Tapper Watson And The Quest For The Nemo Machine is the new novel by Welsh author Claire Fayers, aimed at ages nine and older and inspired by the mythology of ancient Greece… plus some things closer to home. She tells Buzz what prompted her to make Swansea the connection point for an entire multiverse in Tapper Watson…
My latest children’s novel Tapper Watson And The Quest For The Nemo Machine is a Greek myth/science fiction mashup featuring a cosmic river that joins a thousand and one worlds. This river had to come out into Earth somewhere: as I was living in Cardiff at the time, I considered Cardiff Bay.
But Cardiff already has its fair share of sci-fi connections. It was about time somewhere else had a turn. Then I had it: Swansea. Swansea is a great city – it has celebrities and nightclubs and some of the best beaches in Wales. Swansea deserves to be the capital of Earth, and this is why…
Swansea’s Viking links
Swansea has nothing to do with a sea of swans. The city is named after Viking king Svein Forkbeard. The son of Harald Bluetooth, Svein was King of Denmark and Norway, and, after he invaded Britain, of England – for five weeks, before he mysteriously died. He is supposedly buried on the Rhossili Downs in the Sweyne’s Howes burial mounds. (He probably isn’t but don’t let that spoil the story.)
How the Blitz changed Swansea
The Germans thought Swansea was a place of such strategic importance that, during a three-day blitz in 1941, more than 50,000 bombs were dropped on it. The town centre was flattened and thousands of buildings were destroyed or badly damaged – but Swansea rose phoenix-like from the ashes. Whatever you think of the city now, you have to admire its stubborn spirit.
The Barrage that never was
All right, this never happened, but it was a magnificent plan. In my book, the barrage has been built, along with a high-security Space Research Centre and submarine dock. The whole thing sits in the middle of the bay on an artificial island in the shape of a Welsh dragon… somebody, please build this.
You can’t talk about Swansea without mentioning its nightlife. I walked the length of Wind Street one night and it was a revelation; fortunately, being middle-aged and wearing a coat, I was more or less invisible. There’s also the whole Waterfront area, the Taliesin Arts Centre, the Dylan Thomas Centre, the Grand Theatre, the stadium, the arena, castles, galleries, parks. There’s enough happening to keep an intergalactic visitor busy for a month.
The best ice-cream in the world
Joe’s ice-cream is the best in the world. No argument.
Swansea’s famous people
There’s Catherine Zeta-Jones, of course, and Dylan Thomas. But have you noticed how many comedians come from Swansea? Harry Secombe started it, Ruth Madoc spent her childhood in Swansea, Rob Brydon went to school there, Ian Hislop was born in Mumbles. It must be something to do with the sea air.
The Swansea coastline
Finally, all this is set on one of the most beautiful stretches on coastline on the planet, where you can walk, surf, swim, slide down sand dunes, graze your knees on rocks, or just sleep with the sound of the waves in your ears. A city founded by a Viking, bombed and rebuilt, full of life and humour and with so much potential – if you’re looking for the capital of the world, I vote for Swansea.
Tapper Watson And The Quest For The Nemo Machine is out now via Firefly Press. Info: here
words CLAIRE FAYERS