Friday, 22 May 2015

SFFS 4th Birthday!

This is my snippet this week for SFFS. SFFS is 4 years old! Happy Birthday!

For the last four years SFFS has been a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and gives the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. I've been a part of SFFS for well over two years, but there are other authors who have been here from the beginning.

Please explore the other blogs that are part of SFFS - you can find the information here. Congratulations to everyone who has been a part of this group!

This week, I'm going back to Sorrel in Scarlet, the book I first posted from on SFFS. As is often the way, Sorrel, my pilot heroine, is in trouble again. She is in the clutches of a group of graalur - unpleasant, orc-like thugs...

The female graalur sergeant's eyes were on me, studying me coldly. "What use can you be to me?" Her voice was hard and final – I could tell without a doubt that my answer to the query would determine my fate. If I was not of any significant use to her, she would enjoy watching her minions torturing me, assuming she didn't decide to join in. What could I do to be useful?
Squum that! The critical issue was whether this lafquass could be useful to me. She was less than two paces from me, and her only weapon looked to be a long knife in an open sheath at her belt. I let my eyes flicker past the woman's right shoulder - just a fractional move, nothing so obvious as telling her to look behind her. Enough for an experienced soldier to think there was something there. She turned instinctively – I grabbed for the blade at her belt, jerking the slightly curved bronze out of the sheath and against her neck in a swift, smooth movement. At the same moment I slid my other arm around part of the vast expanse of her waist, dragging her to me – or more accurately me to her, so that her fat, flabby chest was pressed against mine. Not a pleasant experience – she really wasn't my type.
"Not a move!" I snarled at her minion, who had responded two heartbeats too slowly to my lunge. "Or your sergeant gets demoted to corpse!"

As always, comments welcomed!
(I can't claim credit for the cake, by the way - an image I borrowed from elsewhere on the internet, and adapted appropriately!)

Monday, 18 May 2015

Strong women

I understand the Mens Rights Association is up in arms about the presence of a strong female character in the latest Mad Max film. I thought I'd annoy them more by pointing out that strong female characters aren't new to the 21st century, just to show Charlize Therion's Furiosa is not a new phenomenon.

There are some very well-known strong characters, like Buffy, Xena, Ripley and Emma Peel – I've tried to pick out a few others who deserve more visibility than they currently get.

I'll start with Worrals – a female pilot I've mentioned previously in this blog. For the '40s, almost a revolutionary figure.

Then we have Cathy Gale. An Avenger before Marvel purloined the name, Honor Blackman's character was the first strong female character I know of on TV, and laid the groundwork for her successor, Emma Peel.

Still in British '60s TV, we have Sharon Macready of The Champions, another strong female character, with superpowers no less, well before Wonder Woman turned up on the small screen. Sharon wasn't always particularly well-served by the scripts, but with a good scriptwriter she was a force to be reckoned with.


I have a fondness for pilots, so I can't resist putting Destiny Angel into this list.


Doctor Who has a number of strong female characters (but also a fair number of not-so strong ones). I'm choosing Leela for this list simply because Louise Jameson's intelligent savage is the most obviously kick-ass of the Doctor's companions (again, when she has a good scriptwriter – some didn't know how to write for her, but others gave her exceptionally good scenes).


I'm also going to mention Sarah Kingdom, who appeared more than ten years before Leela, and is contemporary with Emma Peel – another strong female character who first turns up in Doctor Who setting out to kill the Doctor! Again, for her time she was a surprisingly strong and capable female figure. Unfortunately, most of her episodes are lost.


Next in my collection is Telzey Amberdon. An extraordinarily powerful psychic, physically fit, genius level intelligence – a very capable hero of her own novels, without a male lead in sight. James Schmitz wrote a number of strong female characters – Trigger McGee is another good example – but Telzey is the best, in my opinion.


I'm going to finish, unashamedly, with Sorrel Cheldaniss, the pilot heroine of my own novels. Sorrel is another female lead who can act for herself, who does not need a male lead to rescue her, and who is capable and competent without being a superhero. Yes, I know she's more recent, but I'm indulging myself!

 I've had to miss out a good many more recent characters - if you think there is anyone else from before the '80s I should have thought of, please add her in the comments!

