Last week the shortlist for the Children’s Book Award, sponsored by Red House was announced, and I was delighted to see that Eoin Colfer‘s W.A.R.P.: The Reluctant Assassin made the cut in the ‘Books for Older Readers’ category. We’re massive Eoin Colfer fans; if you ever get the chance to see him live, don’t miss the opportunity, as he is one of the funniest authors you’ll ever see.
I’m really thrilled to be able to share with you today a little bit of background to Eoin’s new book, as part of a blog tour celebrating all the shortlisted books, authors and illustrators. Without further ado, let me now hand over to Eoin, with “The Story of WARP”!
The Story of WARP by Eoin Colfer
A great man once said; never write about time travel or science fiction because you will tie yourself in knots and end up with nothing but a manuscript full of mistakes and a thumping headache. Sorry, did I say great man? I meant grate man as in a guy who fixed fireplaces. So I said to Mr Murphy who was fixing our fireplace: I will write what I like and what do you know about it? I don’t tell you how to fix fireplaces. Now take your urchin worker and get out of my 18th century mansion.
Ok. Maybe not that last bit.
I have to admit the grate man was right. Writing about time travel can be a real pain in the Microsoft Word. Most word processors have spellcheck for magic books, but they don’t have time check for time travel stories. You can really tie yourself in knots trying to untie quantum puzzles, like who’s dead, who’s alive, who belongs to what timeline. So why do it? Why not write a nice story about a badger who dreams of being an Olympic triathlete and leave it at that? Who doesn’t love a badger with a dream story, right?
The answer to this questions lie in a dark and dreary age known as the 1970’s. This was the era where fashion went to die, where jeans went to flare and where footballers went to get their hair permed. In Wexford, Ireland, where I grew up, things were particularly grim. There were no video games, no junior discos and we hadn’t seen the sun in eight years. The town was full of pasty, bored young people whose only TV options were Crossroads and The Evening News.
Into this time of brain numbing boredom came a new breed of TV show; Science fiction time travel. I will say that again: SCIENCE FICTION TIME TRAVEL.
Can you imagine the impact that had on our world?
TV shows that we were actually interested in. I imagine we felt the same delighted disbelief that Albert Einstein felt when he accidentally tipped his jelly and ice-cream onto a sponge and discovered trifle.
It was a whole new world of entertainment being beamed to Wexford on the BBC airwaves. We sang for joy, we celebrated on the street and we kissed total strangers and their dogs. Finally, we felt, our time had come and life could begin.
There was only one problem. We didn’t have BBC. We couldn’t watch Doctor Who or Planet of the Apes or Blake’s 7 or Logan’s Run or Land of the Giants. It was infuriating to be so close to entertainment but not be able to access it.
After a week or so of tantrums and sulking, my friends and I decided that we were not going to let a little thing like not having the right TV channels stop us from watching the new wave of Sci-fi time-travel shows, and we began to formulate a plan that would help us to achieve our goals. What we came up with was audacious and complicated but if everyone played his part, if the cogs of invention turned in perfect synchronicity then it was just possible that we too could bathe in gamma rays and be transformed.
Our plan was this: We would find someone with BBC on their TV and then watch Dr Who from outside his window.
I know. Genius.
This didn’t take a lot of doing as there was this kid in school who revelled in telling us how great BBC was on his colour TV and how marvellous the new shows were and wasn’t it a shame that we didn’t have the right aerial to watch them too? The guy’s name was Joseph. We had our patsy.
Eight of us went over the wall. We were like Wexford ninja. Absolute silence was maintained throughout phase one of the mission, except when one of my brothers fell off the wall and landed on a greenhouse. We left him there bleeding, after all we were playing for high stakes.
What? That wasn’t step three. But unfortunately that’s what happened. We were of course spotted peeping in the window and Joseph’s mother came after us with a coal shovel. We immediately abandoned our ninja methods and ran hell for leather, after all this was an era when adults were encouraged by the pope to beat neighbours’ children.
Fortunately a new plan presented itself in the form of Joseph himself. He approached us in school the next day and said his mum had okayed two visitors every Saturday afternoon to watch BBC. The only conditions were that we take off our shoes in the hallway, sign a statement to say we had no head-lice and agree to the unusual selection process. Needless to say, we accepted all the conditions.
The next Saturday, the eight of us turned up at Joseph’s house all set for the unusual selection process. He sent us to the end of his long garden with the instructions to remove our shirts and get ready to run. While we were doing this, Joseph took himself and his air rifle to his bedroom window which overlooked the garden. At his command we ran for the house and Joseph began firing. The rules were simple; Whoever didn’t get shot could come inside the house. I took a pellet in the leg that first day and one in the belly the following week. In fact it took me seven weeks to make it to the back door without injury.
On that 7th week I got my first glimpse of a man with hairy hands and an ape mask and my world was changed forever. I saw time-travel sci-fi and fell in love and have been in love with the genre ever since, which is why it was only a matter of time before I penned my own sci-fi time-travel effort. It’s a pain, sure. It’s takes a lot of quantum planning and there’s always some smart alec ready to point out your mistakes. But do I regret it? Do I wish I had gone the badger route?
No I don’t. And if some days I grow tired or feel as though I have lost my way, I simply rub the second belly button pellet wound and the memories come flooding back.
“W.A.R.P.: The Reluctant Assassin” has been shortlisted in the older readers category of the Red House Children’s Book Award 2014. The Red House Children’s Book Award is the only national children’s book award voted for entirely by children. It is owned and co-ordinated by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, and sponsored by Red House. Any child can take part in voting for the the winner in each category, and the overall winner. You can do so here.