Black Panther: The Bradscribe Review

Hero. Legend. King. (But No Spoilers)

“Big movie, big world… I had great confidence in this story that [Ryan Coogler] was trying to tell about Black Panther, and this universe… that he would make something notable and beautiful” – Angela Bassett.  

“So, you like cats?” 

Oh, YES! We love ’em! Especially the big, black and bossin’ kind like the Panther on glorious show here!

The story picks up straight after the events of Captain America: Civil WarIn the wake of King T’Chaka’s death, T’Challa returns to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to tackle his own with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility-thing, fending off challenges to his sovereignty – cue some stunning waterfall fight sequences.

This character is rapidly becoming one of my favourite comic book characters, and this movie could not have arrived at a better time. Ryan ‘Creed’ Coogler has created an amazing African adventure.

As the 18th(!) MCU movie masterwork, in addition to the usually reliable fantastic fare of gobsmacking action, furious car chases, overwhelming drama, Black Panther instantly carves out a unique and distinctive niche within the MCU. In addition to its predominantly black cast, there are more strong female characters than any other recent blockbuster; moreover, it succeeds – thanks to first female Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rachel Morrison – in looking and feeling as magical and mysterious as the continent on which it is set for most of the duration.

Tell you the truth: while initially setting out this Review, the star-rating was loaded before any of this text, so certain that this cat would not – and could not – disappoint!

Looking around and seeing a majority of black cast is something I haven’t had too many opportunities of being a part of. That’s another level of like, “Wow, this is crazy, man” – Michael B. Jordan. 

Writers Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole have crafted an enjoyable script, imbued with plenty of groovy lines to keep this quote-crazy critic jolly for ages. 

The production design – by Hannah Beachler – is suitably endearing; had to look up the genius responsible for costume design – Ruth Carver has created some stunning, quintessentially African threads here.

And wow – there are more scintillating performances here than you can shake an assegai at! We could be here all night discussing individual roles, so let’s talk ahout a select few.

Reigning supreme is Chadwick Boseman, allowed to reprise – and expand – his cool and dignified turn in Civil War to fantastic effect here. Danai Gurira is simply breath-taking – especially in one of the best MCU action scenes (set, unexpectedly in South Korea?!) we will ever see – as General Okoye, Chief Of Security. Can’t forget Lupita Nyong’o as superspy Nakia – even her ear-ornaments were hypnotising! 😉

After being needlessly wasted in The Last Jedi, it is SO GOOD to watch Andy Serkis being deliciously duplicitous and distasteful as token-white one-armed-nogoodnik Ulysses Klaue. His Afrikaans accent is just as entertaining as Martin Freeman’s hilarious American accent!

What’s that?! “Museum Of Great Britain?” Ha ha! Only in the Marvel Universe! 🙂

Michael B. Jordan creates an intriguing – and yet startlingly relatable -antagonist; not so much a villain, but a frustrated soul who fights for what he believes is rightfully his. 

Got to give a special shout-out to Letitia Wright as Shuri – superb and funny as the scene-stealing cheeky younger sister: 

“…It sounded too good to be true. I didn’t know a lot about Black Panther – it felt exciting and fascinating and amazing. Being a Zimbabwean American, my interest [is] in bridging the gap between two places. To actually become part of something that does that is unprecedented…” – Danai Gurira. 

Yes! Wakanda looks every bit as enchanting and exhilarating as hoped – for once, CGI has been put to such stupendous effect. 

It’s baffling when you consider that Warner/DC are incapable of producing a decent comic book movie to save their skins, and yet Marvel Studios continue to excel – almost flawlessly – with each of these quality productions!

My only niggle?

(Apart from that CG-armoured-rhino?): two important elements, vital to the MCU, failed to materialise as expected (if mentioned here, they would probably spoil your expectations/enjoyment too!) Watch out – as always – for that inevitable Stan Lee cameo! (Incredibly, he, and Jack Kirby created Black Panther 52 years ago!). And – oh yes – you know the drill: STAY for both post-credit scenes. (Only a lucky quarter of what had been a packed popcorn parlour remembered to remain and enjoy the second, charming scene!)

Grab as many return tickets to Wakanda as you can get your paws on, True Believers – trust me, this is one Afro-futuristic wonderland you’ll want to keep revisiting time and time again!

Happy, and confident, to report that my first trip to the cinema this year is looking also like a sure-fire contender for Best Movie of the Year. 

No, have not forgotten about Thanos  undoubtedly Avengers: Infinity War is set to blow us all away, but on a much grander scale!

2018 is shaping up to be such an awesome year! 

