Now available on Amazon the first volume of The Musketeers’ New Adventures which includes my story “Noblese Oblige” – A lost letter written by the Queen must be found or else it threatens a new war with Spain. Desperately she calls upon a retired Musketeer to find the missing message. – Available in either paperback or kindle format – Need some adventure? Just click here.
Introduction: As this year marks the 50th anniversary of “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons“ one of my all time favorite TV shows, I thought it might be fun to roll out a seasonal story that I wrote way back in 2002 for the Comicopia APA magazine, and that has subsequently been republished a couple of times by Spectrum Headquarters, the leading Capt. Scarlet website, in 2004, and 2013.
So sit back and enjoy….
The Mysterons: sworn enemies of Earth.
Possessing the ability to recreate an exact likeness of an object or person.
But first, they must destroy.
Leading the fight, one man fate has made indestructible. His name:
LONDON – DECEMBER 23rd 2068.
No one heard the body fall or the squelching noise as it came to rest in the bank of week old snow at the entrance to the alleyway.
The corpse had hardly come to a rest before it was dragged back into the shadows between two department stores. The nearby mass of humanity that made up the last minute Christmas shoppers never even realized that a murder had taken place in their midst. A few may have noticed that the usually occupied street corner spot was now empty, but it’s doubtful that they gave more than a passing thought to its regular Yule-time inhabitant.
If they had looked closely, they may have seen the tracks in the dirty brown slush where a pair of boot heels had dragged furrows. The body to which those feet belonged now lay full length in the filth and damp of the alley. The boots were black and worn over a pair of velvety red pants. Above those the corpulent form of the victim was wrapped in a coat made from the same velvety material, but trimmed with an off-white faux-fur. The fur almost matched the white bushy beard that adorned the face of what, in life, had been a jovial man. But that face now wore a frozen look of shock. The red coat and pants complemented by the equally red pool of liquid that now collected behind his head.
The pool of blood soon became a rivulet that flowed towards the drain in the center of the alley. Its course, however, was blocked by another pair of black boots. These boots also belonged to a man who looked like he too had been touched by the hand of death. But this was a living corpse – a man whose very essence had been sucked out of him, a man whose soul had been violently ripped from his body, no long human he was the agent of a malevolent alien force. He was a man dressed totally in Black.
The man in black looked down at his victim waiting.
He didn’t have to wait too long. Two rings of light suddenly appeared on the floor by his feet. Lights without an apparent source. They moved along the alleyway and swept over the length of the body, then disappeared. The man in black turned and looked in grim satisfaction of the figure of the department store Santa who now stood by his side.
“You know what to do, Earthman,” the man in black intoned in a voice that sounded as if it too came from the grave.
With a nod, the man in red stepped over the body of his former self and took his place on the pavement in front of the alleyway. Picking up his hand bell he took up his familiar refrain.
“Merry Christmas, and good will to all.”
THIS IS THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERONS.
WE KNOW THAT YOU CAN HEAR US EARTH MEN.
IN RETALIATION FOR YOUR ATTACK ON OUR MARTIAN COLONY
WE WILL CONTINUE OUR WAR OF ATTRITION.
OUR NEXT ACT OF VENGEANCE WILL BE TO DESTROY…
THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS.
High above the Earth’s surface, in the floating carrier known as Cloudbase, Colonel White, supreme commander of the earth defense organization known as Spectrum, sat at his circular command station staring intently at the speaker on the wall in front of him. The last words of The Mysterons latest threat fading out into silence.
The aptly named Mysterons were indeed a mystery. No-one had ever seen them, except for the crew of the ill-fated Martian Expeditionary Vehicle who had fired on the aliens’ outpost mistaking the sudden appearance of a scanning probe for a hostile act. That single instinctive act of self-defense had triggered a war of nerves between the aliens and humanity. A war that had seen much death and destruction. Apparently without corporeal bodies the aliens had taken to using their powers of reanimation to turn various men and machines into living weapons, costing several Spectrum agents their lives. How this reanimation process could work so precisely when activated from the distant surface of Mars was part of the mystery, along with how, and why, these Mysterons could tap into the Spectrum communications system to deliver their threats.
Common sense would suggest that they were using someone with inside knowledge of Spectrum’s operations. But the only member of the organization known to have had contact with the alien methods and survived was now their greatest nemesis.
Colonel White’s thoughts focused on the most recent threat.
“Destroy the spirit of Christmas,” he muttered almost imperceptibly.
The other members of the senior staff sat around the periphery of his desk had also been pondering the same message.
“What does it mean?” asked the tall blond officer in the blue jacket.
