Archives for the month of: February, 2011

Cadet Redstart had no idea how long he’d been unconscious. The last thing he remembered were sirens going off and lights flashing in the tiny cockpit of his T-13 Skylark spacecraft. Now he sat in the charred, smoking wreckage with the rain of an unknown planet dripping down on him through the broken cockpit canopy.
He reached down and unbuckled the safety restraints, wincing at the pain in his ribs. He tried switching on the subspace radio but the parts of it that had not been smashed into tiny pieces during the crash had been shorted out by the rain. No help there.

Redstart reached under his seat and removed the pouch containing his meager survival gear. He opened it to examine the contents: Bird seed rations for six days, dehydrated water tablets (just add water!), one collapsible thermal nest, one Bennington’s model P- 426 laser pistol, and finally a knife with a compass in the handle. He holstered the laser-pistol and returned the rest of the items to the pouch.
He resealed the pouch and zipped it up into one of the many pockets on his flight vest.
The twisted cockpit canopy refused to manually open, so Redstart was forced to blow the explosive bolts which blasted it off high into the air. With it gone Redstart was able to get a clear view of his surroundings for the first time. Rich green vegetation and multi-colored exotic flowers closed in upon him from all sides. This appeared to be a jungle planet. 1
Redstart suddenly heard footstep-like sounds coming at him from all directions. He leaped into the air and flew into the high branches of a nearby tree. He watched as five large cats slowly surrounded his spacecraft. They sniffed around the cockpit and the ground around the ship. They gathered together and seemed to be whispering about something but Redstart couldn’t make out any of the words. He didn’t speak Feline Standard anyway. 2
They formed a single-file line and began slinking to the North. Redstart slowly followed, making his way silently from branch to branch in the tall, jungle trees.
It seemed like hours later when they finally came upon a gargantuan stone tower. The top of the tower reached far above the tree line. Its bricks were made of smooth, black stone which were covered with tangled vines, all except for the base, where it looked like the vines had been scratched away. The line of cats disappeared into the stygian blackness of the tower entrance. All was silent except for Cadet Redstart’s tiny, pounding heart.

Suddenly Redstart heard leaves rustle behind him. He whirled around, drawing his laser-pistol as he spun. A butterfly landed on the branch in front of him, looking up at Redstart with a smug, self-satisfied expression. Redstart chuckled to himself as he re-holstered his laser-pistol. He reached up to a leaf and took a drop of rain onto his wing. He knelt down and offered the water droplet to the butterfly, who promptly opened his huge mouth, filled with gleaming, razor-sharp teeth, and bit him on the wing.3 Redstart nearly chirped from the sudden, intense pain. He quickly drew his laser-pistol and clubbed the butterfly’s tiny head with the butt of the weapon. The butterfly released his death bite and stumbled over the edge of the branch. Redstart peered over as the butterfly drifted in slow circles to the ground far below.

Redstart decided he had better eat something. This place – wherever it was – was more dangerous than it looked, and he was going to need all the energy he could get. He sat down in a spot where the branch forked and pulled out one of the bird seed rations. As he nibbled he kept a close eye on the tower entrance, but there was no more activity to be seen. Before he knew it he had slipped quietly into a restless slumber.

Something woke Redstart in the middle of the night. He looked down toward the black tower and saw that it, and the path leading up to it, were lit by dozens and dozens of torches, each one burning with bright, otherworldly, purple flame. He couldn’t see anything moving in the eerily lit areas, but he assumed there were guard cats on the prowl. He turned around to walk back to his makeshift bed in the crook of the branch only to find a very large butterfly sitting there waiting for him. Redstart didn’t know how, but he could tell that this was the butterfly from earlier’s older, meaner brother. He watched as two more butterflies, equally as large, joined him on either side. These butterflies meant business.
Without hesitating, Redstart leaped off the branch and flew straight toward the black tower. It suddenly seemed very far away. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the three butterflies were in hot pursuit. He was already flying at maximum speed and they were gaining on him! He tried his best maneuvers; suicide dives, loop-the-loops, whirling dervishes, even his famous Barn Stormer, but still they followed! He could feel them biting at his feet and nipping at his tail feathers. He did a circle around the tower and spotted a tiny window near the top. He aimed and shot toward it like a feathered torpedo. Redstart squeezed himself through the small opening and slammed against the brick wall opposite the window. He hopped back over and was relieved to see that the butterflies’ huge, beautiful wings kept them from being able to follow him. They hovered there for a moment, hate burning in their weird, insect eyes, then flew away, back down under the thick canopy of the forest. Redstart leaned against the wall under the window and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Which he immediately gasped back in when he spotted two, large, green eyes staring at him hungrily in the darkness.

