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

 Escape Into A Good Book (Or Four)…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Amber treading the path to destruction? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 4

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

August 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yet…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plenty of other amazing novels have accumulated around the Bradcave!

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

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

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

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

 

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In Loving Memory Of Our Princess: Carrie Fisher

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The Bradscribe Review

Your Spoilers – They’ll Have To Wait Outside! We Don’t Want Their Kind Here!

“Ryan Johnson’s movie has a sense of humour about itself and a sense of joy, but its emotional generosity, even in the midst of all the extravagant green-screen work, is its best special effect” – TIME Magazine. 

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror…

“I fear something terrible has happened.” 

You betcha!

Only the terror manifested more in the unwelcome form of spite and bitterness – there has been a Starkiller-sized amount of hate for VIII over this past weekend alone.

Truly, we waited on tenterhooks for two years for... THIS?! 

Okay, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is NOT terrible, but, alas, it is not great either.

You will be relieved to know that – unlike the barrage of bile foisted upon IMDb over the last few days – this review will refrain from descending into an expletive-laden rant. 

Unlike other episodes on the big screen, nobody cheered, nobody applauded, as the goosebump-inducing score broke out, or the legendary title scrawl began trundling upscreen… 

Hello, methinks, quite a different Star Wars movie is unfolding here… 

“And, as for Luke, Hamill comes into his own here with a very intelligent and sympathetic portrayal of his great character. Luke is now part Prospero, part Achilles… potentially the great magician or teacher on this island, ready to induct Rey into the Zen priesthood of the Force” – The Guardian. 

The biggest gasp in the auditorium did not go to the – admittedly awesome – praetorian guard fight, nor towards the surprise appearance of a dear old friend on Ahch-to (arguably Last Jedi’s most charming scene). No, as the opening space battle gets underway, the very first First Order officer we see on the bridge is played by none other than Ade Edmondson!! 

My non-British blogging friends might like to know that this cult fave star appeared in a few classic BBC TV comedy shows during the 80s. To see him here was extraordinary, but, immediately, alarm bells started ringing.

Uh-oh, they’re gonna play this for laughsunfortunately, this proved to be precisely the misguided and cringe-inducing case as a thoroughly underwhelming first act ensued. There are certain lines that should never be uttered in the Star Wars galaxy – “Let me put you on hold” (?!) should NOT be one of them, by Jove!

Amidst all the much-maligned New Hopisms of The Force Awakens, the trio of new characters: Rey, Finn and Poe were most welcome, and refreshing additions. Here, none of them, frustratingly, were allowed to develop any further.

The only thing to strike me about Holdo is that she looked all dressed and coiffured ready for Canto Bight, not saving the Resistance.

Laura Dern?! As an Admiral?! 

Come OFF IT… That absurd premise turned out to be more hilarious than anything “General” Gleeson managed to spout…

And “Captain” Phasma…? Soz, but that was the moment Brad blinked…

With the Asian cinema market larger than ever, it was just a matter of when, not if, a character like Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) would appear in this franchise. Personally, she gabbled too fast, so none of her scenes could be followed. No matter,  by the time she had become miraculously embroiled in the shoddily “written” derring-do, my attention had well and truly drifted. 

Speaking of cringe-inducing: by far the weakest – certainly most useless – sequence takes place on Canto Bight.

A cosmic Monte Carlo might be more suitable for crap like Valerian. But not Star Wars, for cake’s sake!

“We seem to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life… …”

On a positive note, however, it was fabulous to see the lovely – and still feisty – Princess (sorry) GENERAL Leia again – thankfully, watching Carrie for the very-last-time proved not to be the emotional slog one had expected. However, one particular scene glided past 😉 that elicited a few sniggers in the darkness around me.

My time and patience was also saved by Adam Driver, who managed to bring some much-needed gravitas as perpetually-petulant-teen-with-ridiculous-mask: Kylo Ren.

And Chewie!

But then again, despite his instant-classic “Roast Porg” scene, this weary Wookie had – as feared – too little to do.

More sketches with those delightful, albeit dotty, “Caretakers” on Ahch-to would have cheered me up.

Most of all, though, it was great to catch a powerful and moving performance by Mark Hamill  as Ireland’s living legend: Stragglybeard, Lord Of The Grumpy Teatsqueezers.

The Last Jedi ranks with the very best Star Wars epics by pointing ahead to a next generation of Skywalkers – and, thrillingly, to a new hope” – Rolling Stone. 

