The Midnight: Explorers

To The Freedom Fighters

To The Everest Climbers 

To The Castaways

To The Midnight Riders

To The Spark Igniters…

“Mom, remember that stuff you were tellin’ me about your dreams and doin’ what you want to do? Well, if I really want to be an astronaut and go out in space – and really do that, it’d be ok, right?” – Ben Crandall.

 

Dear Friends,

Following yet another losing battle against this madhouse that is the 21st century, Brad has decided to strike back and hold an ’80s Party this week. 

Had such a groovy time this past weekend dipping into 80s pop classics and Retrowave numbers, so can’t wait to share some of my top picks with you! Therefore, this edition of Manic Music Monday offers a preview of what nostalgic delights lie in store. 🙂

Have recently discovered The Midnight: a group who have really tapped into the sounds and vibes of that decade. This vid exudes such a welcome feelgood quality, includes an amazing assortment of movie clips, and, being a joyous celebration of all-things-80s, it seemed just too cool to hold back.

After last week’s Retro Review of The Goonies this vid is a reminder that Joe Dante’s Explorers (1985) had also passed me by! Have started watching that, so perhaps another Retro Review might be in the works…

Hope you can make it to the party in mid-week. It’ll be lovely to see you! 

And – hey! – if Brad is really on the ball, you should be getting the latest Fartlighter Bradventure by the end of this week! 😉

Cheers!

 

Wolfgang Müller: “Explosions in space? It’s impossible.”

Darren Woods: “What do you mean? You can hardly see the strings.”

 

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Vivian Stanshall’s biG GRunt – 11 Mustachioed Daughters!

Manic Music Monday Continues – With A Black Sabbath Pastiche 

Why can’t I be different and unusual… like everyone else?” – Vivian Stanshall.

 

In compiling this week’s thrilling instalment of Manic Music Monday, only one influential individual came to mind.

Vivian Stanshall (1943-1995), highly eccentric, “as-English-as-tuppence” singer-songwriter, musician, author, poet and side-splitting wit, most famous for writing and performing with The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. 

Wnen he wasn’t hanging out with John and Paul of The Beatles, getting up to wacky japes with Keith Moon of The Who, and recording his debut solo album with Traffic’s Steve Winwood, he toiled away – over several years – on an ingenious, seminal work: Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, an episodic surrealist radio serial especially recorded for BBC Radio 1’s John Peel show, chronicling the bizarre – but unfailingly hilarious, and highly recommended – (mis)adventures of inebriated and irascible old codger: Sir Henry Rawlinson. 

This Christmas, it has been great getting reacquainted with this blinking-bonkers masterpiece. 

Did some rummaging around online, and eventually discovered this obscure gem.

biG GRunt was “one of a number of short-lived groups” Viv formed following the demise of The Bonzos, but considering these groups featured the same core personnel, it could be argued that they’re essentially the same band masquerading under a variety of names. 

This rare performance (recorded in 1970) appeared on a BBC4 documentary about this exceptionally gifted inductee of the Bradscribe Hall of Fame: 

 

“We first met in a big Irish pub in South London, the New Cross Arms … Vivian was quite plump in those days, wearing Billy Bunter check trousers, a Victorian frock coat, horrible little oval, violet-tinted pince-nez glasses; he had a euphonium under his arm, and large, rubber false ears. And I thought, well, this is an interesting character… 

“He was – is – in terms of what he’s left behind, a national treasure…” – Neil Innes. 

 

A Winter’s Tale: Reflection And Rejuvenation On A Woodland Walk

A New Year: A New Hope…?

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness” – John Muir.

Foamfollower’s question caught him wandering. “Are you a story-teller, Thomas Covenant?” 

Absently, he replied, “I was, once.”  

“And you gave it up? Ah, that is as sad a tale in three words as any you might have told me. But a life without a tale is like a sea without salt. How do you live…?”

How indeed… 

You must have noticed.

The words have not flowed on this site as one would like. Sure, my gobsmackworthy powers of expression and composition did not miraculously return with the chimes of Big Ben the other night, but all is not lost! As Ovid once said: “Perfer et obdura!” (Be patient and hold out!)

One great – and highly recommended – way for anyone to slip back into their creative groove is to escape from their desk and explore the outdoors. Supposedly, the biting nip in the air during this particular season should do wonders for my stuffy cranium. Sometimes, the crashing sounds of the surf can usually entice me down to the beach, but today, the opposite direction is taken.

On top of the hill looming majestically over our village, lies “The Ring” – a glorious local nature reserve named after a ring of beech trees planted up here in the late 18th century. Signs of habitation on this prominent point date back into prehistoric times, and traces of a Roman temple were unearthed back in the 50s, so the charm of this spot has been entrancing people for centuries. 