Friday, 24 April 2015

SFFSat 25/4/2015 Sorrel in Scarlet

This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here.

My snippet this week is again from Sorrel in Scarlet.

 My pilot heroine is on the run, pursued by dangerous enemies. With her is Wrack, the dragonlord, whom she does not really trust. 

They have just realised they have apparently nowhere left to run...

I came to a juddering halt only a few inches from the edge. Below - some way below - I could see water glittering. The gorge we were facing was about forty feet wide – no way to cross it. A stream fell in a graceful arc from the far bank into the water below. I looked across at Wrack in dismayed horror, and began to expostulate. All right, swear – same difference. Wrack was holding his injured arm, and gestured downwards at the churning water below.
"How brave are you, Sorrel?" he growled.
"What?" I answered intelligently.
"We jump."
Sometimes I really think I'd have been better off finding a nice, safe career - something like juggling scorpions or gargling with broken glass. I could hear the sound of boots, yells of anger, and muffled movement behind us. No time to have doubts. I grabbed his hand - no way was I doing this on my own - and nodded.
We jumped.

As always, comments welcomed!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Thunderbirds are Go! The new series

I've mentioned before now on this blog that Thunderbirds was very important to me as a child. The news that a new, CGI Thunderbirds was in production filled me with a mixture of excitement and dread.

I've now seen the first few episodes of the new Thunderbirds are Go – and so far I like what I see.

The craft have been redesigned – but they are still the iconic craft of the original, effectively not significantly different in basic image.

Thunderbird 2 is more angular, and more solid-looking. The new design has grown on me - I now like it.

TB3's robot arms gave me pause for a moment, but I can cope with them - they're a little too "Japanese Mecha" for my tastes, but they aren't totally illogical.

Thunderbird 4 is a little sleeker, and lacks the lighting panel over the nose, but is fundamentally the same craft.

The exception is TB5, which has become a more plausible space station, but still has enough elements to make it clear that it shares DNA with the original. Since Gerry Anderson was never happy with the original, I think the change can be approved.


Tintin has become Kayo, and is now in charge of security. The name change was necessary because of potential confusion with a certain Belgian boy detective. Her change of role was entirely appropriate – the series needed more dynamic female roles.. The creators could have made one of the brothers female, but I suspect that would have upset the diehard fans of the original far more. Me included, frankly – it would have been difficult to get that right. Making Tintin more of a member of the team, and giving her a craft of her own, was entirely right. And calling her craft TB Shadow is right, too – TB6 would have carried all the wrong connotations (I was never a great fan of the film Thunderbird 6).

Jeff Tracy is missing – but it means that John, always the poor relation, suddenly becomes far more significant, taking on his father's role. And it also gives a background story arc. I think this was a good decision.

Lady Penelope... hmmm. I'm not so sure about her appearance, at present – she hasn't, to my eyes, got the necessary style that the original Penelope had. I'll wait and see what we see of her before I pass further judgment. On the other hand, she sounds right and acts appropriately. And I am really pleased to see Parker back, and voiced by David Graham.

Brains is now Indian. This is the 21st century – it actually doesn't make sense that all the cast would be white. Brains was a logical character to use to diversify the racial mix.

The brothers themselves – the CGI versions mostly look uncannily like the originals. Scott, particularly, looks absolutely right, as does John. Virgil is a little different from the original, but not unreasonably so, and Gordon and Alan are okay. I've read criticism that the CGI characters look like puppets. I think that was the right decision – they've used something akin to the puppet proportions and skin to remind us of the original, while getting the benefits of CGI (the characters can walk, jump, and climb!). But they've kept something of the look of the original as well. I think it's a very good compromise.

So far, the plots have been right, too. Action and adventure, no talking down or “kiddifying” it. They haven't made the cast adolescents or tried to make it somehow “kid-friendly”. Speaking as someone who as a kid thoroughly enjoyed a series about adults, I am very relieved they didn't change this. And there are people in real peril being rescued in the nick of time from serious dangers.

