Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tuesdays With Phineas Redux

My Pen-Name, & Related Topics

I’m asked, now and again, what relevance my pen-name has to the ‘Xena; Warrior Princess’ universe? Well, none really. When I wrote my first piece of ‘Xena’ fan-fiction and uploaded it for public inspection I sat and pondered over this subject for some time. (Yes, I am capable of logical sustained thought, thank you very much!). “What, . . . . , do you suppose is the best moniker to use?” ( . . . ., being my real name, you understand). And this is me communing with my Muse, by the way. Yes, I do. She makes appearances at the Redux hacienda every three months or so; steals my ‘Alta Rica’ coffee, and the last of my chocolate Hob-Nobs; mutters some literary suggestions in so low and dis-interested a whisper I miss half of them; then slopes off back to Olympus, or Kensington or Chelsea, or S W 1 or wherever she has her pad these days, and I don’t see her for yonks afterwards. That perhaps explains why I tend to write and upload my efforts in fits and starts. I blame it all on my Muse.

By the way, I haven’t yet quite identified her in person yet. I mean, there were nine of the harrida—dear ladies, to begin with, weren’t there? With some joining the throng along the way, I believe. Anyway, let’s see, the choice is between Clio, Thalia, Erato, Euterpe, Polyhymnia, Calliope, Terpsichore, Urania, and Melpomene. And judging from my experience I can only say—what a group! The Wild Bunch had nothing on these dames, let me assure you. I thought at first, and for the longest time, I was being honoured by Clio: but that was a bust. Then I decided she must be Thalia; well, you would, wouldn’t you? But no, it was not to be. Now I just go on happily in a state of unknowing; probably the wisest course. These Muses can be so touchy, y’know. Fly off the handle at the slightest perceived insult or affront. One day she’s there, standing at your elbow complaining because you can’t write or type fast enough; then there’s a swirl of Classical garments, a haughty chill pervades the atmosphere, and she’s gone in a huff (though sometimes, just to make her statement all the more dramatic, she waits for a minute and a huff, as Groucho once said [he must have met her too] leaving an empty space where she stood, and where my imagination usually has its shake-down).

So, what does an industrious author do when faced with the greatest tragedy of an author’s working life—no plots? He (I’m talking here about me in the third tense. Yes, I know there ought to be a word in English which happily groups the female and the male together, but as there isn’t in real life so there isn’t in literary terms either—just leave it alone)—or she, scratches their head; sharpens a few pencils; makes a cup of coffee; stares blankly out the window; reads the daily paper for the sixth time; puts the television on and slumps out before daytime TV (God, don’t tell me there isn’t a Hell!); opens a well-thumbed cook-book at their favourite recipe and drools for half-an-hour, though they have no intention of ever actually making the dish; and then finally give up all hope and switch to painting, wood-work, sewing, or taking up the collection of street-bus numbers for a hobby.

But when He, She, They, are on a run (authors, writers, me, I mean)—what a great feeling! The words just burst from your imagination like water over Niagara. Everything in the plot fits perfectly; the characters know exactly what they’re doing; and before you know it you’ve completed a really good piece of work. Then comes the proud moment when you upload the story to your site of choice on the internet and then sit back and wait for comments that never come; because however much the reader likes your effort they’ll be double-damned on a one-way trip to Hades, Hell, Avernus, and The Great Deep Pit of Everlasting Fiery Damnation before they’ll so much as sit down and send a single word to you of praise, criticism, thanks, or a finely worded plea to give up writing and join the Democratic party.

There are young writers out there; mature writers (that’s me. I think I’m a Singularity, as they say in Physics [Who was that who just said “You’re something, at any rate!”?]); writers new to the fan-dom of their choice; established writers, who know all the dark secrets of fan-fiction production; and a plethora of other people who really ought to be doing something more useful for a living. It’s great to be part of a group, isn’t it?