Would proclaim myself: “Lord Of The Ring,” (oHO!  😉 ) but nah. The WordPress masses no longer swing by this site these days, and one doesn’t wish to lose his last few remaining readers by dispensing such cheap ‘cracks as that!

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone…

“In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there. They struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws…

“A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else…” – Hermann Hesse.

“Of the mastersmiths in the Northlands that were, and of their marvellous skills, the Winter Chronicles tell many tales. Greatest is that of-” 

Brad, who, rather than stay on a crowded train reluctantly listening to such inconsequential babble emanating from endless banks of smartphones, you are more likely to find him trudging through the beechwoods, high atop The Ring, lost in the garrulous harmony of jays, nuthatches, robins and even the odd fastidious crow… 

Why should this ol’ dude, now sporting a formidably bushy crumbcatcher, spend either his time or creds on such flaccid fare as Aquaman or Bumblebee, when this season boasts a positively splendiferous plethora of maidenhair spleenworts and their effulgent yellow-green pinnae?!

One arborial landmark in particular (see above!) entices me every time with its fantastical, Middle-Earth-like charm. Nicknamed it the “Elf Tree,” ‘cos you half expect an elf, goblin, or some frabjous form of faeriekind to lurk beneath its bark… 

Whatever magickal and bewitching fantasy land lies deep beyond its gnarly roots: take me there!! For it can only be infinitely superior to this mundane madhouse we call the Real World, with its gaggles of dunderheaded politicians – on BOTH sides of The Pond! – bickering pathetically amongst themselves while We, The People, suffer as our socio-economic institutions are left to ROT.

And what about that other 21st century gripe of mine?!

My foray into social media (up until three years ago) did not last long. Upon finding old “friends,” the general consensus seemed to be: “Uff, he’s STILL alive…” And they all drifted off back to their own monotonous pursuits.

The distance – and anonymity – that social media affords has only served to increase – and embolden – the anti-social behaviour that now festers online… and on our streets. In my opinion, the uncontrollable proliferation of smartphones only makes these matters WORSE. And, regrettably, these wretched gadgets will NOT be vanishing like our ancient forests any time soon… 

It is NO coincidence that a direct link exists between such rampant modern tech and a substantial lack of care and consideration for others…

So you see, up here, amidst my own bare, leaflorn bastion of solitude, there is no reason to rant. Just savour the serenity! And you can blot out such harsh truths that – as we traipse timidly into the year in which Blade Runner is set – the economic gap between the richest and the poorest around this befuddling Pale Blue Dot of ours is now so gargantuan that it makes the Death Star look like a ping pong ball…

“If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise…”  😉

“The book of nature has no beginning, as it has no end. Open this book where you will, and if you have the desire to acquire knowledge you will find it of intense interest. No matter how long or how intently you study the pages, your interest will not flag, for in nature there is no finality” – Jim Corbett. 

“What can we look forward to in 2019?!” 

Well, you see, therein lies the problem – “looking forward” has become (for me) a most uncomfortable exercise that screams nothing but:  “Make more tawdry remakes! Be more obtuse to your fellows! Dehumanize yourself further by snapping up yet more superficial gadgets with money you don’t have!” 

NO thank you. 

In order to deal with incessant swathes of rotten luck and poor health – during this past quarter alone – the pull towards nostalgia and the joys and contentment synonymous with yesteryear become ever more comforting. And helps replenish my waning will to write. So, expect to see more nostalgic-tinted stuff on this site!

Encouragingly, Christmas week witnessed an upsurge in both the quantity and quality of my writing, and the renewal of that urge to finish and Publish more Posts!

To help avoid any more anxious loooong waits for subsequent Posts, you might like to know that my Manic Music Monday series is to be resurrected! Thus, there will be a guaranteed weekly dose of Brad while my usual Reviews and special Features (hopefully!) come to fruition! 

Any new ideas for this New Year you would like to see on Bradscribe, pls let me know!

Let me conclude then, by saying just this: 

 

The Very Happiest of New Years to you all!

 

Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
  The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,

And lo, Brad settles down this balmy eventide to write
  Long and arduously into the night… 

 

The view from atop the Ring, looking east… ^

 

…and looking west…

“Either we all live in a decent world, or nobody does…” – George Orwell. 

 

Fantastic Beats And Where To Find Them: The Grooves of Grindelwald

Brad’s Back From The Brink, And Now – Hey! – More Groovy Than Ever…

“We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears; we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers, we create the dreams” – Albert Einstein. 

Weh-heh-hell! 

What a month THAT was!

Moreover, what the blazes happened to that hapless idiot who eats too much cake?! 

Thought Brad had succumbed to the wild excesses of his own bloggiversary party?

Not quite, me luvvlies… 

Grab a muffin an’ a mocha, an’ gedda loada THIS sick note…

“Put on your red shoes and dance the blues” – David Bowie. 