“How can they do that ?” came a light female voice with an alluring French accent.
“Destiny’s right,” interjected a new voice from behind the seated officers. All turned to look at the Communications Officer in the green jacket. “I mean the spirit of Christmas is an idea, a concept. The Mysterons only destroy physical objects, machines, people.”
“Then that’s what we should look for.”
All turned to look at the speaker, this man knew more about the way the Mysterons worked than anyone alive. Spectrum’s top agent, he had once been an instrument of death under the alien’s control when had tried to assassinate the World President. But a second “near-death” experience while under Mysteron control had freed him from the their servitude yet had left him with some remnants of their power of retrometabolism. Paul Metcalfe was now indestructible. Not truly immortal, but close to it. For the members of Spectrum, the man in the scarlet jacket was their greatest weapon. He knew how the enemy thought.
“I don’t follow you Captain Scarlet,” said Colonel White.
“I mean we should look for something physical that embodies the spirit of Christmas. That’s what they will destroy.”
LONDON – DECEMBER 24th 2068
The two World Intelligence Network agents finished their security sweep and radioed in.
“It’s all clear, Sam,” reported the larger of the two agents. He paused, listening to the response over the hand held radio. His shoulders slumped in resignation as he thumbed off the radio. Turning to his much smaller companion he sighed. “It’s no good, Joe – he wants us to check it all again. I’ll take the luggage racks, see if you can squeeze under the seats and check those again.”
The two agents glanced at each other, neither saying a word as they turned around and started back down the length of the Eurostar Trans-continental train.
“Are you’re sure you have everything, sir?”
“It’s only an overnight trip to Paris. Just a goodwill show. There’s no need for fussing.”
“You still need to look right when you are among your peers, sir.”
“All right, I take your point. But this isn’t a formal summit meeting, it’s just an informal gathering of European leaders with a couple of photo opportunities to help spread the message of the season.”
“Ah,” responded the butler dryly, “instead of a summit meeting it’s the European Prime Ministers’ office Christmas party.”
“In a manner of speaking, yes.” The British Prime Minister agreed. “Now where’s that invitation and ticket?”
“Here sir,” said the butler as he handed over an envelope decorated with the Eurostar logo above a line of text that read
European Spirit of Christmas Summit Meeting
“Status, Lieutenant Green?” Colonel White asked his communications officer.
“We have senior officers in all the major cities where we believe that The Mysterons will strike. Captain Brown is in New York, Captain Grey is in Los Angeles, Captain Ochre is in Paris and Captain Blue is in London.” The ambitious lieutenant looked towards his commanding officer for some acknowledgment. All he received was a brief nod and a slight raise of the chin which he took to be the signal to continue.
“Captain Scarlet is standing by here on Cloudbase with a Jetcopter fueled ready to go where ever he’s needed.”
“And the Angels?”
“They are on full alert, Colonel. Destiny is already in her aircraft ready for immediate launch; Rhapsody and Melody are suited up and ready to go at a moment’s notice.”
“Good. Now if only we knew what the target was.”
Joe and his partner Mac stepped off the Eurostar tired and dirty after yet another exhaustive search.
“She’s clear, Joe, there’s no way on Earth that anyone is going to get a bomb onboard that train.”
“Well, let’s just hope that the big-wigs appreciate all our hard work when they are enjoying their eggnog on the way to Paris tonight.”
Joe wiped the back of his grubby sleeve across his forehead wiping away the sweat and grime from spending the last few hours crawling between and under train seats.
Then he removed his overalls and what appeared to be a pair of protective goggles, but just as easily could have been thick glasses.
With the work clothes and glasses gone he suddenly looked different, his posture reflecting his physical size. And when he spoke again, his voice was almost child-like.
Pointing down the platform towards the security gate at the entrance, he said with excitement:
“Hey look, they even have their own Santa on the train.”
The sleek red Spectrum staff car pulled off the busy motorway outside of London and made its way to a small village filling station away from the main roads. The filling station didn’t look like it had had a customer in years. Away from the main traffic flow it still had old fashioned pumps and was lacking the requisite mini-mart for snacks, maps and newspapers. It was amazing that it was still in business.
Captain Blue brought the staff car to a halt and walked over to the small hut where the sole attendant sat reading a newspad with his feet up on the desk. The attendant didn’t react to the bell that rang above the door when Captain Blue entered.
“We’re closed,” he muttered, head still buried in the paper.
Captain Blue just said, “Spectrum.”
The attendant dropped his pad on the desk and quickly stood up.
“ID,” he asked, even though the man before him was in full Spectrum uniform. Better not to take chances, and anyway, uniforms are easily faked. Although no-one outside of Spectrum should have known of this filling station’s real purpose.
