Welcome To New Asgard!
“Move aside, there, Lebowski!” – Tony Stark.
Thor: “Do you know what is coursing through my veins right now?”
James Rhodes: “Cheez Whiz?”
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.
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…
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.
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…!
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.”
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 universe, Kesrith, 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”…
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.
continued from: The White Lion And The Dessert Rats
“Spoiler, ALERT!” cried Touche Turtleneck as the security breach signal rang out.
Damnation and blast!” raged Major Spoiler. “He’s here!”
The disgraced Galactic Defence Militia officer stared intensely out of his office window on the 14th floor of Black Rock Block. Here, in one of the more seedy districts of Duggan’s Run Spaceport on Beta Lugosi, torrential rain lashed down relentlessly.
Touche and his gang of hoodlums – who had been hanging around in the office most of the day, just for this moment – drew their blasters and rushed to the door.
JarJar Kushner, the Major’s twisted right-hand man, sitting languidly at the desk, his heavy, ultrawornout boots perched impudently on the blotter, snapped at them:
“Watch it, idiots! This is no ordinary cake-scoffin’ bum we’re dealing with here! He’s good… even by my standards… And for pity’s sake, watch yer backs, he could be anywhere!”
They nodded and piled out, marching off down the hallway.
The two remaining villains listened to the monotonous clatter outside until Spoiler spluttered:
“Do you think he will catch me…?”
“Oh yes, most definitely…”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I am… ‘cos I already ‘ave…”
With one deft flick, the henchman tugged off his black ponytail to reveal a beautiful – but rapidly thinning – mess of blond hair; a device behind one ear was deactivated, and a holographic mask removed to reveal far more agreeable cheekbones.
“Stone the bloody crows…! YOU!” the Major barked.
“Yeah, me…” the Commander growled. “Told ya ‘e could be… ANY… where…”
“Spoiler… sheesh, you gave away too many Militia plans to the Empire, and now ya- ‘EY! Move away from that cabinet, Major… Disaster… Ah ah! ‘Ands where I can see ’em, fella…“
Brad sprang to his feet and glared at the disgraced officer.
“Pathetic – long ago, you had potential… Now, Brad, you’re nothing. Just a dumbass with a blaster…”
“Quite a dumbass thin’ ta spout, seein’ as the blaster is trained right on ya…”
“Doesn’t matter. C’mon, Fartlighter, you’re kidding nobody – you’re too much of a wholesome hero to just blast me away… like that. No, it doesn’t matter what prison barge you send me to, I can enjoy the last laugh, watching… what unfolds… What does it feel like to be the Most Wanted Man In The Galaxy?”
“Fine an’ dandy, baby. Comes with the territory… o’ bein’ a galactic ‘ero. ‘Ad ta split Bitumen ‘cos the belly dancers couldn’t queue up in an orderly manner…”
“No. Not that. Do you realise that the Empire has slapped a bounty on your “really ridiculously good looking” head? They were offering 20,000 creds-“
“Why, that’s despicable! A measly 20,000 creds?! Me pecs alone are worth a lot more than that-“
“Shut it. I said they were. Obviously, you’ve been too busy “saving the galaxy” to check your Notifications – they’ve shanked the bounty up to 50,000 creds-“
“Goody gumdrops! Sounds abaht right…”
Brad wiped the smirk off his face; his abrupt ashen-face seemed to take the officer aback.
“How much did it cost ya?” the Commander snarled, “…To direct those Zandokan cruisers ta intercept us?!”
“Oh, that was… free of charge! It was a futile move, anyway! You’re the “good guys” – despite impossible odds, you always, insufferably, inconceivably, get through unharmed-“
“MITCH DIDN’T! He wuz wounded during the surprise attack. Me Company managed ta get ‘im to a med-unit on Epsilon, but he-”
“Hmm? I don’t recall- Which one is Mitch?” the Major frowned.
“Mitch Quintana, our newest… and youngest member-“
“Ha, yet another cocky young whelp, no doubt! Never heard of him – how young?”
“Jeez! As sensitive as an earthquake, ain’tcha, fella?! Damn you… he was only 19-“
“Ah…! Same age as you when I took you under my wing twenty years ago-“
“No… NO! Don’t go there…”
“…And made you into the leading man you are today. No worries! The boy will pull through – it’s in the script, right?! He will, most likely, turn out to be just as annoying and indestructible as you – ha!”
“Nah… we just got back in time… to watch ‘im pass away…”
“Aww! Where did he die…?”
The Commander held up his arms, and croaked dejectedly:
“Heh, are you the golden-haired angel sent to watch over me?” Major Spoiler remarked in disbelief.
“Nah… no such luck. There ain’t no songs o’ praise reserved fer… moofmilkuz like you…”
“Ha, cute… What did u do with Kushner?”
