Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Strange Suns and Author Brian Daley.

This blog will evolve and morph in the coming months, but sooner or later you have to take what you have, hold your breath and make a leap. Pardon the humble beginnings, as I am sure we will improve with age.

Everything has a beginning. Even the universe started off as something. I sometimes like to think a giant amorphous being cleared its nasal cavity and thus with a mighty wind, and not so much a big bang, we came flipping and flopping into existence, like a Great Dane puppy, all legs and no coordination.

The love of science fiction can bite a person rather hard on the fundament. With its terrible fangs embedded into our hindquarters many of us discover a life long love. For me it was forming an informal book club in 4th grade with my fellow Conan the Barbarian enthusiasts. I think Conan has served as the gateway drug for many young people. I know he did for me. 

I thought I would start this blog off with a review of sorts. I found a writer years ago, who in one form or another my personal life kept bumping into at weird interstices with. Especially after I met his spouse on-line in a strange set of occurrences to this day I can't really explain.

Brian Daley

I flipped and flopped from one author to the next for several years after my Conan days, until Star Wars happened as a young teenager. Yeah if you haven't figured it out, I belong to the first generation of Star Wars fandom. Then in roughly around eighth grade, I discovered the "Han Solo Adventures" written by Brian Daley. This was way before fan fiction or even much in the way of franchise writing I might have been aware of. My head exploded. Here was a complete set of adventures! I later found out in the 90's Daley wrote the radio play adaptation for the BBC's broadcast of (Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.) 

Several years later 1981 something, in my sophomore year, I meandered into a book store in Olympia Washington, and discovered a book called "The Doomfarers of Cormande." An exciting romp, where a Cavalry Sergeant and his crew of his Armored Personnel Carrier while conducting a patrol, are magically transported to another universe in order to deal with a decidedly deadly magical creature.-Major hook. The magic made sense. More importantly the military men seemed like the real deal.(Resembling my neighbors who had served in Vietnam.) Incidentally Brian Daley wrote the skeleton of this story, while serving in the 11th Armoured Cavalry Division (Black Horse.) in the Republic of South Vietnam.

In the final year or so of my high school I discovered another book also by Daley called "A Requiem for a Ruler of Worlds." The galactic adventures of Hobart Floyt (Earth Functionary) and Alacrity Fitzhugh (Spacer .) Alacrity is pressured into escorting Citizen Floyt of Terra to receive a bequeathment from an off world ruler of nine worlds. It was the first science fiction book, I personally read where I discovered a story could be funny as hell, while still being high adventure. There are plenty of running gags which repeat all throughout the series. The concepts of transportation although vague were sound. (I blame Star Wars.) I am referring to a Faster Than Light FTL engine called a Hawking Drive. (Yes Stephen... it's named after you.)

The first book in the Alacrity Fitzhugh/Hobart Floyt
The world building Daley created, to this day some thirty two years after the first book in the series was released stand up to anything that is currently being published. Oh the tech mentioned nowadays might be a bit more splashy. But his world was a work-a-day world. You could see the grime industrial strength Galactic Fabuloso couldn't wipe away. It felt real. You could smell the lubricant and ozone in work spaces, with trash littering back alleys old evacuation tubes. Along with varied cultures, each having a logical reason for being where and who they were. It was immediately immersive and consuming.

One of the other tidbits or Easter Eggs he put in the Alacrity/Floyt stories, was a minor paragraph about the "Disaster News Network." Where future consumers of entertainment would become obsessed with watching a natural disaster which would destroy a home or community.

Which I find eerily prescient for popular culture's obsession with just exactly that. YouTube is absolutely filled with "Fail" videos or horribly enough top ten "Airplane Disasters." Most viewers not realizing every plane crash usually meant the death of many people. I believe Alacrity Fitzhugh described it as the "Ghoul Network." 

The other blurb was the character Salome Price of the Uncensored News Network, all celebrity news, all day, all night, from all over the galaxy. 

Brian Daley was arguably one of the major writers of Science Fiction in the latter half of the 20th century. I have carried in one dilapidated form or another a majority of his books with me for the past 30 years. 

One of the weird parallels or nexus points I found with his personal life, was my time as a reservist. I found out years later we both had served with certain NCO's and in the last six months of my enlistment, in a reserve component of the 11th ACR based out of Ft Irwin California.

Luckily his spouse of fourteen years celebrated historical fiction writer Lucia St. Clair Robson manages Daley's literary estate, and has recently authorized the reprinting of many of his major works. 

I am even hearing with the success of "Rogue One," the Adventures of Han Solo might be in consideration for an expansion of the Star Wars franchise of movies... But to be completely honest I have neither been able to confirm or deny these rumours at this time.

One of the things I loved about his Del Rey original issue, was the use of noted illustrator Darrell K. Sweet. Who for horse enthusiasts out there, was one of the few illustrators to "get it right." Daley's best cover art IMO was created by Mr. Sweet. Sadly Darrell K. Sweet passed away in 2011. 

Art by Darrell K Sweet.

Brian Daley lost his fight with pancreatic cancer in 1996, he died the following morning after the wrap party for the Return of the Jedi radio play.

Luckily enough for us, Brian Daley's worlds live on. You can find his work, at his official website along with more of his biographical information. Through the link on his page to his published books, there are hypertext links to his Amazon author's page. Each novel currently available is found there.

I believe the old regimental motto is applicable "Alons! or Let's go!" Someday I expect Brian will be found after crossing yet one more river, sitting under a tree penning a new story about broken down cavalry troopers lamenting their plasma swords just aren't up to snuff. You are doing yourself a serious disservice by not discovering his fiction.

DS Baker.

Special Thanks to Lucia St. Clair Robson for permissions granted.

Brian Daley's Official Website:

Brian's available books:

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