Captain Blue proffered his ID card for inspection. The seemingly slovenly attendant now acted like a professional security agent as he checked the credentials.
“What can I do for you, Captain?”
“For a start, I need some gas for the staff car.” The American Captain Blue could never bring himself to say ‘petrol’, no matter how often he worked in England. “And if you don’t mind, I’ll take a look at your pad while I wait.”
“Sure,” the attendant replied, “no problem.”
Captain Blue had read two pages when his expression froze. For there was a small article headlined “Spirit of Christmas train ride for PM.”
Captain Blue immediately activated the radio built into his uniform cap. The boom mike swung down from his cap’s peak and the lights built into his jacket insignia flashed white to indicate that his transmission was to Colonel White.
“Colonel White,” he talked briskly and clearly with just a trace of excitement behind his professional demeanor, “I know what the target is. The Mysterons are going to attack the Eurostar train tonight.”
Captain Blue listened for the response and his orders. They were quick in coming and by the time the attendant returned, he knew what to do.
As the man walked back into the small hut, Captain Blue was straight to the point. “Forget the staff car. I need the SPV.”
“Follow me, sir.” The attendant turned on his heels and lead Captain Blue to the rear of the filling station. “There she is,” he pointed to what appeared to be an abandoned trailer home parked between two trees. The trailer looked like it hadn’t been occupied for years, the paint was peeling, the windows opaque with filth and the sides covered with green mildew for the close trees. As Captain Blue looked on the attendant withdrew a small device like a TV remote control from his pocket and pressed a combination of buttons.
Suddenly the sides of the trailer folded outwards as it opened like a blossoming flower. And in the center stood a Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle, the most specialized piece of equipment in the organization’s impressive arsenal. Part armored car, part tank it could withstand any sort of attack but was also highly maneuverable and fast, quicker than any production sports car, despite its large size.
As Captain Blue walked over to the trailer, the garage attendant keyed another few buttons on the hand-held device and raised it to his mouth like a cell-phone.
“Spectrum agent 042 reporting in. Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle 105 requisitioned by Captain Blue at 17:30 hours.”
As soon as the blue light on his desk had illuminated, Colonel White knew that this was the signal to action. Captain Blue was not one to report in unless he had found something significant. Upon hearing Captain Blue’s report of the news article, he immediately put his plan into action.
“Captain Blue, requisition an SPV and head for the entrance to the Channel Tunnel. If our earlier attempts to thwart this threat fail, then you must stop the train entering the tunnel. My guess is that the Mysterons will try to destroy it in the tunnel, not only killing the leaders of several European countries but also disrupting European commerce for years to come.”
Breaking the communications with Captain Blue, Colonel White turned to his communications officer. “Get me Captain Scarlet and launch the Angels.”
“SIG, Colonel,” responded the Lieutenant using the organization’s usual acronym to confirm that an order has been received and understood: Spectrum Is Green.
Sat in the cockpit of her advanced swept wing fighter jet on the deck of Cloudbase, Destiny heard the command she had been waiting for all day. “Destiny Angel, immediate launch.”
She engaged the powerful engines, keyed the catapult that would launch her aircraft off the deck of Cloudbase at near supersonic speed and pressed the red button on her control panel that released the pent up energy of engines and catapult. In an instant she was airborne.
“Instructions please,” she radioed in.
“Head to the London area,” she heard Lieutenant Green’s response. “The other Angels will join you there shortly. Contact Captain Blue for details on exact co-ordinates.”
And with that acknowledgment, the fighter banked over and set course for London’s airspace.
Behind her, the other two Angel pilots settled into their seats in the Ops Lounge, keyed the correct sequence of buttons and were soon hoisted on lifts straight up into the cockpits of their aircraft. Less that two minutes after the departure of Destiny, they too were also airborne and following the vector taken by their leader.
Shortly after the departure of the Angel interceptor aircraft, a Spectrum jetcopter lifted off; at the controls was Captain Scarlet receiving his briefing from Colonel White over the radio.
“The Mysteron target is a train carrying several of the European leaders. We believe they plan to destroy it in the Channel Tunnel between England and France. But what we don’t know is how they plan to do it. The Angels will provide air cover in case The Mysterons plan to use an aircraft to attack it. Captain Blue is waiting at the Tunnel entrance with an SPV to stop it if it gets that far. We have had assurance from our colleagues at WIN that there were no explosive devices on-board before it left. But I’m not so sure that the attack won’t come from within. Anyone on-board that train could be a Mysteron agent. I want you to board the train and using your unique sense for the Mysterons, check it out and stop any attempt to destroy it and its passengers.”