“‘Oo…? Oh, that useless scrote. Flung ‘im in the basement, din’I? Funnily enough, I don’t think ‘e belongs anywhere else. Blimey, ‘e’s a waste o’ space even dahn there…”
“Uff, hilarious… You know, in a strange way, I’m actually proud of the way you assembled that pathetic bunch of losers…”
“Me Company, ya mean…? Twen’y years ago, ya used to be a good man – someone ta look oop ta – jeez, what the blazes ‘appened?!”
“I got wise! Listen to me for once, Brad! You, your Company; the Militia; Rajendra’s Free Fighters – you’re ALL finished. The last remaining Federation Planets WILL fall to Zan Doka and the Empire will prevail – the one true light in a moribund galaxy! Let me take you to the Emperor; he will grant you anything, and you can savour the fruits of the Zandokan Empire, as well as I! At last, your miserable existence will have a sense of purpose…! Just think of the immeasurable power we shall wield… Come with me. It is the only way!”
“Uff, spare me… I’ve just about ‘ad enough of yer insuff’rable monologin’…”
Spoiler spat sarcastically: “Aww, I hate to see you suffer… so much, Commander!”
“Fine,” Brad snapped back, levelling his blaster between the startled officer’s eyes. “Then lemme put ya outta yer misery…”
“No, wait! It’s-!”
“Waitin’s over. Adios, pret’y boy…”
The shards of the shattered plexi-screen mingled with the shower as the ex-Militia officer’s body hurtled to the street below. The Zandokan sentries stood aside and simply averted their gaze away from the sickening impact. Upon reaching the foyer, Brad had just readjusted the wig and realigned the mask. He stumbled out of the elevator, desperate to erase from his fevered mind that hard day in the office…
Spoiler’s gang congregated by the revolving doors, adding the mess on the street to their Instagram accounts.
Touche came running up, all-flustered.
“Mr. Kushner! The Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger is still in the building?!”
“Aye affirmative, that ‘e is, dipwit! If ya ‘urry, ya might jus’ catch ‘im!”
The hoodlums dashed back up the stairs.
Two of the Zandokan guards marched towards Brad, but, in character, he managed to keep composed.
“Secure the area!” he barked, putting on his nastiest authoritative voice. “Make sure the Earthling does NOT leave the building!”
The guards nodded in their usual, slavishly obedient way.
And – just like that – the Earthling left the building…
Around the corner, Brad tore off his accessories for the last time and chucked them furiously into a bin.
Over the deafening din of the monsoon, he opened his earpiece and hailed the Calista.
“‘Ey, whassup, mate?!” the Chief chirped.
“Uff, stow it, ‘Arris – I’m not in the mood.”
“Did ya do it…?”
“Yeah, wha’s done is done-“
“‘Eyyy, attaboy, Commander! The ‘ero strikes again, eh?!”
“Nah, far from, Chief… this ain’t NUTHIN’ to celebrate. This… this wuz bang out’a order…”
“Ne’er mind, eh? Got gateau fer ya an’-”
“NAH… dahn’ wan’ any cake…”
“WHA-?! Is that Brad?! ‘Ere, Kushner ya div! Givvuz our Commander back NAHW, ha ha ha!”
“…This ain’t no laffin’ mat’er, Chief… I’ve gone ta this vile dive ta terminate me ol’ superior officer…! Not only that… he wuz a fellow Englishman… This ‘ole thing… ugh… Jeez, it stinks to ‘igh bleedin’ ‘Eaven… This is NOT wha’ savin’ the galaxy wuz supposed ta be abaht… Tough ‘ero?! It’s really tough tryin’ ta be one… Gawd, this is pants…”
“…’Ey, Brad, ‘e ‘ad ta go, mate… ‘E doublecrossed uz all… nah one coulda done wha’ you jus’ done… Kudos to ya, fella… Some good hasta come from this – it’s jus’ gotta… I-I know whatcha goin’ through right nahw-“
“Tha’s jus’ it, fella, ya dahn’t. ‘Ope ya nevah havta, an’ all… Gotta bit’er taste in me mahf that ain’t gonna shift, an’ a lump in me soul that ain’t NEVAH gonna lift… …
“‘E wuz… dammit – ‘e wuz the one who made me Battleforce Commander in the first place…! Rot ‘im… … …”
“Sooo… … … ya wanna come back nahw?”
“Nah… thinkin’ o’ openin’ a resort dahn ‘ere…”
“O’ course, bleedin’ ‘o course I wanna come back!! An’ I’m gonna be one ‘elluva soggy moggy if I stay aht ‘ere much longer! Beam me oop now, ya donut…”
BRAD FARTLIGHTER WILL RETURN
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…
Killraven: ha! Now there’s a name ta die for!
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:
“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:
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!
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:
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:
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:
…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…
Herbert George Wells Was Born This Day 150 Years Ago
“Wells occupies an honoured place in science fiction. Without him, indeed, I can’t see how many of it could have happened” – Kingsley Amis.
