Monday 31 December 2012

Magic Falls - Part One

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The crowd counts down to the end of 2012. My dead wife holds me and whispers that she loves me.

Fireworks explode all around London as it slips into 2013. We stand high above with the crowds at Alexandra Palace looking down from the north of the city. Before us, the entire city is laid.

The view is amazing, with rolling waves of colour as the city celebrates the new year. It’s actually difficult to look anywhere that fireworks aren’t going off. The city of London has become a rolling wave of colour, like the rain has created a kaleidoscope waterfall spreading ripples of light.

But I am distracted, as I am focused on holding my wife and telling her how much I love her. I do not want this moment to ever end. I can see her, hear her, touch her, and smell her. It has been so long. I kiss her, and taste sparkling white wine and cigarettes.  It is the first time I have kissed her in months.

“I love you too,” I say.

I kiss her again. It has been only months? Has it really been so short a time? It felt longer, but when I kiss her for the second time in months, it feels like she never left. Never died.

I don’t cry. I haven’t cried since she died, and I thought I would cry seeing her again. But it feels like part of me died with her. Or maybe it died later, when we cast the spell that nobody thought could be cast. Maybe that was the cost of it.

I move the umbrella to the side, allowing the rain to pour down on us both. For now, it feels enough like crying to feel appropriate.

“Oi!” she shouts at me, laughing. “You’re going to get us both soaked!”

“I don’t care,” I say, laughing back. “I want to feel every moment of this!”

“Happy new year, Darren.” She says, kissing me again. The rain trickles down our faces against our mouths. I hold her close to me as we kiss. Her body feels familiar against mine.

“Happy new year, Nina”, I say.

“Give me the umbrella,” she says. “I need to call Dad.”

I pass it to her, as she tries to call.

“Damn,” she says. “The network’s down.”

“Call him in a bit, then. Look,” I point upwards. Chinese lanterns float above us, even against the rain.

“They’re beautiful,” she says.

“They’re supposed to carry away your worries and fears,” I tell her.

“They were originally designed for war,” she says. “They were for sending messages. Or signalling. Something like that, anyway.”

“And there I was trying to be spiritual,” I say, and she laughs.

War. There was a word I didn’t want mentioned tonight. Not yet. No matter. There’s time yet.

“I think 2013 is going to be a good year,” she said. “2012 was okay, but I’ve got a good feeling about this one. This is going to be our year.”

“I think so too,” I lie. “It’s going to be a good one.”

We walk back to our house, and I savour every moment that I can. I try not to think about what I know is coming. Her hand feels cold in mine, and that bothers me. It feels dead.

But before long, there is shelter and warmth, and there are hot drinks and talking and sitting together, and then there is more kissing and then there is the bed and we make love.

I have earned this, I remind myself. This time with her. For what I have done and what is to come.

Tomorrow, I’ll have to pretend everything is normal and go to work, and pretend I don’t know everything that I know. Soon, I will have to contact Jack, Maria and the others. But for now, there is just Nina and there is me.

We finish and she lies in my arms.

And then there is sleep.

And then there are the nightmares. Of course there are. I was a fool to think that I could have escaped them. I dream of them all. Of stories and myths and legends.

I wake up before Nina, and I go into the living room and switch the television on. The newsreaders recount the celebrations of the previous night before they explain a much odder and more disturbing news story.

At the Tower of London, one of the Beefeaters was found dead in the early hours of the morning. He poisoned the Ravens and then killed himself.

I did not know this would happen.

And now the tears come, because I am afraid.

I am afraid of what is to come. Of the pain and death and suffering that is in store for so many in 2013.

It is the year my wife dies.

It is the year of the final war.

It is the year that magic falls.

It is the year that the world ends.

Part Two

Magic Falls - an introduction

What is Magic Falls?

Magic Falls is a story I'm publishing on my blog in instalments in 2013. For now, I'm going to keep details light, but they will be added as the story builds. Each instalment will have links to the previous ones for new readers.

Magic Falls is something of an experiment for me, but I'm hoping for good things. Here are the rules I'm setting myself:

1 - Each instalment will be an absolute minimum of 500 words. Most will be longer, and some will be substantially longer, but this is the absolute minimum.

2 - A new instalment will be posted weekly.

3 - No editing previous instalments, except for typos and the like.

4 - I cannot move onto the next instalment until the previous one is completed.

Why 500 words?

I'm hoping it'll be more. It's just the absolute minimum each week. This way, even if my computer breaks down, this is an amount that I can write on my phone if I have to.

Have you plotted it out yet?

Not really. At the moment, it's an idea. I have some thoughts about where it will go, and I do have the end in mind, but nothing is set in stone yet.

Why are you doing this?

To push some good habits, primarily. I tend to write in fits and starts, so I want to make sure that at least once a week, I'm forced to sit down and write something. Also, I'm very curious to see if I can write a story in instalments and build an audience. I think I can, but we'll find out.

Do you welcome feedback?

Definitely. I'd prefer it to be constructive, obviously, but if you have questions - ask. If there's a loose end somewhere you think I've forgotten, remind me. If you have ideas on what is going to happen, talk about it in the comments, on twitter - wherever you want. I want your input and thoughts on this one.

Is it going to be any good?

I hope so. I think I've come up with a strong idea, and there's definitely the potential for a compelling story in it.

Sunday 16 December 2012

The Christmas Plan

The young man carried the newest selection boxes to the display stand, and set them up next to the sun-cream.

The shop sound-system looped back to the beginning of the CD and Noddy Holder shouted out maniacally once again. The young man removed his santa hat and wiped the sweat off his forehead before replacing it.

“Brian?” His supervisor shouted over.

“Yeah?” He shouted back.

“We’re going to need a refill on the mulled wine after this. It’s next to the Pimms.”

Brian wished that there were windows in the Supermarket. He looked at his watch. Nine-thirty at night. He wished he could be in the pub garden with his friends. He wished he could see the sun instead of just feeling the heat.

Slade gave way to Wizzard, who sang that they wished it could be Christmas every day.

Finally, it was too much for Brian. He sank to his knees in front of the selection boxes and burst into tears.

It was an announcement that nobody expected. It came during the budget statement, and the Prime Minister stood up to support the Chancellor while he made it. The financial situation in the country had become untenable, and something had to happen. Every measure they’d tried had failed. It was time for something drastic.

The Chancellor explained that the build-up to Christmas was always a strong one for the economy. And so, for the next calendar year, Christmas would not be held just once a year as it had always been, but would instead be held every Sunday. Fifty-two weeks in a row.

The live twenty-four hour news coverage ground to a halt due to none of the presenters or producers quite knowing how to react. There was silence across the channels for a full two minutes before the voice of the producer on BBC Live 24 was unintentionally broadcast, screaming to get the fucking Archbishop on the phone.

When they actually managed to get the fucking Archbishop on air, he gave a very hesitant endorsement of the idea, since worshipping the birth of Our Lord was obviously a good thing, wasn’t it? And since more people going to Church each Sunday would be good for the Church, wouldn’t it? It sounded like he was actually thinking it through while answering, since he ended up far more confident about the idea than he did when he started.

