Slice of No Life

Pulling Back

Super-8 sound. 4 minutes.

The sequence has been shot on VHS with a relatively high degree of professionalism. It has then been duplicated through several generations and replayed on a slightly malfunctioning Phillips portable TV set to maximum colour and contrast, and this filmed in closeup by a hand-held Bell and Howell Super-8 ciné camera. Focus and exposure are correct. There is no noticeable screen-reflection.

The soundtrack consists of a man reading from a prepared script in a tinny, grating monotone: there is no change in pitch or rhythm, save that his voice cracks at points of emphasis. Sound-effects are cleanly overdubbed. This basic track is is intercut with sound-bursts from the original video shoot, rerecorded from the speaker of the TV and fouled by a babble of background voices, male and female, raised in argument, the actual words of which are indistinguishable.

The flickering, static-hazed image trembles and wavers on the screen, and this is exaggerated by the process of projection.

* * *


(Motherly, hushing sounds. The rasping slither of soft, warm, talcum’d skin.Slipping crackle-crust. Soft, cool hands roll me over and a knee crunches into the back; sharp-edged carbon steel biting into wrists as hasps lock with quick precision: snick, snap.)

And fade up to:

A clean bare room: cracks and patches of plaster crumbled off the lath. Scrubbed floorboards. Abstract and vaguely totemic designs are scrawled on the walls: black and primitive and complex. Bright sunlight outside and a simple Japanese paper screen across the window. Black plastic bags of clothing strewn across the floor. Scattered clothing, male and female.

A mattress lies against one wall. A radiator pipe and broken radiator. A small pile of various unused condoms in their wrappings by the bed. A ceramic bowl containing four used condoms beside it. There is menstrual blood on them; smears on the mattress.

A MAN, naked and face-down on the mattress, legs splayed and tied by ankles to steel rings bolted to the floor. His left wrist is handcuffed to the pipe. His right hand grips the pipe tightly. He wears a number of heavy rings. There is a wad of bundled clothing under him, raising him slightly. Well defined musculature.

Scratches fresh and half-healed on his back. A tattoo on his shoulder and another and another on his upper arm. A solid-black Cocteau design. Longish, fine and off-blond hair. His face is pressed into the mattress. Straddling one splayed leg, on her knees, a WOMAN: mid-twenties, punkshock hair, face intent and childlike-serious as she straps on a six-inch silicate dildo.

(And in the Calibrian region of Italy, women saved a few drops of their menstrual fluid in a small bottle which they carried wherever they went. It was believed that when such drops were secretly administered to the man of their choice the man would be bound to them forever. The Elixir Rebeus!)

She smears her palm across her mouth. A slick film of saliva.

She smears saliva on the head of the strap-on, then rolls a condom down the shaft. She pinches the teat with one hand. Gently, secondarily she brushes outer labia protruding from the base of the strap-on with a fingertip.

She falls upon the man, gnaws gently on the back of his neck.

(And the weight on top of me, pressing on me, and a mouth pressed to my ear and murmuring:

'She finally passed out. And when she finally passed out I hamstrung her, dislocated her hips and shoulders. It was vital that she remained immobile, absolutely still. Saline drips and bloodpacks. I inserted a catheter and I fed her through a needle. I kept her alive for months. It was quite difficult. Slaying skin and muscle and glucaea a single tiny shred at a time. A fragile tangle of veins and arteries and lymph ducts. Lymph and bile and cephalic fluid stored in individually-labled bottles and refrigerated. It’s. You have to believe. Have to believe I never ...

'Her voice is cool and monotonic, matter-of-fact flipping someone I don’t know called Susan from vanilla fem to ritual butchered meat. In that instant I don’t know if she’s making it up or not.')

She slithers down. Teeth clench lightly, momentarily over the anus and release. A tongue slips inside.

('There’s a black iron engine hanging in a hot red sky and the machine is me and as I try to comprehend its vast and churning maze of internal conduits my mind shifts and slips like shale and suddenly I crazy-move to:

'Sand dunes under an azure summer sky. A salt breeze ripples samphire. A blonde and beautiful child, a girl, offers me a clump of tiny, pale blue flowers. It’s not, she shays, it’s not - and the light, the crushing light comes down, washing out my field of vision with its flat blank white. Hooknails bite into shoulders and rake down. Slithers up: slugtrail tongue.')

She smears lubricant into the anus, working it apart with circular, splaying, stretching movements.

('And we stumbled through the tunnels ‘til we found the husk of Nail: wasted and flaking and propped against the wall, crumbling into papergrey ash. The Strata Angel was there, a construct now, like gelid glass, shot with wormholes filled with lambent fluid. Shadowplay on translucent surfaces, macroforms splitting and flickering and pulsing. Somewhere somebody was shrieking, clawing at his face in a room of broken machinery …')

She half-smiles, catlike.

