The Daze Of High Adventure: Getting Back Into The Fantasy Genre After All These Years

I Think I’m Quite Ready For Another Adventure…

‘1st Rough In Tavern’: “The hunchback will have something to say about this!” 

And to think this blog supposedly concentrates mainly on science fiction…!

Well, firstly, some classic science-fantasy (tales of far-future lands where no/minimal technology exists) novels have come my way and, somehow, my reading preferences have veered – harmlessly enough – towards full-blown fantasy.  

Notepads at the ready – here they come:  

David Farland – The Runelords 1: The Sum Of All Men 

Robert E. Howard – Conan The Indomitable

Michael Moorcock – Elric: The Sleeping Sorceress

James Silke – Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer 1: Prisoner of the Horned Helmet (below)

“They came out of the sunblasted desert. Tiny dark specks wagging a tail of billowing dust at the yellow sky. Occasionally they glittered metallically… It was a mounted detachment. Nine riders with crossbows in their saddle holsters and sheathed swords, quivers and daggers riding their belts… The Kitzakk Horde…”

It’s amazing when you consider the quite impressive number of SF authors who dabbled in fantasy themes and managed to create some distinguished masterworks in the genre. Awaiting my attention is: Roger Zelazny – The Hand Of Oberon And a classic so monumental (not disclosing the author/title ‘cos it’s going to be a surprise!) will feature here in its own Post very soon! 😉

By Crom!

Carrying out spring-cleaning (while icy blizzards still surge past outside!) this doughty adventurer has uncovered notes and scraps of rough drafts pertaining to my stab (parry? thrust?) at a fantasy epic. 

Initially concocted in 1986, at the height of my immersion in Fighting Fantasy, Scabrous Face – still reckon that sounds awesome! – tells:

The saga of Malcolan, demonic Overlord of the Coarselands. 

Having led his Doragar Horde on a merciless and unstoppable sweep through the Western Lands, he decides to acquire what he has lacked throughout his reign of terror: a queen. 

He conquers one particular kingdom just to seize the king’s daughter – the most beautiful maiden throughout all the realms. But, before being slain, the Grand Mage: Gaspar places a curse on the Overlord. His son is weak and sickly; branded “Scabrous Face” by the crestfallen demon, he banishes the child to the wastelands… 

Malcolan is gradually subdued by unknown afflictions; as his health deteriorates, so the power of his dominion crumbles. 

Eighteen years later, a mysterious hero emerges. With his bold band of bahadurs (“fighters”), he marches straight towards the Overlord’s fortress to restore peace and order to their world… 

The original names do not appear here as they have been changed countless times over the years. After three decades, reading that very first draft again, it is not only… interesting, but forsooth! It’s a tad embarrassing…

Consisting only of the Overlord’s invasion of that kingdom (then known by a completely different name), these frantic scribblings form nothing but turgid – and repetitive – gory hack-an’-slashfest! Turns out that teenage Brad happened to be a far more bloodthirsty lil dweeb than anyone had ever expected… 

My epic consisted of  endless battles because it was completely male-orientated – obviously, an attraction to girls had yet to materialise.

Concurrently, plenty of influential material (both writing and art) cowld be acquired monthly: Warlock served as the official Fighting Fantasy magazine, while White Dwarf concentrated on role-playing games. This cover (in particular (below) had a profound effect – the hero of my fantasy epic is based on that ferocious wolf-pelt-clad fella. 

The music with which to accompany this Post comes from one of my fantasy favs: CONAN! (Not that recent poor remake starring The Sub-Mariner, but the original 1982 classic with Arnie). Basil Poledouris must have been a wizard… 

Never mind the dodgy title of the second track – it is one of the most mesmerising pieces of movie music.

And as for this theme tune: Anvil Of Crom, Brad refuses to gallop into the local village without it: 

 

Treasures are not won by care and forethought but by swift slaying and reckless attack” – Michael Moorcock.

In 1979, while The Black Hole bewitched me with its laser battles, The Black Knight taught me how to wield a broadsword.

No conflict between sci-fi and fantasy. Not in my mind. Both genres played a substantial part in – how shall we say – my formative years…

During the mid-’80s, Fighting Fantasy became my obsession. Unable to find anyone willing to delve into role-playing games with me, Fighting Fantasy proved to be the perfect outlet for lone adventurers. Each book, written by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, contained a total of 400 numbered sections. YOU had to pick up clues; solve riddles; outwit traps; fight orcs, trolls, et al; navigate mazes and dungeons, etc. by choosing which section to Turn To.

“All you need is a dice and a pencil.”