Then come the hours of personal analysis when you try to delve into the stygian depths of you own mind, in a valiant but doomed attempt to understand yourself and your wish to foist—publish, that is,—fiction for the consternation—er, delight,—of the non-paying Public. I mean, what possible reason can there be for a perfectly rational person (I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here, you understand!) to want to read stories about fictional characters of limited appeal? Oh, that’s what the whole concept of Fictional Literature has been based on for hundreds, if not thousands, of years! I didn’t realise. Well! Well! You live and learn.

So, in fact, what the fan-fiction author is doing; what they are providing; what their reason d’etre amounts to, is intermingling the fictional with the even more fictional, ad infinitum—to produce a work so deeply imbued with the ambience of absolute fantasy, obfuscated from all hint of reality, that the happy reader can lose themselves in a world of the imagination completely at odds with the reality around them—for the few hours the story lasts, at any rate. A fine aspiration; one can’t argue with that; well, one could, but Hell, get a life and leave us to our simple enjoyments—go demand more rights for those hardy workers who put up all those ‘No Jaywalking’ signs just where you most need to cross the road, or sign a petition for the repeal of standing up to sing the National Anthem at the end of the evening show in cinemas across the country [What? That only happened in Britain, and it doesn’t happen anymore! Dear me, what a terrible loss. The country’s going to the dogs, mark my words].

And that brings us back—most serendipitously, I must admit—to the reason why I chose the pen-name ‘Phineas Redux’. You want to know, don’t you? Hey, kindly stop sniggering at the back, please. Well, I’m going to tell you anyway. I had just finished a volume of my favourite author (yes, Anthony Trollope. What’s that? Huh! Impertinence! You don’t know what you’re missing) when the thought suddenly cascaded, flew, dived, erupted, advanced, blazoned itself across the horizons of my waking thoughts. Oh, alright, enough with the flowery language—I had an idea. Satisfied? And that idea was essentially this—now focus, people, this’ll change your lives for the greater good forever, y’know. Hey, who opened the doors at the back of the auditorium? I thought I locked them? Those who’re leaving are gon’na miss a good thing—an’ I’ll be damned if I return your ticket-money, so there! OK, the reason I chose ‘Phineas Redux’ for my non-de-plume (that’s French, y’know) is because it— [Just a tick, everyone. I have to consult my Musical Director at this point. He and his five-piece band have been providing mood music during my lecture, y’see. Tommy! Hey, Tommy! I suppose, because the audience are now leaving in droves, falling over each other to abandon the theatre, you think it’s funny to strike up with ‘Nearer My God To Thee’? Well, I think it’s in very poor taste indeed. Why don’t you and the kids just bugger off to the ‘Lady & the Chakram’ over the road; it’s opening time, y’know.]

Where was I? Gosh, there’s hardly anyone left, for the greatest announcement in modern Literary History. So, anyway, I call myself ‘Phineas Redux’ because—Oh, I’m all alone in an empty, echoing chamber, with not a soul in sight. So much for the revival of interest in literature in the 21st century, I don’t think. Ah, wait a minute, an elderly bloke in a dirty yellow ankle-length dust-coat and a long-handled brush is sweeping up in the wings. He’ll do. Hoi! Hoi! Yes, you, my man! No, I can’t spare a dime. The reason I call myself ‘Phineas Redux’ is—Oh bother, he’s disappeared too. Didn’t think he had it in him to make that turn of speed. Oh well, if I can’t tell the paying Public—and it was such a low fee, too—I can at least tell the Gods on High. The reason I call myself ‘Phineas Redux’ is because—

~Phineas Redux~

A Music Concert by Phineas Redux
This is an Uberfic set in Great Britain in 1943. Zena Mathews and Gabrielle Parker, are both pilots and members of SOE—Special Operations Executive. They are on blackout detail on the Orkney Mainland, going round the outlying houses and farms. Then they sit in a deserted farm-house for a short time one night, reflecting on life; after which they attend a large entertainment party for the troops.

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