“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.

 

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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. 

 

 

 

Qwerty Dancing: The Curse Of NaNoWriMo

Are You Prepared To Stand Up And Fight The Battle Between Write And Wrong? 

The first sentence of every novel should be: ‘Trust me, this will take time but there is order here, very faint, very human'” – Michael Ondaatje. 

Since the last ‘Scribe Post, Brad has committed murder.

What, again?! 

Well, yes.

No matter how you look at it, that particular devious miscreant had it coming. 

Does the fact that he was NOT human lessen the shock…? 

Truly, as writers, we are Lords Of Our Own Creation(s). 

We have conjured fantastic worlds before dinner, despatched heroes on fabulous quests before teatime, even created and – oh yes – killed off the most groovy – or garish – character(s) during the midnight hour.

Forgive me for the prolooooonged absence, but this hapless cake-scoffing fool though it would be a blastha! – to shut himself away within his Sanctum Sanctorum, participate in the whole NaNoWriMo thing, and, mayhap, attempt to rectify the minimal progress made on MY OWN NOVEL recently.

By Jove, what a discombobulation!

Unbeknownst to me, the whole horrendous cavalcade dwindled into something more infuriating than the lousiest Transformers movie, AND got tougher than any holiday camp…

Barely got out of November with life – and sanity – intact.

As that other writer named Brad said: “we should be continually jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” 

Aha!

That would explain why my snidely-regarded intuitive brain seems smashed to pieces and my legendary ripped bod feels absolutely shattered. 

So, released this Post (still took too many days to get back to this Bradform!) to reassure you that Brad is STILL HERE, but – by Aquaman’s quindent! – only just…

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are” – W. Somerset Maugham. 

Just two Summers ago, the itch to write novel struck me. But which one? 

TWO choices lay before me.

Should it be that futuristic noir thriller concerning bounty hunters? Or should it be that historical mystery tour inspired by the local medieval studies recently preoccupying my working hours?

In an ingenious twist – as deft as some of the greatest plotlines in SF history – an easy solution presented itself = combine BOTH into one unprecedented framework. Thus, The Monastikon Chronicles emerged. Brother Brad hunts the unearthly wraiths, who infiltrated 12th century English society in human guise. To read how this concept came to be, see here; to follow how chapters of my novel are developing, see here:

The first week of NaNoWriMo began encouragingly enough – filling in some narrative gaps; fleshing out some peripheral characters promoted to more vital roles; as well as finally dealing with one mischievous monk (not the first, but will he be the last…?) who turned out to be something completely different… 

So far, so groovy.

The third week, however, was spent wondering where in blazes did the second week whizz off to at such an incredible rate. Bah…

And the last week of November?

My main concern focussed on trying not to pass out at my desk…

Actually, by this stage it had got to the point where not a single coherent sentence could be formed, let alone any powerful passages of pulsating prose be produced – so what bare modicum of creative faculties remained were plied instead into sketching until December mercifully rolled into view…

But nevertheless, to experiment with language. 

Twist and turn the imagination. Then slip and slide it in other directions. 

Conjure the most bizarre characters and let them perform the most unexpected actions.

Traverse the plot in totally, radically, unforeseen directions. 

Let the material run RAMPANT. It is, after all, MY novel!

To plunge headlong into all the above opportunities? 

How could one NOT resist? 

Such strenuous mental endeavours exercised (exorcised…?) at a daily rate? For one month?

Yikes, not the piece of cake one thought it would be.

Anyway, same time, next year, then?!

“I should flamin’ coco!” as Billy Shakespeare ‘isself was wont to say… 

“Practice any art, no matter how well or badly, not to get money or fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow” – Kurt Vonnegut.  

Yay, another completed (and legibleBradscribe Post – after too many weeks, it doesn’t seem possible, does it? 

Hark!

We can just about hear someone clapping nervously in Row Z… 

WHO CARES if this blog is doomed NEVER to receive more than 200 Followers? 

