Hard Copy

I now own my own book(s) in physical form: We Used Dark Forces (Dennis Wheatley + HP Lovecraft + Agatha Christie rendered as WWII SF whodunnit black comedy) is joined by Is Your Journey to the Centre of the Earth Really Necessary? (Jules Verne + Edgar Rice Burroughs + Sax Rohmer + Robert E Howard rendered as WWII SF epic fantasy black comedy). You can see above how much chunkier the new one is than its predecessor, but you can’t see that the print for some reason is both larger and more spacious which makes it hard to tell how much longer it really is.

One reason it’s long is that I decided to follow the genre requirement, as I remembered it from childhood favourites like JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH, THE LOST WORLD and (the wretched) ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD — it should always take a frustratingly long time for the characters to actually get started on their voyage. This sense of an endless wait was probably a function of my being a kid when I saw these films, and thus much much more interested in the dinosaurs etc than the people who were going to meet them. I wasn’t unique in this: when Spielberg made his first JURASSIC PARK sequel, he followed the advice of kids who had written to him saying Please don’t make us wait so long for the dinosaurs this time. Following their advice helped make the second film worse.

In fact, I think the characters failing to get started is some of my favourite stuff in this book, though it’s possible it could have benefitted from pruning. I’m a bit embarrassed about how fat the book is — like Paul Thomas Anderson when he realised MAGNOLIA was gonna be three hours.

Being sick for almost three weeks has allowed me to make excellent progress on volume 3, which seems to have a more robust structure than the first two — either this is because I’m actually improving, or it’s an illusion caused by the time travel theme, or it’s an illusion caused by me not being quite finished yet. I may be speaking too soon.

I’m a bit concerned that Amazon still hasn’t realised that the Kindle version (here) and the paperback (here) are the same book. Amazon admits this can happen but claims that it always gets sorted out in a week or two. Waiting.

Your complimentary extract: mad scientist camping anecdote.

I hadn’t been camping since boyhood, when I had briefly moved out of the rambling family abode at Bolventor (not far from my present campsite, actually) to observe the local fauna’s reaction to the special feed I’d been leaving out. That adventure had led to a hair-raising encounter with a mutated badger, which, nourished upon the special nutrients I’d supplied, had grown large as an ox and was as a consequence ravenously hungry. Our faithful groundskeeper, Couch, eventually found me, treed by the snorting behemoth, and felled the black monster with his twelve-bore, but not before it had wrenched off his left arm.

I learned to be wary of Couch’s hook after that.

The paperback lives here on Amazon UK. The US version is here. And here’s the Australian.


8 Responses to “Hard Copy”

  1. Terrifyingly, when I placed my order, Amazon suggested that I also purchase “The Depression Alabet Primer” by Daniel Riccuito.

  2. An interesting connection! Amazon knows us so well…

    I do recommend the Primer, Daniel knows his subject and is entertaining on it. But it’s definitely sinister than Amazon can connect us.

  3. Daniel Riccuito Says:


    Excerpt from


    Anselm Bellegarique (April, 1850)


    Who says anarchy, says negation of government;

    Who says negation of government says affirmation of the people;

    Who says affirmation of the people, says individual liberty;

    Who says individual liberty, says sovereignty of each; Who says sovereignty of each, says equality;

    Who says equality, says solidarity or fraternity;

    Who says fraternity, says social order;

    By contrast:

    Who says government, says negation of the people;

    Who says negation of the people, says affirmation of political authority;

    Who says affirmation of political authority, says individual dependency;

    Who says individual dependency, says class supremacy;

    Who says class supremacy, says inequality;

    Who says inequality, says antagonism;

    Who says antagonism, says civil war,

    From which it follows that who says government, says civil war.

  4. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    i’ll have my school library order it!!!!!!!!

  5. I miss the innocent days of yore when I would type “Zero for Conduct” in the Netflix search engine and it would respond with a suggestion for “Captain America: The First Avenger.”

  6. “If you like films about weedy young men who become athletic crusaders against tyranny…”

  7. bensondonald Says:

    Some non-classic Verne, or Vernelike, movies:

    — MASTER OF THE WORLD (1961), AIP’s epic “in the tradition of” 20,000 LEAGUES. The script had the potential for a classic, but the low budget and weak effects make it an enjoyably silly B. Vincent Price is Robur, an airborne Nemo.

    — CAPTAIN NEMO AND THE UNDERWATER CITY (1969), produced in England by MGM. Very much a kiddie matinee, with decor anticipating Willy Wonka and Robert Ryan as an avuncular Captain Nemo, presiding over the happy titular municipality. Feels like the last gasp for this kind of film.

    — THOSE FANTASTIC FLYING FOOLS (1967): American International and Harry Alan Towers offer a knockoff of THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES, complete with Terry-Thomas and Gert Forbe along with an all-star (for AIP) cast. The plot is loosely FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, with P.T. Barnum promoting the moon shot.

    — Disney’s IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS (1962), a lesser but enjoyable follow-up to SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON. It looks to have been shot entirely indoors with lots of mattes, tilts the big action set pieces towards comedy, and actually spends half the film trekking across the wrong continent. Also, Maurice Chevalier and Hayley Mills make time for songs. But it’s dandy for what it is, the very essence of boomer-period Disney.

    — Irwin Allen’s FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON (1962), a notch below Allen’s THE LOST WORLD. The familiar cast is amusing (including Billy Gilbert) but at best a Disney wannabe.

    — FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON (1958), a sorely disappointing “straight” version of Verne’s novel. Dull and a bit stingy-looking, despite adding a pretty stowaway.

    — ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD (1974) is Disney self-consciously trying to evoke 20,000 LEAGUES (they’d try again with THE BLACK HOLE). They were going to make it a ride in Disneyland, but bad box office killed the project. The comic terrified Eskimo is played by Mako, later to win a Tony as star of PACIFIC OVERTURES.

    — ATLANTIS THE LOST EMPIRE (2001), for all the ambition and money, ultimately looked like Disney trying to make an anime.

    — THE AMAZING CAPTAIN NEMO (1978), a TV movie from Mr. Allen. Almost as cheesy as LOST IN SPACE, and feels like it was made back in the early 60s. Nemo (Jose Ferrer) is defrosted in the present and takes a new crew through what were obviously intended as three episodes of a series.

  8. I’ve seen a worrying number of those. Or large chunks of them, from the days when I was too young to read the TV listings, and would just turn the set on (an wait for it to “warm up”) and watch whatever presented itself.

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