Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mr. Biffo's Monster Hunt...

Several blog-posts ago, I wrote a piece on the Center for Fortean Zoology’s forthcoming expedition to Guyana in search of giant snakes and hairy man-beasts.

Well, in addition to the usual suspects embarking on the adventure (which includes Richard Freeman and Chris Moiser), there will be a new crew-member aboard the good ship CFZ: Mr. Biffo.

“Who on earth is Mr. Biffo?” I hear the curious states-side throng ask enthusiastically. Well, now, that is a story all in itself.

Mr. Biffo is the alias of one Paul Rose (or perhaps Paul Rose is the alias; nothing is ever as it seems in this somewhat surreal game…), a 36-year-old London screenwriter, the keeper of the mighty Biffovision blog, and the author of the acclaimed hit British book Confessions of a Chatroom Freak.

He has written for the BBC soap-opera Eastenders, was a lead writer on the cult children’s TV series My Parents are Aliens, and was nominated for a BAFTA award for his work. Not only that: he even wrote for Sooty. A rather annoying, self-righteous little chap (well, actually, he was a glove-puppet), Sooty was a veritable star of children’s television who reached his peak in Britain in the 1970s. In my opinion, however, his pal Sweep – an amusingly anarchistic, violent and chaotic character whose ear-splitting squeaky voice could induce migraines in a millisecond - was the real hero of the show.

But what about Confessions of a Chatroom Freak? Well, as Mr. B’s publisher puts it: “The Internet: the greatest aid to communication in human history, a repository of mankind’s accumulated wisdom and a global community where free speech reigns. But mostly it’s a family sized bucket of filth. Confessions of a Chatroom Freak contains the lurid transcripts of genuine conversations between beautiful chatroom addict LoopyLisa21f and a succession of would-be suitors. By turns disturbing, hilarious, and surreal, Confessions of a Chatroom Freak reveals what our friends and colleagues really get up to online - and then confuses the hell out of them. After Confessions of a Chatroom Freak you’ll never engage in cybersex again.”

And with all of the above in hand, I now introduce you to Paul Rose and/or Mr. Biffo, who I had the pleasure of interviewing yesterday.

Nick Redfern: NR
Paul Rose: PR

NR: Hi Paul; how’s things going?

PR: I’m recovering from my jabs today. I’ve just had my jabs done for Guyana; so I’m a bit sore and spaced out! [Note for American readers: jabs = shots. In Paul’s case, it’s to ensure he doesn’t go down with some bizarre, exotic, flesh-devouring disease while he’s trekking through the wilds of Guyana chasing all-things-monstrous.]

NR: So, this is probably the ideal time to do an interview about the CFZ then!

PR: Exactly!

NR: Well, first thing: how did you hear of the CFZ and get involved?

PR: It’s a strange story in that Jon [Downes] sent me some fan-mail: he’d read my book and he was a fan of a video-game magazine – Digitiser - I’d written years ago. Well, he sent me this email, and at the bottom of it were these links to the CFZ website and Jon’s blog. My curiosity was piqued and I started clicking through the site. And I had an interest in all-things Fortean, anyway. So, then I emailed Jon back and said: “Tell me a bit more about what you do.” And it went from there, really, and Jon invited me down for tea. And somehow I got talked into going to Guyana with them after monsters - as you do!

NR: And was cryptozoology a subject you were interested in anyway?

PR: I sort of describe myself as an optimistic skeptic; I just find that whole world of the unexplained kind of fascinating, and I have my entire life. And I’d very much like to be shown evidence for all these kind of things; I’ve dabbled in hypnotism and psychic stuff. And I want it to be real. It’s the same with cryptozoology, too. I love the way that all of you at the CFZ approach the subject: you have a sense of humor; but it’s very much an open-mind, and a scientific angle, too. And I found that kind of combination refreshing. That’s really why I thought: I’d like to get involved with this, if I can.

NR: And what are your hopes and expectations, if any, for the Guyana trip?

PR: I’m just hoping for a bit of adventure, really. I’m writing a book over the next year, as you know. This will be me hanging out with Jon and the CFZ, and hopefully yourself at some point. And I’m not really going out there with any great expectations. I’m keeping an open mind about it, and hoping I don’t drop down dead with a heart attack, because I’m trying to get in training now. So, it’s an adventure, really.

NR: For the benefit of people reading this, can you go into a bit more detail about the book on the CFZ that you’ll be writing?

PR: Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny how it’s all linked really: I went in to see my publisher, ostensibly about doing a follow-up to the [Confessions] book. We started talking, and they had one idea for a follow-up to that book, and I had a slightly different idea. So, they said: “Well, what do you really want to do? Is there any other book you’d like to write?” I said: “I’m desperate to do a travel book. But I haven’t come to you because you don’t do travel books.” But they then said: “Well, we’ve just started up a travel imprint and signed up three travel books.” So, I replied: “Strangely enough, I’m off to Guyana in a few months…” So, I started talking to them about that trip, and Jon and the CFZ, and it went from there. But, in terms of what’s going to be in the book: that really depends on what goes on over the next year and what happens in Guyana. I’m going to try and meet as many interesting people in the world of cryptozoology as I can. It’ll be a piece of gonzo-cryptozoological journalism.

NR: Good luck with it all, Paul.

PR: Thanks, Nick.

To purchase a copy of Paul’s book, Confessions of a Chatroom Freak, click here; and to check out his blog, Biffovision, click here.

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