NEVER MIND, Brad knew from the startFOUR YEARS ago(!) – that he was never going to be No.1, or considered among the “best,” or most popular bloggers out there, but even so…

The novel has stalled in the same way that the blog posts have slowed: will ANY readers show up to read my stuff…?

Having made no progress with several rudimentary Posts this past fortnight – could not even compile that Post entitled: No Justice For Brad! (discussing why the Justice League movie would not even get a cinema visit, let alone a Bradscribe Review!) – plus, the immutable low and discouraging state of my Stats, it got to the point: should Bradscribe be discontinued?

No need to make this “crisis” into a drama – these low spirits should be attributed to low energy, nothing more. 

Ultimately, in what has proved to be a physically and mentally trying eighteen months for yours truly, these past few weeks turned out to be a most welcome break – a chance to recharge.

Now is the time to rebound!

Brad may not make a difference, but he’ll certainly make a scene. Or three. 

Just keep on pressing Publish, and if HARDLY ANYBODY wants to read, then so be it… 

But surely, writing an unread piece of work is far preferable than never to have toiled and troubled to produce one at all…right?

WRITE!

 

For all of you who may have struggled with NaNoWriMo last month – or those of you who have wrestled with writer’s block – this, my friends, is our Anthem: 

“You want the reader to remember. You want her to be changed. Or better still, to want to change…

“Never forget that a story begins long before you start it and ends long after you end it. Allow your reader to walk out from your last line and into her own imagination. Find some last-line grace. This is the true gift of writing…

“Your last line is the first line for everybody else” – Colum McCann. 

 

The Journey Of Bradskald: My Reimmersion In Norse Mythology

 The Realm Eternal: Asgard – The Beacon Of Hope, Shining Out Across The Stars

And A Source Of Limitless Possibilities For My Fiction…

“Once, mankind accepted a simple truth: that they were not alone in this universe. Some worlds Man believed home to their Gods. Others they knew to fear…” – Odin All-Father. 

There was a great noise of shouting and fury in the Palace of Jotunheim where the great Norse Giants lived.

“What have you done, Rungnir?” some of the Giants were shouting at one of their number. “You have agreed to fight the great god Thor! You are mad, quite mad!”

“Thor is our greatest enemy, Rungnir,” other Giants cried in alarm. “…You have brought disaster upon us! Not even a Giant can resist Thor with his mighty thunder and his deadly hammer Mjolnir!”

Aye!

And no one can resist the God of Thunder as his latest adventure: Thor: Ragnarok has conquered the box office (and deservedly so) on Midgard (Earth) this past fortnight. Having thrilled me with its wholesome cosmic fun, Thor: Ragnarok slings me back along the Bifrost of nostalgia to a time when all-things-Norse were craved. The more scintillating aspects of that mythology seeped – wholeheartedly or inadvertently – into my own otherworldly works.

So, away from the hassle, tech difficulties and trolls of the 21st century, and let’s return to the great beards, moody Giants (and Trolls) of the Nine Realms.

Pre-Christian Vikings shared a common view of the universe. The one insurmountable truth held that the Norse pantheon of gods, known as the Æsir, made their home at Asgard. This is a compound name, whose first part As- refers to the Æsir, while the second part gard means an ‘enclosure.’ Hence Asgard is ‘the enclosed region where the Æsir live.’

In order to understand the rudiments of Norse mythology, one must refer to The Prose Edda – the most renowned of all works of Scandinavian literature and our most extensive source for Norse mythology – written by the 13th century Icelandic chieftain: Snorri Sturluson (1178-1241). Mayhap ’twas the un-Viking way in which he met his own violent end against the King of Norway’s assassins – cowering in his own cellar – helps explain why his name is not hailed among other historical literary giants.

However, through his seminal work, numerous Old Norse words crept into the English language; for one, it is from Sturluson that we get the word: ‘saga.’

