Tim Allen Stories

Science-fiction, fantasy, and other stories

Ornaments: Butler & Mouse / Gray & Santa Claus


Hello

Last post, I said that I’d have to decide whether this post would be a flash fiction story, or a seasonal story. Although each story is quite different from the other, their backgrounds have something in common.

My problem was that the flash fiction story, Mouse, was long enough for a post, but didn’t seem appropriate for the holiday season. On the other hand, the seasonal story, Coca-Cola Santa Claus, was appropriate for this time of year, but didn’t seem long enough to warrant its own post. 

The solution to my dilemma is simple: I’m posting both stories, making this my first double-issue post! Whoopee! This post is for December 2022 and January 2023, and the next post will be for February 2023.


Backstage

As the need arises, I’ll occasionally include a “Backstage” section to announce changes to this website that might affect your reading experience. This seems reasonable since I’m learning more about how to manage this website with each post.

This site is built using WordPress software, which by default presents either a fixed home page, or a constantly changing latest post. I originally opted for the latest post, but changed to a fixed home page so new readers could easily orient themselves and navigate to the story they wanted to read. However, I recently spoke to an associate who said he had glanced at my website not too long ago and wondered if I had posted anything new.

Had I posted anything new? Of course I had! How was that not obvious to him?

I think my associate’s problem was that like most returning readers, he wanted to see the latest post first, not the unchanging “Welcome” page. That is, only new readers need orientation. I also hope that returning readers will tell their friends about this website, and the number of returning readers will grow over time. For that reason, I’m switching back to the latest-post-first option, and will make a few other cosmetic changes to tie everything together.

Finally, I’m adding more or less permanent “shout-out” and “tell your friends” sections, which look like the following:


Shout-Out

Try Gene Ambaum’s Library Comic, a web comic about… libraries. Gene and a cadre of his favorite artists, such as Willow Payne (see the “About” page on his site), publish a daily, humorous web comic that is ostensibly about libraries, but is as much about human nature as anything else.

Trust me. Try it. Have a laugh. Maybe discover a new book or some amazing merchandise. Check out Library Comic.


Tell Your Friends

TimAllenStories.net
Tell your friends about it!
Then make new friends, and tell them!

Moebius Theater (paraphrased)

The Journey So Far, vol. 1 / Panthers

Tim Allen Stories is mostly about learning to be a better storyteller. So, rather than post a new story, I thought I should pause and share some of the lessons I’ve learned so far from posting the last four stories. Literary teachers say the important properties of a story are its setting, characters, conflict, plot, resolution, and outcome. And since I plan to post more stories, I would periodically pause to compare them as well. Reviewing your own work and comparing it to the works of others, be they good or bad, is one of the best ways to put your own work in perspective, as well as learn from the practices of others. I planned to title this series of posts, “The Journey So Far, vol. …”

Well, that was the plan. 

I started preparing this post about a week before I intended to post it. I thought it would be easy; something I could do quickly. Admittedly, I’d have to write something new instead of publishing an existing story, but I had a handle on the problem and thought it wouldn’t require too much thought and reflection to complete. Well, I’m already three weeks past my self-imposed deadline, nowhere near being finished, and getting farther nowhere fast. I’ll talk to my psychiatrist about what’s taking me so long, but meanwhile, I need a new plan.

Since I can’t finish the current post, and since it’s almost time to start preparing the next, I think I’ll blend the two. For now, I’ll do a partial review of previous work, as well as publish the short story I intended to post next. 


Shout-out

Before I do anything else, let me make a shout-out to Gene Ambaum, who has been so helpful in getting this site launched. Gene is the creator, writer, book reviewer, and creative marketing force behind Library Comic.

Gene and a cadre of his favorite artists, such as Willow Payne (see the “About” page  on his site), publish a daily, humorous web comic that is ostensibly about libraries, but is as much about human nature as anything else. 

Since Gene and I both know the readership of Tim Allen Stories will be exceedingly small, Gene has generously added a link under his banner head from his site to mine. And for that, I’m grateful.

I’ve known Gene for years—I even “officiated” at his wedding—and he’s one of the most level-headed, goodhearted, adventurous, and well read people I know. However, be forewarned that his sense of humor is sometimes a bit, shall we say…off-kilter? For example, when asked to describe his web site, he said as seriously as the grave, and with only a tiny twinkle in his eye, “Library Comic? A comic about… libraries.”

