Author has written 74 stories for Discworld, Good Omens, Biggles series, Dennis the Menace, Father Ted, Captain Scarlet, Misc. Comics, British Comedy, Lord of the Rings, Scandinavia and the World, Thunderbirds, Daria, Family Guy, and Frasier.
OK, so where do I begin...
Male. Should be old enough to know better.
Educated in a school that combines aspects of Terry Pratchett's Hugglestones Academy crossed with the Assassins' Guild school. Served, in a way that combined aspects of Lieutenant Blouse and Nobby Nobbs, in the British Army (dewch ymlaen, bechgyn...). My chosen avatar: I spotted this character in a cartoon strip (9 Chickweed Lane by Brooke McIldowney) amd I thought - well, she thought - it was the image of me when I was younger and had a beard. so I thought - why not?
Further educated at the University of the Esoteric Arcana, Norwich, England. a tribute to what an architect can do with seven million knock-off breezeblocks.
Currently resident in Stockport, a nondescript town overlapping the south of Manchester. Stockport has a twinning arrangement with a sunny hotspot in the South of France, so it's easy to see what our councillors get out of the deal viz-a-viz freebies and "fact-finding missions". It is less easy to see what Beziers gets out of being twinned with Stockport, which, if anything, should be excluded from any sort of twinning. However, the town is more temperamentally suited to opening a joint suicide pact with somewhere in Sweden.
Used to be too intelligent by half, but by virtue of persistent and diligent alcohol ingestation, is now only too clever by about a quarter.
Why do it? Because here's only a limited amount of the real thing out there and really good writers fire your imagination and you want more. With only one new Discworld book appearing each year... well, you have to create and share your creations. The best of it is satisfactorily like the real thing and provides a fix, maybe in a codeine-compared-to-medical-heroin sort of way.
But it isn't original or ethical:- Funny, nobody ever says that to those very talented and capable musicians who form tribute bands dedcated to copying and performing other people's original works with note-for-note accuracy. Fanfic writers are actually taking it a step further by producing original work in the style of... even if the technical competence is variable, at least we're showing originality within the framework of, say, Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld or Father Ted's Craggy Island purgatory. Look upon us as the tribute bands to great modern authors. Some superlative, some merely good, and some deluding themselves.
It has rules:- Word of God, ie the author's published canon (including publically released notes, outlines and possible themes) is the final arbiter. If I write Terry Pratchett's Discworld, say, I don't let the original characters say or do anything out of known character. I don't let their backstories or histories stray from those set for them by Terry. I use the Discworld maps when plotting stories and I try to use them logically and realistically. (ie, it takes time to walk from the Tump to Dolly Sisters and the most logical route is...)
It has possibilities:- The OC's are so clear in the minds of anyone who reads them. The principal members of Terry's rep company of characters are so sharp and clear and developed that it would be hard to go out of character with them (I steer away from slash - although that's not saying I'll never do it, all things are possible). Similarly, the bulk of the action takes place in either Ankh-Morpork or Lancre, both of which are well-developed "sets" for the action. OK, Terry has taken the action to places like Genua and Überwald and offered us glimpses of Agatea, Fourecks and Howondaland. But it's a big Discworld with lots of space on it. That's a big playground... so just as Fourecks is emphatically not Australia, I have taken the liberty of introducing another lost colony, for which any resemblence to South Africa at a nasty stage of its history is all in the mind. But oh, such fun to write, especially as I can throw in some Tom Sharpe homage as well... a Discworld country which is very definitely not Canada, but which has some Canada-like qualities, is in preperation...