“The Prose Edda… summarizes the pagan Germanic myths and reviews the rules of skaldic rhetoric. The mythology documented in these texts reveals an earlier, peasant stratum (associated with the thunderer, Thor)…” – Joseph Campbell. 

“I came up with Thor. I know all about Thor, and Mjolnir, the hammer. Nobody ever bothered with that stuff except me. It was the thing that kept my mind off the general poverty in the area. When I went to school that’s what kept me in school. It wasn’t mathematics and it wasn’t geography – it was history…” – Jack Kirby.

“…Thor is the foremost among them. Called Thor of the Æsir [Asa-Thor] and Thor the Charioteer [Oku-Thor], he is the strongest of all gods and men. He rules at the place called Thrudvangar [Plains of Strength], and his hall is called Bilskirnir…” –

Gylfaginning 21.

Before the Viking Age, in a time known as the Migration Period (from the fifth to the seventh centuries CE), when various tribes laid siege to the last remnants of the Roman Empire, numerous heroic stories originated, formulating a tremendous Scandinavian oral tradition.

The most substantial section of The Prose Edda, is known as Gylfaginning, in which the characters we have become accustomed to via Marvel’s comics and movies – the Æsir, namely Thor, Odin, Loki, Heimdall, et al. – were originally introduced.

Of equal intrigue in the Eddas is the portion called Skaldskaparmal. Skald is the Old Norse word for ‘poet,’ or ‘scribe’; skapr means ‘creation’ or ‘craft’; mal is ‘language’ or ‘diction’ – thus Skaldskaparmal means the ‘language of poetry.’ This section in particular – a combination of dialogue and third-person storytelling – collects those oral traditions that arose from this Migration Period. 

The most celebrated hero of Skaldskaparmal is Sigurd the dragon-slayer. He and his treasure: the Rhine Gold, not only formed the basis for the Saga of the Volsungs and Thidrek’s Saga, but the epic poem of South Germany: the Nibelungenlied, wherein Sigurd is known as Siegfried. Classical composer Richard Wagner made Siegfried the hero of his epic Ring Cycle opera: Der Ring des Nibelungen. 

Thus, the epic prose of Norse mythology converted into epic music.

As you may have gathered, music has always played a decisive, inspirational role in my creative writing. Whenever epic storytelling had to be undertaken, nothing like Wagner could set the right mood, tone and atmosphere for conjuring the right words. Admittedly, my jaw-dropping introduction to the wonders of Wagner‘s music came through watching Excalibur, John Boorman’s lavish 1981 depiction of the Celtic legend of King Arthur and his Grail knights. 

Interestingly, incorporated into Skaldskaparmal is the story of the ancient Danish warrior King Hrolf Kraki, who – much like King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table – was accompanied on his multifarious exploits by a dozen champions.  

“The universe hasn’t seen this marvel since before my watch began. Few can sense it, even fewer can see it. But while its effects can be dangerous, it is truly beautiful” – Heimdall.  

If a Ragnarok would burn all the slums and gas-works… I’d go back to trees…” – J.R.R. Tolkien. 

“The gods seated themselves on their thrones and held counsel, and remembered how dwarfs had quickened in the earth…

By the decree of the gods they acquired human understanding and the appearance of men, although they lived in the earth…” 

There is clear evidence that John Ronald Reuel Tolkien – Oxford Professor of Old English/Anglo-Saxon and Middle English language and literature – used the Edda as inspiration for his literature. Many of the names he used in his most celebrated works: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were taken from this source material. 

Like the One Ring of Sauron, an all-powerful ring: Andvarinaut, forms the basis of Der Ring des Nibelungen. 

“Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases,” Tolkien insisted, keen to assuage his critics. Nevertheless, the figure of Gandalf – named after one of the dwarves mentioned in The Edda – was particularly influenced by Odin in his incarnation as “The Wanderer”: an old man with one eye, a long white beard, a wide brimmed hat, and a staff.

