If it’s for my Daughter I’d even Defeat a Demon Lord


If it’s for my Daughter I’d even Defeat a Demon Lord is an enjoyable excursion into a world of adventurers where top ranking adventurer Dale, becomes guardian to the recently orphaned Latina.

The series is set in the land of Laband which is settled by humans and demi-humans. Adjacent to Laband are lands such as Vassilios – ruled by the First Demon Lord and settled by demons (sometimes they are called devils)… then there’s the Third Demon Lord who is Demon Lord of the Sea. Demons differ from humans by being much better in magic. Magical beings / beasts can be dangerous to humans which is where adventurers come in.

Dale very quickly learns Latina is demon born but, taken in by her innocent helplessness, he quickly moves from being rescuer to becoming her guardian.

Dale is based in the city of Kreuz and so they head there to his lodgings at the inn, the Dancing Tabby Cat. In between excursions into how inn-life functions, Latina gets to grip with how human society works. The Dancing Tabby Cat is frequented by adventurers. Latina may seem too innocent to some but in remembering my youth, her lack of guile and the reactions of those about her feels right. Her disposition is endearing and the reaction of the adventurers to her rings true.

As the series progresses, hints are dropped that suggest a larger (and darker) story – we discover more of Dale’s background but despite some clues, Latina remains a mystery.. Just as there is conflict between humans and demons, there is internecine human conflict. It is plain to me that aspects of the larger story arc must revolve around this. The keen eyed will pick up the hints but I won’t spoil this for those who haven’t watched. Having watched up to episode 10 I am left in no doubt that the story tellers will not flinch if future episodes call for darker deeds to be portrayed and the later episodes leave no doubt of the ability to carry this off.

Most anime suffers from ‘next episode we must have a bigger and better disaster’ syndrome, this show isn’t one. It strays from familiar MMORPG gamer territory into ‘Hey this has a realistic feel’ and ‘Heroes with a human side… actually I like it’. Will suit those who prefer a softer, more human side to adventuring and its heroes.


Glitches: the translation could be tightened up e.g. Demon appears to be interchangeable with Devil. Episode titles could be snappier as there is a preponderance of ‘The Little Girl’ and ‘The Young Man’. This appears to be a stylistic trait but these are largely superfluous after the opening episode.

Rating: Worth watching – you may even need a handkerchief!

Availability: Crunchyroll – a subscription anime streaming service.

Language Japanese, English sub-titles

Style Anime

Originally published: as a Japanese Light Novel series,written by Chirolu and illustrations by Truffle + Kei. Available in English by J-Novel Club

Links:

AnimeNewsNetwork https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2019-05-17/if-its-for-my-daughter-id-even-defeat-a-demon-lord-anime-reveals-july-4-premiere-ending-theme-artist/.146827

Website for the show: http://uchinoko-anime.com/

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Burnley Central Library


Shut now… but open in our hearts.

Also a prompt for Angel in my Heart

to be published: in the near but indeterminate future.

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Commemorating Kafka


Just to mention that today, 3rd July 2019 is the 136th anniversary for one of my favourite writers: Franz Kafka who was born in 1883, into a middle-class family in Prague – then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Austro-Hungarian Empire highlighted in map of Europe pre-1914
Austro-Hungarian Empire pre-1914

By background he was a German speaking, Bohemian Jew. He had a troubled relationship with his Jewish side which fluctuated between fascination and alienation, and he would often contrast the Jews of Eastern Europe with those in the West. Although self-conscious, he went on to form numerous short term and sometimes intense relationships with women he met. These would sometimes provoke a productive period of writing from him. He never married. Kafka blended realism and telling characterisations of the state with the fantastic. Most of his work was in German. Few of his works were published in his lifetime.

Collage of Kafka published in Penguin, UK - Metamorphosis, The Trial
Front covers to The Trial, Metamorphosis, back cover to the Trial

He died in 1924 from tuberculosis. He left his unpublished works to his friend and literary executor, Max Brod with instructions for them to be burned. Most were unfinished and their narratives were disorganised so Brod began the process of preparing them for publication. Gradually they began to attract attention. His works dealt with alienation and persecution. The term Kafkaesque (reminiscent of oppressive and nightmarish qualities of Kafka’s works) has entered the English language. Not all Kafka’s papers have been published and they continue to be the subject of an ongoing legal wrangle.

