Robert Wingfield: British author, originally worked in back office systems in a large bank but saw the light in 2013, escaped into the wilds of Norfolk and now spends his time at the keyboard, on holiday and in his imagination.
There are now four books in the satirical bawdy sci-fi ‘Dan’ series, ‘The Legend of Dan’, ‘Third Universe’ (rewritten and republished in September 2014), ‘Into the Fourth Universe’ and ‘The Fifth Correction’. If you do read and don’t laugh out loud occasionally, the author will eat his (writer’s) hat for you.
For those lovers of the Gothic, the chiller, ‘Ankerita’, details the trials of a Tudor religious hermit reborn in modern times and pursued by demons both living and supernatural as she tries to find a reason for her survival.
He is a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Society, an amateur ghost hunter and prefers prog-rock and ale to prognostication and allergens.
Interview with ‘The Magus’ (based on the UK quiz show, ‘Mastermind’)
As always, a comfy leather chair sits on a small stage in a cheap studio packed with the blank faces of an audience who are only there because they couldn’t get in to see The Graham Norton Show in the larger studio next door. A harassed-looking grey-haired man with a slightly foreign accent shuffles on to the set to sporadic clapping from those people who are still awake. The lights dim and a spot fixes on a couple canoodling in the back row. It is hastily extinguished and the stage lights up. A small hairy creature strides across the stage and settles in the chair. The interviewer stares with disbelief at the first of a set of cards. He clears his throat.
Your name? The Magus
Your chosen subject? The Magus
I see. How old are you? I really don’t know. I’ve been around ever since I discovered how to make real ale at the beginning of ‘The Legend of Dan’. I am now a major and pointless character, there specifically for the eponymous hero to bounce quips off.
What is your job? I have been a private detective, gong farmer, pirate, brewer, and am currently working as head of spacecraft development for SCT. I was the main designer of the Docu-drive as fitted to the modern Hynishota PigUgly, the personal transport for anyone who has no self-respect but likes space travel.
And you are covered in hair. Tell me about that. It is the Docuvirus. For the benefit of everyone who probably has never heard of this disease, the virulent Docuvirus was first seen on a planet far out in a dusty corner of the known universe. The world in question, Glenforbis, is famous as being the centre of galactic organic fertiliser production, the dung mines are legendary in the Galaxy, as is the atmosphere. Apart from the miners, only a specific type of person is able to survive for long, and property in general is large, sumptuous and cheap, which is why I decided to use it as a base for my detective agency. I had a herd of the indigenous and placid Docu, a variety of large hairy four-horned buffalo, and too late realised that they were carriers and transmitters of the virus, but only to people they like.
And the virus? The actual disease itself, though incurable, is thought to be harmless – it doesn’t kill, debilitate or confuse – but does have a major side-effect of causing excessive hair growth. Some would find this useful and have deliberately infected themselves, where the local taxation on clothing is extortionate. But others, perhaps on warmer planets, have suffered major inconvenience, the condition being of benefit only to the deodorant manufacturers. Conspiracy theorists have suggested there may be a connection.
Thank you. Now, shall we start the clock? Please do. I have a hairdresser’s appointment in an hour.
The spotlights shine into where the Magus’ face would be if anyone could see it. The interviewer clears his throat and speaks in a kind of italic dusty blue.
You were a private investigator, what is the most important thing an investigator needs?
His hat. Without his hat, he is one of the general public. His hat defines who he is. If he wants to become anonymous, he has only to remove his hat and fade into the crowd. On one planet I visited, we were only allowed to wear one small item of clothing to identify our roles, so you can see how important it was. The ladies football matches were very popular I recall.
And weaponry. What is the standard PI weaponry?
Laser rifle, a gun in the coat pocket, one in the shoulder holster, a throwing knife in the boot and a pistol slipped into the back of your belt that isn’t there because I forgot to put it in.
What is the first rule of being a private detective?
Only give out as much information as you have to.
And the first rule?
And another first rule?
No matter what danger you are in, gain the villains’ confidence and they will tell you everything.
And the next first rule?
Never accept a drink off a dame; it always has a mickey-finn in it.