Tolkien’s depiction of Giants, Elves and Dwarves are very much drawn from the Old Norse originals. And – oh yes – an extra slice of cake for those of you who spotted that the Balrog of Moria and the collapse of the Bridge of Khazad-dûm was an exact rendering of fire-giant Surt[ur]’s destruction of Asgard’s Bifrost [the Rainbow Bridge]!

And so, you enquire – cleaving this rambling prose in twain like the fabled blade of Andúril isself! – how did Norse mythology inspire me?

Ah yes – just like King Kirby – bored senseless by Geography homework, my impatient, cartographic mind escaped, instead, into creating my own fantasy world, fuelled by Fighting Fantasy gamebooks – “where YOU are the hero!” – which became all the rage for much of the 80s. 

Aeons ago – almost lost in the mists of time – at the dawn of the Teen Age 😉 Bradskald created Atlansia. 

In the accompanying “Atlansian Manual,” maps of both West and East Atlansia – plus the islands of Thalios and Kalonth – were meticulously drafted. As for the fantasy epic that threatened to come to fruition, in true Tolkien style, long ago (of course), along the northeast coast of Atlansia, Sentinels from the Ion Hills constructed the Great Wall of Mithris, to deter the advancing evil-most-foul hordes of Doragar (a sorcerous crossbreed of Orcs and Trolls).

Scouring my yellowed and crumpled pages again after all these years, the Norse inspiration still shines through: Frost Giants reigned in the Icypeak Mountains to the far north; Dwarfs kept themselves to themselves high in the rocky citadels of the Moonstone Hills; while down to the southeast, Elves dwelt deep within the Silver Forest… 

Amazing to think how this exotic – yet extraordinary – Bradworld has lain dormant and unexplored for over three decades… 

Ha, if those brazen berserkers – the Doragar – should decide, once more, to raid and plunder the hamlets to the east, then doughty Bradskald will sally forth – trusty broadsword: Fopslayer slung across his back – to smite the unholy threat. 

Or maybe he will just remain atop the ancient Book Tower in ye olde village of Crickhaven and simply write off said hordes with a (hopefully deft) flick of his mighty quill

 

“Bradskald…?! I thought he was a myth…” 😉

“This book is called Edda. Snorri Sturluson compiled it in the way that it is arranged here. First it tells about the Æsir [the gods] and Ymir [the primordial giant], then comes the poetic diction section with the poetic names of many things…” – Codex Upsaliensis. 

 

“From Ymir’s flesh 
was the earth created,
from the bloody sweat, the sea,
cliffs from bones,
trees frow hair,
and from the head, the heavuns;

And from his eyelashes 
the gentle gods made
Midgard for the sons of men;
and from his brains
all the oppressive
clouds were formed” – The Lay of Grimnir 40-41. 

 

Með krafti Bradskald! Borðuðu köku og vertu glaður!

By The Power Of Bradskald!  🙂

 

Here’s To Hela: The Girl With The Awesome Antlers

A Dance With The Goddess Of The Underworld 

“I thought you’d be glad to see me!” – Hela.  

In this unpredictable universe, Norse mythology first came to my attention in the most unlikeliest form… a comic book. Out of all the ishs that could have introduced me to the God of Thunder, so glad ’twas The Mighty Thor #314 (December 1981). As explained in this Post: the bonus feature: Tales Of Asgard: Judgment… And Lament just blew me away.

Who in the Hel could that tall, elegant, yet deadly, lady, clad in a green and black one-piece, be? Wielding such an elaborate headdress, she had single-handedly slain ALL NINE of Odin’s Valkyries, and recast Valhalla in the same grim and mist-beset manner as her own dread-realm of Niffleheim.

Our eyes met across a crowded comic book…

So accustomed to the dreary Western European concept of Death as a hooded skeleton wielding a scythe, Hela turned out to be quite a life-changing revelation. 

What was the significance of the green colour system? Moreover, what was it with those bizarre, yet impressive, horns?! To me, my tomes of esoteric knowledge!