Franz Kafka in 1906

Particularly liked: The Trial (Der Prozess)

Kafka offers important weapons to the armoury of the speculative fiction writer

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Fantasy Lands


Fantasy Worlds

Story setting is important in fiction however some things can be taken for granted depending on the genre e.g. Regency fiction is deemed to be set in Great Britain with the customs and manners that surrounded the period 1811 – 1820 when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son, was instated as his proxy as Prince Regent… it is a ready-made time and place into which authors can populate their stories. In Fantasy peoples, nations and histories have to be built from the ground up. This is world building. I’ve created several fantasy worlds. Before I talk about then I’m going to look at the worlds built by fantasy greats:  JRR Tolkien, Andre Norton, Robert E Howard and Jack Vance.

Middle Earth

The grand-daddy of them all is Tolkien. His masterful generation of new English Myth is gentle, sweeping and definitive in the genre, full of hidden surprises – no one who’d read LOTR (Lord of the Rings) expected that origin of the orcs until the hints, once the Silmarillion was published made it plain, erudite, and was imbued with gravitas (not twee – stand up all you imitators who aimed for ‘twee’). Middle Earth could be overlaid on our Earth. If this was done there were easy connections. First though you have to step back in time to an Earth of the Middle Ages when the main bastion of the West was Byzantium, which equates to Minas Tirith defending the lands of Arnor and Gondor from the multitudes to the south (the Haradrim) and the Easterlings of Rhûn. So let’s do this.

Gondor and Mordor, including the lands of Near Harad
  • Minas Tirith becomes Byzantium, and just as the land of Gondor was west of Minas Tirith, so the hinterland of Byzantium – Greece, Thracia and other holdings such as Sicily were to the west of Byzantium.
  • Rhovanion becomes Kievan ‘Rus (which later grew into Russia)
  • Rhûn with its Easterlings become the Central Asian steppes and the nomads
  • Haradwaith, which used to be part of Gondor, and its sea lords, becomes the former provinces of Rome in Asia – Syria and Mesopotamia which under Islamic rule make the Mediterranean into a Muslim lake.
Annotated contour map showing Minas Tirith and the surrounding lands
Annotated contour map showing Minas Tirith and the surrounding lands

Tolkien denied his work was a reflection of recent events (two world wars), but would he disassociate his work from my map-based comparison? As a student of civilisation and the maps that go with it, such speculation has long been second nature to me. He was a great map maker; indeed he used those maps to plan out Sam and Frodo’s journey, which is how we come to have such detailed geography of his literary genius. And his elves were brilliant game changers; like Sam Gamgee, I wished I could meet them.

Before Tolkien

Fantasy as we know it was changed forever by Tolkien. He breathed life back into a genre that had lost its way. That isn’t to say there were no other decent fantasy writers when LOTR came out. Jack Vance’s Dying Earth (published in 1950 which was before LOTR) depicted a far future Earth where the beings, powerful artefacts and landscape were clearly delineated. Jack Vance was economical with words but he mapped out a world that hung together well. Then there’s Robert E Howard’s Conan, a savage hero in a sorcerous world that, more so than Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Howard’s Hyborian Age maps well onto Europe and he made it plain that this was intentional. His Conan lives in a time before the nomad hordes of the east (Hyrkanians) crushes civilisation.

Map from the the Age of Conan (the Hyborian Map) which RE Howard places circa 10,000 BC (the Hyborian Map)
Map from the the Age of Conan (the Hyborian Map) which RE Howard places circa 10,000 BC

Let’s skip to post-Tolkien. So: the world has changed. Ace Books has tried to rip off Tolkien’s work and failed (and eventually pays the price for sharp business practise). But there’s new life in Fantasy as Andre Norton begins her depiction of Witch World and the High Hallack. Her first six works came in the 1960s, telling the tale of Simon Tregarth, his witch trained wife, Jaelithe and the adventures of their three offspring in the lands of Escore and Estcarp. Also in this f is the first of many tales of the High Hallack.

