By Anna Blackwell (October 2020, age 13)

    Antantaru woke up with a sudden jerk. Thunder rumbled outside the dojo and rain splashed hard on the windows. He felt that something was wrong. Getting up he crept out of the bed chamber, being careful not to wake his fellow pupils.

    As he made his way down the long corridors, he decided that maybe a cup of honeydew tea would calm his nerves. He didn’t know why he felt so anxious that night.

    A flash of lightning came from outside and Antantaru caught a glimpse of something move. Getting on a on guard fighting position Antantaru cautiously moved forward. Something was inside the dojo.

    Suddenly he felt something hit him forcefully in the back, forcing him onto the floor.

    Antantaru rolled over to avoid any other incoming blows. Lighting lit the room for a split second. He caught barely a glimpse of the mysterious foe before a fist hit him in the face. Antantaru touched his mouth; he felt blood on his hand. Whatever he was up against could strike harder and faster than Antantaru had ever encountered.

    “The lights, I have to turn on the lights.” Antantaru said.

    When he got up, fierce hands grabbed his shoulders so fiercely Antantaru gasped for air and he was forced back to the ground.  He hit the floor with a crash. He was sure now he had broken something.

    Another flash of lighting lit up the corridor. Antantaru screamed as he saw four hideous arms wielding katanas come flying at him.




An Ordered Life

An ordered desk forms an ordered mind

All of us in the Blackwell family are busy between running a law practice, raising children, studying for school, the chores associated with a large household, etc. Finding time for painting toy soldiers and writing fiction is not always easy since duties must come before recreation. To find that time, we attempt to cultivate the virtue of the spirit of order.  The Catholic Manual of Civility, explains:

The spirit of order is a most precious quality. It should be included as one of the most indispensable attributes of a man in his private as well as his social life, because it extends itself beneficially to our personal actions as well as our relations with our neighbour.

This most beautiful attribute exercises a decisive influence over a man's success in life. Order gives value to our talents and qualities, and makes them fecund, just as its absence renders our highest aspirations barren and our best gifts futile.

Order is economy of time and money. It allows us to give a better quality and greater quantity of results in both our material and intellectual labours because with it, we take full advantage of time, avoiding dawdling, delay, and doubt.

In practice, this means living a regulated life. Many writers, being creative spirits, might balk at this idea, but it has allowed us to get many things done, including writing although there is always room for improvement. 

Regulating your life boils down to prioritization, scheduling and habit. Determine what you need to get done each day, and plan what you will do when. It doesn't need to be carved in stone, but we try to follow a very regular routine even though we have no written schedule. Dinner is at a certain time, the family rosary at another, and bedtime at yet another. An important key is to avoid opportunities for dissipation in this schedule. 

Catholic Manual of Civility. Ed. Horvat, Marian T., Ph.D. Tradition in Action. Los Angeles: 2008. p. 19

Available for sale at http://www.traditioninaction.org/books.htm; 160 pp.; $16.



 By Godfrey and James Blackwell

We were quite happy with how this conversion/customization went. Out of the box, the 1.4 FD cannon comes in an Empire Strikes Back/Hoth style. To get it to fit in with the rest of James' Rebel army, we replaced the gunner with a rebel trooper from the box set and painted the commander in a temperate colour palette matching the others.


Book Review: The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian

Title: The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian  
Author: Robert E. Howard  
Publisher: Del Rey  
Godfrey's Rating: 3 stars
Summary in a Sentence: A compilation of all the Robert E. Howard Conan stories, this collection is a classic that not just defined but created the "swords and sorcery" genre; Howard's bold style and somewhat purple prose make for good clean fun well-worth the modern reader's attention.

I picked-up the Kindle version of this book a few months back after Sophia's Favourite mentioned on his blog that he considered the Conan stories "good clean fun".  On the whole, I agree with the assessment and considered this collection a good read. Being an older work, you can get it for a fairly decent price as well, although unfortunately the version I got (which was only $0.99) is no longer available on Amazon.

When I say "good clean fun", there's quite a bit of violence with descriptions of brains splattering in the tradition of the Roman classics and Medieval chansons de geste, and while there are a fair number of scantily-clad ladies Conan is rather gentlemanly in his conduct with them, at least "on-screen". The stories are uncomplicated, pure action/adventure, so you should take them for what they are. These are to be read for fun and relaxation. One complaint I had, and which brings the collection down to a 3 where it might have been higher, is that the stories get a little repetitive after a while. There's definitely a formula to them, and while Howard does a pretty good job of mixing this up,  there's only so much variety available. I found the same with Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars books.

