The rise of religious comedies and satire…

So, last summer I self-published my debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, through Amazon and Smashwords. This novel is a humorous look at what happens when God, who has become ensnared in the bureaucracy that Heaven has become, travels to Earth to convince humans to stop ravaging our planet and the only person who can help Him is an atheist. Hilarity obviously ensues. I am also in the process of completing the sequel, Jesus Returns: here he comes again, and will self-publish this at a later date.

Now both are obviously satirical and not that serious and are meant to be taken as anything as the silly fun that they are intended to be and since publishing the novel a small, but growing, number of people have read it and written me some lovely reviews (see here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z). I will also soon be appearing on some atheist podcasts, something I am very much looking forward to (though they will require some very late nights which I am less keen on) to talk about the novel, as well as my experience of being an atheist. I hope you will take the time to listen to the shows and enjoy them!

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Yet, when I had self-published the novel a funny thing happened: I began to notice an increasing number of other religious comedies around. When I travelled on the London Underground I would see posters advertising them as well as reading articles in newspapers. Things like, the Book of Mormon, from the creators of South Park, that is still playing at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London and that I intend to see this when I can find the money. Then I saw a Guardian article about the new play from Gary Sinyor, NotMoses, that is playing in London at the moment and which features a not-too-bright God. Then I saw an advert for ‘Hand to God’, the play currently running at the Vaudeville Theatre and I began to wonder about the increasing prevalence of plays, books and movies that openly satirise religion.

Hand to God

Now, comedies that mock religion are nothing new, the obvious example being the brilliant Life of Brian from Monty Python. Hilarious and eminently quotable, this movie has obviously influenced much of what has come since. Kevin’s Smith’s Dogma is another excellent and very funny religious comedy and an obvious comparison to my novel given the subject matter. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s wonderful ‘Good Omens’ also plays with religious characters in a way that only that pair could and provides many laughs as well as the humanity that was apparent in so much of Pratchett’s writing.

Good Omens

But it got me thinking that maybe we might be entering a new era where we see many more comedies that are not afraid to openly mock religion. And I have to say that it’s about time, for satire is one of the best means by which you can strip something of its power. You only need look at something like the brilliant ‘Spitting Image’ to know how effective humour can be in doing this and to realise how badly the UK needs a show with the biting power that this one had. Or an equivalent of the Daily Show, Nightly Show or Last Week Tonight that focuses on mocking our current politic scene for there is surely much to mock and an abundance of material to work with.

Life of Brian

I really hope that this trend keeps going and that we will continue, no matter how tricky it can be at times, to mock and satirise religion and all that is inherently silly in these mythologies, concepts and institutions. I am hoping to finish and self-publish ‘Jesus Returns’ and that by promoting my work and the satirising of religion, that I am contributing, in some small way, to this discussion. For Jesus will indeed be returning to Earth and hilarity will again ensue. Until then, I will go and see The Book of Mormon and guest on atheist podcasts and contribute to the going mockery of all religions. For they really, truly deserve it! Oh, and I’ll be reading Justin Lee Anderson’s ‘Carpet Diem’ when I can find the time. I might even review it too! Cheers!

EDIT: Balls! I completely forgot to include ‘An Act of God’, the play brought to us by David Javerbaum, the writer behind “The Last Testament: A Memoir by God”, another to add to the growing list of religious satires and comedies…

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My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help Godsave the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My ‘rambling’ review of Owen Jones’ ‘The Establishment: And how they get away with it’…

In the past few years I am finding myself reading more and more non-fiction books. This likely ties in with my increasing interest in politics and also coincided with my move back to the UK not that long before the last general election. It also helps that I have access to a library with many new non-fiction books. Funnily enough I can’t even remember which was thelast  fiction book I read, though I am currently enjoying Neil Gaiman’s ‘Trigger Warning’, and I find it strange that it has been so long. I am, of course, concurrently reading comics and graphic novels, but it’s still a little odd. Christopher Brookmyre’s ‘Black Widow’ is next on my list, once I can get my hands on a copy from the library, and we shall just have to see when that is. Anyway, onwards…

