Happy 10th Birthday, Londinium!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

This happened ten years ago today. It's been an absolutely delightful ride, and I can't wait to see what the next ten years have in store! (Publication, perhaps?)

Victorian Sexuality Linkdump the Nth

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I do a lot of digging around on this just because I find it so interesting that a society that is just as sexually diverse as our own is labeled 'prude' because of its social debates on sexuality.

To be fair, I live in 21st century America, which actually is prude compared to a lot of other cultures, namely because we're having a lot of the same debates that the Victorians were having. Still. In 2014. I don't know, either. It's ridiculous.

Anyhow, here are some more resources on Victorian sexuality, one of my favorite things to read about:

The Londinium Cast Joins Tumblr

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

This actually happened months ago, but I forgot to post about it here, so here we go now.

You can bother the cast of the stupid book over at Ask Londinium with all things Victorian.

...also, feel free to ask Will about porn. He really wants to talk about porn.

Actionable Offenses: The Victorian Derek and Clive Album

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

If anyone ever tries to tell you the Victorians were prudes, you can now whip out audio proof to show them otherwise.

Somehow, I missed the release of Actionable Offenses back in 2007, probably because I was focused on the time on graduating high school and beginning my undergraduate career. Interestingly, at the time it was released to the public, I was spending a lot of my time listening to its modern equivalent, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's Derek and Clive albums, which I never imagined myself describing as a spiritual successor to anything. (As someone who considers herself a comedy historian, that really does feel weird to type.)

Anyhow, before Comstock managed to enact his obscenity laws, in the 1890s more than a few comedians and some amateurs took pleasure in recording inappropriate sketches and stories on wax cylinders. These would be listened to on phonographs, and most of these recordings were destroyed when Comstock's reign of terror began. Fortunately, a few managed to survive in various archival institutions and were preserved well enough to be combined into this CD, which can be purchased from Archeophone Records, a favorite of archivists and historians.

I've written a bit about Victorian sexuality here before, as it's one of those research areas I'm fascinated by (namely because most people don't know that the Victorians were as lurid as we are now), but this is a really great example of the Victorians doing something we all do now - speaking into a recording device and saying naughty words. We all did it when we were 13, after all. There are trends we historians notice that don't actually change much from generation to generation, and the discovery of swear words and sex is one of them, especially when it comes to somehow recording it (whether it's written, drawn, or recorded). For some prime examples of Victorian written pornography, I can direct you both to The Pearl, a magazine published between 1879-1881 before being shut down for obscenity, and author Robin Wolfe's hilarious and delightful finds on her blog tagged with 'Victorian Porn Fridays.'

To close, I'd like to go back to Derek and Clive. For the unacquainted, what happened was simple: Peter and Dudley rented a studio, got drunk, and said really stupid and explicit things into an audio recorder. Once sobered up, Peter started sharing the tapes with friends, which made Dudley really uncomfortable until he realized it was extremely popular. The two ended up doing a couple more albums as Derek and Clive, but the break-up of their double act (which always makes me cry like a baby) prevented any more from happening.

The amazing thing, though, is that the boys were not the first to make money off of obscene recordings, and they certainly won't be the last. Actionable Offenses does historians a great service by putting the 1890s Derek and Clive-esque recordings together and making them accessible to researchers (and purveyors of smut, of course), but the amazing thing is that the recordings actually stand the test of time. They're still funny today in the way I imagine Derek and Clive will still be funny to 13-year-olds everywhere in 100 years. Dirty words just never get old.

Short Story: I'm (Not) Gonna Write You A Love Song

Sunday, October 13, 2013

No spoilers in here, so I can post this for you all to enjoy! Basil's fallen in love for the first time since the death of his fiancee (via illness), but he doesn't know how to let Miss Annabell Simmons know he's interested in marrying her. Dustin tries to help out in the only way he knows how.


“This is going to sound stupid.”

“Stupid? Naw.” Dustin closed the keyboard and leaned on his piano. “There’s no such fing as a stupid question.”

Basil sighed. “How do I propose to a woman that I think I love but who I…I don’t know. She’s not Emily, and that’s been making this difficult.” He wrung his hands nervously. “See? Stupid question.”