And, in answer to your question, Danai Gurira should play me in the film of my life. Have no doubt that Ryan Coogler could make someone reading comics and eating cake for three hours into a mesmerising masterpiece as well!

Wakanda Forever!

 

BRADCSRIBE VERDICT

“He really is a groovy cat,
And what a gentleman, a scholar, what an acrobat!” 😉

 

Advertisements

Panther Tracks: The Rough Guide To Wakanda

This Is NO Rinky-Dink Panther…

“Strange! Though we’ve never met, I have a feeling about you. Why do you search my face so intently?” – T’Challa.  

“The tracks are gouged deep into the snow as if seeking permanence against an umpermanent environment. The Panther moves as the great cat, stalking impulsively…”

“Jungle Action was a collection of jungle genre comics from the 1950s, mostly detailing white men saving Africans or being threatened by them,” recalled writer Don McGregor. “I voiced a lament that I thought it was a shame that in 1973 Marvel was printing these stories, and couldn’t we have a black African hero…” 

He remembered that back in 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had introduced an African superhero called the “Black Panther” – none other than King T’Challa of the secretive state of Wakanda – in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966) so planned to make the title the Panther’s own. 

Hard to believe now, but giving a black character his own ongoing series was deemed to be such a risky move back in 1973. Although Jungle Action was cancelled after only 26 ishs, with McGregor‘s amazing writing – plus art by Billy Grahamit has become a cult classic. 

Anyway, ever since this character bewitched me in an extraordinary ish of Fantastic Four – #241, Render Unto Caesar! April 1982; reviewed here: – at the very beginning of my quest for Bronze Age awesomeness eighteen months ago, knowledge of this king and his country has been duly sought.

The most crucial point to bear in mind is that in the Marvel Universe, as Earth‘s solitary source of vibranium – the most precious, but least understood, mineral of all – Wakanda has become the most scientifically and technologically advanced country in the world.

Lee and Kirby may have brought the Black Panther to life, but McGregor can be credited with not only developing T’Challa’s character but creating the cultural and geopolitical entity that is the kingdom of Wakanda. 

And what a truly marvellous country it is too!

 

Wenzori: “Watch out, Jakak! It‘s that panther-devil ! Get out of my way and I’ll sear him in half!”

Jakak: “But how can it be him, Wenzori? We were with Killmonger when we left him for dead… left him for the wolves of the mist to devour!!”

“The ruby lasers infrared scope changes the night into weird, surrealistic shapes. The sleek, pantherish figure becomes an abstract being against a spectral icescape. It is easier to kill an abstraction than a human being!”

Jungle Action Featuring: The Black Panther is a phenomenal classic title.

The story arc: Panther Rage – unravelling from #s 4-26 (1973-76) is regarded by comic historians as the very first graphic novel, and one of the masterworks in an age brimming with experimental and groundbreaking comics.

Recently – on my last few expeditions into the capital – this series his eluded even my superior tracking skills. Did manage to find a collection of back ishs in excellent condition, but they were going for extortionately-high prices…

However, only last month, a single copy of Jungle Action ish #13 (January 1975) emerged @ my local awemonger’s emporium. The God Killer is an intriguing story; much of the action takes place on an icy tundra – can this really be the heart of Africa?!

Page 14 is just sensational; here is Billy Graham’s original pre-colour draft:

“It was almost like a mythical place to us – to a lot of us, as African-Americans. And that was a very big deal for me to be able to tell this story” – Ryan Coogler.

“There are two major religions in Wakanda. T’Challa wears th sacred attire of the Panther religion. It is torn and crusted with blood and sweat, but it is no less sacred a garment. 

“The regal, savage beings that congregate below him are the foundation of  Wakanda’s second religion. They have the stature of gods… the awe-inspiring White Gorillas!”

Undoubtedly, Wakanda is a deeply spiritual place.

In ancient times, the panther goddess Bast bestowed the power of vibranium to the very first Black Panther, granting himand all his descendants – super-strength and enhanced agility.

Fast forward to 2016, and what appeared to be a baffling appointment: National Book Award winner: Te-Nihisi Coates to write the current manifestation of Black Panther.

No worries, it has become a critically-acclaimed, unputdownable success – highly recommended. Not to be left out, your correspondent was glad to pick up #17 (October 2017) and yes, that is Storm of the X-Men sharing the cover. They were married, (until the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover forced T’Challa – as High Priest of Wakanda – to annul that union.)

Rather helpfully, Te-Nihisi included a map of Wakanda. Landlocked, and seemingly impenetrable from the outside world by the mountainous Jabari-Lands to the northwest and the sprawling Lake Nyanza to the east, any outsider would, nevertheless, recognise its big and bustling cities (known in the Wakandan tongue as ‘Birnins’) sprawling into the jungle and touching the sky with super-sleek skyscrapers.