“You look like a smart boy…” 

My quest to find out more concerning this dark enchantress began with the most reliable option: The Prose Edda – the renowned of all works of Scandinavian literature – written by the 13th century Icelandic chieftain: Snorri Sturluson.

Daughter of Loki (in both the original mythological tales and The Mighty Thor comic) and Angrboda [Sorrow Bringer] – an ogress who lived in Jotunheim (Giant Land) – Hel is the sister of Fenris (aka Fenrir) the giant wolf and Jormungand the Midgard serpent – NOT Thor and Loki as depicted in the latest movie!

In The Prose Edda, the passage known as Gylfaginning 34 states:

“When the gods discovered that these three siblings were being brought up in Giant Land – they learned through prophecies that misfortune and evil were to be expected from these children…

“Hel Odin threw down into Niflheim and made her ruler over nine worlds…”

“Her hall is called Eljudnir, [Sprayed With Snowstorms] her dish is Hunger, her knife is Famine, her slave is Lazy…

“The threshold over which people enter is a pitfall called Fallandaforad [Falling To Peril], her bed is named Kor [Sick Bed], and her bed curtains are named Blikjandabol [Gleaming Disaster]. She is half black and half a lighter flesh colour and is easily recognised. Mostly she is gloomy and cruel.” 

It is important to note that half her body (and half her face) is corpse-like, although this point was never accentuated in the comic books. 

Hela’s billowing green cloak somehow ensures that her metabolism is kept stable – take her cloak away and she would, theoretically, wither away into nothingness but then, she is far too strong and powerful to allow anyone near her…

Thor: “Mine enchanted hammer shall lead thee far from Earth… as only Mjolnir can. Then when I have lost her… Thor shall strike once more. But Hela shall not know the where or when…”

Hela: “Flight is useless. To Hela all of time and space are one. There is no time – there is no place – where death does not hold sway.”  

Hela made her debut in the Marvel Comics Universe in Journey Into Mystery #102 Death Comes to Thor (1964) adapted from Norse mythology by the masters themselves: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. 

Hela possesses attributes common to Asgardian gods: superhuman strength, speed, stamina, agility and durability – and vast mystical powers which she can use for various effects like limitless astral projection while retaining many of her powers and abilities, firing deadly bolts of energy from her hands, levitation and the creation of illusions. Her most powerful ability is her Hand of Glory, a technique that uses mystical energy to enhance the strength of her punch to kill even an Asgardian.

Intriguingly, during her very first Marvel appearance, the Goddess Of Death is instrumental in Thor gaining Mjolnir. How ironic then, that Thor: Ragnarok contains that now-iconic scene in which she shatters that very same hammer!

That’s Hela for you – as unpredictable as death isself…

Stand thee back, Asgardians! Hela must now gather all of the awesome enchanted power at her command! Gaze in unheralded wonder as she doth conjure a monumental spell which shall seal yonder pit into its own accursed dimension forevermore!”  

Only last month did the sensational #190 (July 1971) come into my disbelieving grasp. Paid twice as much as usual for this. But no matter – …And So To Die! is an EPIC – and one of THE most moving – stories of the Bronze Age. Odin is prepared to eliminate Hera once and for all, but how can Order be maintained if ’tis bereft of Death?

And so Thor agrees to forfeit his life. But his beloved Lady Sif – shocked to learn of this ploy – pleads with Hela to save the God of Thunder’s life:

Sif: “Hela! Though thou be the Queen of Death, thou art a woman, too – surely, love hath touched thine heart?”

Hela: “Why speakest thou to me of love?”

Feelings wert awakened within me… feelings of compassion… desire… and love. At long last, Hela knew what it meant to be a woman, but I be Goddess of Death, as well… and can ne’er consummate these longings… for all I touch turns to dust, a tragedy ne’er to be resolved…”

If my Top 10 Fave Comics In The Bradscribe Collection were compiled now, expect to find this ish riding high in that chart. 

