I mentioned last week that I was struggling with the cover. I had an idea in my head but getting it onto the screen via my arms, hands, keyboard and mouse was beyond my technological capabilities. After a couple of failed—and time consuming—attempts, I threw up my hands and asked for help. Step forward Martin Baines, who not only stepped up to the plate but knocked the ball out of the park a couple of days after I'd sent him a rough of what I had in mind. You can see the rough below.
For those of you who don't know Martin's work, he's probably best known currently as the colorist on the Daily Mirror's "Garth" strip, but he's also done a lot of comics, illustration, advertising and storyboard work. You can see some of it at the Smudge Pencil website.
I'm still tinkering with the introductory material. I've written a feature on future dystopian fiction that looks at future sports stories, the history of Roman gladiatorial combat and the current obsession with reality TV. There's a foreword by author Dave H. Taylor, who scripted "Arena", and I'm working on a little appreciation of artist Enrique Alcatena.
I'm still hopeful that I'll have the book done and dusted by the end of the month. Maybe even on sale, although that may slip into early October depending on the approvals process. Hopefully the turnaround time on the next book won't be so long.
I spent Saturday wandering around town taking photos of Invasion Colchester 2014. It's a huge cosplay event with over 100 people directly involved in raising money for charity; however, half the fun was watching all the kids who had dressed up for the day. Knee-high superheroes and wee wizards were scampering around and it'll be a few years before some of those stormtroopers are at risk of bumping their heads on a low door frame.
Well, my Mum brought over some photos and, rather more interestingly, some medals that my uncle John had. They belonged to his grandfather—my great-great-grandfather—Alliston William Chisnall. Having dug around the family tree on occasion, all I knew about Alliston was that he was as an agricultural labourer living in a village near Southend-on-Sea in the late 1900s. He, it turns out, served in the South Africa Field Force as a Corporal with the Army Service Corps during the Boer War. He was taken prisoner on 31 March 1900 when Christiaan De Wet advanced with a 2,000-man strong force in the direction of Bloemfontein, overwhelming the small garrison at Sanna's Post, 23 miles east of the town. The British forces were taken completely by surprise and attempted to retreat, only to march into the arms of a blocking force who ordered them to surrender. Alliston was amongst the 200 British soldiers captured.
He survived and was back in England where he married Polly Coe in 1903. But he was back in action during the Great War, serving with the 17th battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, which was part of the 35th division forces ordered to take the village of Gricourt in northern France in April 1917. A patrol sent to the village to reconnoitre was cut off by the German forces. 2nd-Lt. Gilbert MacKereth crawled across open ground to reach the patrol and succeeded in bringing them back, his actions earning him the Victoria Cross. In 2011 he became something of a cause célèbre when his body was repatriated from Spain.
The Germans began massing to the south-west of the village ahead of the counter-attack. The 17th Lancashire Fusiliers were on the front line alongside the 23rd Manchester Regiment with orders to hold the line at all costs and to cover the flank of the 32nd division, who used Lewis guns to frustrate a German attempt to retreat into Gricourt.
At 3.30 pm on 14th April, Major F. J. F. Crook, in command of the two companies, pushed forward towards the village and reached the outskirts before heavy enfilade fire on the left flank brought them to a halt. The right flank, meanwhile, made their way around the village, pushing the German forces north-east. Patrols were sent into the village and German sniper posts, left to delay the advance of the British troops, were cleared out. However, German artillery and machine-gun fire was still very heavy, the former directed by a plane that flew over Gricourt until it was unexpectedly brought down by concentrated fire from the British Lewis guns.
By the evening the British troops were able to consolidate their position and the battalion was relieved by the 18th Battalion shortly after midnight. In all, 13 men had been killed with 1 officer and 34 other ranks wounded. A second Military Cross was given to 2nd-Lt. W. M. Holden, who distinguished himself during the fray, shooting two Germans with his revolver and capturing fifty prisoners. Privates G. Booth, J. Walker and A. W. Chisnall were all awarded the Military Medal for bravery, the Corps Commander congratulating all concerned for their phenomenal success.
George V Military Medal, British War Medal, Victory Medal
I think my Mum was rather proud to learn this. Rather more so than the last bit of family research I did which turned up the sorry tale of Eliza Pyman, who "for some time past labouring under the aberration of intellect" was jailed for the manslaughter of her mother. And I gave her the latest Inspector Lynley novel by Elizabeth George and some tomatoes (our total so far being 185 tomatoes from two plants!). Good news, good entertainment and fresh, home-grown grub. What more could you ask for.
Given that I have been writing about future sports, I thought I'd use that as a theme for this week's random scans, so today we have a selection ranging from the corporate-backed gladiatorial games of Mack Reynold's Time Gladiator to the corporate-sponsored roller derby of William Harrison's Rollerball. The last two titles are both by Stephen King under his Richard Bachman pen-name, both involving future dystopian societies where endurance games are created to mollify the public. The latter is particularly prescient of today's reality TV shows... which is something I discuss in one of the introductions to Arena. It'll only be a few weeks and you can read all about it.