Richard Dawkins refused to take part in any interviews.


The first week it happened went smoothly. Presents were bought, roasts were cooked and churches were attended. TV channels had been given enough notice that a completely new schedule of Christmas specials filled the TV screen throughout the day.

Even the Queen’s speech had a lighter touch than normal, as she giggled twice during it. Of course, for her, this had been the biggest change in her routine that her life had ever seen. A Queen’s Speech during the first week of January was possibly the most mind-blowing thing she had ever been asked to contemplate, but there she was anyway.

The second week wasn’t quite as good.

The Queen forgot her words and froze. Shops ran out of Brussell sprouts, wrapping paper and cranberry sauce, having not had time to order in advance. There was a new status quo and they just weren’t prepared.
The protests outside Downing Street started on the fourth week, although they ended by the seventh week, when it was deemed illegal not to celebrate Christmas, using an extremely old law dating back to the early celebrations of the fifth of November.

At first, it seemed that the law was on shaky ground, however the Government made clear that they would not extend this law to other protests, and it was, after all, only for one year. When the arrests started, the population began to realise that they were tied into it after all.

The TV specials had notably declined in quality, as the lead-time ran out. By June, the Christmas Special of Doctor Who involved Matt Smith in a sixty minute story featuring him fighting no enemies at all, and just having a Christmas dinner with former companions. Although, to be fair, this was actually the most critically acclaimed episode of the entire year, and was seen as a triumph for Stephen Moffatt. The September episode where Matt Smith was ill and spent most of the hour trying not to vomit was less well received.

Suicides reached their peak in May, which surprised statisticians. They’d expected them to keep rising throughout the summer, but they gradually fell off throughout the year. “Maybe it’s the thought that we’ve got less to go than is already done,” one theorist said. Less optimistic statisticians pointed to the overall fall in the poverty rate, suggesting that those least able to afford Christmas had been the main ones to go, but other than the Guardian, nobody bothered reporting that. It just seemed a bit too grim.

The rich had their own problems. Sundays had just become doubly expensive to pay anybody to work, so employment cost a bit more over the year than it had done before.

However, by August, it had to be admitted that, on a basic financial level, these measures were working. Spending had definitely gone up. Savings were being depleted, but profits were up.

The response was taken well by some, but others were devastated. A large part of the population was hoping that it would be judged to be a complete disaster, and the plans would be abandoned. Royalists were also up in arms, as the Queen was visibly more and more distressed as the weeks went by (although by September, she stopped giving a shit and just stared angrily at the camera for the length of the speech each time it was on). There was a small and continually growing group of people who seemed to completely love it, though. The whole thing. Not just Cliff Richard fans and people who owned novelty ‘Keep Calm, It’s Only Xmas’ mugs either. Some people seemed to carry Christmas around with them all year in a way that suited them.

In October (the same month that the murder levels reached their peak), Mary Berry was fired by the BBC, for her diatribe on a live episode of the Great British Christmas Bake-Off, in which she declared she “couldn’t take any more fucking cake. I’m done. I’m done with fucking cake.  I’m done with fucking Christmas Puddings. I’m done with fucking crackers and their shitty gifts inside. I’m done with fucking Mass every Sunday, and I’m seriously tempted to kill the next fucker that sings ‘Silent Night’. No, don’t try and stop me, Sue, I’m going to have my say. There is no God, this is just a sham, and fuck you all.” Paul Hollywood tried gamely to keep the show going with her replacement, Vanessa Feltz, but the magic was generally agreed to have gone. Mary Berry, meanwhile, was offered a job on Channel 4, where she seemed to massively enjoy her new role in charge of the hit show “Mary Berry’s Merry Bally Christmas”, where she was encouraged to rant. Sales of ‘Mary Berry Was Right’ t-shirts suggested they were an increasingly popular Christmas gift.

The strangest thing happened in the third week of November. TV ratings dropped almost entirely, and everyone appeared to spend time with their families and actually enjoy themselves. The crime rates dropped to almost zero, and the overall mood of the nation grew rapidly.

It appeared that the usual point where the serious run-up to Christmas started was actually the point where people started actively anticipating the end of the year. The blitz spirit had taken hold of the country, but it could only have endured as long as people had an end in sight.

The 25th of December itself was an enormous party, although the nation as a whole seemed to suffer from a metaphorical hangover for the final week.

The 31st of December was a sedate affair. People nodded at each other when they passed in the street, the weathered and aged faces reflecting what they had been through. Nobody spoke about it. Nobody needed to.

The country had endured and come through stronger. The economy was undeniably doing better, and the boost had definitely helped.

But six months later, it was down again.


The Chancellor stood up in parliament. His eyes were sunken, like someone who had spent the entire previous night crying.

“I have an announcement…” he began, knowing he was throwing away the next election.

Friday 16 November 2012

The Face Of My Father

My father is currently about halfway through "The Song of Susannah" by Stephen King. It’s the second-to-last part of the seven part epic "The Dark Tower". And when he gets to the end of that, it will mark the end of a strange and personal journey for both of us.

My family is very close generally, and I love them very much. I could write a book about how awesome my Mother and Sister are, but I’m very specifically aware how lucky I am to be so close with Michael Brosnahan. Not everyone has their father as a regular part of their lives, and even fewer get on with theirs in the way that I do. Tragedy stopped my Dad from being able to get to know his own father, as he died in a work-related accident at the age of 25, when my Dad was only five years old. The few pictures I’ve seen of my Grandfather, James Brosnahan, show a handsome young man.

One thing this has meant for my father is that he’s never had the experience of seeing how similarly to his father he would have turned out. Many people witness themselves growing to look more like their parents as they get older, especially if they take particularly after one parent. And Michael very much took after James, judging by those pictures. But he never got to see him grow older, and watched his own face change over the decades without being able to compare it with the original.

On the other hand, I have grown up with this. Even if I wanted to get away from it, I wouldn’t be able to. I look terrifyingly like my Dad. To the point where pictures of us together look disturbingly like a before-and-after hair dye commercial. I used to complain about that, but somewhere along the line, I quietly acknowledged that it was a good thing. He’s a good role model, after all – what Conan Doyle would likely refer to as a “capital fellow!”.

Dad and I get on particularly well partially because we share a lot of the same tastes. He’s responsible for my love of a number of my favourite things, ranging from The Marx Brothers and Casablanca through to the soft spot I will always have for Elvis and The Beatles, and including Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes. We don’t share all the same tastes, mind – I stopped following football in any meaningful way when I left home, and I’m not convinced he’ll ever get past his complete disdain for Quorn products.

When I was 15, I lived in the middle of Ireland with my family (almost literally. Stick a pin in the middle of a map of Ireland, and you pretty much have the village I grew up in). My Dad commuted to the outskirts of Dublin, where he primarily worked with young adults with behavioural difficulties. We got a phone call from his work one morning, lightly reminding him that he’d been due in work an hour ago, and had he forgotten? My Mum answered and told them that he’d left on time. Which he had. But it was a long commute, and cars break down.