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This week I’m reviewing Owen Jones ‘The Establishment: And how they get away with it’. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Jones writings since he first joined the Independent newspaper some years ago. I’ve read his columns since then and followed him after he moved to the Guardian. Actually he’s part of the reason that I switched to that paper the other being that, in my opinion, the Indy significantly declined in quality. I bought and enjoyed Jones’ last book, ‘Chavs: the demonization of the working Class’, and the lovely hardcover version of his new book has been sitting on my shelf since it was published in 2014. I just needed to find the time to read it and I’m glad that I did for it is very enjoyable indeed!

Now, having recently read the excellent ‘The Triumph of the Political Class’, I was familiar with some of the themes of this work such as the role the media plays in helping politicians, who should be evicted, in power and the isolation of large swathes of the electorate from any interest in politics. Still, there was plenty in the book that was new to me such as the role that the Outriders (Think Tanks and the like) played in making Neo-Liberalism the current consensus in mainstream economic thinking. This was something that I was unfamiliar with and was explained with Jones’ typical eloquence. I was also unaware of how the police have been co-opted into The Establishment in a highly alarming way. The section on Corporations and how they scrounge off the state was also throughly enjoyable (and enraging!). Overall, I took much away from this work, as I did when I read ‘Chavs’, and I am glad that I read it.

But one section of the book that really disturbed me was hearing how much control the US has over British affairs including demanding extradition of British citizens to that country. I had heard similar stories in an excellent documentary, the name of which I currently forget, where President Obama pressured the Yemeni government to imprison one of their journalists who was asking uncomfortable questions about drone strikes in that country. And, shockingly the Yemeni government did as it was asked and imprisoned this journalist without charge or trial for simply doing his job. But learning that the UK government also acceded to the demands of the US was equally appalling. Especially as this British citizen had done nothing wrong, at least nothing that would have been prosecuted under UK law. That we would treat our own citizens in such a manner is truly terrifying.

Jones’ book also details how things can be swung back the other way, how the left can begin to reclaim the ground lost using similar tactics as the Outriders did. There is much to be learnt from a victory this decisive and though the battle ahead looks hopeless, the role that these Think Tanks played in changing the terms of the discussion can teach the left a lot. And we desperately need the conversation to be turned back towards the politics of hope. We also need to swing our society back towards collectivism rather than the individualism that has taken hold and we need a coherent strategy to do this. The strategies of the Outriders can be useful in this pursuit.

If you are either a fan of Owen Jones from his work at the Indy and the Guardian, or you have an interest in how our politics got to the current state that it is in, then I recommend that you read The Establishment. If, like me, you would like to know who was responsible for the sea-change away from the democratic socialism that we used to have and towards the rampant capitalism that is the current way of thinking,  and how they did it, then this book helpfully paints a picture. I for one will be looking forward to Jones’ next work and continuing to enjoy his columns in the Guardian. Cheers!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help Godsave the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My ‘rambling’ review of the brilliant comic series ‘Mind Mgmt’…

So, the choice this time around was between Owen Jones’ ‘The Establishment’, an excellent, non-fiction book that’s similar in tone to some of the other books I’ve recently reviewed on here, like George Monbiot’s ‘Captive State’ or Peter Oborne’s superb ‘Triumph of the Political Class’, or Matt Kindt’s superb comic book series ‘Mind Mgmt’. I decided that the serious book can wait and that I would instead give you my ‘rambling’ thoughts on the comics instead. Yay, comics!

Mind Mgmt

I’ve been a fan of Mind Mgmt since it was first published. I managed to persuade my local library when I lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia to order the first volume and I’ve been hooked ever since. After I moved back to the UK I needed to find the funds to purchase the series, which is published in beautiful hardcover volumes (always a weakness of mine), and eventually I did and now I own them all. When the final volume arrived at my doorstep I knew I had to find the time to read all six volumes back to back, for a series this complex (and excellent) surely requires a complete reread, and once I had I was glad I did. For it is a complex and rewarding read indeed and one that I thoroughly recommend!

