#Secondthoughts: Where Eagles Dare

“Broadsword calling Danny Boy…Broadsword calling Danny Boy…”

There are some phrases that just seem right.  They work.  They’re so good that they enter the population and almost become some kind of genetic memory.  These days we tend to call them memes and they get hacked about by anybody with access to a meme-generator, in order to illustrate a point.  I will freely admit to having done it myself once or twice.  But before the internet, before we knew they were memes, there were lines from books and films that became short hand for jokes, or action scenes, for heroism, or dark deeds.

Thirty years or so after the first time that I read “Where Eagles Dare”, and the famous radio call-sign exchange still brings back memories of Alastair McLean novels, and a slew of WWII films.

“Broadsword calling Danny Boy…Broadsword calling Danny Boy…”

Social Media can be a strange place.  You never quite know what will catch on.  By chance, I happened to notice that #WhereEaglesDare was trending on Twitter the other day, so I thought that I would have a quick look.  It turned out that the film was showing on some channel or another, and people were flagging it and then talking about.  The opening credits came in for a mention, and yes, they are pretty good.  I’d dispute that it is the best film ever, though.  The film has some great set pieces, but I’m going to go out on a limb, and say that it was miscast, and that the adaptation of the dialogue was not quite up to the mark.  I’d even suggest that it is worth remaking the film – Richard Burton, as Smith, is rather wooden, and Clint Eastwood, as Schaeffer, is…Clint Eastwood.  To his credit, at least he put a bit of effort into climbing the rope, instead of using a scissor lift…  a young Nathan Fillion might have been a good Schaeffer, I don’t know who the equivalent would be at the moment.  But I digress.

In any film, there are a number of things that need to come together, including the casting (and the on- and off-screen dynamic between the cast), the cinematography (including special effects), and the script.  In the case of a film adaptation, the casting is especially important, as is the script.  For fans of the book, if the writer did a good job then you will have a mental picture of the characters.  In terms of the dialogue to inform the script, you’d hope that it could just be picked up and plonked down as is, but of course there will be scenes that can’t be included – but you really need that line, yes that one there – and so the process of revising the script begins.

In terms of a film adaptation, whilst I love Guns of Navarone, Force 10 from Navarone and WED – all for different reasons – I’d argue that Where Eagles Dare is the best adaptation of the three.  But it also shares in one of the biggest frustrations that I have with the Lord of the Rings films: they messed up the humour.

When you think of Lord of the Rings, the inherent humour is probably not what springs to mind.  I will be the first to admit that we are not talking about a laff-a-minute, light-hearted read, but there is humour, albeit somewhat understated. The film adaptation, to my mind, makes the cardinal sin of rejecting the humour that Tolkien wrote into the book, and importing a totally unnecessary slap-stick element, usually at the expense of Gimli and the dwarfs.  I recently came across the term “Mary Sue” to describe a character who is improbably skilled at everything: in LOTR, the Elves, and in particular Legolas, become a race of Mary Sues, leaving the dwarfs to bumble along as the comedy country-bumpkins.  But that’s another essay.  Suffice it to say, that my view is that Legolas and Gimli were designed to be a balanced pairing in the author’s mind, and that there are all sorts of things that don’t work properly because the relationship between Gimli and Legolas is undermined.

So too, then, the balance between Smith and Schaeffer is not quite right in WED.  The humour is muted, the dialogue doesn’t sparkle.  Burton is, as I’ve said, a bit wooden – it almost feels like it should be one of his last performances, but it’s not; Burton died young, but worked for another 15 or so years after this film.  The book is a little more thoughtful, and doesn’t reduce the Germans to ciphers – at least, not all the time.

“Broadsword calling Danny Boy…Broadsword calling Danny Boy…”

And now for the kicker.  Having written all of the above, having assumed that the book came first, I’ve just discovered that McLean wrote the film first and then the book.  Apparently Eastwood didn’t like the original script and asked for fewer lines, which surely must be a rarity in the acting profession.  On the other hand, he got to do most of the action, so it probably worked out about even.

Even with that last minute shock revelation, I stand by the view that the book is better than the film, but perhaps now we need to say it is because McLean had the opportunity to polish things – and he didn’t have to worry about troublesome actors.  His characters would do as they were told.  He also had the opportunity to embellish some scenes and add depth – so for example the pilot who drops off the team and picks up the survivors gets to be a proper character rather than just an extension of the aircraft.