Another phone call a little later and Mum started to get worried. And more worried with each phone call over the next couple of hours until eventually we received one from the hospital asking if this was the home of Mike Brosnahan.

For unexplained reasons, he’d become paralysed down one side of his body. He’d managed to pull the car over and get someone’s attention for medical help. The doctors diagnosed it as a blood clot. After a while, he was put on medication to thin his blood and released, at which point my sister promptly went into intensive care due to illness. She recovered quickly, and we were told that chances of reoccurrence were remote in both cases.

They both ended up back in intensive care in hospitals in different parts of the country within 24 hours of each other, both of them relapsing. They both stayed in for a while this time, and my Mum drove the two of us to visit both of them regularly.

They both recovered, but until they did, I did a lot of reading. It was my coping mechanism, and I got through the final book of “The Lord of the Rings”. Another thing my Dad got me into. Meanwhile, I managed to convince him, for the first time, to read some Stephen King while he was in hospital. I gave him a copy of “The Stand”, which is one of King’s best. It’s the story of a virus that wipes out almost the entire human population and about how the survivors start having dreams about either an old woman in the fields or a dark man, and then they… ah, but that would be telling.

He loved it. Partially, it was a heavy, entertaining book to get properly absorbed in while he was recovering, but he was also blown away by King’s writing. Indeed, both of us agree that Stephen King is, if anything, underrated as a writer. It gave him something to distract him, and it gave us something fun to talk about while he was ill.

It wasn’t a blood clot, by the way. It turned out, strangely enough, that he had an extra small bone that had formed in his neck and was pressing against a vein. He had to have surgery to have it removed, but recovered completely.

He read some more Stephen King, and we chatted about them, but obviously, that time stands out. It was one of the first times I introduced him to something that he ended up loving as well.

In 2005, he ended up in hospital again. This time, basically, with a broken back. Two discs in his lower back had fragmented and eventually shattered, driving shards deep into the nerves surrounding his spine. He had to have surgery to remove and replace the discs. The worst bit was removing the shards – you see, while they’d been embedded into the nerves, they deadened them. When they were removed, the nerves woke up again. And those bastards screamed.

He had to go through what’s known as ‘pain therapy’. This isn’t something that helps to reduce the pain. Oh no. Instead, pain therapy just helps you learn to deal with the amount of pain that you’re in. It’s roughly about as much fun as it sounds and takes twice as long as you’d think.

The pain caused him difficulty sleeping, which wasn’t something he’d really had problems with before. Over time, not being able to sleep causes you to exist in your own little vacuum packed existence, with the rest of the world a little muffled around you. Everything feels a little like watching your own life on fast-forward and sometimes pressing ‘play’ randomly. Putting together the exact path that led you to be doing whatever you’re doing at any point feels hazy and ill-defined. (Yes, I’ve had my own problems with it over the years).

This time around, and nothing to do with me, he ended up reading Stephen King’s “Insomnia”, the tale of a man who begins to experience different planes of reality and meeting strange doctors due to a lack of sleep. He didn’t just love this one – he lived it. The fact that he was reading it while on a slightly different plane of existence made it a strange experience that stuck with him for a long time.

Again, he recovered completely, but more slowly. Back injuries don’t heal fast or easy. But he worked at it, and he got there. One quality that my Dad has is a certain level of stubbornness. This thing wasn’t going to kick his arse, even if it did manage to make it rather uncomfortable.

Last year, for his birthday, I bought him the Dark Tower series for his Kindle. It was a bit of a gamble, even though I knew he liked King, as it’s a hell of a commitment to read. It had taken me years to get around to, but I’d adored it, and hoped he would as well.

He’s now coming up for sixty, and has been working as hard as ever. And earlier this year, he was diagnosed with a case of shingles. When he phoned me up and told me, I didn’t think too much about it. It doesn’t exactly sound serious, after all. It actually sounds more like a 60s folk band that I can’t be bothered listening to. He may as well have told me that he had a dodgy knee. “Ouch, that doesn’t sound fun. Anyway, did you see Question Time last night?”

I looked it up a few days later and called him back. Shingles is related to chicken pox, and is a painful and exhausting illness, and that’s if you don’t get a bad case of it. And unfortunately for him, he’s had a bad case of it.

No matter what he’s been through, Dad’s always made family engagements. He’s always done his best to do as much as possible, whether it’s advisable or not. This time, though, he’s just not been able to. There have been long periods of time where he’s just not been able to do anything except sit and read or watch TV. And he’s missed two trips to England for family events. He’s just been in too much pain or not had the energy. Or both.

So he’s been spending a lot of his time reading the Dark Tower series, following the gunslinger, Roland, on his quest to find the Dark Tower and what lies within. From the first line, he was hooked. “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed”.

And with very little else to do, he’s powered through the books. Again, during recovery, he’s turned to Stephen King, and again, we talk about it during just about every phone call. And I’ve absolutely enjoyed hearing about how involved in it he’s become. Again, it’s been something we’ve shared. And again, it’s something to distract him from pain and exhaustion and just enjoy.

And that’s important for both of us. It’s an odd connection, but it’s one that has brought us closer over the years. And there’s something very fitting about that, not least since The Dark Tower actually incorporates both The Stand and Insomnia into part of one huge uber-narrative.

Although now, I think that he’s going to be terrified if I buy him another long Stephen King book. He may not survive another epic. And besides, it begins to look suspicious, even if it would be a convoluted and complicated way to aim for any inheritance money. Besides, he’d twig eventually.

But, on the off-chance that Stephen King ever does read this, I’d like to pass on a small message and request on behalf of me and my father.

Sir, we’re both very big fans. In fact, we both regard you as one of the best and most important writers of the last hundred years, and will fight anyone that says different. But could you concentrate on short stories for the rest of your career? We’re both beginning to suspect that it would be good for his health.

Assuming you see your way clear to doing that, and not actually trying to bring any more pain his way by selfishly writing any more brilliant long books, thanks for bringing a father and son closer together.

And in the meantime, my Dad’s a book and a half off the end of the Dark Tower series. And I can’t wait for him to get there. Because while it’ll be a shame for it all to be over, I'm impatient for him to get to the end so I can find out what he thinks of it. He’s already been through Captain Tripps and the revelation found within the bookshop in the fifth book. And I've enjoyed his thoughts on both of those
But very soon, Roland will end up at the foot of that tower. And I already know what happens. And I can’t wait to find out what my Dad thinks of it.

It’s been a journey, either way. And while we’re a close family, and while Dad and I would be close anyway, I’ve been very grateful that we've had this odd thing that we've been able to share when he’s not been at his best.

“I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
I aim with my eye.

I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
I shoot with my mind.

I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father.
I kill with my heart.”

― Stephen King, The Gunslinger

Saturday 10 November 2012

Wake for a Bastard - John Constantine

Let me point this out from the start – this is an overreaction. I’m not going to deny this, and I’m also not going to deny that this is a somewhat self-indulgent post. So be warned. Because this regards the cancellation of my favourite comic book, ‘Hellblazer’.

