It’s hard to believe it, but organised Kingston Dunstan fandom has been around for less than a year. It seems so long ago that ‘the Kingston’ arrived in style and established himself as the greatest tragi-comic fantasy writer of 1996-7, but last November you could have asked me what a smoking mirror was and I’d not have been able to tell you.
Back then, let’s face it, we were all reading Jonathan (Whatever Happened To) Monahan. With the publication by Real Press of Popacatapetal Popsy, the world – and little me – took notice. Since then, a new Dunstan winner has launched every two months, each taking a more commanding position at the head of the best-seller lists. Two feature films, an animated TV series and a West End pantomime (with Philip Scofield) are in the works, and you, the devoted, have reached deep into your pockets to purchase Dunstan-related figurines, jewelry, role-playing games, underwear and costumes. This weekend, I look forward to mingling among you in the feathered headdress and macramé-and-semi-precious-stones robes of a worthy High Priestess of Tezcatlipoca (much like the original Coatlicue, of KD’s Chimborazo Chippie) and I trust that I will encounter in the corridors of the Leech Pyramid Plaza many a strapping Centzon-Huitznahaus, fluttery Tlaloc, humming Huitzlipochtli and sinister Quetzalcoatl. Everyone here, I expect, will be a Kingston Dunstan character. By special dispensation, the hotel will allow true fans proudly to display their obsidian knives, and drink peyote-sprinkled chocolate in the several bars. Our con will be a riot of parrot plumage, and I hope you’ll take the opportunity to mingle with your fellow fans and, of course, with ‘the King of the Smoking Mirror’ himself. A few words about our most esteemed special guest of honour. Without Kingston Dunstan, we wouldn’t be here. He has graciously taken time out at the end of what has been for him a whirlwind year, admitting personally to me that he knows it’s time he gave back something of himself to those who have done so much to make his reign a rollercoaster of bliss. He has asked me to pass on the fact that he will always be available for anyone (especially anyone female between the ages of twelve and twenty-five dressed in the ankle-bells, ceramic bead thongs and body-oil of one of the fragrant handmaidens of Xilonen from Tenochtitlan Tootsie) who might wish to shower rose-petals on his head or buy him drinks. Of course, with me at the convention, you’ll have to get at the back of a long queue which I will be at the head of. I know that Kingston will give generously of himself, and that you will all take away with you a warm, personal piece of the great man’s greater heart. So, remember, let’s get fannish out there!
Coatlicue, Chairperson and High Priestess
Coatlicue and her handmaidens welcome you to Quetzalcon. Singing, dancing, sweet-meats, offering of a small goat. Trumpets, zithers, filking.
Pick up your bag of Kingston Dunstan goodies. Includes new book, old book and, if you’re one of the lucky few, toenail-parings. You can have your Aztec or ordinary name on your badge. No stupid jokes, please.
A buffet of honeyed serpent-meat, jellied condor tongue and pepper wine, courtesy of Real Press. This is your first chance to get near the Kingston as he is borne into the ballroom on a jeweled throne by four acolytes, descending from the hotel’s luxurious Apex Suite to be among us. If you find a peacock feather in your goody bag, you’re the lucky winner picked to heft the shovel-sized fan and ensure not a drop of sweat starts out on Kingston’s forehead when the central heating cranks up.
Coatlicue (High Priestess), Lucy Julie Fancey (Real Press publicist), Kevin Goode (editor of Smoking Mirror, the official Kingstondunstanzine) and Chalchiuhtlicue (winner of the Kingston trivia contest in SFX Magazine) explain for the marginally-initiated just what it is the Kingston has to offer his loyal fans. Kingston Dunstan remains on his throne, elevated so he can look down benevolently on the panel, and modestly accepts their well-deserved oblations.
Frank Conklin, editor of Feathered Serpent, the alternative Kingstondunstanzine, has cashed in his last five giros to pay for a sumptuous feast laid at the feet of the Kingston, who strips off his shoes and socks and leaves footprints in a trough of paté that fans can then eat. Kingston has promised not to wash his feet or change his socks for a month before this evening, so the fare should be tasty.
Film Program: The Fan (US, 1981, Edward Bianchi. With Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Michael Biehn); King of Comedy (US, 1983, Martin Scorsese. With Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard)
by Jack Yeovil
As a child, the Boy Who Would Be Kingston was unexceptional, always picked last in games; as a youth, he was middling in social circles, known mostly for his remarkable crop of skin blemishes; and as a young man, he was hardly distinguished in his chosen profession of council clerk.