The eyes grew larger and larger as the huge, black cat stalked toward Redstart. He reached for the laser-pistol holstered at his side. The cat suddenly jerked to a halt. Redstart heard chains clinking and noticed a heavy, metal collar around the cat’s neck. Redstart saw that the big cat was chained to the wall behind him. He drew his laser-pistol and pointed it at the cat. The cat just stood there and closed his eyes, as if welcoming the blast. After what seemed like an eternity, the cat slowly opened one eye to find the small bird still pointing the gun at him. Redstart decided there was something different about this cat. For one, it didn’t look at all like it wanted to eat him. Secondly it had a white, diamond-shaped tuft of hair in the middle of its head. The rest of the cats he’d seen on this planet were all black. He slowly re-holstered his laser-pistol. The cat slumped down onto his belly and heaved a big sigh, while keeping a seemingly uninterested eye on Redstart. This was a very strange cat indeed and for once Redstart wished he spoke Feline Standard.4 He sat down against the wall under the window and pulled out another bird seed ration. The big cat stood up, walked to the opposite wall, and began scratching on the stone. About fifteen minutes later he returned and looked at Redstart expectantly. Redstart put away the rest of the bird seed ration and stood up. The cat looked at him and then back at the wall he’d been scratching. Redstart very slowly walked towards the cat. As he got closer he could tell that it was close to starving. Redstart thought for a moment that this whole thing might be an elaborate ruse to lure him in, but still, there was something about this cat that he…trusted.
The cat moved ahead of Redstart and stood by the portion of the wall he had scratched. Redstart could see that it was an elaborate drawing. It took him a while to take it all in but he finally understood the gist of it. It seemed this cat used to be the King of all cats on this planet. Under his rule the cats prospered and were free and happy. His wife – whom he had married as part of an arranged marriage – slowly and secretly gained the trust of his most loyal troops and turned them against him. She had him imprisoned and thrown into the tower prison to slowly rot away.
As Redstart watched, the cat scratched a picture of himself sitting on a throne with a shining crown atop his head. He reached out his huge paw towards Redstart. Redstart reached out his wing, grasped the cat’s paw, and nodded. He never thought he would be shaking paws with a cat, but he knew that helping him regain his throne was the right thing to do.5

Endnotes

1. Trust me, planets are usually made up of one, and ONLY one, type of ecosystem. Arctic tundra, desert, deciduous forest, ocean, etc. There are many examples of this throughout science fiction if you don’t believe me.

2. Which mostly goes, “Meooow meow. Meow meeeeow meow. Meow? Meow.”
3. What? Did you think that all butterflies are cute and harmless? Use your imagination once in a while. You sound just like my ex-wife.

4. Remember when I said earlier that Cadet Redstart doesn’t speak Feline Standard? Try to keep up, okay?

5. NOTE: This story takes place five years before Redstart fought in the Third Pigeon Succession War and three weeks after Claudia threw my entire record collection out on the front lawn.

I’ve decided to make 3 different editions of the Graham Banigan book I’m printing soon. The Adventures of Cadet Redstart Volume XIII: Trapped in the Tower of the Cat Queen will be available in:

  • Super-Swank Edition
  • Choice D-Lux Edition
  • Hi-Standard Edition

Those are listed in order of “most ritzy” to “least ritzy.” Make no mistake, however, the Hi-Standard Edition will still be incredibly “ritzy.”
I’m shooting for around 50 copies total. That works out to 6 Super-Swank, 12 Choice D-Lux, and 32 Hi-Standard.

Supplies are limited! Order yours TODAY!

Here are some rough sketches of the illustrations for the Graham Banigan book I’m in the process of reprinting. The original illustrator was Ted Rothberg so I’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill! My Redstart books are packed away somewhere, but when I find them I’ll scan some of Rothberg’s illustrations. I don’t think he’ll mind considering how he disappeared under mysterious circumstances right after illustrating The Adventures of Cadet Redstart Volume XX: Captain Jazz to the Rescue!

This is the title page illustration. I originally planned for this being the SpacePatrol emblem (since Rothberg never created one) but it was quickly replaced by the flying egg.

I eventually decided to go with the one with the goggles as the first illustration within the text of the book. It's just meant to establish Cadet Redstart as a character and give readers a clear idea of what he looks like.

