A Pride-And-Prejudice Supergirl

A whimsical fiction inspired by the TV series…

Dear Alexandra,

What abominable misfortune it is that you were unable to attend the ball at Lady Catherine’s last night. All of society it seemed was there and I felt quite out of place. Lady Catherine herself was there, of course, though she departed early. She found time however to note that my assistance did not go unnoted, which from her lips is high praise indeed. I felt myself go quite weak at the knees.

But perhaps that was due to the sudden arrival of Lady Luthor, whose elegance eclipsed all others. I shall not tire you by recounting the whispered accusations that flowed in her wake. I need not tell you that she is despised by many – not through any fault of her own, but a family whose reputation is once ruined will suffer it seems forever, and I would rather judge a person by their merits.

I have heard that she is fiercely intelligent too, though I confess it wasn’t her intelligence that made me blush beneath her gaze! Oh, Alexandra, I could fly through the sun and not break a sweat, but one glance from those eyes and I melted! Somehow I stammered out a request to interview her for Lady Catherine’s journal – how awkward I must have seemed! – and she agreed. I am to fly – ah, ride – out to visit her tomorrow.

Write soon, I beg you.

Yours &c.


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The War of the Worlds, or: Three Legs Good, Two Legs Bad

Three is a recurring number in science fiction. We’re familiar with animals with four legs, and humans with two, and many various creatures with even numbers of legs, so in seeking to conjure up images of the alien it is seductive to go odd. Three-legged aliens, such as the Idirans in Iain Banks’s Culture novels, or the alien masters in John Christopher’s The Tripods:

They stood much taller than a man, nearly twice as tall, and broad in proportion. Their bodies were wider at the bottom than the top, four or five feet around I thought, but tapered up to something like a foot in circumference at the head. If it was the head, for there was no break in the continuity, no sign of a neck. The next thing I noticed was that their bodies were supported not on two legs, but three, these being thick but short. They had matching them three arms, or rather tentacles, issuing from a point halfway up their bodies. And their eyes — I saw that there were three of those, too.

Not just the aliens, but also their machines. The tripods are great three-legged machines that stride the invaded Earth, some twenty metres high and equipped with long tentacles (another common alien theme). In the prequel to the trilogy, When the Tripods Came, these are quite comical machines, easily destroyed by the Earth military, but in the BBC TV series they are rather imposing.

The Tripods: Trilogy and prequel by John Christopher; TV series by the BBC.I can’t remember if I ever read the final book in the trilogy, but I certainly recommend the first two books (it’s worth watching the TV series first, if you can), and the prequel’s quite interesting as an Earth invasion concept.

The War of the Worlds, 1953 filmI watched The Tripods as a child, probably before I was exposed to H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, although it’s possible I saw the 1953 film with the flying machines before it.

The 1953 film has echoes of the book, but it lacks that iconic image of the great Martian tripods with their articulated legs and tentacles – perhaps because there’s something a little absurd about it to our modern sensibilities. Why have walking machines when you can just fly and hover? (Although Star Wars has its various Imperial Walkers.) I mean, how exactly would a three-legged machine walk? In The Tripods they do walk, but it’s with a lot of sleight-of-hand defiance of physics and engineering principle. (It’s Sci-Fi; who cares?)

The War Of The Worlds - 1978 Musical by Jeff WayneI never saw the 1978 musical, although I remember our music teacher at school playing the record and have never forgotten that Martian cry – Ulla! Ulla! And isn’t the artwork fantastic?

I think there’s a temptation to read H.G. Wells’s novel with a certain smug superiority, dismissing the machines as Victorian fancy, archaic relative to our modern world of high-tech lasers and nuclear weaponry – how absurd that their ‘spaceships’ are fired out of cannons from Mars and crash-land on Earth, either of which would surely have splatted the occupants.