My creative faculties were all set to dazzle you with some spooky posts during Halloween week, but then – all of a sudden, and fer one whole bally frustrating fortnight!! – my laptop went on the blink for no apparent reason…

In addition, during the first week of November, a particularly merciless barrage of bad news, rotten luck AND poor health pummelled me into such a lousy mood that the last thing one wanted to do was write. 

During such difficult times, a playlist of frenetic hot-steppers is required, so let me share with you some of the latest platters to lift my spirits (as well as my feet).

Rather than let all my spooktacular ramblings go to waste, the Horrorthon is still scheduled to go ahead!

After all, this is the ideal season to indulge in such frightful endeavours; moreover, some of my SF seems to be seeping into darker, more eerie territory anyways, so it looks like you’re going to have to brave a way lot more than just my usual tedious text…

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world, For I would ride with you upon the wind, 

Run the top of the dishevelled tide, And dance upon the mountains like a flame” – William Butler Yeats.

Has yours truly – whisper it – run out of ideas?!

NAY! As Thor would say.

Coming up with Posts is not the problem – trying to sustain waning levels of energy and motivation to complete any of them – especially when faced with the unenviable fact that FEWER peeps read Bradscribe than, say, 2-3 years ago – continues to be a niggling concern.

Nevertheless, Brad soldiers on regardless.

Besides, an ever-growing stack of unfinished projects now clutters my Dashboard. And let’s not neglect to mention that abundance of aeons-old journals and papers full of abandoned tales accumulating dust doing nowt but lie about the dark recesses of Brad Manor. 

This site provides a tremendous platform with which to revise (most, if not all) these works and save said endeavours for online posterity.

Yea, intrepid one, know ye this: 

you have NOT seen the last of Brad!

HUZZAH!!

“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world” – Voltaire. 

 

“Forget your voice, sing! Forget your feet, danceForget your life, live! Forget yourself and be!” – Kamand Kojouri. 

Annnd, before he realises it, Brad is trying to complete a single Post before this month passes us by…

So, always that most faithful standby: another music compilation is cobbled together.

No worries!

December should – Dyzan willing – turn out to be such a cram-packed month full of fiction, and articles – and goodness-knows-what! – that you should all be sick of the sight of the ‘Scribe by Christmas! 😉

Cheers!

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” – Friedrich Nietzsche.

 

The Vault Of Horror: Creepy Comics From The Cellar

When Darkness Falls, Beware!

For In Those Night Hours, Brad Trips Over His Comics Collection… 😉

“You ask me to explain why I am afraid of a draught of cool air; why I shiver more than others upon entering a cold room, and seem nauseated and repelled when the chill of evening creeps through the heat of a mild autumn day” – H. P. Lovecraft.

This month – in preparation for Halloween – we will be taking a special look at horror.

The nights draw in; no matter, for we descend into the darkest domain Brad Manor – where even me minions dare not tread…

Despite not being much of a horror comics fan, several rather creepy mags still lurk in these musty – Blimey! Get a loada’ the cobwebs down ‘ere! – corners of my gaff.

One British title, in particular, comes to gleeful and nostalgic mind.

During March 1984, my weekly editions of Battle Action Force (produced by IPC Magazines, more famous for the longest-running SF comic: 2000AD) ran increasingly intriguing ads for a forthcoming horror comic. 

Couldn’t wait?

You’re telling me! ‘Twas like enticing me with cake…

Greetings, mortals! I am the once-human editor of this gruesome publication. If you horrors out there want to read something really spooky, you’ve picked the right paper…” – Ghastly McNasty. 

Will always remember reading and re-reading that first ish of Scream. Waiting for the “Second Spine-Chilling Issue” turned out to be the longest week of my life! 

Let me tell you why: 

The opening story: The Dracula File could so easily have been skipped – the Count is the most overused/recycled horror character, but this version entranced me from the get-go, especially as it is illustrated by Eric BRADbury (one of my fav artists from Battle Action Force) and a tense script by Gerry Finley-Dey (another Battle and 2000AD regular) interestingly set in the 1980s, against Cold War politics.

A “defector” flees across the East German border, surviving a hail of machine-gun bullets and manages to be transported to a military hospital in Britain. Colonel Stakis, at first sceptical, sets off in pursuit, wary of the realization that he may very well be dealing with the Prince of Darkness himself. He cannot inform the authorities in the West of his “unholy” mission, while they, in turn, are exceedingly dischuffed at having a KGB operative lurking freely around the back streets of London.

It’s a compelling thriller, gifted with some amazing surreal moments, especially Drac seeking sanctuary at… a fancy dress party! 

He drains the blood of Harry the Gorilla and seduces Cinderella – not even Christopher Lee could boast that! 

“Poor devil – I bet it’s been like a nightmare for him. But he’s defected safely – he’s got a whole new life ahead of him in Britain…” – Nurse Nightingale. 

