Tag Archives: writing

400. A Forgotten Classic

This is a shortened version of the post introducing what I call the Rip Foster book, which I had considered serializing. See the previous post for why I changed my mind.

This book is one of the best of the “this is what might actually happen” style of science fiction. I wrote Cyan in the same style. Unlike the Rick Brant books, the science in this book stands up to modern scrutiny, except for the fact that Rip’s solar system has alien life on several planets and moons.

Even though I decided to continue presenting my own work in Serial, this classic deserves to be read, even today. I recommend it to adults and boys alike. Girls, I apologize. No girls were allowed in juvenile science fiction in the fifties. Sorry. Don’t blame me; I was just a kid back then.

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Today, in Serial, I (had planned to begin) the presentation of a mostly forgotten classic.

The author was Harold Goodwin. I’ve talked about him before. (see 60. Thank You Harold Goodwin and 195 Boys at Work: Rick Brant) and I have suggested downloading this particular book from Project Gutenberg.

This novel was written under the pseudonym Blake Savage. It first appeared in 1952, published by Whitman, titled Rip Foster Rides the Gray Planet. This is the edition which Gutenberg has available, with illustrations by E. Dean Cate. The same year, the novel was released in England as Rip Foster Rides the Grey Planet (note the British spelling).

The novel was again published by Whitman in 1958 as Assignment in Space with Rip Foster. That was the version that lit up my childhood. Denny McMains’ illustrations were superb. Golden released a paperback reverting to the original title in 1969.

If you want a copy today, a Gutenberg download will come free. An ebook version of Assignment in Space with Rip Foster is available through Amazon, with the wonderful Denny McMains illustrations, for under a buck. The novel also appears at the end of the Tom Corbett Space Patrol Megapack, without illustrations.

Original copies show up from time to time, more often in antique stores than in used book stores, for prices ranging from pennies to “you gotta be kidding”.

By the way, Rip is the nickname of Richard Ingalls Peter Foster. It was a clever way to get a cool first name without going over the top. Donald Wollheim used the same acronymical schtick a few years later when he called the character Michael Albert Richard Sampson, Mike Mars. (see 357. Mike Mars and Project Quicksilver)

Most of the authors from my youth are still in print, or in libraries. Of the books that I loved then, which have since been forgotten, Rip Foster stands out as the best by far, as well as being the only one which was not part of a series. It deserves to be revived, and this seem(ed) the right time for me to do that.

And, yes, it is in public domain. I don’t steal from other authors.

Blondel 3

Leaves obscured the view he might have had, but he could see the tough, scarred face of the guard, dressed in leather shirt with chain mail worked into key points and leather trousers. It was the poorest sort of armor. Once it had been gaily dyed and painted with some coat of arms; but then once it had been fitted to a smaller man, to judge from the bulging, open neck and the relieving slits the guard had made in the trouser thighs. Second hand leathers and no padding on the wood and iron saddle — no wonder the guard looked surly.

The girl in the cart had fared better. Her gown was probably second hand, but meant for someone larger and cut down with some care. Once it had been gay; now it was subdued, but the life in the girl’s face made up for it. This would be the first great adventure of her life, going to the great Faire with only a serving woman and a hired guard. Her hair was brown and elaborately done up; she wore her rouge with that country gracelessness that can be alluring on the very young; the very innocent.

The serving woman? Ah, well; some things are better left undescribed.

After they had passed from sight, Blondel gathered up some sticks for a small fire and a pot of tea. The other travelers were moving faster than he, but he saw no percentage in coming upon their camp at night. This part of Arden had a bad reputation for thieves and adventurers of every type, and he did not want to prey on their nerves to his own misfortune.

But come upon them he did.

It was still three hours short of nightfall when he found the cart overturned in a roadside ditch with the offside mule dead in the traces. The serving woman was there, face down in a muddy, bloody pool of rainwater. Whatever finery and trade goods had been in the cart were gone. There was no sign of the girl or the guard, the guard‘s horse, or the other mule.

Blondel stood for a moment, drumming his fingers on his sword hilt. It was not his duty to police the world, nor revenge its wrongs; besides these brigands outnumbered him ten to one, to judge from their tracks. But still, there was the question of the girl. If he found her body, he would go on. The guard could take care of himself.

He circled the area, studying the ground. The guard had galloped away southward down the road; whether or not he had been carrying double, Blondel could not tell, but there were no feminine footprints leading away from the cart, so he dared to hope. Four of the outlaws had followed the guard on foot, so Blondel proceeded with caution. more tomorrow

Blondel 2

Like his father, Blondel (the Younger, of Arden, if formality be needed) was of short stature and fine build. He looked like a perfect miniature of a larger man. Seen at a distance where no growing thing lent reference to his size, he might seem a tall, slim viking. On closer examination, it became apparent that he stood no more than five feet in height. Some attributed that to dwarf blood, but of course that was not so. Had it been, he would have been stout and twisted, not a finely sculptured miniature. In point of fact, one of his grandmothers had been a fairy.

