This interview was conducted by email in December 2007 to promote the publication of the Lithuanian translation of Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish. It was published in the culture magazine Pravda. Here is a pdf of the original publication, complete with fetching illustrations by Lina Sasnauskaite.
Who is "Supervert"? When was he born and why?
Supervert is not a "he" but an "it." Legally Supervert is a corporation founded in 1999 in New York City. It emerged from the ashes of a prior partnership, Necro Enema Amalgamated, that I had formed with my close friend Eric Swenson. Together we created the critically acclaimed series of BLAM! CD-ROMs in the 1990s. To this day I remain very proud of BLAM!: the disks were unlike any other CD-ROMs in the short history of that medium. In retrospect I think of them as the multimedia equivalent of German Expressionist woodcuts. They were raw, wild, and impactful.
When the internet killed the CD-ROM, Necro Enema Amalgamated decided to disband. I then founded Supervert with the idea of publishing books and web sites. Supervert is owned by one person — a "he" — and its creative output is the work of that person. So perhaps you could say that Supervert is a hybrid of "he" and "it," a mutant entity that is part individual, part business, part brand name.
When and how did you see the first picture of Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish in your head?
The whole while that Eric and I were making CD-ROMs, I was also writing. I completed three book-length texts that remain unpublished. At some point during this creative frenzy I conceived the vague desire to write a work called Alien Fuckfest. It is hard to explain why exactly. I liked the title, and I liked the prospect that using aliens as a conceit would allow me great liberty in imagining types of sexual behavior.
Ironically, once the text was written, I decided not to call it Alien Fuckfest. I was worried that having "fuck" in the title would pose practical difficulties to me as an independent publisher, and I also thought that Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish gave a more accurate idea of what the book is about.
Why Sade? Did you have other visions of the main character?
While the book itself might have profound connections with Sade, I never thought the character Mercury de Sade had much relationship with the divine marquis. His moniker invokes Sade but is clearly nothing more than a moniker.
For a brief time in the earliest stages of writing I thought of Mercury de Sade as a cult leader. However, I realized that having a cult and followers required too much sociability of him. Instead I thought that he should be a loner — as "alienated" as the aliens he desires. Consequently I scrapped anything I had written that portrayed him as a cult leader.
What are the reactions towards the book? Critics, readers, your relatives and friends?
Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish speaks to a certain type of sensibility. In ways the book is very intellectual, and in other ways it is very smutty. Happily enough, the brains of literary critics seem to possess the unique ability to flip from one pole to the other, from philosophy to pornography, and thus the reviews of Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish have been surprisingly positive. However, this cognitive ability is less common among friends and relatives, who have mostly been indifferent to the book.
Without doubt the most gratifying response came from a musician, Jack Fancy, who wrote and recorded several songs inspired by Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish. (These are available for download at supervert.com.) When I listen to these, I think about the way I emitted an impulse, via text, that Jack picked up, translated into another medium, and beamed into the world anew. He gave Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish a soundtrack it never had while I was writing it.
Would you like a movie to be based on the book? Who would you imagine playing the main part?
I can't imagine how someone would film Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish. However, when I consider the way a musician was able to carry its impulse into a sonorous medium, it gives me hope that one day a filmmaker might be able to invent something properly cinematic from the book. No doubt it would be a very challenging project, one that would require a filmmaker of great vision — a David Cronenberg of the future.
Is it science or fiction?
Neither. The best way I can answer that question is to repeat the final words of an appendix included in the book itself:
"'Science' means knowledge, and knowledge by definition is true; 'fiction' means counterfeit, and counterfeit is by definition false. The term 'science fiction' is thus an oxymoron meaning something like 'truth falsified.' This is probably an accurate description of certain classic works of the genre: Philip K. Dick really had a way of fucking with reality, and is 'fucking with reality' anything other than falsifying truth? Conversely, I think ETSF falls in a weird bastard category more like 'pseudo-science non-fiction,' by which I mean falsity — the belief in UFOs, Martians, grays, Little Green Men — exhibited and analyzed."
Is Extraterrestial Sex Fetish about regression or progression of our morality?
Morality is constantly evolving. Whether you consider it regression or progression probably depends on the extent to which morality is aligned with what you really want to do anyway.
So far as sexual morality is concerned, it is clear that contemporary technology is quickening a dramatic shift that began with the sexual liberation of the 1960s. Only a generation ago, oral sex was a perversion. You can see this in the diary of Anaïs Nin: when she decides to abandon herself to depravity, one of her first steps is to learn to give a blowjob. Nowadays that's laughable. Oral sex, homosexuality, foot fetishism, bondage — these are no longer considered immoral activities.
Conversely, if morality has expanded, perversity has contracted. You have to do weirder, more fucked up things to be perverse. That is the way in which Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish signals the changes occurring in morality now. Mercury de Sade's fetish for aliens is novel — weird and fucked up. As a result, it is less vulnerable to the process of normalization that has made former perversions tolerable or even appealing to the masses.
Which vision of the future would you choose: humans developing their philosophy of existence founded on sexuality, or humans who set aside sexuality as a primitive need and develop spiritually (but not necessarily religiously)?
Personally I would prefer a future grounded on sexuality rather than spirituality. I say this not to be pervy but because sexuality is a concrete place to begin. If you're going to build a philosophy of existence, build it on solid ground, build it on something that is really a fact of existence — sex, hunger, death. Your philosophy of existence doesn't amount to much if it can't account for these.
Furthermore, I can't help but think that there is something wrong with anyone who consciously chooses to "set aside sexuality." In the past, perverts have been considered sick, ill, pathological. But if it is deviant to indulge in a kink or fetish, isn't it even more deviant to abstain from sex altogether? Nowadays anorexia is an illness. People who don't eat are considered sick. Why shouldn't celibacy be a sickness too?