Andre Norton’s Witch World

Witch World is pre-industrial revolution, but it does not map onto our Earth. It is old and so is its magic. In its past, the witches of Estcarp cast a spell that twisted and rove the mountains to seal off Estcore from lands to the east known as Estcarp. In Estcore, magic can only be cast by the witch-trained and only by women who haven’t been with a man. This restriction doesn’t apply in Escarp whose adepts create gates into other places at whim. Estcarp is full of powerful magic wielders and dangerous , often magical, monsters.
The High Hallack lies west across the ocean from Estcarp. Its dales have recently come to be settled by men, but in the past, it used to belong to peoples who, some of whom had sorcerous powers or could shape-shift. There are traces of the former inhabitants all over the dales; places of power as well as their artifacts. These people retreated north to Arvon, however their were-folk and shape-shifters drifted west into the Waste.
The High Hallack lies west across the ocean from Estcarp. Its dales have recently come to be settled by men, but in the past, it used to belong to peoples who, some of whom had sorcerous powers or could shape-shift. There are traces of the former inhabitants all over the dales; places of power as well as their artifacts. These people retreated north to Arvon, however their were-folk and shape-shifters drifted west into the Waste.

Witch World map showing Estcarp andEscore,  including the High Hallack and Arvon
Witch World map showing Estcarp andEscore, including the High Hallack and Arvon

Andre Norton was the by-line of Alice Mary Norton and she went on to write many books in her Witch World series. Her stories feature respect for the old ways and coming of age, and they resonate; yet her work went under the critical radar. She was of American Indian blood and had a love of cats.


Fantasy Worlds I’ve Created

When I write Fantasy I start with a status quo that is about to be disturbed. The hero or heroine rarely knows what their actions will lead to. Each setting is different and these are the themes:

  • Myth brought into the Present Day
  • Mercenary for Hire
  • The Gates to Faerie
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Seekers and Quests

Myths

Status: published on Kindle
Title: The Turning Stone
If you’d like to support me please mark this as Want-to-Read on Goodreads

Imagine a world in which the collateral damage due to the wars between elementals is so destructive it threatens to destroy all life on Earth. This is the setting for the Turning Stone. Thousands of years ago, long before that start of human civilisation, there was war between the beings of fire and the lava elementals. The conflict affected all: old myths, new myths, star-seekers and of course the humans.

The Turning Stone cover
The Turning Stone
(a star-seeker)

Mercenary for Hire

Title: Brant
Status: incomplete

Imagine a fantasy world where the hero doesn’t believe in magic. Magic has retreated from human lands but is never far away, especially in the darker corners of the world. This is the world of the Northland Steppes where the armies of the Khaif have forged a mighty empire and where there’s plenty of work for mercenaries. From the banks of the West Caulderin in the far west, comes Brant. He’s still new to the game of mercenaries for hire but knows the best odds of staying alive are in joining a reputable mercenary company. If he knew anything about guarding runaway princesses, that would come near the bottom of the list – the only likely pay being an unmarked grave.
The town of Orby in Brychon Woods is under threat by mercenaries with Princess Aralie (who is hiding there) as prize. Unconcerned by these affairs of state, Brant walks the forest trail that leads to Orby. Not far from Orby, Ysarie, a very powerful (and beautiful) magical being makes plans to snare the next unwary adventurer.
This is a world of soul-bleeds, night-frights, muut-inimes (floating people), and the magical mirror realm of Turalam.

Soulbleed in Brychon Wood
Soulbleed met in Brychon Woods

The Gates to Faerie

Title: Blue Belle
Status: complete but not yet published

Far to the west of the Northland Steppes lies Angelynn, capital city of a realm with many parallels to medieval Britain. In that realm lies Pleasant Wood. It marks one of the ways into faerie and so it is well guarded by wood nymphs; all ways to the lands of faerie are guarded by the fae. The fae live in harmony with nature so there can be no increase in population. Eventually one of the wood nymphs decides to sample the delights of man. her actions have repercussion for the nearby village of Tranby which has its own secrets that tie it to other guardians of Faerie: the Seneschal of Light and the Seneschal of Night.
Meanwhile, the Augeruch, who rules men from the city of Angelynn decides on a foreign war, with unexpected consequences to Tranby and Pleasant Wood.

Nymphs of tree, storm, ice and sea
Nymphs of tree, storm, ice and sea

Dark Fantasy

Title: Erisse of the Illyany
Status: incomplete

Imagine a world of dark fantasy set in the present day. A New Silk Road is being built to bring prosperity to the ancient cities of the Old Silk Road. Construction work means disturbing archaeological sites. When it does, the experts are called in. Nearby Urumqi is a melting pot of humanity where East meets West, and there is where an American contractor meets a girl with a strange past. She is one of the Illyany, a people who have kept their connection with the dark world, where death and life are terrifyingly merged.