All seven Birnins are named after the greatest Panthers in antiquity, and each actually resembles a fortress, rather than an urban area. The Panther Throne is set in Birnin Zana (th Golden City), while the spiritual centre of the country lies to the south of Birnin Bashenga. 

Mena Ngai (The Great Mound) is where the vibranium lies – hidden in plain sight…

“Move! Or you will be moved!” – Ayo.

“The sun never penetrates Serpent Valley! It is banished from the lush, primeval interior by the dense cloud forest that has been the only “sky” this land has ever had…

“Erik Killmonger maintains his brisk, tireless pace. The others sweat profusely, but Killmonger’s brow remains dry and he seems not to notice the sweltering vapour…”

Before signing on to make the 18th MCU movie, writer/director Ryan Coogler informed Head Honcho Kevin Feige that he would have to travel to Africa to be able to effectively create an amazing African adventure. 

Although Wakanda is a fictional country, it was deemed imperative that the essence of Africa – its sights, sounds, smells and tastes – be represented in all its stirring vitality on film. Ryan spent several weeks (alone) in various locations in South Africa.

Was he able to capture th essence of Africa on film? 

“We’re trying to explore that through every means of communication. Through the music. Through the language. Through clothing. Through production design. Through the structures of the building and the colour of walls. And through the ugly stuff too. Through conflict. Through weapons.

“It’s all those things. We tried to look at both sides, and as you would with any human being or human society. 

“You know what I’m saying?”

Judging from the ultracool clips we’ve glimpsed so far, the movie looks every bit as cool and colourful, exciting and emotional as any of the MCU’s finest entries. Besides, how can a movie set in a highly-advanced Afrio-futuristic wonderland where the Monarch of the Panther Throne is protected by a crack troop of female bodyguards: the Dora Milaje (see above!) NOT be awesome?! 

“He has not spoken for 24 hours, and the words come from blistered lips, deeply split by the glacial cold. Dried blood is on his tongue, and speaking has ripped the healing wound open. Fresh blood spills into his mouth. 

“He wonders if they have understood one word of his clever repartee…”

Blood and death? Is this all I am to hear for the rest of my days? Could you not find pleasure in the act of love… or have you become so perverted that you find excitement and entertainment only in brutality?” – The Black Panther.

 

“Mad As The Snow”: Brad’s Winter Wonderland

Out Of The Bewilderness – In From The Cold

Phil Connors: “Come on, all the long distance lines are down? What about the satellite? Is it snowing in space? Don’t you have some kind of a line that you keep open for emergencies or for celebrities? I’m both. I’m a celebrity in an emergency.”

“Flights cancelled as snow expected to hit most of UK in coming days.”

So, you think Brad has been away? 

Haven’t had the opportunity to go anywhere, but now comes confirmation from the Beebitsy Nooz that he won’t be able to get out of his own gaff anyways – gah! 

Here he is, stuck indoors, wrapped in his big, fluffy dressing gown, huddled over his laptop, trying to bang out something legible.

With the Winter Olympics under way on the other side of our crazy planet, now is the time to chill out (hyuk hyuk!) in style!

Not really…

As long as one can remember, snow, ice and all-things-wintry have filled me with dread.

To counteract this, my SF attention has always naturally gravitated towards the more humid climes of Arrakis, Tatooine or anywhere else just as cosy. But with temperatures plummeting, let’s sift through my wintry reads – see what can take my mind off the despicably low temperature… 

This cool classic – from criminally underrated ’90s band Kitchens of Distinction – helps me to focus:

“Oh, really, you’re cold?” Han Solo.    

The icy wind is positively galeforce owtside tonight, seething and whistling up and down the chimney beside me as these words are typed.

Thc SF genre is (ahem) snowed under with numerous icy reads. The following titles are the frosty tomes lined up from the darkest recesses of the Bradcave to accompany my copious mugs of hot chocolate over the next few nights:

Always been enchanted by the cover (Ian Miller at his striking best!) of The Anvil of Ice (the first volume in The Winter of the World trilogy by Michael Scott Rohan. The story of a struggling civilization threatened by a deadly ice age and a young boy who discovers a power that could determine the fate of the world has taken AGES to find. (Goodness knows how long it will take to track down the other two volumes!)

ICE by Anna Kavan is a fifty year old masterpiece that, unbelievably, hardly anybody knows about. Set in yet another apocalyptic wasteland – except this one is frozen – “a nameless narrator searches for a silver-haired girl seeking to free her from captivity before the ice closes in.” 

