Mad about the Woman

The Wonderful Tara Paulsson as Wonder Woman in 'Life and Times of a Wonder Woman'
The Wonderful Tara Paulsson as the many different facets of Wonder Woman in ‘Life and Times of a Wonder Woman’.

It’s hard to express how much pleasure the arrival of a certain ebay purchased action figure has given me. Mad’s Alfred E Neuman as Wonder Women – when Two Worlds Collide! And two of my favourite worlds as well.

So, let’s get Mad!

America’s Mad comic was a complete joy to a British young New Town boy. An occasional treat thanks to the scarcity of all American comics at that time in the UK. I’m not sure if it’s a early urban (marine?) myth, but I once remember reading that the comics were simply brought back to England as required ballast for ships returning to the UK from the States. To think the survival of our inner fantasy life was then dependent on a form of paper stabiliser.

Mad was something special; something we just didn’t have in magazine form in the UK. It’s mixture of satire (oh yes it was), inspired art work (Where are my Don Martin collections now, who nicked them?) and great reoccurring strips (Spy versus Spy – swoon) made each issue something to treasure and reread. And even when I actually became a freckled sticky-out eared Newman, when my family changed its name, it never worried me that Mad cover star Alfred E. might become an albatross around my new New/Neu neck – most boys I knew were more into The Dandy and Beano. Mad was a gateway into a different world … and I liked it.

Wonder Woman was a different matter and a rather different Gateway (Gateway City, geddit?). DC and Marvel comics could be as hard to obtain as Mad in a small New Town. On a limited budget one also had to pick and choose and Wonder Woman generally had to be picked up as a bonus when purchasing another DC legend like Superman or Batman. And then come Linda Carter and TV’s Wonder Woman wonder woman autographand what a difference that made! Boy, what a difference! She has something that made an adolescent male look at the comics in a totally way. It’s hardly surprising then that when I came to write about female stereotypes and the roles of women in society I chose Wonder Woman to frame the discussion. My ‘Life and Times of a Wonder Woman’ with the sensational Tara Paulsson did well on the Edinburgh Fringe stage and was a Herald’s Critic’s Choice, with the fabulous Tara Paulsson playing “Wonder Woman” in her many different guises: TV star, comic icon, Amazon and stripper/lecturer in feminist studies. The play was also staged in London and then, joy of joys, it went to the New York, where the New York Times said:

“This multilayered, one-hour, one-woman show is an ingenious conceit, a way of talking about feminism, sexuality and society’s view of women, told through the history of a cultural icon … part history lesson, part feminist tract, all funny,” Continue reading Mad about the Woman

Some of My Favourite things

Hey! When somebody asks you your favourite things, there really is only one way to answer – yes? In song! Hit it Maestro!

Heinlein and Hammett and Chandler and Butcher
Most Douglas Adams and some Arthur Koestler
Lloyd Biggle junior Lord of the Rings
These are a few of my favourite things

Forward and Pratchett and Kerr’s Bernie Gunther
Patricia Highsmith and lyrics by Lerner
Then Robert Holdstock and Easy Rawlings
These are a few of my favourite things

Asimov’s robots and Dalziel and Pascoe
Shardlake and Sam Spade and Umberto Eco
Dragons that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favourite things

When the orc bites
When the blade swings
When I’m bleeding bad
I’m simply remembering my favourite things
And so I don’t feel too bad.

Continue reading Some of My Favourite things

The Day I Didn’t Meet Douglas Adams

The day I didn’t meet Douglas Adams was a Thursday. I’m not sure of the month or year, but I do remember it was a Thursday – I thought it was rather appropriate. That, by the way, was a ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ reference. If you didn’t get that you might be better off reading another blog.

It was in Cambridge, where I didn’t meet him, which was also rather appropriate as Douglas (I can call him Douglas as I never met him) was both born in Cambridge and went to university there. I did not go to university in Cambridge, but at the time when I didn’t meet Douglas, I was working at Nottingham University. I was a Macintosh Research Station. Actually, I was part of a larger multi-media development group, but as I was the only one using the Mac, and we were sponsored by Apple, that made me ‘the station’, or so I liked to think.

