Supra-doings genre review 1 — “The Violent Century”

Back in mid July 2014 ( – Mixed Swag, Point 2) Jim McPherson made mention of a detectable rise in the popularity of a Fantasy/SciFi sub-genre he called supranormal storytelling.

While he’d no doubt want to claim credit for inventing it with his Phantacea Mythos, it goes back multiple centuries. For what is mythology except supranormal storytelling?

Here’s a review he put online of one of the books he noted back in July. Comments welcome at bottom of page:

The Violent CenturyThe Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A step up from last book of his I read (“Osama”). More comprehensible, with at least a degree of action. Loses some of its (potential) impact because it’s mostly told in flashbacks. At least there’s no first person narration, time travel or trans-dimensional crossover nonsense.

Does take chances in that he features actual people acting as they might have if they lived in a world with actual ‘ubermenschen’ (‘over’ or ‘supermen’) in the howsoever dim public spotlight. Occasionally uses point form (which I like) and avoids quotation marks, despite there being a lot of dialogue. This last, the lack of quotation marks, takes some getting used to but for the most part works.

Of a seemingly increasingly popular fantasy genre, what might be termed “real world super heroes”. (My own Phantacea Mythos might fall within a similar category, except it’s set in a world that doesn’t realize they’re out there.) Has an appreciable, international perspective, albeit with a mostly European focus, that strays into Southeast Asia, Afghanistan and Middle East territory for short periods.

(Tidhar apparently lives in Israel but does strive for nonreligious impartiality. The Polish betrayal, Nazi Death Camps, Air America, CIA intrigues, opium production, Bin Laden and extreme Islamism feature as backdrops to some of the set piece action sequences. Then again the innate Jewishness of comic book icons Joe Shuster, Jerry Siegel and Stan Lee are are also noted a couple of times.)

Borrows somewhat from George RR Martin’s Wild Cards series, especially when it comes to depictions of Americanisms like flashy costumes, brassy exuberance and over-the-top egocentricity,. Also postulates an event, some sort of occasionally transformative worldwide wave, that results in an exceptional few, unaging, though hardly undying, supranormals, to use the Phantacea term.

Unfortunately there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the characters he’s come up with, imaginative in terms of the abilities he’s given them or exciting about the situations he places them in. Indeed, there’s more than just an element of plodding, world-weariness about the whole novel.

Overall I suppose it’s meant as something of a parable. He’s saying that, even if there were super heroes, it would have still been a violent century. That’s a single sentence, not a book. What we have here could have, should have, been said with a whole lot more verve.

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Supra-doings genre review 3 — “In Dark Service”

Sometime ago I detected the increasing popularity of a comparatively new genre in the fantasy/SciFi field. I referred to it, somewhat unimaginatively, as ‘Supra-doings in the real world’.  It isn’t really, After all it is fiction, which by definition isn’t real, but it isn’t Batman & Robin novelized either.

This book doesn’t really qualify as supra-doings so much as derring-doings but it’s by a writer I’ve enjoyed previously. Comments welcome, even if you haven’t read the book.

In Dark ServiceIn Dark Service by Stephen Hunt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m tempted to use words like trope, nous or meme in this review but then I’d have to look them up. Yes, it’s British, although Hunt was born in Canada and does the occasional con north of the 49th. I haven’t met him but I have read his steampunk novels set in the Kingdom of Jackals. This isn’t on a par with any of them but it’s not bad.
Arguments could be made that is one of the most cynical fantasies ever. And there are apparently two more to come in this series. It’s like he sat down with his agent or Gollancz, his latest publisher, and together they drew up a list of semi-standard characters, hooks and motifs, chose a few that haven’t been totally overused, at least in their minds, and then went to town on them.
Funnily enough it mostly works. Unless, that is, it was just summer and a bench off the beach suited the material. It is massive, however, and there are some massive bloopers that almost spoil the read. They aren’t an abundance of the usual typos either. No, these are characters’ names getting mixed up or, in no less than (at least) three cases, changing in mid book. Plus, the badge or bible in the breast pocket, which a master marksman couldn’t help but hit because he always aims for the heart, was a mite much, I have to say.
Do a few Jakelians prior to picking up “In Dark Service” is my best advice. But keep in mind next time a beach read beckons.

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Supra-doings genre review 2 – “Necessary Evil”

Jim McPherson reviews the other book he mentioned in the Mixed Swag post back in July (, point 2). Straight copy from Goodreads. Lynx to more on bottom, though might have to be a member in order to read.

Comments welcome here on pHantaBlog at bottom.

