Lady Goosepelt

Fuzz Junket

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

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.


“Do Not Adjust Your Set” Missing Episode Found!

Not many people have seen Do Not Adjust Your Set — hell, not many people have even heard of it. It tends to get sidelined as “that thing before Monty Python”, because you’d better believe it featured three whole Pythons — Eric Idle, Michael Palin, and Terry Jones — before they teamed up with John Cleese, Graham Chapman, and Terry Gilliam. DNAYS also has a very special place in my heart because every episode featured a song by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, who sound like cats fighting in a wet alley and who might be the greatest thing to happen to music since Hitler decided to give up on his singing career. DNAYS is a rare delight — a clever, weird, clearly half-arsed, vaudevillian romp. It ran for two series between 1967 and 1969, and despite nine episodes being released on DVD in 2005, the majority of the show is missing.

It was unfortunately not uncommon for television studios to ditch the masters of old broadcasts from the 60s, especially when those masters were on expensive-to-store videotape which could be taped over and reused for other programs. It was the 70s and no-one saw home video coming until they’d already flushed their past down the toilet. The most high-profile missing broadcasts are the lost episodes of Doctor Who because of the show’s enduring popularity, but a lot of other well-loved shows also have holes in their archives. DNAYS totaled 29 episodes, nine of which from the first series were released on DVD, and two more of which are floating around the Internet as low-quality bootlegs1.

My heart skipped a beat when I read that my friend VinceNzo (@RhinoRepellant), an archival researcher and general Bonzos whiz, had uncovered a lost episode of DNAYS. Vince and I first got acquainted when I posted a Bonzos bootleg on this blog, and we’ve been trading notes since then. I wrote to Vince and asked him about his find. It turns out that he did some digging and was able to uncover the missing episode from the Prix Jeunesse Foundation. Prix Jeunesse is an international foundation which promotes quality children’s television, and evidently they know their onions because in 1968 they picked season one episode four of DNAYS2 for the “Prix de Jeunesse International TV Festival” award in the “Youth Programmes: 12-15 years old” category.

Last year Prix Jeunesse celebrated their 50-year anniversary, and as part of their celebrations they did a “best of the best” retrospective. Vince suspected this meant they had their own archive of past winners and wrote to the head of the foundation, who replied that she was watching DNAYS at that very moment. Scandalous! She very generously hooked Vince up with a copy of the episode, which he was then able to hand over to Kaleidoscope (an organization specializing in vintage TV) and the BFI.

After tracking Vince to his evil lair built into the side of an active volcano, he was generous enough to offer to answer some questions about his find.

I suspected series two was languishing in a television archive somewhere, but I didn’t think more episodes of series one would turn up.

What rather shocked me is that series two is as much a black hole to the BFI and Kaleidoscope as it is for me. Besides the dates of broadcast, tapes of the Christmas special, and one regular episode, there is NOTHING. What the hell happened to all those shows is a riddle wrapped in an enigma, packed in a mystery.

Do you suspect there are any more missing DNAYS waiting to be found?

Not immediately. It’s a bit of a pity that only one episode of the show won the award. It was this information that lead me directly to the foundation and the discovery of the copy that was sent off in 1968 by Rediffusion or ITV to enter the competition. What is made obvious is that with a little creative thinking and some detective work it is possible for everyone to trace lost shows.

I understand the Prix Jeunesse Foundation sent you a digital copy of the missing episode. Is that the highest quality copy, or do they have a master on tape somewhere?

No they have sent me a regular digital SD-quality copy. I don’t know what kind of tape is in their vaults but it will be a copy of the pre-broadcast tape in a format that was regular in 1968. If the digital copy that I’ve received was made from the original tape it might need some restoration. During the segment for Captain Fantastic there is some damage to the picture but this is very little.

Will the BFI be in contact with the Prix Jeunesse Foundation about this or other missing episodes?

I don’t work for Kaleidoscope or the BFI so I don’t know but I would certainly recommend they do. There is good chance there might be more “lost” shows in their archives. The Prix Jeunesse Foundation recognizes the importance of television programmes being preserved for future generations and I am convinced they will render any assistance possible when this is needed by Kaleidoscope or the BFI.

The BBC had some success releasing the recently discovered Doctor Who episodes3 online. Is there any word on if or how the recovered DNAYS episode will be released?

Not yet, but I think it’s important that people see it. It’s not only a part of English heritage, it also won a major international prize. I have watched the episode myself several times and besides that it’s obviously filmed in monochrome, in the programme itself there’s nothing outdated. It’s still a very funny show and not just for kids.

I understand you’re still hunting for missing broadcasts — what do you think you’ll look for next?

My quest is mainly the television performances by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Currently I have my eye on one show which I cannot imagine didn’t survive. To prevent other people getting in the way, at this moment I can’t tell too much about it.

If someone reading this has any information about missing TV shows, who should they contact?

After they have made sure the show is indeed in the database of missing shows, found on www.lostshows.com or the website of the British Film Institute, the best way is to post a message on the Missing Episodes forum.

I haven’t seen the recovered episode myself, but Vince has posted some edited highlights on YouTube. They are tantalizing to say the least. The Bonzos are always at their best when you can see them pulling faces, cavorting around, and generally doing everything except playing their instruments. I’m also a huge fan of Denise Coffey as Mrs. Black in the “Captain Fantastic” segments, a silent-film-style adventure serial where Coffey flings herself around London with gay abandon, cackling madly.

According to Vince’s notes and some surviving scripts, the recovered episode features the following segments:

  • Moustache Opener
  • Hello! Sorry!
  • Bonzos interlude
  • Chicken Bones
  • Rabbits Part 1
  • Captain Fantastic
  • Rabbits Part 2
  • James Watt
  • Ali Baba’s Camel” by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
  • Dancing Class (feat. Neil Innes)
  • Lunch
  • Horse Doctor
  • Bonzos interlude
  • Burble Drama

Because there’s already a DVD set of DNAYS, it doesn’t seem likely they’ll do another one to accommodate the extra episode. Our best hope for seeing it is probably if they do an online release, which would cost them very little but still give us a legal, paid way to watch it. We live in hope (and that strange sticky mist that follows you around). BFI, be amazing! Please release this if you can — we would love to see it.

Thanks to Vince for his diligence in tracking down this missing episode, and for being nice enough to put up with me while I asked him stupid questions.

Notes

  1. The 1968 Christmas special and series two episode two. 

  2. First broadcast on January 25, 1968. 

  3. THE ENEMY OF THE WORLD & THE WEB OF FEARFOUND!!


Certainly never send me any email here: gerald@fuzzjunket.com.