Kingston Dunstan’s first taste of success came at last year’s Quetzelcon, when he was fired up by the generous heart of the then-best-selling fantasist Jonathan Monahan and saw that a bright future could be his. Suddenly, the novels piling up under his wonky desk were issued by Real Press (formerly Monahan’s publisher) and broke through to unprecedented success:Popacatapetal Popsy, Chimborazo Chippie, Tenochtitlan Tootsie, Coatapaxi Cutie,Macchu Picchu Mucho Peaches. Few authors have been so instantly acclaimed. ‘Kingston Dunstan is funnier than I am – by miles!’ – Terry Pratchett. ‘Kingston Dunstan is the Dostoievsky of heroic fantasy, the Shelley of sword and sorcery.’ – J.R.R. Tolkein (via spirit medium). ‘Kingston Dunstan is the golden youth of his genre, a bright candle that burns brighter and faster than any of his predecessers.’ – Neil Gaiman. ‘If Knigston Dunstan is going to keep writing this stuff, I might as well go home.’ – Michael Marshall Smith. ‘Kingston Dunstan makes my stuff look like a festering pile of shit!’ – A.S. Byatt. At the small funeral of Jonathan Monahan, John Clute toasted Kingston Dunstan with ‘the king is dead, long live the Kingston!’ Twelve months ago, Kingston Dunstan was living in a bed-sit in Birmingham, filing forms for a living. Now, he divides his time between residences in Hampstead, Beverly Hills and Puerto Vallarta. Twelve months ago, bookshops had huge displays of Jonathan Monahan books where there are now Kingston Dunstan sections, offering all his novels as books, talking books, colour-in books, join-the-dots books, cookbooks, videos, CD-ROMs, cassettes, graphic novels and in tablet-form. More than one Smiths branch has opted to stock only Kingston Dunstan books: giving shelf space to anything else is a waste of time when KD Klassics are guaranteed to shift faster than the Flash with a rocket up his arse. Those who know him say success hasn’t changed Kingston Dunstan. His parents admit they haven’t seen much, if anything, of him since he sold his first book, but will proudly tell you of his generosity in paying off the mortgage on their family home with his first royalty cheque, giving them jobs of curating the Living Museum of Kingston Dunstan that their small terraced house has been turned into. His first wife looks forwards to a reunion this weekend with the beloved husband who popped out for a packet of fags shortly after his Hollywood payment came through and has naturally been too busy to go back home, especially since his recent remarriage to the winner of a ‘What I Would Do With Kingston Dunstan on a Weekend in Rio de Janiero’ competition held by the Sunday Sport. This has been the Year of Kingston Dunstan. Enjoy it while it lasts.
What does the future hold for you? Bring along a small child and our resident haruspex will foresee your fortune. Note: You are required to sign a disclaimer.
Professor Peter Atkins of Liverpool University delivers his Ph.D. thesis on the similarities between the King – Elvis Presley – and the Kingston. Should the Professor inadvertently commit sacrilege, he is available for the cut and thrust of a post-paper question-and-answer session. One thing is certain: Kingston Dunstan can sing ‘Wooden Heart’ a lot better than Elvis could write a tragi-comic fantasy.
Coatlicue (High Priestess), Brenda Trout Dunstan (the first Mrs D), Mysti Kristle Dunstan (the current Mrs D) and Barry the Barman theorise about the sort of treatment required to keep a best-selling tragi-comic fantasy author happy as Catherine the Great at the Horse of the Year Show. Expect chocolate, alcohol, backrubs and school uniform to be mentioned quite often.
Kingston Dunstan judges the hot chocolate competition, and bestows chocolate kisses upon the winner. When you’ve finished, make sure the cups and pans are given to Frank Conklin, the gopher in charge of washing-up.
Film Program: Trance (West Germany, 1982, Eckhart Schmidt. With Desiree Nosbusch); Q: The Winged Serpent (US, 1982, Larry Cohen. With Michael Moriarty, David Carradine, Candy Clark); The Cook The Thief His Wife & Her Lover (UK-Holland-France, 1989, Peter Greenaway. With Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Alan Howard, Richard Bohringer).
Coatlicue has asked me to provide a few words for the convention booklet. Naturally, my agent turned the Coat Person down flat since Quetzalcon could obviously not cough up my usual fee. However, I have generously decided to write this piece in exchange for a simple Jaguar XKE in eggshell blue.
Anyone who knows me well can tell you that nothing is as important to me as the love of my fans. Every day, over and over, I am reminded of the selfless devotion of those tireless young men and women who feel honoured to clean my house without ever asking for any more than an occasional pat on the back (or other place) from moi. It doesn’t even matter much that Frank, the C.F.* who scrapes the disgusting build-up from under the rim of my solid platinum toilet bowl doesn’t exactly do an A-Number One job of it. Nothing makes me more grateful for my deserved success than to wake up between silk sheets and find cooked breakfast laid out for me on the taut brown stomach of a sixteen-year-old Filipina pearl-diver. I’ve been fortunate. Not all writers have their brilliance recognised so consistently by the public. Few are lucky enough to have fans so devoted that they would stage a suicide raid on the offices of a newspaper that dared to publish a spiteful, envious, malicious review. I cannot condone the murder by explosive device of innocent people, even if they are hate-filled critics, but it’s hard not to be touched by the love of those so dedicated to the perfection of my life that they will sacrifice theirs merely to settle a petty grudge. Believe me, nothing would please me more than to have my new short story appear in this booklet to share gratis with my most devoted fans, but the realities of publishing and the demands of money-management require me to pull the story and give first serial rights to the New York Times for a record-breaking fee. Nevertheless, while I drive my new Jag, I shall transmit fond thoughts into each and every one of your minds. Even if you are one of those fat fans with beards. I hope that at the con I will get a chance to meet each and every one of you, and give you all the honour of buying me a drink, presenting me with a small Picasso etching, abasing yourself at my feet or demonstrating your trufan devotion by carving my cover designs into your chest with a scalpel. I can only hope my heart is big enough for you.
