Dear Gwyneth Jones,

A small chuckle came to my lips as I read your website's description of the reviewers who thought implausible the idea of rock stars taking the reigns of political power. For I remember that that event could have happened in San Francisco, California.I'm not sure if you've ever heard of an American punk rocker named Jello Biafra. Back around 1979, he decided to run for Mayor of SanFrancisco. His campaign spoor (i.e. posters, signs) never reached my part of the city. But then, that part happened to be the middle class suburb part of San Francisco. The only paper to recommend Biafra forMayor was a local alternative rag, The Berkeley Barb. That newspaper found his positions (I believe one of them was making black the official city color, but my memory is definitely faulty on such points) a refreshing alternative to the trained parrot squawks of the other candidates' positions. As you might expect, Biafra placed fourth in a
rather large field of candidates as quite a few people thought his
candidacy was a joke. Today, the punk rocker is still politically
active, though a major part of his political work is done through spoken
word commentary released on his label Alternative Tentacles records.
Perhaps in Biafra's case winning public office was not the point of his
candidacy. Still, when I think of how the serious elected politicians
sold out the city's interests several times over to the forces of greedy
capitalism, I have to wonder if a punk rocker-led city would have been
better in the long run.

From Peter Wong, email, Sept 2002

Thanks for your letter Peter. I think I do vaguely remember the Jello Biafra story, but
I never knew how it had ended. You also asked how the original story "Bold As Love" fits into the novel. You can find my rationale on this, and much more! in the backstory, which you can reach by clicking on the button G's Music Biog, on the Rockstars and Politics main page


Gwyneth Jones writes convincingly about music, festival lifestyles, hippy culture and the mass of confused, right-meaning, not always sensible people. Her application of the tensions inherent in a band to the group dynamics of government makes the interaction of the central characters wholly believable. However, it is difficult to get a feeling for how events have affected those outside the counter-cultural movement. There is little feeling for an England beyond the new-agers, skinheads and hippies. That middle England must still exist is made apparent by the continued existence of a civil service, which almost seems to be allowing these musicians to be playing at such roles as President and Prime Minister. In fact, one of the protagonists goes so far as to call in the police when things get too sticky! Of course, the quotidian is rarely of sufficient interest to dwell upon and the real world indulgence of the voters has shown itself in London's Mayoral elections.

From a review by Duncan Lowie,

Thanks for the thoughtful review, Duncan. You make a good point, though actually there's much closer co-operation than you suggest, between the secret rulers and the rockstars. The police are always at hand, and finding the rockstars a very useful tool of control, it's a reciprocal arrangement that both parties understand.. When Ax and Sage go off to join the "war in Yorkshire", there's something more corrupt going on. They are very well aware that the government is using the 'barmy army' of the monster Pigsty's regime as a preferable alternative to sending in the regular troops. I was thinking of the situation in say, Colombia here; or Kosovo...Bold As Love is a celebration, because England manages to be still standing at the end, but in many ways, you're right, it's not pretty when things fall apart

You'll find out more about Middle England's adventures during the time of Dissolution in Castles Made of Sand.


The center of the books is, of course, the intense study of a triangular polyamorous and bisexual relationship, for which I suspect that a Tiptree nomination is a strong possibility... I'm a little nervous about Jones's continual emphasis on the ambiguous gender of the transsexual character, Roxanne Smith, who seems to have settled well into a female role. However, it isn't clear whether Jones is making a political point about refusing to accept transsexuals as women, or whether she's just trying to remind her readers of Roxanne's nature....

From a review by Cheryl Morgan, Emerald City

This is what you get for trying to be ahead of the game. I done transexuality, last series... Intersexuality is a complex area hat becomes more complex, as more and more people of misassigned or genuinely ambiguous physical gender emerge from the shadows, and see other choices opening, to express how they really feel. As I've stated clearly and frequently in the books, Roxane is NOT a male to female transexual. S/he is NOT a transexual man who became a woman. S/he has chosen to be neither, and I sort of wonder which part of hir role in the story seems so essentially female? Is it as the gang's philosopher, the tribal elder, or the defacto priest?


This is near-future SF...or it's a fantasy novel Both, even. It's about a rock festival in England, (Think Woodstock but with a counterculture made up of goths, punks and ferals. Lots of drugs, no peace&love. If fetish fashion took the place of tie-dye, the Grateful Dead had been an industrial band, and the Beatles were really Iggy & the Stooges.) It's about what politically active student ideals look like in a UK breaking into separate nations. What media looks like when it's not those with something to say or sell that make it all go, but those who know how the computer systems that carry everything work. And the most visible religions/political parties/rolemodels aren't those approved by the majority, but those who know how to fuck with the technology. And if all those stoned pagan rituals worked? Old wives' tales turned out to be instructions you should have been paying attention to? This book doesn't always work, but it's damn sure not for lack of trying - hardest book I ever tried to describe coherently. Ask Lorenzo, he's read it. And there's a sequel on the way.

From bunnikins, on Live Journal site ....

Thanks, Mr Rabbit. You know, looking at it as the author, that's a very good description of this indescribable book


Okay, so I do have a few quibbles, mainly with the basic scene-set, which seems curiously old-fashioned: I'm not convinced that rock music has the sort of high profile these days that it has to have for Bold As Love to work, and would a techno-wizard whose performance consists of computer imagery, a seriously acrobatic stage act, and "vile noises" really idolise - and take his stage name from - the Grateful Dead? And comment, not criticism: for a Clarke award winner, this has a rather tangential relationship with science fiction (if Iain Banks had written it, I think it would have been a black-and-white-cover and no middle initial job).

posted on Amazon by a reader from Sheffield.

Good points. To me BAL is about the whole concept of rock culture, not any particular contemporary scene, and to an extent I wanted the Grateful Dead in there because of their huge significance, along with Jimi Hendrix, so I just made Sage a mutant Deadhead, by authorial fiat. But I think it works. If you could bear to research the actual music, you'll find there's a clear lineage from the Dead's concept of those endless, freeform, interwoven guitar solos, decorated with weird feedback, through the first House music of the early eighties, where the meditative wandering picked up a bassline, and on into dance culture. There's also the fact that the Dead's lighting expert invented the rock gig sound-and-light show. I think Sage would know this. I think the rockstars themselves are often very well up on their own cultural history, and timeless about it. Like, Oasis and their obsession with the Beatles…

Hi Gwyneth,
Interesting to see my dismal hometown Swadlincote namechecked at the start of Castles Made Of Sand. If there's one place that's never entered any mythology, it's Swad (if you know Graham Joyce, ask him about the time we had a drink there after a reading. He comes from a grimy mining village nead Coventry, and even he was shocked…)
Btb you may want to correct the spelling for the mmp -there's no g
Mark Chadbourn

Hi Mark, Thanks for the spelling correction, I'll make it right in the mmp if I get the chance. You and Graham are quite wrong! There is poetry in Swad. I thought the ponds were great. The town appears in Castles thinly disguised as 'Wethamcote', representing the dead centre of England, and sports a pagan arts festival and (unofficial fringe) Celtic blood sacrifice in the woods.

Are there any plans for another/more books about the Bold As Love/Castles characters? I really enjoyed the 2 books and am missing everyone very much, particularly Sage.
Regards, Amy Rowan

I'm writing the third episode right now.