Even devised some of my own Figjting Fantasy adventures…

Might write about them at some point, but there’s a LOT of stuff in that cabinet to sift through before they are uncovered…

Subotai: “We’re thieves! Ha! Like yourself. Come to climb the tower.

Valeria: “You don’t even have a rope! Ha! Two fools who laugh at death. Do you know what horrors lie beyond that wall?”

Conan: “No.”

Valeria: “Then you go first…” 

“I will allow you to live as long as you serve me. Betray me, and I will joyfully send you back to rot in hell” – Titus Cromwell.

At University, by far my most intriguing area of research concentrated on the art, numismatics and history of the Parthians and the Saka (the Indo-Persian name for the Scythian nomad warriors of the Eurasian steppes.) They not only directly inspired Tolkien’s Horselords of Rohan, but sparked a new and refreshing etymological and anthropological framework with which to reinvigorate my fiction.

Instantly fell in love with the mellifluous Old Persian language, and decided to rename my characters with some of these more evocative words. For instance, the name of Kulbahar (Old Persian, meaning: “like a rose in spring”) was bestowed upon the kingdom, while the ill-fated princess has come to be known as Ziba-Eszta (OP: “beautiful star”). 

But just as renewed enthusiasm filtered into my writing, that spark almost vanished. 

What could have cleft my fervour for fantasy in twain forever had to be this annoying repetition of the same old standard tropes: the indestructible (always white male) hero…

And those ever-so-noble elves… 

We have sat waiting like this many times before. Sometimes I tire… of the fighting and killing. At night, I can hear the call of my race. They wait for me. When I join them, we will be forgotten” – Crow.

During the ’80s, countless fantasy movies were rented – some were cheap and cheerful cheezy classics; a great deal more twerned out to be agonisingly atrocious…  

Hawk The Slayer (1981) is let down by an embarrassingly miniscule budget, but it holds personal importance as it provided my very first taste of a sword and sorcery film at the cinema. In particular, the elf: Crow (see above) captivated my imagination and set me on a lifelong fascination with all-things-elvish. 

Naturally, my fantasy novel just HAD TO HAVE its fair share of elfkind, but avoiding the overdone stereotypical connotations of this race proved quite a challenge. Notably, my most prominent Silver Forest archer: Delanian has evolved to become quite unlike any other elf you have ever seen… 

Itching to tell you more about this nonchalant supporting player, but, you know: spoilers! 😉

And those other tropes? The mischievous Goblins; the grumpy Dwarfs; the malevolent Orcs…

It occurred to me that a radical rethink of these other races is required by all fantasy writers to keep the genre fresh and original. In fact, from the very beginning, Orcs would play no part at all in my work. Instead, my massive unputdownable compendium of Fighting Fantasy Monsters: Out Of The Pit (1986) offered me an exciting alternative in the form of the Doragar. 

Described as a sorcerous interbreed between Orcs and Trolls, these berserkers fight tougher on the battlefield and work faster in the ore mines than their Orc cousins. Equipped with spiked armour and huge serrated weapons, the task is unto me to “bring them to life.”

“I don’t hate ALL men, Grandmaster…” – Red Sonja.  

“Over a year ago I was first introduced to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) but the more I have played it the more concerned I have become about the presentation of women with it,”  wrote a disgruntled (Miss) S.A. Carbery in a letter published in WD#70 (October 1985).

“The whole fabric of the pseudo-mediaeval games appears male-orientated. The female fantasy characters encountered (the few that show up) seem more likely to be serving wenches or prostitutes. 

I nearly brained my Dungeon Master when he told me the rules of choosing to play a female character and the restraint of not being able to attain the maximum strength of 18 – unless I was a Half-Orc. Not exactly a fair rule…

“Illustrations within WD involving over the top females verge upon soft porn. I will NOT  be fobbed off with excuses of historic nostalgia that women have been portrayed like this in pulp fantasy since 1920. RPGs could be very educational and highly entertaining. I think it is a great shame considering… that so few women seem to be involved and playing them. 

“Surely now it is time for change?”

From that moment on, such changes were implemented in my fiction – female characters would play more decisive roles. More specifically, the seemingly-endless Game Of Thongs trend of subservient female representation in the fantasy genre (alluded to by Miss Carbery) seemed at odds with the intelligent, headstrong and assertive young women who were rejecting me on an almost-weekly basis…

So when this fantasy novel received a belated revision during the Summer of 1990, the first – and most significant – alterations came in the addition of a number of female characters.