But these stories are certainly better than most of what passes for fantasy fiction today. Aside from creating the "swords and sorcery" subgenre, this collection also features one of the seminal "anti-heroes". Conan is not just a barbarian, but a mercenary, brigand, and thief. He lives for the thrill of battle, the taste of wine and good meat, and the embrace of a woman. For all that, he does have a certain honour and decency which especially comes out when he is placed in positions of authority or when a vulnerable young woman is in his power. So he's certainly a palatable "anti-hero" although he seemed to have a bit of the "noble savage" about him which is a trope I've never been a fan of.

On the whole, the collection deserves a solid 3 stars and I recommend that any fan of fantasy in general and swords and sorcery in particular, read it.


Godfrey's "5 Favourite Military Science Fiction Novels"

Been quite a while since we did a "top five" list. This is Godfrey's list of the best/his favourite military science fiction novels. Readers are, as always not just free but invited to disagree and discuss his choices in the comments box or make recommendations for works we have probably missed.

Storm of Iron by Graham McNeil - A Black Library publication set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, which narrowly edges out His Last Command by Dan Abnett and Dead Men Walking by Steve Lyons (both same publisher and setting). A lot of Black Library stuff is maligned as barely more than fan fiction or “war porn”, however, I found these three works are the cream of the crop and I found them to be excellent on the whole, each capturing aspects of military life and combat in their own way. But Storm of Iron gets the nod for the intermingling of great heroism and futility, and its scope and variety, featuring an entire campaign that involves everything from grunts, to tanks, to towering titans. It gets fifth place because it is set in a setting that is perhaps not as “serious” as others, and is much further removed from our own time (set in the 41st millennium) than others. 

Star Wars Heir to the Empire Trilogy by Timothy Zahn - Many would say this is not truly military sic fi, but more Star Wars space fantasy, but Timothy Zahn treats this continuation of the Star Wars story after Return of the Jedi as military fiction and does a fantastic job of following Grand Admiral Thrawn’s campaign to defeat the New Republic and reinstitute the Empire. It is full of strategy and military actions all done in a realistic way taking into account the setting and with very well executed characters. This is what they should have based Episode VII-IX off of in my opinion. 

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman - Much deserving of the appellation “classic” this is a fantastic portrayal of the life of a soldier who must deal not only with the wiles of drill sergeants and the army being the army, but with the added element of time dilation making it impossible to return home. My one complaint is that while army life was very realistically portrayed based on my own limited experience, the way that Haldeman thinks female soldiers could be integrated into the army is not credible to the point of seeming like pornographic fantasy in parts. This isn’t a minor quibble because this element features heavily into the narrative, but is greatly compensated for by the very realistic portrayal of warfare (actually making realistic, slower-than-light star ship combat occurring at millions of kilometres not mind-numbingly boring). 

The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steve Barnes - I’ve sung this work’s praises in the past, but it warrants mention again and listing in second place on my list. It’s portrayal of military life is admittedly much more in keeping with my own prejudices I’ll admit, and I don’t pretend to be unbiased in this list. But military life aboard a star ship is well portrayed here and although the “campaign” featured is more of exploration and first contact, it still fits in the list and is very well done.

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein - The novel of Mobile Infantry in their armoured combat suits that carry tactical nukes and can leap over buildings gets my vote for best military science fiction. Heinlein, another war veteran, totally “nailed” military life in my view, and combined it with innovating and interesting technology and a compelling military campaign against bug aliens. Lots of great political commentary as well, and lessons on being a good soldier and leader.


The Death of Cinemas?

    Just a few weeks after I shared a teaser trailer for the new Dune film and shared some thoughts on David Lynch's 1984 version, it was announced that Dune's release is being delayed almost a year to October 2021. In the wake of this, Regal and Cineworld are closing all of their cinemas in the UK and US. One wonders how long other chain can hold out.

    This leaves me wondering whether cinemas will even exist come the fall of 2021. As a science fiction/fantasy fan, this makes me sad as these films are at their best with the big screen and big sound. Although we have not had many opportunities to attend the cinema, it has provided great memories such as watching Interstellar with Albert on IMAX, and even though it was not the best movie, watching The Force Awakens with Albert and Anna will always be with us.

    Although we have a projector, it's still not quite the same as going out to see a film, getting some bad way overpriced popcorn, etc.

    On the other hand, I'm not too sad to see fewer films being released with liberal, feminist, or pornographic elements which all to many films have. Part of the reason we've attended the cinema so infrequently is because so many films are not something we'd want to watch.

    How do our readers feel about this news?



 By Godfrey Blackwell

Here is a comic I drew back in 2012, envisioning what might have happened to me if young Albert had been in government school at the time drawing the sorts of stuff he likes to draw, after reading about this travesty:   https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/kitchener-dad-receives-apology-after-arrest-and-strip-search-1.834997

(Yes, a man really was arrested because his daughter drew a picture of her dad "shooting monsters" at school)

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