Covering now-topical themes such as climate change, totalitarianism and feminism, it may “remain as resonant as it ever was,” but its low profile prolonged its obscurity. This year, however, a 50th Anniversary Edition has been published, and my Library reservation should be due any day now.  

Mother of Winter is an acclaimed instalment in Barbara Hambly’s Darwath series. As the world grows increasingly colder, and a strange fungus that causes madness spreads, Ingold the wizard and Gil the swordswoman travel to the mountain known as the Mother of Winter to confront the mages who may be responsible.

Inevitably, any winter-themed round-up would not be complete without A Song of Ice And Fire. My copy of Book One: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin has been started two or three times – perhaps this month will be freezing enough to influence its completion…? 

Yagya will always be my most dependable producer for top ambient dub-techno – Aðalsteinn Guðmundsson can do no wrong. 

With his Rhythm of Snow album, it really was difficult to decide which Snowflake to select, so plumped instead for this track – it comes with a still image more wintry than anything accompanying that aforementioned work!:

“It wants to freeze now. It knows it’s got no way out of here. It just wants to go to sleep in the cold until the rescue team finds it” – RJ MacReady.

The closest literary equivalent to John Carpenter’s The Thing, (in my possession) happens to be H P Lovecraft’s cosmic horror classic: At The Mountains of Madness. In the wastes of Antarctica, explorers discover a mountain range higher than the Himalayas which border a city built by the Elder Things – and they’re not alone…

The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge tells how the planet of Tiamat, has only two seasons: a long Summer followed by a long Winter. This change of seasons marks a change in regime, but the Winter Queen plots to keep her power by creating clones of herself, but one of them has plans of her own… 

And in the month when we lost one of the grandmasters of the genre: Ursula K. Le Guin, we cannot forget possibly her most famous novel: The Left Hand of Darkness. This masterwork is set on the planet Gethen (Winter), in the midst of an aeons-long Ice Age and covered in glaciers. Its inhabitants can choose – and change – their gender. A lone human emissary comes to facilitate their inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization, but “he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters.”

And, although it is not SF-related, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco is suitably snowbound enough to guarantee a ritual browse-thro during this season every year. Not only a narrative of a murder investigation (not normally my mug of hot choccie!) it remains an astonishing – and always-inspirational chronicle – of the Middle Ages. 

Will leave you now with one of the most awesome ambient techno tracks.

The fantastic Substrata album (1997) by Biosphere evokes such a chilly Arctic feel that when it came to compiling this Post, this happened to be heading the provisional Tracklist. Those incredible drones you can hear are Nordic fjordhorns. 

It’s best to wrap up warm with a steaming mug of hot choccie.

And a good book. Or three. 

Cheers!

Hot chocolate is like a hug from the inside”  

 

🙂

 

A New Hope In A New Light: A Reappraisal Of The Movie That Started It All

Why “Episode IV” Will Always Be No.2 In The All-Time Star Wars Chart

“Suddenly the film starts, and every kid in the audience starts screaming!” – Irwin Kershner.   

It’s over a month now since we were subjected to the travesty that is Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Not only has it lessened my attitude towards the saga (will probably never watch Episode VII again, now knowing that Episode VIII fails to develop the new characters in any way 😦 ) but – as you may have gathered this past few weeks – it has almost completely sapped my will to write! A staggeringly bitter irony to take, considering that the original Star Wars – with all its bewitching escapist fare, “done with all the energy and intelligence and thought that I could muster,” as its creator George Lucas remarked back then – inspired me to create my own science fiction.

Ahem, it has come to my attention that a number of fans have recently blogged their Star Wars rankings – in many such Posts, The Last Jedi has been ranked far too highly; but more surprisingly, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope appears far too low on these charts.

You probably wondered why no 40th Anniverwary Celebration appeared on this site last May. Here in the UK, “Star Wars” did not get its theatrical release until 27 December 1977, (cinemas – like everything else around the country – are closed on Christmas Day) and even then, it would take good ol’ word-of-mouth to convince us that something quite extraordinary awaited us at our local popcorn parlour…

So, to mark four decades since its release on the tea-and-scones side of the Pond, me writers’ block has been jiggled orf in order to cobble together some hopefully-entertaining thoughts. 

By the mid-’70s, a more gritty, often brutal, realism had permeated the big screen; Star Wars brought a timely sense of magic and fantasy back to the movies. No matter how much the original cast and crew complained about the simple script and dodgy dialogue, there were no niggles to be had from yours truly. Besides, many of the lines have become immortalised in pop culture.

It will be forever intriguing to speculate who else could have played these iconic roles. We could be here all night discussing all the influential major and minor players, but for the moment, let me focus on a role that remarkably receives less treatment.

