Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Why swearing is both big and clever

I fucking love swearing.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those vile yobs who feel the need to curse and swear constantly in my day-to-day life, like a particularly foul-mouthed sailor; but when writing I find a good, well-placed swear really can bring a piece alive.

The reason I mention this is that Fiar, writer of the excellent humorblogging.com, recently sent me a link to an article on the Problogger blog, entitled 'Dropping the F-Bomb: Blogging With Naughty Words', which he thought I might find interesting. He was right.

The piece itself was a fairly even-handed (if rather patronising) treatment of the subject, but upon reading the comments section I soon found my blood beginning to boil, and it took all my will and self-control to prevent myself pounding my monitor to pieces with my bare fists, while screaming 'CUUUUUUUUNNNNNTTTTTTS' at the top of my voice.

The reason for my rather vitriolic reaction was the smug, sanctimonious tone struck by some of the holier-than-thou, self-appointed defenders of morality in response to the article. No cliché was left unused.

'Swearing shows that the writer has a limited vocabulary!' some screamed, in a staggering display of limited thought. How can having MORE words at your disposal be limiting your vocabulary, exactly? As a (sort of) writer, words are my tools. Every single one of them, dirty or not. I'd argue that those who exclude certain words from their lexicon are the ones displaying a limited vocabulary, by the very act of limiting their vocabulary. Surely?

'Using swear words is lazy!' others cried, lazily. 'It takes zero writing talent!' they bleated. I could not disagree more. When writing The Astonishing Adventures of Lord Likely, my fiction blog chronicling the life of a Victorian aristocrat who drinks, swears and humps his way through various misadventures, I have to be quite creative when swearing. I update the blog three times a week on average, and trying to keep the swearing fresh and imaginative is quite a challenge, I can tell you. Thus I delight in twisting and turning the curses into new, unusual shapes; conjoining them like sweary Siamese twins, or turning rude adjectives into crude verbs. It takes quite a lot of work behind the scenes. I mean, do you know how difficult it is to come up with a fresh euphemism for masturbation on a weekly basis? I can't just bash it out in a few seconds, I have to pound away for a good, long while until I'm completely satisfied.

'Swearing drives readers and advertisers away!' the naysayers wailed. Well, advertisers can fuck off, frankly. I may have a few Google Ads on Lord Likely's site, but I'm not in this solely for the money. I'm not that appallingly shallow. If I was, I certainly wouldn't be writing a fiction blog about a drunk lord - I'd be writing about how to monetize your blog, or some such guff. No, I'm in it to write, to create and to (try) and entertain. And if the way I write does turn some readers away, then to be honest they won't be missed. My writing just isn't for them, and I do not propose I start pandering to them.

Incredibly, one commenter even went as far as to claim that 'it [swearing] just shouldn’t be in literature of any type'. After reading that, I picked myself up off the floor and dashed outside, to check that there weren't masses of fascist policeman patrolling the streets. There weren't. It seems I do still live in a free country after all. Thank fuck for that.

I personally swear for many reasons. Swear words are incredibly useful words to use to demonstrate extreme shock or anger. If I write a piece about someone being punched in the face by a twenty-stone gangster, the exclamation, 'Crikey!', whilst being all lovely, fluffly and completely non-offensive, will not have the same impact as 'Fuck! What the fuck did you do that for, you asshole?' Indeed, the former would seem completely unsuitable and out of place. It's all about the context, and using the right tools for the job. Swear words exist for a reason, you know.

I confess that I do sometimes use swear words for the simple reason that I find them fucking funny. Especially the good old British swears, like 'wanker' or 'bollocks'. If the timing is right, you can make a good punchline ten times as funny by simply slipping in a 'twat', so to speak. I honestly believe that when deployed correctly, swearing adds a certain cadence and rhythm to your prose that somehow makes the whole thing seem much funnier.

Observe this clip of two of the Kings of Cuss, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, in the guise of their foul-mouthed alter-egos, Derek and Clive. There is no video on this clip - just a still of the duo - but listen to it. Listen to the supreme use of swearing. Listen to the rhythm, and the pace of it all. Listen to how they build upon the swearing, until it reaches a glorious, crude crescendo. It's a genius display of first-rate cussing.

As I said at the top of this page, I fucking love swearing. I respect that some people are offended by such language, and if that is the case, move on, pass it by. Just don't start telling me what I am or who you think I am by using such curses.