Over a decade ago, to try and quell the sheer monotony of my job in Southeast Asia, during one of my regular Yuletide return trips to the UKthe dust was wiped off my fantasy fiction file and various vital notes taken back with me to the tropics…

After finishing my job, greater concentration could be afforded to my writing and – oh yes –  this project in particular. TWO dramatic changes were made: the addition of an extra female character who – you’ll be pleased to learn – has been promoted to main protagonist; while the other major revision proved equally pivotal: a new and improved title. 

The enchanting Old Persian term: Vindahfarnah translates as “Righteous Ruler” – this encapsulates perfectly the core theme of the story!  

Alas, Malcolan’s fate came to another abrupt halt in 2013 due to – strangely enough! – the instigation of this blog. 

On this site, you may yet be treated/subjected to an excerpt from this sprawling epic 🙂

But now…

Once more, Brad must ride with his bahadurs to defend what was, and the dream of what could be…

Evil Witch: “Where is Deathstalker?!” 

Deathstalker: “Somebody lookin’ fer me?” 

Princess: “You came back?!”

Deathstalker: “By popular demand!”

Princess:Dayethstalker…? Is that your first name or your last name…?” 

Deathstalker:Grrr…

 

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“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.

 

“The Female Man”: Issues Of Gender And Feminism In SF

Hey Man, The Future Is Female…

“After reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s work, I began to think about how women could explore alternate biologies and societies for their benefit. That’s the sign of good science fiction” – Marge Piercy.  

“The enormous appeal of science fiction is the ability to change just one or two small variables and see what could happen,” says writer Marge Piercy, whose 1976 novel: Woman On The Edge Of Time has become a feminist SF classic. “Up until [The Left Hand Of Darkness (1969)] most science fiction had assumed binary gender throughout the universe. She writes of a world where gender is irrelevant and sexuality completely fluid…” 

Aeons ago, when Brad was… oh, about that high, there was an easy peasy way to tell the difference between boys and girls: 

boys loved sci-fi –girls did not = it was that simple.

Nowadays, of course, such a statement sounds so trite and patronising… not to mention simple-minded. Encouragingly, more than ever before, there is active female participation in science fiction, whether it be reading novels or comics, or – better still – producing a new wave of critically-and-commercially-acclaimed material. 

As this Post will show, not only has the number of female SF writers grown, but the genre has always had a healthy history of influential female involvement.

Recalling those longlost schooldays, it would now appear that those attempts by girls to run off with our Star Wars figures signified concerted efforts to break barriers and expectations and try to infiltrate this exotic-looking Boy’s Club. Back then, of course, the very notion of ACTUALLY TALKING TO GIRLS about comics, spaceships, transdimensional engineering and the inner workings of

Mennotor 430 Neural Inhibitors seemed so… far out – as unlikely as…

as BBC’s Doctor Who ever changing into a woman…

“I wish my successor, whoever he or she might be, the best of luck… I think it might be quite nice to have a woman…” – Tom Baker.

Having established that the Doctors could transmogrify into another aspect of this particular character, then there was no real limit to the number of Doctors or the sex of the Doctors,” remarked Patrick Troughton, the second actor to play this particular character (between 1966-69).

In July, the biggest SF news happened to be the announcement of the next regen(d)eration of Gallifrey’s most famous Time Lord; this year’s Christmas special will mark the debut of Jodie Whittaker – the first woman to portray the Doctor since the series began in 1963. There came a point during the most recent season in which the current Doctor (played by lifelong-Whovian Peter Capaldi) explains – to his gobsmacked companion – how his race long ago transcended the whole gender-thing, and you think – aha! – better prepare for something pretty unprecedented here… 

When avidly watching the series back in the early ’80s, this boy – who constructed his own sonic screwdriver, used his own wardrobe as his TARDIS, and brought Teddy Edwards along as his own companion (aah bless!) – would have baulked at the prospect of having an actress in the titular role; now, of course, that prospect is in keeping with the fresh and innovative nature of the show and should be warmly welcomed.     

But Jodie will need a truly exceptional writer to make her tenure work…

On the threshold of making SF TV history, Whittaker said she felt “beyond excited to begin” reinvigorating the BBC’s longest-running SF series. Certainly, Verity Lambert – the producer responsible for bringing Doctor Who to television screens in 1963, would have been absolutely delighted with this news…

“[The Female Man is] a wonderfully inventive novel – this interplanetary exploration of feminist inner space, this sophisticated, playful fantasy book is, of course, all about reality” – Phyllis Chester.   

