What the Giants Were Saying was the first public appearance of my recurring character, the hugely eccentric Feather, whom I love dearly and have put through hell and (literally) high water in many stories - a woman subsumed in creativity, magic, madness, despair and the lost - the whole spectrum of human experience really.
You want to know where Feather came from?
Oh, I cant tell you that. Feather and I go back a long way – right back into the early 90s when a lonely and fed up adolescent discovered that the world hurt slightly less when you could capture a bit of what was good and a bit of what was bad on paper (and things have never changed since!). Part of me thinks that the first moment I touched ballpoint to lined notepad and wrote the first lines of all – "I was born in a small town by the sea whose name I forget" - Feather was also born. She was born as I sat staring at the tatty longhand pages I was working on, thinking to myself ‘now what can I call her THIS time?’ Because of course all these were DIFFERENT CHARACTERS and I struggled for years with naming my girls. Weird names like Zanee (Kathy Acker inspired I think) and Pepper (don’t ask) came and went. Then, for a while, after reading some of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, ‘Susan’ appeared, then vanished – as did ‘Rachel’, thanks to Martin Amis. Then came my dear friend Clare – names all either perfectly dull and ordinary or completely weird.
I preferred the weird ones.
I cant remember when she actually became Feather though. I can’t remember which early sketch first used the name – but I do remember that that was the only name that didn’t stick in my throat a little, as if I had finally found one that fitted. All told, it took a long time, really, for the obvious to dawn on me. It may well have been Michael Moorcock who finally woke me up properly, with his crazily recurring Jerry Cornelius. Certainly it was after reading the magnificent Cornelius Quartet that I finally threw what I thought was convention to the winds and welcomed Feather with open arms – realizing that, in spite of the minimal connection (at first), all these people were exactly the same person, just playing different roles to suite the story. A person who stood there next to me no matter what I was writing. I had found the reason I could never name my characters.
The irony is that once I had identified that my characters were puppets that I was playing with, then I could suddenly get to know them a lot better - and the result was a more well-rounded and developed character than anything I had done before.
I can tell you, it was like a dam bursting in terms of creativity. What the Giants were Saying (the first of the ‘big’ ‘serious’ Feather stories) followed soon after, as did the start of the most ambitious project of all, the forthcoming novel entitled The Windmill Museum, which may be finished sometime within the next decade.
This slightly out of kilter approach to characterization suited me completely. Feather was everything I needed. Marvelous innocent, ruthless experimenter and questioner, child of nature, steeped in magic and reality, innocent happiness and complete lost despair at the same time. Basically, in Feather, I set out to create my ideal – a person who personifies all that I think is good and all that I believe in – and set her against a world that is imperfect in its entirety. Then I watch the reaction. She is David Rix’s credo, if you like. But that is a very simple way of putting it. Things instantly began to get more complicated when the wonderful and glorious Feather began to crash against the world and clash with it. It is the agony of those crashes – of what must be my own idealism conflicting with reality – that is where these stories come from. And the pathetic thing that is left at the end – a broken and maddened Feather portraying what seems the only sane and healthy reaction to the world (madness and death) – is my pessimistic image of what happens to ideals and dreams in life.
That’s why I made her. As one to stand up where I could not – do and experience things that I could never do (not least because I am a shy little writer filling my ‘spare’ time writing about them - though of course, it is actually all the time I have to waste at other things like trying to live that is 'spare') – and NOT UNDERSTAND things I understand too bloody well. She is the perfect innocent, and therefore the perfect external verification of things we take for granted or refuse to even think about or question. She is the perfect inquiring innocent – and therefore the perfect roll-model.
There is no end to the places where my beloved Feather - and the other wandering characters Cal and Richard Jarvis whom you havent met yet - can take me and I am sure that I will keep writing about them and others for as long as I can trick the world into letting me. See the 'in progress' section for what might be coming in the future concerning her and others.