Mercifully, this instalment is not as atrocious as the universally-reviled prequel trilogy, but still lags several parsecs behind last year’s Merry Sithmas Special: Rogue One. 

Disney – obviously – were too preoccupied with designing those cute critters: porgs, crystal foxes and whatnot – and all that blasted associated merchandise! – to worry about the inconsequential stuff. Such as story structure and a cohesive narrative, etc. etc.

And what is so Supreme about this Leader?

Deeply disappointed.

After being so intrigued by such a potentially-menacing figure, and wanting to know more about his origins/history, here (in his snazzy golden dressing gown) his “character” is – shamefully, almost embarrassingly – barely onscreen long enough to frighten us, let alone fascinate us further.

Snoke is a joke! (And like this film’s other “light-hearted” moments: simply not funny. And doesn’t deserve to be.)

Similarly, our fascination surrounding Rey remains almost-painfully unresolved. Amounting to nuthin’, this simply splutters out as the most annoying non-event ever. 

And Brad grows tired of asking this so it will be the last time: how did Maz find Luke’s lightsaber?!

Oh, never mind…

Not only do these unsettling anti-climaxes remain unsettled, but the way we all got psyched up and brainstormed out for NOTHING (partly inciting the extreme antipathy that has clogged up the internet these past few days) has brought me to the brink of indifference. And a complete, crushing state of apathy towards Episode IX, or – Sith forbid! – a whole new trilogy by Rian Johnson. It’s as if he didn’t BOTHER to watch The Force Awakens. Or, at least, consult JJ Abrams’ notes…

Whilst pondering whether to discuss Spoilers in this Review, let me conclude by stating that this whole bally venture felt like it spoilt just about everything that makes the Star Wars phenomenon so stupendous and awe-inspiring.

 

The most memorable moment of this particular viewing experience happened to be the severe cramp. 

After two and a half hours, all feeling in my right leg had gone. As the last dude stuck in his (plush, velvet, Edwardian) seat after this evening’s performance of The Last Jedi, a young attendant – black eyeliner, black lipstick, rings and studs protruding from the most unlikely places – came to check on me.

After explaining my predicament, whilst rising awkwardly to my feet, she chortled:

“Yer jus’ gonna ‘avta FORCE yerself, darlin’, he he!” 

Honestly!

What IS it with Brad and cheeky Goth girls?! 

She noticed me grimace at the endless end credits.

“I know!” she complained. “Absolute blooody roobbish, innit?! I ‘avta put up wiv this three times a day fer the rest o’ the week!” 

Ah yeah, your job really sucks…

“Anyways, enough abaht me – what did YOU think of it… …?”

 

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

“That’s NOT how the Force works!”

 

 

 

Good! Let The VIII Flow Through You!: First Impressions Of The Last Jedi

Breathe. Just Breathe. Now Reach Out.

What Do You See?

Green Greedo: “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”

Han Solo: “Yes, I bet you have...”

“When I read VIII, I told Rian, ‘I fundamentally disagree with virtually everything you’ve decided about my character’,” Mark Hamill said before embarking on filming Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Although Mark swiftly changed his mind and had a blast resurrecting the character with which he will always be associated with, immediately, this statement turned out to be the most worrisome aspect of this latest instalment. If it was “shocking” for Mark to read what Rian had written, then how is it going to make us feel?!

Personal reservations about new characters and contentious plot developments for established characters – not to mention unease concerning where the last two episodes will lead – have somewhat lessened the eager anticipation which so many fans have revelled in and blogged about these past few months.

Nevertheless, it is thrilling to have NEW Star Wars magic within our grasp once more and, obviously, both of you are itching to read what this first generation fanboy has to say about it, so, away we go…

“It was incredible! The perception of these films is that they’re all planned out on a secret sheet of paper in advance, but that’s just not the case. I wasn’t given an outline of where it goes or even a list of things to hit. It really was just, ‘Okay, what’s next?'” – Rian Johnson.

“Who is Luke Skywalker now?” asked Rian Johnson as he set out to fulfil a dream and write the script for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

“I grew up with an idea of who Luke was, so the real question was why is Luke on that island? Luke’s no coward… so there must be some reason he’s there that makes sense to him. That was the first nut to crack. The seed for the whole story was inside that shell. I just had to get to it.”

