LEXX, a personal story

Here I am working on the fourth and final book of LEXX, and it’s a bittersweet experience.

I’m going through old notes, re-reading interviews with Lex Gigeroff and John Dunsworth, hearing their voices in my head, the friendliness, the enthusiasm, the sheer joy of life, and it saddens me to know that they’re gone. That now those voices are only in my head, triggered by the words on screen. The world is a little smaller, a little duller.

With the fourth book, I’m coming to the end of my own long journey with LEXX, and that’s also a little sad I suppose. It’s been with me for such a long time, and finishing this book, setting it loose in the world, will mean the end of something personal for me.
I’ll take a moment and be completely honest. I’m doing a bit of huckstering. I’d like to sell a few books. Honestly, I’d like to sell a lot. But I’ll settle for a few. And hell, maybe even interest some of you in some of my other work. I’m a writer, so I figured the best way to do that is to write something. Offer up something to people that they haven’t seen with LEXX, something that’s just not another publicity photo of Eva or a screen cap of Michael. Offer up myself.

You see, I genuinely believe that LEXX really was something special, something unique. That it was visually innovative and startling, that it plumbed depths or surrealism and absurdity. Everyone knows Vadim for Barbarella, or Jodorowsky or Bunel for surrealism, or Ionescu for the Rhinoceros or Ubu Rex. They teach courses in these guys, they have classes, they’re studied, people do Masters degrees and PhD’s, and I honestly think LEXX is that calibre, that innovative, that subversive and ground breaking. That LEXX is that significant, and the story of LEXX is fascinating and important.

So yes! Yes I want to sell books. When I released the first volume, I just wanted it out of my hard drive, and out in the world. But now, years later, putting all the work into it again and again, damned right I want people to read it!

So, as a writer, I figured I’d share what I had on offer – myself, and talk about my journey with LEXX. What I’d like from you, fellow fan, is a bit of help. Spread the word, tell people about the books, maybe encourage them to buy them, leave some reviews. It’s been a long time, and LEXX has faded away a bit. But maybe we can use these books to spread the word again, to have people remember, get people interested.

So that’s what I’m asking.

And in return, I give the story of the LEXX books. Hopefully, that will work.

So here goes…

I think I’ve got a pretty good claim on being the first LEXX fan. Hell, I was a LEXX fan before there was even a LEXX, before Paul Donovan even thought of it.

For me, it goes all the way back to 1983, to my University days. I was going to school in Fredericton, New Brunswick back then. It was just across the Provincial border from Nova Scotia and Halifax, where the Donovan brothers were just starting up.

I’d grown up working at a drive in theatre. B-movies, grindhouse was in my blood. I was fascinated by low budget and exploitation film, by cult television, by the unconventional and the off the beaten path.

And I ran across an article about a couple of local film makers, Paul and Michael Donovan, who had made an action movie over in Halifax. Low budget, mass market shlock, B-movie stuff. They used footage from a police strike, that was a big part of the article. Mostly, it was a novelty – local boys made a film. That was as bizarre as a two headed calf!

It turned out, that movie, Siege, was playing at the Prospect street multiplex. So of course I had to see it. It was actually pretty good – basically, during a police strike, some rednecks bust into a gay bar to terrorize the patrons, something goes wrong, someone is killed. So the rednecks panic and decide to kill everyone in the bar. One of the gays escapes and flees down the street to an apartment full of strangers, and they end up defending him and themselves from a siege of rednecks. The big twist at the end (spoiler!) is that the rednecks were actually cops all along.

It was really good. Low budget, massively low budget, you could tell. I think they were shooting in their own apartment. But it was surprising, you could never quite tell what was going to happen next, it moved fast, and it delivered.
After the movie, I remember standing outside the theatre looking at the poster. It had a giant police badge on it, and the caption ‘what these cops do … is a crime.’ Their own poster blew their twist ending! That was funny.

But I remembered thinking, walking the five kilometers back to University (I was a student, I didn’t have a spare dime), that I’d found something cool.

Salter Street, uh? I’d keep an eye out for those guys.

I was involved in Campus journalism, and I ran across Lex Gigeroff, who’d run a joke campaign and ended up as Student Union President as Dal. Nice guy, fun.

I kept looking out for Salter Street’s films. I’d find one now and then, like Defcon 4, great cover/poster (almost nothing to do with the movie itself), which was another gritty low budget wonder, full of surprises and twists.

If you look up Defcon 4, you’ll see a lot of echoes of LEXX, including the hero getting killed early on, and it’s the cowardly scrawny guy that gets through.

I saw a Newfoundland film, The Adventures of Faustus Bidgood, and it was amazing and funny, and right in the middle of it was a fantastically creepy performance by a guy named Brian Downey.

As it turns out, the Donovan brothers also saw that movie, and they gave the Faustus crew their own sketch comedy show. I watched that, knowing how they connected together.

I saw Paint Cans, Donovan’s art film, and there was Lex G. I knew him. Small world.

I was there, out there in the audience, watching them, keeping track. They were people like me, Atlantic Canadians, out there doing things that enthralled me.

I think if I’d ended up going to Halifax, sooner or later, I’d have gone and knocked on their doors, told them how much I liked their work, and tried to volunteer or suck up for a part time job or something.

Instead I ended up going west, out to the Prairies, and law school, and my life took this path. But they were always on my radar. I got into film a little bit out there, joining the local film and video co-ops. Even made a short film with my friend Dean Naday in the early 1990’s.

The film was Starwatchers. It was about a fake TV series from the Tax shelter era, just before VCR’s. It was kind of an anti-star trek. A small group of people with nothing in common end up in charge of a spaceship, trying to survive. It had an alien in it, because these kinds of shows always had to either have an alien or a robot. It was a celebration and a subversion of the genre.

A couple of years later, in a magazine, I ran across Salter Street. They were working on a film or tv series, wasn’t sure which, called ‘The Dark Zone’ about a small group of people with nothing in common ending up in charge of a space ship, trying to survive. It had a robot head in it, because these kinds of shows always had to either have an alien or a robot. It was going to be a celebration and a subversion of the genre.

I thought: Holy Cow! That’s close to my idea! Then I thought: That’s so cool!!!! This wasn’t just any show, this was people I knew, that I followed, from where I was from, and they were just stepping up and trying this amazing thing. They didn’t know me, but I knew them. I couldn’t wait to see what they’d do. I was thrilled. I didn’t feel like my idea, my short, was stepped on. I felt like I was on the same wavelength. I thought it was wonderful they were doing it.

Like I said I was a LEXX fan before LEXX. It felt like I’d spent years quietly watching all the people and pieces slowly come together, waiting for this, when none of us, not even them, knew the shape of it, knew what we’d been waiting for.

But here it was!

And I’ll stop here, I guess. But if this has been interesting, then … spread the word about the books. And let me know.

I think the next post will watching LEXX when it finally showed up, discovering fandom, the UnCon… and how I got called to do the book.
Then after that, the ups and downs of the book, what happened to make it not happen way back then, and how it eventually came to be…
I think you’ll find it interesting.