How about you?  Any films where the script/casting messed up a really neat book?  Any favourite books that got a good film treatment? Any films that fell flat even though they had an all star cast and the dialogue was straight off the page?

“Broadsword this is Danny Boy…Broadsword this is Danny Boy…Recieving”

© David Jesson, 2018


#FF Photoprompt

Bahrd stole down the holloway, slipping from one patch of mogshade to another; occasionally he was pierced by hot barbs of shrivelight.  He paused for a moment and tried to tune out the beating of his heart, pricking his ears for the sound of pursuit.  Three days shy of his 100th birthday, the youngest Senior Journeyman of the Edgemakers Guild was on the run.  He looked back down the holloway.


He started again, hurrying down the green-lit path between the trees.  He spotted the tree that was his marker and stepped up his pace, finding the quick rhythm required.  He counted paces.  He leapt. His hands reached out and up.  His fingers found the branch and he pulled himself up.  Many amongst the dwarfkind had the strength to perform the manoeuvre, but few had the requisite height.

Bahrd worked his way back up the path in the direction that he had come from, but now he was up above the holloway looking down through the leaves.  There – he found the gap that would allow him to penetrate into the forest, and worked his way down into the deep-woods.  Even should they pick up the trail, it was unlikely that they would follow him there…


There were those that whispered that he was too young to be a journeyman, no matter that his ‘prentice pieces outshone anything created in the Guild for a generation.  Some said he was flighty.  Some said he was too inquisitive, that he was too impetuous.  There were those that stated bluntly that he would never be a Master.  No one noticed that the Guildmaster, the venerable Fighrd, kept his own counsel.

Still, all this was moot now.  Jealousy, like a corrupting worm, had buried itself in the heart of the guild, and had just now erupted in a vicious prank.  Aimed at one of the senior Masters, designed to make Bahrd look bad, the prank had claimed the life of an apprentice.  The Guild Guards had been dispatched, and for all his cleverness, all his subtlety, Bahrd felt himself being forced into corner.  Yes, he had allies; yes, there were contingencies…but he also had enemies in high places, and whilst he had a fair idea that the events leading up to the tragedy had been enacted by a vindictive journeyman who coveted Bahrd’s title, there was a whiff of conspiracy, a taint of a particular brain, Master Nohrd’s, behind the plot.  Bahrd might have stayed, attempted to prove his case, endured what ever deprivations would come his way.  He might have done these things, if not for the note: “We are coming for you.”  Even this on its own might have been dealt with – had he trusted the Council.  Whilst there were Masters that he liked, trusted, in some cases even respected, none of these feeling extended to the Council.  And so, he fled.

But even his fleeing was not some blind rout.  He was an Edgemaker.  The youngest Senior Journeyman the Guild had ever seen, and if his style saw him clash with the Council and certain Masters from time to time, he still had a card to play, an edge, even now.

He felt, by rights, that it should have been a dark night, storm-tossed, riven by lightening.  Instead, it was a glorious summer’s day. For this, despite the lack of the dramatic, he was glad.  The cliff beneath the dormitory windows was treacherous enough – his first edge, as no one believed that it could be climbed in one direction or the other – but rain-slick hand-holds might well prove fatal.  He would have to use the holloway to complete his escape from the Guild; a calculated risk, as it was unlikely that there would be anyone using it today.


Dwarfkind didn’t like the forests, didn’t trust them. Bahrd was not a typical dwarf.  It was not that he minded the mines and mountain halls – that would have been too strange – but he liked solitude and the deep-woods were mercifully free of the idiots that surrounded him every day.  He’d ranged through the trees in many directions, for as far as you could go and return in a three days and two nights.  It was on one of these jaunts that Bahrd had discovered The Tree.  He called it this, for it seemed unlike any other tree that he had ever come across, and it was clearly the oldest tree for many leagues, perhaps in all the world.  Further, this tree talked.  At times it seemed senile, perhaps due to its immense age, perhaps due to the loss of wood at its core.  Other times it was full of sage advice and gossiped of events far away, although how it come by its knowledge Bahrd had no concept.

On a trip to visit The Tree, years before, Bahrd had even negotiated with this ancient, a strange parley, which had left Bahrd unsure as to who had the best of the deal.   The Tree had agreed to store certain of Bahrd’s treasures and tools against future need, an edge which Bahrd had taken gladly, not realising how he would need to use it.

He arrived at  Dusk: “I have come for my things, honourable tree”.

“Very well.” The voice was the rustle of leaves, the creaking of branches. “But then it is also time for you to fulfil your part of the bargain.”

