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Spitzenprodukte on 'Chubz,' fanfic, and recent UK elections

Spitzenprodukte’s first novel, “Chubz: The Demonization of my Working Arse” has been described by Vice as “political pornography” or, more floridly, by Verso, as “Stewart Home-meets-Alan Hollinghurst-meets Kathy Acker realness in a startling debut of 21st century Grindr modernism.” In actuality, it’s exquisitely written fanfic inspired by journalist Owen Jones and a roundabout commentary on UK politics. (Its title is a play on Jones’s recent book, “Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class.”) The novel recently launched with an event featuring Spitzenprodukte in conversation with McKenzie Wark at Interstate Projects in New York. We sat down with Huw Lemmey, pen name Spitzenprodukte, to talk about the novel, the Owen Jones, and the recent UK elections.

Here’s the publisher’s description of Chubz, with the interview below.

Andy “Chubz” Wilson is just another NEET on the street, spending his summer days sucking dick and chilling in the park, one hand on his touchscreen, the other down his pants. That is, until he meets charming left-wing journalist and cute crypto-twink Owen whilst trawling grindr for sex. But what starts as a quick, breathless hookup ends up changing Chubz — and London — forever. Whilst Owen battles poppers-mad PM Nigel “Nige” Farage, our cock-hungry comrade wages his own “ass” war, and is left wondering: just what exactly is it he’s fighting for? Socialism? Barbarism? Or just cheap kicks?

Spitzenprodukte lives in Bermondsey, South London. He has written for Rhizome, Dazed and Confused and The New Inquiry, and is co-director of Limazulu Project Space.

Owen Jones, image courtesy thecommentator.com

As someone who is primarily an artist and critic, what drew you to fanfic as a form? Considering it is often subjective and sexual in nature, how do you feel it fits into political discourse?

I like reading fanfic so I wrote fanfic. It’s the mixture of short attention span and short time periods available for reading or writing that makes popular literature appeal to me. But also I think there’s something in the history of fanfic, in its earnest approach to irony, that I find really refreshing. That’s suited to this moment. To this colossal death of the political imagination that has thrown Europe into these frigid conditions. Even on the radical left what’s taking precedence is a concern with reinforcing representation in a really rigid and repressive way. We’re picking at bones here.

I thought when I was writing it that dumbfuck pulp like Chubz plays some part of unravelling novels as bourgeois forms, or contributing the rotting away of literature in my own little way, but now I think that was just trying to justify the effort. I like the casual use of words. I like disruptive political speech. I like hecklers and that. I guess my petty-utopia right now - or, at least, my political project - is stripping away at the language of politics, at how it’s represented back to us. I feel like the images are hiding the material realities. I want to see again how the individual and complex moments, what they share with other moments, how those put together constitute a collective political reality enough to acquire a name. And how that becomes its representation. No more so in Britain than with class, this shitty mix of cultural affectations and material conditions.

Does that answer the question? To me it’s only important that the book isn’t seen as grotesque. It’s not one of these old-fashioned satires where peoples moral failings are depicted in the grotesque forms or behaviours, to shock. I’m not that sort of boy. To grotesque is to deform. I’m not out to shock but maybe to invoke a sexuality hidden. Like if you lick your skin with a really wet tongue, all tongue, right up your arm. If you then smell it, it’s obscene but fascinating, it’s revealing, like all the secret human smells in the air stick to it. That’s what I wanted for the book. It’s not obscene in a displaying genitals way, something society deems obscene but is not shocking to those of us who understand that humans can have genitals. But it’s obscene in it’s stupid obsession with seeing sexual tensions and powers realised between all the characters, in using sex to reveal the things that exist in plain sight that we nevertheless pretend we don’t so, because they’re default and all-powerful and totally suck.

What specifically drew you to Owen Jones?
Curious, looking to experiment politically and creatively with the right guy. Left-acting. Masc. Clean. You be to.

What has changed since you wrote the book in 2012? How does it fit into the broader scope of the recent UK elections?
Well I put down some ideas for the book back in 2012, but the bulk of work was done last summer- I think the book reflects a comic extension of a near-future reality that was possible back then. Since the election, things feel like they’ve taken a much darker turn. Tory attack-dogs have been let off the leash since then, and are “flying kites” in some pretty extreme directions. It looks like the austerity regime is being extended along some dark lines; punitive measures attacking large working-class families, for example. We’re seeing serious discussions around opting out of the European Convention on Human Rights, and restrictions on free-speech including government pre-vetting of publications. Access to legal aid is being restricted, workfare schemes extended The already decimated left feels, on the whole, exhausted and outpaced, and is having serious conversations about what it stands for and how it needs to organise- both the radical and parliamentary left. We’re heading for more serious unrest, but it’s going to be much darker and less idealistic than what Chubz sees in the book. The government are cocksure and drunk on power, the police are empowered, and forces of opposition and defence underfunded, overstretched and exhausted. The UK is looking very bleak right now.

London is fucked. It’s been a cruel and degrading city for the last decade I’ve lived there, but there were always cracks people could survive in, it felt. But now the cruelty is bloating it, the cracks are disappearing as it expands. So watching that process, within that context, the way I think politically has changed. I’ve realised there’s a lot of strength to be had right now in gentleness between people. There doesn’t seem to be much of that in opposition to the regime there. The harshness has become something we all inhabit now, we’re cruel to each other. In London even the queers aren’t queer, we’re sharp-edged and cruel to each other, always reinforcing boundaries and discussing the terms of our own existence. It’s self-defence but to think out of that is radical, I think. So I’m interested in refusing to be cruel; I just think I’ve got a lot of work to be done mending cruelties I’ve inflicted in the past first.