* Cringing Fanboy
Stephen Jones, of the Kingston Dunstan Appreciation Society, raffles off valuable items donated by fans, publishers and film companies. The funds raised will be used to buy a fabulous feathered head-dress, which will be presented to the Kingston at …
Kingston Dunstan, robed and perfumed, is again be borne into the ballroom and anointed with oils and unguents by handmaidens. Regional chapters of the KDAS stage dances in the Kingston’s honour, competing for his favour. Outcome to be settled by single combat.
Your chance to show off your costuming skills. Dress up as your favourite Kingston Dunstan character, and revel into the night. This event open only to female fans between the ages of twelve and twenty-five. Body-painting is encouraged, goats should not be employed unless absolutely necessary.
Kingston Dunstan selects the winners of the masquerade, who are be freshly oiled and despatched to the Apex Suite, to receive their prizes from the hand (and other body parts) of the Kingston himself.
Film Program: Misery (US, 1990, Rob Reiner. With Kathy Bates, James Caan, Lauren Bacall); The Wicker Man (UK, 1973, Robin Hardy. With Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland).
by Kim Newman
Popacatapetal Popsy is more than just the best tragi-comic fantasy novel ever written. It is also a profoundly moving discourse upon the phenomenon of ‘perfect sacrifice’, which clearly has a relevance beyond the pre-Conquest Mexican setting so richly evoked by Kingston Dunstan’s pellucid prose.
Of all the Gods of the Aztecs, none was more loved and feared than Tezcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror). He is the personfied form of the Summer sun, bringing both ripe harvests and bitter drought. Each year, to appease the Sun, one of the tribe’s captives would be elevated as an incarnation of the Smoking Mirror. He was instructed in singing and flute-playing, and his music was always of the highest, most potent kind. The priestesses had him wear flowers and taught him to smoke elegantly. He was dressed in the finest costumes, and servants waited upon his every wish and desire. For a whole year, he was heaped with honours and pleasures. Twenty days before the date fixed for the sacrifice, he rceeived four beautiful girls as wives, and then began a series of festivals and dances. When the final day arrived, the young god was taken out to a step-pyramid by the priests and escorted in procession to the highest level. With one cut of his obsidian knife, the priest would rip out the sacrifice’s heart and offer it to the sun, knowing this would ensure the tribe’s fortunes for another year. Kingston Dunstan makes this story the stuff of high comedy – who can forget the scene with the four fiancées and the avocado – but also a true tragedy. For do we not still treat our best and brightest, our most beautiful and talented, as little more than wretched stuff to be torn apart as a propitiation of the ghastly gods of the marketplace? Kingston Dunstan always gives us food for thought. This weekend, we will give us so much else.
Kingston Dunstan is brought down to breakfast by the lucky masquerade winners. The highest-bidding fans not only sit with him as he scarfs down bacon and eggs but are allowed into the bathroom of the Apex Suite to watch him shit, shave and cough up phlegm. This opportunity will not be repeated, so be prepared to pay over the odds.
Coatlicue (High Priestess) discusses the belief-systems of ancient Mexico with Kingston Dunstan (Guest of Honour), paying especial attention to their relevance to the world of today. This might be quite a surprise. Especially to the Guest of Honour.
Derek Leech, owner of Real Press, serves as High Priest for this humorous event, in which the Kingston is hauled over the coals, takes his turn on the spit and opens his heart to all.
A choice cut for everybody. Kingston Dunstan, as usual, is the centre of attention. A vegetarian menu is not available, though those with high blood pressure will be pleased to note that our fare is definitely of the ‘healthy heart’ persuasion.
We send you all home with a warm inner glow, certain your prosperity and health are assured for another year.
We’ll see you again at next year’s Quetzalcon, which will, of course, be dedicated to now-up-and-coming, soon-to-be-top-of-his-profession fantasy trilogist Franklin Conklin.
This story was originally published as a free booklet for all members of the 1997 World Fantasy Convention in London. The story was written by Kim Newman, and the booklet was designed and illustrated by Michael Marshall Smith.