Lady Goosepelt

Fuzz Junket

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

Highly Irregular

It seems webcomic artist Stan Stanley is on the wind lately. Last week a film crew made a short movie at my flat and the Sound Guy noticed two Stan sketches I have in my hallway from back in the day when she used to have art sales on LiveJournal. (Remember LiveJournal? Yeah.) It turns out Sound Guy (his new name forever) was a big fan of Boy Meets Boy, one of Stan’s earlier comics when her nom de plume was K. Sandra Fuhr. Since then I’ve been re-reading her autobiographical comic Stananigans! and rediscovered her two strips about wanting to be a regular where you can have “the usual” and the cupcake-related benefits thereof. I can appreciate the way people feel about having a regular haunt where everybody knows your name and I am wild with envy for anyone who gets free cupcakes, but I’m one of those people who finds minor social interactions awkward. I hate forgetting people’s names, though I do it all the time. I hate mixing two people up because they look a little bit alike. I feel terrible when a restaurant accidentally brings me the wrong food because their English isn’t very good and/or my accent is incomprehensible. Having a “usual” loads up an already weird interaction with a whole lot more baggage.

I love chit-chatting and swapping jokes with waiters and bartenders — I’m not being antisocial. But when someone asks if I want my usual, they’re making a big assumption and my first thought is, “YOU DON’T KNOW ME.” I can’t help it — their assumption complicates everything. It should be simple: I buy something and they make the magic happen, not: they guess what I want, I evaluate whether or not I like the subset of the menu that’s been presented to me, and then justify why I might contradict them. I had a similar experience lately when I was dating someone who ordered for me at restaurants without asking what I wanted. It’s so patronizing.

Then there’s dealing with the fall-out. If it turns out I do want my usual, then suddenly I feel like one of those sad-acts who goes to McDonald’s every day for ten years to eat the exact same burger. I am predictable, I’m in a rut, and what’s worse it makes me picture the last six months of the exact same meal being pumped into me all at once like a human lard-balloon. And if I want something different today? It turns into a major production. “Woahhhh,” the server will say. “Don’t want an orange soda today, huh? What’s that about? Is it not good enough for you?” Maybe I feel like a cola today, all right? Didja ever think about that? Why is it suddenly a federal case?

As soon as anyone offers me “the usual”, it’s an instant guarantee that I’ll never go there again. I’d rather not deal with a whole bunch of expectations I never wanted. I guess if that’s antisocial then my punishment is being deprived of free cupcakes. This saddens me deeply, but then I feel happier knowing that people like Stan have earned them. Oh! And since I don’t know if they exist anywhere else, I thought I might end on a happy note and share those beautiful Stan sketches I have in my hallway. I really love her work, and if you haven’t seen them you should check out her new comics The Hazards of Love and Abernathy Square.

Fox Maharassa
Rafi and friend shop for Pringles

Skunks Dance is Swaggering Into a Saloon Near You

Skunks Dance Cover

Ladies and gentlemen, my new novel Skunks Dance will be swaggering into a saloon near you this January! It’s been three and a half years since my last one, but it’s been time well spent slaving over the manuscript on long, lonely nights with nothing but a bottle of honey whiskey and a plush Dalek to keep me company.

Skunks Dance is a comedy about a long-lost treasure buried in the town of Skunks Dance and the two teenagers who are trying to dig it up. Adventure! Murder! Tutus! These are just some words!

You may be wondering what could have possessed me to write something that is part Western when I don’t have any great love for Westerns. That may be true, but I have an undying love for ruining Westerns, and you can’t ruin them any more than by making them in England in the 1960s. I mean just check out this old Doctor Who episode from 1966:

Come on now, that’s just good value, and I can vow that I did every bit as little research into the Old West as Doctor Who did in 1966.

Skunks Dance is currently available for pre-order as a hardcover and an ebook on Amazon.com. You should also check out Kevin Alcantar, the amazing artist who did the cover artwork, and follow him on Instagram.

Still need convincing? Check out the blurb and sample chapters, or download the press kit which is chock-full of details. Like these questions they were nice enough to ask me:

Why did you choose to start writing YA novels? What about your voice really caters to that audience?

I got into YA novels when I realized you can get away with pretty much anything except being boring. If you write for adults you instantly get shelved as one genre or another, but YA is kind of its own genre. No one bats an eyelid when you write about radium-obsessed teenagers in antique flying machines, or Old West vamps with guns that shoot round corners, or accidentally assaulting people with candy cake-toppers. The only thing you’re not allowed to do is be boring, which suits me fine. When a book spends ten pages telling me how the protagonist cooks dinner and how everyone’s hair smells, I’m halfway ready to drop-kick the thing into the street.