“You simply can’t underplay how ground-breaking it was,” remarked Yasmin Khan – advisor to the “Into the Unknown: A Journey Thro Science Fiction,” a major exhibition held in London this past summer – referring to Sultana’s Dream, written as early as 1905, in Bengal, by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (then aged just 25). “Raised in an upper-class Muslim family, she was denied a social education, like many women at that time.” 

Appalled by the social injustice inflicted on women, she created “Ladyland”: a technologically advanced matriarchy where women monopolize all freedoms, while men are secluded in the “madana,” a play on the Urdu word zenana (women’s quarters).

Imagined futures, and speculative concepts – the very styff on which science fiction has always thrived – should be enhanced and enriched by adding female perspectives.

The Female Man by Joanna Russ is a principal go-to game-changer in feminist SF, conducting a powerful and uncompromising critique, both of society and the patriarchal framework of sci-fi itself. Her writing offers “strong, witty female protagonists whose understanding supersedes the status games and repressive obsessions that occupy the other characters, often representatives of far-future societies that parody our own.”

Apart from confronting issues of genger and sexuality, as far as publishers were concerned, the matter of the author’s sex – and her sexual orientation – were considered a hindrance at that time. Nevertheless, the novel helped to begin tear down boundaries not just in SF, but in women’s literature in general. 

Its status as an all-time masterpiece has been recognised by Gollancz who fortunately included in their SF Masterworks series. Thus, unlike the other titles mentioned here, The Female Man CAN be found in my local library… 

“Traditionally, people turn to science fiction in times of political crisis.”

Cue The Handmaid’s Tale (1986) by Margaret Atwood, a dystopian noveland now Emmy-award-winning TV serialso timely and monumental, it deserves its own blog post…

“I’m a pessimist if I’m not careful, a feminist, a Black… an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive” – Octavia Butler.

“Considered one of the most creative, unique, and innovative science fiction writers of her generation,” is how feminist scholar Professor Rebecca Hankins describes Octavia Butler (1947-2006) – one of a scant number of African-American writers working in this genre. “Never one to sugar coat our existence, Butler’s writing always centres on women as independent, fierce, and unapologetic heroines.”

Her work also helped eradicate the genre’s entrenched science fiction image as “male, pale and stale.” She created a shape-shifting, gender-fluid creature in Wild Seed; a post-apocalyptic mute in Dawn; and the determined daughter in the Patternist series.

Therefore (one abhors having to admit this), because she does not fit the white male norm expected in the genre, this explains precisely why this SF “aficionado” has been deprived of all knowledge pertaining to this marvellous talent for so long. Moreover, it is a crying shame that her gender and ethnicity have proved a hindrance to her seemingly-deserved exalted status among the SF hierarchy. 

As for actually getting round to reading her masterworks? 

Well, not yet… 

It comes as no shock to learn that her books are unavailable in the half-dozen public libraries near me…

You want Arthur C. Clarke? 

He’s right here. 

Itching for Philip K. Dick? 

He’s over there. 

Do they have Isaac Asimov?

Are you kidding me? A whole shelf is devoted to his sizeable back catalogue…

Dread to ask the librarians if they stock ANY Octavia Butler:

“Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t have him…”

“Her works are an ongoing inspiration,” Professor Hankins continued: “…not only to black women writers, but to all of us to push the boundaries and imagine new fairer worlds.”

“Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen” – Margaret Atwood.

And while we’re on the subject of gender, you may be delighted to learn that – in the spirit of these enlightened fluid and flexible times – Brad will be changing gender as well. Henceforth, address all e-mails/Comments to Angelina.

Seriously though, an increasing number of media work is geared towards women writing exclusively for an all-female readership. Look at the subjects requested: history, psychology, sociologynothing gender normative about them. Nonetheless, in order to get more work in the online 21st century environment, this is the measure one must take to ensure a steady supply of cake in one’s larder…

*

Finally, let’s finish on an amusing – and thoroughly English – note.

That legend of prime-time evening entertainment: Kenny Everett provided the very first time this bunny saw any man in drag. They must have had a marvellous time making these shows – the production crew couldn’t help but laugh.

There are no SF-related vids here, but there may never come a more appropriate opportunity to show this classic sketch.

While compiling this Post, it was heartening to learn that Billy Connolly is due to receive a knighthood. 

Well, huzzah! Arise, Sir Billy!

Or should that be Dame…?

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming: The Bradscribe Review

Watch Out! The Amazing Spoiler-Man Can Do Whatever A Spoiler Can!

Let’s Face It: Brad Is The Last In The Universe To See (And Review) This Blockbuster –

Let’s Discuss This (OK, Geek-Out) Like Sensible MCU Fans… WOO-HOO! LET’S DO THIS!

