One thing I’ve learned from fifty years of doing creative stuff is that my work is only ever as good as the thing it’s inspired by. Sure, over time, when you learn a craft, you find ways of being able to produce work to a professional standard, even when your enthusiasm’s dead and the inspiration’s thin. But that stuff’s rarely as good as the work you do when you’re fired up by new ideas or dead keen to master a new artform. This is the first of several pieces I wrote in the early part of 1980 that were directly inspired by things around me. Specifically, in this case, a pair of books I got for Christmas: Great Space Battles and Spacecraft 2000-2100 AD, both part of the Terran Trade Authority series by writer Stewart Cowley. Not entirely sure who got them for me - my best guess would be my Mum and Dad’s friends Diane and Wayne Townend, who usually bought me something a little bit more grown-up and arty - but whoever it was, they were a frigging genius. These were proper, big, hardback books for adults full of dense, dry text - or at least that’s the way it seemed when I was eight - so I’d be lying if I said I read them cover to cover. Especially not within a fortnight. But I’d read enough to know that they were history textbooks from the future, when three great space empires rivalled each other for control of the known galaxies: the Alphans from Alpha Centauri; the Proximans from Proxima Centauri; and the Terrans (that’s us) from Planet Earth. They were also filled with incredible illustrations, mainly airbrushed paintings by various different ultra-talented artists. And that’s all I needed to be able to create my own addition to the series - an illustrated epic stretching to an unprecedented five pages, with four massive illustrations, two of which are in full colour! (Actually, mainly pink, but it’s fuller colour than I usually managed.) I’ve obviously decided to set it before the Trade Authority was formed, when all three space- faring races were taking their first steps into their respective solar systems. If I’d continued, I probably would have had them meet in some way. But we’ll never know, because this is the only chapter I wrote. In many ways, it’s just a continuation of the ‘maximum threat’ aesthetic of my previous work, but this time on a much larger scale. There’s an obsession with size here - everything has to be bigger than everything else: a monster bigger than a planet; a bomb larger than America. I suppose the thought is, the bigger the threat, the more destruction it can cause, and therefore the greatest amount of excitement for the reader. It’s also very, very silly. The big difference between this and the first term’s work though is how confident it all is. The first term was a cautious time full of trepidation and occasional mild grumbling. But everyone in this story is confident - not one but three species boldly flying into space, the title promising great battles when they finally cross each other’s paths. They even blast off almost totally in sync with each other, like they’re part of some immense cosmic dance. They get pulled into black holes, blown up and set on fire, all among a sea of exclamation marks. Every noise they make is either a shout, a scream or a massive onomatopoeic BOOM. This story is not afraid to tell itself. It’s also the first in a long line of sci-fi stories I wrote in Fairburn. It amazes me I didn’t write any before this - sci-fi was basically my favourite thing. But this is probably the first time since The Forgotten World when I’ve been allowed to write whatever I feel like. And, whether on the strength of this or for some other similar reason, it definitely wouldn’t be the last. I lost the Terran Trade Authority books long ago (actually they’re still at my Mum’s house in Yorkshire, where my stepdad uses them as inspiration for his own artwork [unless he just wanted to sell them for the vastly inflated price they go for these days]), so I can’t scan them in. But there’s a whole website dedicated to them here, a bunch of videos on YouTube featuring narrations of some of the stories, and a nice article about them here which focuses on how inspiring they were. There was also a role-playing game based on the TTA world, as it turns out, and here’s the TTA subreddit if you want to join. Sadly, I never returned to this story. There’s a piece called Space Battles in Topic 2 which revisits similar territory (and even steals one of its best ideas), but it’s not as good, and never formally links itself to the world created here. Whether that’s a great loss to the literary world I can’t say. But you never know - maybe one day I could pick it up again? TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!
Great Space Battles
The Forgotten World John and Mick fall foul of some extreme potholing
INSPIRED BY…
TOPIC 2 The one where it all kicks off
TERM 2 The birth of the 1980s - Blake’s 7, Blondie and battles in space
TOPIC 1 He knows the names of all the dinosaurs
Waen Shepherd 2 Waen’s heroic antics in the far-flung future of 2007 AD!
Ward’s 7 John Ward and his band of rebels fight the evil Federation
The Fugitive A man runs - but who is he? And what is he running from?