DC Comics has had a very successful sub-brand for mature readers called ‘Vertigo’. Vertigo has published some of my favourite comics of all time. The kind that have been a huge influence on me in many ways.

As much as I love superhero comics, I would have likely given up reading and collecting comics some years ago if it hadn’t been for Vertigo. Or at least cut down fairly severely. Or a little. I may have read one less X-Men spin-off comic, anyway. But comics like Preacher, Sandman, Transmetropolitan and Hellblazer re-sparked my interest when I was in my late teens and early twenties.

The only surviving comic of that list is Hellblazer, which has been running since the 1980s. Hellblazer stars John Constantine (pronounced as in ‘wine’, not as in ‘wean’), a middle-aged scouser, who is a talented magician and con-man. He’s been indirectly responsible for the deaths of just about everyone he cares about and his most redeeming feature is the fact that he’s not a total bastard.

The comic got the attention of Hollywood, where he was played by… Keanu Reeves. But that’s more than enough about the Hollywood version.

Why do I like Constantine so much? Because he’s a cynical, arsey but realistic and hopeful character, rooted in British horror fiction in a believable setting. Also, and pretty much uniquely in mainstream comics, he aged and matured in something close to real time. He loved and lost, he reinvented himself time and again, he crashed and burned and he regularly outwitted the Devil himself.

Crucially, he didn’t do all of this because of some overlying plot. He didn’t outwit the Devil in the name of God, nor did he do it to retrieve some books of magic or anything like that. He just went about his life, and mostly wanted a somewhat easy life with an occasional bit of excitement.

The cream of British comic writers have dealt with him at some point or other. He was originally created by Alan Moore as a backup character in ‘Swamp Thing’ that was an enigmatic occultist based on Sting (which instantly becomes the coolest thing that Sting has ever been anywhere near other than the song ‘All For Love’). Jamie Delano redefined the character for a solo title, and Garth Ennis hit new heights with it. Mike Carey, one of the most solid writers in modern comics, took over for a run that felt a little choppy month-to-month, but read brilliantly when collected. Warren Ellis had a short but memorably nasty run, as did Denise Mina and Andy Diggle. Paul Jenkins’ run is the one I’m least familiar with, as it hasn’t been collected. Neil Gaiman and China Mieville have also contributed stories, and he’s the only comic character written by Ian Rankin. More recently, Si Spencer wrote a mini-series that was the best the character has been handled in years.

I first came to Hellblazer during Brian Azzarello’s run, which is not the most popular amongst fans. It kept John Constantine at arm’s length, keeping the reader in the dark as to what he was doing for most of the stories. For me, it was a great introduction – John was a smirking Devil, running rings around everyone with a smile and a bastard’s attitude. It was scary, unpleasant and memorable stuff.

Currently, and for the last few years, Constantine has been written by Peter Milligan. While I generally quite like Milligan as a writer, on a personal level, this run just hasn’t worked for me. It’s been a little too fast, and a little too silly at times. That’s not to say there haven’t been good stories in that time – a few stand-alone stories have been superb.

But that’s the thing about Constantine. Writers seem to like writing for him. It’s partially because he’s felt more real than most comic book characters. It’s partially because, for many of us fans, he feels like an old friend – and some of the best writers have been fans themselves.

He felt out of place in the super-hero universe he was created in, and seemed so utterly suited to nightmares set in the more mundane world. For 25 years, he’s barely interacted with the superhero world, and was essentially shifted into his own little universe during one of the semi-regular relaunches of DC comics.
25 years of history and growth for a character is somewhat unprecedented, especially in comics. The reason why is marketing.

To put it simply, Peter Parker has to be roughly in his mid-twenties. He’s married Mary-Jane Watson, and they’ve had kids, but that’s all been chopped off at the knees and restarted, because the money is in the version of Spider-Man that everyone knows. Superman can’t really be in his mid-fifties. He has to be eternally in his thirties (and following the most recent relaunch of DC Comics, he’s now in his twenties). Most of these superheroes are not so much characters as they are icons. And you can only allow icons to grow and mature so much before they have to be restarted, reversed or otherwise reverted to the status quo.

Hellblazer was never that commercial. Instead, John Constantine was a more three dimensional character, informed by his experiences in a way that just doesn’t happen in mainstream comics for the most part.
So why is it ending?

As part of their latest relaunch, DC saw fit to reintroduce a version of John Constantine into their main universe, which ran concurrently to the Vertigo version. In this new Constantine’s first story, he interacted with Batman and Superman. Since then, he’s been part of the super-team “Justice League Dark”, and is in charge of the ‘House of Mystery’, which he basically flies like a space-craft between realities.

After a shaky start, the new version is actually quite fun – although he’s A John Constantine rather than THE John Constantine. He’s a version that is toned down for a more mainstream audience. He’s a version that, if he gets into too much trouble, can call superheroes to come and help out. There’s a place for this, but I don’t see why it can’t run alongside the established version.

Instead, DC have now announced that they’re cancelling Hellblazer, and will be replacing it with a new comic called “Constantine”.

I’m not saying it’s going to be terrible. The title itself will probably be quite good – but it’s not going to be the same. It’s pitched more as fantasy superheroics rather than rooted in horror. And it’s just not the same character at the end of the day, and not least because this version wasn’t born in Thatcher’s Britain with punk rock influences. Whether they’ll be killing off the original John Constantine, or whether he’ll be sent off to the sunset with a smile, I don’t know. But I’m honestly somewhat let down by the fact they’re doing it at all.

There are writers out there that I would love to see write John Constantine. At the top of my list are Si Spencer, Paul Cornell and Kieron Gillen – three particularly good British writers. I’d also love to see what current comics superstar Scott Snyder could do with it, not to mention the rather wonderful Joe Hill. While I’ll still be interested in what any of them could do with the new version, it won’t have that same emotional impact as the John Constantine that I’ve been reading for years.

The goal of writing John Constantine has been a dream of mine for a long time. It’s one of the reasons I started writing, and it’s one of the reasons that I have done some work in comics journalism. Everyone needs something to aspire to, and for me, it was a working class con-man magician. I even wrote a short Constantine story which was illustrated by the brilliant Jason Miller as a short portfolio piece, which you can read here if you’re so inclined.

In the years I’ve been reading John Constantine, he’s survived Cancer, outwitted the Devil, lost family, lost his true loves, become a homeless alcoholic, lost all of his friends, travelled to Hell and back, got married, almost died in a coma and saved the world.

He’s not always a bastard. But he’s always been our bastard.

Personally, I think he deserves a little bit of a send-off. So for any Hellblazer fans who are Londoners, or indeed anyone willing to travel to London, I’d like to propose a get-together in a pub on the publication of the final issue in February 2013. The most obvious location is The Angel pub, round the corner from Forbidden Planet, but I’m open to other ideas. Fans can get together, raise a pint and hold a little bit of a wake.

So if you’re interested in the idea of coming to a Wake for a Bastard, get in touch with me via my twitter, and let’s see if we can get this idea rolling.  

The People's Palace - Hellblazer Fan Work

This was a portfolio piece that I wrote to be illustrated by Jason Miller. The idea was to write something to show Editors that showcased our ability to write/draw a short story using an existing character. I put it here as a companion to my blogpost where I propose a Wake for a Bastard.