Caught up with Looper (2012) earlier this year, to get acquainted with Johnson’s directorial style. Fortunately, it is an intelligent and fantastic time travel SF thriller, and assured us that Star Wars VIII looked to be in more-than-capable hands.  

From a certain point of view, The Force Awakens was great fun, even though, yes, we didn’t need the rehashed New Hope tropes of another Death Star and “vital information” placed in a droid-unit etc. etc. Unfortunately, the film’s main hindrance lay in JJ Abrams direction. Solo’s demise seemed inevitable, but the whole confrontation between Han and Ben sorely lacked the dramatic heft it deserved.

And although John William’s score was suitably moving as Rey clambered up Skellig Michael to find Luke, this pivotal sequence still looked too bland. This former Archaeology student realised the problem – he instantly recognised the locationAdd an extra planet in a sky that maybe should have been tinted a wildly different colour. Maintain the impression that we are indeed in a galaxy far, far away and not just off the coast of Ireland, please… 

 

Also, savour again this classic, endearing moment from The Empire Strikes Back:

“Where’s my boyfriend? I like that Wookie” – Maz Kanata.

Let’s face it, Chewie would have stampeded up those Skellig steps faster and more enthusiastically than Rey – not mope around outside the Falcon! Half-expected him to do so, as well! How long is it since he last saw Luke?! Besides, he had just lost his scruffy-lookin’ best buddy, but Abrams NEVER allowed him the screen-time to grieve! 

Would not be surprised to discover that our fave Wookie will be similarly underused in The Last Jedi. 

Come ON – let the Wookie scene-steal!

*

Thankfully – judging from early reviews, this movie seems to be a positive upgrade, but just poses so many questions: 

Will Rey turn to the Dark Side?

Will Kylo learn the difference between right and Ren? 

Will General Hux really get the most laughs?!

Will this episode answer ANY of these questions (and plenty more too innumerable to type)..?! 

Hello… …?

“Episode eightgosh… The first film didn’t even have a number…” – Anthony Daniels. 

 

“It’s the first time I’ve been on set not yet knowing what the character’s gonna look like. I mean, talk about secrecy!” – Andy Serkis.  

For me, it has reached the point where speculation surrounding “Supreme Leader” Snoke supersedes everything else, including that other Starkiller-sized mystery of the galaxy: Rey’s parentage. There is an overwhelming urge to suss out who this creep is – and where he came from. 

Presumably, he is very ancient, very powerful. One thing is certain: the name is bogus. Has to be. 

In The Force Awakens, listening to characters as diverse as Leia and Nux saying “Snoke” with a straight face was something else. 

However, does the REAL villain of this Episode lurk elsewhere..?

It is telling that Rian Johnson has mentioned how Snoke is the (ahem) snokescreen for where the true drama – and shocks – lie… 

The above poster is included here to emphasise the following point. Notice here how Luke is bathed in red: traditionally associated with the Empire. With evil. Also, see how large he looms, as Vader used to do on the OT posters…

Dark Side or not, what intrigues me the most about this episode is learning additional details about the background story of Luke’s quest for the first Jedi temple, and how he lost his padawan – his nephew – to Snoke, thus compelling our hero to retreat in shame(?) to a remote sector of the galaxy.

Tell me, OLD Luke, what brings you out this far… …? 

“Oh baby, would I love to play my own evil twin…We could watch this guy undermining the good guys secretly, maybe even killing a supporting character… And then, of course, the good Luke shows up” –  Mark Hamill. 

“Are they puffin-like? Are they pug-like…? One, in particular, befriends Chewie. I won’t spoil it, but if you think the ones you’ve seen in the trailer are cute, you have not seen anything yet” – Neal Scanlan. 

Difficult to see, the plot is. 

When you consider how Star Wars is now Disney property, it’s all too easy to fear the worst. Your correspondent, regrettably, can see it now: Jedi Master Luke and his plucky porg posse break into Snoke’s Throne Room. 

Epic lightsaber duel ensues.

(Hopefully it will NOT be as inspid and seven hours too frickin’ long as that soulless saber-swingfest from Episode III).

Just when the Leader looks to be too Supreme for his own good(bad?) Luke extends his robot hand and Force-propels Snoke back; at the last minute, the villain trips over a wall of porgs, and – like Maul and Sidious – hurtles to his doom down one of those expensive, albeit superfluous, CG-chasms.