“What are those aircraft doing?” asked the Prime Minister. His gaze firmly fixed out of the window of the speeding Eurostar train. “They look like they are following us.”
“I’m sure it’s just a security sweep, sir,” his aide responded. “Air cover, that sort of thing.”
“But those aren’t WAF aircraft. I don’t recognize the type.”
“They’re Spectrum Angel aircraft, I think. Never seen one before, but if I recall the photographs I’ve seen then that’s what they are,” responded the aide.
Above the two politicians another aircraft kept pace with the train. Captain Scarlet’s jetcopter had increased its velocity to match the near 300 kph of the high speed train as it hurtled through the early evening of the English countryside on its way towards the Channel Tunnel entrance.
“I’m sure I saw this in an old movie once,” though Scarlet to himself as he placed the copter on autopilot and descended down a flimsy steel rope ladder to the speeding roof below him. Once on the roof he found the slipstream was too strong for him and he immediately lost his footing. With a sudden and hard bump, he crashed chest down into the roof as his feet were swept away by the vicious winds. He reached forward in a desperate attempt to find a hand grip. But the sleek train had been designed to be as streamlined as possible. The roof was a smooth as glass; there was nothing to hold on to. The Spectrum agent was swept backwards at immense speed.
As he was dragged back, Scarlet twisted onto his back and not without difficulty, pulled his flailing arms in to his body. It seemed to take an eternity, but Scarlet eventually brought his hands together and flicked a switch on what appeared to be a standard wrist watch. Above him the jetcopter performed a neat 180 degree turn and tracked his movement and speed towards the rear of the train. Just as Scarlet’s legs started to disappear over the rear of the Eurostar the steel ladder appeared above his chest. Reaching out, he grabbed it. The train rushed ahead and the Spectrum agent was left hanging from the now hovering jetcopter.
No matter what they showed in the movies, there was no way he could board the speeding train. The only way to get on board was to stop the Eurostar.
As he climbed back up the rope towards the aircraft above him, Scarlet’s boom mike dropped from his cap peak. The light on his uniform flicked blue.
“SIG, Captain Scarlet,” responded Captain Blue. “I understand.”
Reaching forward for the controls, he brought the SPV to life and set a course away from the tunnel entrance towards the speeding train.
The armored vehicle was wide enough that its tracked wheels spanned the monorail track used by the Eurostar. Soon it was up to top speed. Captain Blue sat in the rearward facing command chair, watching for the approaching train on the video monitor that showed what was happening in front of the SPV.
It didn’t take long for the train to appear on the horizon, the gap between it and the SPV closing with frightening speed. Captain Blue brought the SPV to an immediate halt and radioed the driver of the Eurostar.
“This is Captain Blue of Spectrum. We need to bring your train to a halt. You will see a Spectrum vehicle parked across the track in front of you. Stop before you reach that vehicle.”
Before he received any acknowledgement that the message had been heard, Captain Blue pressed the buttons to operate the sliding door and seat mechanism and soon found himself outside the casing of the SPV. The seat gently lowered to the ground. He undid the restraining harness and ran towards the jetcopter that was now waiting for him in a nearby field.
“Let’s hope he stops in time,” he said looking up at the pilot.
“If he doesn’t try and stop,” replied Captain Scarlet, “then we know that the Mysterons have already taken over the train and we can order the Angels to destroy it. If he does stop, then I can get on board and conduct a more personal search.”
The jolly man in the red suit stumbled as the speeding train came to a sudden halt. The sack he carried swung over his shoulder slipped and bumped against the back of the British Prime Minister’s head.
“I say, watch where you’re going,” the politician said in an annoyed tone of voice. Then, turning to glance behind him, he saw who his “assailant” had been. The tone of voice softened. “Oh I’m sorry, Santa. I didn’t realize that it was you. Do you have anything special for me?”
“This will be a Christmas you won’t forget,” intoned the man in the red suit, his voice oddly flat.
“What a serious Santa,” the Prime Minister murmured to his aide as the subject of his conversation continued down the carriage. “I wonder why we’ve stopped?”
“I think that’s why,” responded the aide pointing back to the rear of the train.
Walking towards them down the passageway between the seats was another man in a red jacket, but this was no Santa.
“Excuse me, sir,” Captain Scarlet stopped by the side of the PM’s seat. ”Are you all right?”
“Yes, why shouldn’t I be?”
“Is there a problem, Captain?, asked the aide. “Why has Spectrum stopped and boarded this train?”
“We believe that there is a Mysteron threat against this train and its passengers.”
“Nonsense,” replied the PM. “How could they get on board, the only people here are the politicians and their staff – we’ve all been through security checks.”
