David Britton – Truly radical, vicious, psychedelic satire about a Nazi DJ (Lord Horror) in England after Germany wins World War II

Horror Panegyric
Keith Seward, David Britton, Michael Butterworth, Horror Panegyric (Savoy Books, 2008)
"David Britton and Michael Butterworth are the founders of Savoy Books. To call Savoy a publishing house is rather like calling Charles Manson a criminal — it’s correct but it fails to account for so much more. A frequent contributor to New Worlds magazine, Butterworth established himself at a young age as an important figure in the “New Wave” of science fiction that also included J.G. Ballard, Michael Moorcock, and others. Britton became notorious for his first novel, Lord Horror, which earned him a distinction that even Burroughs failed to acquire: it became the first literary work banned in Britain since Hubert Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn and thus landed Britton in jail. While Burroughs had been in jail a number of times, it was never because of his writing.
In 1979 Savoy Books was prepared to publish a uniform edition of works by Burroughs when it was subject to a series of police raids that temporarily forced it into bankruptcy. The project was scuttled, but Britton and Butterworth never lost their tremendous admiration for Burroughs. A few days after his death in 1997, the two gave an interview to Sarajane Inkster describing their visit to the Bunker, Burroughs’ abode on New York’s down-and-out Bowery. Now they expand on that interview to commemorate the 2008 publication of Horror Panegyric. A collaboration between Savoy Books and Supervert, creator of RealityStudio, Horror Panegyric features an enthusiastic analysis of the Lord Horror novels, excerpts from the hard-to-find books themselves, and a timeline of Lord Horror productions including books, comics, and CDs. Text is also available in its entirety at supervert.com." - realitystudio.org

Table of Contents:
"The Frogmen" (from Lord Horror, 1989)
"The Auschwitz of Oz" (from Motherfuckers, 1996)
"The Afreet of Dachau" (from Motherfuckers, 1996)
"Our Lord of Fuck-Off Confronts Angels" (from Baptised in the Blood of Millions, 2000)

"Horror Panegyric begins with a penetrating essay by Keith Seward on the three Lord Horror novels produced by David Britton and Michael Butterworth, aka Savoy Books of Manchester, England. The first novel, Lord Horror, was the most recent work of literature after Last Exit to Brooklyn to be banned in England and obliged Britton to serve a term in Strangeways Prison. Savoy's "franchise of Lord Horror productions," Seward writes, "is provocative, original, visionary, and contains at least one outright masterpiece (Motherf*ckers). Young writers should be looking at it the same as they do Naked Lunch, i.e. as a work that shows them what the possibilities are in the hands of a master." "Lord Horror," Britton has said, "was so unique and radical, I expected to go to prison for it. I always thought that if you wrote a truly dangerous book - something dangerous would happen to you. Which is one reason there are so few really dangerous books around. Publishers play at promoting dangerous books, whether they're Serpent's Tail or Penguin. All you get is a book vetted by committee, never anything radically imaginative or offensive that will take your f*cking head off. Ironically, I think it would do other authors a power of good if they had to account for their books by going to prison - there are far too many bad books being published!" Following the essay are excerpts from the three difficult-to-find novels Lord Horror, Motherf*ckers: The Auschwitz of Oz, and Baptised in the Blood of Millions. Rounding out the volume is a timeline of Lord Horror productions that includes the novels, comic books, and recordings for which Savoy Books has earned its worldwide notoriety."

The Most Disturbing Alternate History You'll Ever Read
If Philip K. Dick's "Axis won the war" novel Man in the High Castle made you squirm, then the 1980s novels about Lord Horror and his Nazi England will make your brain explode. The Lord Horror novels — Lord Horror, followed by Motherfuckers: The Auschwitz of Oz — are vicious, psychedelic satire about a Nazi DJ (Lord Horror) in England after Germany wins World War II. Written by underground publishers David Britton and Michael Butterworth, owners of the notorious Savoy Books, the first novel was declared obscene in court and got Britton sent to jail for four months. Now, cult author and critic Keith Seward (who wrote Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish under the name Supervert) has helped revive the long-suppressed scifi classics in a collection called Horror Panegyric. It brings together Seward's essay about the Lord Horror books with excerpts from the novels. And you can read it online for free.
Writes Seward in his introduction to the book:
Unlike Dick or Spinrad, sci-fi writers who confined Nazis to a book or two, Britton and Butterworth have pursued their theme with a probably disturbing intensity that can be quantitatively measured in the sheer volume of Lord Horror productions. What's more, they do not tack a moral to the end of their tales. This is not to say that there are no morals but rather that there are no easy answers, seals of approval, rubber stamps, calmatives ("don't worry, it's just fiction, the jackboots won't hurt you"). Their work is not ideological, like a hate tract, but is rather a deliberate collision of seemingly incompatible ideologies: death camp + dream factory = ? Satire, hyperbole, and reductio ad absurdum work to energize, anger, inspire, offend, but the one thing they do not do to readers is pacify. And why should anyone be pacified by Nazis, even fictional ones?Seward's essay alone makes great, thoughtful lunchtime reading, especially if you like your scifi on the transgressive side. And once you've read what he has to say about Lord Horror, you'll definitely want to check out the excerpts themselves." - Annalee Newitz

"A masterpiece is like pornography: it is difficult to say what it is exactly and yet, as the Supreme Court judge once said of porn, I know it when I see it. I know that a masterpiece, like porn, excites me when I see it. I know that, like porn, it reveals something to me. I know that, like porn, it tends to avoid sentiment, which is another way of saying that it has deep connections to truth. I know that, like porn, a masterpiece can often be shocking or scandalous. I know that I not only know porn when I see it, I know the difference between good porn and bad — and a masterpiece is always like good porn. And above all I know that, just as porn makes me want to fuck, a masterpiece makes me want to create. It's a stimulant, an incitement that does to the aesthetic sense what porn does to the libido.
Rimbaud excites. Dostoievski reveals. Burroughs inspires. And Lord Horror?" - Keith Seward
Continue reading:
http://supervert.com/essays/horror_panegyric/