And it has character:- I try to steer clear of introducing completely original characters. OK, maybe Joan Sanderson-Reeves, who is an amalgam of a British character actress who did mem-sahib types, of my old school Matron, and my former mother-in-law, who was an old-time classroom monster who could make a kid wet her knickers in fear from fifty feet away. She was needed as literary glue, to help three other characters cohere together. But my favourites are the "barely there" characters, who appear once in the Discworld canon and who while being there and given roles and occupations and names, are yet even to speak or do much more than be spear-carriers in the background. Miss Smith-Rhodes, Madame Deux-Epees, Alice Band... Terry dropped an enormous clue in the very name of Miss Smith-Rhodes ( look at the political history of Southern Africa) which was a gift in fleshing her out as a rather stroeppy Suid-Efrrrrikaan. Madame Deux-Epees could be nothing other than "Quirmian", and I have, I hope, treated Alice Band sympathetically (Terry might raise an eyebrow at her sexuality, though; but this seemed to write itself and felt right. As Alice pointed out in assessing herself, Johanna and Emmanuelle: "Ye Gods. A dyke, a virgin and a nympho. We really are a wide scross-selection.
Now scroll down to the bottom where there's a list of sixty-odd things I've written.
You might not get the full flavour if you haven't read too much Discworld, but I hope they can be read intelligably as "stand-alones". "Murder most 'Orrible" is a crime thriller where the Assassins, the professional killers, have to act as the Murder Squad and arrest the suspect. You maybe don't need too much background Pratchett for this. Similarly with Whys and Weres, where a werewolf has to understand that her folk aren't the only shapeshifters in town - there's competition, and of a feline sort at that. Rincewind among the Redskins develops a throwaway joke about Red Indians on the Discworld - Pratchett set them in "Howondaland", the Discworld's Africa, so somehow they needed to be fitted in there... (the Disc has no official North America, so its Indians need to fight for space with "Arabs", and both black and white "Africans"). Fans, though, have said my best two works, unadulterated slices of Pratchett pastiche, are The New Guild and The Civilian Assistant.
You now have a chance to decide for yourself.
This must be said:-
One of my fanfics offended readers of the Mormon persuasion. What can i say apart from - if you come into the Good Omens continuum through the door marked "Crowley", then you will be cynical about religion. This is the text of an "author's note" I appended to the story: apparently these are forbidden in the story itself, but may go here:-
Crowley v Crowley, part ten – an apology
I crave your indulgence if you were expecting to see more of our heroes in the murky world of ritual magic in late 19th-century Europe. The research for this has taken longer than I thought, and besides, I feel I can't move on without making some sort of personal statement and a little apology here first.
I delayed a bit about writing the continuation of this tale, as an aspect of writing GO fanfic that I'd kind of anticipated, but still didn't know how to respond to when it happened, was the realisation that in being sceptical and rational of mind about religion, and especially in putting established world religion through the filters of Crowley and Aziraphile's collective world-view, was that sooner or later I'd offend somebody.
I was prepared for denunciation and angry responses over my portrayal of Islam and the Prophet in an earlier chapter. As it happens, that chapter garnered nothing but praise and approval and a general thumbs-up from readers, both in published reviews and PM's, for which I thank you. Even though I'm vaguely disappointed that I am not the subject of any fatwas and I can walk anonymous and unmolested down Stockport Road(1), and can still go for a decent curry in Rusholme(2) without it being spat into or worse.
The crunch moment came in the last chapter when I had Crowley, in his inimitable way, help establish the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints. A reader of the Mormon faith contacted me to express a degree of hurt and offence at my portrayal of the Mormons. This worried me and if that reader is reading this now, I know I didn't respond and please don't take that for bad manners, except by default. The fact I'd been called to task raised a lot of issues and I really didn't know how to respond. Was I morally right to give offence to even one reader's sincerely-held religious beliefs? Was my right to candid comment and free expression so important?
This has been niggling me for a long time – hence this tale has been suspended in the telling – but I've decided to let the greater part of everything I wrote about the Mormons stand. Leaving aside the fictional component – and do realise my use of Crowley as ultimate founder of the religion is completely fictional, you can discount this as you please – everything else I wrote about the Mormon faith is completely truthful and may be verified by a look at any objective history book. This religion did until not very long ago adopt a racist, all-white, position and denied black people and native Americans church membership. It really did hold as a theological view that only white people had souls and blacks were nothing more than a semi-human animal. And this did provoke a row with the American taxation authorities, who quite reasonably held the point of view that taxpayers' dollars – some of which came from black Americans - could not be seen to subsidise an openly racist church.