War of the Worlds, 2005 filmIt’s no wonder, therefore, that Spielberg updated both the aliens’ arrival and the design of the tripods in the 2005 film. Okay, so the arrival is pure hand-wavery (something something lightning something buried something), but those long sinuous legs have a nice air of superior alien technology about them. (Although, if you ask me, the tripod in the musical’s artwork is a lot creepier). It’s a good film and largely faithful to the novel.

Still, I’ve often thought it would good to make a film that faithfully recreated the original vision, tripods with articulated limbs striding across early twentieth century England. Maybe even a stop-motion film by Tim Burton, in black and white – and red…

Stephen Baxter - The Massacre Of MankindBetter still, how about a sequel to the original novel, by an author who treats the source material with due reverence, and who uses modern scientific knowledge to give credibility to the Martians’ technology? Stephen Baxter’s The Massacre of Mankind is a true masterpiece, weaving characters and themes from the original novel together with real people and events of the time to create an alternative history.

The Martians are back, and they’ve learned from their mistakes. The technology’s the same, but there’s less vulnerability – and this time there are more of them, initially in England, but later all around the world.

We get to see more of the Martians themselves, and perhaps the most chilling aspect is the bioengineering. The Martians see humans as food, as animals to be engineered and eventually domesticated.

The Martians have superior technology, superior intelligence, and their planet is dying. Would we really stand a chance against them?

The War Of The Worlds, 1938 radio adaptation, New York Times headline

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Before I Fall

Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall (published 2010; now also a Netflix film) is yet another variation on the theme of Groundhog Day, in which the protagonist must relive the same day over and over until some object is achieved. But where Groundhog Day and most of its pop-culture tributes use the trope for mostly comedic effect, Before I Fall plays it deadly serious.

Despite its high-school setting, Before I Fall is not really (or at least not typically) Young Adult fiction. There are elements of romance, but love and friendship are more dominant themes. More important still is the difference between perception and reality, so that by the end of the book no one is who they were at the start. With each day, Sam learns more about herself and the people around her.

Seven days (six in the film). I watched the film twice before reading the book, and once immediately after. Reading the book certainly makes you see things in the film that you probably wouldn’t; both are good, and the adaptation is fairly faithful, but a lot of secondary characters were cut out in the film version – which is inevitable, but one of key themes in the book is how Sam’s actions (like the butterfly of chaos theory) have consequences for the people around her.

I love the film. I love the book.

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International Recognition of Gender Diversity Week

Nicole Maines transgender superheroPerhaps to celebrate Supergirl’s latest addition, a transgender superhero played by transgender actress Nicole Maines, this week has been declared the very first international Recognition of Gender Diversity week. Inspired by this, here is an assortment of poems.

in praise of bell curves
we cry for normality
no deviation!

the waves crash today…
this teacup violence stirs
a tempest of hate

a misogynist?
I do not draw boundaries
between sand castles

keeping to my lane
I pen verse with bitter ink
amidst salty seas

Radical? Don’t make me laugh! So-called ‘feminists’
Obsessing over genitals endlessly, as if flesh were all!
Gatekeeping woman’s country – with ignorance:
Devil take ’em, and all who follow…

the penis is cursed!
they cry for its removal –
but not like that…

their choice is cruel:
the altar or the pyre…
your choice is simpler

such fear of the knife!
if it were reversible
would you celebrate?

let’s strip the rainbow
of one colour at a time
leaving only tears

mark my words with care:
one taste of diversity
will corrupt for life!

he says he’s a she
though I never saw before
nor anyone else

these professionals
invented diagnoses
to soothe parents’ guilt
the signs that were hid too well
they say never existed

there’s no valid age
for a child’s self-assessment!
they’ll die too young

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when all lies burning

when all lies burning
will those who sold our country
still wave their receipts?

trump will come again
to wade through the cold ashes
of british conceit

weigh anchor, europe!
the british ship sails no more
save to the locker

may in the crow’s nest
a ouija guides her fingers
to a greener shore

with saruman’s tongue
jacob twists a fragile truth
while the shire is stripped

listen not to may
she trumps herself in the house
while the boys play bridge

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Would you dare tell the god of the underworld that his planet no longer merits the title ‘planet’?


who denies pluto

will surely answer for it

when darkness is all

© Francis James Franklin 2018

Francis James Franklin has a contrary sense of humour and a passion for writing; his blog is littered with irreverent poetry, fantastic fiction and miscellaneous musings. Discover more at Alina Meridon.