Quests and Seekers

Title: A Sending
Status: Incomplete

Quests are the currency of heroes. A quest can be to steal or loot (Conan), to rescue (many of Andre Norton’s works), or to lose a ring (Frodo). Imagine a world driven by quests.
Deep in the lost realm of Harether, in the tundra’d forests where icy winds blow most of the year round, are two sentient sparks. Ting and Ming. A party of Seekers approaches them. The Seekers are headed by Beau Wanderlode. He used to be of the Ghovarian Guard from the county of Ghouv’d which lies in the princely state of Tokui. Of late, Tokuish has been overrun by the Rosekhi and its heroes have been banished.
This is a world of Seekers and it is uber-quest driven. Beau Wanderlode was a hero but when his homeland of Tokui was conquered he was bound by an unbreakable geas and sent on a quest to wild and uninhabited lands. Though he doesn’t know what he seeks, he cannot turn away and so can’t, for example, foment rebellion. He is a Seeker. All the warriors and heroes he once knew have, like Beau Wanderlode, become Seekers.
Ting and Ming are both magical and capricious. They have scoured their forest haunt for miles around and cleared it of all animals and birds.

Ting and Ming
Ting and Ming

Note: this blog post was produced using the new WordPress Gutenberg block editor. It’s not clear to me yet how to make this work better on mobile for which my apologies.

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The UK and Brexit


Nothing can prepare you for the intricacies and myths propounded on this subject (many by people that should know a lot better). What is needed is imaginative thinking that directs the trivial into productive channels while simultaneously dealing with the impasse felt in Westminster.

There have been so many Remain options that didn’t pass in Parliament so, this being the cae, there should be a multiple choice Remain referendum – the leading Remain option should then be thoroughly debated and a commission of Guardian think-tankometers should examine the issue in great detail -and as this is a matter of the greatest urgency to some, the deliberations should be held away from the public eye, so that the results can be stored in a suitably nondescript location, say the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet for the Lets Revive Old Sarum campaign. Biennial updates on the condition of the cabinet could be issued regularly

While this goes on a decent exit should be arranged so that we can get on with our lives.


Window Lights (Horror Fiction)

Okay, I’m not gonna’ talk Brexit no more (on here anyway). So leaving aside my gentle skit, I have recently completed a short story: Window Lights. This is a genre area I rarely visit, Horror. It concerns an inquisitive young man who, at the time this piece is set, would have been termed a Nosy Parker. The first Nosey Parker was held to be Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury (1559-75). He had a reputation for prying into the affairs of others. Window Lights is set somewhat more recently, during the mid-twentieth century. Anyway the young man in my story pries into the affairs of vampires and fairies and in doing so, makes an unpleasant discovery.

Once I have exposed this piece to my critics (i.e. my ‘Alpha Checkers’ – by reading it out to them) I will return to my story about a near future containing a Mexican Wall, a US in which the giant Ogallala aquifer has run dry and a London that declares independence. Oh and aliens.

It’s called Men For The Stars

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In The News This Day


I’ve always been a great admirer of the institution of news and in this spirit, here’s my take on the events of this day, 26/06/19.

Columnist asks why writers are still sniffy about SF. As an SF writer, I think there’s plenty wrong with the genre. All she needs to do is dip into the largest source of SF sales, Amazon’s Kindle.

https://t.co/jCXjGRp5JY


Lib Dems will never break into mainstream politics by behaving like student politicians.

Except a crumbling Tory Party is a soft target.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/06/25/lib-dems-will-never-break-mainstream-politics-behaving-like/


These green targets waved through by MPs will make the cost of no deal look like small change.

British politicians are posturing on the basis of hairshirt economics at home which will have negligible impact on the main polluters. China will leap into gaps left by local enterprise. This aside, a hypothesis that, regardless of levels of public belief, is more a boutique of agendas than science, needs to step up from the shadow of manipulating data sets.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/25/without-even-voting-mps-have-waved-green-targets-will-make-cost/


Our obsession with “offence archaeology” (comment trawling) is robbing young people of a carefree childhood.