The unusual title -- "Motherfuckers: The Auschwitz of Oz" -- tells you it's an extraordinary novel. But it still doesn't prepare you for the story (or the swastika on the cover). Which is why "Horror Panegyric," published today by Savoy Books, works so handily. As Keith Seward explains in his introductory essay:
Motherfuckers' principals are Meng and Ecker, twins who had been subject to "scientific" experiments by Josef Mengele. After the war they find themselves in northern England, waiting for Lord Horror the way others wait for Godot. Ecker is rational but violent, Meng is a mutant whose huge cock and tits are nothing compared to the mutations of his mind. Not Holocaust survivors in any sense you've ever seen before, Meng and Ecker have adopted the ways of their captors -- the bloodlusts and hates. However, there is nothing paramilitary about them. They're not neo-Nazis or skinheads. They're more like the ultraviolent droogs of A Clockwork Orange,, though it is quite possible that the droogs would not feel any affinity in return. Meng and Ecker are even further out in some post-war delirium. Auschwitz, meet Oz.
Motherfuckers is the third in a series of novels by the British writing and publishing team David Britton and Michael Butterworth. The other two are "Lord Horror" (now out of print) and "Baptised in the Blood of Millions." They succeed as "satire via hyperbole and excess," Seward writes, by applying to literature what he calls "the Boschian method":
• "time no longer flows in a straight line"
• "history loses its coordinate points and therefore its constancy
• "cause and effect are sundered"
• "space loses its divisions"
• "motion loses its efficacy"
• "gravity loses its inescapability"
• "life loses its phyla"
• "characters mutate"
• "behaviours lose their norms. Or rather, norms are represented not as injunctions but as worst-case scenarios"
• "art loses its conventions"
"Sure, there are writers who 'push the envelope,'" Seward adds. "But Motherfuckers does not just push the envelope. It beats at it with its fists, kicks, bites, and stabs the envelope. No matter how jaded a reader you are, no matter how much you've read your Henry Miller and Marquis de Sade, this is the book that will leave you feeling bad for the envelope. After Motherfuckers, it will never be the same again." The police in Manchester, England (where Britton and Butterworth are based), didn't appreciate the idea of "satire via hyperbole and excess." Not long after "Lord Horror" was published, in 1989, the pair paid for their provocations in jail time and other forms of harrassment. Half the print run was confiscated, and a judge declared the book obscene, "less for its sex or violence than for anti-semitic ravings put into the mouths of anti-semitic characters," Seward notes. (The fact that the title character of "Lord Horror" is based on the World War II British fascist William Joyce, popularly known as Lord Haw-Haw, apparently failed to strike the judge as relevant.) Britton went to prison for four months. Instead of discouraging him, the sentence hardened his resolve. It was in prison that he conceived the story of "Motherfuckers." Here's a taste of it, taken from "Horror Panegyric," which offers excerpts of all three novels:
Fifty years on, Horror had confided to Ecker, Auschwitz would be a recognisable brand name, a mythic character as well-known as Sherlock Holmes or Tarzan. A fortune awaited the author who could bring 'Mr Auschwitz' to life. To recreate the persona of Auschwitz would be an ordained mission. Auschwitz, the holy end-all of life's futile pattern, slinking through the subconscious of humanity, the one archetypal riff common to all nightmares, fuelled on the anvil of Little Richard. In a hundred years, Auschwitz would form its own genre and become the most successfully marketed product in the history of the world, a name as well-known globally as Coca Cola, taking all media under its encompassing umbrella. The camps were the obvious ultimate enclosed world, the desired image of world television, beamed by satellite into each city, town and village, ideal for community soap operas (a story of everyday life on the edge of life), of science fiction time travel (travel back through your life and end it in Auschwitz). In this televised scenario thhe dog-boys loomed large as Heathcliff doomed lovers, the spice of sexy bodice-rippers which thrilled millions of women. Guilt would never stand in the way of commerce ...
Seward calls Motherfuckers a masterpiece and compares it to the works of the Marquis de Sade and William S. Burroughs. After reading it myself, I'm inclined to agree. But he prefers not to emphasize "the rectitude of these books" for their moral instruction. "You can read them like the Gospel, if you want, and draw out the lessons," he writes. "But that's not really the point. These are not moral books. They're good books." To read Seward's entire essay, go here. - Jan Herman