(The Dracula File received a much-welcome reprint in a hardback collection published in October 2017) 

 

“That cough of yours is getting worse, Nathaniel! It’s time you prepared for the final journey. Pay me now in advance, and I’ll bury you at half my normal price!” – Joshuah Sleeth.  

For me, by far the outstanding story of every issue was Tales From The Grave, 2 or 3-part chillers set in the early 19th century, narrated by The Leper who described the various spine-chilling background stories laced with all the period detail you could eat.

Although Jim Watson’s “untidy” artistic style divided comic fans (especially in my school playground!) he lent the ideal, twisted gothic touch to this series; the grisly opening 4-parter: The Undertaker proved to be a clever tale of murder, deception and intrigue. At its (devilish) heart loomed Joshuah Sleeth, “an evil beggar alright,” as The Leper explained. “If yer needed a helpin’ hand into the next world, so ter speak, he was always ready to give it…”

The Cabbie And The Hanging Judge is also rather effecting, but, on this relatively mild autumn eventide, the very thought of Willard Giovanna RIP makes me shiver.

One day, whilst The Leper is digging with his old mate Finley, a gentlemen dressed in “old-fashioned clobber,” enquires to the site of one Willard Giovanna. Finley pipes up and directs him over to a rather untended grave.

“You crafty coot, Finley!” the Leper whispers, “Yer after the tuppenny tip he’ll be offerin’!”

Thereafter, a macabre plan to exhume the remains is set into action that very night. Restin’ his achin’ bones awhile, Finley happens to glance at the nametag in the gent’s fine coat: Willard Giovanna! ‘Tis the same name as on the stone – the gent’s diggin’ up his own grave!”

Sure enough, when Finley resumes this unspeakable exercise, he finds the coffin, and opens it to find it empty, except for a letter – “an’ Saints preserve us!” – addressed to him! 

Dear Finley, 

Here is your payment as agreed for digging up my coffin. A similar payment will arrive for you each month if you keep my grave in good order. Then there will be no need for me to return!

Yours,

W. Giovanna.

And with that, the startled Finley turned around to get the shock of his life: Willard Giovanna had turned into a rotting corpse. 

This tale left me not so much fearful but fascinated: how do horror writers concoct such amazing stuff?! 

In addition, a different story appeared every week in a series entitled: Library of DeathBeware The Werewolf! was a great crime-caper drawn by yet another great artist we lost far-too-soon: Steve Dillon; Spiders Can’t Scream presented the terrifying consequences reserved for evil treasure-seekers who wipe out ancient civilizations in the South American jungle; the 2-part Sea Beast offered a freaky variant on the Don’t-go-into-the-water theme; while particular moody fav Ghost Town features ill-fated present-day car-drivers pitting their wits – and rifles – against Wild West ghouls who are always far too quick on the draw! 

But the story that started it all off: Ghost House became an instant classic due to such spine-chilling art supplied by the always-reliable Cam Kennedy, then blowing me socks orf on 2000AD’s Rogue Trooper. His nameless ghoul (almost!) made even Brad’s flesh crawl – check out that grisly beckoning hand! (see below!)

“They thought they were too old to enter the house. They were wrong. No-one is too old… and no-one is too young! Age does not concern those who dwell in the Ghost House” – The Nameless One.

Apart from a handful of Holiday Specials, Scream comic never got a 16th issue…

Popular belief maintained that irate parents demanded the publication’s closure after giving their children countless nightmares.

The truth, it seems, is rather more mundane. 

A printers strike at IPC Magazines affected half a dozen titles. Unfortunately, the one title NOT resumed post-crisis happened to be the one yours truly most craved every week!

Bah!

Over the last three decades, however, Scream comic has attained a richly-deserved cult status, with reprints now becoming widely available.

 

English horror didn’t vanish with the fog and gas-lit cobblestones at the end of the Victorian era. Riveting, spine-chilling stuff” – Alan Moore. 

Hellblazer used to be one helluva haunting read.

This series – part of Vertigo: DC’s “Suggested For Mature Readers” range – kickstarted my DC – and, to a certain extent, Marvel – revival in 1988. 

Offering eloquent, yet disturbing, forays into the crass, yuppie-driven, Thatcherite terrors of ’80s London – as if the dirt, grime and lousy English weather was not enough! – the scintillating, and yet exceedingly creepy, writing by Jamie Delano helped me “escape” from the rigours of that school year (luckily, mercifully, my last). Each issue appeared unmistakably graced with glorious cover art by Dave McKean; the 1st issue’s collage (see above!) holds a reserved place in my Top 10 Best Comic Book Covers Ever. 