('She pirouettes in mid-air, screaming tactile subsonics from her eyes and mouth and cunt, down corridors and catwalks and vast brick vaults with chessboard floors and halls hung with shredded membrane and the false backs of cupboards and skylights and holes in the wall. A dark room hung with burning kites. The death of the hollow age.')

She shoves into him, digging nails into his back to afford purchase, and gouges down.

('An exquisite awareness of a slight mass under me. She’s slipping faster now and I’m shuddering and I want to projectile-shit and -')

And later, he glances back, and speaks, softly, and for the first time he uses her name.


A Comminiqué From Like 1992

The operation was timed with split-second precision. Around sevenish, give or take, various people wandered vaguely into the heavily fortified Macklin Street HQ (by day a day-centre for London’s adolescent homeless, who had of course by now been summarily turfed out onto the streets) and by a quarter to eight the crack team of highly-trained activists was assembled.

Slap-stickers, aerosols and permanent markers were in evidence; we were hard and we were mean and we were ready to take the war home.

It was raining. It was raining hard ... but what did mere discomfort matter of case-hardened, street-fighting politicos like us? Not one jot. We pelted merrily for the Holborn tube with nary a desperate lunge for the nearest available portico to wait out the worst bits.

In our inspired, impenetrable guise of a bunch of drowned rats with Travelcards (then existing) we had little trouble slipping through the extensive defences; cyclopean vidicams held no terror, no poster escaped our attentions … we were, you should pardon the expression, indiscriminate. Thus Michelle Pfeiffer, the popular screen actress, suddenly professed to being a Bi Queer, while the noted brain surgeon, sliding-superstring theorist and tapdancer Jean-Claude van Damme suddenly became Bi and Proud to be a Lesbian.

But the authorities were on to us - halting trains at random and shutting down whole stations, calming an increasingly fearful transient populace with excuses of catastrophic flooding. Time and again we evaded their foul and loathsome clutches, but the forces of unending darkness were closing in, and it was only a matter of time before some Leicester Square menial with the beaky hat awoke from dreams of the halcyon days of steam to see what we were doing to the appropriate poster.

A tactical withdrawal was called for, and so we tactically withdrew to the First Out café and had a beer.

Suitably refreshed, down to the Circle Line, and on to the London and Lesbian Gay Centre (again, still existing) and near disaster. An off-duty transport copper and a young friend of unknown status had been watching our happy frolics with no small degree of disgust and, as the train rattled into Barbican, tried to hustle one of our number off with them.

Thinking this a simple if singularly coordinated attempt at queer-bashing, our plucky chap dug his heels in, and with the sheer heroism for which he is justly famous managed to put about six startled Bi’s between himself and his putative attacker.

By this time the tube had of course moved off, splitting the copper from his nice young friend and leaving him suddenly lost and alone in the middle of six or seven slightly annoyed perverts, and leaving nothing for it but to flash his warrant card and introduce himself personally.

Our wise counsel finally persuaded the guy as to the general inadvisability of trying to bust seven or eight people en masse - and having spent the latter part of the incident struck dumb with abject terror and gripping a handrail for dear life, this reporter can only report that these people, who know who they are, walk in truth and beauty all their days.

Other, bigger things happened later, but this action (delusional right-ons playing around laughably though it might sound) was one of the first I can recall as UK Bisexuals taking action, as a Movement in and of ourselves and with an actual agenda.

You really had to be there at the time. At that time, in the UK, Bisexuals were flabby old wife-swappers from Purley, or a couple of girls clumsily lezzing it up for the camera, or something a rock-star did in his freaky lifestyle, or a creepy attribute to a movie-villain. In the Gay Community we were welcomed at most grudgingly, with suspicion, and the assumption that we were having it both ways.

Dumb and laughable the above might sound, but it was actions like these, at the time, that paved the way to our more solid integration into the LGBTA of today.

Can We Talk?

I’ve always had a soft spot for the bastard Don John. In his definitive speech, ‘I cannot hide what I am ...’ he effectively sticks a couple of fingers up at the saccharinity of Leonato’s court - and subsequent events are more the result of the hypocrisy of others than of his own frankly villainous involvement. (And for the literately-challenged, we are of course talking about that seminal tragicomedy, Whoops, There Goe my Pantoufles, Withal, or Up Your Alley. Way after the fact, I know, I know.)

(And fingernails running soft through hair. A vibrator pressed along the perineum and anus, lubricated with spit. And lying back on cool grass. And ‘Manda’s cotton gold-screen-printed butterfly dress in sunlight.)