Keith Seward, aka Supervert, is a writer based in New York. He also runs Reality Studio, a website and forum devoted to Burroughs. Reality Studio has had a big impact on ballardian.com in that it’s a template for how to present an intelligent and provocative site about a major cultural figure without descending into the worst excesses of fandom. There is much discussion of Ballard over at Reality Studio’s forum, and some crossover the other way: Supervert submitted an entry to our Ballardian Home Movies competition and occasionally pops up in this site’s comments box, as do other RS regulars. At some stage I hope to conduct an interview with Seward, in which the Ballard/Burroughs nexus will be analysed along with Keith’s various writing projects (but as always with this site finding the time is the factor, although I hope the interview will not be too far away).
I have Supervert’s two books, Necrophiliac Variations and Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish, and I find them to be hilariously challenging examinations of the nature of sexuality. Careening through outright farce to science fiction and beyond, these self-published, thoroughly subversive gems have been around for a few years, appreciated by the likes of Mark Dery and i09′s Annalee Newitz.
Dery even managed to draw Ballard into the frame:
Things are getting weird out there, so much so that imaginary obsessions such as exophilia, the “abnormal attraction [to] beings from worlds beyond earth” that is the subject of the underground novel Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish, are starting to sound downright plausible. Can we be far from the future foretold by J.G. Ballard, where car-crash enthusiasts get off on vehicular manslaughter and fans of Space Age snuff thrill to footage of astronauts being roasted alive during re-entry? In the introduction to his 1974 novel Crash, Ballard wondered if the android numbness induced by media bombardment—the “demise of feeling”—would open the door to “all our most real and tender pleasures—in the excitements of pain and mutilation; in sex as the perfect arena…for…our…perversions; in our moral freedom to pursue our own psychopathology as a game.”
Now Keith has a new book out, a limited-edition hardcover called Horror Panegyric. Published by Savoy Books, this is Seward’s apppraisal of Savoy’s notorious Lord Horror novels by David Britton and Michael Butterworth. The novels tell the story of Lord Horror, who, Seward writes, “is based on a historical personage: Lord Haw-Haw, aka William Joyce, British fascist and radio announcer”. The books are alternative histories of a fascist England, brutal, bloody, highly confrontational and shot through with a violent Surrealism.
According to Seward:
Lord Horror takes the repository of symbols bequeathed by World War II and pours it into a cauldron boiling over with pop culture. Bigots and death camps get cooked up with rock and roll, comic strips, esoterica. It’s a “what if the other side had won the war” trip like you’ve never seen before.

Constant harassment — which continued into the late 1990s — from an obsessed constabulary would have quashed most publishers, but Britton and Butterworth operated under a maxim more along the Nietzschean lines of “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Far from folding up shop or retreating into less controversial publications, the two launched an all-out assault. Though the novel Lord Horror was effectively suppressed and remains difficult to find even today, the character Lord Horror multiplied, made appearances in different media, spawned other characters who in turn featured in their own books, comics, music. In short, the death of the book was the birth of a twisted empire, a reich of deviant imagination that neither Allied nor Axis powers would ever have recognized.

Their franchise of Lord Horror productions is provocative, original, visionary, and contains at least one outright masterpiece (Motherfuckers). Young writers should be looking at it the same as they do Naked Lunch, i.e. as a work that shows them what the possibilities are in the hands of a master. Academics should be crawling all over it with their magnifying glasses trying to figure out what it means and what it says about society. Anyone interested in literature should be reading and experiencing the damn thing. A few cognoscenti are there already, snapping up the first editions of Lord Horror before everybody else catches on and prices them out of the market. But the victory celebration hasn’t happened yet, and it is hard to understand why.
The Lord Horror books are now difficult to find, but following Seward’s essay in Horror Panegyric are excerpts from the works that are guaranteed to stoke the fire. Perhaps you might even find yourself sharing Colin Wilson’s reaction:
I think that, as an exercise in Surrealism, Lord Horror compares with some of the best work that came out of France and Germany between the wars, for example Georges Bataille… Britton is undoubtedly brilliant, but when I came to the bit about Horror hollowing out a Jewess’s foot and putting it over his penis, I started skipping. With the best will in the world, I couldn’t give his brilliant passages the attention they deserve because I kept being put off by this note of violence and sadism. No doubt it is because I belong to an older generation that is still basically a bit Victorian.
Horror Panegyric is available online at supervert.com or can be purchased in hardcover. The latter is worth it for the great cover art and design by John Coulthart. - 

Latest in Savoy's ongoing series of books about Savoy is this Lord Horror sampler and essay, a handsomely bound hardback boasting an Arcimboldo-inspired John Coulthart cover painting of the great man himself. As for the contents, you get four extracts from the Lord Horror books plus Seward's appreciation and a Horror timeline for under a tenner, which brings this as close as Savoy have got to populist publishing since AC/DC and Kiss.
Lord Horror certainly deserves critical appraisal but Seward's tone is altogether too casual for the job and his arguments unlikely to convince any but the converted - or even many of the converted. Much of the essay is written in the first person - 'It's a good name, and I thought Motherfuckers was good too' - and consists mainly of Seward attempting to categorise the Lord Horror books, a daunting and probably pointless task: surely the work's category implosion is itself half the fun? Reiterations of similarities between Horror and works in the accepted canon of Great Art (Burroughs, Swift, Bosch) are swiftly wearying - can't Horror stand on his own daintily shod feet? - and the pretzels Seward contorts himself into while trying to place the morality of the books surely miss the point: if Horror's 'about' anything it's the transformative power of an imagination weaned on Fudge & Speck, rock'n'roll, fascist iconography and unwarranted incarceration.
Seward's final call to arms, for a US publisher to publish the Horror books as a 'nicely designed line of paperbacks' for broader consumption, is baffling - this is never going to be mainstream fare. I imagine sixties readers would have had similar problems believing that a handful of Burroughs titles would be stocked by every branch of Borders today, but Burroughs never baited his readers as relentlessly as Britton and Butterworth: their most extreme imagery may be tempered and finally redeemed by an imagination prodigious enough to join the dots between Auschwitz and Oz, but this is still dangerous stuff. Calls to add Lord Horror to the academic canon seem similarly misplaced: academic appraisal is sure to draw the sting from even the most brutal work, while Savoyards have long celebrated the obscure, unsung and hopelessly irredeemable - what better place for their own work than shoulder to shoulder with the likes of David Lindsay and Robert Aickman?