Thank you. What is the slogan of the galactic pleasure planet as seen on a fridge magnet?
I’ve found ‘Paradice’; it was in the shaker with the real dice.
Correct. You became the main designer in SCT. What do the initials, SCT, stand for?
Nobody really knows. It was thought to be “Syndicated Consultant Trusts” but I think we have now settled on “Space Community Transportation”, despite our overenthusiastic Head of Security wanting to call it “Severe Correctional Taskforce.”
And who is the head of this organisation?
It was Ferdinand Badloser before the unfortunate accident where our Head of Security accidently left a bag of primed explosive under the secretary’s desk. It went off because she was too hot I believe. Currently, it is Two-Dan $mith (sic), champion ale-slinger and traveller between universes.
What do the initials TCA stand for?
The Temporal Conduct Authority, a watchdog force to ensure that people don’t flaunt the Law of the Universe, the Cyclic Imperative. It is the job of the TCA to rectify these anomalies.
And what is the Cyclic Imperative?
It is to do with travel between universes and the String Theory. It states that however much universal shifting you do, you must always return to your place of origin in Time, Space and Universe before you attempt to settle down with a nice lady you met on another planet in another universe. It also states that if you die in one, you must die in all others simultaneously. Most people do.
And what relationship does the TCA have with Two-Dan?
Two-Dan had flaunted this rule, by not being dead after he was killed in several of the other universes. The TCA had him bang to rights of course, because he appeared personally in court, not actually dead.
Very good. Can you paraphrase the daytime advert which led to the change in policy at the notorious detention centre, Guacamole Cove on the island headquarters of SCT?
I should do I wrote most of it… “Been injured in the wrong torture chamber, had your fingernails pulled out in an inappropriate fashion, suffered with a stuck door through negligent maintenance of the iron-maiden? Or perhaps you are an interrogator yourself and have contracted whiplash when one of your colleagues missed a prisoner, or repetitive strain injury from repeated operation of an improperly adjusted rack. We are here to help; no win no fee apart from our administration costs. If you have a case, we can guarantee to recover a sizable wad of cash for you and take 80% of it. Interested? Call ‘First Whinger Greedy Bastard Helpline’ on this number…”
Thank you, that is sufficient – Next question. When the troopers found TCA Investigator, Scaly, cowering beneath the sink after an abortive assassination attempt on Two Dan $mith (sic), the leader of the SCT corporation, what did he claim his job was?
An under-cupboard agent.
Correct. What is the main problem with laser weapons when fired from, say, a pirate Hynishota Featureless?
Because the laser travels at the speed of light, you don’t see it, so a shot across the bows is pointless. If it is any good and hits, it blows the target apart which therefore becomes unsalvageable, and if it isn’t, the target vessel turns around and shows us what proper weapons can do to a small, but reasonably priced hatchback. I’ve tried it and can’t recommend piracy in space.
You say you were a pirate. What name did you go under, and why?
Neckbeard, because I’ve always had problems shaving.
Good, the police department on Glenforbis… a claxon goes off, making the interviewer jump …I’ve started, he said shakily so I’ll finish. Finally then, the police department on Glenforbis is known for its bullishness and adherence to pointless rules made by out-of-touch faceless bureaucrats. Can you draw the badge you would expect to recognise on the uniforms?
said the Magus
The spotlights go out and refocus on the interviewer.
Mr Magus, you have scored correctly in most of your questions. You missed on two, but they were the ones I didn’t ask you, so in all, your tally was minus 30, because I have had to use the scorers from QI, our current ones being out on strike in sympathy with the junior doctors.
The lights rise and the Magus moves from the chair and exits stage left to the sound of frenzied scratching of itching bodies from the audience as multitudinous fleas and other parasites feed on their new hosts.
* * *
If you want to find out more about the TCA, SCT and the Magus, as well as meeting Agents Bott and Scaly and finding out about Two-Dan’s adventures, the First Rule of Being a PI, the String Theory as applied to satirical science fiction, and Ferdinand Badloser, the most greedy man in all the universes, please check out the four books in the Dan series:
or the web site http://www.cantbearsd.co.uk/