Co-created by Alan Moore, Stephen R. Bisette, and John Totleben, and based on Police frontman: Sting,  John Constantine is a heavy-smoking, obnoxious fella (from Liverpool) who just happens to know a fair bit of the occult and is continually haunted by the ghosts of friends he failed to protect.

Making his debut in Moore’s Swamp Thing, his own solo mag’s opening shocker: “Hunger,” dripping with voodoo – actually one of my least fav horror themes – remains a gobsmacking gamechanger.

The first seven ishs offer a superb introduction to the work of British co-auteurs: Jamie Delano and John Ridgway, and would now be hailed as literary classics if they featured in anything other than the comics medium.  

Delano had this unfathomable knack of weaving bloodcurdling chills on one page, and then surprising you on the very next page with the darkest rib-tickling humour! Some marvelous descriptive text, and, complete with John’s trenchcoat, it all seemed rough and hard-boiled, not unlike a Dashiel Hammett novel, except this dick had to deal with demons and diabolical dipwits… 

And this writer sure was glad that this title promised and delivered! – SHEER terror, and not that cockamamie terror – or halfassed terror – with which too many indie companies were wont to churn out back then…

Am fond of one particular, indelible moment: in one episode, Constantine has to bail out of a London black cab, unable to tolerate the driver’s incessant vile and xenophobic rants any further. As he does so, said callous cabbie bristles:

“‘Ere! Don’ I get a tip?” 

“Yeah, it’s this: your mind is narrow and full of crap. I suggest you get a new one.” 

Attaboy, John! 🙂

“…Bloody rain! Bloody England!” Ha ha HA, yeah! Too bloody right, mate!  😉

“Pure reaction slams the door on the scuttling horror. I ought to just walk away and not come back. Jesus… Lord of the Bloody Flies, eh? I feel like I’ve had my share of bad craziness for a while. But like they say, you shouldn’t join if you can’t take a joke” – John Constantine.

 

“Berni Wrightson really is the unquestioned master of the medium and that’s not just because the cover blurbs say so and because the field is about 95% saturated with superheroes… Oh, Berni knows his grave-dirt all right… and while we huddle there, backs turned, eyes averted, minds set, Berni pops up in front of us with his magic mirror and says “Boo!”” – Bruce Jones.

It is impossible to compile such a Post as this without featuring the extraordinary talent of the late, great Bernie Wrightson – arguably THE quintessential horror comic artist. 

In fact, Pacific Comics gratefully collected some of his classic works in Berni Wrightson: Master Of The Macabre (only 5 ishs published during 1983).

He produced a suitably chilling 😉 adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cool Air, as well as his own SF horror story: The Last Hunters, a far-future saga in which an android hunter exterminates the last vestiges of humanity. On a distant world… called Earth…

Who could ignore the malformed terror that is Jenifer, the sinister deception played on The Laughing Man or the heartrending beauty of Clarice?

But my thirst for awesomeness would be well and truly slaked with The Muck Monster, Berni’s moving version of Frankenstein, as told from the monster’s perspective. 

Oh, which of these seven sublime pages should Brad select?!

Ha, he cheated! And presents TWO.

Read with wonder, friends, for you will find this is not in the least bit horrific, nor is it particularly creepy; quite simply, this is a mighty fine example of this medium at its sumptuous and breathtaking best: 

“…But, Doctor, it’s the same dream. It doesn’t change!” 

“Even so, I’d like you to go over it once more.” 

“Okay, Doc… It started like before – with me losing my footing on the wall. I crash down to the ground… so hard that I break every bone in my body… Then the soldiers come and say there’s nothing they can do for me! I know the dream is going to come true! It’s a warning! I’m going to fall!” 

“Rubbish! I’ve told you before. If you want to stop this nightmare… you must stop reading these horror comics, Mr. Dumpty!” 

 

The Feast From The East: Tales From The Cosmic Casbah

Something To Read With Relish

And Tempt The Taste Buds… 

SinbadThe dream I had, Rachid, this is all part of it somehow! We’ve been brought here by some mysterious force. Is it not written that a wise man will try to realise his dream, to follow it?” 

Rachid: “Some say it is through dreams that Allah speaks to mortal man… Captain! He who walks on fire will burn his feet…” 

The being “spontaneously generated” in a cave on a remote island, many parsecs off the Arabian coast. Seafarers discovered that stranger and brought him to Baghdad where he described in intricate detail th countless worlds to be found beyond our own, before the Caliph assured him that none of these realms could surpass the beauty of his own land and the glory of Allah.

This is the synopsis for Theologus Autodidactus, written by Ibn Al-Nafis, dating from as early as the 13th century is believed (in some quarters) to be the earliest precursor of science fiction, although its curious contents lean more towards science-fantasy. 