QUOTES DESCRIBING MORMON RACISM:-
But our greatest leaders have emphasized time and again that
"John Smith is the founder of the church and regarded as a a holy prophet. And he wrote: ‘Had I anything to do with the negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species.'
The second prophet and former president, Brigham Young, whom the famed university is named after, stated: ‘You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable, sad, low in their habits, wild, and seemingly without the blessings of intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.'
Despite these pronouncements, though, official church policy eventually caved in to the demonic liberals. Joseph Fielding Smith, our 10th prophet and former president, was forced to say: ‘I would not want you to believe that we bear any animosity toward the Negro. ‘Darkies' are wonderful people, and they have their place in our church.'"
And some people contacted me to say I was repeating hateful nonsense with no grounding in fact?
To its credit, the Mormon church appears to have grown and evolved past that point, and its former racism has apparently gone the way of polygamy – all Churches, after all, grow and evolve and their world-view alters with time. I can testify to having met and spoken to black Mormon missionaries in Britain who have absolutely no problem with their church and are happy and comfortable with it. After the fall-out over the last chapter this was a point of detail I was keen to research!
And of course I can testify to the Mormon church paying more than lip-service to Christian qualities such as charity, in the form of unstinting overseas aid, and disaster relief. (At least, it regularly gives more than other mainstream American churches manage). And it may be near-impossible to get even a decent cup of coffee in Salt Lake City, let alone a decent drink – although I'm told you need to know where to look.
I have removed one gratuitous reference from the American chapter, a play on words and the name of the angel Moroni, as I freely admit this was offensive. As well as unoriginal. I apologise unreservedly.
As a comment on religion – new religions, new forms of faith, happen from time to time. Their origins may be contentious, but in the long run, set against their potential for doing good and the sum total of the good they bring into the world, does this really matter? I can only quote Anthony Crowley's thoughts on the Islamic faith, as put into his mouth in a previous chapter:-
this is amazing, this is a sublime human achievement, but I'm very sorry, it isn't a divine revelation. But it's incredible that it's coming out of this chap's head, all the same. And does it matter where it came from, so long as it's basically accepted by people as a valid religion?
This, I guess, is also a comment on Brigham Young and Mr Smith. If it becomes something real and genuine and valid, to a given value of "real", then over time its actual origins matter less and less. And I do recall the reader who objected to my portrayal of the Mormons adid applaud my interpretation of the origins of Islam... a religion which in its Sufi manifestation I do have a lot of sympathy for.
Religion is a bridge between men and what they perceive their God's intentions towards them to be. People strive for the unknowable and glimpse of something bigger than they are. I may bill myself as a born-again agnostic, but I still attend Mass now and again. (And make all the Catholic jokes you like – no skin off my nose! My religious education was by Jesuits, an order of priests who are trained to be the Devil's advocates and think the unthinkable. All I can say is – thank you, Fathers, for shaping my brain the way it is and indirectly making this fanfiction possible…) Religion, any serious religion, facilitates and provides shape to this very human need. Including the Mormons, as they are today.
But… every religion should be open to criticism as well as praise(3). It keeps them honest, for one thing.
And as for people striving for the unknowable and wanting not only glimpse of what lies beyond, but a full Technicolor production on panoramic screen… well, Eliphaz Levi, the Golden Dawn and yes, Aleistar Crowley, will appear in the work from now on, having got this belated apology out of my system. There will also be an unexpected cameo (at least to me – but it began to write itself…) from a character who appears in my GO fanfic, The Viennese Job, with one or two of his mates. In a way, the next couple of chapters will be a postscript and a return to the VJ, so if you ain't read this yet…
Dear departed reader, please return to the fold. Am I forgiven?
