The hive mind

Prossit avatarThe BEES ON DAEDALUS is unusual in the Hawke canon for its almost mythic quality, somewhat analogous to the medieval romance where the hero rescues the besieged queen, marries her and frees her people – although in Hawke’s case as an unwitting protagonist. Hawke is stranded on an Asteroid that is honeycombed with inumerable cells and populated by a race of creatures, who , although humanoid , live as a population of insects , in a colony where the individual is of no account and where consciousness only manifests itself as a collective entity. The colony comprises female workers and a queen who alone is capable of independent thought. The colony can be regarded as one entity and the workers seen as mere extentions of the queen’s will.Hers is the guiding consciousness  of the entire hive. Presumably there are also drones elsewhere, but we do not meet them.                                                                               IMG_5367

The idea of the hive-mind has been used by many sci-fi writers since HG Wells first penned EMPIRE OF THE ANTS, a short story published in 1905, in which a Portugeuse captain is sent on a mission up the Amazon river to investigate the ravages of an ant colony which has acquired a collective intelligence and which is destroying human settlements along the river. The portrayal of the hive mind has almost always been seen as an abhorrent thing, opposed to the basic values of Human individuality, and its guiding consciousness as an evil to be removed. An interesting work in this regard is Frank Herbert’s HELLSTROM’S HIVE (1973), a truly horrifying study, in which the hive society is compared to the human and in which the hive has its own very disturbing moralities but which make a chilling sense in their own terms. Closer to Sydney’s story is Sprague de Camp’s ROGUE QUEEN (1952)   in which an expedition from Earth lands on the planet Ormazd   where the dominant humanoid species live in hive societies under the iron control of a fertile queen. The main population, as in THE BEES ON DAEDALUS comprise infertile females and a group of drones who service the queen. Its main protagonist is one such female called Iroedh who is pursued by the hive after trying to free one of the hive drones who has been sentenced to death . Forced in her exile to eat meat , which the hive teaches is poison to all females except the queen,   she discovers instead that not only does it do her no harm , but brings about her own sexual maturity. She thus becomes a rival to the hive queen, and the dissemination of this knowledge , which allows drones and females to be paired , causes the collapse of the hive system.

Sprague de Camp's 1952 sci-fi novel  dealing with the concept of the hive-mind
Sprague de Camp’s 1952 sci-fi novel dealing with the concept of the hive-mind

Sexual relations are also the catalyst for change in BEES ON DAEDELUS , but in this case it is the introduction of Hawke’s DNA into the mix which will eventually free the “bees”   by giving their descendents the ability to think and act autonomously. The queen in THE BEES ON DAEDALUS , unlike that in ROGUE QUEEN is portrayed sympathetically, not as a tyrant but rather as a mother trying to free her children from their enslavement by an un-named alien race who has hitherto held them in thrall.

Skipper Prossitt

The full story of THE BEES ON DAEDALUS  can be found in JEFF HAWKE COSMOS  Vol6  No3, and is available to buy from the JEFF HAWKE CLUB

 

 

 

Hawke is seized by the strange creatures on the Asteroid surface in THE BEES ON DAEDALUS (1971)
Hawke is seized by the strange creatures on the Asteroid surface in THE BEES ON DAEDALUS (1971)

Hawke and the beckoning fair one

Prossit avatarA literary genre which has always held a fascination and interest for Sydney has been the ghost story, particularly those dating from what might be considered its Golden Age ; that is the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. During a recent conversation on this subject , Sydney brought to mind a host of authors from this period in which most of the modern tropes for the genre were established. One need think only of the terrifying banality of the phantom protagonists of “The turn of the screw” or the subtle interweaving of memory and lost love in James joyce’s short story masterpiece ‘The Dead” to see this high- watermark of the ghost story.

Among those who Sydney cites as an influence on his own creativity are the works of M.R.James and an Edwardian novella “ The beckoning fair one” by Oliver Onions, now forgotten, but in its day a best-selling work.