Star Wars helped convince me that Peter Cushing was one of the greatest actors. He could portray the fiendishly evil Dr. Frankenstein and create a fetching, grandfatherly Dr. Who with equal relish. A young Mark Hamill was in awe, and has confessed that – even though they shared no scenes together onscreen – he would visit the Hammer Horror legend in his dressing room to pick up acting tips.

And, of course, “dear little Carrie” simply could not bring herself to shout at this gentlemen even if he was playing “a rather frightful Edwardian chauffeur.”

Sure, today’s technology can recreate the likeness of Peter Cushing, but it will never capture his charm:

“I was absolutely knocked for six. I was riveted! Star Wars was a picture you had to see again… My only disappointment was that poor old Moff Tarkin was blown up at the end, which meant I couldn’t appear in the sequels” – Peter Cushing.

“I actually designed the sandcrawler. R2-D2 was my concept. Darth Vader was my concept. And the white stormtrooper costume was mine; George wanted a white costume, but that’s about all he said. Many people could have done them. I happened to be available and capable of doing the stuff when it was needed… It’s just a big happening” – Ralph McQuarrie. 

Biggs Darklighter: “Luke, I didn’t just come back to say goodbye… I made some friends at the academy. When our frigate leaves for the central systems, we’re gonna jump ship and join the Alliance-“

Luke Skywalker: “THE REBELLION?!”

Biggs Darklighter: “Quiet down, willya? You got a mouth bigger than a meteor crater…”

On Christmas Day 1987, Star Wars (at last) received its UK TV premiere. Naturally, a brand new VHS tape was utilised – for the next few years it would have to withstand umpteen repeated viewings. 

Also that year, Starlog magazine put out an amazing special issue celebrating Star Wars‘ 10th Anniversary; one of the numerous jaw-dropping facts to grab my attention concerned the deleted scenes. This section even published a still from the scene in which Biggs Darklighter returns from the academy to tell Luke of his intention to join the Rebel Alliance, and suggests that they go together…

Admittedly, most of these scenes (set on Tatooine) were rightfully deleted, but this scene in particular has long evoked a personal fascination. It offers some nifty dialogue between these best buddies; in addition, it reveals the effects of Imperial dominion on a domestic level (and would help give the emotional resonance that Biggs’ death requires.

Such a shame: a poor copy can be found on YouTube, but most likely, you probably never heard of it.

In 1997, when news broke of a Special Edition – released to herald the movie’s 20th Anniversary, chances of finally getting to know Biggs looked more promising. 

Well, what a swiz… 

Instead, we had to watch needless – not to mention mindless – animated inserts; at least the remastered climactic attack on the Death Star  got spruced up rather well. Although we got only one previously unseen moment with Luke and Biggs meeting up at the rebel base on Yavin, this still did not help explain Luke’s line: “Biggs is right, I’m never going to get out of here!” which, curiously, was still left in. 

“Much of my personality has gone into Chewie, and people can pick those bits out. There are quirky movements that nobody else does. I feel that I’ve put a great deal of Peter Mayhew into Chewbacca” – Peter Mayhew.

“We were very worried about credibility. We wanted everything to come across as if it existed in the real world. The film’s whole style was dented, rusty and realistic” – Ben Burtt.   

From Tatooine, to the Death Star, and then onto Yavin, the pace never lets up (unlike The Last Jedi where, at some points, staring at my watch – or my cinema’s exquisite early 20th century décor –  proved to be a more engrossing spectacle than anything delivered onscreen).

Perhaps, the moment in the trash compactor aboard th Death Star is Episode IV’s slowest, least appealing moment? A few times my infant self felt propelled to fast forward to that gripping TIE fighter attack. 

With the climactic battle against the Death Star, both my interests in Second World War aerial dogfights and sci-fi action were spectacularly combined, but this next sequence always excited me more.

Stuff the ridiculous video game effects of the prequels! And that bland bombing run with which The Last Jedi begins – THIS is Star Wars!:  

So, let me get this straight: 

you really believe that Benicio Del Toro is more important than Ben Kenobi? That the salt of Crait is more precious than the sand on Tatooine? And that Canto Bight (ugh) is more awesome than Mos Eisley?! 

You may put forth your arguments defending what is no more than a 150-minute Disney commercial in the Comments section below.

“I’m going to cut across the axis and try and draw their fire!” 😉

And please don’t tell me you’ve already forgotten this magical scene:

“In six weeks, we set up shop, made 30 aliens – some were my designs, some were Ron Cobb’s… I’m very proud to have done something on the picture. I wish to God I had spent a year on Star Wars rather than King Kong” – Rick Baker.   