This is not being done with any attempt to make profit, or to intrude on any copyright by DC comics and nor is any disrespect intended. If anything, it’s fan-fiction, and is only here as a curio. If you like Jason's art (and you should), you can find some of his prints for sale here.Hellblazer Chris Brosnahan Jason Miller 03

Thursday 18 October 2012

Debunking Nick Griffin's Likely Defences

Earlier today, Nick Griffin tweeted the address of the gay couple who took legal action against a B&B a while ago. He did this under the pretext of ‘heterophobia’, and promised that a “British Justice team” would give them “a bit of drama” to remind them that an Englishman’s home is his castle.

The couple in question are in their 50s and 60s, it is probably worth pointing out, just in case the clear incitement to violence weren’t bad enough for a younger couple.

He has been suspended by twitter, and many people are calling for his arrest. He is likely to play the victim in this, and continue to claim he is persecuted. But let’s debunk some of the possible defences he may try, shall we?

1 – “It weren’t me, your honour. I were hacked!”

Sorry, Nicky boy. Just after this happened, you used your twitter account to link to a statement on your website that explained why you referring to some Irish people as “Fenians” wasn’t racist in any way, but was in fact a call to the Irish to stop immigration into their own country or some such bollocks.

2 – “Inciting violence, your honour? No, of course not! I was merely suggesting some polite demonstration.”

This seems particularly likely, what with the BNP being known for their polite discourse and not at all for being a bit punchy when it comes to conflict. However, there’s one simple question that kind of breaks this idea.

What would a demonstration achieve?

The ruling has been made. They won. Even if they so chose, it’s not like they can now drop charges. With the absence of a working time machine it’s not likely that the kindly demonstrators would be able to do anything.

And besides, if Nick Griffin had a working time machine, he’d probably use it to go back in time to the 1940s and wank himself to death watching live speeches by Hitler. Or he’d go back and spend some time with his Gypsy Great-Grandfather*.

Basically, nobody believes that he was doing anything other than suggesting they get a kicking. Even if he had been, he’d likely have suggested a specific time. As it is, it was just publishing their address to his followers.

And if he did want to actually have a demonstration, why not outside the court rather than someone's home?

3 – “They’re heterophobes. They deserve it.”

Fuck off.

Not always being automatically in the right because of your sexuality is not the same as any actual discrimination. Complaining that you were treated differently because of your gender, race or sexuality is not the same as complaining that someone is different because of their gender, race or sexuality.
But in fairness, there is a time and a place for gay people in their 50s and 60s to have sex that isn’t their home. And the time is night time, and the place is a B&B somewhere quiet. Although they may have just wanted to have a Horlicks and listen to some Leonard Cohen. We’ll never know.

4 – “It was only a couple of tweets”.

He might have got away with this a little while ago, but after a strange year for the British justice system, people have been through serious court cases for things written on social media.

And they didn’t post people’s addresses, suggesting ‘justice teams’ were on their way around, seemingly thinking he was a shit Judge Dredd.

5 – “This is British Justice”.

No, it isn’t. The British Justice system has assessed this case, and have made a ruling. That’s part and parcel of living in Britain, a country that Nick Griffin claims to love, but is actually an embarrassment to.

In my professional legal opinion as just some guy, it seems to me that there’s a genuine possibility that Griffin may end up in jail over this. I rather hope that he ends up with a gay, black cell-mate, since it sounds like a wonderful premise for a sitcom. Well, I would hope for it, if it weren’t for the fact that it would be unfair to a gay, black cell-mate.

The best thing about this whole situation is that Griffin has absolutely, entirely, fundamentally and simply brought it on himself.

For me, this is why allowing the BNP to speak publicly is a good idea. They don’t seem to be able to help themselves but do stupid things like threaten violence, commit violence, and constantly expose themselves for the hate filled morons that they are.

Currently, Nick Griffin is suspended from Twitter. While I’d rather he be allowed the chance to further dig himself into his own hole, it does make for a nice message.

Nick Griffin is not capable of conducting himself properly in social media. But then, he does not seem capable of conducting himself properly in society.

*I would normally use the term traveller, but the thought that it may annoy Griffin amuses me enough to warrant otherwise.

Monday 8 October 2012

1 Missed Call

You have

1 Missed call from PAUL

1 New Voicemail

Diane looked at her phone for a long time before dialling the voicemail.

You have one new voicemail. Press 1 to –

She pressed 1.

“Hi babe. I’m stuck in traffic. I’ll try and make it up on the way, but hold off on dinner for a bit, will you?”

Press 1 to hear the message again. Press 2 to save it. Press 3 to delete it.

She paused, and then hesitantly pressed the 2 button before finally sorrow and relief overtook her and she burst into tears.

The hospital had called her on the landline, and she hadn’t seen the missed call until after they confirmed Paul’s death. The car had been hit by a truck less than a mile away from the house.

Her first thought, even though it sickened her in a way, was that she was free.

Free from the last fifteen years of marriage. Free from the manipulation. Free from the verbal abuse. Free from the disparaging remarks about her appearance. Free from the violence that he subjected her to every time he got drunk, and free from the inadequate apologies the next day.

She supposed she’d loved him but that feeling had been overtaken by fear a long time ago.

She went through the motions of a funeral, and the proper show of the bereaved wife and then moved to a new job and new life.

One night, she called up her voicemail. She decided to hear his voice one last time before deleting it forever.

You have one saved message. Press 1 to –

She pressed 1.

“Babe? Babe, I don’t know what’s going on. It hurts so much. I keep saying hello to you, but you don’t respond. What’s going on, baby? We can work this out.”

She deleted the message with a hand that hadn’t been shaking a minute before.

She didn’t sleep that night.

A week later, she checked her phone again. She must have been dreaming.

You have one saved message. Pre –

“Why aren’t you answering me, Diane? I said sorry last time. I meant it. Why aren’t you answering? Baby?”

She deleted it and threw the phone down.

The messages didn’t stop. He was always confused and always slightly scared. They came through about once a week at most, and once a month at least.

She changed phones, but they kept turning up. Changed numbers, to no avail.

Eventually, she met Mark. A nice man, this time. A quiet one. He respected her. Loved her.

The messages changed.

“Who the fuck is he, Diane? I saw you with him. Saw you. I will beat you until you can’t fucking walk.”

She stopped owning a phone then. Moved in with him. It worked.

Until he was hit by a car.

She was given his belongings by the hospital. Including his phone.

She looked at the screen.

You have

1 missed call from PAUL

1 new voicemail.

Monday 24 September 2012

Rape Jokes, Female Comedians and Re-evaluating.

Since I've noticed that this long, circular conversation about rape jokes in stand-up comedy is still completing its long, circular journey, I thought I'd add in a few thoughts. I am not an expert, or an authority on the matter, but I do feel like I have some insight. So this blog post will cover why I feel like I can talk about the subject at all, as well as my conclusions on it. Also, I'll mention what it prompted me to do, which may be of interest if you have any thoughts with regards to female comedians.