The notion of Middle Eastern Science Fiction seems so unlikely, compounded by the view that science and the proliferation of (new) ideas conflict with the principles of Islamic ideology. And yet there is so much more to this surprisingly burgeoning scene than it looks. The recent successful SF and Fantasy Book Festival held in Abu Dhabi highlighted what this unexpected region has to offer – most notably:

Iraq+100, a groundbreaking SF anthology that poses an intriguing challenge to contemporary Iraqi writers:

What might your home city look like in the year 2103 – exactly 100 years after the disastrous American and British-led invasion of Iraq?

And now there is the English translation of Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi. 

From the rubble-strewn streets of US-occupied Baghdad, Hadi the junk dealer collects human body parts and stitches them together in order to make the government grant them the proper burial they deserve. However, the corpse goes missing; soon, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, leading to reports of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed. 

Hmm, not my cup of (cardamom) tea, this, but interesting to see how arguably the most famous classic SF/horror theme has inspired a uniquely – not to mention unlikely – Middle Eastern variation.

“Two tablets brought forth to the light, yet a third remains from sight.

“A final place must still be found, a place that lies deep below the ground…” – The Oracle Of All Knowledge. 

Once upon a time, shortly after we moved to my childhood home, my parents let out our upstairs rooms to students attending the local university. The vast majority of them hailed from the Middle East. So, fortunately, from a very young age, yours truly grasped the opportunity to savour the music, language, art, aromas, rugs and – Allah be praised! – delicacies of distant domains. 

Thus, fuelling my imagination by gawping at various awesome adventures such as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and – ah! ‘im again – The Golden Voyage of Sinbad; and much later, stopping at nothing to acquire my own ornate antiquarian hardback edition of Tales From The Arabian Nights (translated and annotated by Richard F. Burton – the definitive rendering) (1888) – plus acquiring a degree in Near Eastern Archaeology – Brad was all set to trample all over such esteemed sites as Babylon, Nippur, Lagash and Umm Dabaghiyah (umm-what?!)… until…

Mum beseeched me not to go, fearing an escalation in tensions and violence in that region – ultimately, in sheer disbelief, yours truly witnessed/read about the vandalism and destruction of Iraqi cultural heritage (during 2003-04) from the relative quiet and safety of Bangkok instead…

To accentuate this scheherazade for the senses, there will be light sprinklings of the more exotic platters that nestle deep within the jukebox @ Brad Manor – all by the same combo who accompanied me on the streets of Manhattan, kept me occupied during those looong hours waiting at Middle Eastern airports, and inspired me to write both fiction and non-fiction during the Pre-Bradscribe Era @ a lovely seaside retreat on the Gulf of Thailand… 

“Flashing swords, leaping bandits, holy magic, bloodthirsty monsters, and sumptuous cuisine… what more do you want me to do, draw you a map? Read this thing” – Scott Lynch. 

Throne Of The Crescent Moon (first published in 2012) is a lush fantasy set in an alternate medieval Middle East. Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, the last real ghul hunter of Dhamsawatt, King of Cities, Jewel of Abassen is aching to retire – presumably to spend lazy days relaxing with copious cups of cardamom tea –  but a new threat of ghuls: zombie-like beings reanimated by evil sorcery, more fearsome than any he has ever encountered, brings him back into this rather unusual fray.

Before setting out wholeheartedly to acquire a copy, my heart sank upon recalling my persistent – almost legendary – inability to track down any potentially groovy novel that comes to my attention.

And yet!

Before you can say: “Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel,” the very tome of which we speak managed to reach my grubby mitts, for a hardback copy indeed lay in wait at my nearest library!

The book itself has received rave reviews and its author, Saladin Ahmed happens to be the very same Saladin Ahmed who contributed to the recent Star Wars Canto Bight anthology compendium and – my minions inform me – is now writing Spider-Man! So far, it is proving to be an engrossing read; like one reviewer remarks, it plays in your mind rather like a Ray Harryhausen fantasy – high praise inseed! 

And why does the premise sound so intoxicating? 

Because it seems exactly like the sort of Arabesque swashbuckling fantasy adventure that Brad would write. Come to think of it, not so long ago, he DID attempt such a saga, whilst living near the beach a few years back – inspired by my study of ancient seafaring.

Accounts by Arab writers of exotic eastern lands can be dated as far back as the mid-9th century CE. The earliest existing text: the Akhbar al-Sin wa’l-Hind (unfortunately anonymous) compiles stories from merchants who told of uncharted islands rife with pirates, troglodytes, headhunters and “beasts” more fantastic than anything Magizoologist Newt Scamander encountered! 

More crucially, this is where we first obtained those fantastical tales of Sinbad, that adventurous sailor who had to brave evil sorcerers, giant crabs and whatnot WITHOUT the comfort of cardamom tea…! 

“He’s awake and listening to us. Sly little rascal. But royalty has need of slyness. And if he’s really the Kwisatz Haderach… well… Sleep well, you sly little rascal. Tomorrow you’ll need all your faculties to meet my gom jabbar” – Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam.

