A comedy detective fantasy; CSI in the land of Widergard, where fantasy has grown up a bit and Nicely Strongoak is just your average Master-detective-for-hire, if your detective happens to be a dwarf with a handy hand axe. In a city filled with drug-taking gnomes, goblins packing heat and a serious case of missing-persons, Strongoak might just be what’s needed, because this is one dwarf that is never going to leave a single cobblestone unturned.
Just so you know: there’s politics in my fantasy world, because there’s politics everywhere.
To which you might well reply:
“We’re overrun with politics now; can’t we have a break please? I like my fantasy to make me feel better not worse!”
Sorry, fantasy is the real world now. However, politics doesn’t have to be all bad – honest
The politics in Widergard (Wider-earth, gedit?) is different, not just because it was the elves that introduced democracy when they returned from Overseas, but because Widergard is a modern(ish) world with many different races. You know, the usual suspects: men, elves, dwarfs, goblin, trolls etc, who all now have to get on together.
That’s what politics is all about after all, isn’t it? Getting on together – or at least it should be.
You think we have problems here? Just imagine trying to draft a Race Relations Act when there are six different races? Well, seven if you count the Pix, but nobody really does – which is strange as they are some of the oldest inhabitants of all these fantasy worlds.
They don’t get a lot of press the Pix – I think writers worry about them bringing down the tone.
There is something quite remarkable waiting, biding its time, in the cellars of the UK’s Wine Society. Actually I’m sure there are numerous remarkable things in the cellars of the Wine Society and sure as Alan Sugar, I’m not going to taste any of them!
In principle the bet sounds quite simple. Professor Lewis Wolpert has bet Dr Rupert Sheldrake that by May 1, 2029, given the genome of a fertilized egg of an animal or plant, we will be able to predict in at least one case all the details of the organism that develops from it, including any abnormalities.
Sounds reasonably straightforward eh? I mean, given the rate that our understanding is growing this must be a distinct possibility. Genomics, the study of an organisms entire hereditary mechanism is a burgeoning area of research and is producing astounding results – such as the much trumpeted identification of the human DNA nucleotide sequence in 2007. Alongside genomic research we have major strides taking place in proteomics, the study of the proteome (the set of proteins expressed by any cell at a particular time under particular conditions). New advances in methodology and technology, such as Ultrahigh and Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography (UHPLC and UPLC) threaten to accelerate the pace of research by offering higher throughput and better and ‘cleaner’ data for genomic and proteomic research.
So what’s the bet about? Is it just a case of: ‘if not then, then later?’
What is Rupert Sheldrake’s beef?
The current resurgence of interest in the more recent history of worlds like Middle-earth, (often classified as Fairylands) in books such as ‘Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf’, has come at a time when academic research into the field has also never been more fertile. Perhaps the productive area of investigation has been in the understanding of the Paleoanthropological relationships that exist in the Hominini lines of ‘Fairyland’ and how they relate to what is known about our own (Homo sapiens) developmental history. This article will give a necessarily brief review of thinking in the field and highlight some of the more interesting ramifications especially as they relate to Widergard.
No Fairies in Fairyland
The name of Fairyland is of course a misnomer and harks back to a period when our limited level of understanding of the Realm lead to several suspect classifications of the Hominini species present, including the rather nebulous class referred to as ‘fairies’ – a rag-bag group which could include elves, ‘pixies’ and even gnomes. It is interesting that although current revisions have excluded this division, the name ‘Fairyland’ still remains a useful reminder that there does exist a large body of study of the realm that predates the admittedly revelational works of modern authors. Whether it’s called Fairyland, or indeed other names, places such as Widergard continue to fascinate.
The family tree of the Hominini of Fairyland is given in Figure 1. Although some parts of the relationships are perhaps more controversial and speculative than others, particularly in the dating of the divergence of the dwarf/elf branch from that of gnomes, goblins and men, in general it provides a useful framework for further discussion.
Writing recently about ‘The Prisoner’ recently I forgot to mention that Patrick Mcgoohan’s previous incarnation as John Drake, ‘Danger Man’, was known, for reasons I never quite worked out, as ‘Secret Agent’ in the USA. Probably broadcast elsewhere by this name as well – maybe.
I thought it would be jolly to have a listen to the opening credits, because ‘Danger Man’ had one of the best themes ever! All praise to the late Edwin Astley, who also wrote the theme for ‘The Saint’. No way could ‘Secret Agent’ beat that! It couldn’t, of course, but I did recognise the theme as the song ‘Secret Agent Man’ sung by Johnny Rivers and written by P. F. Sloanand Steve Barri (of ‘Eve of Destruction’ fame).
When it got to the chorus I sort of stopped and my heart skipped a beat (didn’t really).
Here it is:
“Secret agent man, secret agent man
They’ve given you a number and taken away your name.”