Necessary Evil (Milkweed Triptych, #3)Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Be warned. Features time travel. Also at least partially written in the first person. Note the ‘at least partially’ proviso. Note also that the time travel is a onetime thing, not an ‘if at first you don’t succeed in killing Hitler simply go back and try again’ ridiculousness.
Despite two personal no-nos and a couple of other strong reservations I’m recommending it — and not just because I liked the first two books and pretty much had to like the finale or acknowledge wasting time reading the series.
“Necessary Evil” does have a precognitive character in a major role. That’s one reservation. Fortunately, she isn’t perfect, otherwise there would have been no book to write. The other major reservation are some near-omnipotent characters known as Eidola (plural of ‘edolon’, meaning an insubstantial phantom — my Phantacea Mythos has eidola too, only they’re very much substantial).
I’m always wary of the all-powerful but in this case both the precog and the eidola are, um, necessary evils. Wouldn’t have a series without them. And it is a good book, a fitting end to a good series.
The writer, an American to judge from where he lives, sets the action in World War II England and Europe. He’s done some research, so handles the time and place aspects nicely. He deals with that old bugaboo, ‘characterization’, unobtrusively; thankfully manages to avoid triteness, over-familiarity, which is a definite plus given the genre.
Superheroes in the real world is the easy way of identifying the type. As a genre it’s becoming increasingly popular in books as well as on the screen. It’s not really comic book stuff either. Despite the first person narration there is a sense of menace and threat. There are also a couple of really effective set pieces.
We’re not talking about Superman or Batman, there are no costumes, there are no bullet proof guys and gals, and the amazing escapes are not altogether due to gals and guys who can’t shoot straight. Maybe the fact that it works is what make this series worth reading.

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Back Blurb Flag-Poled

Back Cover Text for “Helios on the Moon”

Don’t expect any salutes but reckon tentative-it deserves a run-up anyhow.

Text will override Ricardo Sandoval’s bas-relief figures on Helios as Sol, All of Incain, Moon Memory as Luna, the Unity of Order, Doc Defiance, Cosmicaptain Starrus, the Indescribable Mr No Name and Mnemosyne as Strife.

Comments welcome at bottom.

Back cover, minus text, for "Helios on the Moon"; artwork by Ricardo Sandoval, 2014s

Background images for back cover of “Helios on the Moon”; text and obligatory boxes at bottom to be added; artwork by Ricardo Sandoval, 2014

The Dual Entities return to their own timeline determined to make life for everyone not just vastly better but perfect.

Heads are sure to roll.

Scientists first detected signals coming from somewhere out in space in early 1978. Their excitement was palpable. Finally they had proof humanity wasn’t alone in the cosmos. Then, about a month after their initial detection, the source was pinpointed. Elation immediately gave way to near-panic. The beams were coming from the Earth’s moon!

In an extraordinary session of the Security Coun­cil, the United Nations agreed to meet this off-worldly intrusion aggress­ively. The result, the UNES Liberty, is already in moon orbit when, on the Thirtieth of November 1980, the launching of the Cosmic Express takes place on Centauri Island.

At the same time, on the far off Utopia of New Weir, three Great Goddess preside over the latest session of the Courtroom of the Visionary. Meanwhile, on the Hidden Continent of Sedon’s Head, the Death Gods of the Frozen Lathakra prepare to welcome home the entirety of their fragmented family, devils almost to a one.

From the creator/writer of the Phantacea Mythos comes the culmination of the ‘Launch 1980’ story cycle, plus a surprising addendum to “Goddess Gambit”, the final book in ‘The Thrice-Cursed Godly Glories’ fantasy masterpiece.

Covers and/or splash panels reflecting action recounted in "Helios on the Moon"

Front covers for pH-2 and pH- 4Ever&40 graphic novel bracketing splash panel from pH3; artwork by Gordon Parker, 1978; Peter Lynde, 1978; and the two Ians, Fry and Bateson, 1990

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No Lunatic Preamble This

At long last moving into publication mode for “Helios on the Moon”. Here’s its Auctorial Preamble, with some lynx and a couple of new graphics:

Helios on the Moon

Ad for the last two novels in the Launch 1980 story cycle, prepared by Jim McPherson, 2014

Black and white version of an ad for the concluding books in the Launch 1980 story cycle from Phantacea Publications

– Auctorial Preamble –

Thus ends Phantacea Phase One.

So I intended to write on the inside front cover of Phantacea Seven in 1981. Except, it never got finished. I next reckoned on writing it about a decade later when Phantacea Phase One #15 came out. Except, this time, that project never got beyond the #1 stage; not in print anyhow.

Phase One #2, along with a number of background stories, were ready for press; as were the scripts and reprint art for a good deal of the rest. While most of these last did make it into one or another of the graphic novels subsequently released by Phantacea Publications, pre-orders didn’t warrant continuing the Phantacea Mythos at that time; especially not in that form. (Artists aren’t just temperamental, they’re costly.)

Let me repeat: ‘Thus ends Phantacea Phase One’. Sounds good, after all these years, but “Helios on the Moon” does much more than that.

It also ends the ‘Launch 1980’ story cycle, my personal project to novelize the PHANTACEA comic book series. Plus, for those who felt the ending of the last trilogy, ‘The Thrice-Cursed Godly Glories’, as presented in “Goddess Gambit”, was not absolutely clear as to whether anyone survived – or anyone not explicitly done away with already didn’t – that will be sorted starting about nine chapters, or ‘moons’, from now.