The one story in the Hawke series that may be said to truly conform to the structure of the classic ghost story is “Ghost Errant”   in which a spectral squadron of Sopwith Camels appear in the English skies.

Sydney’s recollection is that the very germ of the story came to him back in the sixties when he was touring the Sussex countryside looking for a suitable property to buy for his young family. He describes that while driving he came upon a large house, once grand but now fallen into ruin and disrepair. Keen to investigate further, he entered the  building to explore its crumbling interior. He described the house as being heavy with its own memories , and the feelings evoked brought to mind “The beckoning fair one”, and this elision formed what was to become GHOST ERRANT.

In both stories, the central feature is a house that contains a presence that seeks for a lost love. In “The beckoning fair one” the protagonist Paul Oleron rents an old disused property in order to complete a novel that he has been writing for many years. He gradually becomes more reclusive as the house exerts its baleful influence upon him and we discover eventually that a ghostly female presence lurks there , desperate to entrap the occupant as a replacement for a long lost love. We learn that the previous tenant, an artist was found starved to death in the house, a previous victim of the spectral presence. Oleron becomes increasingly detached from the world as the jealous succubus claims him for herself . Although he does not die in the house , he becomes deranged by the spirit and commits murder for which he is bound to be hanged.

The house at White Edgly  based on the ruined mansion that Sydney happened upon in the Sussex countryside
The house at White Edgly based on the ruined mansion that Sydney happened upon in the Sussex countryside

In GHOST ERRANT the presence seeking her lost love is more benign, taking the form of an elderly lady Mrs Millyard ,who after more than forty years still mourns for her husband , a pilot killed in the great war. Hawke himself is more of a witness or bystander in this story, the main protagonist being Andrew Davenant , a pilot friend who first alerts Hawke to the ghostly squadron of Sopwith camels that he has observed while flying his light aircraft.   Oleron in Onions’ novella   is continually drawn back to the old house by the possessions of his ghostly lover that he discovers, like the harp in the window box; Davenant is continually drawn back to the house at White Edgley , firstly by the ghostly biplanes and then by the revelation that she has the remains of her husband’ s machine which he and Hawke set out to have rebuilt. In both cases the protagonists are willingly drawn into a web from which the only outcome will be their doom.

Both the ghostly female presence in “Fair one” and   Mrs Millyard have a desire to bring back their lost love

The iconic Sopwith Camel, the rebuilt version of which was to carry Davenant to his doom
The iconic Sopwith Camel, the rebuilt version of which was to carry Davenant to his doom

and in both cases the outcome is fatal. Oleron becomes a deranged madman facing a death sentence whereas Davenant cheerfully follows his own inexorable fate by flying the re-built bi-plane and suffering the same disaster as its original pilot – a fatal crash which somehow gives the old lady a closure and a peace of mind. Sydney  and Willie Patterson subtley reworked this story but created the  sympathetic presence of mrs Millward rather than the malign phantom in “Fair one” . This gives GHOST ERRANT a new dynamic, an atmosphere of bitter sweet nostalgia rather than the sickly claustrophobic ambience of “Fair One”. In the Hawke story, despite the fatal outcome,  the reader’s s sympathy for the lady is evoked. The quote from Milton uttered by Hawke in the strip , is from LYSIDAS, an elegy for a friend , Edward King, a poet and writer, cut off before achieving his full potential. Was this Sydney’s nod to Oleron , also a writer cut off before his great work was complete ?

Skipper Prossitt

"The beckoning fair one"  by Oliver Onions, published in 1911
“The beckoning fair one” by Oliver Onions, published in 1911

 

Original Jeff Hawke artwork

The Jeff Hawke club Has recently acquired a small collection of original JH artwork, comprising contiguous strips from the story POLTERGIEST, drawn in 1968 when Sydney and Willie Patterson’s creative collaboration was at its apogee, in what is regarded generally as the strip’s golden age. It shows Sydney’s creativity at its height.  Each board is signed by Sydney

If you are interested in acquiring any of this superb artwork please contact our editor at  william@williamrudling.co.uk

There are currently only seven strips left for sale from this rare collection and all profits from sales will go to Sydney himself.    Skipper Prossitt