Here’s an excerpt from Chubz:

Over two weeks, the city battled in fabrics. The bold polymers of the hoardings remained, but blocks and strips of markings and colours delineated territories and space.

A strip of colour was tied high on a flagpole.

It hadn’t been there last night. It wasn’t an official job. I try to imagine the process of raising it. A ladder would have been needed, for sure. And the lamppost was aluminium, I think. It was raining last night, the pavement is still slippy, slippery. So another person must have been in on it; one to hold the ladder at the base.

The other climbs it. It’s resting against the lamppost on a rung, not on one of its legs, so it rocks, sways, as the pressure of one leg shifts as it lifts a step or two. The girl is panting. Her arms are exposed to the rain. It isn’t really summer rain, it’s 6 months old, waiting to fall. She has the materials shoved up her vest; to Tom below it looks like she’s pregnant, or a boy pretending to be pregnant, a pillow stuffed up his shirt. To her, it feels like she’s pregnant too, but more keenly. She’s sweating, he’s using his body weight to steady the rocking ladder, bracing his shoulders against it, arms locked. The closer she gets to the top, the more pronounced the rocking. She looks left then right.

Horrible, a sinking feeing, like the ladder is slipping. What if someone (a police) comes? But the ladder isn’t slipping. At the base, Tom has his head down, his empty mouth pressed up against his forearm. There’s no rocking. She’s struggling more but there’s no rocking. She fights with a roll of gaffer tape, then a tearing sound, a forced zip, as an arm-length emerges. She rips it, then again, and has two arms lengths stuck to her forearm. Fumbling, she drops the roll, which bounces across the wet pavement, rebounding from the granite shopfront and rolling into the occasional traffic.

One piece of tape affixes to the top of their flag, and adheres straight to the lamppost. The second folds in on itself. She butterfingers presses what she can of the tape into contact with pole or fabric. She clatters down the ladder which detelescopes and, checking everything, they rush down the road. From the end of the street it looks ok, at night. Pixelated. What is a flag for, I wonder.

All this flag-waving tweaks me, freaks me out. I identify as red neon reflected in wet asphalt and I use the pronouns now/nearby/online. I suspect true allegiance lies in something a little more transient, as it should; in pink newsprint or the cheap bulk of glossy culture magazines.

These bastards were an ultra-femme bunch of anarcho-sissies, no real analysis, a loose collection of obscure injokes and anime pictures, no strategy to speak of. One of many gangs of faggots and new-found butt-pilgrims sprung up since the death of PC Ball, the poor putz slaughtered on the street, cut up like Serrano ham as cameras looked on, wild-eyed gangs, hot-boys, cool-customers armed to the teeths, arse-bandits in the truest sense, hunting for quick pleasure by turning street after street into an ambush. The flags are for bait, purple bait fringed in gold. The trap set, sits, getting damp in the pissing rain. These saboteurs crouch behind the private bins, locked against rats and skipdivers. Sweaty leather pulls against their thighs, they flick an obscene hand gesture up towards an open window towards a darkened room.

Drain gurgles rat the base of the flagpole. From the adjoining street you can hear a revving engine. The punk kids have unzipped, are masturbating each other in anticipation, preloading, fingering each other’s cunts, chewing fat lumps of hash dipped in pro-biotic yoghurt, licking spindly tattooed fingers, frigging more, feeling a cold wind filling their boxers, and the wind fills the flag, its gold frill and purple ground, its puckered hole right in the centre, fist-sized, torn open and stitched around with lengths and lengths of gold thread, snaps of broken thread, fat lines covering each other, and the wind whistled through this ham-fisted gesture of an arsehole, pulling it through the pisswet night, the petrol sky, the wet shiny glass of office buildings reflecting flickers of the burning city torn apart by big hairy hetero men driven deadly wild with hot anal desire.

Once gay desire becomes universal the need for independent, separate so-called “straight culture” will disappear, become meaningless, wither and die. We all want the same thing, I think; hot wet anal pyrotechnics.

From the corner an echo rattles down the street; crunching, sweating, shaking feds, equipment clatters like footsteps on gravel. The two lily-livered sissypunks, ultra-femmes, push their backs against the wall and hold their pants. The streetlights themselves were switched off days ago; flashlights appear at the end of the street — a troop of 8, stop a while, a murmled command and run batons brandished. Heads wrapped in fabric, coated in Kevlar, and rain lashing the bins and tapping on the helmets and the ccrrcht-crrcchhht-frenol-prsent-doyou-recive-over radio noise means not a rustle from the street can’t be heard, they can’t be heard, the faggots can’t be heard the scraping of the barrel filled with concrete can’t be heard pushed from the top floor window can’t be heard nothing but police can be heard, police and equipment can be heard but not the concrete barrel twisting in the air, not till it lands it can’t. Then it’s heard like a cannon as it hits the last in the troop, exploding with a dust cloud which sticks to the pools of blood running across the pavement. The punks run from the building and from the bins, buckling at the guts with a furious pleasure as their arse goes off again, 3rd time today, such joy.

The next day there’s a strip of fabric high up the lamppost, blue and white tape blocking my path down the road, all cleaned up but for the grey concrete dust sitting on the bin lids.