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A hit and myth venture for two Oxford writers
by David Edler
PSST .. wanna buy a book? Two Oxford writers have turned publishers and have got 10,000 copies of their first book stashed away in a bedroom waiting to be unloaded on an unsuspecting public.
Putting their money where their mouths are Gregory Klyve (27) and Chris Oakley (29) decided to go it alone in their bid to get what they believe is a potential bestseller on to the streets.
Discouraged by the big guns of the publishing world, the pair have set up their own publishing company, called Byronic Books, which is based in the front room of Gregory's house in Portland Road, Oxford.
Chris, a computer programmer, who lives in St. Margaret's Road has ploughed £4,000 of his own money into the project.
As well as writing the book - The Legend of Perseus - the interpid duo have designed the cover, arranged the printing and are now traipsing the streets of Oxford and beyond in a bid to get bookshops interested.
Their hard work and enthusiasm seems to be paying off. The book is riding high at number seven in the Oxford Mail book chart, and Blackwell's and the Paperback Shop have taken copies and - after just a month - had to re-order supplies.
Foyles of London, Britain's biggest bookshop has also taken copies of the paperback, which sells at £3.50, and it is on sale in Cambridge.
"We haven't had a problem in convincing people to take it," said Chris. "Although when I try and persuade them to take 100 copies they just laugh and take 40."
After just a month the pair reckon they've sold 300 copies, but Gregory, a Classics student, said: "We haven't really started yet."
The book itself claims to take the lid off Greek Mythology. "After 3,000 years, the truth at last," says the front page blurb.
The legend of Perseus is updated and thoroughly debunked. The heroic Greek warrior becomes a wet and weedy wimp, who bumbles through life killing the Gorgons by accident.
Other Greek myths get dramatically re-written. If you thought that Icarus died by flying too close to the sun, think again. According to the book, he snuffed it because his hang glider was dodgy!
"We aim to do to Greek mythology what Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker's Guide series did to science fiction," said Chris.
"And hopefully we can make as much money as he has," added Gregory. It took four months to write the book. "That was the easy part," said Gregory. "We would each write a bit separately during the week and mix it together at the weekend.
"If it made the other person laugh it went in the book," he added.
Byronic Books have another five books in the pipeline, cash permitting. Chris added: "We believe that we are on to a winner. We wouldn't have invested all our cash if we didn't."
Muses strike authors
by Michael Nutley
A music-loving programmer with a degree in particle physics has published a spoof account of Greek mythology. Chris Oakley, 29, wrote The Legend of Perseus with fellow Oxford graduate Gregory Klyve, 27, in four months.
According to C programmer Oakley, the pair set out to do for mythology what Douglas Adams did for science fiction. "I'd had the idea of doing a rip-off of the Greek myths for some time."
When he discovered that Klyve was a classics student, the idea very soon became a reality. And they swiftly dealt with the problem of finding a publisher - they printed and published the book themselves.
The two met through their mutual love of Wagner - Klyve is an amateur singer and Oakley plays piano and flute.
Oakley has persuaded bookshops in London, Cambridge, Bristol and Oxford to take 150 copies of the £3.50 paperback. That leaves Byronic Books of 15 St. Margaret's Road, Oxford - Oakley's home - with 9,850 copies still to sell.
So far the pair are £3,000 out of pocket.
by Alison Mills
The book that blows the lid off Greek Mythology, says the blurb, and you'd
better believe it! How I wish that I'd had this book as a sixth-former,
laboriously battling my way through numerous sources whose tedium was only
matched by their reverence. I would have been comforted beyond measure to learn
that Perseus, far from being the son of Zeus, was in fact the illegitimate
offspring of an opportunistic gaoler. What is more, he was far from being the
butch hero beloved of mythology, but was a camp aesthetic, stumbling into the
first of his adventures by drunken accident, and surviving the rest with
reluctance and incompetence in equal parts.