The Flame in the Desert An evil fire threatens the safety of the world
HELP ME KEEP THIS WEBSITE ALIVE
Happy Easter! A home made Easter card I made for my Mum and Dad
Great Space Battles
One thing I’ve learned from fifty years of doing creative stuff is that my work is only ever as good as the thing it’s inspired by. Sure, over time, when you learn a craft, you find ways of being able to produce work to a professional standard, even when your enthusiasm’s dead and the inspiration’s thin. But that stuff’s rarely as good as the work you do when you’re fired up by new ideas or dead keen to master a new artform. This is the first of several pieces I wrote in the early part of 1980 that were directly inspired by things around me. Specifically, in this case, a pair of books I got for Christmas: Great Space Battles and Spacecraft 2000-2100 AD, both part of the Terran Trade Authority series by writer Stewart Cowley. Not entirely sure who got them for me - my best guess would be my Mum and Dad’s friends Diane and Wayne Townend, who usually bought me something a little bit more grown-up and arty - but whoever it was, they were a frigging genius. These were proper, big, hardback books for adults full of dense, dry text - or at least that’s the way it seemed when I was eight - so I’d be lying if I said I read them cover to cover. Especially not within a fortnight. But I’d read enough to know that they were history textbooks from the future, when three great space empires rivalled each other for control of the known galaxies: the Alphans from Alpha Centauri; the Proximans from Proxima Centauri; and the Terrans (that’s us) from Planet Earth. They were also filled with incredible illustrations, mainly airbrushed paintings by various different ultra-talented artists. And that’s all I needed to be able to create my own addition to the series - an illustrated epic stretching to an unprecedented five pages, with four massive illustrations, two of which are in full colour! (Actually, mainly pink, but it’s fuller colour than I usually managed.) I’ve obviously decided to set it before the Trade Authority was formed, when all three space-faring races were taking their first steps into their respective solar systems. If I’d continued, I probably would have had them meet in some way. But we’ll never know, because this is the only chapter I wrote. In many ways, it’s just a continuation of the ‘maximum threat’ aesthetic of my previous work, but this time on a much larger scale. There’s an obsession with size here - everything has to be bigger than everything else: a monster bigger than a planet; a bomb larger than America. I suppose the thought is, the bigger the threat, the more destruction it can cause, and therefore the greatest amount of excitement for the reader. It’s also very, very silly. The big difference between this and the first term’s work though is how confident it all is. The first term was a cautious time full of trepidation and occasional mild grumbling. But everyone in this story is confident - not one but three species boldly flying into space, the title promising great battles when they finally cross each other’s paths. They even blast off almost totally in sync with each other, like they’re part of some immense cosmic dance. They get pulled into black holes, blown up and set on fire, all among a sea of exclamation marks. Every noise they make is either a shout, a scream or a massive onomatopoeic BOOM. This story is not afraid to tell itself. It’s also the first in a long line of sci-fi stories I wrote in Fairburn. It amazes me I didn’t write any before this - sci-fi was basically my favourite thing. But this is probably the first time since The Forgotten World when I’ve been allowed to write whatever I feel like. And, whether on the strength of this or for some other similar reason, it definitely wouldn’t be the last. I lost the Terran Trade Authority books long ago (actually they’re still at my Mum’s house in Yorkshire, where my stepdad uses them as inspiration for his own artwork [unless he just wanted to sell them for the vastly inflated price they go for these days]), so I can’t scan them in. But there’s a whole website dedicated to them here, a bunch of videos on YouTube featuring narrations of some of the stories, and a nice article about them here which focuses on how inspiring they were. There was also a role- playing game based on the TTA world, as it turns out, and here’s the TTA subreddit if you want to join. Sadly, I never returned to this story. There’s a piece called Space Battles in Topic 2 which revisits similar territory (and even steals one of its best ideas), but it’s not as good, and never formally links itself to the world created here. Whether that’s a great loss to the literary world I can’t say. But you never know - maybe one day I could pick it up again? TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!
TERM 1 A day-by-day account of Waen’s first term at Fairburn School
TERM 2 The birth of the 1980s - Blake’s 7, Blondie and battles in space
TOPIC 2 The one where it all kicks off
The Forgotten World John and Mick fall foul of some extreme potholing
Bonfire Night Waen’s first time at the annual village fireworks display
Waen Shepherd 2 Waen’s heroic antics in the far-flung future of 2007 AD!
Ward’s 7 John Ward and his band of rebels fight the evil Federation
The Fugitive A man runs - but who is he? And what is he running from?
The Flame in the Desert An evil fire threatens the safety of the world
HELP ME KEEP THIS WEBSITE ALIVE