Are you familiar with the Wikipedia controversy about "exophilia"?
I have seen that there was a Wikipedia entry on exophilia and that the site administrators opted to delete it. Their argument was that Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish "is a work of fiction, and is not a credible source for defining a sexual paraphilia."
The odd thing is that, in the first place, it isn't clear to me the original Wikipedia entry was based on Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish. In the second place, other works of fiction have served to define paraphilias, most notably in sadism and masochism. In the third place, a number of people have approached me to describe how they really have harbored exophiliac desires. Perhaps these desires have been filtered through television and film, and perhaps these desires haven't been studied in a clinical context, but I have every reason to believe that exophilia really exists.
Are you an exophiliac?
What are your other fetishes?
I have a meta-fetish — a fetish for fetishes.
Have you encountered aliens in your life? What do you think is their role in our world?
I have never encountered aliens and, as a result of the research and thinking that Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish required, have come to the belief that they do not exist. To be clear, I think it is entirely possible that non-intelligent forms of life — bacteria, plants, even insects — may someday be discovered, but I am highly sceptical about flying saucers, sentient beings of higher intelligence, and the like. It all strikes me as a religious wish expressed in pseudo-scientific language — if we can't have angels, let us have aliens.
What are the pros and cons of sex?
My first impulse is to say that that is a meaningless question. It's like asking about the pros and cons of death. Sex and death are not points of contention. They do not require you to pick sides in a debate. They do not have pros and cons. They're just possibilities of life.
On reflection, though, it occurs to me that technology may be making the question meaningful. What are the pros of sex? Pleasure, reproduction — these are attainable via artificial means. What are the cons of sex? Misunderstanding, madness, disease, death. Why gamble with the cons if technology can give you the pros risk-free? It may well be that in the future this is a question people will have to answer for themselves: do I want to bother with sex? Are its advantages worth its disadvantages? Or would I prefer to orgasm by deep brain stimulation and conceive children by test tube?
Why do people need pornography?
I would reverse the question. Why does pornography need people? There are many forms of sexual desire that do not attach to people but to creatures, entities, things. Soon pornography will cease to fixate on the same repetitious sex acts and open up to this non-human dimension. Perhaps you can already see this in Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish, with its depictions of alien sexuality, or in Japanese hentai, in which you can find the most phantasmagorical couplings.
At the limit, I can envision thoroughly inhuman forms of pornography. On PervScan.com, for example, I wrote about "objectophiles," people who become obsessed with common everyday things. Pornography for these people might consist of a film showing nothing more than a pen resting on a desk or a flower on a window sill. It would be sexually stimulating to objectophiles, and yet to a non-objectophile it would resemble something like Andy Warhol's film Empire, in which he simply pointed a camera at the Empire State Building and let it record for over eight hours.
What do you think about family as an institution in today's world? Does it have a meaning?
Although the family has a biological fundament — simply put, mammals rear their young — the structure is changing dramatically. There are now many families with one parent instead of two, or with two parents of the same gender. In addition reproductive technology opens up the possibility that many different configurations of people can become families. For example, Plato once proposed that the state raise children. Thanks to reproductive technology, the state could now "conceive" them as well. Imagine children born and bred by an intelligence agency...
Of course, as the notion of family changes, so too does incest change along with it. For example, if children were raised by the state, would it be incestuous to have sex with a politician?
Where will this world go next? When will it end?
The world will end when someone sufficiently religious procures a weapon sufficiently dangerous.
How did you switch from aliens to corpses in Necrophilia Variations?
When I write a book, I begin with an initial set of parameters, much like a musician deciding to compose in a certain key and knowing full well that, for example, B flat minor will invoke feelings of sadness.
Thus Necrophilia Variations was written in a very different key than Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish. I wanted it to be less patently intellectual. I wanted it not to wow, as Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish does, but to reverberate, to leave long echoes. I wanted it to break into the discourse that every one of us already has with ourselves about death. I wanted it to sneak past the front brain, where sex and death are neatly shelved in separate categories, and bore into the substrate where they bleed into each other. I wanted not to write about necrophiles per se but to summon, like a witch doctor, the necrophilia in our hearts.
What are your current projects?
There is a notion that the writer is a sedentary creature, a sort of word-emitting blob. It's an unfortunate misconception. A Dadaist manifesto declared that "to have sat for a moment is to have brought life into a moment of danger," and Nietzsche proclaimed that only thoughts reached by walking have value.
To my mind, there is an athleticism proper to writing. It requires talent but it also requires conditioning, discipline, concentration. It requires a sense of how to maximize performance and minimize fatigue. Accordingly, except to say that I'm always writing something, I do not like to discuss current projects in detail. It exhausts them prematurely, blows their wad, leaves them gasping to reach the finish line.
I will say, however, that Supervert's overall project is to penetrate sexual perversity — sometimes to analyze it the way a philosopher probes an abstraction, sometimes to enter into it the way an actor feels his way into a character, sometimes to cut it up and rearrange it and present it anew the way an artist makes a collage.
Who are your favorite writers? Why?
As a reader, I have favorites in every genre. For example, I read a lot of philosophy, and in that genre I greatly admire the clarity of Plato, the creativity of Kierkegaard, the impact of Nietzsche, the style of Gilles Deleuze.
As a reader, I may have a thousand different reasons for admiring a book. As a writer, however, I only ever have one reason for admiring a book: it kicks me in the nuts. It gives me a jolt, an inspiration, a motivation. It shows me the possibilities of the medium. It defines a standard of greatness. It makes me want to compete. It makes me live.
The writers that do this to me are the Marquis de Sade, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, William S. Burroughs. And I would add to the list two additional books: Michael Herr's Dispatches and David Britton's Motherfuckers: The Auschwitz of Oz.