Trust me. Try it. Have a laugh. Maybe discover a new book. Check out Library Comic.

(Hot off the presses! Regarding marketing, check out Gene’s new (October 2022) Kickstarter for his “Badass Patches”. Sew the patches on garments, backpacks, or whatever, and show your “badass” love of books.)


The Last Lesser Hero / Aquaman

Foreword

The Last (for now) Lesser Hero

Aquaman and the Sea Devils is the last installment of a trilogy of original, non-graphic novel stories inspired by interesting—but flawed—characters from the Silver Age of comics. Characters whom I call Lesser Heroes. 

Unlike most Lesser Heroes who were created in the Golden Age of comics and then reimagined and updated as essentially new characters in the Silver Age, Aquaman has been published without interruption in one magazine or another since its debut in More Fun Comics #73 (1941), one of the ancestors of DC Comics. According to Wikipedia, Aquaman’s creators, editor Mort Weisinger and artist Paul Norris, were inspired by Marvel Comic’s Namor, the Sub-Mariner, who was introduced in Marvel Comics #1 (1939)

Since his introduction, Aquaman received incremental changes to his backstory, powers, and supporting characters until he received a more thorough revision in the Silver Age Adventure Comics #260 (1959). Since then, Aquaman has received additional or short-term changes, such as new powers, weapons, and even two teenaged sidekicks both named Aqualad. 

The Silver Age Aquaman is a merman, the hybrid offspring of his human father, Tom Curry, and his humanlike, water-breathing mother, Atlanna, an outcast from the lost underwater city of Atlantis. His parents named their child Arthur Curry, who is frequently referred to by the sobriquet, “Sea King,” or occasionally when traveling incognito, the alias, “C. King.” 

Arthur appears to be Caucasian with short, blonde hair and the DC Comics-patented perpetual, wide, ivory smile. His original costume was a shirt of gold scale mail, forearm-length green gloves, a thin belt with a stylized letter “A” for a buckle, and waist-to-foot green leggings with a cool fin on the back of each calf. Aquaman can breathe underwater; swim at incredible speeds and in crushing depths; has moderate super-strength; and most dramatically, can telepathically communicate with and control marine life. 

Although Aquaman has superpowers, his abilities have long been considered impractical, weak, and almost laughable when compared to other superheroes. This character has been the butt of many jokes and comedy bits, including skits on TV’s Saturday Night Live, and a long-running gag and comedic plot line on cable’s Entourage. This is the version of the character that I grew up with.

In recent years, DC Comics has sought to revamp Aquaman into a darker, moodier, and edgier character, but at the price of immensely complicating and confusing his backstory. DC has given him new costumes; a beard and short or moderate or long hair that trails in the water like seagrass; a mystical trident with immense powers over the sea; and even cut off his left hand to replace it in turn with two types of harpoon, and then a magical watery hand, until his flesh-and-blood hand was finally restored to normal. Fortunately, Jason Momoa’s virile portrayal of this Lesser Hero in the Aquaman (2018) superhero adventure movie has gone a long way toward earning the character newfound respect.

The Sea Devils are a team of ordinary, human, scuba divers and undersea adventurers. They debuted in Showcase #27 (1960), and were created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Russ Heath. There have been a few other ordinary seafaring adventurers in comics, but TV’s Sea Hunt (1958) starring Lloyd Bridges as former Navy diver Mike Nelson, greatly popularized the idea of frogmen as heroes. 

Despite having no superpowers, other than extreme bravery and being excellent swimmers who dressed in spiffy, wine-red drysuits, the Sea Devils somehow managed in each issue to confront terrifying foes including gargantuan eels, octopuses, and sea-horses; giant mythological sea gods; and colossal aquatic aliens from outer space. (You may notice a theme going on here: Judging by each issue’s cover, every threat in the ocean is either huge, immense, or gigantic. I suspect that for each issue of the Sea Devils, Kanigher wrote a fantastical story that required the depiction of a gigantic oversized threat on the cover. However, Heath’s extraordinary draftsmanship guaranteed it was always a beautifully drawn gigantic oversized threat.)

