Story Behind The Ballad of Halo Jones by Ian Gibson

Ian Gibson - The Ballad of Halo Jones - Book 4 cover art Ian Gibson - The Ballad of Halo Jones - Book 4 cover art

‘Take back your government’ is the only Bobby Heinlein book I’ve never read. Just too darn expensive!! ;)

But all the others I’ve consumed avidly and most I’ve read several times. Everyone knows ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’, but maybe not so many are familiar with stories like: Podkayne of Mars, Friday, Time enough for love, Number of the beast, and Beyond this horizon. These are his stories about women, where the ladies have a strong voice and leading roles.

While I was working on 2000AD on various stories I occasionally read some of the other tales featured in the mag. And one thing that disturbed me was the ‘use’ of women. I noticed that their dialogue was rarely feminine unless they were archetypically screaming or crying and such nonsense. Their words could just as easily have been spoken by male characters. I came to the conclusion that they were basically ‘men with tits’!! I felt that was shortchanging our female readers so I thought I should do something about it.

I approached the editor and asked if they would do an adaptation of ‘Friday’ by Heinlein, as they had done Harry Harrison’s ‘Stainless Steel Rat’. I even gave the editor a copy to read, but the answer was a stubborn ‘No!’

But I didn’t give up. And when I saw that Alan Moore had done a nice treatment of a female character in his Skizz story with Jim Baikie I took notice. Then at an ‘after-signing party’ the editor of 2000AD asked me what I wanted to do next, as I’d just finished yet another Robohunter saga and a long stint on Judge Dredd episodes. So I took the opportunity to ask if I could work with Alan. The answer, happily, was ‘yes’. So I was introduced to the big hairy beast, after all - he was just across the room.

He liked the idea of working together, so I told him I wanted a ‘girl’s story’ that was ‘real’; without silly thought bubbles or explanatory panels. I’m not ‘Dynamo’ the magician so I don’t see people’s thoughts and I’m not so totally psychic that I often get messages explaining what is happening in my daily life such as ‘Ian is in for a big surprise’ or ‘little did he suspect’! So I wanted the readers to experience the story like real life and figure things out as they went along. Alan seemed happy with that. So he went off to write a proposal.

He came back six months later declaring that he had a ‘winner’: "Girls, Rockets and Monsters" - what’s not to like!!?

So I went up to visit him at his home in Wolverhampton and we chatted, smoked a little and I sat on the carpet in his lounge and drew designs for Halo. He was delighted with her. So he wrote a rough idea for the first episodes where she was supposed to be unsettled by finding spooky abandoned space craft somewhere. I got back to him about it, suggesting that if she was intent on ‘escaping’ from whatever her life was, we would have more sympathy if we knew more about her world. And, as I’ve said elsewhere before: what better way to get to know a world than to go shopping in it...? So he took that on-board and came up with the Hoop. All I had to do was straighten him out about the infrastructure - in that Manhattan wouldn’t want to power an enormous ghetto for the unemployable. They would make it power Manhattan - so I turned the Hoop into an enormous wave-power generator. Problem solved!!

Then we were off and running. And so was Halo! ;) 

Ian Gibson
Sussex coast 2013 while watching the open golf - on TV
Official Website

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