Issue 22 of T'Mershi Duween (p12) introduced me to the wonders of Robert Rankin, as Bill Lawson wrote to extol the virtues of "Armageddon The Musical", which included numerous Zappa and Beefheart references. I've since read the rest of the Armageddon Trilogy and the Brentford Trilogy, and a few other of his books, and the references keep on coming. So in an obsessive-compulsive manner I've listed the key references below for your amusement. I may have missed a few, either by accident or because I wasn't entirely sure if it was a definite reference, so feel free to let me know anything I've missed.
I would describe Rankin's writing as starting where Douglas Adams ends, before
diverting to a completely different galaxy of humour.
Visit the excellent Sproutlore page for more details of the Author and his books.
The Earth is a soap opera, watched by aliens, who decide to re-write the plot by persuading Elvis to dodge the draft and reverse a whole chain of events, including Vietman, etc. Earthers spend their post-holocaust lives building credits by watching TV for as long as possible all the time on one of 3 networks run by religious groups. Rex Mundi unearths the fact that the head of Buddahvision is actually the anti-christ, and saves the day with the help of Elvis.
The whole book extrapolates our current viewing trends into a future where watching TV is the only way to survive. The whole World is tied to one of the big three networks, and the book regularly mentions various shows the Earthers watch. The idea that the whole of human history was developed by alien influence to aid their own viewing figures pushes this further - an area Zappa has delved into on many occasions.
The book then tackled another of FZ's favourite hates - TV evangelists - here we have the natural extension - 3 competing networks, run by Pope Joan, The Dalai Lama and L. Ron Hubbard 23rd respectively. The latter of these has been highly satirized by FZ in Joe's Garage, or course.
There are many references to one of FZ's earlier fascinations - vegetables. The alien race use biotechnology - plants or any kind are used as cameras to send TV signals from Earth. A key player in the plot is a time-sprout called Barry who takes up residence inside Elvis's head.
References to other Zappa-ish stuff include Ollie North and Eric Dolphy, as well as numerous turns of phrase that FZ has used, but which I couldn't say were directly linked.
The Earth has become an Eden, but Rex is whisked away from domestic bliss to the past, prior to the 'Nuclear Holocaust Event' by Jack Doveston who discovers demons loose on the 'internet'. Meanwhile time keeps jumping back a few steps as the great flywheel powering the Earth keeps resetting as Earth approaches the NHE. Rex meets up with Elvis who has dedicated his life to destroying the anti-christ (now risen to the post of US President) before he can start the NHE with the aid of rich whizz-kid Jonathan Crawford. The latter turns out to be the son of the flywheel controller who has gone missing. The flywheel is fixed, and everything returns to normal.
Elvis travels throughout time, making a impact wherever he goes, so that people start uncovering statues & paintings of him from ancient Egypian times, the Roman Empire, etc. Rex gets involved when he digs up a statue of Presley, and subsequently it gets stolen by two hoods building a collection of Presliana from throughout history. We then cross plots with Lazlo Woodbine who teams up with Rex to save the day. Jonathan Crawford returns, along with a two-headed kid called Harpo/Chico, and there's an alternative universe in there too...
Max Carrion ends up in the future, a time when the age of technology has been replaced by the age of myth & legend. He tries to use his skills as an 'Imagineer' to help people who have become settled into a rustic/feudal way of life - and ends up in trouble. His soul is removed and he must carry out a task to retrieve it...
Throughout the later chapters, Max constantly refers to his plan to regain his soul in the form 'PHASE ONE', 'PHASE TWO', etc.
God's been killed in an insurance scam, his 3rd son Colin is implicated and Lazlo Woodbine's on the case. He teams up with Icarus Smith who's aim in life is to relocate things to their proper places (not like stealing at all, no-siree). Together they solve the case and set everything back to rights.