Loki: “Hela, time and again have I striven to become Ruler of Asgard only to be blocked at every turn by Odin and Thor… ‘Tis my wish to cause the fall of the realm – aye, no less than Ragnarok – the Twilight of the Gods!” 

Hela“Long hath Hela waited to hear thee say those words, God of Evil! Thou hast come to one who can help thee… one who profits greatly by the deaths of gods or mortals…”  

In #278 Time of the Trolls (November 1978)Hela plotted with Loki to bring about Ragnarök by slaying the god Balder then attacking Asgard. She summoned Volla’s spirit before this to tell her and Loki about Ragnarok, after which she prepared an army of monsters to attack Asgard. However, Odin used his powers to prevent Balder dying.

Although her role in this story is too brief for my liking, the panels she does get to own are suitably formidable. 

‘Twas a time when Roy Thomas and John Buscema were at the peak of their respective powers… 

Hvað varstu guðin aftur?” 

And a portrait of Hela by the great Charles Vess – this just gets better and better! 

“Now… tell us more than thou didst tell Odin! Draw aside the veil – further than ’twas drawn before!” 

Well, it never seemed possible that a character as remarkable as Hela could ever reach the big screen. After disappointing interpretations of certain members of the X-Men – and Drax The Destroyer – there were nothing but misgivings regarding her cinematic debut in Thor: Ragnarok.

Fortunately, with some memorable badass lines and a phenomenal performance by Cate Blanchett, her onscreen presence is a triumph, even if it barely scratches the surface of this tantalising – yet tragic – character.

Recently in the comics, Hela has, apparently, begun hanging out with the death-worshipping Thanos. Can we, therefore, expect to see this formidable couple together in Avengers: Infinity War?!

The case continues… 

 

More Thorsomeness Next Thorsday!

“Cate Blanchett is just brilliant as Hela. She is one of the greatest actors… I was so excited to see what she was going to do with Hela… I was completely blindsided by the outcome. She just has this insane off-kilter attitude or look or kind of movement to her character” – Chris Hemsworth. 

 

“Asgardians… farewell.

When next I come,

not all thy tears… 

not all thy pleas… 

shall stay me…

Till then, rejoice!

Ye have each other

while Hela endures… alone…” 

 

“Don’t Delay, Book Today!”: The Entertainer Is Back in Town!

2ooth Post!!

The Entertainer Blogger Award comes to me from the talented and entertaining

Danica @ Living A Beautiful Life Thank You, Danica!

“You mean old books?”

“Stories written before space travel but about space travel.”

“How could there have been stories about space travel before-“

“The writers,” Pris said, “made it up…” – Philip K. Dick.

Having succumbed to a particularly debilitating bout of Scribe’s Fever a few months ago, it was truly a delightnay, a blessing – to be presented with this particular Award. 

The Entertainer Blogger Award recognizes bloggers who are funny, inspiring and most of all, entertaining. This special Post – also marking my 4th Blogiversary! – happens to appear in the same week that this blog hit the 30,000 views mark. 

Yes, yes, this is a BIG brouhaha for me – it makes me want to dance on the beach; shout in the local library. Feel so high, wanna touch the sky etc. etc. 

One of the questions asked as part of this Award intrigued me:

What is your favourite book?

Thus, these last few evenings have been spent, deep within the cosy and cushty confines of the Sanctum Sanctorum @ Brad Manor, perchance to pour over the VAST array of books that one has accumulated across four decades and determineonce and for all – which of them proved to be The Life-Changers… 

“A room without books is like a body without a soul” – Marcus Tullius Cicero.

The most amazing SF novels to inspire me will – no doubt – feature here @ some point. Probably in two parts. Or even three… 

For this Post, we will – whole-heartedly – concentrate on the NON-fiction cabinet of my book collection. Selecting just FIVE titles proved to be quite a perplexing beard-scratcher in itself.

Without further ado, welcome to Brad’s Books 

Hmm, sounds like a vintage secondhand tome emporium, lost down some leafy English lane. No doubt such an establishment would look very much like the inside of his head: small, cramped, and full of dust and good reads. 