Because that'll just piss me right off.

- Fanton.

Agree, or fucking well disagree? Think swearing is shitting well brilliant, or do you think it is demonstrative of someone being a complete cock-end? Spew up your thoughts in the comments section, and bloody well say your piece.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

James Bond in 'Try Another Title'

News reaches the Sickbag that the twenty-second James Bond movie finally has a title - Quantum of Solace.

As far as tantalising, kick-ass titles go, it's a bit underwhelming, really. It sounds more like a student's science project, or a dull academic book rather than an all-action blockbuster about a super-cool spy.

Then again, Bond titles have a history of being a bit rubbish. For every snappily-titled Goldeneye or Licence to Kill, there's a Tomorrow Never Dies or The World is Not Enough.

So, to help out the Bond producers in naming any future Bond flicks, I've compiled a list of titles that they can use if they want. For ONE HUNDRED MILLION POUNDS EACH. Bargain!

Here we go:

  • The James Bond Film
  • Casino Royale 2: Casino Royaler
  • James Bond vs Aliens vs Predator
  • A Licence to Drive
  • The Man With The Golden Everything
  • The Periodic Table of Death
  • Tomorrow is the Day After Today
  • James Bond and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • Secret Agent Punch Up
  • Mince Spy
  • James Bond Fights Everyone
  • Bronze-tits
  • The Bond Identity
  • The Man With A PhD In Advanced Physics
  • James Bond - He's A Super Cool Spy, Man!
  • Fighting and Spying And Fucking
  • Dodecahedron Eyes
  • James Bond Goes To Smuggler's Cove
  • James Bond!
  • Double Oh Ohhhhhhh
  • The Spy Who Will Fuck You Up
  • The Man With The Itchy Scrote
  • The Pluto Dichotomy
  • Big Fat Balls Slapping Against Her Arse
  • Something About Killing and Dying
  • I Can See Yooooou!
  • James Bond Loses His Keys

  • Christ, Not Another Fat Lunatic Trying To Take Over the World
  • A View To Retirement
  • Licence To Print Money
  • Never Kill A Doctor With A Licence To Live Another Golden Day Twice
  • James Bond Kicks A Bloke
  • Shaken, But Not Shaken Too Much
  • Things Explode
  • James Bond's Super Spying Adventure Time
  • Look At My Shorts
  • James Bond meets James Bond, James Bond, James Bond, James Bond and James Bond.
  • Knock Knock, Who's There?
  • February the 23rd Always Comes
  • There's This Bit, Yeah, Where James Bond Leaps From A Helicopter And Lands In A Tank And Punches This Guy In The Face And Drives Off And Flattens A Limousine It's Fuckin' Well Rad
  • Licence To Serve Liquor
  • Never Say Not Never Never Again Never
  • Liquid Pants
  • The Man With The Lady's Face
  • Donkey Puncher
  • Is That A Gun In Your Pocket Or Your Hardened Cock?
  • James Bond Wins At The End

I'm sure you'll agree, they're all BRILLIANT ideas. Hollywood, here I come!

- Fanton.

Monday, 21 January 2008

The Hack and the Slasher

Thomas Peckett Prest must be kicking himself, or at least he would be if he wasn't completely dead, and buried six-foot underground.

Prest is widely considered to be the creator of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a character currently enjoying a blood-soaked revival on the big screen in Tim Burton's gloriously gothic musical-slasher movie of the same name. If only Prest had the immense foresight to predict the popularity of his gruesome creation, then he could have wound up being a very well-off corpse indeed.

Johnny Depp found shaving the Invisible Man very difficult work.

However, Prest was a hack writer, a quill-for-hire who spent most of his life penning comic parodies of Charles Dickens' oeuvre (including such ingeniously-titled classics as Oliver Twiss and David Copperful), and pulpy, schlocky stories of thrill and suspense for the popular penny dreadful publications. These were cheap, lurid periodicals published in Victorian Britain to occupy an increasingly literate working class with undemanding and unsophisticated entertainment. Sort of like the TV networks do in our modern, enlightened times.

Literary infamy was doubtlessly the last thing on Prest's mind, as he was far too busy churning out cheap tat for the penny dreadfuls. Indeed, his lasting creation, Sweeney Todd, first appeared as a mere secondary, supporting character in the completely non-terrifyingly titled story The String of Pearls: A Romance, a sure indication as any that Prest had no idea that he was sitting on a potential goldmine.

