“No Charge For Awesomeness!”: My Top 20 Icons of Science Fiction

Posted: 23 May 2014.

One of those classic sci-fi magazine covers
One of those classic sci-fi magazine covers

“To me, deep in my soul, science fiction began in April 1926 and its father was Hugo Gernsback” – Isaac Asimov.

For this monumental, extended 20th Post, something encapsulating that magic no. 20 was in order, but what? After much head-scratching (and tail-shaking) the task was set: select twenty icons of sci-fi which encouraged my earliest forays into this great and giddy genre and inspired my own works of fiction & art.  

Neither assembled in order of merit, nor alphabetically, this list is merely a random compilation incorporating artists, writers, film-makers and even those fictional characters who touched and inspired me. So, where shall we begin? At the very beginning of course. 

The Time Machine (1895) and The Invisible Man (1897) by Herbert George Wells were fascinating, but it was War of the Worlds (1898) which appealed the most. The sound effects in the movie (1953) were exceptionally eerie; a 70s comic strip adaptation caught my imagination most vividly.  

Most of you may be unaware of the name: Hugo Gernsback (1884-1967) but, in 1926, as the pioneering publisher of “Amazing Stories” he coined the term: “science fiction.” His magazine inspired the introduction of “Astounding Science Fiction” and numerous others, all graced with cover art this bunny could not get enough of.

A decade later saw the emergence of Flash Gordon; from Alex Raymond’s wonderful original comic strips to the Universal serial (1936) and the lavish colour extravaganza (1980), it never failed to excite.

 

Exeter (seated): one of best characters from the 1950s
THIS ISLAND EARTH: Exeter (seated): one of the best characters from the 1950s

“To most fans of fantasy cinema, the 1950s represent a Golden Age when the boundaries of film-makers’ imaginations were stretched to the limit – even if their budgets were not” – Phil Edwards.

The classics of the 1950s had a profound effect, none more so than The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951). most striking for its haunting Bernard Herrmann score and the giant robot: Gort, yet it was his master: Klaatu sensitively portrayed by Michael Rennie as a benign emissary rather than the overdone malign bug-eyed Martian which seared into my memory.

Two years later came the sinister Xenomorphs of It Came from Outer Space (1953); and then the thrills of The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), both – to my deep joy – brought to us by the fantastic talent of Jack Arnold.

The Metaluna sequence of This Island Earth (1955) was done by Arnold. Here the plight of gentle, but doomed, scientist: Exeter (Jeff Morrow) was particularly moving.

The Martian Chronicles (1950): How did Bradbury conjure something so bizarre, & yet so compelling?
The Martian Chronicles (1950): How did Bradbury conjure something so bizarre, & yet so compelling?

“I’m not afraid of machines… I don’t think the robots are taking over. I think the men who play with the toys have taken over. And if we don’t take the toys out of their hands, we’re fools” – Ray Bradbury.  

Special mention has to go here to Arthur C Clarke. Not only did this enthralled lil bunny marvel at 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), he enjoyed getting creeped out by the World of Strange Powers TV series.   

Also on television, no repeats of The Twilight Zone were missed; its creator: Rod Serling not only “showed the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition,” but consistently produced mighty fine inspirational scripts.

One of the mainstream sci-fi writers to have scripts adapted for the show was Ray Bradbury. His Martian Chronicles, a collection of inter-connected short stories (1950) holds as much a profound effect on me now as it did thirty years ago.

Attending an SF club many moons ago, Bradbury met an individual who would become one of his best buddies… and one of my fave film-makers: Ray Harryhausen. Technically a fantasy creator, this undisputed master of stop-motion animation did make 20 Million Miles To Earth (1955) and First Men In The Moon (1964), thus undoubtedly confirming his inclusion in this very personal Hall of Fame.

Suave, sophisticated Scaroth (from The City of Death 1979)
Suave, sophisticated Scaroth (from The City of Death 1979)

“I am Scaroth! Through me my people will live again!” – Scaroth of Jagaroth.

Surely, Peter Cushing is more synonymous with horror? At first glance, yes, but he did play the Timelord in two Dr. Who movies during the 1960s, and portrayed the thoroughly nasty Grand Moff Tarkin in the original Star Wars.

In addition, he played a daffy professor in At The Earth’s Core (1976) where he was ably assisted by Doug McClure. In my infant years, anything with McClure – whether it was The Land That Time Forgot (1974) or Warlords of Atlantis (1979) – proved irresistible (although the appeal failed to last beyond my teenage years).  

Speaking of the BBC’s longest-running sci-fi series, 1979 was a very good year to become a devotee. “City of Death” is widely regarded as one of the best stories, with Scaroth of Jagaroth, last of a warrior-race. The destruction of his spacecraft inadvertantly triggered the creation of the human race – genius.