I actually find Mind Mgmt actually quite a difficult series to sum up neatly. It’s a spy-romp of a book with stunning art and a complex story that is incredibly rich and rewarding. The first volume focuses on Meru, a writer struggling to find inspiration for her second book, as she investigates a strange occurrence on a flight where the passengers all had their memories wiped. She travels to find the only missing passenger, Henry Lyme, in order to discover the mystery behind the flight but things only get weirder from there as we are introduced to a large and varied cast of characters and their special abilities. Some of them can do things like predict what will happen in the next fifteen minutes or control the world around them, others are immortal and almost impossible to kill and one can locate weak point in a structure or a person and use that to destroy them. One of them can even kill you with just his finger. No, seriously. The story focuses on Meru as she tries to stop the reformation of Mind Mgmt, the organisation that trained all of these operatives.

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The series runs for six lovely hardcover volumes and encompasses around 35 issues. The art is in Kindt’s recognisable style and finished with beautiful watercolours and one of the questions that I would like to ask this talented writer/artist is how the hell did he find time to write, draw, colour and finish, and letter this incredible series while keeping to the publishing schedule that he did? There is a truly staggering amount of work evident in it and I am astonished that these books were published so quickly (also, make sure you read all the text written in the margins for it really adds to the experience!). It’s an impressive display of talent and work and the guy must surely deserve a break having now finished the series.

Mind Mgmt is a wonderful series, filled with mystery and character (as well as some brutal deaths of said characters) and something that I also feel that this series judged perfectly is the stopping point. Too many comic runs are dragged on long past the point where they should’ve stopped (I’m looking at you, Fables!) and the ones that I love the most have known just how much space they needed in which to tell their story. Joe Hill’s incredible Locke and Key is the comic that I think did this best (and also had six volumes), giving the story just enough room to breathe and for every thread to be pulled together and resolved, without ever getting baggy. And Kindt judged perfectly how long to tell this tale, while not leaving you feeling like matters were unresolved (for they were not). Also, the final page is the perfect head-fuck to leave you on, especially for a series like this. I loved it!

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I’m also astonished by the list of people they got to write the intro’s to these books: Scott Snyder, Brian Michael Bendis, Terry Moore (who’s excellent ‘Rachel Rising’ I will also be reviewing once the final volume is out), Greg Rucka, Darwyn Cooke and Damon Lindelof. That is a damn good list of writers willing to write an intro to the book, which I think tells you something about how well Mind Mgmt has been received by the other pros in the industry. I also need an opportunity to get my lovely hardcovers signed so hopefully Kindt will attend one of the UK based conventions this year. We’ll see.

I previously published an article on this blog that detailed my five favourite, currently running comic book series and that list included Mind Mgmt. Now that this series has concluded and I shall have to revise that list in due course and move Mind Mgmt to the list of my all time favourites. It really is that good! I just have no idea which series it will be replacing so instead maybe it should now be a list of my six favourite comic series of all time. That’s a better plan, I think.

So, if you have any interest in excellent comics, go on and pick up the first volume and give it a go. Eventually, I shall reread Mind Mgmt (including all the little notes in the margins, most of which I skipped over in my reread, wanting as I did to quickly get to the end!) and I feel that it is a series that will really reward further rereads. I suspect I will get something a little different out of it each time I do. If you like complex stories involving fantastic characters that somewhat mess with your head, then I can’t recommend Mind Mgmt highly enough. I for one will be looking forward to whatever projects Mr. Kindt releases in the future (bring on Past Aways!) and looking for the next series like this one, though I fear there will never be another quite like it. At least I have my beautiful hardcovers to enjoy, whenever the mood takes me. Cheers!

 

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help Godsave the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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