When Sweeney Todd went on to prove far more popular than a poxy string of pearls, the character soon found himself taking centre-stage in a theatrical adaptation by George Dibden Pitt in 1846, to great success. It must have been a bitter pill for Prest, as the unattributed author of the original tale, living in less copyright-savvy times - he made approximately zero pounds and noughty-nought pence from this popular stage adaptation of his own work.

By failing to even sign his own work, Prest went on to miss out on further healthy royalty cheques from a multitude of stage and film adaptations over the next one hundred and sixty-odd years, culminating in both the prolific Stephen Sondheim stage musical, and the current Tim Burton movie, itself based on the Sondheim musical. Which, in turn, was based on Christopher Bond's stage play, The String of Pearls. Which, of course, was based on Prest's original, cheap and un-cheerful serial.

Can you hear that sound? It's the sound of money slipping through Prest's skeletal fingers.

The moral of this story is clear. Firstly make sure you get credit for your work, and make sure you copyright it to the hilt. Secondly, don't sideline your best characters in a stupid story about a sailor and a necklace.

And now finally, for those interested in my incredibly important opinions: Burton's Sweeney Todd is a fantastic triumph; a supremely entertaining slice of musical macabre which succeeds on every level and completely fulfills my expectations for a Burton-directed horror musical. The cast are uniformly fantastic, with Johnny Depp turning in another great performance and proving to be more than adept at singing in a mock-Cockney style, resulting in him sounding something like David Bowie, which of course is no bad thing.

In short, Sweeney Todd has made the transition from penny dreadful, to million-dollar wonderful. I loved it.

I think Prest might have liked it too.

- Fanton.

Read The String of Pearls in its entirety, courtesy of the Victorian Dictionary.

And don't forget to read The Astonishing Adventures of Lord Likely, another completely excellent Victorian tale destined to become a classic for centuries to come.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Bookmark This Poem.

Next month, my daft little humourous blog The Astonishing Adventures of Lord Likely will be one year old, a landmark I never expected to reach.

It's not because I don't think the Astonishing Adventures are any good (they're REALLY bloody good, trust me), it's just that prior to this, the longest I had managed to keep a blog running was approximately five minutes. I had dipped my toe into the blogging pool on three or four previous occasions, but then I'd quickly get bored or accidentally find myself whiling away the hours looking at pictures of Billie Piper in her underwear, or something.

Now I find myself fully submerged in that very same pool, practically drowning in blogs. It's like I'm trapped in the net, like a digital dolphin.

It's not the blogging itself that concerns me. I love writing, and would happily write all day long if only someone could shovel food in my mouth at regular intervals, and pump coffee through my veins.

The thing that perturbs me is how much work goes into getting your blog seen by other pairs of eyes, especially when you work in the niche field of writing a blog about a Victorian Lord who likes to have sex a lot, like I do. After hitting 'PUBLISH POST' on my latest masterpiece, I am then faced with a bewildering array of options for whoring my latest creation. A bewildering array of options which have lead me to write this little verse, which I like to call:

Bookmark This Poem.

I can Digg it, Sphinn it, Fuel it and Furl it,

I can Zoom it, Fire it, Blink it and Spurl it.

I can Technorati this, and Stumble Upon that,

I can Riff on anything, I Reddit on a Mac,

I can join BlogCatalog, BlogLog or Blogging Fusion,

Bloggeries or BlogFlux - now it's a Blog Explosion!

I can send it to Simpy, Squidoo, Slashdot or Spotback,

I can put it on my MySpace, or shove it on your Facebook.

I can make it deli.cio.us, but by then I'd be de.lirio.us.

I can give it to Google - Hi5, Yahoo!

I could Twitter all day long

but I've got blogging to do.


Well, I'd better go. This post won't promote itself, you know.

- Fanton.

PS: Don't forget to actually bookmark this. No, really.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Flash Men and Likely Lords

Last week, British literature lost one of its very finest comic writers, when the author George MacDonald Fraser passed away at the ripe old age of eighty-two.

For those unfamiliar with the writer in question, Fraser was a writer and journalist, who found considerable fame and fortune with the publication of his Flashman novels.

