“Nad and Dan adn Quaffy” is another of the stories by DWJ that I would place in the “weird” category. I liked it a lot, though, because it made me laugh, and I liked that this is basically a story about typos. In this story, an SF novelist and single mother named Candy (or F.C. Stone to her readers) made a name for herself writing stories based in a universe she created, most of them containing alien/human romance. She’s really bad at technology – here I was thinking of DWJ herself, who was supposedly also bad at technology – and could only get the most basic workings of her word processor. Her son, Danny, had to help her out most of the time. She also started to write typos all the time – she had had to type out the word “and” at least eight times before getting it right.
This doesn’t bother her, because when working she liked to pretend that her word processor was a ship command circuit. And her typos became an inspiration when she had to make up words to add to her universe’s vocabulary. (Quaffy, for example, was the staple drink of her character, inspired by her own dependence of coffee.) As Candy was sitting down to start on her new book, however, she started hearing voices. It was one of her characters, Adny, asking for her help to overthrow the government she had created.
Originally printed in a 1990 anthology called Digital Dreams, it was later reprinted in four different collections – Everard’s Ride, Minor Arcana, Believing is Seeing and Unexpected Magic. In the introduction for Minor Arcana, where I read it, DWJ wrote:
“It was even more fun to write ‘nad and Dan adn Quaffy’. This one is a loving send-up of a well-known author whose writing I admire and read so avidly that I’m sure I know where a lot of it comes from. The idea of it came to me as I typed nad for and for the hundredth time, changed it, found it was now adn, reached for my coffee in frustration and idly realised – among other things – that this other writer did this too. Typos are a great inspiration. Depending on which side you hit the wrong key, coffee can be either xiddaw or voggrr, both of which are obviously alien substances that induce a state of altered consciousness. And yet again, when I was halfway through it, giggling as I wrote, I was asked for a story about computers.”
I didn’t read the introduction until after I’ve read the story, but the whole time I was reading “nad and Dan and Quaffy” I was thinking, she must’ve had a lot of fun writing this! The alien universe introduced is different from what I’m used to (by DWJ) and makes me think of 80s/90s pulp SF – that’s where the “weird” comes from, I guess. The universe, rather than the story itself. Although I do want to know more about the universe and the characters, and the consequence of everything that happens in the story! Now a part of me is thinking, that’s what fanfiction is for, and am planning to reread the story slowly and glean as much as I can about this fictional universe.
The next story I’m rereading will be a book (finally! After so many short stories!), which I guess was a big deal for Diana Wynne Jones’ fans because it would be her first full-length novel for older children since The Lives of Christopher Chant in 1988. AND it was a companion to the delightful Howl’s Moving Castle (1986), too – Castle in the Air. I can’t wait!