Limit access to your comment history to those who know you, and make loosening of those strings conditional – of course this would wreck Facebook’s business model.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/06/25/obsession-offence-archaeology-robbing-young-people-carefree/


Want to end the reign of public schoolboys at the top? Build more grammar schools.

Well do I remember Burnley Grammar School. I wrote an account of its last few years:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/06/25/want-end-reign-public-schoolboys-top-build-grammar-schools/


Surviving Tiananmen: ‘I might have been one of the hundreds or thousands who lost their lives’.

A telling quote from this harrowing account: “Within months of the Tiananmen massacre, world leaders were rushing back to Beijing to do deals”

https://t.co/BLzzaBEt1V


Oliver Twiss and Martin Guzzlewit – the fan fiction that ripped off Dickens.

In a similar way e-books devour traditional publishing. High brow papers could do much to identify the well written.

https://t.co/A7rLOKA3aj


Stan Lee’s ‘first novel for adults’ to be published this autumn.

Stan was an ok guy. I still dwell on how Marvel misread Jack (King) Kirby. A long time ago.

https://t.co/3gU166wU2s


“Publishers hit by surprise 5.4% fall in 2018”

Which was no surprise. They’ve temporarily arrested the decline and last year trumpeted it as a great victory… Is there not a single person in publishing with strategic grasp?

https://t.co/tjvSYnJjIR


Democrats prepare for first showdown as 2020 debates loom

Maybe they’ve learned that Hillary plus money doesn’t mean they can ignore everything outside metropolitan areas…. Naaah!

https://t.co/X5rxihM2BO


Poor Jeremy Hunt. The perfect Tory for a party that no longer exists (Rafael Behr)

Is this meant to be ironic? Labour squatted on the centre ground for the Blair-Brown years, a centre ground that has since fragmented. Why bother name checking anyone else?

https://t.co/ng628f8hzp


Labour can’t afford to lose its working-class heartlands by backing remain (Jon Cruddas)

Except they already have – long before there was a remain. This observation is a long, long time after the event. Message to Labour revel in the trappings of power and lose your connection with the people.


Also on this day

In 1243 AD, the Mongols achieved a decisive victory over the Sultanate of Rum, a state ruled by Seljuk Turks in the Battle of Köse Dağ. The Mongols were nomads as were the Seljuk Turks. The Mongol objective was twofold: loot and dominion over all nomads. They hunted down any nomads who refused to pay allegiance to the Mongol Empire.

And in 1907, The Tiflis Bank Robbery took place and around 40 people were killed in the attack (which is now in present day Georgia). This triggered a chain of events that split the Bolsheviks from the Mensheviks, and propelled adherents of  Communism into a position where they could rape, murder and pillage lands and people across an entire continent. They duly did.

 

 

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New Wave SF in Retrospect


Looking back is easy. All you need is wisdom after the event and a message (or agenda). I’d place the starting point for New Wave SF as the writer’s workshop set up by Judith Merril, Damon Knight and James Blish; the workshop offered helpful feedback so that SF authors could improve their craft. It mutated and by the time I began reading the genre, it was unrecognisable. Where did I pick up on this? In the mid 1970’s. I’ll start with my favourite bête noir: The New SF.

The New SF front cover

The New SF

When I first read The New SF I took a gamble on the blurb ‘a totally new literature, a Space Age fiction’. There were no rocketships or aliens on the cover, just text. But I read it and I was frustrated – not at being short changed but at the arrogance and conceit that delivered the work. Its message was: you’re reading clap-trap and what you should read is this. That might have won plaudits from some in the Arts Council of England, but the reality was great effort had been put into delivering a poor reading experience. Yes, at the time this kind of work was immensely frustrating. This work epitomised the attempt by a few in the UK to rail at the poor quality of SF pouring out of the US with all its mechanical SF plots and wooden SF characterisation.

As an aside this was a logical outcome of Hugo Gernsback’s philosophy of sell it cheap, don’t pay royalties, drive the market down. Thus was SF kept in the literary ghetto that New Wave SF railed against. Gernsback went on to have fan awards named after him.