Some other things have changed. None of the characters smoke any more. Absolutely right.  And also the world is no longer atomic powered (“Crosscut” expressly says the world has turned its back on nuclear fission power) – yes, this is the 21st century, so a more ecologically friendly series makes sense. I'll be interested to see if we ever see the return of ecology-munching machines like the Crablogger. Somehow I doubt it.


And finally, we have the introduction. I don't mind admitting that I choked up on hearing Jeff Tracy's countdown. It's a reminder of the original series that works brilliantly. The title sequence is effectively new, but it harks back perfectly to the original, complete with the snapshot of what is to come in this episode. I miss the “fast” music that played under that snapshot in the original, but the title sequence itself tells us that this is still Thunderbirds.

My only significant complaint (are you listening, idiot management at ITV?) is putting it on at 8am on Saturday mornings. They ought to have kept the 5pm slot where the pilot was broadcast. Instead, they're broadcasting a repeat of a hidden camera show in that slot. Madness. The management of ITV are stupid.

Because the show they've got is one that ought to be a major success with families, not just with kids.

Friday, 17 April 2015

SFFSat 18/4/2015 Sorrel in Scarlet

 This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here.

My snippet this week is again from Sorrel in Scarlet
My heroine is in a camp run by the brutish graalur...

There was a burly warrior at the entrance to the store, and beside him a human slave. As I peered round the corner at the scene the graalur slammed a fist into the lad’s stomach. The slave crumpled to the ground, and the graalur drew back a booted foot and kicked him in the face. The graalur swung his foot again, but I was already moving. One graalur, one of me, and an attractive man in distress. I’ve read too many of the pulp magazines Verin enjoyed. Usually in those it was a pretty woman needing rescuing from the brute, but the effect was the same – a hero doesn’t pause when an attractive member of the opposite sex is in peril. My fist connected squarely with the thug's chin.
Which was where it all went wrong. In the stories, I would have laid the graalur out, seized the gorgeous prize, and we would have fled out into the wilderness, to find somewhere safe, exchange life stories, and probably engage in a steamy, passionate liaison to our joint satisfaction and no long-term commitment.
But the graalur didn’t go down - instead, he grunted in rage and swung back at me. I dodged, fortunately – close to, I could see that he was built like a steam wrecking-machine and had a punch to match – but he did not abandon the effort. He also bellowed a challenge, which saw fit to summon every graalur within a mile. Worst of all, my handsome hunk scrambled away and fled without a backward glance. So much for gratitude.

 As always, comments welcomed!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Sorrel's Triplane!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was building a 1/48th scale model triplane. The bird is finished, and I proudly present some photographs of my handiwork.

 There are a number of faults with it, some of which I am still planning to rectify (in particular the propellor needs another coat of paint, which I hadn't noticed when I took the photographs). But in the main I'm pleased with the way it looks - the rigging looks the right sort of thickness and looks taut, and the paint job isn't bad.

No, it's not perfect - but it should be effective as something to show when I'm at book signings. And it's large enough and solid enough to survive such events.

Now all I need is a similar sized model of Wrack - which my wonderful wife is painting for me at the moment. Expect to see pictures soon!

Friday, 10 April 2015

SFFSat 11/4/2015 Sorrel in Scarlet

 This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. I couldn't post last week - real life intervened - but this week I'm back. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here.

Once again, I'm posting an extract from Sorrel in Scarlet.

 My pilot heroine is travelling through the strange, scarlet landscape of the Chasm, and is thinking about the creatures she has been warned about.

I was forming the opinion that the Chasm was a distinctly unfriendly place. Grathks, graalur, wild olgreks and snarqs I knew. Ruzdrools, inskiirs and adjaliks meant nothing. Vrusks I knew and didn't fear, assuming they weren't twice the size and viciousness of the ones I knew. The good news was that he hadn’t mentioned dragons… no, I wasn't even going to think about that.

Even the smaller denizens of this strange countryside were peculiar. As I'd trekked up a red grassy hill I'd spotted some dark blue lumps grazing near holes in the ground. I'd tagged them as rabbits. When I got closer to one, I realised it had a shell like a tortoise. It then astonished me by bolting for the nearest rabbit-hole at a speed that made rabbits look geriatric. The shell was segmented, so it moved across its back. It made me wonder what the local carnivores were like.

 As always, comments welcomed!