I organise a comedy night in Wood Green, at the Big Green Bookshop. It's an unusual, intimate gig set in a slightly odd venue, and it does seem to be one that the comedians and audiences enjoy. It's not a large one - regular crowds are between 20-50 - but we get a nice, smart, left-wing audience.

I also perform the MC duties throughout the night, which involves me acting as the warm-up for each half of the show, as well as my main duties of introducing and linking between the acts, so I usually end up doing around 15 minutes of material throughout the night.

So, effectively, I'm coming from the point of view of a performer and a promoter, as well as a fan of comedy.

Rape jokes weren't something that I thought about until I saw a rather good comedian at the bookshop, who put on what i thought was a storming routine that went down well. Except the following day, one of my friends was particularly upset. And she wasn't the only one. Two people (at least) in that small audience had been raped or sexually assaulted. I don't know the details. I didn't ask.

Basically, he'd made one or two off-hand jokes about rape during his routine, and for them, it ruined it. They'd been sat there, in the dark, surrounded by people who were laughing at something that brought up violent, difficult memories.

Now, one thing that I see some fairly new comedians doing - and when I was first doing comedy back when I was 20, before I stopped doing it for a decade, something I did myself - is working against what likeability you actually have. Now, your mileage may vary with regards to my personal likeability, but I'm mainly talking about other comedians. Being likeable isn't something everyone has, and I'm always confused when someone works against that with unpleasant material.

Maybe it's a desire to be seen as an angry young comedian. Maybe it's too much influence from comedians that play off the anger side of things. Maybe it's from a slightly paradoxical desire to be taken seriously.

But now, I am an old, decrepit man of 32, and I have no desire to make life more difficult for myself. If I can get an audience to like me, it's going to be easier to make them laugh. As far as I'm concerned, it's in my interest to take advantage of any innate likeability I have.

But doing material that could cause genuine upset, in a manner that I would have difficulty understanding? I find that hard to justify.

Now, that's not to say it's completely unjustifiable. All subjects can be talked about, and all subjects can be joked about. But I think that if you're going to tell a joke about something potentially very hurtful, be it race, religion, sexism, homophobia, or sexual assault, you should be aware of the potential consequences.

Essentially, I think my conclusion on the whole situation is that you can tell rape jokes, but they'd better be bloody good jokes, otherwise you're potentially upsetting audience members, and also turning them off you, for a joke that more than likely isn't worth that.

Obvious responses have been 'they're only jokes' and 'the majority of people like them'. True. But the majority of people haven't been raped. Sometimes, it's the minority you've got to look out for.

Jokes may not be intentionally malicious. I'm reminded of this clip from TVAM in 1984. Faith Brown may not have been intending to be malicious, but it's incredibly uncomfortable viewing. I suspect that some of the people who are arguing that rape jokes are fine are going to be looking back in twenty years in a similar way.

I'm not saying it's totally off-limits, and I'm not saying there haven't been good jokes told that involve rape. Sarah Silverman has at least one amazing joke about it in her catalogue, and on the London Circuit, I've seen Harriet Kelmsley and Nick Sun both do great routines involving it as a subject. But there was usually a different point being made (Silverman's is about Jewish stereotypes, Kelmsley's is about attitudes towards rape, and Sun's is deeply involved with his dark, screwed up comedic character).

Perhaps the point is just that it's a subject that needs to be carefully considered, and not just used casually or lazily.

Partially in response to it as a topic, I thought it would be nice to have an all-female comedians night at the bookshop. I thought it'd be nice to do something a little different, and run a night with a different ethos. It didn't start off as intentional - the first three comedians I booked were women, and I thought I may as well run with it. We did an all-female night last year, the month after we'd unintentionally had an entirely male lineup.

This time, I didn't want it to be a gimmick. When we promoted it online, we didn't mention that it was an entirely female night. When I MC'd, I didn't point out that all the acts were female. I just ran it as a regular night. And it was absolutely a regular night - in fact, it was a fantastic night. One of my favourites we've done.

At the end of the night, I was talking to audience members, and a few people said they hadn't even thought about it. Which I think is great. I don't know how noticeable an all-male comedy night would be. I suspect a lot of the time, it would go unremarked upon, but all-female line-ups tend to be flagged up as such.

This ties back in. I think a lot of the ways in which society is still more male-orientated are in ways that a lot of people don't see. Or at the very least, they are so in ways that I tend not to see. I feel like I'd notice an all-female lineup more than an all-male lineup (although the comedians that were booked that night were SO good that I think it'd have taken me a while to notice if I were an audience member) And in the same way, it can be easy to talk about rape, and not think about the victims, which while not exclusively female, are more likely to be female. The recent talk about rape jokes, and the reactions I've seen from some people, has caused me to think about how important it is to think about things from other points of views than your own, and use it to re-evaluate.

When it comes to equality, and when it comes to thinking about the possibility of offence being caused, I think it's important to sometimes do that. To think about what the consequences are, and weigh it up with what you're setting out to do. If it's worth it, absolutely do it. If it isn't, maybe just think about it again.

Sunday 12 August 2012

The Olympics: or Why I Was Wrong

I was probably as cynical as anyone in the run-up to the Olympics. I thought it was going to be a disaster, and on some levels kind of almost hoped that it was.

But the last few weeks have been entertaining, inspiring and generally pretty amazing. As well as being happy that London 2012 has gone well, I've actually realised what makes the Olympics such a fantastic and important thing.

For those of you who already know, you don't need me to explain it to you. But it's not true that for those who don't, no explanation will be enough. Because I didn't know. I didn't get it. But I do now.

Every day, and pretty much on an hourly basis, people who had travelled around the world achieved their life's ambitions.

Somehow, I didn't quite get that before. I somewhat wrote it off as "just sport". Possibly because I'm about the least sporty person I know. Possibly because, at school, sport represented something I was never going to be good at, and never going to be accepted at.  Possibly because it was something I always associated with negativity. But whatever it was, I was wrong.

The opening ceremony helped. It was such an astonishing spectacle of positivity and multiculturalism (which helpfully annoyed all the right people). It was something people talked about and were generally rather wonderfully enthusiastic about. It was something which a lot of people had been dreading, but went beautifully.

Team GB have performed really well, and other than some tabloid whining when they weren't winning golds, it hasn't felt particularly jingoistic in the same way that it's felt like it did when football was on.

I was a British teenager living in Ireland when some of the English fans (who were linked with neo-Nazi group Combat 18) tore up sections of an Irish football stadium during a friendly match. It made me feel physically ill when it happened. That happened a year before Euro '96, and it meant that I saw a nasty edge to the Jingoism that took hold, culminating with headlines like "For You, Fritz, Ze European Cup Is Over".

That was difficult to let go of. It was difficult not to feel as my first reaction any time England or Britain were mentioned in conjunction with sports. It was difficult not to associate it with a sickening and undeserved sense of self-entitlement and xenophobia.

However, the Olympics, and Team GB's achievements, haven't reflected that. Instead, they've reflected a rather beautiful example of how much Britain has changed, and how much it has changed for the better. A multicultural, slightly bonkers, weird, wonderful and humourous country. I mean, the most popular man in the country right now is called Mohamed. That's just brilliant.