“Thank you, sir,” continued the Spectrum agent, ”but if you don’t mind I’ll continue looking?”
Suddenly Captain Scarlet’s world turned hazy, he began to feel faint. The world began to spin.
This was a feeling he only ever felt when close to a Mysteron agent. It wasn’t an infallible “sixth sense”, it didn’t always warn him in time and its focus was imprecise, but he’d learned to trust it. Forcing himself back to equilibrium he looked at the Prime Minister again, this time with closer scrutiny.
Suddenly a dry gravely voice interrupted his deliberations.
“You are too late… Earthman.”
Captain Scarlet spun and saw the incongruous sight of a man in a Santa suit holding a gun at him. As he stared at the Mysteron agent, he noticed wisps of smoke starting to creep slowly out of the collar of the man’s costume. He was a human bomb. There was no choice, Scarlet had to get him off the train before he exploded, killing everyone on-board.
Before anyone else in the carriage could react, Scarlet moved; he rushed straight towards the gun-wielding Santa. The carriage was filled with the sudden report of a gun being fired. The first bullet slammed into Captain Scarlet’s chest. He staggered, but kept moving. A second bullet slammed into his arm. But he kept moving, getting closer and closer to the assassin.
Then he was on top of the Mysteron agent. The gun fired twice more, Scarlet’s body convulsed as the bullets tore into him. But the momentum of his run and collision with the Santa carried them backwards towards the door of the carriage. As their combined weight hit the door, it burst open and they fell out onto the trackside.
The smoke continued to pour out of the collar and cuffs of the assassin. He was getting closer to the point of detonation. The wounded Spectrum agent grabbed the smoking collar and dragged the struggling Santa towards the SPV stopped on the rail ahead of the train. He had to contain the explosion.
Locked in a death struggle, the living corpse of Christmas spirit and the incredible agent of order moved closer and closer to the armored vehicle. With a final effort, Scarlet pushed the Santa back into the open cockpit of the SPV.
But the flailing arms of the Mysteron managed to find a purchase on the jacket of the wounded man dragging him in afterwards. The door of the armored car closed on the two combatants.
Suddenly three Angel aircraft descended at high speed towards the SPV and opened fire. As the deadly missiles hit the armored car, they exploded with blinding light and deafening sound.
The SPV was reduced to a smoking pile of twisted metal. In the fields close by, lay two bodies.
CLOUDBASE – DECEMBER 25th 2068
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Colonel White motioned to Lieutenant Green to close the radio connection, his call over.
“How are they all feeling, Colonel?” asked the communications officer.
“The politicians are all a little shook up, a few are even complaining that their Christmas trip to Paris was cancelled, but most are glad to be alive.” He paused. “The British Prime Minister in particular wants to hold a memorial service for Captain Scarlet. I told him that wouldn’t be necessary. He now thinks I’m callous and insensitive over the loss of one of my own men.”
“It is difficult to explain, sir.”
“Well, let’s go and see how the patient is this morning?”
Colonel White was unprepared for the sight that greeted him when he pushed open the doors to the Cloudbase medical center. Standing in the middle of the room was a man in a red Santa costume.
Instinctively, Spectrum’s commanding officer went for his sidearm.
Santa laughed a hearty laugh. “Relax, Colonel.” His hands went up to the white beard and tugged it down to reveal the laughing face of Captain Scarlet. “I just thought I’d see how it felt to be the other fellow for a while.”
The Colonel’s only response was a muted “humph!!”
Captain Scarlet removed the Santa Costume; underneath he was dressed not in his uniform but in casual civilian shirt and slacks, no sign of the devastating injuries he had received the day before.
He was no longer the indestructible Captain Scarlet, he was just plain Paul Metcalfe.
Reaching round he handed a small wrapped parcel to the man in white stood before him.
Captain Scarlet and associated concepts and characters are © Gerry Anderson and Carlton International Media .
Wow where did the year go? It’s definitely been an interesting and eventful one for us, with more fun still to come.
If things work out to plan the following books will be heading to a store near you or available on-line before the year is over:
- The Joy of Joe – with my essay “So Who Is This Joe Fellow You’ve All Been Talking About,” on my recollections of Action Man.
- Outside In Boldly Goes – which will contain my take on the classic Star Trek episode “Specter of the Gun.”
- Quatermain Adventures Vol. 2 – containing my story “Stones of Blood.”
In the meantime you can find a new page on this site with direct links to some of my existing books for sale on Amazon.