This clip brings us nicely to my last – and arguably most endearing – point.

Seeing how anybody could have written this Post – let me add my own 25-satangs-worth. 

While everyone wanted to be Han Solo, or a Jedi, my time – and ebullient imagination – became captivated by those Tusken Raiders aka Sand People, those nomadic, primitive crack-shot ruffians of the Jundland Wastes who – when easily startled – could be guaranteed to  “be back, and in greater numbers…”

Instead of clamouring for a (decidedly naff) plastic(?!) lightsaber, this innovative moppet improvised with a Tusken Raider mask (remember it being so brittle it could have torn like paper). Found a fallen branch from the small pear tree in our back garden – miraculously just the right size for me, AND with one end unbelievably curved exactly like a a Tusken gaderffii stick; to complete this “transformation” Mum wrapped me in that small, sand-coloured blanket from the airing cupboard under the stairs (besides, it was pretty nippy outside at that time of evening!).

Sadly, there are no photos of me in my very first dabble with cosplay – ‘twas a time in which having photos of you doing anything and everything was not essential. Perhaps people were too scared to take a snap of me, fearing the prospect of stealing this pint-sized primitive’s virtue, or somesuch. 

Beware of the Bradling?!

Loved wandering around outside the corner store up the road, in character, for hours, as a formidable liddle Sand Person, waving my homemade gaderffii menacingly at any outsider who dared venture into that establishment…

Ask anybody in that neighbourhood at that time and they would testify to that end..

“They had a guy wandering around in a dog suit. It was ridiculous” – Harrison Ford.

 

“I got the job of this movie with the caveat that I lose ten pounds… I was terrified they were going to look at me and say: ‘Bring in Jodie Foster and get that fat girl outta here!'” – Carrie Fisher. 

 

“The Hand Of Oberon”: And Other SF Delights From The Bradcave Of Books

 Escape Into A Good Book (Or Four)…

“As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world, you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible” – Ray Bradbury. 

So, 2018: the Year of the Black Panther is upon us.

First and foremost, let it be a groovy one for you, dear reader. 

For me, one major objective this year is simple, but imperative: Read More Science Fiction Novels and, thus, feature more book reviews on this site! Over this past year, my visits to secondhand bookshops have intensified, and some interesting titles have come my way.

Save them for a rainy day, methinks. By Holdo’s beard! It’s a-rainin’ now!

“I visualize eperything in my stories in considerable detail. If I cannot see a person or place clearly I cannot write about them too well. I tend to hear the dialogue, also, when rehearsing it in my mind. I sometimes think that this has something to do with a childhood spent listening to radio dramas” – Roger Zelazny.

At the zenith of otherworldly wonders on the printed page, Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny stands as one of the most astonishing SF masterpieces ever written.

Endeavouring to catch up with other scintillating works by this SF grandmaster, The Hand Of Oberon (1976) is an intriguing addition to his five-part Amber series – a foray into the fantasy genre, in keeping with his interest in myth, miracles and theatricality. 

Is Amber treading the path to destruction? 

The whole kingdom is set to plunge into chaos, for Oberon, Amber’s magical king, has gone missing. Monstrous evil forces emerge from the dark, alternative world of Shadow. Upon the shoulders of the magus Lord Corwin falls the task of finding King Oberon – and foiling the sinister alternative reality threatening to destroy Amber… 

Highly and widely praised as “a brilliant creation of a weird alternative reality,” this enthusiastic bunny is beginning to agree.

“Those whom heaven helps we call the Sons of Heaven. They do not learn this by learning. They do not work it by working. They do not reason it by using reason.

“To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the Lathe of HeavenChuang Tse: XXIII.

Keen to read more female SF writers, you could not ask for a more prominent example than Ursula K. Le Guin. 

The Lathe of Heaven (1971) is “a dark vision and a warning –  a fable of power uncontrolled and uncontrollable. It is a truly prescient and startling view of humanity, and the consequences of playing God.”

George Orr is the individual whose dreams possess the uncanny ability to alter reality. And his psychiatrist, William Haber, plans to benefit from this power…

Interestingly, each chapter begins with a quote from ancient Chinese philosopher: Chuang Tse, but one chapter leads with a staggering quote from Lafcadio Hearn.

Le Guin has “gracefully developed” an absorbing and inventive read. An intriguing fusion of science and poetry, and reason and emotion, this “clever exercise in alternatives and ethics” should serve me well until The Left Hand of Darkness eventually finds its way into my eager mitts…

“Patiently, and out of his own enormous vitality and talent, [John W. Campbell Jr.] built up a stable of the best science-fiction writers the world had, till then, ever seen” – Isaac Asimov.