Bahrd reached in to the hollow.  He had slept in here before now, but he was never quite sure what he would find on any given visit, nor where his things went between times.  What was also strange was that not everything that he had placed here had been returned, but everything that he would need for a long journey had been given to him.  In addition, there was a small package, made from woven bark, lined with leaves.  Nestled in the leaves was some kind of seed, a large one, that was beginning to put out a root and a shoot.

“My time is nearly at an end, and so I must think of the future.  Do not worry for your goods, they will be here when you come again, but you must take this with you when you leave.”

“What must I do?”

“Take it with you.  You will know what must be done, when it must be done.  For now, sleep.  The forest will watch.”


Fighrd sighed.   He did not like, on a personal level, what he had done.  The truth was, however, that he had repaid a favour to an old friend, and put an asset safely out of the way, for a while.  What Bahrd would do in the World was a problem for another day, although he had some thoughts in that regard too.  For now, though, he needed to remove a thorn…  He turned from his contemplation of the forest, stretching away in all directions from the base of the mountain.

“Send for Nohrd.  It is time we discussed certain truths.”

© David Jesson, 2018


“Wow! Just wow!”

”That’s not quite the response I was expecting …”

”No, no, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so banal. But, when you said you had a refuge, I thought … I dunno, some kind of attic, even a summer house, just … not this. This is amazing. This is magical.”

”Thanks. I always feel a bit of a drama queen calling it my refuge. After all, my family are good people, it’s just that boundaries are not their thing. Well, other than a thing to step right over without thought. They’re all such extroverts and I’m … just not.”

”It’s one of the many things I love about you …”

”What is?”

“That you’re not an extrovert. I’d have been too scared to speak to you otherwise.”

”I’m so glad you did. I’ve never had anyone who I could show this place to, as they’d not get it. It feels safe, and magical – but it also inspires me to write. I have this little pop-up tent and a sleeping bag I use when I need to stay away a bit longer. When they see me in the kitchen making up sandwiches and flasks of drinks, they all tease me rotten. I wonder if they realise how close I am to not coming back.”

“Really? You’d just go …?”

“If the folk in my stories were real, yes, I’d go … in a heartbeat.”

© Debra Carey, 2018

Last night I dreamt I went to Barsoom again

I lay down in my hotel room, far from home and low in spirit.  In place of the usual Gideon’s, to my surprise, was a copy of “A Princess of Mars” – a first edition, no less.  I flipped through the pages in a desultory fashion, at once recalling the the adventures of John Carter and Dejah Thoris and puzzling over the mystery of this volume’s presence in my room.

My eyes started to drift shut, and I placed the book back where I had found it in the bedside drawer.  I found my accustomed sleeping position – and immediately fell asleep.

I woke, almost at once it seemed, but with a groggy-start, as if from a deep sleep. I sat up, shook my head and looked around, trying to find the light switch.  As I continued the rise from the depths of sleep, I realised that it was already light, about as light as on Spring day.

I looked around.  This was most certainly not my bed, not my hotel room.  The ground I was sitting on was cold, and covered with greenish-lichen.  I got to my feet: the lichen crunched underfoot as a turned around, looking at the terrain.  The depression of ground spread out for tens of kilometres in every direction; off in the distance, I could see hills, low and red.

I jumped.  It was not as graceful as I had hoped, but John Carter’s first attempts had warned me of what to expect. Leapt and bounded to the top of rise, covering tens of metres with every stride.  From my vantage, I looked around and saw two clouds of dust closing on each other.  I wished I had binoculars, but had little doubt that two tribes of the fearsome, fearless green warriors of Mars were closing on each other ready for battle and conquest.

Dare I go closer?  No.  I was sure to be seen and captured, if I did not stop a radium bullet fired with malice or by mistake.  I continued to look around, warily returning to view the distant fight from time to time.  I saw a flotilla of airships, perhaps from the fair double city of Helium itself, crest the hills.  Gracefully they floated across the arid desert-bowl.  I stood between the ships and the Green Martians and did not know where to look.

I gazed too long at the airships and, when I turned again, I saw that a part of Green Martians had broken free of the battle and were racing towards me.  I turned and ran, taking long jumping strides.  I was just able to keep my lead, but I was no Fighting Virginian and quickly became winded.  I landed a little too heavily on a rock that shifted underneath me.  It threw me off my stride and I tumbled headlong, striking my head on a rock.