Though I rarely found New Wave Science Fiction an entertaining read, I accepted the view that much could be better. It’s now fifty years on; there’s been plenty of time to reflect on what was achieved and what went wrong. Brian Aldiss’s forays into this area The Eighty Minute Hour, Frankenstein Unbound, Barefoot in the Head… were unexceptional. Michael Moorcock preached New Wave but resorted to writing planetary fantasy pot-boilers to pay the bills – his Jerry Cornelius might have sated Arts Council backers but never moved beyond a Moorcock potpourri. Harlan Ellison, editor of Dangerous Visions, was a fellow traveller who seemed more intent of courting controversy than quality.
Using its own tools I’d call New Wave SF a failure. It was a dream of betterment that produced unedifying works. A key outcome of the movement was was to keep the genre on the fringes – how could publishers make money from bad art? It distracted publisher interest from good art. There has been no follow on author to Robert Heinlein who was head and shoulders above others in genre.

Heinlein Grumbles from the Grave edited by Virginia Heinlein, cover from 1989 Orbit edition

He was successful because he had a deal, he delivered and his work sold. The New Wave SF camp often sniped at Heinlein (Aldiss in Billion Year Spree stands out) and in doing so muddied the path of succession. His experience might have helped others take the first step on the path – many in New Wave SF turned their noses up at what worked.

Billion Year Spree by Brian Aldiss, cover from 1975 Corgi edition Michael Moorcock, The Champion of Garathorm, cover to Mayflower 1973 edition

Key players producing better quality and more challenging fiction were already there such as Philip K Dick and Ursula K LeGuin. With the benefit of hindsight, New Wave SF was a distraction. Having made a successful transition into paperback in the 1950s, the genre was ready to grow. Instead the premier UK SF magazine, New Worlds, was destroyed as part of a financially unviable art project (courtesy of Michael Moorcock and his mates). They should have known better. You can’t go back and deliver a sharp literary cuff about the ears but at least the record can be set straight.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick, Cover to Panther 1972 edition The Dispossed by Ursula Le Guin, cover from 1975 Panther edition

So, who will follow in Heinlein’s footsteps? I’m still waiting for an answer. In part this explains why I write.

This post forms part of a series looking at the state of SF:

Raymond Chandler and Science Fiction
Robert Conquest – Obituary
What’s Happening to Publishing? All I can see is E-Pulp
New Worlds
The New SF

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First Review of The Turning Stone


My latest title is The Turning Stone – Arshaana’s Calling, which is realistic YA Fantasy set in an alternate present day Earth. I’m very pleased with reader feedback. Below are extracts from my first review

Terence Park completes a breathtaking work in The Turning Stone.

the dialogue is sparkling authenticity

The story line is impeccable, and I searched deeply for plot holes but found no inconsistencies

The Turning Stone builds reputability… to the point of building a poetic atmosphere with its audience

Read the full review: http://iloveuniquebooks.com/book-review/the-turning-stone-arshaanas-calling

Go check out The Turning Stone on Amazon

To support me click Want to Read on Goodreads

Banner for KBoards - The Turning Stone

The Turning Stone – Bow of Athene

* * * * * *

Science Fiction and Fantasy from the Edge of Nowhere (that’s Accrington, UK)

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My First Newsletter


I’m starting my first newsletter. Sign up and earn a free download. Plus: you’ll be notified (monthly) on blog updates, book deals, free PDF downloads and news of upcoming titles, and you’ll also get a flavour of SF from Up North (the North of England). Here’s a preview.

Upcoming Titles

After months of bubbling away under the radar The Turning Stone is ready for publication, and have you seen the cover?

The Turning Stone cover

The Turning Stone cover – a star seeker

What’s it about? The ancient spell that binds humanity together is weakening. If it breaks, civilisation will fall, markets will crash, Labour will – oops that’s Brexit – let’s just stick with civilisation will fall. Anyway, an amazing discovery in far off Central Asia brings to light an ancient runestone unlike any other. Join Beni, Tinder, Athene, Jak and Hunda as they probe its secrets.
The Turning Stone is YA Fantasy

Angel In My Heart is still waiting for cover art. Slothmeister, Slothmeister! where’s my art? (Slothmeister is actually doing exams at the moment).
Genre: Dystopia

Dragon Shard is bubbling under. Here’s a detail from the cover sketch detail.
Genre: Space Horror

details from Dragon Shard: Kevin-1

detail from Dragon Shard: Kevin-1

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DC Comics: Mystery in Space and other SF


It’s exactly ten years since I started to write. My first novel reached first draft in between the 2008/09 Championship play-off finals (as a result of which Burnley FC were propelled into the Premier League) and the start of the new season – 60,000 words. It was SF but nothing like the SF I first read.

