Enjoy an exclusive guest post from Shaun Avery, author of “For the Very First Time,” featured in our upcoming anthology ON TIME.
Do you remember, oh readers of a certain age, the very first 18-certificiate film you ever bought? I’m talking back in the halcyon days of numerous entertainment shops here, of VHS and video rental stores. I can – it was a boxset collection of the first three Hellraiser films, and I still remember that moment fondly, of being legally allowed to purchase these movies. Of course, this set me off on an unhealthy path, made me want to watch all the films in this series, not to mention sundry other horror franchises, no matter what the quality . . . a topic I’ve covered here before.
Not a movie, but another thing technically off-limits, back when I was a kid growing up in the North-East of England, was a comic called Viz. People outside of the UK might not be aware of it, but to a lot of people my age, this publication was absolutely seminal, a vital part of our growing up. Sold originally in pubs by its creators, Viz grew into a massive brand that endures to this day, spawning movies, clothing and games. An anthology magazine combining comic strips and spoof articles, it was a brilliant mix of razor-sharp social satire and the completely ludicrous, and I think it’s safe to say that no one who ever read it regularly would ever forget it. Thing is, the people reading it should not have been us kids – it even said so on the cover. ‘Not for sale to children.’ Children very much like us. Damn it.
You found ways, though. There were copies passed around the school playground, and more liberal parents actually let their kids read it. Which seems fair enough to me – I mean, I learnt more from reading Viz, from reading any comic, in fact, than I ever did from either of the schools I went to. Further, it was this magazine, along with a comic called 2000ad, birthplace of the legendary Judge Dredd, that first lit a creative spark in me, that made me want to write things of my own.
So that being said, let’s skip forward a couple of decades.
Now that I’m an adult – sort of – I get a lot of story ideas in dreams. Such was the case with ‘For the Very First Time.’ Only that wasn’t what it was called, initially. No, when I first put pen to paper, I scrawled down the words ‘Doing the Frog’ at the top of the page, those three words serving as a makeshift title. I’ll often do that, just scribble any old rubbish that sounds vaguely relevant to the plot, just to get the words going. In this case, though, these words seemed to make sense. In this dream I’d had, you see, the dream that kicked the whole tale off, a person encountered someone in a club that turned out to be a frog beneath their human skin. Only problem was, it didn’t seem much of a dramatic reveal, someone turning out to be a frog. So I made it about something else instead. Something much better. Something that . . . I won’t tell you what.
What I will tell you is how this story links back to Viz magazine, to what I was rambling about at the start of all this. See, one of the most prominent comic strips in that fine periodical, one that was even adapted as a hilarious animated series, was an evergreen work entitled Sid the Sexist. Satirising chauvinistic male attitudes before such things became sadly prevalent, proving just how ahead of its time this magazine was, the strip portrayed the adventures of the titular character, a would-be Jack-the-Lad and sexual Casanova who was actually a perpetual virgin. Said adventures usually consisted of getting drunk and telling grossly exaggerated tales of his non-existent romantic escapades . . . oh, and arguing with this friend of his called Baz. I say ‘friend’ there, but it was actually pretty clear to anyone reading that these two characters actually hated each other. This is a fairly common trope in British comedy, as it happens, a pair that seem to loathe one another stuck together by circumstance, and I’ve always been a fan. So when I came to break ‘For the Very First Time’ down, I decided that what I wanted to do was pay homage to this Viz strip, to craft my own take on the bitter banter between Sid and his friend Baz whilst still taking the story off in my own direction, using an influence, a deep influence, to create a story that could only have been told by me.
I’m pretty happy with the results, and I’m excited for you all to read it. But before you go off to do so, let me tell you one more thing. You want to know the best, the very best thing, about ‘For the Very First Time?’
You don’t even have to be over eighteen to get it . . .
Shaun Avery has been published in many magazines and anthologies, normally with stories of a horrific or satiric nature, and often both. In a rare break for him, “For the Very First Time” features barely any form of celebrity satire. Normal service will probably be resumed soon.
ON TIME is coming in Summer 2020. Be sure to follow us on Amazon.