When people say ‘the occult’, what does that mean to you?
I think immediately of [60s R&B trailblazer] Graham Bond. He was heavily into that stuff and he used the word more than most people did in the sixties. Consequently a beret and goatee beard became the uniform of the occult for me.
Are you superstitious?
I am. My mother was, and I picked it up from her. I don’t walk under ladders, and I must have hundreds of years of bad luck just from the mirror issue. If you’re of a Romantic disposition – I mean Romantic in the sense of the late poets – as I am, then you tend to go the other way and become as rationalist as you can to sort of offset it. Otherwise I’m a mass of superstitions and barmy ideas.
Have you ever visited a medium?
I haven’t, but I’ve had two mediums come to me. There was a publicity thing for my book Mother London and they had a medium at the event. So I had a go with her and she was amazingly good.
Have you ever been spooked by something?
No, I don’t have any spooky experiences. When I come across it my rationality comes into play and I take it as an example of what’s going on in people’s heads, but I’m not prone to making assumptions.
What about experiences outside ordinary consciousness?
Yes, I have, lots of stuff like that. I used to cultivate it.
Was the occult an influence in your sword and sorcery work?
To be honest, when I started writing sword and sorcery I’d long-stopped reading it. The editor of Science Fantasy asked me for my first sword and sorcery story. I was just a working journalist at the time, so I said yes. That was entirely because it was a long wordage and I made some good money out of it. Then he wanted another, and another.
So when you teamed up with Hawkwind or Blue Öyster Cult it wasn’t inspired by spiritual feelings.
With Hawkwind it was far more political than mystical. We were far more political than hippies. And my other inspiration was where science fiction was going, rather than the occult. It’s more to do with developments in astronomy, astrophysics, that sort of thing. That offered a language that we could use that made sense to us.
If Satan exists, what form has he/she taken?
Satan is consumerism. Not capitalism, I mean consumerism. I always thought Margaret Thatcher was the devil, and she was the great standard bearer for consumerism. We’re still fighting that devil.