Edmond Hamilton and Writing Fantastic Space Battles
I’ve only discovered Edmond Hamilton in the last few months. In a way, I’m glad I found him after Remember The Maelstrom because I might have lost my nerve for science fiction and for space exploration fiction after reading work of that quality. The things the man did with anepic space battle elevated it to new heighs.
Edmond Hamilton was the first science fiction author published in hardcover, a short story collection including the novella The Stars My Brothers, a story about an astronaut unfrozen years after his presumed death and dragged into a planetary rebellion of lizard people. Our hero encounters a planet where humans are primates and ruled by the lizard men in a story eerily reminiscent of the movie Planet of the Apes years before the movie’s release.
Hamilton’s agent in the early part of his career was a man named Julius Schwartz, agent to Ray Bradbury and H.PLovecraft amongst others. But he’d go on to great success as the longest running editor of the Superman comics and he brought in many noted science fiction writers from his agency list but none of them made the impact like Hamilton made. Hamilton was one of the first writers to bring a hard science fiction element into superhero comics predating work like Watchmen by over thirty years. Hamilton’s Superman dealt with corrupt military, cloning and the nature of life and death, and in my personal favorite Superman story, Action Comics 300, the man of steel dealt with the possibility of a world he couldn’t protect, stripped of his powers in a post apocalyptic future and forced to fight for his lif, Hamilton’s Superman was forced to really live up to the name or die trying. Hamilton’s comics were considered old fashioned by the sixties when camp elements entered the genre but they remain decades ahead of their time.
My favorite Hamilton story, The Sargasso of Space, involved a battle over a salvage yard between one spaceship and a group of pirates. Yes they’re lizard men too..frogs this time. It’s kind of a thing with him Lizard men, Frog men, even his Superman comics featured multiple anthropomorphic characters, hero and villain alike. It speaks to Hamilton’s views on the nature of humanity, regardless of reptile or mammal; we all have a choice in what we become.
The true gift of that particular Hamilton story was the way he writes a space battle. Space battles tend read like someone describing a world war two dogfight movie to their friends or are done from the perceptive of someone on the ground. Hamilton puts the reader not just right in the action, but into the eyeballs of someone behind the wheel of a spaceship. We see what they see and Hamilton flat out refuses to give you any more even if it means we miss some action somewhere else.
I admire the gumption it takes to just let that kind of thing linger, to tell your audience you don’t care if they miss something because that’s not the part of the story we’re in right now. It takes a discipline I hope to have someday.
Decades before Neil Gaiman did it, Edmond Hamilton went seamlessly between comics and novels, and finally leaving comics completely in the mid sixties but his stuff was reprinted long after and was even adapted into an episode of an animated series. He died in 1977 one year before his wife, herself an accomplished author and screenwriter, Leigh Bracket. (She is credited with writing a little film called Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and adapting The Big Sleep to the screen.) I’m still discovering Hamilton’s work both in comics and novels and it excites me as science fiction fan…and scares the heck out of me as a writer.
Remember The Maelstrom
Genre: Sci-fi Romance
Publisher: TWB Press
Number of pages: 40
Word Count: 10,000
A botched investigation into the past triggers a domino effect, thrusting T.I. Agent Amanda West into a race to get home to the man she loves in a future that may no longer exist.
Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/q7SzyIivKXk
“Let’s go, rookie.” I set my blaster on stun. “I want to be home in time for dinner.”
Corporal Winger nodded and drew his gun.
I noticed his hand shake. That should have been my first cue something was wrong. He clutched his gun so tense his knuckles turned white. This was his first op, and it already went way far south way too soon. This was just supposed to be a routine run: bring back a fugitive who had bolted through an unauthorized time portal. We were the closest ship to it. He was just one guy, but he had a gun. Who would have thought things could’ve gone so wrong?
I kissed the scar on my right hand before we chased him through Central Park in the year 2014. It was a silly ritual, but when I found myself far from home, I started to get superstitious. On cold nights, when time, space, and a universe kept me away, I’d look at that scar and think about Parker.
Winger was a hair faster than me catching up with our time jumper. Maybe if I’d been there a second or two sooner I could have stopped him, but I arrived just in time to watch him aim his gun. I was just within view when our jumper pulled in a hostage, a little girl, something that would’ve made any experienced agent hold his fire.
Winger was just reacting on instinct. He didn’t pull back in time, and the guy held the kid in front of him. The scene played out in slow motion. Maybe Winger thought he could make a head-shot on the perp, or maybe he just fired in the heat of the moment; we were both tired. All I knew was, as the girl and our jumper fell to the ground, the look of horror on Winger’s face didn’t last long.