I don’t recall any noteworthy or memorable stories in either Aquaman or the Sea Devils (as opposed to, let’s say, the Challengers of the Unknown in Showcase #11 (1957), “The Day the Earth Blew Up!”). Like most comics, the heroes and villains looked astonishing and their perils were extraordinary, but their stories became lackluster and repetitive. 

Well, Tim Allen Stories is about trying to be a better storyteller, so there are no astonishing drawings of extraordinary peril. Instead, I’ll try to create an astonishing tale; and while I’m at it, provide an extraordinary peril too.

My influences for this story are the original Aquaman and Sea Devils comic books; my What-Little-Girls-Are-Made-Of universe; Arthur C. Clarke’s science-fiction novel, Childhood’s End (1953); TV’s seaQuest DSV (1993) ; and perhaps surprisingly, the comedy film, Auntie Mame (1958).


Why are the Lesser Heroes “Appalling”? / Ranger

Why…?

The common subtitle for my Lesser Heroes stories is, “Original stories inspired by appalling tales from the Silver Age of Comics.” But why do I say these stories are “appalling”? And why, amongst many contenders, is the Space Ranger arguably the most deplorable? Well, there’s a story that goes with the answer to those questions.

Legend has it that DC comics editorial director, Irwin Donenfeld, asked editors Jack Schiff and Julius Schwartz to create two new science-fiction based heroes, one of whose adventures would be set in the present, and the other’s would be set in the future. Given first choice, Schiff chose the hero based in the future. Poor Julie Schwartz had to settle for the present (which forced him to ultimately create the cool, award-winning, quick-witted greater hero, Adam Strange).

And although I don’t know it for a fact, but can only judge from the final result, Donenfeld might have added, “By the way, Jack, don’t spend too much time and effort dreaming up this new character. Tell you what. Why don’t you take an already popular hero from TV, radio, or the newspaper comic strips and, shall we say, ’adapt’ him to your new title? I know! You can take the Lone Ranger; put him in the future; in outer space; with a rocket ship, and a spacesuit, and some sort of ray-gun that can do practically anything; and call him… call him…let’s come up with something original here…I’ve got it!…The Space Ranger.

In the comic book industry of the time, just like the jokes stolen again and again by vaudeville comedians, the idea of plagiarism was just a highfalutin notion.

The writers and artists who created Space Ranger had excellent reputations and long strings of previous successes. But something went bizarrely off-kilter with the Space Ranger from the very beginning, in my opinion. Their costume and character designs were barely passable. Some character illustrations were incongruously cartoonish; while others had amateurish anatomy and stock fearful expressions and poses; and the remainder were sometimes drawn in blotchy, blocky chiaroscuro. 

The stories were ridiculously melodramatic, even by a little kid’s standards, and the cultural stereotypes of humans and aliens alike were insulting in a way that uniquely branded the DC comics of the time. 

I don’t think most creators intentionally do bad work, and I have consciously considered giving the Space Ranger’s artists and writers the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know what kind of pressure they were under in those days. Perhaps they were trying to put food on their family’s table and they couldn’t afford to displease their bosses by spending more time doing better work. Perhaps they resented being forced to plagiarize a well-known idea and conspired to do mediocre work in hopes of ruining sales and coaxing DC to cancel the series. 

Arguably, it might be unfair to judge the work of those creators then, by my standards today. But it’s still hard to excuse them when, in an already unbelievable and clichéd depiction of green-skinned aliens with bird-beaked faces living on a moon of Saturn, they go on to culturally misappropriate the worst parts of old-fashioned, black-and-white cowboy movies by depicting the aliens as wearing Native American feathered bonnets, loin cloths, and fringed buckskin pants while threatening the hero with vaguely futuristic tomahawks and bows and arrows. I realize the incongruity of that image is supposed to draw the reader in; but it, like so many aspects of this and other Lesser Heroes, is so appalling that it sabotages the intent.

Despite all of the above, there’s still a faint spark of something fun and worthwhile in the Space Ranger that possibly could be fanned into a flame, if only we try. Let’s see if the following story can do better.


Lesser Heroes / Tomorrow

Series Introduction: Who are the “Lesser Heroes”?

