Rose Biggin and Keir Cooper are joining us today to talk about their novel, Wild Time.
What’s Rose and Keir’s favorite bit?
ROSE BIGGIN & KEIR COOPER
Our novel WILD TIME is a punk subversion of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, revisioning Shakespeare’s narratives of pleasure and power with jokes, joy and generosity. There’s also a cosmic dimension, as lovers take the form of spiralling explosions of pulsating star-matter. We really jammed this book with as many fun things as possible.
The action takes place after dusk in a forest on the outskirts of mythic, ancient Athens – a place where gods and heroes are resident, and fairies are about. It’s a historic night for the city: in the morning Theseus, founder and high ruler of Athens, marries Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Everyone’s invited, even the King and Queen of the Fairies. But before tomorrow dawns, there’s a long night ahead…
Exactly halfway through the book – is a chapter called Ass. This is our favourite bit.
Ass takes place during the hour of midnight. A central point in our timeline. There’s a lot going on. We title our chapter as a centre of our book, as the centre of your body, your bum. Ass. Before we explain what happens, we need to touch in about how we’re fiddling with A Midsummer Night’s Dream and why.
We’re flipping a few key narratives as we turn Dream into WILD TIME. We flip Dream’s Love-in-Idleness (unconsentingflower potion), into a powerful lube-with-benefits inserted you-know-where – flipping the metaphoric Eye to the overt and silly Asshole, flipping a play about marriage rites and male control to a book about pleasure and desire. Ass – the centre of the body, the centre of our book, is at once outrageous, proud, and very silly – after all, we weren’t going to make ‘toned-down’ amends to Shakespeare. As Titania says, let’s “get about it, then”….
So, what’s going on in this forest?….
1) TITANIA & BOTTOM
Beneath a luxurious fig tree bower in the centre of the woods, the Queen of the Fairies is getting to know a citizen of Athens: a leatherworker, amateur actor and part-time male stripper. We don’t want to spoil how they come to meet, get on, and get up to all this; let’s just say he’s hot, and the sex is consensual. This scene is an absolute consummation of desire. And we went all out.
2) OBERON & THESEUS
The wedding of Hippolyta and Theseus frames Shakespeare’s action but is quickly set aside. Something that brought us great delight was taking this announcement forward through the whole book, extrapolating the most satisfying consequences of such a wedding taking place, so the gods themselves end up invited…
As the hour of midnight passes, Theseus and Oberon, King of the Fairies, meet in a distinguished private club somewhere in Athens and get progressively sloshed on whisky sharing stories from their youth – before eventually growing more honest about their concerns. It’s an intimate stag-do. Oberon’s horns have become full-scale antlers for the occasion, we see them emotionally vulnerable, and also this scene contains some of our best gags.
Theseus also has an opportunity to tell Oberon why he’s got some tradesfolk to perform a play at his wedding. We had fun positioning him like a Danny Boyle Olympics-opening-ceremony man-of-the-people. It’s a particular nerdy joy for us to have Theseus and Oberon meet because they’re so often doubled in productions of the play. Titania and Hippolyta will get their moment to hang out together too, but as you’ve seen, Titania is busy in this chapter. What Hippolyta is doing brings us to…
3) HIPPOLYTA & HER HORDE OF RAGING AMAZONS
In the third part of Ass, Hippolyta leads her triumphant Amazons on an all-night bender, galloping through the city of Athens on the hen do of a lifetime.
We looked at some rich Amazon mythology for this book (a special shout out to Adrienne Mayor’s research):
- The ancient Greeks were obsessed with them. They’re on a lot of pots. Athens in particular had a huge fear-obsession with the idea of a nomadic tribe of warrior women on horseback – as Athenians were settlers in a gender segregated society, the very idea was threatening and a bit of a guilty pleasure. Hence many myths about Athens under attack from these barbarian hordes; hence the myth of Hippolyta (in other versions it’s Antiope) as Theseus’s prisoner and forced bride. This is their dynamic as described in Dream. Of course, we’ve remythed it to become a triumphant unification of nations and the massive party that follows.
- Almost a third of ancient warrior burials, which on discovery were assumed to be male by the presence of weaponry etc in the grave, have been reclassified female with digital DNA testing. Warrior women on horseback was more common that we think, and it makes sense; if you can ride, it’s a great leveller, doesn’t have anything to do with physical advantages, a viable option for women with the skills.
- Archaeological finds from ancient Athens includes a children’s wooden doll in the figure of an Amazon. We had a mention of a Hippolyta doll which sadly got cut, but what a brilliant historical find, a sort of badass proto-Barbie mythology for kids to look up to, perhaps?
Ass is the longest chapter in the book, but it whizzes by. We zip between these three worlds: vibrant, decadent lovemaking in the woods; whisky and confessionals from drunken kings; the triumphal roar of the Amazons as they rip Athens to shreds then go for a kebab.
We wanted to write a book where the humour and the sexy butted up against each other: the wit, the smarts and the sex have to be understood as one single package. Ass manifests that idea.
And then, just in time for the rest of the book, dawns the wedding day itself…
If you like what you’ve read and want to experience the entire thing, please go to our bandcamp page, where we get a much better deal on the ebooks than through a****zon etc – and is the only place we’re selling the physical books (which can be ordered ‘spotless’ or signed by the authors). Thanks for having us!
Rose Biggin and Keir Cooper are writers and artists living in London. Rose’s short fiction has been published by Jurassic London, Abaddon Books & Egaeus Press. Keir’s work in theatre includes a punk adaptation of Don Quijote and Republica: queer flamenco-theatre on the Spanish Revolution. Wild Time is their second long-term collaboration and their first novel.