SLYTHERIN: “He had taken a risky turning in playing such a boastful card, and at the moment it could not be proved either a failure or a success; but this he did know, that to be able to take risks was the key note of the successful man.” -Mervyn Peake (Titus Groan)
She has a childish look about her, from her large eyes to the jut of her lower lip, and this extends to her stance and posture. Her movements are at once entirely unladylike, without having any aspect of boyishness. Her clothes, rich and expensive but oversized and shapeless on her, are things that she inhabits, rather than wears. She does have an eye for shiny treasures, and a string of pearls or shiny stone will often be clasped at her neck, or in her hair.
Description of Lady Fuchsia by Mervyn Peake (Gormenghast).
His description of Fuchsia, I feel, describes me to a T. Describing my mannerisms, I am unladylike but not boyish, I stand in front of the mirror feeling like a character in a play, like my clothes are not my own. And for my lack of girlie characteristics, I adore jewellery.
First Line: “Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would hae displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls.”
It was a night that seemed to prove by the consolidation of its darkness and its silence the hopelessness of any further dawn. There was no such thing as dawn. It was an invention of the night’s or of the old-wives of the night–a fable, immemorially old–recounted century after century in the eternal darkness; retold and retold to the gnomic children in the tunnels and the caves of Gormenghast–a tale of another world where such things happened, where stones and bricks and ivy stems and iron could be seen as well as touched and smelt, could be lit and coloured, and where at certain times a radiance shone like honey from the east and the blackness was scaled away, and this thing they called dawn arose above the woods as though the fable had materialized, the legend come to life.
“This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.” -Mervyn Peak, Titus Groan
Reece & Steve were recently called upon to interview each other for The Guardian - apparently because “who better to uncover their darkest thoughts than each other?” (and not because The Guardian were trying to save money on journalists…) It produced suitably informative, entertaining and bizarre results. [x]
REECE I gather your new series is in an underused TV format. Why one-off stories?
STEVE We did two series of Psychoville…
R That was cancelled, wasn’t it?
S We wanted to jump before we were pushed. We had a meeting with BBC2, and we weren’t sure if they were going to say, “Please do more Psychovilles,” which they didn’t. So we thought we’d better have a new idea. We’d really enjoyed doing a one-off episode [of Psychoville] with Mark Gatiss…
S And we thought: why don’t we do six half-hour episodes? Luckily, the controller of BBC2 is a big fan of short stories in the vein of Tales Of The Unexpected. And she said, “Like Saki short stories, maybe?” And we said, “Absolutely”. Then we went away and read some Saki short stories.
R Did you have any ideas?
S We had two. There was a girl on Swap Shop who collected air from different places she visited. So I had this idea of someone who had got hold of a balloon full of the last breath of a very famous person. The other was a play we’d written; the first thing we ever wrote together, in fact.
R We wrote a play about being on the dole. The idea is that your will to get out of the situation is sapped out of you. This is embodied by a character called Dole Boy; it’s very allegorical. They start playing board games, then he’s wrapped in a duvet watching This Morning.
S Was that what you were like?
R My lowest ebb was 1992, doing telephone surveys and taste tests. When we got this commission, we returned to it and added a twist to the tale.
S Did you write yourself into the main part every week?
R I tried to but Steve wouldn’t let me. How easy is it for you to access “dark” places in your comedy?
S Obviously it’s pretty easy, because we keep doing it. We had an idea of a terminally ill child getting a visit from the Make A Wish Foundation. If it was in a drama, they’d say that it was very sensitively handled but because it’s a comedy, they say it’s sick. Well, fuck off. Is there anywhere you’ve thought: we’d better not go there?
R No, that would be like saying that our remit was, “Ooh, what’s the worst thing you can think of?”
S I think back to the first episode of Psychoville, where we play mother and son. You were scratching flakes of dead skin off my back while testing me on serial-killer trivia. But that was a real scenario that we heard about. And in reality it was worse: the mother only had one leg and the boy had jaundice. We get ideas from documentaries, newspapers … An archive? You have a secret room in your house, don’t you?
R Yes, I have an attic room hidden behind a bookcase. You press a button, and the bookcase opens, like in Scooby-Doo. In there is a lot of magic memorabilia, because I collect magic. And other things.
S What’s the weirdest thing you have in the room?
R Probably the foetus of a werewolf. It’s pickled in a jar.
S How do you know it’s a werewolf?
R I’ve got all the documents.
S Stupid question. Didn’t you used to make props from horror films when you were a kid?
R I was obsessed with The Company Of Wolves, and I wrote to Christopher Tucker who made the props. We became penpals. Were you a macabre child?
S I was ordinary. I loved watching TV. Riding about on my Chopper.
R I remember choking on a Monster Munch when I was on my Chopper. I nearly died. It was pickled onion flavour. The worst kind.
S Do you think you draw on your past in other ways?
R I think League Of Gentlemen drew on our experiences growing up in northern towns, not that they were as weird and remote as Royston Vasey was. But it pervaded our material. All four of us have a collective memory, of a bonfire night in 1973 watching Carry On Screaming on BBC1 at 6.25 instead of going out.
S That could have been formative because it’s a mix of funny and disturbing stuff. Charles Hawtrey being killed in a toilet cubicle. All you hear is the flush.
R Do you think there’s a snobbery between sitcom actors and proper actors in dramas?
S Yes, I do.
R Would you say that doing comedy is in some ways harder than straight acting?
S When we started and wanted to do stuff outside League Of Gentlemen, people would say, “Oh, do you do acting as well?”
R Have you ever cast anyone in a comedy, presuming they could do it, and found they couldn’t?
S Particularly on The League Of Gentlemen.
R Oh god, yeah.
S The DVD commentaries on that… You and Mark would be like, “Here she comes, worst actress in the world!” They could have got people round…
R …Bottle of wine. “Let’s get the commentary on; wind forward to my bit…”
S How would you describe our tone?
R Hopefully we make funny, surprising television. Can you describe the new series without saying, “This meets this”? Remember when The League Of Gentlemen was described as “Victoria Wood meets The Fast Show”?
S Those two things are not dissimilar enough to do a “meets”. The best one we had was, “League Of Gentlemen is Twin Peaks meets Mervyn Peake, meets Peak Practice.”
It never ceases to amaze me to discover that some of my own fans have never heard of all the great fantasists who came before me, without whom A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE could never have been written… without whom, in truth, there might not be a fantasy genre at all,“ Martin said. "If you have enjoyed my own fantasy novels, you owe it to yourself to read J.R.R. Tolkien (LORD OF THE RINGS), Robert E. Howard (Conan the Cimmerian, Kull of Atlantis, Solomon Kane), C.L. Moore (Jirel of Joiry), Jack Vance (THE DYING EARTH, Lyonesse, Cugel the Clever, and so much more), Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser), Richard Adams (WATERSHIP DOWN, SHARDIK, MAIA), Ursula K. Le Guin (Earthsea, the original trilogy), Mervyn Peake (GORMENGHAST), T.H. White (THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING), Rosemary Sutcliffe, Alan Garner, H.P. Lovecraft (more horror than fantasy, admittedly), Clark Ashton Smith, and… well, the list is long. But those writers should keep you busy for quite a while.
If ever he had harboured a conscience in his tough narrow breast he had by now dug out and flung away the awkward thing - flung it so far away that were he ever to need it again he could never find it.