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m a longtime comic book fan. My fondness for comics isn’t really so surprising when you consider how I voraciously read through the science-fiction, fantasy, and art collection at my local public library branch. As a young kid, or so I remember, I even stretched out on my belly on the living room rug, pushed my near-sighted eyes up close to the pages, and in one long sitting read all of Jules Verne’s Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

When I was a littler older, I reveled in the four-color Sunday newspaper comics strips. I was delighted by everything from the highly stylized, now quaint, adventures of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, to the droll and eerily prescient political satire of Walt Kelly’s Pogo. In the meantime, I was peeking at and coveting my brother’s collection of comic books, many of which were offbeat and long out of print. 

My adolescence ranged partly from 1956 to circa 1970. During that time, National Periodicals-Detective Comics, which later became DC Comics, bought out or outsold its rivals and ultimately monopolized the comics trade. DC had many “great” heroes and longtime best-sellers like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. But by the 1950s, even DC’s sales were starting to falter. As a remedy, DC started one of my favorite, but now nearly forgotten titles: Showcase magazine. 

Showcase, and its occasional sister titles such as The Brave and the Bold, was a low risk way of introducing trial versions of new superheroes without the danger of putting them in their own ongoing title, only to discover that readers rejected them and gave their title the cold shoulder. Furthermore, Showcase pioneered reimagining and reinventing old, outdated, and defunct titles from the 1940s, and giving current readers new, updated, and exciting versions of those heroes. 

Showcase introduced modern versions of “great” characters such as The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom, and many more. These characters ushered in what is called The Silver Age of Comic Books, which coincided with my adolescence. Summarizing the lessons of expert writing teachers, the Silver Age books had relatable, more than one-dimensional characters; origin stories grounded in reasonably credible science-fiction instead of the ludicrous magical or pseudo-scientific creation myths of the 1940s; and modern plots with an interesting antagonist, conflict, and climax. 

More than anything else, though, Showcase was great fun! It was fun because after showing us the way, we readers could also dream of reimagining and reinventing great heroes of our own. And trust me, there were many DC Comics heroes to fix! Heroes who didn’t have a credible origin; who didn’t have engaging plots; whose premise wasn’t diverse or inclusive, or was just plain too insulting to be stomached by modern readers who had already witnessed too much of the world’s inequities. 

So, what do I call those heroes who weren’t great? How about…”Lesser Heroes”?

Tim Allen Stories is my way of experimenting with how to tell a good yarn. I intend to post three short-to-novella-length stories based on one or more Lesser Heroes that I’ve reimagined and reinvented as my own character. If all goes well, each story will be better than the last.

The rules of my game are these: (1) I can take inspiration from, but will make every effort not to infringe on, copyrighted intellectual property as defined by the U. S. Copyright Office. That is, I’m free to use series titles, character names, and any special powers or abilities a character might have. (2) I can take inspiration from a Lesser Hero’s appearance in any media, such as movies or TV, but of course, not the copyrighted expression of that character in the medium. (3) I can embellish my stories with real-world science, history, myth, and media. And (4), I can freely use ideas from original story I’ve already written and own, such as the What-Little-Girls-Are-Made-Of universe, being careful not to mix my ideas with copyrighted intellectual property. 

Hopefully, I’ll learn something about writing a good story in the process. Hopefully, I’ll reimagine and reinvent something new, entertaining, and better. And hopefully, I’ll redeem one more…Lesser Hero.


“What Little Girls Are Made Of” Excerpt


Foreword

This excerpt is from a science-fiction novel I’m revising and is complete in two parts, divided into several long pages. It is set in what I’m currently calling the What-Little-Girls-Are-Made-Of Universe (more about that in a future post). A science-fiction story’s setting is critically important, but the more dazzling it is, the more the setting can blind the reader to the humanity of the story’s characters. 

In this excerpt, the setting is a few centuries in the future; energy is cheap and boundless; computers and artificial intelligences are discreetly ubiquitous; swarms of industrial robots build enormous structures; and a purportedly lucky discovery evades the speed limit of light and enables exploration of distant worlds. However, if you ignore these superficialities, you will see that people still behave like people. Or if you prefer, if people from a few centuries ago were able to observe you and your world, they would still recognize your humanity even though your technology would be complete mystery.

However, there is still one more superficiality to consider, one more tiny thing: Some people are psychic; that is, some people are powerful mind readers, fortune tellers, mediums, movers from a distance, and… more.


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