Graham Banigan – the award winning science fiction author – recently gave me his permission to reprint one of my favorite books of his for a project I’m doing this semester. Banigan is best known for his numerous youth adventure series, the most popular of them being The Adventures of Cadet Redstart (All about a tiny bird in a space patrol who’s constantly getting into adventures throughout the known galaxy). He has published over 60 works of fiction, 5 non-fiction, and a dozen or so romance novels in his 43 year career.

He’s still hard at work these days (in fact, he has a new book coming out this summer) and he’s very busy, but he was kind enough to let me call him up and record a little interview. I’ve transcribed the interview word for word because I know that his many fans will appreciate the intimate look at one of their favorite authors. And I hope it will also be exciting for those people who have never heard of him. Hopefully this will win him some new fans.

John-Michael: You published your first novel in 1968, is that right?

Graham Banigan: Yes, that’s right. The Madmen of Mars. What a piece of crap. But it sold.

JM: Weren’t you were still in college at the time?

GB: Yeah, I was a sophmore. I published, I think…four short stories and another novel before I graduated in ’70.

JM: Was it hard for you to balance your school work with all that writing?

GB: Not at all. I just ignored my school work. (Laughs)

JM: I’m sure everyone asks you this, but where do you get your ideas? How did you come up with the Cadet Redstart character scpecifically?

GB: You know, I do get asked that all the time, and I’ve never really been able to come up with an answer that satisfies anyone. (Laughs) The truth is that there is no big secret. I think everyone does it differently. I don’t ever really sit down and try to think of ideas. They just sort of hit me all of a sudden. On an elevator, on an escalator, on the stairs. Anywhere really. As for Redstart, well I’ve always been fond of birds in little hats. But who isn’t?

JM: Out of all your work, do you have any personal favorites?

GB: (Clears throat) Oh geez, yeah. Let me think. The Fires of Alzigar is a personal favorite. My favorite Redstart novel is, of course, The Adventures of Cadet Redstart Volume IV: Lost in the City of Caterpillar.

JM: I’m glad you mentioned it because The Fires of Alzigar is one of my favorites. The last lines are really haunting. “And the desert winds blow. Towers rise and towers fall. Yet here stand I. And the fires of Alzigar burn on.”

GB: Wow, you had that memorized? Well you could be reading it, I can’t see you.

JM: (Laughs) No, I actually had it memorized.

GB: You must have a lot of time on your hands! (Laughs) Yeah I was really happy with the way Alzigar turned out. I always meant to write a sequel, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I guess another personal favorite of mine is Upon A Darkling Tide.

JM: You kind of set a record with that one, right?

GB: Yes, and it wasn’t a sales record. (Laughs)

JM: And you still hold the record for longest footnote.

GB: Yeah, 22 pages long. Well it was my first fantasy novel and I just wanted to be thorough. It was also right in the middle of Tolkien Fever here in the states, so I got a little carried away.

JM: In the early 1980’s you took a break from science fiction and fantasy and published 13 romance novels in a row. Could you talk a little about that?

GB: Talk about the stories or…

JM: Just about why you made that decision.

GB: Oh, well I had just gone through a pretty traumatic divorce. I went a little crazy, I guess you could say. I locked myself in my studio over Labor Day weekend and I came out with 13 finished romance novels. I hated them. I hated writing them. The covers were awful. But I felt like it was something I had to do. I don’t think anyone should read them because they’re crap. Absolute crap. In fact, if anyone out there did read them and they want their money back, let me know. (Laughs) No, I’m just kidding. You learned your lesson.

JM: Well I’m just glad you got back to your science fiction right away. Getting all that out of your system seemed to have helped because you immediately came out with Redstart number 14, Cat King Triumphant, which many consider to be your finest work. It won you your first H.J. Kestler Award and got you nominated for the AHPCG Science Fiction Society Award.

GB: Yeah, boy I sure wasn’t expecting that one to be such a big hit, but I was happy that it was. I think you were exactly right when you said that about getting those romance novels out of my system. With all that negative energy out of the way I could get back to writing the stories I really love.

JM: I won’t take up too much more of your time since I know you’re really busy these days. I just wanted to see if you would talk about the new book you have coming out this summer?

GB: Oh, sure. Well I know that vampires are really popular lately, especially with pre-teen girls. So without going into too many details, let’s just say I mixed vampires with mermaids. There’s also going to be some extensive pony riding scenes.