Seward does make the astute point that Savoy is 'in a weird place, like one of those soldiers lost in a forest and still fighting the war after it's over'. As fantastic fiction Lord Horror continues to impress; as censor-baiting statement in an age of beheadings and bukake piped directly into British homes, perhaps its relevance has lessened. And it's hard to fault the enthusiasm of the essay, which if nothing else is likely to prompt a re-examination of the Horror canon. Happily the extracts published here show Horror at his strongest: like a lacklustre support band, Seward's appreciation only serves to make Britton and Butterworth's work shine ever brighter.- James Marriott


David Britton, Lord Horror (Savoy Books, 1989)

"Lord Horror is to fascism what Hannibal Lecter is to serial killers."
The disinterring of PJ Proby from 1984 onwards did not produce the character we wanted who was capable of connecting the various emergent tentacles of Savoy: art/literature, trash comics, records. That role fell to Lord Horror, ubiquitous in space and time, whose debut was as vocalist on Savoy's version of New Order's Blue Monday. He later appeared in his own comic and as lead vocalist on two other Savoy covers, Iggy Pop's Raw Power and The Cramps's Garbageman. Lord Horror passed muster, proving to be the most contentious in Savoy's pantheon of stars. The greatest indicator that he was the right character for our time was the level of reaction he provoked from the authorities, which led to David Britton's second term of imprisonment in 1993. The novel—the first horror genre 'Auschwitz' book—was begun in 1985. Edited by Michael Butterworth (who also contributed to the text), it became the epicentre of the Lord Horror mythos. It was first circulated in 1989 in manuscript form under the pseudonym Robert France, and turned down by every major British publisher. Lord Horror was seized by police in 1989 almost immediately after review copies were sent out. It was found obscene by a Manchester magistrate in August 1991 and became the first novel since Last Exit to Brooklyn (prosecuted in 1968) to be banned in an English court. Stipendiary Magistrate Derrick Fairclough ordered the remaining print run to be destroyed. The ban was lifted at the Appeal Courts in July 1992 after international freedom group Article 19 brought the case to the attention of Geoffrey Robertson QC, who fought the case for Savoy."

"Although we are familiar with films and novels as sites of 'fascinating fascism' (Sontag) there has been comparatively little attention paid to comics or the graphic novel. David Britton's Lord Horror forces us to confront this absence. These graphic novels offer an historical fantasy based on the life of the pre-war fascist and wartime traitor William Joyce, better known as Lord Haw Haw. This disturbing representation of fascism is an explicit challenge to the anti-fascist consensus in post-war British culture. Lord Horror operates as an act of 'counter-memory' in recovering a repressed British fascism. It also represents fascism as a carnivalesque transgression. In doing so it uses the hybrid form of the comic book (that mixes text and images) to explore the penetration of fascism into both high and low culture. This representation inverts our sense of fascism as a limited historical phenomenon and also raises questions concerning the politics of history itself. Through an engagement with the work of Walter Benjamin these highly unusual graphic novels scramble the codes on which historical representation rests. This scrambling raises the question of 'fascinating fascism' with an extreme urgency and, at the same time, suggests that it cannot be resolved." - Benjamin Noys
David Britton, Motherfuckers: The Auschwitz of Oz (Savoy Books, 1996)

"The Citizen Kane of Bad Taste. There's so much evil energy in this book, if it moved next door to you you'd probably get cancer within a week! In the long-awaited sequel to David Britton's first novel, Lord Horror (and Savoy's contender for the 1996 Booker Prize for Fiction) the great horror of modern history is absorbed into the framework of Surrealism, literary fantasy and the darkest children's fiction. By viewing the Holocaust as a tragicomic carnival of the grotesque, the author offers the reader a vivid, dream-level identification with the era of efficient barbarism. A terrain of unfettered imagination, written to the glorious edgy, spooky, intense, mad, weird Rock'n'Roll and Rhythm'n'Blues music of the 1950s, from a series of tapes compiled for David Britton by the legendary Roger Eagle. Roger provided us with the best and most obscure down home Blues, Rockabilly, Hilly-Country and Rockin' instrumentals from that seething decade. His experience and unrivalled musical library helped reinforce the musical motifs that run through Motherfuckers. Clubman and DJ extraordinaire, Roger was a friend of ours for thirty years. A word to the wise: Roger was owner The Magic Village Club in Manchester and helped form the Punk movement of the '70s with his seminal Liverpool club, Eric's. As a promoter he brought to Britain many Blues performers (Bo Diddley, LaVern Baker, Screamin' Jay Hawkins) and a number of Jamaican artists, particularly Lee 'Scratch' Perry."

"You can't get much more crazed, obscene or furious than David Britton whose take on the Holocaust, while in no way disrespectful, matches the event itself for a sense of horror. I know of no writer confronting the greatest crime of the 20th Century in the same effective way. Motherfuckers: The Auschwitz of Oz is one of his three Lord Horror novels. You need a strong stomach.” - MICHAEL MOORCOCK

"Another publishing milestone for Savoy... (the chapter Oi Swiney!) must be seen as David Britton's personal vision of Hell—like a Bosch painting animated by Merry Melodies." - DAVID M MITCHELL
"A bizarre and outrageous confection of riotous, Rabelaisian imagery." - NEW STATESMAN