“You wanna propose?” Dustin grinned. “That’s not stupid!”

“No, but I’ve proposed before – to Emily – so I shouldn’t have to ask.”

Dustin shrugged. “Miss Simmons ain’t Emily, though, so it’s owlroit.” He rolled his gaze to the ceiling. “Hmmm.”

“Ms. Simmons enjoys going to the theatre, balls, music – ”

“That’s it!” Dustin snapped his fingers.

Basil blinked. “What’s it?”

“Music! Wroit ‘er a love song, Mister Remington!”

Basil blinked again, stunned. “What?”

Dustin raised an eyebrow in mock confusion. “Don’t tell me you don’t know wot a love song is.”

“Of course I do! I just can’t write one!” Basil felt the blood rushing to his cheeks, but resisted the temptation to raise a hand to check the temperature of his face.

“But yer such a good wroiter…” Dustin frowned, but only briefly. “I know! You wroit the words an’ I’ll set it to music fer you!” he added, his characteristic smile returning almost immediately.

“But…I’ve never written anything like that before.” Basil fidgeted.

“‘Ere, I’ll show you.” Dustin patted the piano bench and slid over, and Basil sat beside him. He opened the keyboard again and cracked his knuckles. “Let’s assume that I’m a pretty lady and I’m in love wif you.”

Basil glared at him.

“Y’know,” Dustin went on, “I’d just ‘ave longer ‘air an’ be better endowed ‘ere.” He waved a hand in front of his chest, and he noticed Basil’s glare visibly soften out of amusement. Oh, you fout that were funny.

Basil exhaled. “Right. So supposing you were a lady in love with me – what is this even supposed to do?”

“Get you in the roit mood er wroit, Mister Remington. ‘S called ‘acting.’” Dustin’s innocent face gave absolutely no indication of the words he was about to sing.

“We’re turning this into theatre now?” Basil rolled his eyes. “Come on, Thatcher, be serious!”

Instead of being serious, Dustin began to play the piano, quickly feeling out the opening bars of the introduction. Before Basil could lodge a protest, he began to sing.

“There is a man, an ‘andsome man, wif eyes as blue as the sea…That ‘andsome man, that very man, belongs at last to meeee…” Here the tempo picked up, becoming jaunty. “Marry me, woncha just marry me, woncha just please, oh, please just propose to me, I would ‘appily, say yes if yer askin’ me, so woncha just please, oh, please just take a knee?”

Basil’s jaw dropped.

“I love youuu Mister Remingdon – da da, da da – I love you wif all of my ‘eart, won’t you please say you’ll marry me so we can get a ‘ole new staaaart!” Dustin finally stopped as he choked up with laughter. “See ‘ow easy that were?”

Basil said nothing. He continued to stare, his mouth agape and his cheeks flushed. Dustin turned to face him and the sight of Basil’s face made him laugh even harder.

“Thatcher!” Basil snapped, then caught himself before saying anything more. He thought for a moment, and without realizing it he smiled. For that one moment in time, he was relaxed. It hit him then that he’d lost touch with a huge part of himself – that tie he’d had with Emily was based on their shared senses of humor. And when he really thought about it, he bantered back and forth with Dustin far more than he did with Annabell. She always seemed like she was keeping her distance, come to think of it.

Dustin smiled genuinely at him in return, and in that moment he was definitely sure that something was up because Annabell never smiled at him like that. She was guarded somehow.

“Thatcher,” Basil said again.

Dustin cocked his head to the right. “Mmm?”

Basil stuck out his hand. “Thank you.”

Even more confused now, Dustin nevertheless shook Basil’s hand. “Yer welcome?”

Basil stood up. “I’ll explain later. I have business to attend to now – as soon as I return, I’ll explain.”

Dustin nodded at him. “Owlroit.” He grinned. “Good luck, Mister Remington. You shook me ‘and, so you’ll be foine.”

Basil smiled earnestly back. “I’ll need it,” he replied, then walked off through the main hall of the bank, one hand raised in a ‘see you later’ wave.

He still wasn’t quite sure what he made Basil realize, but Dustin felt immensely satisfied.