“One of the reasons it’s called Homecoming is because it feels right that Spider-Man can finally inhabit the full Marvel world from which he came” – Kevin Feige. 

“Can’t you just be a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man?” Tony Stark remarks to our boy blunder: Peter Parker during Spider-Man: Homecoming – the latest entry in the phenomenal MCU franchise. By the time that underwhelming Spider-Man 3 appeared ten years ago, the franchise had become less-than-friendly, and that significantly less-than-Amazing Andrew Garfield double-ill was certainly not welcome in my neighbourhood…

Although Tom Holland (the British stage actor who excelled on London’s West End in the Billy Elliott musical) proved to be a brilliant – albeit brief – success in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, when news broke of yet another Spidey-flick it regrettably triggered my Reboot Allergy. So, not surprisingly, my reaction to Homecoming was not exactly welcoming…

However(!), the first Reviews turned out to be overwhelmingly positive; moreover, the premise of “Ferris Bueller with added webbing” clinched it for me. Besides, Marvel Studio’s uncanny knack of blowing our socks off in the wildest, most unexpected ways looks unstoppable right now.

Glad to see a Spidey movie not bogged down by any of that “with-great-power-comes-great-pretzels” malarkey from the Raimi/McGuire era. It is with tremendous joy – and relief! – that Director Jon Watts and his crew have succeeded at putting together a FUN and marvel(KABOOM!)ous time at your local popcorn parlour.

Quite simply, THIS is how a really Amazing Spider-Man movie should look like!

“You need to stop carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders” – May Parker.

“You got to get better at this part of the job…”

One factor that will be unanimously agreed is the casting of Tom Holland. Having hoofed it on the West End, he brings the required agility to do all (well, most) of his Spider-stunts. Yep, he operates in that “little grey area” pretty well!

Also, Tom Holland is – quite easily – the best big screen Peter Parker, portraying the awkward, mixed-up teen slouching along the corridors of Diversity High so well, but fairly early on, it becomes apparent that he gabbles too fast. When he gets together with best buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon), their exchanges, consisting of frantic whispering at some points, almost become unintelligible. Really liked his Extreme Interrogation voice – part of me wanted that through all the suited-up scenes! Seriously though, Holland has such a distinctive voice – surely anyone who comes into contact with Spider-Man would suss that it’s that doofus Peter Parker…? 

Apparently, it has been a long-touted aim of Head Honcho Kevin Feige to one day cross a MCU movie with a John Hughes comedy. And here it is! See Michelle (Zendaya)? That’s Ally Sheedy right there! A team of SIX writers is enough to doom any movie, but they managed to produce an entertaining package. However, the 80s vibe is not as fully realised as it could be; extra high school scenes should have been developed, especially with Michelle: an instantly endearing quirky gal who deserved additional funny lines; the script is not as sophisticated as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or The Breakfast Club. 

Peter Parker: “But I’m nothing without this suit.”
Tony Stark: “If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.”

The rich, the powerful, like Stark, they don’t care about us! The world’s changed boys – time we changed too!” – Adrian Toomes. 

There is another awesome reason that helped push me into watching this, and that is the Vulture, played by Michael Keaton. “Fuck! They put him in a cape too?!” 😉

Rightfully enjoying a renaissance in his onscreen career, it’s a wonder that Keaton agreed to be in this at all: his third stint as a winged comic book character. Immediately, he instils a sense of menace that has otherwise been lacking from MCU villainy recently. The most extraordinary aspect regarding Adrian Toomes is how ordinary he is – an everyday guy just as frustrated and put-upon like the best of us; not only does Keaton convince, Toomes is so relatable. When Peter comes to pick up his date, you could feel a huge shudder of shock from fellow moviegoers as her father answered the door…

In his short and tender life, Brad has endured some very trying struggles, but… please, NEVER leave me alone in a car with Michael Keaton. EVER…

Not only has the “world changed,” but one quintessential element is curiously absent. Although we are mercifully spared the (exhausted) origins story, there are NO spider-senses(!) on display neither. Admittedly, this True Believer was never a big fan of that red and blue Spider-suit (it chafes me nipples), and my access to Spidey’s original comic books proved somewhat limited, but ask me to offer just one of the webhead’s defining traits and it would have to be those spider-senses.