Work is continuing on editing the James Bond Lexicon project and compiling information for the follow-on U.N.C.L.E. Lexicon, and I’ve made a return to movie reviewing in my Editor-at-Large role for RevolutionSF. You can find my thoughts on the recent Suicide Squad movie online HERE.
A lot of my focus over the last few months has been around my business writing with several white-papers under my belt as well as developing regular series of weekly blog posts which you can find HERE. This has lead to a couple of additional opportunities to write a regular monthly piece for a leading industry thought-leadership website as well as an article for another prestigious media industry magazine. More on these as stuff is published over the coming months.
June was a month of Conventions and Quatermain. So let’s start with our favorite jungle adventurer. As I mentioned in last month’s Ramble I’d heard that there was an audio edition of my Allan Quatermain story “Golden Ivory” in production. Well a few weeks ago it was released on Audible.com for download and your listening pleasure. As a side note voice actor Jem Matzan posted an interesting article on his blog about how he decided on the different character voices. Its an interesting behind the scenes insight into a side of producing an audio adaptation that I hadn’t thought much about. When I write a story the characters tend to have distinctive voices in my head, but I never imagined having to produce those voices for real, and how you would go about that.
This month I also finished and turned in my new Allan Quatermain novella “Stones of Blood.” The story is scheduled to be included in the upcoming second volume of Allan Quatermain: The New Adventures. I can’t say much about the story as yet, but as a taster it does include a reference to this somewhat incongruous historical scene.
The two conventions in June were very different in size and scope, but were both great fun. Early in the month was the Peoria Artists and Comics Expo, just in its second year. It was a friendly local con, and we had a great time chatting with a lot of first time convention goers. I also participated in a panel entitled “Storytellers” which proved to be a fun exchange with a interested and engaged audience.
The following weekend I was off to Houston, Texas for Comicpalooza. I last did this show four or five years ago, and boy has it grown in the meantime. Now covering all three floors of Houston’s main convention center, it was a lively and bustling show with something for every member of the family, and every branch of pop-culture and science. It was also one of the best organized large conventions I’ve attended. I appeared on several panels covering subjects such as “Marketing for Writers,” “What Editors Really Want,” “Sherlock is Everywhere,” and “Alternate History.” All were great subjects and the panels were fun and informative. I also got a chance to catch up with several friends, and make a few new ones along the way. One of the highlights of Comicpalooza for me was the “Pros At Cons” podcast interview I did with the team from CCP Comics. It was one of the most relaxed and wide ranging interviews I think I’ve ever done. You can find it on-line at SoundCloud.
Next up on the convention list is a return to one of my perennial favorite events, ArmadilloCon in Austin, Texas. You can catch me there between July 29th and 31st.
Writing-wise the focus for July will be the continuing work on planing and plotting the last three issues of the FORGOTTEN CITY comic book series, and the ongoing editing and rewrites for the James Bond Lexicon project.
Have a fun summer, and I’ll be back next month with more updates.
As I write this I’m just a few days away from heading to Austin, Texas for one of my favorite events of the year, ArmadilloCon. “DilloCon” is second longest running science fiction convention in Texas (this year marks its 37th event) , known for its emphasis on literary science fiction. This year will be my seventh time at the event and, as usual, I’ll be participating in panels, doing a reading, and for this year only, rolling out my “History of the Illustrated 007” show.
My full ArmadilloCon schedule is as follows:
- Nothing specific scheduled but I’ll be hanging out and visiting with friends.
- 12:00 Noon – Signing
- 4:00pm – “The History of the Illustrated 007” presentation.
- 6:00pm – Reading (probably from the latest Allan Quatermain story that I’m currently working on).
- 10:00pm – Panel – Comic Books on TV
- 12:00 Noon – Panel – The Year of Back To The Future II
- 2:00pm – Panel – Blogging and Podcasting
As a reminder, for more frequent updates, comments, and general observations on life you can follow me on Twitter @alanjporter or on Instagram. For a full list of published work to date check out my website at AlanJPorter.com
For those who may not have seen the news on my various social media channels, I’m please to announce that the new Asian Pulp anthology from ProSe Press, which features the debut of my new character, the Lotus Ronin, is now on sale.
Feedback on Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol 7. that includes my story “The Case of the Rotten Corpse,” continues to be very positive. – Thanks to anyone whose picked up a copy over the last few months
Rick Ruby: The latest volume of stories featuring 1930s New York based P.I. Rick Ruby is in production. No information on a release date yet.
Allan Quartermain: Stones of Blood: I’m currently still writing new short-story featuring the classic jungle adventurer in a tale that takes him from the streets of London to the battlefields of the First Boer War. More on this one as it develops.