Now there was reputed to be a great Faire assembling at the confluence of the Raipiar and Andis rivers in honor of the coming visit by King Henrique, and it seemed to Blondel that such a place would be a likely prospect. What, exactly, he would do there was a matter best left to fate and an agile mind. However, since it might include the singing of ballads, he took his voice out of the scratchy throat where it had been hiding and aired it.

                The mighty Artur in his court,
                With knights both brave and fair,
                Did turn his eye with some delight
                To a Lady‘s serving lady there.

                And if in night, the Knight did weave,
                The first warp of a golden dream;
                The last weft brought him black despair.

Not bad. The coarseness of the last week was gone, though he still felt a strain at some of the higher notes. Well enough; by the time he reached the Faire, his voice would be back to its normal sweetness. Such was Blondel’s evaluation, though it was hotly disputed by a magpie whose slumber he had disturbed.

No sooner had the magpie begun his remonstrance than the bird found himself talking to an empty road, though only for a minute. Then a rider came into view leading a gaily painted cart. He was handsome enough, in a sour way, to have been a knight, but his threadbare clothing and the device worked into his tunic said that he was a guard for hire. That would make his charge the daughter of a wealthy merchant from one of the towns; a rural baron, however poor, would have at least one knight and would not stoop to hiring protection.

They were still a long way off, and Blondel hesitated before working his way deeper into the brush. On one hand, he had no reason to confront the travelers and that guard had a surly look about him. On the other hand, it had rained only a few hours earlier, and Blondel had no desire to trade slaps with a hundred leafy branches still wet from that shower. Compromising, he moved back out of sight to let them pass. more tomorrow

399. I Changed My Mind

No, I did not change my mind about cutting back on posts in the A Writing Life blog. Since I made that decision, I have outlined most of, and written the first six chapters, rough draft only, of a new novel. The title is still in limbo so I won’t say more until I can name it properly. The decision to cut back was a good one.

I am actually making a change in Serial. I had planned to run a guest novel. I had written two posts explaining why and giving a bio of the author, Harold Goodwin. I had also reduced the first several chapters of that novel to serial posts, enough to carry through mid-September, and positioned them in the queue, ready to publish.

So, why? First, why a guest novel — then why did I change my mind?

Since 2015, Serial has been a place for me to present short stories, a novella, presentations from Westercon, long and short excerpts from novels, and complete novels.

Christmas week of 2015 I presented five classic poems that have inspired me. Otherwise, everything in Serial has been something I have written.

The cupboard isn’t empty; four novels remain. Valley of the Menhir, Scourge of Heaven, and Who Once Were Kin, are complete fantasy novels. They deserve to be held back to be presented in a more traditional way. Symphony in a Minor Key is a complete novel about teaching. I’m quite proud of it, but it didn’t seem right for this blog, which has been largely aimed at science fiction readers.

I argued with myself through the month of June. Should I run a classic SF novel that is unknown to today’s audience, or should I run a novel of my own about teaching. It was a big decision, since once committed, it would be six months before I could change course. I opted for the SF novel.

One the decision was made, I placed the first 20 posts in the Serial queue. Then I went on with my life, still mulling over the decision. Spirit Deer began appearing, and you all kept reading. I found no reduction in reader’s responses. Hmmm. You had stayed with me through Raven’s Run and through Voices in the Walls as well. Hmmm, again.

I started this blog to reach two audiences. First, I was looking for lovers of science fiction and fantasy who might want to read my novels, if I could make them aware of them. Second, I expected the blog to be read by new and would-be writers.

I found both but, clearly, in reverse order. Ok, I hear you. I never was comfortable with a guest novel, anyway.

New plan — I will post Symphony in a Minor Key. But first, I need to buy time. It takes many hours to turn a novel into a serial (see 245. Serializing), and my guest novel was due to start today.

No problem. I have several pieces that were published in Serial before anyone was reading this blog. I’ll recycle one or two — no one now reading has seen them, anyway — while I am preparing the next novel.

And so, PRESENTING—

Blondel of Arden, beginning in Serial today.

Blondel 1

The Blondel of legend was the minstrel who found Richard the Lionhearted when he was imprisoned, and helped to effect his escape. I became aware of him through Gore Vidal’s novel A Search for the King.

My Blondel is a different character, wandering through a different medieval land. I like him, and I think you will too, but don’t expect him to save the world. His ambitions and magics are small, and he is more likely to hang out with peasants and innkeepers than with knights. Come to think of it, that is also true of Tidac and Cinnabar, who came later. Ah well, what do you expect when the son of an Oklahoma farmer sits down at the typewriter.