In these brilliantly funny books, Fraser took the simple conceit of plucking the unlikeable character of Harry Flashman from Thomas Hughes' Victorian novel, Tom Brown's Schooldays, and then developing a whole new series of adventures for the bullying rascal, chronicling his life after being expelled from Rugby school on account of his drunkenness.

In the first of the series, we catch up with Flashman as he becomes a soldier caught up in the midst of the British retreat from Kabul in the first Afghanistan war (1839-42). Despite the horrors taking place around him, Flashman still delights in drinking and sex, whilst trying to save his neck during the conflict by any cowardly means possible.

The book deftly combined painstakingly researched historical fact with high farce and bawdy comedy, a mixture that proved to be extremely alluring to the public. After the success of his solo debut, Flashman went on to get embroiled in Custer's Last Stand, the Indian Mutiny, and the Charge of the Light Brigade, amongst other notable events over the course of the series, which spanned twelve books in total.

I only started reading the astonishing tales of the Victorian rogue and bounder last summer, which may surprise readers of my other blog, The Astonishing Adventures of Lord Likely, in which I chronicle the astonishing tales of another Victorian rogue and bounder.

It was through Lord Likely that I discovered Flashman, (as opposed to the other way around), when I was directed to the Flashman books by fellow blogger Scaryduck, who suggested the two characters might be related. I didn't have a clue what he was talking about, so set about getting hold of a copy to see for myself.

Upon picking up the first novel in the series, my heart sank. Not because it was awful, or depressing - it was truly excellent - but because it seemed everything I was trying to do with Likely had already been done - and much better - by Fraser. The cover alone (above) seemed to capture the very essence of Lord Likely better than I could have ever managed.

Upon reading the novel, however, I realised that there were differences. The first obvious one was that Flashman was a regular guy, whilst Lord Likely is, well, a lord. Secondly, Flashman was a terrible coward and reluctant hero, while Likely is much more proactive, seeking out adventure and intrigue to alleviate the boredom bought about by the tedious routine of his aristocratic duties. Finally, Flashman is much more of a solitary character (save his wife, Elspeth), while Likely rarely travels anywhere without his long-suffering man-servant, Botter.

Of course, Fraser's work was much more rigourously researched, while the Astonishing Adventures favour crudity, farce and slapstick over historical accuracy. And I need not point out that Fraser's writing is much better than mine, but then again Likely's cock is undoubtedly bigger than Flashman's.

I was relieved to discover these differences. I hadn't set out to ape the exploits of Harry Flashman, nor rip-off George MacDonald Fraser. If anything, I'd set out to pay homage and parody Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens. As well as making dozens of penis jokes.

Happily, there is room enough for both takes on the Victorian hero in this world, and in fact reading Flashman has encouraged me to up my game and try harder. Why, I even did some actual research for Lord Likely's American Adventure! I used books and everything. Whatever next?

So I continue the adventures of Lord Likely unabated and more inspired. In fact, in the very latest episode, I have even had his lordship meet Harry Flashman, as a small tribute from one humble blogger, to a master of comic writing who paved the way for whippersnappers like me to stomp noisily all over it, treading mud all over the beautifully paved metaphorical path.

Mr. Fraser, sir, I raise a glass of brandy to you. Cheers!

- Fanton.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

2008: A Space Oddity

New Year's Resolutions never sit well with me, as I usually either forget that I've made them, or fail to adhere to them (he says, puffing away on a cigarette).

However, there is one resolution I would really like to keep, and that is to get this made into something:

Ever since my first attempt at developing an animated series - The Carrotty Kid - slipped into development hell, and then development limbo, I've been eager to try and turn my hand to a fresh, new project. I'd preferably like to work alongside the excellent and ridiculously talented Michael Whaite, with whom I had the moist pleasure of working with on The Carrotty Kid's pilot episode, and who also knocked up the nifty poster you see above. Good isn't, he?

Hence Jet Pets, the story of a group of animal test-subjects blasted into space as part of a scientific experiment. However, the test goes distinctly awry when the pets' craft slips into a black hole, spewing the hapless crew out half-way across the universe. Can the Jet Pets find their way home again, or are they doomed to be lost in space FOREVER?

Whether this time around I'll be more successful in getting something made, or whether I'll once again crash and burn like a drunkard left in charge of a zeppelin, I do not know. But you've got to try, haven't you?

Haven't you?

- Fanton.