THE LEXICON PROJECTS
James Bond Lexicon: A Guide to the Worlds of 007: The manuscript for our upcoming James Bond Lexicon is with the fine folks at Hasslein Books for copy-editing. If things stick to schedule we are aiming for publication around the end of September or early October.
Meanwhile work continues on our U.N.C.L.E. Lexicon project, “The Lexicon Affair” – look for more updates on this soon.
FORGOTTEN CITY – The second story arc issues (#6-10) are in various stages of production as the Kid Domino team get them ready for uploading to comiXology for digital distribution. I have turned in the script for Issue #11.
Work is also underway on pulling together the first story-arc (issues #1-5) in a trade-paperback for eventual print distribution. In the meantime don’t forget that issues #1 thru 5 are still available as digital downloads at comiXology for just $1.99 each
“So what writer did you once like that you stopped reading? – And Why?” – A question I’ve been asked several times while on various panels at different conventions over the last few years. My answer always seems to revolve around a story about thriller writer Clive Cussler and a letter he wrote to me many years ago.
I’ve also used the same anecdote when appearing on panels about writer/fan interactions, and similar subjects.
While sorting out my office over the holiday period I came across the letter. It was pretty much exactly as I remembered it. For those friends, and convention attendees, who’ve heard me tell the story numerous times I thought I’d post the actual source here.
First off, an acknowledgement that from a published author success perspective, I’m not anywhere close to where Mr. Cussler was, or continues to be. He has a very large dedicated audience who enjoy his work, and I wish him every success in continuing to build and satisfy that audience.
OK, on to a little background to put things into perspective. Back in the early to mid-nineties I was one of those who read every book that Clive Cussler wrote. I loved his stuff, in particular for the blend of historical research, and modern technology and adventure. Sometime in 1994 I picked up the latest adventure, (not sure which one, possibly Inca Gold) and was little put off by what I saw as a trend of the two lead characters, Dirk Pitt & Al Giordino, away from being explorer/adventurers and more towards being vigilante type crime-fighters going after the bad-guys. Not that I’ve got anything against vigilante crime-fighters (as my long time Batman obsession shows), but it wasn’t what I read the Dirk Pitt novels for.
But what brought my enjoyment to a crashing halt was a passage in the book where Cussler described an Airbus aircraft that had been converted to a cargo plane. It was all wrong. Big deal – what did it matter? Well it mattered to me. As I said one of the reasons I enjoyed the Cussler books was for how well they were researched. The thing was a few years earlier I’d headed the technical documentation group at the Airbus Division of British Aerospace – at that stage I literally knew that aircraft inside out. Sure you could convert the aircraft for cargo use (in fact Airbus now sell cargo versions) but the way it was described in the book was technically impossible, it would have compromised the airframe. – So I thought I’d be a helpful reader and write my favorite author and politley inform him of this research oversight. – This is the letter I received in reply.
Here’s the text:
10-94 – Cussler’s address down the side (removed for privacy)
I thought I wrote fiction. So the Airbus can’t have a cargo door, so what? As long as my other 59,999,999 readers could care less, I won’t lose any sleep over it.
As to Pitt & Giordino turning into vigilantes, you should live in the US. Leaving the villains to the authorities won’t work anymore, the hoods are back on the streets in hours.
If you want action heroes who walk the fine line, stick with the old timers like McLean and Innes.
I appreciate the fact that you like my books, but the world is no longer a nice place to live in.
I haven’t read a Clive Cussler book since.
Looks like 2013 is going to be another busy year of throwing words on the page. I already have several projects running and a few more lined up for the coming year, and I thought it might be fun to see how they stack up.
I have been working on a few CARS scripts for the Disney Publishing folks in Europe that should see print in the monthly CARS magazine at some point this year. Other stories ideas are in for consideration – so fingers crossed that I get to continue to hang out in Radiator Springs for a while longer.
I’m still working on the new science fiction comics series, FORGOTTEN CITY. I have now co-written 4 issues and written another 4 as the series’ solo on-going writer. Issues #9 and #10 are plotted out and next on the to-do list with plans for the story to go as far as issue 25. The publisher is still looking to finalize a distribution deal, so hopefully that will happen in 2013 and the book will be in stores.
There are also a few proposals and pitches sitting out there for different projects with a variety of comics publishers.
2013 promises to be the year of new titles from Airship 27 Productions fiction wise. This coming year should see the publication of The Ruby Files Vol. 2 containing my first short story about 1930s hard-boiled New York detective, Rick Ruby. Also in 2013 look out for The New Adventures of Allan Quatermain featuring my just completed novella “Golden Ivory.”
Short stories scheduled for the rest of the year include one featuring master escapologist Harry Houdini, and a second Rick Ruby escapade.