Blondel of Arden

Blondel was a man of many talents, not the least of which was survival. He could sing a ballad, juggle knives in a sideshow or books in a clerk’s office. He had been a traveling bard at times, but only when no other opportunity presented itself. Bards were, and still are in some rough places, considered of inferior stock. Though they regale, their status remains insecure and the songs they sing must fit into an acceptable mold.

Now Blondel was a man in love with the sound of his own voice, but to play the bard was to play the fool and he had no stomach for it. He had his pride, and he exercised it whenever circumstances permitted.

So Blondel, who was odd in many other ways as well, would pass up easy and lucrative employment at a Lord‘s house one night, only to spend half the next singing himself hoarse in a peasant‘s hut for a meal and a tick ridden tic to sleep on. He had done so only a week past, in fact, which accounted for a certain gruffness of speech and a cough that was just now passing.

Blondel had done many things in his time, but of them all, soldiering appealed to him least. He had a positive aversion to the feel of a blade piercing flesh; an aversion that was exceeded only by the unhappy possibility that the flesh might be his own. He carried a sword, which he had used on occasion, but he preferred flight to confrontation and tried to restrict its use to cutting wood for his night fires.

Blondel was a far ranging man. He never did say where he was born, but when asked his full title he invariably replied, “Blondel of Arden“. This phrase verged on usurpation, but it was merely and literally true. From Channel to Northpeak, Blondel had wandered the face of his native land for as long as anyone could remember. Oldsters remembered Blondel from their youths and said that he looked no different than he had then. This patent absurdity lent a certain mystical cast to Blondel‘s basically simple life, and he did nothing to discourage it. In point of fact, it was Blondel‘s father who had walked these paths thirty years earlier; they shared name, appearance, and an inclination to wander. In the north country, where they had both been these last two decades, everyone knew his secret; but here in the south they saw Blondel, remembered his father, and awe followed him like a shy, stray dog. more tomorrow

398. Summing Up Spirit Deer

Today Spirit Deer ends with a short post. Tim is home and all is well.

Here’s a short summing up for those who missed the start. Spirit Deer has appeared in two major forms. It was first a book for adults, with a thirty-something Tim Carson, who had a wife, a job, friends, and included various events which have since been excised. It was a carefully chosen story that offered me no research difficulties. The entire purpose of the original Spirit Deer was to see if I could write day after day until a novel length manuscript emerged. I could. It did. And I never stopped writing.

Years later I pared it back to its core story and recast it as a juvenile, which is what I have presented here.

Writing Spirit Deer was so enjoyable that I did not reapply for a Ph.D. program in Anthropology, as I had intended. Also, in full disclosure, I had come to the realization that, although Anthropology as an intellectual endeavor fascinated me, the idea of sitting in an Indian (South Asian, not Native American) village and taking down daily gossip as field work did not appeal. Not even a little bit.

So I kept writing, had some success, had a long dry spell for sales during which I still kept on writing, and now my new book Cyan is available. On the basis of that publication, I just came back from Westercon where I served on panels, met a batch of young authors, and was struck by the kernel of a new steampunk novel that I am working on as you read this. My second published novel was set in India, and made use of all those years studying Anthropology. My next one is built around an obscure event in the history of British India, turned inside out and backwards in an alternate steampunk universe.

Its been a good ride, and a rough ride, but I wouldn’t have had it it any other way.

Spirit Deer 40

Chapter 15

Well fed now, with his ankle all but healed, Tim snowshoed down the mountainside to the Tate, and upstream to the highway bridge. It took most of two days, but he had learned to build shelters quickly. With meat and a fire, and wrapped in a half cured bearskin, it did not take much to make Tim comfortable enough to sleep at night.

When Tim reached the road, it was still choked with snow, so he walked the last few miles into the village. It was afternoon of the fourteenth day of his absence when he headed down his own street looking like something out of another age. He wore ragged jeans and an enormous, shaggy bear skin, and moved confidently on snowshoes, dragging a rough toboggan of saplings piled high with greasy, frozen bear meat.

His father’s rig was sitting in the front yard. A feeling of guilt for the trouble he had caused took the edge off his homecoming, but only for a moment. He left his toboggan in the yard and stepped up onto the porch. He knocked.

His mother looked smaller, older, and more precious when she opened the door. She stood for a moment, frozen by the shock of his reappearance. Then she gathered Tim into his arms. Over her shoulder, he saw his father coming into the living room. The smile that split his father’s face was worth the whole ordeal Tim had gone through. In three strides his father crossed the floor and caught them both up in his embrace, and Tim was truly home at last. finis