Monday, 15 January 2018

Voyage to the Bottom of the Barrel

I’ve always been a ridiculously big fan of the 1960s Irwin Allen TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (this will come as no surprise to those who know me). Submarines, sea monsters, aliens – what’s not to like? And for years I’ve wanted to write a kind of tribute story, without actually delving into fan fiction. 

My first attempt, “Welcome to the Hotel Marianas”, appeared in The Bitter End: Tales of Nautical Terror (Pill Hill Press, 2009), and later republished in my first collection, Give Me These Moments Back (The Alchemy Press, 2015). I say attempt, since at some point it drifted away from a VttBotS tribute into slightly more Lovecraftian territory. Still, the clues were all there: character names, sub with a glass nose. More recently I submitted another underwater tale for The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors, and again, although that was set in an underwater habitation there was nothing about it to suggest an old, cheesy TV series.

Then, while watching Blue Planet II on BBC TV recently, I was struck by the (speeded up) image of a sea cucumber stuffing its maw with prey the tentacles on the tips of its arms had snared. I had to use that in a story somehow, and within a day I knew it was going to be a Damian Paladin tale; and there was going to be a submarine in it. An experimental one: bigger and able to dive deeper than any other sub that existed in the 1930s.

A while back I was playing around with the idea of writing an adventure novel featuring a boat based on the French submarine cruiser Surcouf. It was a big old thing: armed with a twin 8 inch deck turret (the largest allowed by treaty at the time) and a variety of machine guns, along with a hanger abaft of the conning tower that housed a reconnaissance seaplane. That vessel fed into my new US Navy boat and became the blueprint for it – just a little longer, and minus the hangar (which had caused the Surcouf no end of trouble). And just for my own amusement (and because I like to have help visualising stuff) I adapted an image of the Surcouf: trimming back the hangar, altering the colour scheme, and replacing the French Naval ensign with the US flag.
As for the story, “Cradle of the Deep” – I even lifted that from a VttBotS episode – of course there’s a huge sea monster, and crew members being thrown about inside the boat.

The submarine SG-1, under the able command of Captain Bannon and Lieutenant Commander Munrow, will be back: helping Paladin in another adventure, and maybe even plotting its own future course.

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