I’ve also started a new novel, on the “write a page a day” basis to see if I can keep going and get a novel length manuscript done by year’s end. I’m taking a totally different approach to writing this novel – I’ll probably blog more about that later in the year if things keep to schedule.
I’ve also had some early discussions about another business book – more on that, if and when it develops.
After listing it all out like that, I guess I am going to be a busy boy – so I guess I should get back to it. Deadlines wait for no man.
Next weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year – It’s ArmadilloCon weekend. This literary SF convention held each year in Austin, TX is always an enjoyable one, and this year looks to be no different with an interesting mix of panels on my schedule.
Friday, July 27th
9:00pm – Reading – Most likely I’ll be unveiling the first few thousand words of my work-in-progress Allan Quatermain novella. (Unfortunately I’m scheduled against the Apes & Zepplins panel – just like last year – so bummed I’m going to miss that.)
Saturday, July 28th,
10:00am – Imagining a World Without Fossil Fuels – Not sure how a petrol-sniffing gear-head like me ended up on this panel – should be an interesting discussion !
12:00 noon – Will Interstellar Travel Ever Be Possible? – Sure to be another fascinating conversation.”Ever” is such a loaded word.
6:00pm – How Much Interaction Should Writers Have with Their Readers? – What do you think? – Anyone actually reading this?
9:00pm – Comics: Web and Paper – The annual “comics you should be reading” panel – always a fun time.
Sunday, July 29th
10:00am – Fans in Mainstream Media – I moderated a similar panel last year, and it was a lively and fun discussion. Should be again this year.
Hope to see you at DilloCon.
Found this short story when flipping back through my notebooks today, and realized I had never written it up. So hope you enjoy this taste of some of my short fiction:
“THE NOWHERE MAN”
By Alan J. Porter
“They call me ‘The Nowhere Man.’ Actually to be strictly accurate no-one actually calls me that to my face. My real name is James Davenport, but as it turns out no-one uses that anymore either.
“I’m not sure when it started, but I guess it was at school. I was never picked for any sports team, and the teachers never called on me to answer questions. I was just there. Sitting at the back of the class, minding my own business, biding my time. It’s not that I bunked off. I was, no am, smart. Always did my work, got straight A’s, took extra credits. Then headed off to college with a full academic scholarship in hand.
“It was at college that I really noticed things starting to happen. Doors started to open for me. Literally.
“I think that the first time it happened was the day I went to see one of my professors about a paper I was working on. The note on her door said she was gone for the day, but for some reason I still reached out and put my hand on the door handle. As soon as I did, I heard the lock click open, and the door swung open.
“So, like most kids in college, I started to experiment. Just a little at first, then getting more and more adventurous. Starting with sneaking into the girls’ dorms, and then trying out a few of their locker rooms; eventually I tried the doors of the local bank after hours.
“That’s when I discovered that video cameras didn’t see me either. I could come and go anywhere I pleased and nothing would record my presence.
“I wasn’t invisible, or anything fancy like that. People could see me and interact with me, in fact they seemed to fall over themselves to get me whatever I wanted; from the best table in a swanky restaurant to…. well you get the idea. But after I left, just like the cameras, they had no recollection of me, it was if I’d never been there.
“You would think that was fantastic; and at first it was. I made a lot of money. I offered my services to various criminal overlords, but they never called back. I guess they forgot about me too. So I set my self up as a super-villain. Robbed banks, discovered secrets, blackmailed people, all that sort of stuff.
“I have more money than God now. OK perhaps more than anyone else in this city. Wonder who owns that large estate outside of town, or the largest yacht in the harbor, or who’s the mysterious owner of the local football franchise? Yep, it’s all me.
‘The perfect life you would think. But there’s one big problem with being the man that no-one remembers
“It’s like I live in a world of my own, while the rest of you revolve around me, never touching my soul, or my heart.
“There is only so much wealth a man on his own can enjoy.
“And what’s the point in being rich and powerful if no-one knows who you are?
“So this is a final act. A message to the people of this city that James Davenport exists………”
Captain Malone clicked off the tape that had been found at the scene of this afternoon’s disaster.
“Well?” asked the assistant DA as he walked into Malone’s office.
“Nothing.” Malone shook his head. “It’s blank.” Malone paused, reconsidering his last statement. “Actually it’s just white noise. As if someone switched on the microphone, but just sat there without saying anything.”
“Any ID on the body?”
Malone shook his head for a second time, “Nope, he’s just another John Doe to us. A real nowhere man.”
“The Nowhere Man” and all associated characters and concepts are (c) Alan J. Porter – 2011