Did the writers discard this trait intentionally?! With great reboots come great alterations? Not convinced. And certainly not chuffed that we were denied even a single tingle…

Watching Peter failing to come to terms with his new suit (voiced by Jennifer Connelly?!) is fairly amusing, and may be appreciated by this hi-tech generation (who probably ordered/paid for their popcorn via smartphone) but just shows how contentious the wilful tampering with a well-established character can be – it just doesn’t make (spider) sense. Honestly, Homecoming could have ended up with only 3 stars because of this…

Anyway, to emphasise what a shared Universe this is, having Tony Stark as the coolest – and richest – mentor an enhanced juve could have added such a groovy touch. Undeniably, the scenes that Holland and Downey Jr – ha ha, yes! – share together are among this film’s highlights.

And, oh yes, “Garry” 😉 is a blast as ever!

There is something else that would make required viewing: As prep for the role – to get a feel for American high school life – Tom (who is now 21!) posed as a student for three days – the teachers and fellow students had NO IDEA. Would love to see their faces as they watch this in the cinema and realise that that kid (soon to be a mega-star – and deservedly so!) had mingled amongst them that week…!

There were a number of LOL scenesperhaps not as many as this reviewer would have preferred; Ned, obviously, got a few chuckles (is there any other reason for his part in this?), but Aunt Hottie got the biggest roar in the auditorium during that instant-classic closing shot. In a single frame, Tom Holland’s startled expression here encapsulates the sheer entertainment value of this latest MCU triumph – it’s priceless.

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: How many more of these? 😉

Tom Holland: “That’s amazing! I thought he would take a huge amount of persuading… but Rob [Downey Jr.] said yes. He loved being here – he was like a happy little kid on set.”

Tony Stark: “I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that…” 

 

Rantin’ And Killraven: What’s HOT On The Bronze Age Comics IN Pile

Madre De Dios! More Mighty Marvel Mayhem!

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“A quest… You humans love quests and epics… romantic notions… absurdities which clutter your lives and distort your base realities!” – The High Overlord.  

NIX OLYMPIA VOLCANO, MARS – DECEMBER 2019

“He had touched the blade of grass… and it turned to red Martian dust beneath his hands. The sand shifts through his fingers now, and Killraven knows for a certainty that the desert he kneels upon is located on the planet Mars. 

“He is alone with that truth – and the truth is staggering!”

But what is truly staggering is that how a comic entitled: War Of The Worlds featuring Wellsian Martians (on giant tortoiseback, by gad!), alien vistas and high adventure on the Fourth Rock From The Sun with a Terran hero bestriding the russet landscape sportin’ thigh-high boots could turn (on?!) out to be so…

disappointing. 

Killraven: ha! Now there’s a name ta die for!

Isn’t it…?

With the right creative team, this should have developed into a hit – at least a cult classic, but no… 

As a fan of all things Martian, hopes that #36 (May 1976) would be a joy to behold were running high, until the reaction was so low. No prizes for guessing that this title was cancelled after only 30+ ishs…

Anyway! Welcome back to the weird wonderful world of Bradscribe – apologies for the delay since the last Post, but things have been hectic around here.

Once more unto the back issue boxes, dear friends!

Undoubtedly the highlight of Summer ’16 involved delving into the treasures of Bronze Age comics – that exceedingly special time from c. 1970 (curiously estimated with the debut ish of Conan The Barbarian of all things) up until the mid-’80s (and the death of Jean Grey?) when some exceptional titles were produced. At the most, taking advantage of the opportunity to catch up with some truly remarkable writers and artists; pleasantly acquire previously unknown titles; and dip nostalgically into editions that used to belong in my bedroom but for whatever outlandish reason got lost in the mists of time has transmogrified into an enjoyable and worthwhile venture. 

For me, the Bronze Age happened to be the best period for comic books. Killraven – for all its faults – demonstrates how experimental and innovative Marvel Comics could be during the 1970s.

Here then are some of the special ishs that have accumulated in my specially-reserved box this past few months:

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“The brute still lives! Such ineffable strength and longevity are almost beyond my experience and bear further study at The Project!” – The Hate-Monger.  

“The first rays of the crescent moon found the blood-red pendant grafted to John Jameson’s throat and he becomes a beast: Man-Wolf!”

Yes, yes, we covered that lupine moonbeast here: but that was too long ago, and quite frankly, he deserves more blogspace – for he is an extraordinary character simply never available on the Southern English newsstands of my youth. And it is a pleasure to finally catch up with his stunning series.

From ish #30, Man-Wolf became the sole principal star of Creatures On The Loose, until being cancelled (with ish #37 back in 1975). Ish #35: Wolfquest (May 1975) is – rip-roaring sci-fi action/adventure at its 70s best.