As I sit down to write here amidst the shadows of vine-leaves under the blue sky of southern England it comes to me with a certain quality of astonishment that my appreciation of these amazing adventures of Mr. Wells was, after all, the outcome of the purest accident. It might have been anyone. I fell into these things at a time when I thought myself removed from the slightest possibility of disturbing experiences.
Herbert George Wells: prolific and extraordinary science fiction imagineer, visionary, author of histories and polemics, and a noted public figure of his day, is best remembered nowadays for the series of scientific romances published at the beginning of his long and successful career.
Born at Bromley in Kent, young Bertie spent much of his early years in Sussex, on the south coast of England. Following a two-year apprenticeship in a draper’s shop, in 1884 he got accepted at the Normal School of Science, South Kensington, London, where he was taught biology and zoology by T.H. Huxley, one of the foremost scientific thinkers of the Victorian era. He worked as a biology tutor before becoming a professional writer and journalist.
“Wells’ scientific romances were works of art with unique relevance for our times” – Arthur C. Clarke.
“It is obviously the work of an inexperienced writer,” wrote Wells in the 1931 Preface to his first published novel: The Time Machine (1895). This work began as a rough, intermittent draft entitled: The Chronic Argonauts during his student days.
This and the subsequent novels: The Island Of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War Of The Worlds (1898), When The Sleeper Wakes (1899) and The First Men In The Moon (1901), stand as a formidable set, not only as pioneering examples of early SF, but as pinnacles of English literature in general.
It seems ironic that as the only one of this set to cover space travel, and be published in the 20th century, The First Men In The Moon is regarded as the most old-fashioned. The discovery of an anti-gravity metal: Cavorite to spark an elevation to our nearest neighbour sounds quintessentially Victorian.
His first four scientific romances, however, have endured largely because they each tap into fantasies and fears that will forever dominate the human psyche.
There is a very charming theory that the spindly, tripod war-machines that march across the Thames in The War Of The Worlds were inspired by the newly opened Daddy-Long-Legs railway at Brighton, East Sussex – the city in which this very Post has been researched, written and published. This latter novel still stands as the definitive alien-invasion-of-Earth thriller – oft-imitated, but never equalled; and it can certainly never be bettered…
His brand of science fiction did “not aim to project a serious possibility; they aim indeed only at the same amount of conviction as one gets in a good dream,” Wells wrote in 1934. “They have to hold the reader to the end by art and illusion and not by proof and argument.”
“There is no need to make allowances for the age of these novels; the science may be proto-steam punk, but Wells’ imagination was lively, vivid and timeless” – Lisa Tuttle.
“Her stews were marvellously honest,” Wells recalled. After years of malnourishment and student poverty, the meals prepared by his landlady in Midhurst, West Sussex, provided his first taste of good and proper grub. “And she was great at junket, custard and whortleberry and blackberry jam.”
They certainly helped enrich his creative powers. “An important liberator of thought and action,” according to Bertrand Russell, his educational works extended to The Outline Of History (1920) and The Science of Life (1930).
It is difficult to believe now, but at the time, his sci-roms were not deemed “respectable,” so Wells had to develop more literary works; later novels such as Kipps (1905) and Tono-Bungay (1909) are notable, but they do not exude the same power to enthral.
What is particularly striking about these sci-roms is the flourish of imagination – and a highly original one at that. While contemporaries such as Poe, James and Lovecraft accentuated the fear behind the unknown, Wells not only directly confronted the seemingly unknowable, but gave the impression that it could be scientifically explicable.
And, by gad, all this ingenuity stemming from the mind of a former mere draper’s assistant…
“The Prospero of all the brave new worlds of the mind, and the Shakespeare of science fiction” – Brian W. Aldiss.
Futurology was “an intellectual game” to Wells. He had an uncanny ability to envisage many aspects of the 20th century. He cycled “all over the southern counties,” along roads where hardly any automobile could be seen, yet he foresaw a time when four-wheeled travel would take such precedence that suburbs would spread and the landscape be transformed at an exponential rate to accommodate its rapid expansion.
Among other things, he anticipated the sexual revolution, and a phenomenon he called the “world brain” – what we would identify as a sort of proto-Wikipedia. As well as tanks, he described The War In The Air (1908), almost a decade before aerial dogfights would break out above the Western Front. In 1913, one year before the outbreak of the Great War, his novel: The World Set Free, imagined an “atomic bomb” that could be dropped from planes…
His 1933 future novel: The Shape Of Things To Come – made into a movie in 1936 – predicted the Second World War. And its catastrophic consequences…
In a letter to a friend, he described “Anticipations,” his 1902 collection of futurological essays, as: “designed to undermine and destroy the monarch, monogamy, faith in God and respectability – and the British Empire, all under the guise of a speculation about motor cars and electric heating.”
As 2016 also marks seven decades since his passing, it is fascinating to conclude that Mr. Wells’ scientific romances continue to be regarded as essential reading, and his prescient visions of the future remain unsurpassed.
Herbert George Wells: “A man ahead of his time”
21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946.