Like that nifty Beatrice/Benedick subplot that has served as the basic template for every will-they-won’t-they scenario ever since, this is as relevant now as then: we are all of us forced into rôles we don’t want, must walk the walk and talk the talk or must necessarily take a villainous stance.

(And the Elephant Song with appropriate gestures. And sucking a freshly-washed cock and rolling the tongue around the head. And girlie voices and jangly guitars. And cat-play. And the feel of vaginal walls clenching and unclenching. And getting a massage maybe halfway right. And the way people look at you and go childlike and smile.)

Bisexuals, to hear some tell it, far from being the slavering libidinous monsters of popular report, are generally relaxed and kind, with a relaxed and open attitude to non-hierarchical, non-gender-orientated relationships in an oppression-free and mutually supportive environment and stuff. Oh what a relief. Heaven forfend that sex might be dirty and humiliating and anything that might approach actual fun.

(And the gentle, salacious stroke after the sting. And fingers softly bitten near the knuckles. And black condoms. And black men dancing. And slobbing on the sofa with Jenlain beer and Yanqui Fritos. And giggly threesomes. And spontaneous laughter. And the look of rubber, the feel and smell of leather.)

We do not do this thing through choice; we do this because we are driven. Unlike Scientology, or Stalinism, or any kind of Separatism, which are imposed and negate the self, bisexuality is an expression of self.

(And fingernails drawn soft down the spine and buried hard between the shoulder blades. And utterly disgusting Australian party games. And rimming. And red Leb and Old Holborn. And wrestle-slithering. And sleazy, sweaty, exploitative and absolutely Incorrect pornography. And holding hands and nuzzling and sod the lot of them. And body-piercing on other people.)

We are all of us equal and different and existing - and any putative Movement must be founded upon that fact, rather than an attempt to impose some arbitrary set of social values and rules. Empathy is not the specious mouthing of the right noises learnt by rote; it is the natural product of a generous heart.

In the narrow terms of the intolerant, who feel we must pick sides, we are cop-out … and to protest that we’re not is to accept those terms. Might I instead suggest the simple response of: fuck off and die.

We are the people people warned us against, and we should be revelling in it.

(And lying in your arms, enfolded in your arms and safe.)

* * *

And sometimes, just occasionally, people wear their scars lightly. People who are healed and well, who know how to deal with frightened children who find themselves turning into monsters and who don’t know why. Who take in strays, and feed them until they can run again, and then they let them go. Miracles happen. Miracles happen all the time, and most of them are other people.

It’s like gazing absently through a train window as you pull out of the city in the dead, grey rain. Sunlight bursts through a gap in the cloud-cover, briefly illuminating a landscape with a hard-edged, crystalline, coruscating clarity.

Nothing has changed, nothing at all - but suddenly, in spite of everything and against all expectation, it can just be a beautiful world.

It’s inside you all the time: a big light machine. All you have to do is switch it on.


Kama Mundra

(This was originally intended as Pornography, I think … until I discovered, in remarkably short order, that I am completely incapable of writing Pornography.)

The Kama Mundra
Or, The Way of the Limping Ocelot

As translated from the Manaanan by Sir Rupert Gilhooly FRS
Excerpted with annotation, addentation and introduction by Mr. D.R. Stone


Much has been made, and rightly so, of the translation by Sir Richard Burton of The Kama Sutra in 1883 - so much so that we tend to completely overlook his predecessors in the translatory arts. We forget that, some ten years before, following a gruelling trek through the interior regions of Manaan, the celebrated explorer, terpsichorist and practical pharmacologist Sir Rupert Gilhooly emerged from that dark and fetid sub-continent bearing boxes of intricately-carved onyx, a hatful of dubious mushrooms that turned your water green, and the last surviving copy of the Kama Mundra.

Gilhooly’s first translation of this magical, if not alas ultimately seminal, work did not do well, perhaps because of its unashamedly forthright nature, but far more probably, and not to say plausibly due to the fact that the disgusting practices contained therein were physically impossible if one were not a professional contortionist with ready access to a coconut and a trained mountain goat.

While The Kama Sutra - Aphorisms of Love was riding high on the best-seller lists and Burton himself chatting airily to Sarah Dunant upon the innate semantic self-contradictions of Sanskrit, ritual Nabob nipple-worship and what it was like to be married to Elizabeth Taylor, Gilhooly’s work, entitled perhaps unfortunately for modern sensibilities, The Kama Mundra - How to do Sex like the Wogs do it, was lucky if it could get into the remaindered bin at WH Smiths.

