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Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Return of the Paladin

I can't believe it's been over ten years since my collection THE PALADIN MANDATES was published by The Alchemy Press: six Pulp-inspired tales set in mid-1930s America in which Damian Paladin and his adventuress sidekick Leigh Oswin take on vengeful spirits, banshees, ghosts and undead pharaohs. During the intervening years, I've not written any Paladin stories - other than continue to wrestle with a novella that includes Nazis, the Grail and Knights Templar, and kid myself I'm going to write a novel - but recently, the muse must have come back. I banged out one all about zombies and a mad scientist (as you do) and another concerning an ancient church in The Bowery which grants hints of the future.

A third was born when I read a review of the collection in Stephen Theaker's THEAKER'S QUARTERLY DIGEST in which he complained that - writing as a Biggles fan - he didn't think there was enough flying (one of the continuing themes of the Paladin stories is our hero tazzing about the skies in a vintage biplane on the thinnest of excuses). This prompted two thoughts: one - Stephen is very brave to admit his liking for Biggles (these days you can admit to almost anything, even necrophilia ... but Biggles...!); two - I was going to write that story, so help me!

And so it came to be - Paladin and Leigh, flying through the Rhode Island skies in two 30s pretty biplanes (as seen here) taking on... Well, I won't spoil it - but the fact that the action takes place not so far from Providence might be a clue. Better yet, I submitted it to Stephen - in his role as editor of the British Fantasy Society's journal, DARK HORIZONS - and he accepted it. More than a decade since his last appearance, Damian Paladin has returned - and he doesn't look a day older.

Next? Well I fancy something to do with dinosaurs...

Monday, 23 March 2009

Go to Starblazers


The Cubicle 7 RPG Starblazer Adventures - based around the old DC Thomson digest-sized comic Starblazer is due to start publishing supplements to the core - most SF - game. As someone who scripted over 20 issues of the much-missed comic, I agreed to give a hand, where I could.

Earlier this month, I got the call.

Flatteringly, I was told they intended to base much of the first Fantasy supplement on 5 of the issues that I'd written: a sword & sorcery soap opera featuring three generations of the d'Annemarc dynasty of Anglerre. Recurring characters, recurring themes - over the top in the extreme. First I provided a breakdown of characters, and then the storyline for the whole five issues (today we'd call it the story-arc). Of course, there wasn't an overall, continuous story for those issues - originally they weren't even written in the fictional chronological order; but I'd always been careful not to introduce too many contradictions, so it wasn't hard linking together stories that already kind of followed on anyway.

The fun part was filling in what had happened between issues (i.e. making it up!) to give a sense of changing geo-politics, and the march of time. And I admit I also tweaked some of the storylines to make them a better fit. What I hadn't anticipated was how long it would take me. I mean - each issue was only 60-odd pages long, two black & white panels per page ... just how much plot could there be...?

Okay - I probably provided more information than they needed, but to be honest, I was beginning to enjoy myself once I'd gotten back into the world the comics inhabited. The first couple of days I thought: "What am I doing with my life?" - but the ancient, siren call of magic swords, magic realms, gods and hideous demons eventually sucked me in. 15,000 words later, I was done.

And not a dragon, pixie or Hobbit to be seen.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Hello world

Everyone's doing it, so I thought: "Why not?" No doubt the weeks that follow will answer that question only too clearly...