As a teenager I used to have three paper rounds which took me around the centre of Burnley, delivering to the Public Library, the Police Station, Banks, Accountants, Solicitors and Building Societies, and also to the town Grammar School (which was actually three miles from the centre but as I attended it, I also dropped off their papers, magazines and periodicals). Coming from a one-parent family and well aware of the precious nature of money, I saved up pretty much all my earnings, only occasionally letting loose to splash out on second hand comics. Back then I’d grown out of titles like Beezer, Topper, Dandy and the Beano, preferring instead American comic books – basically Marvel and DC comics. Back then, most newsagents had a wire-frame stand carrying a few comic book titles but there best place for them was Burnley market: new comics from the bookstall in the covered market and second hand from the open market. Most of my pre-1970 comics came from the latter.

Mystery In Space #107 cover

Mystery In Space #107 cover. Note Go-Go Checks at top

Let’s take stock of the Sci-Fi comic books I’ve had lying around since then, DC titles: Mystery in Space, Strange Adventures and From Beyond the Unknown. My sole copy of Mystery in Space is the oldest of these, cover dated May 1966 for #93 – this being a second hand comic book. The sub-title ends ‘… Mindless and Berserk’. The front cover is slightly schlocky. At the time I ummed and ahhed about buying it – certainly wouldn’t have bought it if it didn’t have ‘Space’ in the title. Space was exciting, rockets were real and having already been gripped by the story in Patrick Moore’s Invader From Space, Science Fiction was worth exploring. So I liked my SF to be spaceships, space cadets and plausible – but please, no flying saucers, these were for weirdos and the like, and a big no-no – barely a step up from the horror vampire / franken-gore types. Obsessive and Creepy.
Comic book stats
Comic book: Mystery In Space #107
No of story pages: 25
Original or Reprint: Original (DC and Marvel often pumped out reprints – avoid!)
Stories: Ultra the Split Multi-Alien, The Wierdies of Mist Valley
Ultra, the Multi-Alien was a (naff) series concerning a human who has been transformed into a multi-alien, made of of four super-powered aliens. It ran in Mystery in Space from #103 to #110, when the comic book was discontinued. Prior to Ultra, Mystery in Space ran Adam Strange.
Ultra, the Split Multi-Alien sees Ultra invent a device to make himself human again. The device malfunctions and splits him into four separate beings: ‘Three of them Mindless and Berserk’ Eventually he gets them under control but has to recombine with them and make Ultra to save the girl he loves. The story is far-fetched.
The Wierdies of Mist Valley concerns a reporter who falls for a girl and follows her to a vacation spot on Jupiter where a converter is used to transform her into a synthetic life form. He uses the converter to follow her and manages to rescue her father and protect her from an evil villain. They convert back to human and get married. As in Ultra, the events are far-fetched but the dialogue is snappy (US American colloquial).

Despite the fact it was second hand, The comic cost about the cover price. 10d = around 4p.

Points of interest
The cover, there’s a B/W checkerboard behind the DC insignia. The last story page in the comic book has the soundbite:
Don’t Hesitate… Choose The MAGS with the GO-GO CHECKS!
Most DC titles at that time could have had ‘avoid for sheer dullness’ stamped on them. The only stories I liked were Legion of Super-Heroes and Metal Men. Also note that the story ended two thirds of the way down the page. Did they run out of ink… or story? Were the artists on a piece rate per panel of artwork? I suspect this was part of dodgy corporate-think, kind-of: ‘The reader will be fooled into reading our dodgy Go-Go Checks because it’s: ON THE SAME PAGE AS THE STORY!! That’ll really put one over Marvel Comics – Muah-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!!’

Last story page and Go-Go Checks

Last story page and Go-Go Checks

Also in this comic is an announcement that Direct Currents – a column devoted to previews of coming DC attractions’ will feature in DC comics. This announcement is accompanied by half a page of DC comic book chit-chat, in the style of Stan Lee’s Bullpen Bulletins (which had started in 1965).