Disheartened by this lack of success, Gilhooly became a recluse. Indeed, as his diaries say at the time: ‘Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.’ He devoted the rest of his short, sad life to goat-breeding, freebasing crack and extensively researching his original Manaanan source material with a view to a possible sequel, tentatively entitled Doctor Gilhooly’s Joy of Shagging. He died of massive rupture in 1885, when two pages stuck together.

The Kama Mundra

This is, I believe, the first English translation of certain precepts and aphorisms contained within the text compiled ‘in modesty and rectal continence’ by Varashanta the Manaanan, embodying the wisdom of that noble people from between 1,000 B.C.E. and 400 C.E.

I find myself unable, I confess, to ascertain the true meaning of certain nouns, the meanings of which have long-since been lost to us. I do not know, for example, what a Super Nintendo Game Boy is, and have not the slightest intention of finding out.

- Rupert Gilhooly KBE, FRS 1873

The Congress of the Fibrillating Raven
The gentleman reclines upon a mat of scented rushes, applying a tincture of pomegranate and green pesto to the lady’s Yoni, all the while that the other gentleman leaps from the pianoforte (a clavicle is perfectly acceptable, though slightly diminutive for advanced tastes), singing a selection from the refrains of the noted entertainer Mr. George Formby, with a preponderance toward the number of surprising adventures involving his little stick of Blackpool rock. This continues until exhaustion, prostration or the untimely interruption by a mythical Manaanan retributive deity commonly known as Old Bill.

The Congress of the Soapy Hedgehog
A number of sad and rather bedraggled gentlemen sit in a circle and make glum and stilted conversation upon some self-imposed topic or other, listening to the occasional bursts of distant happy laughter and shooting the occasional furtive glance to the door behind which the Women’s Group are having all the actual fun. This continues until some gentleman suggests, in the charming patois of the region, ‘sodding off for a beer’.

The Congress of the Ubiquitous Lemur
Not so much an act of sexual congress as a magickal technique for the unobserved conduction of same. Ladies and gentleman of a certain lost and hybrid tribe would join with members of certain far more polarised sub-groups upon some ritual demonstration or other, or to make some common grievance heard. They could then do what the fuck they liked, because, strangely, they upon the instant became completely and utterly invisible. Indeed, such was the success of this ploy that contemporary archival material contains no mention of them whatsoever, and this is almost certainly why they remain lost.

(One detects a note of uncharacteristic spite in this particular translation, possibly as a result of certain unfortunate experiences Gilhooly encountered upon a mass demonstration by the Temperance League for the Social Equality of Maryannes, Uranians, Lunatics, Sapphic Women, Women in general and in Fact Everybody except Mr. Rupert Gilhooly.)

The Congress of Vienna
Oh dear me, I beg your pardon. I couldn’t resist it. Willie Rushdon didn't die in vain.

The Congress of the Big Tin of Swarfega
The lady and the other lady swing from the … oh, what’s the point. I’ve had enough of this. There’s a little green worm inside my head, his name is Jeremy and if we’re very, very good he might sing us his song. We had to avoid certain parts of the room, you see. I hear the tread of Mistress Crabtree on the stair, bringing me my afternoon Largactyl …

(Interpolatory textual note. At this point, and quite without warning, there comes a four-hundred-and-fifty-page-long diatribe against the Corn Laws, interspersed with personal abuse directed toward Messrs. Grablitt, Flatchlock and Swive, the firm of barristers who unsuccessfully defended Gilhooly after the notorious Bath and Wells galvanistical bicycle-pump incident, and just what, precisely, he would like to do to them.

Certain of these passages have induced projectile vomiting in even the most hardened souls well used to slithering in the most unmitigated frightfulness, might cause unnecessary distress to those descendants now living, and have thus been excised.

Only once more does Gilhooly’s text touch directly upon matters of sexual congress - and this, strangely, deals with a variant upon the Hindu ritual of Panchamakara.)

* * *

Those who are expecting a glowing report about how people stick their rampant twonks into other people’s heaving organs of sensitivity until they do a multiple orgasm and the so forth are going to be sorely disappointed. The current authors would be really good at sex, they bet, if they ever got around to actually doing it … but being for the moment complete strangers to the ways of slithering and unmitigated perversion and pretty damned smelly to boot, they shall confine themselves to detailing the so-called ‘infamous’ Panchamakara ritual - as scaled down from eight protagonists to a healthy and readily assimilable three, and improvised upon the spur of the moment and off the top of their heads.