August 4

“Dark, flickering shadows. We cannot use more mantles, as they require the oxygen of six men, give little light… I sat up and watched the store-rooms for three hours, but could not remain awake longer. No food was taken.” 

August 5

“The suit batteries are giving out now. The men complain their batteries will not stay charged…” 

This gives just some idea of the chilling tone set by The Moon Is Hell by John W. Campbell. 

As someone who used to try SF novels based purely on the awesomeness of its cover art, this particular cover fails to either entice or excite any potential reader, but this happened to be the first time ever that my book quests have located any work by the legend that was John W. Campbell Jr. so had to be snapped up regardless. 

As editor of Astounding Magazine (still in curculation as Analog) Campbell “made modern science fiction what it is today.” The success of such SF greats as Asimov, Heinlein, Sturgeon and numerous others can be attributed to him. He is perhaps best known for the classic short story: Who Goes There? – twice filmed, once as The Thing (From Another World) (1951) and again as John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). 

Apart from being an influential figure in publishing, Campbell knew how to weave some thrilling tales. Sure enough, The Moon Is Hell is quite a distinctive piece of work. First published in 1951, it tells of the first manned mission to the Moon in the far-future of  1981.

Essentially, it is the diary account of Dr. Thomas Ridgeley Duncan, physicist and second-in-command of the Garner Lunar Expedition. It turns out to be anything but the stupendous landmark achievement reserved for the history books. Constant tech faults, oxygen leaks, deliberate sabotage, you name it: each new day brings a fresh nightmare. 

Harrowing, claustrophobic, hopeless: it sounds like the last thing you would want to read! (>_<)

And yet…

The immediacy and intimacy of the personal journal format, plus the brevity, and tension inherent in Campbell’s style pulls you into this utterly compelling thriller.

“Ringworld is the best of the newest wave, the return to classical hard-science fiction of the kind popular in the Golden Age. Niven’s imagination is 3-D and detailed, and his style is lucid and appealing” – Frederik Pohl.  

On that dull and breezy day in May in which that bright and cheezy Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 came into my life, imagine my joy upon discovering a copy of Ringworld, by Larry Niven. 

With the inception of this blog, my long-dormant interest in SF could flourish once more – as a starter, compiling for myself a provisional list of essential SF classics to track down – Ringworld was one of them. Only took me four years to find this Hugo and Nebula Award-winning epic, first published in 1970. 

In this deep-space adventure, the titular centre of attention is a solar satellite which actually encircles its sun, populated by a whole coterie of alien races.

An inventive writer, Niven keeps his ideas solidly based in contemporary astronomical knowledge and physical theory. My attention was particularly drawn towards his critically-acclaimed concerted effort to recapture the spirit of Golden Age SF.  

That trip to the cinema was fine, but this novel is proving to be more memorable. 

“A good writer should be able to write comedic work that made you laugh, and scary stuff that made you scared, and science fiction that imbued you with a sense of wonder…” – Neil Gaiman. 

Well, these are just some of the books keeping me quiet and occupied in my den during this wet and windy Winter. 

Plenty of other amazing novels have accumulated around the Bradcave!

Forthcoming Posts will explore some of these amazing items; you can also look forward to a snazzy fiesta of science-fantasy – the subgenre of tales set in a far-future bereft of technology (sounds like my ideal world! 😉 )

And in case you were wondering what Bradscribe listens to whilst reading, and cataloguing, new additions to his ever-expanding Library this week – and never ceases to please the neighbours! – it’s this: 

“It may remain for us to learn . . . that our task is only beginning, and that there will never be given to us even the ghost of any help, save the help of unutterable and unthinkable Time.

“We may have to learn that the infinite whirl of death and birth, out of which we cannot escape, is of our own creation, of our own seeking; – that the forces integrating worlds are the errors of the Past; – that the eternal sorrow is but the eternal hunger of insatiable desire; – and that the burnt-out suns are rekindled only by the inextinguishable passions of vanished lives” – Lafcadio Hearn, Out of the East.

 

In Loving Memory Of Our Princess: Carrie Fisher

One Year On – Still Can’t Believe She’s Gone…

Lor San Tekka: “Oh, the General? To me, she is royalty.” 

Poe Dameron: “Well, she certainly is that.” 

 

“Carrie was one-of-a-kind… one gorgeous, fiercely independent and ferociously funny, take-charge woman who took our collective breath away…

“She played such a crucial role in my professional and personal life, and both would have been far emptier without her” – Mark Hamill.

“Star Wars is about family, and that’s what is so powerful about it” 

Carrie Frances Fisher (21 October 1956 – 27 December 2016). 