The Apple sponsorship took the form of the use of their very latest computer – one that incorporated ‘Hypercard’. I was using this rather fab little program to show how, if pictures and information are classified using the BBC’s hierarchical Telclass system, a specially written search engine could assemble a subject node, without using text searching. This method could, in theory, produce ‘new’ information not noticed at the time of classification. Yes, pretty cool – Douglas would have been excited I am sure, if we had ever met.

A Very Well Read Book - and a pen
A Very Well Read Book – and a pen

Apple were impressed, when I did my demo to them. I’d assembled a short subject node about tigers with drawings I’d done of tigers and mammalian locomotion, muscles and the like. They stood behind me and said:

Continue reading The Day I Didn’t Meet Douglas Adams

Not with a Bang but a Whymper

150 years ago this year England’s Edward Whymper became the first man to climb the Matterhorn. I’m not sure if he did it in tweeds; I’d like to think so though. He did not do it “because it’s there”, that was said by mountaineer George Mallory, of the ill-fated Everest attempt some years later, however Edward Whymper, I’m sure, would have agreed with George.

And now I’m going to make what could be a really, really forced and credibility stretching analogy – because writing a book is very much like climbing a mountain.

It is, honest!

View from the the Top
View from the the Top

Continue reading Not with a Bang but a Whymper

Climbing the Comedy Writing Ladder.

I had a mate in Cambridge; well he is actually still a mate – just not in Cambridge. He told me about some people who were putting on a live topical comedy show in small Cambridge venues. They needed some material, so to make a change from what I was doing (worrying and drinking mostly,) I wrote some sketches and they used them.

I was delighted – absolutely over the moon – well stoked!

Well-stoked Terry on his board.
Well-stoked Terry on his board.

Continue reading Climbing the Comedy Writing Ladder.

Vote for Fantasy and Science Fiction! Only we can save the future!

With the election looming, time for a confession. I have been politically active for a large number of years now, but I’ve never joined a party, posted a leaflet or ‘doorstepped’ a constituent. My contribution has been a little different, but still equally as important I feel: I’ve made fun of them all.

I’ve written political comedy for the radio, for television and a number of live shows. To hear your political thoughts, sketches and jokes being performed by some of the best talent in the country is a great buzz. I heartily recommend it.

A Typical Politician (what we all believe really)
A Typical Politician (what we all believe really)

Continue reading Vote for Fantasy and Science Fiction! Only we can save the future!

Why Fantasy Writing is Like Rocket Science

Fantasy writing can be tricky but it’s hardly like rocket science is it? Why yes it is actually, and I should know, because I’ve done both.

Now let’s get one thing straight. By rocket science I don’t mean the actual science of rockets. Surely we’re pretty good with rockets by now, so how much more does that leave to work out? However, what we do with, and on rockets, is a different matter.

And I once worked on a project funded by the European Space Agency, all to do with growing plants in Space. Because if we are going to have anything like self-sustaining colonies in space they are going to need plants.plant in space Continue reading Why Fantasy Writing is Like Rocket Science

Feeding the Horse with the Green Nose

A.F.E Smith, the talented fantasy writer, is to blame. Or rather, I should humbly thank AFE, not blame her. It was an interview with AFE that brought ‘The Horse with the Green Nose’ back to my mind. Now, I can’t get that horse out of my thoughts, what’s more ‘feeding the horse with the green nose’ has become my catch-all phrase for my own fiction writing.The horse with the Green Nose

You see, ‘The Horse with the Green Nose’, by Agnes Frome, is one of the earliest books I can remember reading. It had been passed down the generations in my family; battered and worn but with a fabulous soft cover and a unique smell. I can’t tell you much about Agnes though. It seems likely that Frome was a nom-de-plume, taken from the town in Somerset. Some clever genealogical work has discovered that she was probably really Agnes Dora Rimmer, born c 1895. Continue reading Feeding the Horse with the Green Nose

The Good, the Bad and the Elvish

Elves, you just have to love them, don’t you? I mean, with their natural in-born nobility, un-specified magical powers, tall blond looks, high cheekbones and pointy ears, what’s not to like? No wonder that the most unfairly maligned of youth cults, the peace-loving hippies, was so taken by them. Unless, of course, your elves happen to be small enslaved domestic helpers with no dress sense and a habit of talking about themselves in the third person: “Blobby wear sack now”.

A typically unattractive elf. What do they see in them?
A typically unattractive elf. What do they see in them?

Continue reading The Good, the Bad and the Elvish