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Thursday, 29 January 2015


The very essence of science fantasy is that it's set on worlds where technology has become indistinguishable from magic. No doubt Professor M A R Barker, creator of Tekumel, was raised on Planet Stories and he too may have been a fan of L Sprague de Camp's Krishna books. Little did I know as I teased out this wee yarn in primary school English lessons that ten years later I would have my heart and at least half my psyche in Jakalla.

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“The World of Krishna” part 6: “Escape”

Acer slugged the turnkey and opened the cell doors. The prisoners flocked out. Acer led his fellow Krishnans to the Dasht’s room. They gasped when they saw inside the chamber. On the floor of the room was a glowing disk. A group of the Dasht’s soldiers stepped onto the disk and vanished. A few feet away, a soldier was materializing on a similar disk.

“So that’s how they got us here,” thought Acer. “Witchcraft.”

It wasn’t really magic but Krishnans are very superstitious.

To be continued.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

If you want to get ahead...

With the fifth instalment of his Krishna story, my young self has introduced an element of mystery. I'm still astonished to think of the poor teacher having to follow thirty different kids' stories in such tiny weekly chunks.

I see that I had latched onto the technique of implying events and letting the reader fill in the gaps. After decades of movie-going, it's a little harder to write that way now.

That's L Sprague de Camp there, quaffing cragot.

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“The World of Krishna” part 5: “The Dasht” 

Within moments Acer had completely vanished. He reappeared in an old stone dungeon. Around him were a few of the missing people.

Acer asked one where he was. “In the castle of Dasht* Larock,” was the reply. “He’s caught us to be his slaves.”

About an hour later, one of the Dasht’s guards brought a tray full of food for the prisoners. Two minutes later, Acer left the cell in the guard’s clothes. Meanwhile the prisoners dragged the guard into the corner of the cell. He was out cold.

(*A dasht is a Krishnan baron.)

To be continued.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Pop goes the weasel

Ah, now we get to the fourth instalment of my old Krishna fanfic and it seems the 10-year-old Morris has finally grasped that this thing needs a plot. Teleportation was my dream mutant power (I wanted to be the Vanisher, even if it meant losing my hair) so that's where that came from. "Queer" had a different meaning in 1967, of course.

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“The World of Krishna” part 4

Acer performed a karate chop on his assailant’s arm and the attacker released him with a yell.

Acer drew his sword and brought an end to the matter. He turned to see the robber’s aya, which was tethered to a tree.

Acer released the aya and rode off on it.

Soon he came to the city. It was deserted!

Acer searched everywhere in the city but could find nobody.

Just then he felt queer. He looked down and saw that he was vanishing!

To be continued.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Wild in the country

Another thrilling instalment in my childhood attempt at fanfic for the world of Krishna. I suppose I had at least grasped the importance of reversals, though probably not in a form that would have impressed Aristotle. Or Robert E Howard, come to that. If the illustration (probably also by a 10-year-old) doesn't put you off, take a look at the GURPS sourcebook.

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“The World of Krishna” part 3

Quick as a flash, Acer drew his sword. He swung at the yeki. It jumped aside and the sword flew out of Acer’s hands, jamming point-upwards among some stones.

The yeki leapt at Acer. He ducked and it was impaled on the sword.

A little while later, Acer was walking along when he heard a rustle in the bushes. A person leapt on him and began to strangle him.

To be continued.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Carnage and a glass of cragot

More of my 10-year-old self's stab at fanfic.I see my obsession with having drinks served ice cold (Singha these days) was already firmly in place. And to think my primary school teacher had to wait a whole week between instalments...

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“The World of Krishna” part 2

Acer knew at once that he was being threatened by a robber. He leapt forward, spun around, and drew his sword.

The robber turned to run but he was too late. Acer’s blade came crashing down on his shoulder. The robber staggered to the wall, minus one ear and with his left arm hanging by a few strands of skin.