But it wasn't just Team GB. Watching athletes reacting to losing or winning was continually fascinating. Seeing people cry due to a combination of exhaustion and pride while listening to their national anthem being played was truly inspirational.

Wrongly, I tended to not think about sporting achievements in the same way as I thought about artistic or scientific achievement.

But we saw records being set. We saw people continually achieving at the very pinnacle of human physical ability. Work, dedication and passion. People showing what we can achieve when we put our minds and bodies to it.

That's what the Olympics are all about. The mental, brilliant opening ceremony was about that too. And the fact that we landed Curiosity on Mars seemed appropriate.

Because we're human beings, and we continue to achieve amazing, wonderful, beautiful things. Creatively, scientifically and physically. The Olympics are a showcase for part of that. And we do it because we can.

If I wished one thing about the Olympics, it's that they'd been better for local businesses. Because that was promised, and it doesn't feel like it happened. That's not quibbling either. But now's not the time for it. That's tomorrow's discusssion.

For now, well done to everyone involved with London 2012. The organisers, the athletes, the volunteers, and the utterly wonderful BBC for presenting it so well.

Saturday 4 August 2012

The Secretary - Short Story

The most important thing you need to know about me is that “secretary” is just a job title. I have levels of clearance within this government that are higher than most people know exist. When the Prime Minister wants information regarding the department I work in, he calls me directly and it is down to my discretion whether or not I tell him.

My predecessor committed suicide before she turned fifty. So did her predecessor. I didn’t ask any further back than that. This job has unique benefits but also unique pressures. This is why I am retiring at a young age. I do not intend to kill myself. So I am training my replacement and then I am walking away.

I was psychologically evaluated by the age of fifteen. I had seduced my headmaster to improve my grades, and was implicated in his divorce. Due to my age, it should have been something which he was seen as being more responsible for, but for the fact that I was caught sleeping with his temporary replacement two months later in an attempt to improve my chemistry grade. Add in a little matter of compulsive theft, and my mother became concerned and sought professional help.

I maintain that she felt threatened by me. By the time I was a teenager, I had a way with men that she had never been able to compete with. Perhaps if she had been more concerned about the way my stepfather had attempted to assert his dominance over me, it may have been more useful.

It was actually a relief when I was diagnosed as sociopathic. It made sense to me. I was also described as being intensely manipulative, which I didn’t particularly see as a bad thing.

I got into trouble again when I was in my late teens. My ambition was not high, and my social opportunities weren’t many. I’d become involved with gangs, and ended up playing two East London gangs against each other. I had a rival, who had tried to spread rumours about me, and they almost got me killed. I was more efficient in my response.

I was told my mother wanted to see me. I didn’t care. I was old enough now to be sentenced as an adult, and had my own problems to deal with.

It was around then that she came to see me. The most amazing woman I ever met. Katherine Pettaval.

“We’ve been watching you for some time,” she said.

“How?” I asked.

“We work closely with psychologists who deal with children and teenagers.”


“So they can alert us to promising recruits.”

I looked her up and down. She looked strict and harsh at first, but when she smiled at me, I felt accepted for the first time. I felt an aching for her in every part of my body and my soul.

“Promising in what way?”

“I’ll teach you to be like me.” Katherine said.

I wanted that more than anything I’d ever wanted in my life.

“What do I have to do?” I asked.

“You sign your life to us, and we’ll compensate you. You’ll be educated, trained and given every benefit the British Government can. Then you do what we tell you to do. Primarily, you’ll be taking care… very particular care… to one of our biggest assets.”

I expressed misgivings about working for “the establishment” like that. Well, I was young.

She laughed. “The establishment is very different when you’re on this side of it. Believe me. I’m offering you the Golden Ticket.”

I accepted.

The training took years, but I came out of it as someone who could walk into any meeting room in the Civil Service and take control of it. I came out of it as someone who could convince someone to do what I wanted them to, and also have them utterly convinced that it was their idea in the first place.

I raced up the ladder, and excelled at every part of my role.

Eventually, I was called in by Katherine, as I had been judged ready to learn about their secrets. Only Katherine and the head of the Service, who everyone called “Mother” were there.

I was handed a file. It was thick. “This,” Mother said, “is our secret weapon.”

“We find suitable agents,” Katherine said. “We then manipulate them to see the world in a certain way.”

“In our way.” Mother said.

“In our way, yes.” Katherine agreed. “It means that their life completely revolves around the job that we send them on. Everything they think, everything they want… their reaction to everything around them has been planned to the smallest detail.”

“You mean you brainwash them, ma’am?” I asked. It was impertinent, but I knew when to cut through the bullshit.

Mother looked at Katherine for a moment. A brief glance that most would miss. But, as I said, I was trained very well. “Yes,” Katherine said. “That’s exactly what we do.”

I opened the file, to see pictures of a man. He was tall, muscular and slim, and most would think of him as being attractive. I hated him at first glance. I didn’t know why. That was just the first though. There were others too.

“There is a down side to this kind of programming, though,” Katherine said.

“They don’t live long,” Mother said. “They’re put into very, very high risk situations. We trust them implicitly to use their own judgement, as they’ll use the judgement we train them to.”

“How do you find suitable candidates?” I asked.

“The same way we found you,” she said. “Psychological profiling. Both of these roles require very… specific criteria.”

Katherine elaborated. “Part of the way we do this is to have very specifically designated relationships. Mother becomes the most important thing in the subject’s life, and pleasing Mother is always the one thing they strive to do.”

“So where do we come into it?”

She smiled, and while I still felt it deep inside, I’d been taught to contain it now. “We’re the life they can never have.”

“Is that important?”

“It’s vital. They’ve got to have the dream that this is just temporary, and that they can some day give this up. You’ve got to be the one they’re in love with.”

I tilted my head to the side. “How much of a relationship are we talking about here?”

“Oh, don’t worry. You won’t actually have to do anything.” She laughed. “They’re designed to see women purely as something to rescue, kill or fuck. They’re users by design.”

“And we’re different?”

“Oh yes. You’re the one he never gets to fuck. You’re the one he never gets to have. You’re the one who always promises more. You’re the relationship he desperately wants, but never gets.”

“And that works?” I asked.

“It’s worked beautifully so far. We’ve given them the appropriate memories, so their upbringing, their defining experiences….they’re all planted.”

I continued looking through the file. “All the rest got killed on duty. How come this one,” I asked, pointing, “committed suicide off-duty? Did something go wrong?”

“He fell in love with someone.” Mother said. “We cut ties after she died.”

“He begged to come back,” Katherine said. “But the programming had been broken. We actually incorporated the dead wife into their back-story. It worked, as it gave them something extra to obsess over. It actually made them better agents.”

I laughed. It wasn’t intended as spiteful. It just seemed so absurd.

I wasn’t able to be part of the meetings with him. I had to content myself with watching camera footage in another room of meetings, in order to learn about him. The room itself had to be perfectly maintained. The placement of everything, the smells, the visuals…it all had to feed into the programming. Complement it.