"Some writers would argue that to tackle a subject as emotionally vast and prickly as the Holocaust takes enormous sensitivity and guile. I repeat: not David Britton. In Motherfuckers murder is played for laughs. Against a background of Nazism, anti-Semitism, and the presence of (mainly American) rock'n'roll (on the very first page, Lord Horror is described both as a "sidewinding rattler" and as the "Be-Bop-A-Lula of Auschwitz") this phantasmagorical horror novel ranges between concentration camps and tea rooms. It is one of the darkest things I have ever read.
Meng and Ecker are bizarre creations. Creations in the sense of being characters invented by David Britton; but also that they are the products of both cosmetic and scientific experimentation. Meng, for example, has silicone implants in his breasts. (On being told that he will be "the sexiest man on earth" Meng asks, "Any chance of giving me a two-foot dick..." His nipples, we are told, "stood out as firm as corn cobs.") Although they have a tea-room business, Meng is also something of a stand-up comic—at least in his own mind—and he spends an entire chapter telling highly racist jokes ("Napalm Africa, that was his dream"). In the absence of Lord Horror, he is fulfilling an ambition: using the experience of stand-up to recite some childishly rude doggerel; to obtain some sexual gratification; oh, and he also murders some people while he's there.
Ecker is the more sedate of the two, not surprisingly. It would be difficult to make a character more extreme than Meng, but I wouldn't be amazed to learn that Britton is working on the challenge. Ecker is given to the more profound thoughts (out of the two characters at least): "Auschwitz, thought Ecker, is a semaphore from the past that spelled future." And he also is fluent on subjects that might never have crossed a more genteel mind: "Stoats don't die of syphilis anymore." Thanks for passing that on.
This novel contains some beautiful writing and some excellent descriptive passages that work by the sheer unusualness of a word or two. For example, "An old-aged pensioner, stripped to the waist, his skinny chest flecked with sepia, managed to stagger towards Meng." That word sepia is so unexpected that the sentence is lifted. When I interviewed the editor of this book, Michael Butterworth, he informed me that the publisher's original aim, some quarter of a century ago, had been to marry together high and low art. Motherfuckers, in a sense, is just such a consummation. More than any other writer, this book reminded me of William S. Burroughs—more because of the attitude than the style of writing.
So what's it all "about"? What were The Naked Lunch and The Soft Machine "about"? Far be it for me to assume to know David Britton's aims and objectives (and my request for an interview with him was politely declined), but if I was to hazard a guess I'd say he was trying to extrapolate current trends to their logically illogical conclusions. It might be argued that if every age gets the art it deserves, then what the hell did we do to deserve this? It is powerful, frightening and goading. I was even quite nervous about reading it in public, because of the swastika on the dustcover; I'm frightened of being beaten up." - DAVE MATHEWS

"A nightmarish fairy tale, a deep-black comedy and, of course, the long-awaited follow-up to Lord Horror.

Welcome to the insane world of Meng and Ecker, mutant twins rescued from Auschwitz and used for ‘research’ purposes by Dr. Mengele. We’ve reached the end of the line, where the next cattle train is about to unload its living cargo of Jews, Gypsies, giants and dwarves. The twins are vile, enslaved by their appetites. They haunt Manchester, New Orleans and Auschwitz, time-travelling back and forth in a terrain of unfettered imagination. This is the Land Of Do-As-You-Please, the place where the macabrely detailed dreamscapes of Lautreamont and Sade meet the popular, commonsense fantasy of the likes of Roald Dahl, adapted in part from Savoy’s world famous, universally acclaimed - ok, it ought to be - Meng & Ecker comic, with a host of mesmerising supporting characters. Some early issues of the comic are actually still banned - only the Lord Horror novel was legitimised after the appeal, supported by Geoffrey Robertson - making them the only banned comics in England. The comics are hilarious. This reads as darker, however.
Hard to credit though it is, Meng and Ecker are descended from Fudge and Speck, elves from Fudge the Elf, the much-loved Manchester Evening News comic strip by Ken Reid, creator of Roger the Dodger, Faceache, etc. What was possibly the worst horror of modern history gets absorbed into the framework of surrealism, literary fan-tasy and the darkest children’s fiction. By viewing the Holocaust as a tragicomic carnival of the grotesque, Britton offers his readers a vivid, dream-level identification with efficient barbarism, just as Hansel and Gretel introduced children to the reality of infanticide. Meng and Ecker are no longer represented uncritically, as in the comic (where they are heroic figures of a kind), but as living, sickening symptoms of a distorted, perverted world. Motherfuckers makes scary reading at times but is, despite being reference-laden and serious, perfectly readable. A book of monsters. Real modern horror. And there's a lovely surprise under that jacket picture of William Blake's 'The Ghost of a Flea'. - Dave Clark