Having defeated the robber, Acer sat down and finished his roast shomal. He was then handed a bowl of live worms. He ate those and ordered another goblet of cragot. Cragot is like a mixture of champagne and shandy and must always be served ice cold.

An hour later, Acer was walking in the country when a wild yeki leapt in front of him.

To be continued.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

My L Sprague de Camp fanfic

Here's the first instalment of my story set on the planet Krishna. I was only 10 years old and yet I feel it's on a par with some of the Beast Quest books, for example. I realize that's not saying much. The entry from my primary school exercise book begins by setting the scene...

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I am reading a book called A Planet Called Krishna. The author is L Sprague de Camp.

Krishna is a planet very similar to Earth in Roman times. Krishnans are just like humans except they have two short antennae.

Here is my own story about Krishna:

“The World of Krishna” part 1

Acer lom-Tanoc stood in a Krishnan inn. The innkeeper scurried up to him and handed him a menu.

Acer sat down and contemplated the list of meals. He ordered a roast shomal and a glass of cragot. (Cragot is the Krishnans’ answer to beer.)

Suddenly he felt a dagger-point touching the back of his neck.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Swords and old science

A little way along from Ashplants, where I bought magnesium ribbon, and the newsagent’s where I got the latest Marvel comics, was a second-hand bookshop in the proper old style. Two long rooms – dirty, musty, dark. Trestles covered in books, many of which could have done with a dusting of antifungal powder before you touched them. It’s not there now. You’d have to set your Tardis for Woking in the late 1960s.

I got my copy of Amazing Spider-Man #12 in that second-hand bookshop. It was tatty and torn, more like a relic of Victorian times than the three-year-old comic I now know it to have been. But who cares? It was Lee and Ditko, and this was the issue in which Spidey was “Unmasked by Doctor Octopus!” In colour. ‘Nuff said.

It was also where I discovered science fantasy, in the form of Edward Powys Bradbury’s Mars books. Airships and swordplay meet blasters and psionic aliens. It was a Damascene moment, like when I first learned that dinosaurs had actually walked the Earth. A thing that would have been cool enough if merely imaginary turned out to be honest-to-gosh real.

Memory plays tricks, so probably I didn’t cotton on that science fantasy was an actual genre until I came across a second instance of it: L Sprague de Camp’s A Planet Called Krishna. John Carter and Thongor of Lemuria were still in my future then, but the seed had been planted that would inevitably make me an aficionado of the world of Tekumel ten years later.

What reminded me of all this was clearing out my mum’s things and finding an old exercise book that she had kept from my primary school days. It’s an interesting little snapshot of the past. I talk about dinosaurs, comic books, the coming decimalization, everyday events, and the RAF. There are reviews of You Only Live Twice, The Lair of the White Worm – the book, that is – and The Great Ghidrah. (The last of those, according to Wiki, was released as Invasion of Astro Monster but I was there and I can tell you what I saw.)

And there’s a story set on de Camp’s world of Krishna. It wasn’t my first stab at fiction – the year before I’d begun a sequel to Dracula, which opened with Jonathan’s and Mina’s grandson arriving at Dublin airport. A lost classic, obviously. The Krishna story came about because we had a student teacher for English lessons who encouraged us to write a story every Monday morning. I began my Krishna serial and I remember the teacher was concerned because he thought he was going to leave without reading the last instalment, but then he got an extra week at the school and signed off with “Very good indeed, +1”. After that it was goodbye to fiction as our regular teacher just wanted us to describe what we did over the weekends. I wish I could remember the student teacher’s name. He was the only one of them worth a damn at that primary school.

Anyway, people are always on at me to write like I did twenty years ago, so from Saturday I’ll run the reductio ad absurdum of that: my writing at age ten. The Fabled Lands started there, folks. Amazing as it seems in this age of trigger warnings and young people who get traumatized if you so much as challenge their dearest assumptions, the level of bloodthirstiness in the story was pretty typical of ten-year-old boys in the 1960s and nobody sent us for counselling because of it. When you read the story you may decide they should have.