This irreverent gallop through the legends of Perseus continues in the same vein, undermining at all points. Perseus and his colleagues are modernly foul-mouthed and invariably undignified. Charon is de-mysticised, becoming a cantankerous old man, only accepting Olympian Express cards in payment ('Olympian Express? That'll do nicely!') Gone is Pasiphae's immoral longing for a bull, wished upon her by a jealous God. What really happened had more to do with Daedalus, carrying out certain early experiments in genetics... Even the Fates are finally cut down to size, appearing as querulous and bureaucratic administrators.
Religion, of course, does not escape unscathed. The gods are merely degenerate junkies. To quote: 'Anything the Gods could immediately eat, drink, snort, or screw held no interest at all for them.' In tune with the randy and debauched Gods, the Delphic oracles are relaxed hippies, greeting the appearance of Apollo with cries of 'Hey man...Holy shit!' and the like.
The whole book, from the ill-begotten birth of Perseus, to his final fitting for Stardom, takes away mystique and confusion, and adds a wealth of earthy detail. Even the reviews are worth reading - I particularly liked the comment by The Times Literary Supplement 'We regret that we have not read it.' Essential reading for all those embroiled in the Greek legends, and seeking a little light relief.
by Alan Jones
IF, like me, your Ancient Greek is a bit rusty, relax, THE LEGEND OF PERSEUS by Gregory Klyve and Christopher Oakley (Byronic Books, £3.50) is an updated, and at times very funny, retelling of the exploits of one of the great monster killers of early mythology. To refresh your memory: Perseus was the son of Danae who was impregnated by Zeus. She escaped with the baby Perseus from her father's dungeon only to fall into the hands of the King of Seriphos. He wanted to marry Danae, so sent Perseus off on his first great quest - to kill the Gorgon. Perseus got back just in time to kill the king and prevent the marriage. Then, in search of a wife for himself, he had to slay a sea monster. These and many other adventures (some of them of a decidedly sexual nature) are unflinchingly revealed here.
Sorry to be so long in replying to your letter of October 25, but
1) it had to filter through the publishers just in time for me to
2) leave for World Fantasy Con and a Canadian signing tour arriving back in time for
3) the Wyrd Sisters/Guards! Guards! signing tour.
Feel free to use either or both of the following:
"Nearly as good as me"
or "What professional gunfighters used to dread were the lads who were out in the woods somewhere, just grinning and potting at tins cans all day, getting better and better. That's why these guys worry me."
Off the record, look me up at a con sometime and we'll talk about joke structures. It seemed to me that a lot of the time you were skidding sideways towards the nearest available joke and not building anything to support it. A bit more discipline here and there would help a lot... All the best, anyway
by Charis Gray
If you are not too discouraged by the misplaced apostrophe on line 7 of page 1, then you may enjoy this Monty Python/Douglas Adams cross as an anarchic and racy read, bubbling over with energetic Graeco-technological fantasy. Klyve is reading for a D. Phil. in classics at Exeter and Oakley is a physics lecturer at Trinity. Rivalling the worst excesses of Oxford Today's headline writer in their pun-loving gimmickry (Acrisius' 10-slave-power yacht is called Djinn Pallas, and the sex-mad Delphic Oracle is paid by Olympian Express®), they offer a confidently puerile and completely unreliable account of the Ancient Whirl. Emphatically not for the virginal classical purist, but destined to be a cult book.
These days, when we apologise for Apollodorus and find Herodotus hilarious, Byronic Books seeks to set the record straight by giving you the full truth about life during the Greek Mythological period. A time when nude bathing in Greece was even more risky than it is today; when Graeae simply could not expect the government to provide decent dental and eye care (so what's new?); when even manly men wore girly tunics; when credit card debts were often collected by Babylonian thugs (so what's new?) and when but to breathe in Skegness was to be cursed by the Fates (so what's new?).
It tells the story of a boy with a sword, a lyre and a designer brooch who went on a dangerous mission. A boy who will -
THE LEGEND OF PERSEUS (a book; but watch out for the Legend of Perseus video game, the sports footwear and the "Medusa" multi-reptile hairdrier)
The first 3,000 copies are free! Just send an envelope of size at least 130 x 190 mm with your (U.K.) address and a 34p stamp to Legend of Perseus Promotion, c/o Byronic Books, 15 Pixies Hill Cresc., Hemel Hempstead, Herts HP1 2BU.
