From Flux Magazine, April/May 2003 issue:
Q is written by a band of writers who go under the collective name Luther Blissett. Luther Blissett was a fottballer who never lived up to his promise in the Italian League. He had a bad time there and became the victim of racist vitriol. It is not just the authors of Q who have used the pseudonym. The Luther Blissett Project is basically a loose knit network of activists, artists and writers who use the footballer's name as a flag of convenience. It is the widely held belief that the name somehow fitted the sensibility of the movement who identified with his plight.
Q itself is set against the backdrop of Renaissance Europe. The date is 1517 and Martin Luther has nailed his call for reform of the Catholic Church to the cathedral door in Wittenberg. Europe is in the midst of radical change. Political intrigue hangs heavy in the air. It's part enternaining detective novel and part thinly disguised dissection of power and politics aimed just as much as today as the 16th Century. I emailed a list of questions to Wu Ming who is one of the 5 authors of Q. The results can be found overleaf...
Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2003 02:23:49 +0100
To: "Editorial" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: Wu Ming **********************
Subject: Re: interview
here are the answers:
>In your press release for Q it describes how you and three co-writers were
>stopped on a train. When asked in court for your names you all answered
>'Luther Blissett'. Is this story true or is more for the image?
Is this story still around? It was not a train, it was a night bus. It happened in Rome, and we weren't even there. 1995. A few dozen ravers occupied and hijacked a night bus, and a mobile party took place on it until the police decided to stop them. The cops charged the people who were stepping down the bus, and a cop even fired three shots in the air. A journalist from a left-wing radio station (Radio Citta Futura) was also on the bus and happened to be phoning a live chat show, then the shots were heard by thousands of listeners. Eighteen people were arrested. Some of them told the cops that they were "Luther Blissett", but *none* of them actually claimed that at the police station, later on. The media covered the event. We really don't know how it turned into this four-people-on-a-train stupid story. First time it came out was in an article by Mr. Richard Owen, correspondent for The Times in Italy. He couldn't have got it more wrong. Four years later, it even ends up in our British publisher's press release. It's unbelievable. Four years ago we used to find it funny, now it's just... uncanny.
>Why the name Luther Blissett?
SInce nobody really knows who started the Project, we are not sure about their motivations in choosing this name. Of course there was much speculation, and it is generally believed that the Project needed the name of a person who'd been underestimated and misunderstood. Most likely, the prime movers of the LBP wanted to make a point about avenging the pariahs and the humble of history. Luther Blissett's season in AC Milan was unlucky to say the least. He was one of the very few black footballers in the Italian league too boot, thus he became an obvious target for racist chants. We all kind of liked the bloke and sympathized with him. By adopting his name none of us ever meant to be disrespectful, indeed, quite the contrary!
>Why do you feel the need to hide your identity behind this group pseudonym?
We hid our identity behind a pseudonym until 1999, when we announced we would quit the Project, because the Five Year Plan was coming to its end. Of course we had to do it back then, otherwise the open legend of that virtual folk hero, Luther Blissett, couldn't have been so effective and fascinating. Now our names are well known, only nobody gives a damn about them, because we are a band, Wu Ming, and who gives a damn about the individual names of band members. Except for 'Emerson, Lake & Palmer' and 'Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young' of course, and maybe 'Giles, Giles & Fripp' (Robert Fripp's band before he founded King Crimson), but... would you buy a book authored by 'Bui, Cattabriga, Di Meo, Guglielmi & Pedrini'. i bet you wouldn't.
>What is the Wu Ming Foundation?
It is a collective of writers and tale-tellers.
>Why did you choose the 16th century Europe as a backdrop for the novel 'Q'?
Because it was the perfect backdrop for an European Western saga. We wanted to write an epic story of class war, utopia, betrayal, decadence and revenge, more or less like Peckinpah's *Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid*, Kurosawa's *Ran* or Leone's *Duck, You Sucker*, but with some weird theological twists and turns. The 16th century provided us with the bloodiest stories.
>What is to date the best reaction or result you have had to / from the book?
Thousands of people keep talking about it as though they're re-enacting the scenes, like it's a role play game, or the Rocky Horror Picture Show. That's creepy, in a way, but it is also exciting.
>This was a time of social and political upheaval when individuals began to
>question the established order of things. Were you using this as a
>comparison with today?
We'd be liars if we tried to deny it :-)
>Martin Luther completely changed the world with some simple ideas. Is that
>about to happen again?
Actually one of the things we tried to put in the book is that Martin Luther was just a puppet and the Reformation could be summarized like this: "It's the economy, stupid!".
>The Pope still commands a fair degree of power whereas our own Arch Bishop
>(head of the Church of England) has seen his role relegated to a minor
>irritant. How do you see it unraveling in the future?
Well, currently the most important thing is that both your Arch Bishop and our own Pope are opposing the Imperial war on Irak. We'll talk religion in more peaceful times.
>It is interesting that you set the book in a critical point from Western
>History. It seems that under US capitalism we have become disconnected from
>history. Do you think it is time for us to become reconnected?
Yes, we do. Italy needs that, continental Europe needs that, the UK needs that.
>How important was it that the book Q was a collaborative effort with not one
>person put on the pedestal of authorship?
None of us could have written it all alone. Or indeed he could have, but it would've taken him up to fifteen years, we're positive about that. The whole group's effort allowed us to write it in three years, from 1995 to 1998.
>With the US regime about to demonstrate its might to the rest of the world is
>it time for likeminded people to begin to find a way forward away from
>traditional institutions (current political parties, marches)?
Yes, of course, but we think it is already happening. Think of the powerful changes brought about by the Net and the related anthropological transformation, all this community-forming, the new horizontal media, the blog phenomenon. The latest social movements woulnd't exist without this revolution.. Think of the free software movement, thousands of people working together and challenging the institutions of intellectual property... Think of the World Social Forum, connecting all kinds of groups and individuals worldwide. It's happening.
>Is 'Luther Blisset' a revolutionary?
We don't know about the footballer. The other 'Luther Blissett' was certainly a rebel bandit. Some of the people who shaped his reputation and legend called themselves 'revolutionaries', some others didn't. The Project's target was not the traditional milieu of lunatic hardcore uptight militants, it appealed all kinds of open-minded people, even people who felt society migh need a change of direction, but not a revolution. The result was a saga of ever-shifting meanings, which was very inspirational for many other people and movements. However, the legacy of the Luther Blissett Project will be told or sung by someone else, not us.
That's all, I hope the answers were clear enough.