So, the question must be: was the whole of ‘The Prisoner’ inspired by the lyrics of ‘Secret Agent’, the American name for ‘Danger Man’?
To is there something else we don’t know about going on here? Continue reading What’s in a Number?
‘The Prisoner’ was a 17 episode television series broadcast in the UK in 1967. Wow, that makes it 50 years old. Wow, that makes me old too!
Co-created by its star Patrick McGoohan, combining spy fiction with fantasy, science fiction, allegory and psychological drama, there had been nothing like it before and probably very little like it since. After the airing of the far from illuminating last episode people wandered the street looking dazed and confused for days.
Or maybe that was just me.
I loved it, partly because I had been a huge fan of Mcgoohan’s previous secret agent series ‘Danger Man’ and partly because it had just about everything the younger me liked at that time. No breasts, so ‘Game of Thrones’ is ahead there. (“Oh grow up Dr Tel!” “No, won’t! Tried it, didn’t like it!”)
The good news is that it is currently getting an airing on the ‘True Entertainment Channel’ for those that have Freesat (and heaven’s knows what other providers.) I caught up with an episode last night and the even better news is that it hardly creaked at all!
What is more, back in 1967, some genius had decided to film the series in a widescreen format. I was literally seeing more ‘Prisoner’ than ever!
I never knew that. The Wiki document says it was filmed in 4:3 picture format. It fitted my 16:9 TV beautifully! Portmeirion, the ‘Italianate’ Welsh resort village had never looked better. It was one of my favourite episodes too: ‘Schizoid Man’, which is very close to one of my favourite songs of all time ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ by the ‘mighty’ King Crimson, also produced in the late ‘60s. (Yes, I do have favourites from other eras too!). I am writing a TV series for a European Production company, guess what it’s going to have lots of in it? Fantasy, science fiction, allegory and psychological drama – if I can convince them.
And then it occurred to me last night, for the first time I was watching ‘Schizoid Man’ in the 21st Century! I’m not saying the thought ‘blew my mind’, but it got me typing this morning!
Catch up with both of them if you can.
An update on the next Detective Strongoak novel.
Those of you who have been paying attention will know that ‘Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf’ was a #1 Kindle Bestseller in the Epic Fantasy genre. It has sold some 5300 ‘units’, which is pretty good for a book published initially as an ebook with a Print On Demand paperback only coming out some months later.
Thanks for that everyone!
Sadly the road to publishing continuity can be a bumpy one. Suffice to say, the next Nicely novel has been completed – as has number 3!
I am hoping that they will be with you ASAP.
In the meantime there is a co-written SF comedy coming your way soon with fantastic cover art and an accompanying – Ok, can’t tell you that!
Hopefully some of you have had a chance to see and listen to some of my work on the feature film ‘Chasing Robert Barker’, which is available on Video On Demand services like itunes and Amazon.
Plus I have started work on a game story for a fantastically talented writer/artist/game maker. That’s going to be a more long-term project, but it’s just phenomenal – already!
That’s just how writing goes sometimes, but it beats working for a living. Continue reading Writing – it’s a funny business (or not)
Kurt Vonnegut had Pumpkin. Neil Gaiman had Cabal. John Steinbeck had Charley and was so fond of Charley that he went on a road trip with him, which he wrote up in a book entitled ‘Travels With Charley’; a title which didn’t even raise a snigger back then.
I had Gonzo for too few years and this week I am delighted to say I have Fifty and Lotte here as honorary writer’s dogs. The “writer’s dog” is a well-known notion, but what exactly is the role of the canine companion for a writer?
Well, for a start, a dog gives you somebody to talk, and even read to – and they are hardly critical at all! They help you feel you are not alone in the world, facing an army of hostile critics, unhelpful agents, demanding publishers and whooshing deadlines (© D. Adams). As a living, breathing, yawning (often farting) being your dog connects you with a world that is larger than the inside of the skull that you live in most of your time – which has a nasty habit of being both too constrictive and infinite at the same time.
Dogs make you move. Not excessively so, but the occasional trip to see what they are barking about is a good way to keep the circulation going. New research has shown that the majority of writers who do not move are dead. This is bad for a writer, although it can be good for sales. It is very bad for aspiring writers.
Dogs need walkies. Walking is an extended form of movement that is very good for writers too. Although it takes them away from their computer/word processor/typewriter/pen/pencil or quill/slate – slate being the choice for real hard core traditionalists. Walking can provide some much-needed thinking, or even inspiration, time. Ideas, characters and plots can come together when you walk in the most opportune of manners.
Also, collected poo in a bag is a very good metaphor for what most writers have to face in their chosen profession. Above all though a dog gives a writer what they probably are really looking for in life: indiscriminate adoration. If only dogs bought books.
Got to go. Lotte is grumbling at Fifty about something. Ah, movement – thank you writer’s dogs.
My original writer’s dog Gonzo: Continue reading The Writer’s Dog