“David Kraft wrote it; George Perez drew it; you get to read it!” says the text on the groovy front page. There is also an ace cameo from Colonel Nick Fury (one of my all-time fave comic book characters) – “Sonuvagun if it ain’t!” – and Dum Dum Dugan! 

As penultimate pages go, this – the death of the Hate-Monger is as awesome and intense as Bronze Age comic art gets – proudly loaded up here (above).

Can’t help thinking what Perez would have done with Killraven…

And there was no way that Col. Fury’s dramatic entrance could not be included here:

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Nick Fury: “Dum Dum, ya big walrus, quit flounderin’ and folla me!”

Dum Dum Dugan: “Fergit it, Nick – I ain’t goin’ nowhere without my blamed Derby!” 

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Thanos: “Would you believe I’m doing all this out of the goodness of my heart?” 

Adam Warlock: “No, for I perceive that you have no heart!”

Like the BA gem listed above, (The Power Of) Warlock was also cancelled in its prime, but Adam, the golden-hued character himself made such an indelible impression on my infant mind.

More tragically, the original series lasted no more than just 15 ishs. Ironically, Warlock – “By Orion!” – has attained hallowed cult status and is extremely difficult to come by; when my sensors did detect odd editions, the going rate seemed ridiculously high. So finding that immortal classic: Warlock #10: How Strange My Destiny (December 1975) (for a thankfully ridiculously low price!) proved to be an exceptional find.

The first part of the acclaimed Magus Saga in which Adam makes an uneasy alliance with notorious bad seed: Thanos in his showdown with the Magus. It also features Gamora (of Guardians of the Galaxy fame!) and Pip The Troll (who – judging from the letters pages – became a sensation among Marvelites far and wide!)

Thanos – and (let’s be honest) even Pip The Troll – would have swept the floor with Killraven…

As Adam realizes with horror: “My mind is a cesspool of corruption that will someday spawn the Magus” – the Magus is Adam Warlock’s future self!

Blimey Charley, what a humdinger! 

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“25,000 armed Black Knights just to kill four unarmed intruders?! The Magus must be cracking up! Wish I had 50,000 instead of a mere 25,000…” – General Egeus. 

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Captain Marvel: “There’s Titan, Drax – it won’t be long now. But why so silent? What are you thinking about?”

Drax The Destroyer: “About how difficult it may be, once our alliance is ended… to kill you!”

Hankering for more galactic thrills, it seemed inevitable that Marvel’s spaceborn “most cosmic superhero of all” – the original Kree warrior: Mar-Vell – would get snapped up.

Eager to find out more, an excellent additional feature of Warlock #10 – an insert in which Captain Marvel explains the background (and threat!) of his arch-enemy: Thanos. Usefully, it noted #s 25-33 as the classic ishs in which the two legendary characters went head-to-head.

Initially, Marvel Spotlight #2 (featuring Captain Marvel) came into my hands fairly early on during this hunting season. However, Pat Broderick’s art style failed to alight the Bradmonitor. Not to be outdone, a chance was taken with Captain Marvel #59 (November 1978). Despite retaining Broderick’s pencils, The Trouble With Titan actually offered a more satisfying look, mainly because of the special guest star appearance by Drax The Destroyer. 

“By the Lost Horns of Hala!”

The outlandish contents involve Mar-Vell and Drax having to rescue Eros and Mentor from being “menaced by what manner of monsters, only the the Great Pama knows!” And trespassing in the domain of Lord Gaea – and having to fight their way through his hordes of Earth-Demons to escape! Written by Doug Moench – always a reliable choice (so why couldn’t he have worked on Killraven…?)

Have already picked up further ishs, but so far, #s 25-33 are proving to be elusive… 

In conclusion, me lovelies, it should be pointed out that – in a sale, just to be on the safe side! – another ish of  Killraven WAS acquired. And lo, Brad The Merciful steps in to grant the underachievers a second chance, but…

Ha! Guess what?

Despite having a fascinating splash page, #35 (March 1976) is bogged down with an even more confusing plot; moreover, he grumbles, the addition of an insipid Martian character and a deranged, scantily-clad woman spouting interminable gibberish does NOT guarantee rewarding reading! 

So, it’s official then: Killraven is PANTS….

Not gonna let this absurdity distort my base realities!

But heck! Let’s not end on a bum-note.

As Confucius used to say: “If you’ve got time for one more cake, you’ve bally well got time for one more comic!”

Hey! Looks like yours truly has got just the right thing: 

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“Alas, Iron Fist, you have my sympathy. No man should be spurned by a beautiful woman and fall in battle on the same day!” – El Aguila.