"Motherfuckers is the latest addition to a vast Cthulhu-like saga that spans the novel Lord Horror, the graphic series Lord Horror, Meng & Ecker and Reverbstorm, and even musical ventures such as the Savoy Wars CD. If you haven't come across any of these it is, however, hardly surprising. Ever since 1980 their publisher, the Manchester-based Savoy, has been subjected to what can only be described as a concerted campaign by Manchester police and magistrates to keep their publications out of distribution and thus close them down entirely.
After a decade of raids and harassment the novel Lord Horror was declared obscene in 1991 but, although it was reprieved on appeal in 1992, the police refused point blank to return all but a handful of the copies they'd originally seized. And, in 1996, after a long legal battle, obscenity charges were upheld on a number of the graphic titles, which were subsequently destroyed. In France or Italy their illustrator, John Coulthart, would be spoken of in the same breath as Guido Crepax, and his work would be freely available in those sections of bookshops routinely devoted to graphic art. Here Crepax is barely known, most bookshops wouldn't dream of stocking what they'd regard as "comics", Coulthart and co. are arraigned in court as pornographers and even fascists, and their work is ignominiously consigned to the flames. But there again, this is England. It's always hard to discuss anything emanating from Savoy without digressing at some length into the history of the campaign against them. However, this is simply one of the more insidious ways in which censorship works to suppress discussion of censored texts themselves. Those interested in this particular story might like to refer to my "Savoy Scrapbook" in Index on Censorship, Vol. 25, No. 1, 1996.
Although Motherfuckers is part of a vast and increasingly sprawling mythos it can, however, be read perfectly easily without any knowledge of its forbears and near-relations. Its cast of characters and frames of reference are truly gargantuan, and no respecters of conventional distinctions between "fact" and "fiction" or between "high" and "popular" culture. Thus figures such as Tank Girl, Lohengrin, Judge Dredd and Parsifal intermingle deliriously with Eliot, Auden, New Order and Madonna. The main figures around whom the extremely loose narrative revolves are themselves purely fictional, although their names make playful reference to notorious real characters from recent history. These are: Lord Horror (after "Lord Haw-Haw", aka William Joyce, the traitorous World War II broadcaster), Meng (after Joseph Mengele, the notorious doctor known as the "exterminating angel" of Auschwitz) and Ecker (after Dietrich Eckhart, editor of the Nazi newspaper the Völkischer Beobachter). Meng and Ecker themselves are mutant twins "rescued" and operated on by Mengele for research purposes, and the story concerns their search for their "creator" through shattered, dislocated space and time.
Motherfuckers, then, deals with two of the most difficult subjects of our time—fascism and the Holocaust. Given the huge number of books devoted to these themes this is hardly very daring or exceptionable. What does mark out the book as different—and, for some, distinctly problematic—is that it chooses to explore these themes within the framework of grotesque, Rabelaisian fantasy. In this respect the book's subtitle, "The Auschwitz of Oz", says it all, as does, in a different way, its prefatory quotation from Wordsworth's The Prelude -
All moveables of wonder from all parts,
Are here, Albinos, painted Indians, Dwarfs,
The Horse of Knowledge, and the learned Pig,
The Stone-eater, the Man that swallows fire,
Giants, Ventriloquists, the Invisible Girl,
The Bust that speaks, and moves its goggling eyes,
The Wax-work, Clock-work, all the marvellous craft
Of modern Merlins, wild Beasts, Puppet-shows,
All out-o'way, far-fetched, perverted things.
All Freaks of Nature, all Promethean thoughts
Of Man; his dulness, madness, and their feats,
All jumbled up together to make up
This Parliament of Monster. Tents and Booths
Meanwhile, as if the whole were one vast Mill,
Are vomiting, receiving, on all sides,
Men, Women, Three-years' Children, Babes in Arms.
The conjunction of this deliberately shocking, tasteless pun with the evocation of one of the "greats" of Eng Lit perfectly sums up Motherfuckers' extraordinary cultural and tonal heterogeneity. For what distinguishes it in literary terms is its vertiginous fusion of elements which, even in these allegedly "post-modern" times, seem almost outrageously diverse and jarring. On the one hand the book clearly draws on the fantastic current in English writing (the gothic, Swift, Carroll, Hodgson, Grahame), but there's also an input from more specifically continental transgressors of conventions, both social and textual, such as de Sade, Lautréamont, Huysmans, Bataille and Céline. But this already heady brew is made more potent still by a huge repertoire of references to the endless minutiae of popular culture both past and present, as well as by the productive influence of science fiction of the Dick, Lem, Adams and Ballard varieties. All of this would make for a pretty intoxicating mix in any circumstances; as a framework for investigating fascism and, more particularly, its continuing popular appeal, it's potentially explosive.
Works which deal with fascism's appeal always run the risk of themselves being labelled "fascist", as indeed happened to Lord Horror. In this respect it's perhaps worth quoting from the introduction to the Czech edition of that book. This was written by Brian Stableford (who defended Lord Horror in court) and his remarks apply equally to Motherfuckers. (It is, of course, a sobering thought that you can buy Lord Horror in the Czech Republic but not in the UK):
Britton's Lord Horror proudly wears the glamour of Fascism, and exhibits the prejudices and aspirations fundamental to Nazism. This characterisation is meant to excite revulsion and anxiety; the plot of the novel endeavours to achieve its revelations by means of shock tactics. Lord Horror is a horror story, an alarmist fantasy, and a provocatively shocking text. The narrative is sometimes very funny and sometimes utterly repulsive, seeking by means of such huge swings of mood to enhance its overall effect. The imagery of the story borrows on the one hand from comic-strip art and on the other from the philosophical Weltanschauung of Schopenhauer, attempting through such odd juxtapositions to heighten the reader's sense of the awful absurdity of the polite veneer which hides the politics of genocide. Lord Horror deals with unpleasant subject-matter: race-hatred; the glamour of Fascism; the psychology of oppression and repression. The author's method of dealing with these subjects is one whose roots are to be found in the sarcastic fantasies of the French and English Decadent movements and in the theatricality of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi. The novel's central characters are gaudy grotesques and their adventures constitute a phantasmagorical black comedy. Their actions, attitudes and aspirations are satirically exaggerated to the point of ludicrous caricature.Motherfuckers, like Lord Horror, is a remarkable contribution to the study of what Susan Sontag has called "fascinating fascism". One of its most interesting aspects is the way in which it suggests that the legacy of the camps has now become immanent and all-embracing. Again, there's nothing particularly new in this—the French were talking about "l'univers concentrationnaire" years ago—but the way in which Britton tackles the theme is characteristically multi-faceted. On the one hand, there's the idea that the Holocaust was so appalling that its memory is indelibly branded on our present and future, so that nothing can ever be the same again (thus Adorno's dictum that "after Auschwitz, to write a poem is barbaric"):