Aah, can see it now:  rather surly-looking fat Persian cat sits in the window, nestled on a comfy, leather-bound edition of How To Spot A Creep From A Distance.

A sign on the door reads: Come In, We Are Awesome!

“I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarius and we’re sceptical” – Arthur C. Clarke. 

The first book that springs to mind is the tome that helped get me mixed up in SF in the first place – the joy of The Space Warriors has already been praised elsewhere, but then, it IS fiction, so instead, let me draw your attention to that other hefty tome snapped up around 1979/80: Alien Creatures, by Richard Siegel and J-C Suares. 

It is one of those books that could appeal at once to a moppet like me and an intellectual like my father. Its in-depth history of SF cinema came with such an incredibly stuffy, hi-brow text for such a small boy to ingest, (read it and appreciated it only fairly recently, in fact) – my immediate attention was especially drawn to the rare stills from the Flash Gordon RKO serials (repeated every morning during the school holidays back then) and Ray Harryhausen filmography then my main obsession.

In addition, it contained conceptual art by Ralph McQuarrie and “exclusive stills” of a space opera – from the director of American Grafitti – that had only appeared in cinemas that past Summer…

While that unexpected smash went on to transform big-budget moviemaking – and the whole course of science fiction (for the better?), Alien Creatures set the standard for what my bookshelves – back then: clean, sturdy and reputable keepers of knowledge – should come to expect… 

“Enticing, imaginative, readable, iridescent” – New York Times.

What’s that?

Want to read a book telling the story of how fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution transformed matter and life into consciousness?

Ha! Got just the thing – Cosmos by Carl Sagan admittedly, we were hooked by the ground-breaking TV series in 1980. In such a rare moment, the medium of television actually fulfilled its remit of offering an educational and entertaining programme.

In this bold project, here was someone – Dr. Carl Sagan – prepared to discuss the mysteries of the universe in a captivating and uncomplicated way. Not only did his book instil in me a wonder of science and a zest for all-things-cosmic, it taught me the value of questioning anything and everything (much to my teachers’ annoyance)…

And there are half a dozen groovy quotes accompanying each chapter, so when my blog came to fruition, one automatically assumed that quotes were obligatory – ha!

“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be” – Carl Sagan.   

“Sh! We hear a rustling in the greenery and a soft sound of running feet. This is Procompsognathus, an early meat-eating dinosaur. But how small it is!”  

Every boy should have a book on dinosaurs, so Dinosaurs And Other Prehistoric Reptiles by Jane Werner Watson became my go-to – published in 1978, and it shows. The sauropods had to “stay in swamps to keep their massive bulk upright.” Moreover, the advances and discoveries made in palaeontology since this book’s publication are quite considerable. 

However, what sets this tome apart from all the rest is the INCREDIBLE artwork by Rudolph F. Zallinger. 

The wonder of this book lies in its staggering timeline. Along the bottom of each page, a yellow, numbered box represents a million yrs; a tiny illo shows which major type of dinosaur roamed Pangaea at that time. While each chapter describes the (pre)history of these palaeontological marvels – from the emergence of fish onto land to the final members of the Cretaceous Period – that timeline works in reverse. 

To put this gargantuan chronology into perspective, we homo sapiens barely make it halfway across the first page, while the dinosaurs hold sway throughout the majority of the book’s fifty pages…

Interestingly, the last (first?) beast to be featured is the fish-like Eusthenopteron that swam around 290 million years ago. The otherwise empty timeline terminates at 293 million years BC… 

“Down along the sunny shore, Tyrant Lizard finds the hunting better. He can walk fairly fast on his two legs on dry land. But he does not like to get too close to the water…”

“Science Fiction: still for some of us the most marvellous subject – or at least the second most marvellous subject. ‘The glory, jest and riddle of the world’ – at once abominable and abysmal in so many of its manifestations, and yet, in its best, the voice nearest to our inner voice” – Brian W. Aldiss (1925 – 2017). 