Well, bless my Chicken Arabiatta!

It is difficult to discuss this material without acknowledging the HUGE impact of Frank Herbert’s Dune. 

Exuding more pertinent geopolitical resonances in the 21st century than it ever could have managed on its initial publication in 1965, Herbert drew inspiration from the Bedou way of life, to create an elaborate desert culture: the Fremen, native inhabitants of the planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. 

For possibly the first time, numerous examples of Middle Eastern terminology filterted into Western literature. In their jihad against House Harkonnen, the Fremen launch razzia raids, wear aba and bourka robes, fear a “devil” named “Shaitan” and so on.

Please click here for an expanded study of this landmark work, winner of both Hugo and Nebula Awards, and praised by Arthur C. Clarke for its “depth of characterisation and the extraordinary detail of the world it creates. I know nothing comparable to it except The Lord Of The Rings.”

“Is that the end… of all the races and civilizations, and the dreams of the world, to be able to leave a few stones buried beneath the sands, to tell the Dark that we were here?” – Niun.

Another SF series profoundly influenced by Middle Eastern themes came in the eclectic form of the Faded Sun Trilogy by C.J. Cherryh.

Set in the Alliance-Union universeKesrith, Shon’Jir and Kutath each chronicle the Mri-Wars in this coming-of-age saga of Niun, the plucky protagonist.

The first volume begins with the Regul having just concluded a forty-year war with humanity. As part of the peace, they are ceding the desert world of Kesrith to humanity. However, they have neglected to inform its inhabitants, the Mri, who have served them as mercenaries for over two thousand years. These mercenaries have been nearly exterminated in these wars, and young Niun is one of the few remaining warriors. When the Regul seek to double-cross his people, he and his sister Melein, the last of the priestly Sen caste, form an uneasy alliance with the human Sten Duncan to rescue a holy relic that may hold the key to the Mri’s survival.

Despite being shortlisted for the Nebula Award in 1978 and the Hugo Award in 1979, this – and its two successors – are among the most elusive SF series to track down in print!

Time to set sail – for “every voyage has its own flavour”further east, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, across the azure Maha Thalassa towards the enchanted shores of what Persian seafarers called: “Al-Hind”…

“Mighty Kali. Mightier than thou am I. Make obeisance to me…! Dance. Dance for me!” – Khoura. 

 

“One of the five best SF novels ever written” – George R. R. Martin.

Why shouldn’t India have its own panoply of science fiction tales?

Delve into the wondrous textures of Hindu mythology and it will not take you long to discover bizarre accounts of gods striking out of glistening cities in the clouds, charging across the sky in “celestial chariots” firing bolts of lightning against inhuman enemies…

So it comes as no surprise that Roger Zelazny drew extensively upon such myths to produce one of the SF greats: Lord of Light. 

A distant world where gods walk as men, but wield vast and hidden powers. Are they truly immortal? Who are these gods? Their names include Brahma, Kali, Krishna and also he who was called Buddha, the Lord of Light, but who now prefers to be known simply as Sam. 

Although it has not ascended to Dune-like heights of literary adulation and popularity, Zelazny’s masterpiece is richly-conceived and plotted, and still widely-regarded by those who know as a richly-crafted work, its curious yet compelling non-linear narrative lauded by other top contemporary SF authors.

Your foreign correspondent here will endeavour to surge through this classic right now (for the unpteenth time) aided by a set of lamb biryani, with a bowl of naan chips, baked with cumin, coriander and kalonji seeds, (seasoned with Kashmiri spices and coconut – the way Brad likes ’em!) – and a cup of cardamom tea, of course

Love, light and peace.

 

“There is that about them which repels… The trident of Shiva cuts a path through everything. But no matter how much he destroys, we raise up more against him. So he stands like a statue, uncreating storms we will not let end” – Tree Of Green Fire. 

“You pace the deck like a caged beast; for one who enjoys the hashish you should be more at peace…” – Sinbad.

 

Ant-Man And The Wasp: The Bradscribe Review

A Sting In The Tale 

“My initial reaction – do not tell Marvel! – was: “I don’t want to do a stupid superhero movie.” And my manager said: “Paul Rudd will be starring.” What…? It really intrigued me. So I watched some Marvel films and and I just thought what they were doing was so unique and fun” – Evangeline Lilly. 

 

2018 will be remembered as the year of both billion-dollar buddies: Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.  

Such a shame that most people aren’t likely to recall Ant-Man And The Wasp. 

My main memory forever-entwined with this – the 20th instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – will be the bonkers decision to delay it’s release in the UK cos we Brits were supposed to be too busy watching the World Cup to consider donating to Disney. 

So was it worth the extra month’s wait?

Nah, not really. 