(1) Two big mosques and several madrasses, in an area of Manchester populated by Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Somalians and middle-Easterners.
(2) The world-famous "Curry Mile" – actually more like the curry two-thirds of a mile- where two out of every three businesses are "Indian" eating houses – actually Bangladeshi or Pakistani – with a scattering of Iranian, Lebanese, Syrian, morrocan, and other cuisines of the Islamic world. It also has Manchester's main mosque, and any white European faces tend to be diners and visitors. Any visitor to Manchester should eat here at least once.
(3) Apart from we Roman Catholics, who are of course paragons of perfection….
April 2010:- to clarify for the confused. A.A. Pessimal is also known as AgProv on h2g2, the Terry Pratchett L-Space, GoComics, and other talkboards. He just fancied a change here. Therefore a lesser Pratchett character was adopted. Have I become him?? - and given how popular some of the stuff has been, is wondering exactly what a monster he's spawned. FanFic is not a thing people are meant to be good at. It is said, with some justice, that 90% of fanfic is crap,(but the remaining 10% is worth dying for). But here it bloody well is... thousands and thousands of hits on the better stuff (and some that he'd privately call crap) and a catalogue of generally admiring or at least favourable reviews.
His favourite authors:-
Terry Pratchett (Discworld)
George McDonald Frazer (Flashman and McAuslan)
Michael Moorcock (straight sci-fi and fantasy)
Harry Harrison (satirical sci-fi, sci-fi humour such as The Stainless Steel Rat)
Tom Sharpe (the Piemberg farces set in apartheid South Africa; the Wilt series, which are very English comedies and farces of manners)
Derek Robinson (black, very black, comedies of air combat in WW1 and WW2 - the anti-Biggles of Capt W.E. Johns)
Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea -the magnificent Illuminatus! series
Sven Hassell - pulp war fiction.
His favourite cartoons/comics:-
Classic British childrens' comics, ie Beano, Dandy, Sparky: Dennis the Menace and his chums, anything drawn by Leo Baxendale. VIZ, the filthy but funny anti-comic.
Judge Dredd, 2000AD, Slaine
Steve Bell's lunatic, left-wing and subversive If...
Berke Breathed's Bloom County, the other big newspaper cartoon strip starring a penguin;
David Reddick's magnificent fantasy-fiction parody Legend of Bill - Terry Pratchett would approve!
Alison Barrow's sweet PreTeena (hey, I've been a stepfather to teenage girls... I'm not saying it was an unalloyed delight, but it gave me a few privileged insights into the way their minds work. Alison Barrows recaptures it perfectly for me with the Keene family of New England)
And Jennifer M. Babcock's C'est La Vie - America, and especially L.A., seen through the eyes of an existentially minded Frenchwoman and a very louche toy rabbit, possibly played by Serge Gainsborough. Wickedly funny. Go forth. Read it.
These last few available, with the exception of "IF", on GoComics.
Humon's excellent Scandinavia and the World.
His favourite radio and TV:-
classical BBC radio comedy such as The Burkiss Way, H2G2, Son of Cliche
Lunatic TV humour like Python, Rutland Weekend TV, Sledge Hammer, Ripping Yarns, Father Ted
There is a new venture out called the Terry Pratchett Fanon Wiki, in which Fanfic writers are invited to treat their characters, settings and stories as if they were part of the official canon and to use the space as a place to expand, revise, rethink and re-write their concepts. This interests me and I think it has wings, so I've added a few sample articles (as AgProv writing about Pessimal) to help get it started. For instance, a long article explaining more about Johanna Smith-Rhodes, how she is there in the Canon, and how she evolved in my stories into the tough cookie she is today - fills in a lot of her backstory in Howondaland in a way that, I hope, makes her internally consistent.
Interested? It's on Wikia.
Curently banned from posting on all BBC messageboards. This annoys as I am not a troll, I only write about them.
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