To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman; I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. For Joseph Campbell, she is the subject matter of his celebrated mythopoeic study The Heroine With a Thousand APAs. On the tribal tom-toms of the primitive yet potent M'bsfa'bsfa hordes, her name is feared and revered as She-Who-Coordinates. Male veterans of the super-literary Mexicons still smile, get a bit excited, and loosen their collars at the memory of The Woman Whose Mini-Skirt Challenged Pat Cadigan's – a scene immortalized in fanzine art by H.M. Bateman. And to this day, an elite few who have sampled her delicious home-made curries enjoy taste flashbacks leading to a spontaneous cry of 'WAAAAAH! Can I have a glass of water?'
Yes, Maureen Speller is the stuff of which legends are made. A woman with more earrings than Imelda Marcos had shoes, more con-running credits than Princess Di and Mother Teresa combined, and more cats than books in a Piers Anthony trilogy; who causes us alleged litcrit types to shuffle in the uneasy knowledge that she not only finished but understood Alan Garner's Strandloper; and who is notoriously guarded by her devoted manservant Kincaid, a master of deadly Kung-Clute whose verbal ripostes deal terrible damage to assailants' lexicons and leave them badly contused all over the thesaurus.
Fortunately Maureen has feet of clay, or at least her computer does. Ansible Information's crack repair team (me and Chris Priest) regularly races to Folkestone to fix the latest problem, trying hard to impress her with opaque technical jargon improvised for the occasion. Unfortunately, I think she's catching on....
Oh, and she writes, copiously, with a range of tone and subject matter which makes me envious. Examples follow, though – for regrettable space reasons – not enough. Read on, and learn how our heroine frustrated the designs of the insidious Dr Fu-Manchu!