3 comic book covers incorporated in ad for Phantacea Publications

Covers for pH-2 (Gordon Parker), pH-3 (Richard Sandoval), and 4-Ever&40 (Ian Fry, Ian Bateson), all of which figure in “Helios on the Moon”

Not surprisingly Ninth Moon shares commonality with “The War of the Apocalyptics”, the first book in the Launch trilogy, in that it begins winding down the stirring saga of the Damnation Brigade and their erstwhile companion in supra-doings, Kid Ringo, nowadays Ringleader.

As for the Family Thanatos and their never-remembered guest, the fiendish, always smiling fellow who speaks in bold-italics, they show up three moons prior to D-Brig et al. Of course non-devic characters didn’t just precede non-devic characters literally, in terms of literature, they preceded them chronologically.

Witness “Feeling Theocidal” and “The Thousand Days of Disbelief”, which were set in the Cathonic Dome’s Fifth and mid-Sixth Millennium respectively. Or “Forever & 40 Days”, which featured a series of graphic story snippets set before there was a Dome, let alone a Genesea necessitating one.

The previous book in this trilogy, “Nuclear Dragons”, divided into four parts. ‘Indescribable Defiance’ began it with the launching of the Cosmic Express. We saw what happened to one of its cosmicars in War-Pox, and to the cosmicompanions aboard it in Gambit. We’re about to begin finding out what becomes of one occupant of the control hub, one of the other cosmicars and the seven cosmicompanions occupying it.

Nuke’s aforementioned first part additionally brought our attention to the highly disconcerting matter of a perceived menace on the Moon, something also alluded to during War-Pox, and what governments and top dog corporations were doing about it.

For starters, they set up the United Nations SPACE Council (‘Society for the Prevention of Alien Control of Earth’) and appointed the by now 80-year old Great Man, Loxus Abraham Ryne, to run it.

He thereupon had built, and launched, the United Nations of Earth Spaceship (UNES) Liberty. Not long before Hel-Moon gets (over more so than) underway, it boldly blasted out there in order to deal with said menace, be it alien or otherwise. (Go with the otherwise.)

In terms of the titular pair who provided ‘Indescribable Defiance’ with its sectional sub-heading, did you know the Space Shuttle Columbia took off secretly in December 1980, months prior to its official inaugural flight? Returned safely as well. You do now. You’re also not too many moons away from finding out whom it was transporting towards the Liberty, which is already in lunar-synchronous orbit.

Nuke’s second section, ‘The Strife Virus’, focused our attention on, among others, a pair of (very) long lasting, inveterate nasties, Daemonicus and Strife. Both first appeared, or at least were mentioned, in Feel Theo, the initial book of the ‘Glories’ trilogy. To say the least it seems they’re extremely difficult to deal with permanently.

Until, that is, in terms of her anyhow … well, that would be telling too much for a preamble. That said, while preambles may be no place for telling all that’s to come, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least remind you of All, capitalized.

Nuke readers will recall the Phantom Freighter, whence Crystallion and Hell’s Horsemen, whence also Sharkczar. And what have they got to do with Incain’s She-Sphinx you might ask. Once again I refer you to Feel Theo, as well as “Janna Fangfingers” and Gambit. Ginny the Gynosphinx is no Andy the Androsphinx. She moves. And when she does, be smart. Stay out of her way.

Speaking yet again of Feel Theo, the time-tumbling Dual Entities featured in a number of its story snippets, if perhaps not explicitly so in its underlying narrative, the one-day saga of Thrygragon (Mithramas, Year of the Dome 4376) as told from a number of different viewpoints. As foreshadowed during the course of ‘The Strife Virus’, they do much more than feature in this book; hence its title.

In some respects remarkably, Nuke’s final two subsections, ‘Supra Survival’ and ‘Sinking and Swimming’, did leave a few tales left to tell. One who won’t be telling them is the deviant Legendarian, Jordan ‘Q for Quill’ Tethys. (The legendary 30-Year Man, aka 30-Beers, came as close as anyone in the Phantacea Mythos comes to being a protagonist throughout the ‘Glories’ trilogy.)

Collage and covers indicative of action recounted in "Nuclear Dragons"

Mr No Name collage prepared by Jim McPherson, 2014; pH-7 cover, incomplete, by Ian Bateson, 1980; pHz1 #1 cover, the Mighty Eye-Mouth in the Sky by Ian Bateson, 1985

Gambit readers may recall that, for a change, Jordy’s latest lifetime did not seem to be in jeopardy once the moment of its moderately cliff-dangling dénouement arrived. Indeed, they probably assumed that either he or the improbably enormous, ever-fishifying Fisherwoman had saved everyone worth saving.

That was certainly one of the impressions left. Another was that the subheading for Gambit’s final third, ‘Endgame-Gambit’, meant endgame everyone. When it comes to the Phantacea Mythos, it’s always dangerous to make assumptions. That’s why it’s Anheroic Fantasy (anheroic = without heroes).

I do feel fairly confident in leaving you with one almost certainly accurate assumption, however: Every ending begets a new beginning. And a correction to my opening statement.

Thus begins the ending to Phantacea Phase One.


Jim McPherson


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