Later, as the hangar explodes and disintegrates all around them, and they must go their separate ways, Porg Chief Berni Two-Socks (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, of course) looks up with those ubercute oversized black eyes, tears a-swellin’, and chirps:

“Gee, Mr. Luke, not bad fer a Longshanks! The boys are gonna miss ya, an’… aww shucks, Ah’m-a gonna miss ya too…”

Trust me, there will NOT be a dry eye in the (full) house…

Uff, typical Disney fluff! 

On second thoughts, methinks mayhap this grizzled ol’ nerfherder should DELAY his trip to the local popcorn parlour this week. And wait to be seriously disappointed in the comfort of his own Sanctum Sanctorum when XIII starts “streamin’ on Nitflex” (or whatever the younglings call that dashfangled gogglebox-contraption)…

“The Last Jedi felt more visceral. The first film felt like a dream” – Daisy Ridley. 

Before hitting Publish, it would be fitting to finish with a nice little anecdote from – oh yes – a long time ago when ONLY TWO Star Wars movies existed, but for me and my gang of mates, we were just DAYS away from the release of Return Of The Jedi. 

At the time, a British magazine called Voyager – concentrating on movies, model kits and space/astronomy news(!) – published an invaluable article discussing The Genesis Of “The Star Wars.” Reckoned it would be a great service to proclaim that instead of three movies we could – one day – enjoy all NINE episodes of The Journal Of The Whills.

They all looked at me as if Admiral Motti had just dissed The Force. 

Bumfluff growled and hissed bitterly: “Jeez, Brad, you’re so full o’ Bantha doo-doo it’s unreal!”

True story…

It would also be lovely to round off this post by stating that as we all prepare to watch The Last Jedi, it’s nice to know that Brad will be having the last laugh.

But will it – can it – really make for a joyous cinema experience? Yet again, yours truly just can’t bring himself to describe how difficult ’twill be to sit through the late, great Carrie Fisher’s last-ever screen performance.

Definitely, there are grim tidings ahead. Having lost Han Solo in VII, we must prepare for Leia’s fate in this episode, but also – although one does not like to dwell on such disconcerting matters too much – Luke will probably not see the end of IX…

 

WAIT a moisture-farmin’ minute here… 

What if Luke gets killed off in VIII?!?! 

What ELSE can account for Mark’s misgivings and the “considerable risks” rumoured to have been taken by Rian with this far, far away material?

Who else has a bad feeling about this?

We must be cautious…

Breathe. Just Breathe… …

 

“What a piece of junk!” – Luke Skywalker. 

How fitting that Episode VIII should be released in the year of Star Wars’ 40th Anniversary. 

Is it really FORTY YEARS since the world we thought we knew changed forever…?

“…A script arrived on my dressing table. When I opened it and found that it was science fiction I thought: oh crumbs, this is simply not for me…

“The dialogue was pretty ropey, but I had to go on turning the page… That is an essential in any script…” – Alec Guinness.

 

Qwerty Dancing: The Curse Of NaNoWriMo

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

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

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

What, again?! 

Well, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

By Jove, what a discombobulation!

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

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

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

Aha!

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

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

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

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

TWO choices lay before me.

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

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

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

So far, so groovy.

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

And the last week of November?

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

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

But nevertheless, to experiment with language. 

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

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

Traverse the plot in totally, radically, unforeseen directions. 

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

To plunge headlong into all the above opportunities? 

How could one NOT resist? 

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

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

Anyway, same time, next year, then?!

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

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

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

Hark!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now is the time to rebound!

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

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

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

WRITE!

 

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

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

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

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

 

The Journey Of Bradskald: My Reimmersion In Norse Mythology

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

And A Source Of Limitless Possibilities For My Fiction…

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

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

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

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

Aye!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gylfaginning 21.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Með krafti Bradskald! Borðuðu köku og vertu glaður!

By The Power Of Bradskald!  🙂

 

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

A Dance With The Goddess Of The Underworld 

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

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

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

Our eyes met across a crowded comic book…

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

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

“You look like a smart boy…” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hvað varstu guðin aftur?” 

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

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

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

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

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

The case continues… 

 

More Thorsomeness Next Thorsday!

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

 

“Asgardians… farewell.

When next I come,

not all thy tears… 

not all thy pleas… 

shall stay me…

Till then, rejoice!

Ye have each other

while Hela endures… alone…”