Ant-Man And The Wasp is an adequate action/adventure SF yarn: Little Big Man (played as amiably as usual by Paul Rudd) has been on house arrest for the past two years enacting fantasy adventures around his gaff with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). If the entire movie looked as awesome as their rad helter skelter, this would be UP there with this year’s heavy-hitters, but in the end it didn’t leave me buzzing (arf, arf, arf!) 

Who is with me as regards the current banal state of huge, often nonsensical, summer blockbusters where the only reaction it incites involves nothing more than an indifferent shrug, and the (snide) comment:

“Yeah, the visual fx were amazing, but… …”?

In this case, size DOES matter.

“I can definitely phase through things. Absolutely loved every second of it… Creating even the style of how your character fights. Everyone has their own different style” – Hannah John-Kamen. 

Ant-Man And The Wasp is, at once, one of these fascinating, yet frustrating, movies.

This is best exemplified by the main antagonist: Ghost – a stunning character with a baffling matter-distorting (dis)ability that both enhances and hurts her. Tragic backstory, cool costume (hey! gotta look good for that Funko Pop! figure), intense performance (by Hannah John-Kamen): all those boxes ticked off, but what ticked me off is how she barely registers on the wow-factor. After the impressive upgrades in badassery such as: Hela, Erik Killmonger and – whisper him – Thanos, it looks like the MCU has already settled back to presenting bland and instantly forgettable villains. 

Had expected (hoped?Evangeline Lilly’s Hope to really come to the fore and steal all of Ant-Man’s scenes – this is, after all, the first Marvel movie in TEN years to have a superheroine’s name in the title. On the contrary, with Daddy giving her directions while she’s obsessed with finding Mummy, this is hardly a resounding triumph for the #Time’sUp campaign.

Michelle Pfeiffer looks great, but then, she always did. No seriously, if Janet Pym had been granted more substantial input, with tough and touching dialogue pivotal to the plot, then yours truly would be more than happy to discuss Pfeiffer’s role rather than Pfeiffer’s looks. Is this not the same Janet Pym who was a founding member of the Avengers, even becoming their Chairman back in the ’80s?! Her character deserves so much more than the scant attention afforded her here.

Watching more substantial flashbacks of Janet would certainly be preferable to sitting through “the three wombats” (as Hank so eloquently dissed them) Honestly, why did they have to be brought back?! Exclude Michael Pena, and the other two completely unfunny (even Thanos garnered more giggles, fer cake’s sake!ethnic representatives = the movie would not be affected. In any way.

As it is, alas, Michelle Pfeiffer appears in the briefest “remember me?” cameo, and can now state how proud she is “to be part of the MCU.” Surely this is a classic case of: she IS big, it’s the pictures that got smaller…? 

“We start the movie and… I am not living a heroic life… We [Hank, Hope and Iare not on the best of terms because of what I put them through by going to Germany. Throughout the course of the film we’re starting to click and get cool with each other” – Paul Rudd. 

Despite grumpy ol’ Brad’s angst for the ants (you can’t tell by reading this, but Ant-Man is, actually, one of my all-time favourite comic characters, being among the very first to grab my attention back in the day) there are still some groovy moments to savour here:

a top secret lab complex that can shrink to resemble cabin baggage; Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) locking ant-lers 😉 with former partner Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne); the awe-inspiring minutiae of the Quantum Realm itself (those Tardigrades!!); the above chase scene, and – oh yes – this reviewer finally got to behold a giant ant playing a drum kit (that’s another ambition to cross off the list – yay! 🙂 )

Speaking of post-cred scenes, could anybody tell me why Scott returned to the Quantum Realm AGAIN? Yes, that’s right: my view – and concentration – became impaired by a steady stream of punters lurching towards the EXIT. The sanctity of the modern MCU post-creds teaser counts for nuthin compared to the need to get out of that multi-storey car park first!

Intriguingly, did the Quantum Realm somehow spare Scott from the “Snapture”…? 

One more thing: 

after TWO Ant-movies, where oh where is Adam And The Ants’ Antmusic on the soundtrack?! Come ON! Talk about opportunity missed! 

This is one of those movies that adequately helps pass the time, but you won’t be tempted to race back to watch it again immediately. 

As for its position in the Bradscribe MCU Countdown?

Not in my Top 10, that’s for sure. 

Should have known that working up any eager ant-icipation (again) would lead to joy as miniscule as Hank’s Dinky Toys collection. 

Only moderate insects appeal.

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

“I got something kinda BIG, but I don’t know how long I can hold it…” 

 

“Don’t tread on an ant
He’s done nothing to you
There might come a day
when he’s treading on you!

“Don’t tread on an ant
You’ll end up black and blue
Cut off his head
Legs come looking for you!

(chorus)
“So unplug the jukebox
and do us all a favour
That music’s lost its taste
so try another flavour
Antmusic”