Writing effective humor is often difficult. What do you find to be the most effective way you create humor in your writing?

You’ll never make everyone laugh, and if you do then it won’t be interesting writing. There are never any hard rules for writing jokes, but I love wit and I think it’s important to take the reader by surprise. If the reader can guess the punch-line before it’s delivered, the joke is probably going to fall flat. Look at something like Rick and Morty — it refers heavily to popular science fiction, but even in plots we’ve seen before we never know what the hell’s going to happen next. Or what Rick’s going to say. Or even the correct use of the dinglebop end of a plumbus.

Both Radium Baby and Skunks Dance involve an adventurous search. What is it that you love about the classic adventure search with a twist?

You have to be able to bring together characters who don’t like each other — that’s where you get your drama. There are lots of ways of doing that, but I like a search because it lets you take your characters to the moon and back, as long as you bring it round to the MacGuffin in the end. It also gives the novel a clear goal, even if you never get there or if the goal was illusory all along. Having done two of them now I’ll probably do something different for the next novel. A torrid love story between an ostrich and a potato. Or something.


The Test of Love and Sex

Goooood morning, kiddies, and welcome to the 1980s. It seems like that long since I posted anything, but just because I’ve been radio silent doesn’t mean I haven’t been working like a child enslaved by an Indiana Jones villain pushing the big wheels underground. What do those wheels do, anyway? And why do so many bad guys need them to be pushed? My theory is there’s a fairy floss machine at the top. If I were going to enslave children, it would be to make fairy floss. But just because my world has been lacking in fairy floss doesn’t mean there isn’t some really cool stuff about to happen. I won’t blow the lid off what I’ve been working on just yet but there will be a big announcement soon.

In the meantime I’ve been taking some jaunts all over the place. I discovered uranium glass in Reno, saw the Marx Brothers in New York, got all up in some ibises in Sydney, and of course I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for some prime-time crap-hunting in bargain bins. It’s one of these amazing vinyl finds I wanted to share now, a little single from 1980 called “The Test of Love and Sex / 3623 A.D.” by Fun With Animals.

"The Test of Love and Sex" by Fun With Animals.

Download Fun With Animals - The Test of Love and Sex

This is a beautifully bizarre little gem that hooked me right from the get-go. It’s obscure and hard-to-find, but it did manage to top Weird Al’s 9 Most Underrated Funny Songs list, which should tell you that this isn’t just another one of my weird obsessions. Although it is that too. I decided to digitize and post this single online because, although you can hear the A-side on YouTube, you can’t find the B-side anywhere and I actually think it’s a much funnier song. The hilariously farting trumpet-work is what does it for me. Every. Time. Plus check out this awesome cover artwork — I mean seriously, it was worth buying the single for the artwork alone.

"3623 A.D." by Fun With Animals.

Download Fun With Animals - 3623 A.D.

Weird Al described “Love and Sex” as a song about robot sex, which seems about right. It’s not the only song in that genre (“Coin-Operated Boy” by the Dresden Dolls and “Love Droid” by Zombina and the Skeletones), but it might be the first and it’s definitely not the least. I think “3623 A.D.” might be an even cooler idea, though — a song about ennui in a time when anything is possible.

I don’t have much to do,
It’s Saturday afternoon
And I’d planned to go with you
For a weekend on the moon
But you went back in time
To see the dinosaurs
So I had to stay behind
’Cause I’ve seen that stuff before.

When will they think of something new?
I’m just as bored as I can be.
No, there’s not too much to do
In 3623 A.D.

That seems oddly prescient for 1980. The previous 40 years had seen the rise of television, computers, space exploration, and electronic music. That’s pretty good, but it doesn’t compare to the enormous array of technological miracles that followed — the Internet, streaming music and movies, mobile phones, personal computers, computer games, GPS… And yet we’re still bored. Fun With Animals kind of hit the nail on the head there.

So who are these guys, even? Fun With Animals do appear to have a website describing themselves as a “retro-futurist” band. They’re also promising an album, but it has been almost 40 years since “The Test of Love and Sex” was released so I don’t know what to expect. The only other work of theirs I can find is another single called “Going to Pasadena”, apparently another favorite of Weird Al’s. I don’t know if you’re still out there, Fun With Animals, but this single is a goddamn gem and I hope you do make that album.