The Panchamakara seems to consist of five stages, the Five M’s, and has apparently shocked and shamed many a European as well as many an Indian writer. Well, fuck ‘em sideways, or indeed upside-down and hanging from a set of manacles. The Five M’s are:

1.) Madya (wine and suchlike intoxicating substances). Protagonist (a) smokes a joint or from a hash pipe whilst protagonist (b) pours wine to taste between (c)’s tits and licks it off. Continue around the circle until the end of the bottle and the joint or until everybody’s at least had a taste. The navel or the small of the back may be substituted the second time around for a bit of variety, of which the spice of life it is.

2.) Mamsa (the flesh of animals). Again working in a circle, every protagonist worshipfully kisses each applicable protagonist’s dick in turn. For exclusively female gatherings, the sucking of nipples is preferable to miming with dildos and the like, since the point is to engorge erectile tissue. We don’t use the ordinarily obvious clitoris because of:

3.) Matsya (fish). Every protagonist worshipfully kisses each applicable protagonist’s cunt. (For boys-only bashes, or for people who just prefer rimming, rimming will suffice.) Our authors would also like to apologise at this point for associating female primary genitalia with fish: vaginas do not, so far as they know, roam the oceans in majestic shoals, know the secrets of the deep and would in all probability be incredibly unappetising if filleted, battered, deep-fried in lard and sold with a bag of chips.

4.) Mudra (grain). Sacred wafers, cream crackers, hash brownies, half a packet of Ritz biscuits or whatever else one has to hand are passed around to be anointed with vaginal fluid and precum and eaten. Yum.

4b.) As (4) save that everybody masturbates and wherever possible comes to anoint said half a packet of Ritz with seminal or vaginal ejaculatory fluid. Culinary artistes should be taking notes. Great British Fuck-off, anyone? Please yourselves.

5.) Maithuna (sex). Everyone just fucks each other’s brains out, and good luck to them. Incidentally, if (4b.) has obtained, with the sexual imperative-pressure off, the whole thing devolves into something far more caring and, ultimately, climactic. Either that, or everybody just feels a bit of a fool and gives up. You pays your money and you takes your choice, basically.

The sacred ambiance of the Panchamakara can be accentuated by several Most Solemn and Magical ritual chants, including the mystical ‘I’ve got a Loverly Bunch of Coconuts’, the sublime ‘Grandad’s Flannelette Shirt’ (lordy, lordy) and the ancient and authentic Hindu text of ‘I’m a Pink Toothbrush, You’re a Blue Toothbrush’. Particularly popular proves one of our authors’, who shall remain nameless, rendition of the concinnately beautiful Tantric love ballad, ‘Frigging in the Rigging’, as one goes down for the third time.

And then we had some very nice tea and unadulterated biscuits. Chocolate Hobnobs, if the memory serves.



That Was MY Idea, That ... er, What?

(A while back, someone asked for my thoughts on NA elements in New Who. This is what I said on the matter.)

Everybody, famously, knows where they were when Kennedy was shot. I know I do. I was going through of process of meiosis in my mother’s tummy, subsequent to a knee-trembler round the back of some Nissan Hut or other, my birth-mother being a member of the Women’s Royal Army Corps at the time.

Thus I was far too young and unformed to hold a gun, was nowhere near Dallas at the time, so you can’t pin it on me. That’s one suspect crossed off the list, in any event.

Likewise, my involvement with an event of the same time, an event far more pertinent to the subject in hand - the first episode of the popular television drama, Doctor Who - was by necessity somewhat minimal. I gather, from an interview on Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe, that the show was the direct result of a focus-group committee, actively designed to be liked by the broadest possible number of people … and so my only contribution was, nascently, being one of the people of whom it might like to be liked.

This policy of non-involvement continued for a number of years as the show was run by, and received the imprint of a personal stamp from, everyone from Marvin the Paranoid Android to Widow Twanky. I just sat there and gawped at it, sucking it in to the busily preforming child-brain along with that whole mélange of Hitch-hiker's, Randall and Hopkirk, Action comic, The Champions, Tomorrow People, prototypical console games and so on, and so on, and so on, that in the fullness of time would come to be collectively known of as Menk.

Like many others of my generation I was simply enamoured of this stuff, incorporated it. So much a part of me it was that I was convinced, on some fundamental level, that this was what I was going to do when I grew up - much in the same way that I’m still waiting for them to give me a jet-pack and let me live in a colony-dome on Mars.

And of course, as we all know, just as I was getting to the age where I could actually do something about it, they pulled the sodding plug. This was a bit of a blow. All part of the track-record of the BBC in the ‘80s and ‘90s, of course - from canceling The Goodies and using the money to ruin The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on the small screen, to the comment from some high-up that sci-fi fans were being catered for perfectly well cos they were still making Red Dwarf. Still, it was something of a personal blow.