I hated him. Immediately, I hated him. The way he carried himself, the way he spoke. I couldn’t define it, but I hated him.

I told Katherine about it when she came to see me afterwards.

“I hate him too,” she said. “It isn’t important. Don’t think of him as a person. He’s a weapon. That’s all. Think of him as machinery.”

I watched those meetings until he died a few years later, shot through the head while on assignment.

Mother told me, also letting me know that the next one would be ready for assignments in two years time, and that he would be mine, not Katherine’s.  I was given a codename.

The next time I met Katherine, she was distraught.

“I miss him.” She said. “I wasn’t expecting to. I hated him so much, but so much of my life was spent being his life. I was the closest thing to a relationship that he ever had, and he was the closest thing that I ever had.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

She killed herself a year later. I had somewhat expected it.

My assignments went mostly well. I actually oversaw a few of them over the years. Bringing them in, being the woman they wanted to spend their life with, smiling at them and flirting at them, and loving them with my eyes and sending them to die.

It takes a toll. Of course it does. So I finally got to select and train my replacement.

I sit back in the same room I did when I watched Katherine. I feel pride watching her.

I see her preparing. Practicing the surprised turn from the filing cabinet. A gasp with a perfectly rounded mouth, followed by the warmest smile you’ve ever seen since mine. Tits and teeth, darling.

The door opens, and he walks in. I watch the monitor carefully. This one doesn’t walk. He prowls, like an alpha male lion, all muscular brutality and lethal intent wrapped in a designer suit.

She hits it perfectly. The turn, the smile and the warmth. I see him fall in love with her.

“Hello James. M will be ready for you in just a minute.”

Sunday 29 July 2012

50 Shades of Grey - Routine

This is a routine I performed recently at Working Title Comedy at the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green, North London. It went down rather well, so I thought I'd put it up here for anyone that would be interested.

Bookshops are now becoming known as "Purveyors of FILTH". All because of 50 Shades of Grey. Which everyone's reading. And I mean everyone. There's something slightly odd about a woman in a full burqa reading pornography on the tube.

Even my Mum's reading it. This is my Mum, who writes period Irish romantic fiction, and whose had a few novels published. After her first one, I read it, doing the sonly duty, told her how much I enjoyed it, and then I engaged wind-up mode, and I referenced the (mild) sex scenes she'd written, and I said "Well, obviously, the characters and plot are really good, but I have to ask, what's all this about heaving bosoms and straining erections?

And she says to me “Christopher…watch your language!”

Well, she’s tried to read it, but she ended up giving up. Not because of the sex, but because it’s really badly written. And I mean really badly written. Here’s an example.

"Oh my... He wants me. Christian Grey, Greek God, wants me, and I want him, In the elevator."

Now, I’m not saying that everyone should be reading Anais Nin, but this is just not good writing. It’s a bit like… wait, there’s more.

"Why won't he kiss me again? I pout at the thought. I don't understand. Honestly, his surname should be Cryptic, not Grey."

That’s not even real human dialogue. That’s fucking Dougal from Father Ted.

“Why won’t he kiss me again, Ted? I don’t understand. Honestly, his surname should be Cryptic, not Grey!”

Look, I’m not one of these people that thinks you should only read erotic poetry. This isn’t for erotic self-exploration in the bath with candles going on, this is for doing the kit-kat shuffle quickly before you go to bed, I get it. But it’s just….it’s….

There’s a girl at work who described it as “It’s really powerfully erotic. She’s created the perfect man.”

What are his perfect qualities? Well….he’s a billionaire and…no, that’s basically it. All his other qualities are loathsome.

Wait, we have more writing from this fucking book.

"This is the only sort of relationship I'm interested in."
He shrugs.
"It's the way I am."
"How did you become this way?"
"Why is anyone the way they are? That's kind of hard to answer. Why do some people like cheese and other people hate it? Do you like cheese? Mrs. Jones - my housekeeper - has left this for supper." He takes some large, white plates from a cupboard and places one in front of me.

In the name of holy Garth Marenghi, what the actual fuck?

There’s this weird thing going throughout where he keeps buying her food. It’s really weird. But she’s fine with it, because it’s always exactly what she wants.

And it’s appealing to people because you’ve got this idea of someone who always knows exactly what you want, even if you don’t know it’s what you want. He goes “I have ordered you food”, and she goes “Oh God, this is my favourite food!” Every. Fucking. Time.

That doesn’t work in real life. Here’s how it goes in real life with my girlfiend.

“Hello, sit. I have ordered you food.”
“Oh. What did you order?”
“Omelette and tea. And some cheese.”
“I hate omelettes.”
“Why would you do that?”
“I thought it would be sexy.”
I thought it would be sexy to… order you omelette.”
"You thought it would be sexy to order me omelette?"
"And cheese. Baby."

I’ve not even got to the sex, by the way. The sex is crap as well, not least because…okay, I can get the cold aloof thing that’s going on. He only refers to her by her full first name or Miss Steele. That’s fine. But the SECOND they start fucking? “Oh baby, yeah baby, I’m going to fuck you now, baby.” Turning into Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing all of a second, while he JACKHAMMERS HIS WAY THROUGH THAT HYMEN.

There are presumably some women in the audience, and I don’t know if any of you have ever been a virgin, but if you were, would you recommend that you treat the girl slowly and tenderly, since it may really fucking hurt, or do you recommend punching your way through that shit like it’s a plank of wood at a karate exhibition?

Oh, and when she wakes up the next morning, she’s all “There was a mild throbbing, but it was pleasurable remembering”, and not doing what she should be doing which is going “FUCKING OUCH! SOMEONE GET ME SOME GERMALINE. I’VE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE.”

Someone on facebook suggested that maybe I’m just not comfortable with sex that’s not totally vanilla. That maybe I’m scared of experimenting.  Because the book has some fisting and anal. Oh *please*.

I’m a 32 year old man with access to the internet. My sexual tastes have grown so cynical, jaded and downright bizarre that I can’t even masturbate to regular porn anymore. It has to involve a Nun, at least three Brazilian transsexuals, a gas mask and a Shetland pony.

There’s also the fact that this whole idea just doesn’t work in Britain. First of all, if you want to fantasise about a famous businessman, you’re basically on at best, Richard Branson, and at worst, Alan Sugar… “he ground on top of me like a sexy shaved gnome”.

One final thing you may have heard is that the main character in 50 Shades of Grey keeps saying the same stuff. “Oh my. Oh wow.” Stuff like that, but the weirdest one is “Holy hell. Holy crap. Holy God.” She says “Holy something” 157 times in this fucking book.

Now, here’s where I destroy it for you. Every time you read her say “Holy” something, just think of Burt Ward playing Robin in the 1960s Batman with Adam West. Because there are parallels. Anastasia is younger, Christian is a billionaire…he’s training her. They put on costumes and fight crime…oh, like anyone’s read the third book. But maybe that’s what she should have written. 50 Shades of Batman.

And depressingly, if she had written that, this blog post would be saying  “You know, it’s actually pretty good".