Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
"I'm supposed to be part of the chemical generation, but I don't really know what that is," says Elaine Palmer, the 34-year-old driving force behind independent publishers Pulp Faction. If anyone's helping to show that there's more to "underground" contemporary fiction than people clambering on board the Irvine Welsh bandwagon, E'd up to their ballpoints, then it's Palmer. For the past two years, at irregular intervals, slim anthologies bearing curt titles (Skin; Technopagan; Fission) looking as though they've been designed by aliens have issued forth from her north London home. Like its predecessors, the fifth and most recent collection, called Random Factor, appears to group the stories thematically but really does nothing of the sort. "I set up Pulp Faction because, at the time, most publishers weren't giving new writers a chance," she says. "Even though that attitude has changed, that's really what it's still about - providing a forum for good, original fiction."

What does bind the stories together, though, is the collective straitjacket of corporate culture, sworn enemy of randomness. In this world, dreams of escape get no further than the shopping mall doors, from Iain Grant's itemised account of what he wants from a prospective girlfriend to Richard Guest's "Americancola", in which a man pins his financial hopes on persuading his wife "to have sex with next-door's dog" for a television network. The two stand-outs, Jeff Noon's "Blurbs" and Alistair Gentry's "Palace of Nicotine" - both excerpts from Pulp-published novels - probably bear the closest comparison. Noon inhabits a new-media, new-Personification golden age, in which life is just a series of image changes ("Image Overload, the experts called it: that moment of evolution where an audience tires of a campaign"). Gentry, who claims never to have set foot in Disneyland Paris, unleashes synthetic violence in a grotesque theme park.

The pair are taking part in Pulp Faction's first UK reading tour, which drops in on Virgin Megastores up and down the land, with DJs and an installation in tow. The artwork (a semi-opaque drum packed with multi-media goodies) was designed by Michael River, whose tale of human sacrifice in a rave appeared in the much-hyped acid-house anthology, Disco Biscuits. He is not unaware of the irony of bringing pulp into the corporate house of pop. But then, since Welsh and co hit the big time, young writers have learnt that the best way to get your voice heard is to have it drowned out by dance music. "Personally, I never saw what was wrong with bookshops..." he mutters.

Readings: Manchester Megastore (0161-848 8181) 7 May, 6.30pm; Waterstone's, Edinburgh (East End branch 0131-556 3034) 12 May, 7pm. Pulp Faction: PO Box 12171, London, N19 3HB or: www.pulpfact.demon.co.uk

Dominic Cavendish