Fortunately, any number of other people had also been blown by the BBC … and in the fullness of time they would find a small protective enclave in the Virgin New Adventures - the licensed and official continuation of the Doctor’s adventures in print.

Serious moment, here, since - all joking aside - a lot of people don’t realise what a true phenomenon the NA’s were in popular fiction - certainly in Science Fiction as a genre:

The basic premise, after all, involved this guy who could go anywhere, any time, and do anything when he got there. Combine that with the sheer scale of production - at their height, the Virgin and later the BBC Books were putting out at least two full-length novels per month - and you had a market for largely original, SF-related fiction unparalleled since the pulp-fiction magazines of 1940’s America.

These were not some strictly controlled pieces of by-the-numbers spinoffery like the Star Trek books, and the breadth of basic concept meant that it would be a push to even describe them as ‘shared-world’ fiction. More like a sub-genre of Science Fiction, in and of themselves.

And crucially, of course, being licensed and sanctioned by the franchise-holders, and the only game in town for the remaining fans, there was the neigh-on certainty that they would punch way above their weight in sales.

Like I said, a phenomenon. And the result was, when Alan Carr … I beg your pardon, when Russell T Davies came to reboot the show, there was a huge conceptual backlog over and above the entire televised history - in terms of wordage and sheer number of ideas at least.

A lesser man might have simply ignored the lot, but Russell - writer of an NA himself - was better than that and did not. Thus, ultimately, necessarily, there was a certain amount of bleed-through from the NA’s and the Beeb Books into New Who.

In no particular order, off the top of my head, here’s a small list. And if it’s all very partial and self-serving, well, to quote Krusty the Klown, I’m a lazy, lazy man and can’t be bothered to check every little thing …

- The Time War, the first NA reference to which, as such, I believe occurred in Sky Pirates!

- Humanised Daleks, in the sense that NA mentions of them hinted of cultural subtleties and sympathizing elements nonexistent in the show, in much the same way that the culture of pre-War Japan was pretty much incomprehensible to the West. Ben Aronovitch, for example, mentions ‘Dalek poetry’, which, not having read it, I can only assume consists of haikus rather like this:

Exterminate, exterminate
Vision is impaired
I cannot see

- A charming if occasionally hapless anti-hero, taken out of time and with his own ship, and who becomes a second-string Companion and shags everything that moves. Jason Kane in Death and Diplomacy, natch

- A bright and witty Future Archaeologist who in some certain sense has and will become the most important Companion to the Doctor of all. (Benny/River Song)

- A space-going version of the Titanic, sabotaged by the owners for the Insurance. (Ship of Fools)

- The corpus of Paul Cornell and Gareth Roberts. Well, obviously

- The notion that everyone in the future is bisexual

- The Doctor as pants-wetting nemesis for the bad guys. It was Cornell and also Kate Orman, for example, who came up with ‘The Oncoming Storm’, though they connected it with the Draonians rather than the Daleks. (The Daleks, by way of Aronovitch, called him the Bringer of Darkness.) And as Steve Moffatt said, somewhere, ‘Nice guy - if you’re a biped.’

- A Reality Bomb consisting of a planetary orrery. That is, a bunch of planets all, like, crowded together. Sky Pirates!, again …

And on. And on. And so on. Anyhow. At this point you’re probably saying. ‘Oh, come on, Dave! Are you seriously sitting there in a fit of self-aggrandising sour grapes and really thinking New Who ripped you off?’

To which I say, ‘Can you spare a quid or so for a tin of cheapo beer, guv?’

To which you reply, ‘Oh, you poor brave man! I never realised things were so hard for you! Here, take everything in my wallet! I know it’s not much, but it might help.’

All of which is to say, a man can dream. Of course I’m not sitting here thinking I’ve been ripped off or anything. At best, it would be nice to think that I contributed the odd striking image and idea to the whole rich broth of material from which New Who was drawn, and that some of it actually made it to the screen.

I’d like to think that, mind you, but probably not … at the very least because hardly anything I’ve mentioned above was in any way original to me.

The Time War, for example, might have been brought up vaguely in the show, but the first overt explication of it was in a filler-series in the back of Doctor Who Monthly. Written by Alan Moore, who would subsequently, I gather, become a comics writer of some note. It concerned the adventures of the Special Executive, a troupe of metatemporal mercenaries called in to aid the Time Lords, pre-emptively attacked in an attempt to prevent them wiping out their enemies in the future.

Since this was where the Time Lords got their time-travelling technology from in the first place, this might be seen as a bit of a tactical blunder by said enemies. The strip was reprinted in the British monthly Daredevils, to bring the Special Executive into the Marvel Universe and have them meet the Moore-scripted Captain Britain, and that’s where I personally got the Time War from.