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Rip van Haddow

The story Rip van Haddow, about a Canadian flyer who finds a strange portal into another world after crash-landing in the Rockies, first appeared in April 1963 , but the seeds of this story go back to the days of Sydney’s youth in Scotland. Sydney and his childhood, friend Willie Patterson, although from relatively poor backgrounds were united in their fascination with books and the new worlds of possibility that they opened up. According to Sydney they would discuss together subjects as varied as science, literature and art and these mutual interests bound their friendship ever closer. On one of the many walks they took together in their hometown of Perth, they encountered a young man with whom they fell into conversation. He was of similar age to themselves but from   an entirely different background being from one of the local “landed families”.   Sydney recalls   him as “extraordinary”, having many interests similar to their own but viewing everything through a very unique prism, due to his somewhat eccentric personality. Sydney remembers that “ he hinted at another world beyond our social register” and opened up to them the possibility of subtle worlds , beyond the visible and quotidian. This unique encounter remained with them and its memory was to serve as the basis of the later story. The young man’ s name was –  Haddow.

Skipper Prossitt

The title frame from Rip van Haddow - April 1963
The title frame from Rip van Haddow – April 1963

Kolvorok makes an appearance

Sydney celebrated a significant birthday at the Jeff Hawke club weekend st West Dean college in Sussex last month (Sept ’18). A special Jeff Hawke themed birthday cake was presented to him by the club at the end of the dinner.

Kolvorok makes an appearance on Sydney' S birthday cake - photo: Paul Napp
Kolvorok makes an appearance on Sydney’ S birthday cake – photo: Paul Napp
Photo: Paul Napp
Photo: Paul Napp

Jeff Hawke at West Dean

Prossit avatarThe annual   Jeff Hawke weekend was held this year at West Dean college in west Sussex . West Dean is an atmospheric stately home , which was   opened as a centre for the study of arts and crafts in 1971. The college , with its numerous buildings and annexes offers a variety of degree and post-graduate courses, while still retaining its   stately home feel. The walls are adorned with ancient weaponry and portraits , animal trophies and cases of stuffed birds – all the accoutrements of a nineteenth century grand house. The club had its annual meeting in these atmospheric surroundings   and  a dinner to celebrate Sydney’s 90th birthday. We were so impressed by West Dean that we have decided to hold next year’s meeting in the same venue. If you would be interested in joining us in 2019 then contact William Rudling for details.

Skipper Prossitt

Sydney and guests at the Jeff Hawke club  meeting at West Dean college
Sydney and guests at the Jeff Hawke club meeting at West Dean college

 

Hawke’s wheels

Prossit avatarAs well as his expertise in space technology Hawke also has an obvious passion for the motor car and drives a variety of vehicles throughout the strip.   He shares this passion with his creator ; Sydney himself has had a lifelong interest in applied engineering , appreciating that marriage of functionality and aesthetic design so obviously manifest in classics like the Mk1 Spitfire and various models of the Porsche motor car , a version of which, the 356, he owned in the 1960‘s at the height of the strip’s fame. Hawke shares this love of speed and Sydney’s depiction of the future that we see in Hawke, includes wide, and relatively uncongested motorways including a version of what was in reality later to be the M4 but extending down into Devon and Cornwall, doubtless to serve the Dartmoor Space HQ. There is a speed limit in force , as Mac and his companion discover to their cost during the motorway chase sequence in “The helping hand”, when the crash occurs at 300mph! But the legal limit seems high , more like the German autobahn than that the modern British motorway as Hawke happily speeds along at 150mph in “The Gamesman”.

Sydney's depiction  from the 60's story THE HELPING HAND of what  a future sports model might look like, shows a remarkable similarity to the modern Lamborghini .
Sydney’s depiction from the 60’s story THE HELPING HAND of what a future sports model might look like, shows a remarkable similarity to the modern Lamborghini .