I’d never seen a person fade from existence before, not until that moment. The theory, according to Temporal Investigations, was that one dies before actually disappearing completely. Sheer shock and horror was the killer, like falling off a tall building. But Winger looked me in the eyes the entire time, silently pleading for help as he faded right in front of me. I reached out to grab his hand, but it vanished, and that’s when I noticed my scar begin to ghost.
I didn’t know who that little girl was. Maybe she had invented something that made the Galactic Conferences possible, or maybe she was the grandmother of the grandmother of someone who assigned cores in the Academy, and because she no longer existed in the future, Parker and I may have ended up in different course plans. Or maybe she did something at just the right moment, a move in one direction or another, a decade from now, and things just fell into place for us. It was impossible to tell what could happen without her influence, but I feared something was wrong. I could have lost Parker already without even knowing it.
When I saw that scar on my hand ghost, I knew it was a sign that the time stream was starting to realign. We were briefed on ghosting at the Academy. They told us to run; they said always run back to the ship, flat out as fast as we could. But we all knew the truth. We couldn’t outrun a time realignment. It would be like outrunning the hand of the universe.
The moment I saw that scar flicker, I took off in a dead sprint back to the ship and leaped into the captain’s chair. As the controls came on around me I felt the hum of the hyperspace time bubble curling around the ship like a warm blanket. Then, when I tried to catch my breath, I felt a hot sting in my gut. Our jumper had managed to get off a shot, and as luck would have it, his blaster charge went straight through Winger’s ghosting body and hit me in the stomach. I did my best to breathe slowly, but each inhale felt like razor blades slicing through my chest. I winced and put pressure on the singed and bloody wound then throttled up the engines.
“Well today just sucked, didn’t it.” I looked at the picture of Parker I kept on my dashboard. We had our pictures taken when we were assigned to The Bartlett. Knowing this meant I hadn’t forgotten about him...at least not yet. Then I looked to make sure the hyperspace time bubble had restored the scar on my hand. Yes. I gave it another kiss for luck. Just lifting my arm sent shooting pains through my stomach, but I figured I needed a fair amount of luck right about then, so the pain was worth the effort.
“Just make it home for dinner.” I clutched the steering yoke tightly. “Just one more trip.” I forced a breath. “Let me see that everything is all right with Parker. Then let whatever changes I’ve made to the future do what they will to me.”
“Some time cop I turned out to be.”
I slammed on the thrusters hard and gunned the engine boosters through the time jump, but the inertia field didn’t have time to boot up, so I felt my ribs crack as my chest slammed against the crash belt and the back of my head bounced off the top of my chair.
I screamed in pain.
In flight school I had experienced what happened without an inertia field. Senior cadets would watch Parker and I train in the flight deck sim. We’d shoot to hyperspace without any problems. But every once in a while the cadets would program in an inertia field glitch just to see how we’d respond to the stress, at least that’s what they told the instructors. It was really a rite of passage made worse by the fact that the simulator didn’t have crash belts, so the only way to go was flying backwards. If it wasn’t for the crash helmets, our brains would’ve splattered against the cold metal exit door.
“Stupid prank,” I said, spitting blood. I was bleeding internally. The scar on my hand ghosted again. The time bubble was weakening already, so I started going over my past, wondering just how much of it I would forget.
I decide to listen to my personal logs and make sure everything was just as I remembered. Hopefully that last ghosting wasn’t a sign that I was too late. The computer accessed my files, starting with my first week studying for the Academy mid-terms.
I remembered that day by the lake on the Academy grounds, fresh in my mind no matter what time jump I was in. The lake was clear blue enough that I could see the incoming spaceships reflected in the surface. I had sat there so often over that first month I could tell how low the ships were flying by the ripples their wakes made in the water.
I sat near a tree, hoping to keep my mind on my introductory engineering midterm studies. Sometimes the Academy felt like a monster looking to swallow cadets whole, but out there, under the shuttles flying by and the transport ships jumping to hyperspace like little daylight shooting stars, the Academy grounds felt peaceful. That day the transports lit up the clouds like purple and red lightning. I listened to the low rumble of the shuttles as I skipped a rock across the water. Then I cracked open a book.
About the Author:
Josh Sinason grew up in DeKalb, Illinois, and has been featured in the Two With Water reading series and at DIY-Film.com.
In addition he has won the Creativity in Media award for his work on www.stairwellblog.com
His work has been recently featured in Burroughs Publishing Lunchbox Romance Line and Eternal Press’ young adult fiction line.
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