Jason Kane was basically me, of course, and my general reactions to this and that. I suppose it’s just possible that his quasi-existence expanded the probability-space of Who to provide room for not entirely heroic characters like Rose’s dad Pete and Captain Jack - but hardly likely in a world that already contained Turlough and Adric.

The Titanic thing. I mean, come on, we’re talking about a sci-fi show involving time-travel. Every show like that and its dog has no doubt set something on the Titanic. And as for ships being sabotaged by the owners, that’s happened in fact and fiction - I got it from a sequence in the hugely funny novel Tik-Tok, by John Sladek, where the death ship in question, far from actually being in space, was standing out in the desert surrounded by Wile E Coyote TNT.

Pansexuality in The Future, and for that matter the eradication of racial divisions, were we all practice techno-exogenesis, all have a rather fetching mocha-latté skin tone and are all Enlightened with a capital E … is such a standard-issue, well-worn and thoughtlessly used SF trope that it’s not even worth talking about. So I won’t.

As for Planetary Orreries … well, the whole basis of Fantastickal stories, historically, is that various planets and worlds are close enough together that you can travel to them in a cart pulled by geese or whatnot. I distinctly remember making the term Reality Bomb up - but it’s such a perfectly obvious term I can’t imagine that any number of people haven’t come up with it completely independently.

It’s a depressing thing to realise, really, that my single and unequivocal contribution to New Who - and thus to the culture of the world in general - is a throwaway remark made in the pub that I’m Proper Dave and somebody else is Other Dave. Only, this late in the day, I can’t for the life of me remember whether I made it and Moffatt laughed, or whether he made it and I did. That’s a bit of a pain, but I suppose it’s something.

Anyhow. You’ll have no doubt noticed - careful and attentive reader that you are - that while I’ve been waffling on about things that were my idea but, no, they really weren’t, that I’ve in actual fact been talking about something else. That’s proper good writing, that is. (That’s a technical term us proper good writers use; don’t worry your pretty little head about it.)

What I’m talking about, of course, is what they call Entitlement. Others have dissected it at length, and far better than I ever could but, in short, it’s a value-neutral term for the way in which a fan incorporates some work within him to the extent that the acts of creation and consumption blur.

This can lead to over-proprietorial obsession, but for the most part it’s something that informs and enriches countless day-to-day lives. One feels one owns something, and that the simple fact of owning it transforms it in a somewhat magical way. This isn’t something I was given; this is something that I made …

It’s a bit complicated for me and Who, sure, since it’s just possible that my personal influence has made an actual and substantive difference - but, you know, I’m talking about the feeling.

The point, such as it is, is that Entitlement is never happier than when attaching itself to Great works. The works that take some commonality and shine a light on it brighter than several suns.

The first Star Wars (the proper first one) is a humongous and shambolic mess - but also a Great movie. It’s just everything that part of us that goes, ‘Yay! Death-ray-battles! Pew! Pew! Pew!’ wants to see in a space-opera.

Alan Moore, who I mentioned, has any number of flaws as a writer - don’t get me started - but he’s also a Great Writer. Watchmen, whatever else it was, was everything that part of us which goes, ‘Hang on, what would obviously happen if Superman even tried to do that in any real life?’ wants to see in a superhero comic.

And Doctor Who, of course, is what everybody wants to see in The Single Greatest Adventure Show on TV in the History of Evar.

For any and all of the particular flaws in it’s production, the fact that it is in production should have all right-thinking people on their knees daily and thanking God. If He existed.

Which of course He doesn’t. But then you can’t have everything.

That is all.

About Cats

Everyone on the Internet, it seems, likes nothing better than to talk about cats. And it occurs to me I did that, once, at the front of a charity book concerning them.

This is, slightly updated, what I said on the matter:

For someone with a complete indifference to the joys of cat, I seem to have had the uncanny knack of acquiring them. A dead girl dropped one on my lap once, and he became Bonzo. We were all so much younger at the time - especially the cat - and more than one of us all was still alive, so the name seemed really funny and clever.

This was back in the days when writing involved typewriters; the physical business of winding paper round a platen … and Bonzo’s thing was to pelt around the room, dive onto a ream of A4 manuscript and surf it off the table in an explosion of loose sheets. This was very amusing. Bonzo’s favourite food in the world was CocoPops, and we made up a song about that.

When I shared a house with my sister in South London, we acquired a brother-and-sister pair from kitten. Mork was a bully and Mindy, being the smaller, was long-suffering … right until the point she’d had quite enough, and took him quite definitively to the cleaners. Thereafter, he followed her around like a puppy dog – if the term can be properly used in this context – and looked on as she trounced all territorial encroachments in short order. They ended out in the wilds of Suffolk, and went around beating up the local foxes, who aren’t a patch on the rangy little street-fighters you get in London.

