DHP: What is your definition of transgressive?
SS: Bertolt Brecht once said that 'art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to shape it.' I think that's a perfect definition of transgressive so I'm gonna use it because, let's face it, Brecht doesn't need it anymore.
DHP: What was the first text you read that made you question accepted societal tenets or values or the way in which the world works?
SS: It's probably an answer that many people give, but I'm gonna say 'On The Road'. I had always had a suspicion that I was plugged in to the wrong mains and reading Kerouac confirmed it. Suddenly there was proof that I had been right and my teachers wrong. There was a whole other world, a whole other language, a whole other way of living that had absolutely nothing to do with the things I had been taught or conditioned to believe. Finding that book, and I do mean finding it in the religious or holy sense, felt like coming home. Still does.
DHP: Give an example of a transgressive work & explain why you felt it was transgressive. The work could be literature, film, visual art, theatre, graphic novels or something else.
SS: Rather than try and give a clever, arty answer by naming a film nobody has heard of or cares about, I'm gonna say The Beach Boys 'Wouldn't It be Nice'. The work itself obviously isn't transgressive, but for me the experience of first hearing it at the age of seven or eight, if we define 'transgressive' as breaking moral or social boundaries, certainly was. It damn near broke me in half. Looking at the palm trees and the bikini clad woman on the cover of my fathers vinyl, hearing that evocative opening, was as far from a wet and grey English council estate in the 1980's as it was possible to get. So, while not transgressive in and of itself, it certainly taught me that I didn't have to be like everybody else. That I wasn't constrained by social boundaries. That morals in any form are petty, cheap and restrictive. Then there was California... and it was good.
DHP: Name a historical transgressive role model & tell us a bit about
SS: I'm gonna say Theodore Roosevelt. He was almost driven to the point of mania to overcome the restrictions of his physicality and his environment. He works out relentlessly as a youth to build up his body in order to overcome a crippling asthma problem and to defend his younger brother from bullies. When his wife and mother die on the same night he literally transcends his surroundings and heads to the badlands of North Dakota to become a rancher. He apprehends thieves singlehandedly and punches out cowboys. He transforms himself from a 90lb weakling to a 150lb man whose body is, according to one observer at the time, "clear muscle, bone and grit." He suffers terribly from depression but comes up with one of my favourite quotes, that 'black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough.' That if you keep busy enough , 'get action' as he also says elsewhere, then you can literally outpace your thoughts and your mood. Very transgressive, no?
DHP: List a few transgressive fictional works from your personal library.
SS: Atrocity Exhibition by JG Ballard, definitely. All of William Burroughs' and Charles Bukowski's stuff. 'Fight Club' by Chuck Palahniuk. One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, 1984, Animal Farm. Most Of Hunter S Thompson's stuff. The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. Camus' The Outsider. Last Exit To Brooklyn. A lot of Henry Miller's stuff. Most of my favourite books, really.
DHP: In what ways are you trying to create or publish work that is
transgressive according to your definition?
SS: I remember very early on when I started writing I came across a website that juxtaposed a William Burroughs quote with a Britney Spears one. It seems somewhat trite and a little obvious now, but I remember it blowing my mind at the time. Because I realised that you could be this and that. That man is multiple. You didn't have to be defined by the dumb little labels society likes to put on people. You could be two polar opposites all at once. I was one of those kids that didn't fit in anywhere, not even with the kids who 'didn't fit in'. I always scoffed at people who claimed to not be like everybody else while all the time they were in a crowd of 100 people all saying the same thing, all dressed the same. So when I write I think I write from the perspective of somebody who, and I don't mean this in a 'cool', James Dean way, never fit in. I think I write with a sadness and an anger of one who was on the outside wanting to be in. In my work I try to defy labels and easy boxes and to make sure the people out there who are like me know it's ok to do that. Not just ok, imperative. That defiance is where all the great work comes from. It always will be.