Mystery In Space #107 Announcing Direct Currents

Mystery In Space #107 Announcing Direct Currents

Beyond the Unknown #9, cover dated March 1971, was big 64 pages.

From Beyond the Unknown cover #9

From Beyond the Unknown cover #9

The thing that attracted me was the new insignia – below are a couple of extracted insignia.

     

Wow, it looks like an atom or a rocket. bet this comic is really cool.

There were seven stories inside, these were:
The Man Who Moved the World (5.66pp)
Riddle of Asteroid 8794 (7.66pp)
The Two-way Time Traveller (7.66pp)
The Man Who Aged Backwards (6pp)
The Last Horse on Earth (8pp)
The Sky High Man (8.66pp)
Doom Trap for Earth (9.66pp)

Note the ‘.66’s. This is where the story panels only fill 2/3 of a page. Sometimes it felt like I was being short-changed – as a comic book buyer I expected maximum art on every page. the other cheat was the splash page announcing the story without telling any story at all. Wasted pages. Below are the splash pages in From Beyond The Unknown #9. Pretty much every one of these barring The Man Who Aged Backwards had no story content. The splash pages are reproduced below, the latter at a larger zoom.

Back then I’d do the maths – what was I getting for my money: 64 Big Pages was the promise. Per the above page counts I was getting 53.33 pages, then strike out splash pages – that’d bring the result down to 47pp. Compared to a standard comic which were 32 pages with 24 or 25 pages of actual story… the 64 Big Pages wasn’t such a great deal.

    

    

It was only much later I discovered this was a relic from earlier times – these being reprint stories from the 1950s. Reprints – I’d wasted my money on reprints. Enough analysis let’s have more comics.

From Beyond the Unknown #10 cover

From Beyond the Unknown #10 cover

Yep issue no. 10, May 1971 was also chock full of reprints from the ’50s.

Moving on, Strange Adventures #221, cover dated Dec 1969 relates the adventures of my favourite DC SF hero of that time: Adam Strange. Also included was The Atomic Knights, and third story: The Square Earth. The comic book is a 32 pager meaning actual story content was around 21 pp.

Sadly this was another (unannounced) reprint, however he letters column does refer to the need for all new Adam Strange adventures.

Next up is Strange Adventures #233, cover dated Dec 1971, with the following stories:

  • Earth’s Frozen Heat Wave (orig pub Strange Adventures 161)
  • Adam Strange in Invisible Raiders of Rann (orig pub Mystery in Space 73)
  • The Man Who Stole the Air (orig pub Strange Adventures 51)
  • The Space Rovers in What Happened on Sirius-4? (orig pub Mystery in Space 69)

These were all reprints – by now DC had got into the habit of noting where each had been taken from. Total story content: 32pp out of a 48 page comic book. Around this time DC got a decent tally from the first annual Academy of Comic Book Arts awards – also known as Shazam Awards. Their success was noted in this (and other) comics. My old but seasoned eye would guess that the artwork on the page below was Neal Adams, Dick Giordano or a combination of them both – noting that both got honours at this event. So

  • Best Continuing Feature: Green Lantern – Green Arrow
  • Best Individual Story: No Evil Shall Escape My Sight*
  • Best Writer (Dramatic): Denny O’ Neil
  • Best Pencil Artist (Dramatic): Neal Adams
  • Best Inker (Dramatic): Dick Giordano
  • Best Pencil Artist (Humor): Bob Oskner
  • Best Inker (Humor): Henry Scarpelli
  • Best Colorist: Jack Adler

* Green Lantern – Green Arrow #76 which was by new writer / artist combo Denny O’Neill / Neal Adams, Cover date: April 1970. This is well worth noting as Neal Adams realistic art was a treat and the storyline was good.

These 48 page comic books arose from DC flirting with increasing comic book page count, for all its titles, this new format that lasted one year – from August 1971 to July 1972. Most of the extra pages were filled with reprints – National Periodicals had a burgeoning back catalogue. Marvel experimented this for one month, covering Oct-Nov 1971 editions, and then slipped back to the regular 32 page comic book. Pressure on costs meant a hike in comic book prices; the 32 page edition started at 15¢ and after it was 20¢.

With the benefit of hindsight I realise that comic book SF – though visually interesting – failed to deliver the SF kick. Times change. Maybe it does now, however my tastes are more complex and I now write the stuff.

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