 

Fantastic Beats And Where To Find Them: Vol: 3

Back By Popular Demand!  

(Not really – just always wanted to type that!) 😉 

“The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud… I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think” – Maya Angelou. 

We are going to have to wait AGES for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but here – in the groovy sector of the blogosphere – you don’t have to hold out too long for Vol. 3 of those Fantastic Beats.

Love the way this blogging platform allows me to insert music into my fiction – to evoke mood, or enhance the wow factor. Sometimes, however, an irresistible, uproarious tune will pop up, but its deliriously distracting vid prevents it from inclusion – here, all the best examples have been presented. 

Besides, it seems like an eternity since the frivolous and frenetic dancathon that was Fantastic Beats Vol. 2

Hey, DJ Brad, you ask, where do we begin? 

What better place than @ the beginning?!

Detroit, to be exact. During the ’80s, when house music appeared, the much rougher sound of techno music also emerged; one of its pioneers was Jeff Mills. After all this time, he is still experimenting with various kinds of infectious beats. Recently – to my sheer delight – he has incorporated strong sci-fi-vibes into a more ambient direction of his work.

Just the other day we stumbled across this zany vid to a fave old skool classic – what a swell buncha’ fellas! 

No disruption. No damages. Just dancing. Delightful.

But why the masks for dancing in the street, amigos? 

If you’re worried about getting nabbed for “social disorder” then, blazes, Brad should’ve been put behind bars long ago, by Jove! 😉

“In these science fiction stories – even against enormous odds – people still feel the urge to go on, to discover… I understood it wouldn’t be easy to materialise some of these ideas slightly beyond the dance floor in electronic music. Actually there’s quite a lot of resistance against changing or using music in other things” – Jeff Mills. 

As you may have noticed, Paul Birken has become synonymous with my Fartlighter Bradventures. 

This following track can be found on Mr. Birken’s own YouTube channel, which is – as the neighbours can attest – visited every day. 

As far as we know, he even compiled the vid himself! 

Actually, the original Drvg Cvltvre track is kinda meh, but add a Paul Birken Remix and – WAHEY! – it is transformed into a stupendous stomper: 

“The only thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can” – Neil Gaiman.

For the next tem, it was a case of looking for a cool vid, and decent sound quality. One fine example initially slated for this next spot has been taken down.

No worries: regularly listened to this stylish stand-by whilst writing fiction @ our Southeast Asian retreat a few years back.

Sandwell District was the sensational – albeit short-lived – collaboration between DJs Function and Regis (who is one of my faves).

The video is the short film: Tunnel of Love (1977) featuring Tamara Beckwith and Edward Tudor Pole.

Mesmerising…

 

“Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance” – Confucius. 

“Variety is the spice of Bradscribe,” as they say.

It’s not all about bompity-bompitybomp records one after another here.

Fantastic beats can be found across many diverse musical genres. Besides, you never know what you’re going to get on this site, but it’s best to prepare yourself for gorgeous grungy gems such as this next item.

Many thanks to the Transexual Swiss Rebels – yes! Them again – for reminding me of the rich cultural heritage that is African-American music:

“Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself” – Annie Leibovitz.  

It would be interesting to learn what inspired Steve Hillage – legendary frontman of 70s psychedelic rock band: Gong – to make the transition to techno music by the 90s. He has adapted to it rather well, for how about this for fusion: never seen/heard anyone else playing electric guitar over electronic dance music.

If one could attend one more music festival, then it must have System 7 on the bill. Mr. and Mrs. Hillage have gained a reputation for being one of the best live acts in the land.

As you can see here, this vid was shot in the living room @ Brad Manor (hence the belly dancers):

Get on the good foot, Loki! 😉

“Towards the end of the 80s, when Acid House exploded, we felt, you know, we had found our new musical home… and we just thought: we’ve seen the future! This is gonna be fucking massive, man! Electronic! Dance. Music. Eureka!” – Steve Hillage.

Twenty years ago, coinciding with my giddy times @ university, the Tresor label (based in Berlin) brought out some of the most snazzy techno tunes, a lot of which helped me plough through some particularly difficult – or just unbelievably dull – essays.

Discovering YouTube eight years ago helped me to delve into the scintillating back catalogue of one of that label’s most innovative lights: an excitable – and highly enjoyable – bunny known only as Brixton.  

Reckon a DJ just stands there, fiddling with a Roland TB-303, a Roland TR-909, or whatnot? 

Trust Brixton to put the LIVE into live set!

And remember: if at first you don’t succeed… just dance!

Cheers!

 

“What just happened? Please tell me nobody kissed me…” – Tony Stark.