It's not all Greek for author Chris
HOLLIE SMITH meets the Chaulden man who hopes to turn a myth into a cult with his sideways look at legends from ancient Greece.
Chris Oakley is a man with a mission. He has undertaken the task of upending the staid image of ancient Greek mythology, from the humble setting of his mother's home in Chaulden.
Thirty-three-year-old Chris has joined up with a friend and mutual myth fanatic Gregory Klyve, and together they have set up their own publishing company - Byronic Books - and penned a new version of The Legend of Perseus.
Though based on the original, the new Legend of Perseus is not intended to be taken seriously.
On the contrary, it's a hilarious spoof in the same vein as the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, and Chris hopes his book will achieve the same sort of cult status. But why Greek myths?
"They're extremely colourful and entertaining stories," says Chris. "People think they don't know about the Greek myths, but really they do. Bits of them are embedded in people's minds, from school."
Classical purists may shudder, but Oakley and Klyve's Perseus is not the son of Zeus but the illegitimate offspring of a gaoler, their Gods are degenerate junkies, and their Delphic Oracles are hippies.
When Perseus slays Medusa, it's because of an accident whilst shaving,
And the Graeae, the three old ladies who traditionally share an eye and a tooth, squabble over a contact lens and a set of dentures.
Suffice it to say that a huge dose of artistic licence has been employed.
"What you've got," explains Chris, "is the same sequence of events, but a different explanation. We think ours is much better, more natural. And you don't have to have people being turned to stone either."
Chris grew up in Hemel Hempstead, and went to Cavendish School before going to Oxford University to read physics.
It was there that he became intrigued by the world of fantasy fiction (at one point he reigned as Emperor of the VI'Hurgs - a society of "Hitchikers" fans) and the desire to write a cult book took root.
But it wasn't until several years later, while working as a computer programmer near Oxford, that he met Gregory Klyve, a classics student.
Together, during a succession of "beery evenings", the two of them hatched plans for The Legend of Perseus.
Chris says of his co-writer: "He struck me as someone who teetered on the brink of insanity, which I thought was a necessary quality to write this sort of stuff."
Whether or not on the brink himself, Chris does look a bit like a young, mad professor - a gangling 6ft 4ins, with round spectacles and a frequently furrowed brow.
In his determination to get the story into print, he's financed the private printing of the book, and taken on the editing, selling, publicity and delivery himself.
With his modest set-up of "a macintosh, a car, and a satchel," he's personally sold over a thousand copies to bookshops locally and in London and Oxford.
WH Smith has promised him that if the book sells well, they'll distribute it nationally, and the best selling fantasy author, Terry Pratchett has given Perseus a rave review, which is proudly displayed on its back cover.
The huge popularity of writers such as Pratchett and Adams just goes to show that fantasy fanatics are not a deranged minority. Or at any rate, they are not a minority.
"There is a market out there," says Chris. "It's the sort of trash I would buy - fiction has to make me laugh."
Assuming Perseus goes down well, the potential for a series is almost boundless. Already at work on Oedipus - subtitled Who Always Preferred Older Women - Oakley and Klyve have seven books based on Greek myths planned, including Odysseus - Or Why You Should Beware of Smooth Talking Trojans Who Try To Sell You Navigational Aids - and Jason and the Argonauts ("huge potential"). And it's not just the Greek myths that are pencilled in for a revision. "The story of the Arabian Nights has possibilities," says Chris, "and Welsh mythology is asking for it as well."
His hope is that Byronic Books will take off in a big way.
"I would like to be able to say that Byronic Books has a list of titles, which are all funny, all entertaining, and all good reads. At the moment, all I'm trying to do is get one title before people's eyes and generate some revenue."
The Legend Of Perseus by Chris Oakley and Gregory Klyve is available from WH Smith in Hemel Hempstead, priced at £3.50