Try to imagine my sheer delight upon discovering the “Fantastic First Issue” of Dr Who Weekly in October 1979. The very first story: “Dr Who & The Iron Legion” featured: “…an alternative Earth, where Rome never fell! But, instead, developed a sophisticated technology and… conquered the entire galaxy!” The characters were amazing, but my obsession laywith Magog, of the Malevilus – most terrible of alien races, so much so that Bradscribe redesigned him and wrote a whole new background story, plus sequels…

yoda

“… To me directing the character of Yoda was the most important part of… the whole picture. I had total control – I could make his cheek twitch, his ears droop and so on” – Irvin Kershner.

My very first trip to the cimema came in 1979. with the hugely enjoyable (then) and memorable (even now): The Black Hole. The effects were grand; the music stupendous; and Maximillian was pure evil; but it was the droid: VINcent (voiced by Roddy McDowell) who delivered the most lasting impression.

A year later came the Biggest Phenomenon: The Empire Strikes Back. Initially an endearing comical Muppet, Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) quickly established himself as a powerful and sagacious figure, integral to the plot.

One of the greatest aspects of Star Wars – certainly the one that successfully pitched the idea to 20th Century Fox – was the marvellous production art of Ralph McQuarrie.

Other artists most prolific in the 1970s: Eddie Jones & Peter Andrew Jones have both held prominent places in my life, whether it be in the form of books, posters or postcards.

Finally, one of my favourite comicbook characters was Rom the Spaceknight, an ordinary citizen of Galador, who volunteered to serve in the war against the evil Dire Wraiths. As yet, there are no plans to grant this Marvel stalwart his own movie; this still gives me time to work on a script myself and give him the blockbuster he deserves.

 

 Hope you enjoyed this personal nostalgic journey; here’s to the next twenty Blogs… and beyond!

Cheers!

 

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The Sensational Inspirational Blog

Posted: 15 March 2014

Concentrate the mind on the task at hand
Concentrate the mind on the task at hand

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve, regardless of  how many times you may have failed in the past” – Napoleon Hill.

By far, the best machine we possess is our own mind. Fortunately, Bradscribe was blessed with awesome English skills. Ever since one can remember, writing – whether it be fiction or non-fiction – has always played a prominent role in my life.

However, in the last 48 hours, a fearsome fever: skin burning up; nerve endings exceptionally sensitive; splitting headache; dizzy spells; you-name-it-this-bunny’s-had-it, has struck me down. Big. Time.

In short, my body feels like it’s been hit by a car.

Obviously, this has put a serious dent in my writing/blogging schedule. It’s amazing to think that prior to this unsavoury onset, my mind was positively brimming with good ideas; but when this crept up on me unbeknownst, all that promising stuff evaporated. Too often in my tender youth, illnesses would beset my system; thus, too often my active imagination wondered how these despicable intrusions could be willed out of my system…

Consider, dear friends, the marvel and sheer complexity of the human brain; it puts into perspective how poor this annoying so-called cutting-edge technology we are compelled to buy with money we don’t have, really is…

Don't give up! Savour the good things in life
Don’t give up! Savour the good things in life

“Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Don’t sell out” – Christopher Reeve.

How on Earth does the essence of an idea ever mterialise in the first place?

Apparently what drives the creative processes remains inexplicable, but what we do know: when ideas are generated (especially by this undervalued noddle), rather than emanating from either the left or right sides of the brain, actually both hemispheres work in unison to create that special spark. But what produces the motivation? That need to carry on when all hope is lost?

Yes folks, Kismet has blown sand in Bradscribe’s face more times than he cares to remember.

Once upon a time, a veritable stream of rejections swirled my way. Then it was reduced to a mere trickle. Now, not only have they dried up, but due to those copious never-ending technical difficulties, my Inbox has become inaccessible.

How – in the face of such sheer adversity – does this lil bunny manage to keep going?

"By living life for itself, don't you see?Deriving pleasure from the gift of pure being"
“By living life for itself, don’t you see?Deriving pleasure from the gift of pure being”

“If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him” – Buddha.

No matter what technical, physical or financial problems lay siege to my battered mind – living in a country where Buddhism takes precedence – the gift of Meditation proved to be such a benefit. It came in particularly handy during my Southeast Asian office job, where the unfriendly inhouse atmosphere and stress combined with the noise and chaos of city life.

Even now, when my carefully constructed plans have not gone as well as hoped, the time and opportunity to sit back and meditate does come in pretty handy. Considering all that has been lost over the last few years – money, work, data disks, contacts, friends, trust, motivation – somehow this humble blogging bunny, (still a small name in a big Blogosphere) has come through so much (a little ruffled), yet persevered and retained his hop, skip and jump.

Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, but make the most of what we have today, that’s for sure. Perhaps this is the main reason why most of my creative processes are reserved for reconstructing history. This discipline offers reassuring escapism as well as the comfort of nostalgia.

In an otherwise disappointing television adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles (1980), a speech of such insightful and inspirational depth concerning the Secret of Life was given by a Martian – a figment of the past; his words have resonated with me since that first viewing many moons ago. They have invigorated my own writing sometimes, and perhaps lie at the core of why Bradscribe just refuses to give up.  

It is hoped this quote will have a profound effect on you, dear reader. Goodnight. 

“Secret! There is no secret. Anyone with eyes can see the way to live.

“By watching life, observing nature, cooperating with it. Making common cause with the process of existence…

“…Life is it’s own answer, accept it and enjoy it day by day. Live as well as possible, expect no more. Destroy nothing, humble nothing, look for fault in nothing, leave unsullied and untouched all that is beautiful. Hold that which lives in all reverence, for life is given by the sovereign of our universe, given to be savoured, to be luxuriated in, to be… respected.

“But that’s no secret, you’re intelligent! You know as well as I what has to be done.”

 

A Matter of Time

Posted: 6 February 2014

Time to travel. Travel in time.
Time to travel.
Travel in time.

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst” – William Penn.  

It had to happen sooner or later. Time travel has languished within my imagination ever since my grubby infant mits got hold of science fiction books and comics.

Since the novella: The Time Machine by H G Wells was published in 1895, popularizing the concept of travel in time, a whole cascade of time-twisting tales has hit the shelves. To go back and relive a special time in one’s past, explore an ancient period in world history, or even delve into how things might look in the future present limitless opportunities for fiction.  Moreover, its popularity stems from the fact that a considerable number of people would jump (time leap?) at the chance of immersing themselves in a simpler, less stressful time.    

While Space is three-dimensional, consisting of length, width and height, Time offers the fourth dimension, a variable element which Einstein showed to be relative: moving forward; for the moment (whenever that is!) the ability to go back exists only in the realms of science fiction.

Wrestling frustratedly with such story-lines, fuelled by copious mugs of coffee, Bradscribe has ruminated over the notion that maybe – in time – there will be a device which allows the writer to slow the passing of time, spurring him on to increase the level of his productivity and conquer his deadlines…

“About time something was done about this.”

Time Vortex: go back go forward or just go bananas
Time Vortex:
go back
go forward or just
go bananas

“Leonardo… You remember Mona Lisa? That dreadful woman with no eyebrows who wouldn’t sit still, eh? Your  idea for the helicopter took a bit longer to catch on, but as I say, these things take time” – The Doctor.

For a recent fiction project, the quandary of whether to opt for a sci-fi or historical theme was swiftly settled… by combining the two together. Bradscribe concocted an awesome scenario: what if a select band of scientists had formulated “the system,” whereby (for a hefty price of course) people could “escape” into a time period of their choice. Therein lay the dilemma: the popularity of the virtual reality thus created (based on the most accurate historical knowledge) meant that real society was being severely depleted… For the time being, no more plot details will be dispensed here.

Mind you, this is just my twist on time travel, not a blatant distortion! And the working title? “Euhypnion”…

“…What?” you all cry out, in unison.

In the 2nd century CE, Artemidorus – a diviner from Asia Minor – produced a five-volume treatise: “Oneirocritica” (The Interpretation of Dreams) in which Euhypnion has been described as “a routine dream whereby the mind sorted, processed and computerised the previous day’s events.”   

This aptly represents the weird yet wonderful delights this writer aims to create. Amazing how the study of one discipline: history, can enrich the development of another: writing fiction. So many plot-strands to contemplate, and… (ahem) so little time with which to develop them.

Time is most definitely not on my hands.

By the way, what is the time?

Tom Baker  The 4th Doctor  1974-1981
Tom Baker
The 4th Doctor
1974-1981

“I never read the scripts at all carefully, and never wanted to know what was going on, because I felt that being a benevolent alien that’s the way it should be” – Tom Baker.

It seems inevitable that a Blog on this subject should mention a few words about a certain very British television institution. After all, when viewing my first Dr Who story: “Destiny of the Daleks” with Tom Baker (the best Doctor of course) in 1979, the dip into the bizarre arena of transdimensional engineering became an enjoyable and inspirational Saturday evening ritual for me – and countless other younglings. Something about that absurdly long scarf, or his amusing knack of offering jelly babies to the surliest of adversaries… 

Although the last three regenerations of everyone’s favourite Gallifreyan did not appeal to Bradscribe, it undeniably – and quite rightly – has become a behemoth of modern broadcasting, celebrating its 50th Anniversary only last November.  

You could say that time is running out here, but then again, there always seems to be plenty of it. It’s what you do with it that counts. Will time ever wait for us? How successful will this Blog be?

Only time will tell…