Hawke himself drives a variety of sixties style sports cars in the strips,  which Sydney describes as amalgams of the Ferraris and Maseratis of the time  and an attempt to extrapolate what they might  later evolve into , but his Turbodyne, which is an entirely futuristic vehicle first appears in “ Council for the defense” . It is a very sleek and aerodynamic vehicle   with a fin at the rear   rather than a spoiler bar which Sydney describes as “a nod to Donald Campbell’s bluebird” , with which it appears to have much in common.   The turbodyne appears once again in “ The Gamesman” as mentioned above, but when a tyre bursts at speed the car careers off the road to a certain destruction , which is only avoided by instantaneous transition into an alien dimension! Thereafter the components from its wreck   are used   to make a means to escape.

In subsequent stories Hawke reverts to his sixties style sports cars.   Skipper Prossitt

Hawke's turbodyne, showing some similarities to Campbell's Bluebird
Hawke’s turbodyne, showing some similarities to Campbell’s Bluebird

” And now for something completely different….”

Prossit avatarAfter Sydney visited the Cartoon arts festival in Kendal last October, he told me he was struck by the modern style of comic book illustration and how it differed so much from  that realistic and filmic style which obtained during his own working life. The new style , heavily influenced by Japanese Manga art and also by computer game art is of a completely different genre. Intrigued as he was, and as a light-hearted experiment , Sydney asked Rachel Tubb, an artist/illustrator and web designer to render one of the old JH panels in this contemporary style. We present the resulting illustration below. Rachel herself describes the style as “ Geometric 50’s cartoon meets Japanese manga with jazzy bubblegum undertones”.  Skipper Prossitt

Rachel's re-interpretation of one of the Hawke strips from PRODIGAL SON
Rachel’s re-interpretation of one of the Hawke strips from PRODIGAL SON
The original Hawke strip ( no.2956)
The original Hawke strip ( no.2956)

 

 

 

 

 

Monkey business

Prossit avatarSydney’s story VOODOO depicts an ape of indeterminate species but who nonetheless has a complex and interesting pedigree. While clearly not a gorilla he is, on the other hand , too large to be a chimpanzee as he can carry a human being. While of no known species his form seems familiar to us.Sydney attributes his design to the influence of many popular depictions of apes in popular literature that he saw when young. This ape of popular imagination( half-chimp half-gorilla) has his roots back in the mid-nineteenth century and his first progenitor might be said to be the French sculptor Emmanuel Fremiet. His sculpture of an ape carrying off a woman (1859) a rather sensationalist piece , became the inspiration for popular art and illustration for many years afterwards. Fremiet himself had a professional connection with the Jardin Des Plantes in Paris, where he was professor of anatomical drawing. That venerable institution had obtained the first Gorilla corpse to be seen in France. In 1859 Fremiet was given the task of reconstructing and animating it.

Fremiet's 1874 version of APE CARRYING OFF WOMAN , the first version of which was sculpted in 1859
Fremiet’s 1874 version of APE CARRYING OFF WOMAN , the first version of which was sculpted in 1859

While the gait and pose of the creature were accurate his interpretation of the overall shape was not entirely correct( in the same way that early English paleantologists misinterpreted the Iguanadon). The head was not quite right and his gorilla had monstrous fangs . This reconstruction became the basis of his sculpture APE CARRYING OFF A WOMAN ,an absurd composition which owed as much to Poe’s MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE , a work which Fremiet knew well , as it did to the reconstructed gorilla skeleton. This sculpture  in turn became the model for many subsequent depictions , especially in popular illustration given its salacious tone .Edgar Rice Burroughs used this hybrid ape in TARZAN OF THE APES (1912) ,representing them as Tarzan’s own adopted tribe. By the time of his writing,of course, in the early twentieth century, the appearance of real apes and gorillas was well known and Borroughs named this hybrid the Mangani as if they were a real and distinct species.Thus from the fictional Mangani does The ape in VOODOO derive his origins . And true to the apes of popular fiction he carries off his own share of struggling women. Skipper Prossitt

The ape in VOODOO dragging off an unconscious Fortuna
The ape in VOODOO dragging off an unconscious Fortuna