Now, where would this blog be without The Science Fiction Source Book?! 

Acquired during a Withdrawn Stock sale @ the local library, this veritable encyclopaedia of science fiction, first published in 1984 – edited by David Wingrove, with a Foreword by Brian W. Aldiss – represents, arguably, the best thirty-five pence ever spent. 

Following an introductory decade by decade Brief History of SF, there are sections discussing the sub-genres of SF; various small features describing the Art of Writing contributed by a whole host of leading writers; and a considerable A-Z Consumers’ Guide: listing authors from Edwin A. Abbott to Roger Zelazny.  

It has flown with me between three countries, in my travel bag, nestled next to both my writing journals, a copy of either Scientific Enquirer or The Economist, and whatever novel piqued my interest at that time. 

Even now, as this Post is prepared on my Dashboard, the Source Book lies in easy reach…

“The strength of Maisel’s approach to his grand theme lies precisely in its breadth… it is generously illustrated with diagrams, maps and graphs… both scholarly and accessible to non-specialists; indeed it is a tour de force” – David R. Harris, Director, Institute of Archaeology, London. 

Twenty years ago this quarter, mu Ancient History abd Archaeology degree @ The University Of Manchester began.

When the Unconditional Offer arrived through the post, my parents were so delighted. And relieved. My freelance journalism career had come to an abrupt, unforeseen halt the year before so my life needed a dramatic upturn. The next letter to come from Manchester felt like a dream – it contained a READING LIST!! 

Deep joy. 

Thus ensued a (mostly) satisfying book-hunt. At the Top Of The List – and deservedly so when recalling it in hindsight – was: The Emergence Of Civilization by Charles Keith Maisels.

Integrating Archaeology, Ecology and Textual History to produce a new Anthropological perspective, it charts the rise from hunter/gathering – through farming and advances in social complexity – to the rise of city-states in the ancient Near East.

Now, you’d think that a textbook with such chapters as:

“The relationship of demography and technology to social structure,”

“Is agriculture the outcome of technological discoveries?” 

and – whisper it – “The ecology of the Zagrosian Arc,”

would make for trying and tiresome studying, but no!

Far from it!

It proved to be endlessly fascinating, responsible for helping me to produce some of my most successful essays. My interest was, however, not all it managed to absorb…

One day, somebody accidentally sat on my backpack (don’t ask), thereby squashing my daily banana onto this academic behemoth. All three page edges remain cursed by dark, frightful – but fruity – stains. But for months the sweet essence of banana lingered.

Lo, every book tells its own story… 

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life” – Mark Twain. 

THANK YOU SO MUCH to each, and everyone of you, who have Liked and Commented on my various movies, comics, books, science and fiction gubbins.

Brad is a humble wordsmith, but is nothing without YOUR appreciation.

CHEERS!!

There is a lot more cool stuff yet to come. Promise!

And who does Brad Nominate for this Award?

Well, automatically, YOU who are reading this! (If you want to do an Entertainer Blogger post let me know and you will receive the full set of questions!)

By the way, this Post could not finish without a special shout-out to the Best Book Blogger In The Blogosphere, who can read a novel AND post its review faster than Brad can eat a burritothat’s some considerable talent right there…

Think she might be absolutely thrilled to see this: 🙂

“A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements and clumsy hands. So the librarian protects the books not only against mankind but also against nature and devotes his/her life to this war with the forces of oblivion” – Umberto Eco.

As soon as this Post goes out, no doubt another half-dozen life-changing titles will spring to mind.

Ah well…

For the moment, this insightful, perhaps interesting dare one say it – entertaining – Post looks groovy enough.

Doesn’t it?

As for the Book With The Greatest Title Of All Time – it didn’t take long at all to work that one out: 😉

“Books are a uniquely portable magic” – Stephen King.

keep-calm-and-read-a-book

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them” – Ray Bradbury.