leviathan hells were vast tidal hurricanes, sweeping all before them, emanating in unceasing waves from the point of suffering, staining, polluting the core of the Earth: Auschwitz, Dachau, Belsen, roasting hells forever travelling through the earth.There then follows a quote from what purports to be Lord Horror's brother, James (i.e. James Joyce, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) to the effect that:
Earthly fire consumes what it burns, the fire of Hell has this property, that it preserves that which it burns and though it rages with incredible intensity, it rages forever.And that is why, according to Britton, "a work of fiction that would do justice to the Holocaust must take as its first principle the shattering of chronology."
On the other hand, however, and rather more controversially, there's also the idea that the camps represent an image of the globalised commercial future. And here Britton's ambivalent fascination with popular culture comes into play:
Fifty years on, Horror had confided to Ecker, Auschwitz would be a recognisable brand name, a mythic character as well-known as Sherlock Holmes or Tarzan. A fortune awaited the author who could bring "Mr Auschwitz" to life. To recreate the persona of Auschwitz would be an ordained mission. Auschwitz, the holy end-all of life's futile pattern, slinking through the subconscious of humanity, the one archetypal riff common to all nightmares, fuelled on the anvil of Little Richard. In a hundred years, Auschwitz would form its own genre and become the most successfully marketed product in the history of the world, a name as well-known globally as Coca Cola, taking all media under its encompassing umbrella. The camps were the obvious ultimate enclosed world, the desired image of world television, beamed by satellite into each city, town and village, ideal for community soap operas (a story of everyday life on the outer edge of life), of science fiction time travel (travel back through your life and end it in Auschwitz).And indeed, much later in the novel we discover that "the future craze for virtual reality games was already intruding thousands of phantom 'tourists' into Auschwitz."
At one point Britton quotes what purports to be a Japanese postcard from T S Eliot to Lord Horror. (In fact it's an amalgam of Eliot with Michael Mann on his extraordinary Nazi horror movie The Keep). This is in one of the book's most Borgesian sections in which Horror flits through the lives and works of all sorts of 1930s notables such as the Mitford sisters, Lawrence, Cyril Connolly and Constant Lambert, although Britton characteristically complicates the mix by having Horror also corresponding with pulp science fiction figures such as Otis Adelbert Kline, Ray Cummings and Nictzin Dyalhis. In the card Eliot writes that:
To me, psychopathology and romance manifested on a political level equals fascism. It's the disease of the Twentieth Century. Its sick appeal is best understood within a horrific, dark fairy tale.This Motherfuckers most undoubtedly is, and it is at its most hallucinatory and demented in the chapter entitled "Oi Swiney!" (a clear echo of one of the most terrifying fantasy novels in the English language, William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland). Here Meng and Ecker (in the company of the little red talking VW Beetle Herbie Schopenhauer) are treated, like Hodgson's central character, to a sustained vision of Armageddon. In this case it's the "harbour of Belsen-Bergen", in which the landscape of the concentration camps collides deliriously. insanely, with Blackpool's Golden Mile. Quotation simply cannot do justice to these brain-searing twenty-four pages, although trying to imagine the worst horrors of Bosch, Goya and Dix animated by Tex Avery and Jan Svankmajer might give you some idea of what they're like. It's at this point, in particular, that one remembers George Steiner's remark about the "subtle and corrupting fascination" of the Holocaust and his warning that no one "however scrupulous, who spends time and imaginative resources on those dark places, can, or indeed, ought to leave them personally intact."
But if Motherfuckers can be read as a "horrific, dark fairy tale" it can also be seen as a philosophical fable in the mould of Candide or Justine, with Herbie Schopenhauer in the title role. For example, when we first meet Herbie he has just driven off the production line and resolved that:
no matter what obstacles stood in his way he would absorb all that the world had to offer, dwell in Chatterbox Woods until he understood the mysteries of life, and follow the path trod by Hegel, Kierkegaard, (etc.), until his rivets were bursting with the rich intellectual semen of life.By the time he has experienced the horrors of the harbour of Belsen-Bergen, however, he has decided that:
Next time he would not allow diffidence and inane curiosity to lead him bow-legged away so easily from the meaning of life. In the future, he would hang on to every fucking word Meng and Ecker uttered.In this respect, the finally "enlightened" Herbie seems close to the animating spirit of Motherfuckers itself, a book which refuses to deal with fascism and the Holocaust with the gravitas normally accorded to them. It's not that it doesn't take them deadly seriously but, rather, like To Be Or Not To Be, The Great Dictator or The Producers, it uses humour as a powerful weapon against "fascinating fascism" and realises that mere moralising probably does more harm than good:
Killing Jews produced its own dynamic—and could never be policed by "good taste". Down that path lay a recipe for further genocide. The killing grounds were elemental and contagious—and often outrageously funny, if selectively so. Meng's 'Jokes" had been appreciated by both sides. After all, they reflected the world as it was, and who knew that better? Certainly not the hopeless wish fulfilment dreams of the moralists. Humanitarians might still regard the twins as vulgar and trivial, but they'd learn. Spraying disinfectant in the dustbin of life after the disease had left was rapidly becoming mankind's favourite pastime. And a prime waste of fucking time.This is obviously not a book which will be to everyone's taste. It is, however, a book about which readers should be able to make up their own minds. On the basis of Savoy's past experience this doesn't seem very likely. With publications relating to all aspects of the Third Reich now a minor industry, and shops stocking books with "fuck" and its derivatives in their titles, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Savoy are paying the price for breaking one of the last taboos—dealing with fascism and the Holocaust in ways deemed "inappropriate" by our moral, cultural and ideological guardians.
Kafka once said that:
we should read only those books that bite and sting us. If a book does not rouse us with a blow, then why read it?Motherfuckers does all of these things and, in my opinion, should be commended for it. But even if one finds Kafka's view of the purposes of literature a trifle masochistic one should surely have the right, in a supposedly democratic country at the end of the twentieth century, to decide for oneself not only about Motherfuckers but about all Savoy's other publications too. - Julian Petley
David Britton, Baptised In The Blood Of Millions (Savoy Books, 2001)