How Basil and Dustin Became a Double Act

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I hadn't drawn them in a while and felt like I was missing out. Then I got to thinking about them and realized I never wrote a post about this.

I think Basil's hair has undergone about ten changes over the past year. I should chronicle this at some point.

Basil and Dustin didn't start out as a double act. They weren't meant to even know each other that well at all originally. Notes I have dating back to 12/13/04, the date the project officially began, state that "the point of the story is to get across how important it is to simply enjoy life and have fun, something Basil learns throughout the course of the tale from various people, including Dustin." They quickly started to get along as my notes expanded, and within a day or two of the story's genesis it was clear that the two were going to go on adventures together with little Charlie Jenkins in tow.

A brief timeline of what happened, complete with mentally scarring links to my old deviantART account:

  • 12/10/04: I did two doodles (one | two) of Charlie in anthropology class. He got colored images on a horrible character sheet later.
  • 12/12/04: Horrible character sheets for Dustin and Basil appeared.
  • 12/13/04: I decided that I was onto something and started to take notes on 'the Christmastime Victorian London Story,' which eventually got the much better title of 'Londinium.' 
In those early notes, Dustin and Charlie tend to stick together and pop in to help main character Basil out when needed. However, Dustin and Basil turned out to have on-page chemistry early on and so I juxtaposed them a lot. They got along, but were often at odds, with Dustin generally teaching the somewhat boring and naive Basil about life. This was a very boring story.

To make it less boring, villains were introduced and proper adventures began to emerge as the characters showed themselves more to me, and Basil revealed to me that he actually wasn't boring and naive at all and just had an insanely good deadpan. I sifted through a ton of bad ideas because when you're in high school you often think you're being clever and meaningful when you're really just being stupid, but there was something missing still.

I found it in January of 2007. It was only a few days after the new year had started, and I somehow made my way on Wikipedia to the 'double acts' page. At this point, Basil and Dustin were starting to act a lot more like one, but I can't actually remember how I ended up on the page. What I do know, however, is that it was fate.

It was fate because I discovered Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, who reminded me so much of Basil and Dustin that  it actually freaked me out a bit at first. They had way too many things in common, including the height disparity, Basil and Peter both being former prefects, Dustin and Dudley both being piano players, and a ton of other weird things. But the bit that really caught my eye was the whole corpsing thing. Basil and Dustin were developing their friendly 'let's make each other laugh at bad times' rivalry at this time, and the fact that it happened between two real-life people who were eerily similar to my own characters was striking. So I threw it in and let their stupid game blossom because it was entertaining me.

Basil and Dustin ran away with it and ended up revealing to me that both had once had comedic aspirations as younger men. I told them that they should keep going and I would write about it. They agreed to become a double act and Londinium finally started going in a proper direction.

The double act itself has its origins in the 19th century in music hall and vaudeville - a straight man would stand up with a comedian and repeat the comic's lines so that the audience would know a joke was coming up, i.e.:

First Performer: So I went to the races last week, and...
Second Performer: Oh, you went to the races last week?
Audience: (shuts up)
First Performer: (tells joke)
Audience: (laughs)
And so forth.

By the end of the 19th century, though, double acts evolved into what we know them as today, and whilst I'm not going to do a giant lecture on them here (that would be a post better suited for one of my other blogs) it's important to note here that Basil and Dustin don't actually perform as a double act because that would be anachronistic in the 1860s. They do, however, write as one. In the Londinium universe, they simply consider each other a comedy writing team who occasionally do sight gags that require them to hold poses for about three minutes whenever they're photographed. Outside of the universe, they'd probably be labeled as a double act pretty much instantly due to the way they banter well and cross-talk all the time.

So in summary, whilst Basil and Dustin don't have an adorable leg of lamb story, the fact that they managed to come this far despite the fact that my initial characterizations of them were awful is somewhat heartwarming in a 'Steph's writing used to suck and now it sucks less' sort of way.

Just To Remind You Your Art Always Gets Better...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Two drawings I've done of Dustin. The one on the left dates to 12/30/2004; the one on the right dates to 2/22/2013.