and SID3WAYS. If people show enough interest than I will for certain make them available somewhere. They will take a certain amount of ‘filtering’ though, so this may take a while. Style wise they are a cross between Blurb and, of all things, Twin Peaks.

7. Last question people should follow Virulent Blurb and start reading it because?

Haha! First, before I plug myself shamelessly, can I say a big thank you for showing such an interest in @VirulentBlurb. Your interest and support has been a great joy for me.

Also, to anyone who stops by and enjoys the story, please consider submitting artwork, thoughts or even fragments of your own…I have a file already that I’m sifting through and gaining inspiration from.

If the Blurb excites you, why not create a similar project of your own? At the very least please check out my favourite authors and be sure to find, follow and learn from the viral wizard that is Mr Jeff Noon.

Ok…you should be following/reading @VirulentBlurb because its an exciting, fragmentary explosion of future noir…and hopefully it will play with your head.

Oh and if you wish to converse with or comment on the Blurb please direct your thoughts to me @kneeldowne.

The Blurb is only a story and can’t actually answer back.


So At this time I would like to thank Kneel Downe for his time and for allowing me to interview him.  So if you enjoyed the interview and are interested in the Virulent Blurb then go out and follow @Virulentblurb and @KneelDowne and read his cool story. You'll be glad you did.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview - cool to see a creative use of twitter like this