"Don't let the perversely generic jacket of this book deceive you. Art prompts questions. Only bad art gives answers. David Britton's novel, Lord Horror, published in 1990, became the first book to be banned in England since Hubert Selby Jnr's Last Exit to Brooklyn in 1968. Geoffrey Robertson QC and Article 19 led the appeal in 1992, when the ban was overturned.
Baptised in the Blood of Millions is the second Lord Horror novel.
Allegedly an 'autobiographical' work, the book is set in a very bizarre alternate universe in England before and after the Second World War. Events are rendered in Symbolist fashion and explore the British Fascism of Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts and war-time radio broadcaster Lord Haw-Haw. Other dramatis personae include pop icon Jack Good, 1950s parliamentarian Lord Boothby, philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, poetess Sylvia Plath and the biggest English movie star of the 1930s, Jessie Matthews. Includes illustrations by the author.
We guarantee you will never read another novel like this one!"


"The nightmare for my generation was waking one morning to a world in which Hitler had won the war. Our fears were expressed in a flood of counterfactual stories - what Professor Gavriel Rosenfeld, in a new book on those fictions, calls "allohistories" (from the Greek "allo" for "altered" or "other"). These included Sarban's terrifying The Sound of His Horn, which imagined a future where Nazi overlords hunt untermenschen for sport, and Philip K Dick's The Man in the High Castle, where America is carved up between vicious Nazis in the east and stern Japanese in the west.
In 1964 Hilary Bailey's examination of Nazi metaphysics, The Fall of Frenchy Steiner, had a virgin bride being sought for a senile Führer. Bestselling mysteries by Len Deighton and Robert Harris, SS-GB and Fatherland respectively, in which Nazi victory is long established when the story opens, and films such as Brownlow's chilling It Happened Here, imagined a British response to occupation no more or less heroic than that of other conquered nations.
While Saki had foreseen posh Britons accommodating German rule in his predictive novel When William Came, published on the eve of the First World War (in which he was killed), writers predicting Nazi conquest - Katherine Burdekin's Swastika Night, Vita Sackville-West's Grand Canyon, HV Morton's I, James Blunt - warned how appeasement would actually deliver us to Hitler.
In 1947, Noël Coward's play Peace in Our Time showed Britain occupied by victorious Nazis, confirming the anti-appeasement message, but later politicians and journalists in America, including Pat Buchanan and Newt Gingrich, revived isolationist positions, arguing that Allied military engagement against Hitler was a mistake. American television programmes, comics, movies and books were chiefly interested in wartime strategic issues or Hitler's reincarnation as a monster, and tended to ignore questions regarding Nazi psychopathology and Jewish genocide.
Only a few books, such as Walter Shirer's If Hitler Had Won World War Two and Daniel Quin's After Dachau, confronted the Holocaust. The political "futurist" Norman Spinrad's The Iron Dream revealed heroic fantasy's fascistic elements by depicting Hitler as a genial, geeky immigrant to the US whose pulp novels, including Lord of the Swastika, disturbingly echo the actuality of our familiar world. Spinrad's book was banned in Germany for a decade.
For obvious reasons, few alternative histories came from formerly occupied countries. Indeed, only Germany produced substantial Nazi allohistories. Thomas Ziegler's Die Stimmen der Nacht and Christoph Ransmayr's Morbus Kitahara, Rosenfeld tells us, blame Germany's failure to repent for the Holocaust on "a clumsy Allied programme of compulsory contrition".
A well-established commercial genre, including role-playing games, nowadays concentrates on nostalgic reruns of the Second World War, sometimes adding dragons and warlocks to the mix. Futuristic science fiction once satisfied this genre's audience by offering worlds in which the Bomb had reduced everything to an easily handled libertarian simplicity, but JG Ballard turned that escapist fantasy on its head in books such as The Drowned World.
So far no sci-fi work has done the same with allohistory. Even Philip Roth's recent novel The Plot Against America, where popular ex-flyer President Lindbergh keeps the US out of the war, largely dodges an issue better confronted by Kurt Vonnegut's masterpiece, Mother Night, or Michael Chabon's Kavalier and Clay, both retrospective narratives focusing on actual rather than alternative Nazi history. In fact, no matter how satirical or clever (Stephen Fry's Making History; Martin Amis's Time's Arrow), the allohistory has proven a rather disappointing form.
Only one alternate history series confronted Nazism with appropriate originality and passion. Published by the independent Manchester firm Savoy, David Britton's surreal Lord Horror and its sequels entered the mind of a deranged surviving Hitler whose visions grew increasingly insane. Britton's graphic novel Hard Core Horror turned William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) into Lord Horror, while James Joyce became his brother, and his rival for the hand of singer Jessie Matthews.
Britton's narrative moved inevitably towards Auschwitz. The novel's final issue, with its deliberately blank narrative panels among pictures of the concentration camp (followed by actual photographs of victims), was a silent memorial to the murdered, an indictment of our own moral complicity. Soon after they appeared, Hard Core Horror and Lord Horror were seized by Manchester's vice squad. The books were destroyed and their author went to Strangeways, suggesting that successful Nazi alternate histories must take profound psychological, moral and physical risks.
To retain any moral authority, Hitlerian allohistories have to confront Nazi psychopathology. Some of the stories described here reflect Holocaust survival guilt. Where they do not, as in the case of one "pacifist" apologist for appeasement, they reveal a form of Holocaust denial. At the end of his substantial study, even Rosenfeld admits that most of the material he examined avoids considerably more than it confronts." - Michael Moorcock

“Enthusiasm for the mysterious emissaries of pulp”: an interview with David Britton

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Daniel Y. Harris has composed a wild poetic drama through realms of eros and spirituality. His writing is simultaneously playful and profound, transmuting ancient symbols and concepts into a contemporary wisdom, heretofore unknown in poetry

James Reich - Giving voice to one of the most enigmatic characters in the literary canon, Reich presents meticulous and controversial solutions to the origins, mystery and messianic deterioration of Mistah Kurtz: company man, elephant man, poet, feral god

Anne Boyer - a book of mostly lyric prose about the conditions that make literature almost impossible. It holds a life story without a life, a lie spread across low-rent apartment complexes, dreamscapes, and information networks, tangled in chronology, landing in a heap of the future impossible