Bad Ideas \ Chemicals is the debut novel by Lloyd Markham, set in a semi-dystopian future. It follows the story of a group of people in their early 20s as they struggle with despondency, grim chances for the future, and a night of drugs. Parthian Books are reissuing Bad Ideas \ Chemicals three years after its debut with an exciting new cover but the same great story.
Read our latest interview with Lloyd Markham below.
Just to start with some basic background, can you tell me a little about yourself and the inspiration for this book.
Well I’m originally from Zimbabwe but have been living in south Wales now for more than half my life. I’m in my early thirties (gulp). I started writing Bad Ideas \ Chemicals in my early twenties in the second year of my undergrad. It started life as a collection of loosely connected vignettes. I was influenced structurally by Dubliners and wanted to try something similar but I ended up moving in a different direction.
Some inspirations: Messy nights out in Bridgend and adjacent areas as a mentally unwell young person when we had that awful spate of suicides. A long stretch of unemployment during the Great Recession. The anxious terrible atmosphere of the coalition years – like the whole country was just sleepwalking into something horrible and we were all just pretending not to notice. Some really bad hangovers / come downs. The sense of being completely alienated from my surroundings. The writing of Kurt Vonnegut.
So you started this in your twenties. How long did you work on BI\C before it was published?
About 7 years in total I think. It took a long time to get right.
On the inside cover you say your favourite book is The Metamorphosis by Kafka. Can you explain why it is your favourite?
The Metamorphosis is very important to me because before I read it I kind of didn’t know what I was doing as a writer. I had a taste for absurdity and social commentary, but my imagination was far too inclined towards gloominess to do straight up comedy -- which was the only creative context in which I had encountered the absurd before. Kafka showed me a way I could play to my strengths. It’s also just a great story that perfectly captures the alienating creeping dehumanising horror of capitalism. Gregor is more free living as a disgusting insect locked in his bedroom than he is as a salesman. As someone who has worked a lot of miserable late night solo shifts at an off-license the past few years – I relate strongly.
Same, Gregor. Same.
Goregree is called a ‘fake town’, which is one of my favourite parts. Is Goregree based on a real town or is it more of a representation of small town living?
Both in a way. Goregree was heavily inspired by the town of Bridgend – which is where my family moved to when we emigrated from Zimbabwe – but it’s not a one-for-one allegory. There are other UK small towns in there too and the idea of it being a model town built by an American businessman came from a documentary on a model town built by Disney in the US that has since become dilapidated and rundown. There is also a lot of stuff that I just made up because it amused me at the time to be honest.
Of all of the characters do you have a favourite or a specific least favourite?
Cassandra for favourite. Easy. Fun story: she wasn’t going to be the main character originally. She was a secondary character everyone liked and my editor asked if we could have more of her and I thought, “Why not go one better and make her the protagonist?”
Best decision I ever made.
Can you talk a little about the cover redesign and re-issue of the book.
I wasn’t super involved in the process to be honest – other than suggesting an edit to fix a micro-sized mistake I caught in the first edition after it went to print. What I can say is I really like the new cover and I hope more folks will give the book a try when bookshops open up again.
Was there a particular message / moral you wanted to give with this book?
Sort of. I try to write stories that can’t easily be boiled down into a pithy message. Because why write the book then? Just write the pithy message, clock off, and go for a walk.
But Bad Ideas \ Chemicals is informed by – and does express – a particular worldview. I was trying to crystallise a sadness, frustration, and weariness with a political, social, and economic ideology which I think is slowly leading us into a dark miserable cul-de-sac we might never escape from.
I guess my outlook is close to Cassandra’s. Why when there are more than enough resources for us to live content, peaceful, happy lives do we humans choose to trash ourselves, each other, and our planet? I thought as I grew older I might eventually hear a satisfactory answer from some sort of “Grown-up”. Mostly I’ve just heard excuses. I think that might be the job of “Grown-ups”. To make up unconvincing excuses.
So after spending 7 years on BI\C, what are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m working on a new book called Midnight Dreams of The Escalator Women. It’s a sci-fi satire set in an alternate history Wales about three generations of misfits trying to stop a phantasmagoric apocalypse. I’m trying to think of a single sentence pitch. At the moment I’m torn between →
Ubik, but genderqueer.
Ghostbusters if they worked for the council and were all Welsh leftist twitter weirdos.
I guess we’ll see which description ends up being more apt when the book is done.
So you are also part of a band, Deep Hum. What type of music do you do?
Well we mostly make instrumental odd-ball psychedelic jams with synths, sitars, guitars, and electronic beats, etc. But we’re actually about to release an album that’s a bit more conventional for a change.
It’s called The Boys Cosmic and it’s out on the 1st of May via our Bandcamp →
Thank you to Lloyd Markham for this really interesting interview, it was great to get an insight into such a unique book. If you want to get your hands on this novel go to https://www.parthianbooks.com/collections/fiction/products/bad-ideas-chemicals-1