On The Origins Of Tim

‘St Mallory’s Forever!’ Trivia: Episode 1 ~ In which Miriam takes you ‘behind the scenes’ for some trivia and amusing information about book one.

Warning: this post may include mild spoilers for St Mallory’s Forever! for those who haven’t yet read/finished it.

If you’ve read the reviews of St Mall’s that have been left on Amazon and Goodreads (some are excerpted on the “St Mallory’s Forever page and in the right-hand sidebar of this blog, which I redesigned because I was procrastinating on writing a Classics essay last week. Which, for the record, is also what I’m doing right now), you’ll see that a lot of people have commented on our use of geek culture etc throughout the story. It’s true – there are overt references to Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Star Trek, among other things. There are also covert ones, and most of them relate to Tim Morrigan.

I’m responsible for naming him. This wasn’t a deliberate decision – we didn’t sit down and say, “Hey, Miriam, do you want to invent the antagonist of book one?” (Collaboration over distance means I don’t think we ever ‘sat down’ and discussed anything, although Charley and I did meet up in the summer and we talked about book two then.) I don’t even remember if he was originally meant to play the role he played: I think we had some inkling that he’d be a significant ‘baddie’, but nothing concrete.

So his introduction happened to fall in a chapter that I wrote, which meant I needed to name him. He’s introduced to us as Tim Morrigan, but as those who have read the book will know, he is also known as Ben Phillips. For the benefit of those who haven’t, or haven’t yet got that far, I won’t go into the details of how that came to be – simply why those names were chosen in the first place.

And it’s at this point that I display what a total nerd I am, since his name is actually a threefold joke.

Joke one: it’s a play on Jim Moriarty.

With all the Sherlock references that went into St Mall’s and the fact that we wrote it at a time when I was working my way through all the Sherlock Holmes books, it seemed like a good plan for the bad guy to evoke the idea of Moriarty. I went with the BBC Sherlock “Jim” instead of “James”, though, and that’s where Tim came from. “Morrigan”, on the other hand, has a similar phonetic structure to “Moriarty” and is also an Irish word.

Joke two: it’s a reference to the Morrigan.

The Morrigan is one part of the Irish triple goddess of war, death, destruction etc. She’s a shape-changer, which is fitting for a devious and mischievous character. She’s associated with general misery, and interacts with the hero Cu Chulainn. Some theories associate her with the Welsh Morgan le Fay, though they don’t have a lot in common, even taking the French ‘Vulgate Cycle’ of Arthurian legends into account.

… I think my nerd is showing. I recently wrote a research project about women in mythology, so I was examining that particular comparison. Don’t worry if that went straight over your heads.

Basically, the Morrigan is a troublemaker, a shapechanger, and a nasty piece of work.

Joke three: it’s another Sherlock reference.

You know we were talking about BBC Sherlock? Well, that means Benedict Cumberbatch is involved. And you see, his full name is Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch, which meant that Tim/Timothy was easily paired with Ben/Benedict. He references his older sister as a factor in the name choice, and given that she’s probably about the age of most Sherlock fangirls, it makes perfect sense that she would have done that deliberately.

I mean, I’m neither confirming nor denying that she did, or that she even likes Sherlock. But it’s a possibility, isn’t it? (The answer is right there in the book, if you’re looking for it. I was wondering if the others would notice.)

Okay, but what about Phillips?

I don’t remember where the Phillips came from. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t motivated by a desire to include the dreadful amazing pun in the title of chapter 64 (or 65 if we ever fix the fact there are two chapter 12s in that edition, hee hee): “IT’S PHILLIPS, TIM, BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT.” Being, of course, an extra-nerdy joke on the Star Trek quote, “It’s Physics, Jim, but not as we know it.”

Like I said, pretty sure that wasn’t the motivation – just a result that I was very pleased with. I remember sending Charley that chapter and babbling incoherently about the title because I was unbelievably proud of myself, despite knowing that 90% of people wouldn’t even pick up on my genius.

She appreciated it, though.

It might have been that it went well with Morrigan, because it does. It might have been an entirely random name plucked from the ether. Possibly I was looking at my bookshelves and saw the Mortal Engines quartet by Philip Reeve – I have a habit of naming characters after authors. Helen and her mother both owe their surname to Jonathan Stroud, as it seemed appropriate and fit well with both their names, and it’s probably just as well nobody else’s surnames were left up to me or we’d have an entire library of them.

Notably, Philip Reeve and Jonathan Stroud used to be on the same bookshelf which was opposite my desk, although it’s now moved, and I think they were named at about the same time, so I’m going to assume that’s the reason. It’s not quite as entertaining as the rest of his name, but hey, we got four jokes out of it and that’s fairly good going for a single character.

This has been St Mallory’s Forever! trivia. Next time, I’ll probably be talking about Helen, unless there’s anything else you want to know – in which case, please feel free to leave comments!

What counts as ‘too many’ with pop culture references?

Good morning, readers! In case you’ve forgotten who I am, as it’s been that long since we last had any posts here, I’m Miriam. I’m the one who isn’t at boarding school – the Londoner 🙂 I’ve just escaped from exams, am working my way through a bunch of shows that I’m playing or dancing in, and redecorating my room. Nevertheless, I caved to Charley’s nagging this morning, sat down at my desk, and did some work on St Mallory’s Forever this morning. And then remembered we had a blog.

We’re good at this whole blogging thing here, I swear.

So, onto the actual post, which is what you want to read, rather than listening to me ramble on about nothing.

Generally, when writing, I steer clear of pop culture references. There are exceptions (my wonderfully hardcore Welsh character, Bronwyn, gets compared to Gwen Cooper on more than one occasion), but I tend to avoid it. It dates the book. It makes it clear when it was written and if it’s still around in twenty years’ time, that’s not always a good thing.

But I guess with e-books it’s different. After all, you can always update them in a year’s time, or two years’, to accommodate that sort of thing, can’t you?

My conclusion when it comes to St Mallory’s, therefore: you can never have too many references.

I don’t know who was responsible for the first Sherlock Holmes references but after that sprouted in the middle of an early chapter, several more followed, some more obvious than others. We’ve had a Doctor Who marathon and a dalek alarm clock. Miss Marple has been mentioned, as has Saruman’s bad singing and the peak of Caradhras.

Oh, and Yoda’s backside, but we don’t talk about that.

We had an absolutely brilliant (though I say so myself) Star Trek related pun for a chapter title. Okay, so the others haven’t seen that yet, as I only just sent it to Charley, but I thought it was brilliant. It took me, like, five minutes to think of it. In fact, I think it was a stroke of genius. My magnum opus. I will be remembered for that chapter title. Except that no one will know I wrote it as opposed to, say, Charley or Mark or Saffi. *sigh* But it was good. Honest.

Not to mention the fact that one of our major characters’ names is a hidden reference in itself, and if anyone picks up on it, I will like them a lot and will send them virtual cookies. But not real cookies, because I have no money to pay the postage. Sorry.

But Miriam, how can we pick up on it when we haven’t read St Mallory’s yet? Um, yeah, we’re working on the whole finishing-the-book thing. Honest.

Keep your eyes peeled for announcements. I think we’re getting there with the plot and we’ll be tying up loose ends before too long!

— M