A sci-fi cult classic in the making
BOOK SPECIAL: JAMES WILKINSON
A gender bending new queer sci-fi novel, The Ozone Hotel , conjures up the spirit of both The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and RuPaul’s Drag Race to battle what its author decries as today’s “beige mediocrity”. No wonder Stephen Fry has called it “A Barbarella and Myra Breckinridge for the YouTube generation”
Interview - R K Williams
The Ozone Hotel is the startlingly fresh, vivid and decidedly “out there” debut novel from author R K Williams released next month. The story begins in 1929 when Mr Brown, a young bank clerk living in London, receives a “Golden Ticket” - but more fabulous than chocolate - enabling him to take a holiday to an exotic locale called The Ozone Hotel. After a chance meeting with the fabulously-named Chloe Passion, he embarks on an adventure that changes his life and finds him at a magnificent hotel floating above the clouds. Mr Brown meets a slew of quirky queer time travelers like Global Baby, Celeste Skyworld, my favourite the Vandeyla twins, who represent the YouTube generation and, of course, not forgetting the gorgeous character that is Pink in Feathers glimpsed in the hotel lobby. No surprise then that Stephen Fry called this book
"A Barbarella and Myra Breckinridge for the YouTube generation”
The Ozone Hotel is a place that nurtures creative minds - my kind of place! - a sort of future salon enabling people to chat about ideas, then take them back to their own worlds to germinate new creative visions. Take it to the runway! The evil gender-blending tyrant, Lucy-Fur Quimm, from the 32 nd century, doesn’t want this to happen. He wants his voice, and his voice alone to be the only one heard in the galaxy. Preparing to send an army of battle drones to destroy the hotel, the small band of time travellers, including Mr Brown, decide to travel into the future on board Celeste’s amazing spacecraft, The Wurlitzer, to stop him.
As RuPaul would say: “Start your engines...”
This is a fabulous camp romp through time and space, with nostalgic nods to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, Star Wars, Blake’s 7 and the 1980s gender bending club scene that gave birth to fashion icons such as Leigh Bowery and Boy George. Anything 80’s gets my vote! It’s also an essential read for anyone who wants to buckle up and take a psychedelic trip to the only place in the galaxy where fashion is celebrated to excess and you can be as flamboyant as you want. The Ozone Hotel is like walking through a Dali painting; it’s full of extraordinary characters, events and adventures leaving you embraced in a glitter haze and chuckling away long after you’ve put book the book down. As RuPaul would say: “Start your engines...”
Q: How did you come up with the initial idea for the book?
RK: The Ozone Hotel is based on the Victorian station hotel in Leeds. It’s where I would gather with friends in the Palm Court tea room and have conversations about art, music, literature, film and fashion. It became a small salon of creative people who all wanted to get to London. We dreamed of having a better life. We would create fantasy names for our friends, travel to London on the British Midland DC9 jet from Leeds/Bradford airport, and after watching a bleak avante guarde movie called The End of August at Hotel Ozone, the catchphrase ‘Ozone Hotel’ was born. It became an Iconic palace within the clouds that’s only available to a few people who can board the golden jet.
Q: Who gets to go to the Ozone Hotel?
RK: They’re people who see the world a bit differently from the rest of the society around them. In a way they’re all artists. They’re people who have been given a Golden Ticket by someone who believes in them. In a way everyone has the ability to get to the Ozone Hotel, it’s a metaphor for our dreams. The book is based around Mr Brown, who like the average person has hopes and desires for his life but doesn’t believe he will ever achieve any of them because he feels trapped in his day job. His great aunt had a belief in him and upon her death she bequeaths her Golden Ticket to him.
Q: What inspired you to sit down and write The Ozone Hotel?
RK: It’s a place I would like to go. They say you should write about what you know, so I wrote about a world I would like to inhabit. The Ozone Hotel is a fantasy, a place where I could get away from the troubles of the world and for a while relax and have some fun. All the things I watched on TV as a kid, books I read, the pop music I grew up with, they all have influenced the book. It’s sort of found its own time now what with the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race . It’s a book not to be taken too seriously. It’s a fun read that’s all - a little entertainment meant to make you giggle. The world that we now live in has become very corporate, brands this brands that, money, money, money, it feels like society has gone mad. There was a brief moment back when I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s when things felt possible; there was all manner of people expressing themselves in so many genres. It was a rich time for music and fashion and then all that seemed to disappear during the 90’s and all we have left now is a sea of beige mediocrity. The Ozone Hotel is the flamboyant antidote to our current world; it sticks two fingers up at the status quo and asks you to enter into another world where colourful characters take you on a trip to a place that is truly fabulous.
Q: Why did you want to move to London?
RK: It felt like that’s where it all happened. Leeds back in the early 1990’s was not the gentrified place it is now, it was a grim northern city with little employment for a creative. I studied Fashion Design in Leeds and wanted to work in fashion. My first job was in a factory designing women’s polyester shirts for Marks and Spencer, I lasted two weeks. I moved to London a few years later with a friend and stayed at a squat in Brixton for about six months. That was a hard time, unemployed in London and having no money to do anything with felt very scary in city where I had few friends and no work contacts. It took a few years before I started to work as a costume designer on drama documentaries, pop videos, commercials and in mainstream TV on programs such as QI and The Friday Night Project.
Q: How long did it take you to finish the book
RK: I had been putting the storylines down for many years but it wasn’t until I moved to Wiltshire that it became a manuscript. After years of working in television I started to feel unwell and I took to my bed in the summer of 2007, I thought I had a summer cold, but I would stay there for the next four years. My life I had built up, worked hard for, ended abruptly and I was diagnosed with a condition called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome also known as ME. I couldn’t do anything for myself. I would lie in bed for days that would turn into weeks and then years. For most of that time all I could do was rest and retreat to my inner world. It’s there where The Ozone Hotel found a place to germinate. No one can prepare you for what long-term illness brings, it creates a sense of isolation as friends fade away, your ability to support yourself is removed and one becomes helpless. This leads to depression, anxiety and a feeling of absolute loneliness. When I started to feel a little better all I could do was manage an hour a day to either paint or write. I would use this time like a precious moment where my imagination could flourish. It was in those moments I found a place that supported me through some very bleak and difficult times.
Q: So writing The Ozone Hotel helped you during some difficult years?
RK: It did, but I also worked on other things such as paintings, short stories, novels and journals. After ten years of struggling with such a debilitating condition I amassed a body of work. The Ozone Hotel is one of those projects and it feels like a little offering to the world, dedicated to creativity, to all those people who dream of a better life and anyone who oves a sense of eccentric adventure.
The Ozone Hotel is available to pre-order now on Amazon. // Publisher: Callisto Green // Words by James Wilkinson.