Last and – well, really! Is anyone nuts enough to say: “least” to Luke Cage’s face?! – we have Marvel’s very own dynamic duo: Power Man and Iron Fist. 

This is such a nifty break from my usual cosmic cravings, and besides, back in the day, one ish did pass through me grubby infant mitts, but Brad‘ll be damned if he can recall the exact one! Never fear, random back ishs have been selected, and are turning out to be an unexpected fab treat!

#65: “An Eagle In The Aerie” (Oct 1980) is great fun. En route to the Aerie (HQ of Heroes For Hire), Luke and Danny are followed by old adversary: El Aguila and – “Santa Maria!” – half the staff of all-female guards have revolted and all three costumed heroes have to defend the Aerie from all-out assault.

El Aguila leaps and bounds suavely through battle, firing bursts of his biologically-generated electricity through his sword while exclaiming: “Believe me, senoritas, doing this hurts my heart as much as it does your lovely bodies.”

Before Luke and Danny can get a word in, the Eagle escapes in a helicopter, but not before smooching the secretary.

Ah, they don’t make masked men of mystery like that any more…

If only Killraven oozed just half the charm of El Aguila…

Been searching for ish #58 (El Aguila’s initial appearance) but – not surprisingly – it is rare and expensive.

Finally, could not resist including this intriguing lil cameo from another Marvel stalwart:

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Iron Fist: “You’re up early, Luke. How did you sleep?” 

Power Man: “Kept dreamin’ ’bout floods an’ tidal waves.”

Iron Fist: “Sorry about the waterbed.”

Originally, this Post began back in September(!), revised in November, but it has taken the last few gruelling days just to finally launch this draft – well, anything really! – into the blogosphere.

Relieved, rather than pleased, to have accomplished some writing again.

Meanwhile, quite a considerable comics collection has amassed here over the past few months – therefore CANNOT WAIT to discuss, in a flurry of forthcoming Posts, the juiciest finds with you!

So, while the world falls apart, this:

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…is where you’ll find me: the “Leisure Hive” @ Brad Manor. 

Happy hunting, True Believers!

You would NOT BELIEVE what you can get for 60 Portions these days…   

There And Back Again: A Blogger’s Tale

My Middle Earth Valentine. There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something…

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“All those who wander are not lost” – J.R.R. Tolkien. 

On the shores of the Andaman Sea,

As far from the rainswept murky west as any young man could be,

A beautiful young damsel wandered alone across the sand; with sparkling eyes 

And long lustrous hair as black as the night skies,

 

Awestruck, the western explorer suddenly felt compelled to approach and talk to her.

She felt strangely drawn to this blue-eyed boy; he was quite unlike any other.

But her happiness stalled, for he had to return to his country far far away,

Yet he promised to return one day…

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“Home is behind, the world ahead… And there are many paths to tread. Through shadow, to the edge of night, until the stars are all alight… Mist and shadow, cloud and shade, all shall fade” – Peregrin Took. 

Knowing how lousy men’s promises can be, she became sad and dejected about what an uncertain future might bring. 

What better way to ease the heartache than a trip to the cinema and The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring?

Not good: as soon as Frodo Baggins hears Gandalf enter the Shire, he jumps up to beam goofily into the camera.

The hobbit’s eyes were too blue- too achingly reminiscent of her love-so-true.

 

Lo! Her love would not be forever spurned! True to his word, her blue-eyed boy eventually returned! 

They dined and danced together once more, and come that December,

They enjoyed Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: a movie classic to remember. 

For you see, that blue-eyed boy was ME, and that delightful beach belle is now my incomparable Mrs. B. 

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“You said you’d bind yourself to me, forsaking the immortal life of your people” – Aragorn.

Then how our hearts raced and we began to sing,

As we enjoyed the brilliant Return of the King!

No other movies we shared together struck to the core, 

And make me think of you, my darling, even more. 

 

In our house by the beach, there my pretty lady is, calm and meditating;

While your blue-eyed boy is stuck in the cold west, busy fretting and anticipating.

For you, my sweet – o slender as a willow-wand! – my aim is to fight any cause,

For my heart has been – and always will be – yours.

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“I would rather share one lifetime with you, than face all the ages of this world alone” – Arwen.  

While you water the plants and feed the cat, 

Your blue-eyed boy strives to make our kitty nice and fat!

Not long now, until we can embrace at last, 

And make these inconvenient partings a thing of the past.  

 

Still round the corner there may wait 

A new road or an unseen fate, 

But in the end – it is certain – we are destined to be

Living happily ever after, on the shores of the Andaman Sea.