I concur with this haiku’s sentiments. How can we, as mere humans, define the universe around us when really, we know nothing …

This haiku is part of our Celestial Bodies theme!

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Sweet Aphrodite…
Many thanks to Freya as always for selecting my haiku for her blog!


venus enchants all

her twilight song bewitching –

who could judge Paris?

© Francis James Franklin 2018

Francis James Franklin has a contrary sense of humour and a passion for writing; his blog is littered with irreverent poetry, fantastic fiction and miscellaneous musings. Discover more at Alina Meridon.

This haiku I had to include with its inverse reflection on Paris and judgement!

This haiku is part of our Celestial Bodies theme!

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I learned calculus on my knees, summing kisses to infinity as I explored the areas under her curves. I was sin to her cos as we coiled forever, one about the other, two bodies in orbital motion whispering tangents in each other’s ears beneath a canopy of stars. The differential equation of love a transcendental, defying analytical expression.

such poetry lies
there is no derivation
of absolute truth

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The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

It’s a long time since a vampire book caught my eye. It’s difficult these days to find genre novels that are well written, thoughtful and original. Even rarer to find a YA-category novel with a female protagonist that isn’t primarily angsty romance.

Which is not to say Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (published 2013) is without romance. It even has an HFN ending. But the romance is not central to the plot, and there’s no clichéd love triangle or idolisation of unhealthy behaviours. If anything, one purpose of the story is to expose the seductive glamour of vampires as an abusive fiction.

Tana, our heroine, is seventeen, an accidental sole survivor of a massacre. She’s not a Chosen One and has no special powers, but she shares a trait common to many heroes: a stubborn determination to do what is right, even in the face of mortal terror.

Immortal terror too, of course. The story is set in a world where vampire infection is rife, and where whole cities have been walled around. These are the Coldtowns of the title – although the first part of the title, The Coldest Girl in … is misleading and probably just for effect. (How many titles start with The Girl …?) The lives of the dead and undead within these enclaves are glamourised Reality-TV-style and broadcast to the world, luring in a steady stream of wannabe vampires with their fresh, warm, human blood.

If the basic plot is a wild, roller-coaster ride (I read the second half in one sitting), the book’s unifying theme is death, where life is warm and death is cold. Vampiric infection is perceived as a creeping cold. The vampires themselves are not the evil of demonic possession, but rather once-humans cursed with – and corrupted by – abnormal lust and power.

There are also some nice historical touches, with scenes in Paris, Vienna and Russia. In many ways, this is a very traditional vampire tale, but with a modern approach, a thriller with elements of both horror and romance.

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This is Devin Jones

Kristen Conrad’s This is Devin Jones, published 2016, has many parallels with Die Hard, the plot centering on a hostage scenario where an out-of-jurisdiction cop must take out the bad guys and save the day. There’s even an exploding rooftop.

Here, however, the setting is a Hollywood awards ceremony and the hostages are world-famous actors, one of whom is the drop dead gorgeous ex of our hero – our hero being a super-hot cop in designer dress and heels, as capable with her gun as with her kick-ass self-defence.

Which is all perhaps a little clichéd and derivative, but it’s also good fun and there’s a dash of lesbian romance to sweeten it.

The need to change and make up names is a little distracting, and there are one or two minor continuity errors. Also, it’s a little too easy in the end; Bruce Willis had to run barefoot across glass, after all.

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