Current-day Spoiler: They're both dead.

During a short and somewhat disastrous marriage, I and spouse were adopted by a fat, smug article who muscled his way in through the legacy cat flap and demanded to be fed. Said article came to rejoice in the name of Bilbo, despite every protestation at my command. This went on for a couple of years, before we learnt that the fatness and smugness had something to do with the fact that he was being owned and fed, under a variety of names, by half the neighbourhood.

Moving around a lot, one tends to remain functionally cat-free - until Head Office catches up with you and sends in the big guns. In this case, a long-haired, bedraggled and frenetically affectionate black and white-patched stray, on the very upper-end of kittenhood, obviously housetrained, and turfed out when he had begun to grow.

He contrived to squirrel around me and my partner of the time, on the walk back from the local Tapas bar, apparently having fallen in desperate love with my boots. (And don't get me wrong, they were lovely boots.) On reaching home, it would have been the act of a cold-hearted monster not to have let the specimen in. Unfortunately, my objections were overridden. Partner’s youngest son, who was five at the time, promptly gave him the name Minardi. Youngest son was and is an avid fan of Formula One.

Minardi was at just precisely the right age to be chipped and snipped without turning him nasty. There wasn't a mean bone in his body - no bones at all, when he lay there pointing in around seven different and totally unconnected directions. Copious quantities of kitten-mix and mackerel left him two and a half feet long and a foot wide, none of which was fat … and not counting the tail, which was bushy as a skunk’s and as long as his body again. Those measurements are approximate and mutable: when he lay against a door to take advantage of the draft, his body stretched the entire span, like a draft-excluder.

He was also quite clearly insane. He never lost the sense of mad amazement which seems to come as standard-issue with all kittens, and usually goes out the window second it’s done its job and conned them into a home. My boots still sent him into demented fits of joy, usually when I was climbing the stairs with a PowerBook in hand. His favourite place in the world was the bathroom sink, which he filled amorphously, and it was somewhat disconcerting to blunder in of a hung-over morning, and sit down to see two wide, bright eyes staring at you and asking what you were doing.

When he was thirsty, the cat would turn on the damn kitchen tap. Admittedly, the tap was of the lever-operated variety, as opposed to something that required actual thumbs, but a mindfulness of old jokes had one seriously considering hiding the tin-opener.

Anyhow. Again.

The reason I bring all this up is to make the point that cats are different from each other in the same way that people are different. They’re not like dogs, trying to join in with the pack; they’re individuals with the capacity for socialisation. Cats are, in some basic sense, people … whether you like it or not. And as such they deserve a specific and particular degree of consideration.

I've mentioned the various programmes of spaying and neutering feral cat colonies to a number of people, and got a reaction from one or two that I hadn’t expected. Of its sort, I believe, it’s akin to the reaction that guys of any stripe have when the fixing of any animal is mentioned: cross the legs and give a little whimper. The articulation of it, though, came in serious terms, and as such deserves a serious reply.

In a nutshell (as it were) the point of these one or two people was this: spaying and neutering feral cats could be seen as being more cruel than simply exterminating them. In a Darwinian sense, we have taken away from them the sole purpose of life - that of reproduction - without their consent, thus rendering existence meaningless for them. Better, morally, to leave well enough alone and let nature sort it out, or damn well bite the bullet and break out the gas canisters.

Well, no. The point about the Darwinian imperative - unless you really, really do believe in a Purposeful God - is that it is entirely value-free. The fact that an organism exists, or survives, or reproduces is neither good nor right in and of itself. It is a simple fact. How that fact is interpreted comes down to personal preference … and where people are concerned, what people say goes.

The purpose and meaning of life, so far as people are concerned, is to increase the sum of happiness and to decrease that of suffering. By that yardstick, extermination-programmes fail for obvious reasons, and letting ‘nature’ take its course fails spectacularly - unless a Malthusian nightmare of starvation and disease are anybody’s idea of a good time.

In the here and now, the only option one can face with equanimity is restricting the breeding of feral cats. One could issue condoms and instructional pamphlets, I suppose - but, frankly, cats don’t strike me as bright enough, whether they’re people or not.

In the end, rather like pluralistic democracy, the spaying and neutering of feral cats is not an ideal solution in any number of respects - it’s just the best solution that there is if one wishes to stay in some degree humane.

It’s a people thing, basically. And in dealing with people, with the choice of being cruel, or doing nothing, or at least trying to be kind - trying to be kind is what people are all about.