I woke in the middle of falling out of bed, and landed on the floor of my hotel room with a bump, that would have been embarrassing if there had been anyone there to see it.  I landed on my shoulder, but not too heavily.  I sat up and saw the glowing red figures of my travel alarm o’clock.  Surely I could only have been asleep for minute, two at the most.

I got back into bed, and wondered why my ankle hurt, why the bed felt gritty.

© David Jesson, 2018




#FlashFiction prompt: “How are you? I’m OK, but I’m leaking glue.”

We promise, this was genuinely said to one of us … and how could we not use it as a prompt? So, go on, we’re giving no more away than that!

Word count: up to 1,500
Deadline: 2pm GMT on Friday 8th June 2018

A reminder of our #TortoiseFlashFiction page if you just love this one but miss the deadline.


A reminder to new readers/writers, please post on your own site and add a link in the comments section below.  If you don’t have your own blog or similar outlet, do send us your story via the contact form on the About page and we’ll post for you, with an appropriate by-line.  

Two caveats if you want to go down this route: if you want to retain the copyright, then you will need to state this, and this is a family show, so we reserve the right not to post anything that strays into NSFW or offends against ‘common decency’.


#secondthoughts: Fanfic

Fanfic has an interesting place in the grand scheme of things.  There are whole communities that have arisen around a book or TV show, that simply exist to share stories that the fans feel should be out there.  These include a way of providing an answer to a question that is too unimportant for the source material to address (but which has taken on significance to the community), or exploring an unlikely situation – a romantic entanglement between characters that are normally enemies is a popular form of fanfic.  It might be a way of filling a gap when the next book of a series is over due, or when a TV show is cancelled.  It might be a way of gently poking fun at the more absurd aspects, whilst saluting the parts that make the source material so worthy of a strong fanbase.

Fanfic has a lot of potential, and numerous writers begin their careers by writing fanfic and then graduating to their own stories.  Some writing courses encourage the writing of fanfic as a way of getting started.  The question though, is when does fanfic become plagiarism or an infringement of intellectual property?    Can fanfic be mainstream?

Fan fiction was originally applied as a pejorative term for (usually science) fiction writing of generally poor quality that was submitted by amateurs to be published in magazines.  If you follow any writers on social media, one of the things that comes across quite strongly is that there is a strong view that a writer is someone who is putting their own words down on paper (electronic or otherwise), whether or not they are paid to do so.  Even some professional writers, by which I mean those that receive financial remuneration for their writing, have other jobs in addition to their writing gigs, or their writing is a form of paid employment e.g. journalists.

With the advent of the internet, it became much easier to discuss shared interests, much easier to achieve critical mass for small niches within a larger setting, and so fan fiction changed its context.  But arguably there are many professional writers who have undertaken fan fiction gigs – if they got paid for their fan fiction, is it still fan fiction?  To illustrate, let me give an example: Sherlock Holmes.  Sherlock Holmes is the IP of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who died in 1930, which means that the copyright on the books expired in 2000 (in the UK at least).

The first pastiche was apparently written by JM Barrie (yes, of Peter Pan fame) in the 1890s  – a contemporary piece, and something of a friendly jibe.  Conan Doyle (and subsequently his estate) seem to have taken a fairly laid back view of the works that have been written – there is a separate page on Wikipedia that lists the (majority of) published works built on the Holmes canon.  This “extended universe”, as it were, includes stories from the perspective of other key characters including Lestrade, Mrs Hudson, Mycroft, The Irregulars, and of course Moriarty.  Many collections of short stories have been written that purport to be from a descendent of Watson who finds a bundle of papers…these usually deal with the stories that it is suggested have been suppressed for political or other reasons in the main stories.  There was also a treatment which had the grandchildren of Holmes and Watson – a very serious Watson who talks of the legacy of the grandfathers and a Holmes who would rather be doing anything else, but of course is prevailed upon to deal with whatever situations arise.

As an aside, one of the least convincing series of stories is by Laurie King, who has Holmes found in retirement by a teenaged American girl; she becomes his apprentice and subsequently his wife.  It feels in rather poor taste, and completely flies in the face of what we know of Holmes.  People do change…but Holmes marrying is improbable, and marrying someone of the order of 30-40 years younger is, I would contend, unlikely in the extreme.  That said, King is a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, and I am not, so what do I know?

In summary, more words in the vein of Conan Doyle have been written of Sherlock Holmes by others than by the man himself, not to mention the parodies and allusions. Are these fanfic?  I would argue, yes, even if the authors got paid for their troubles.

At the other end of the extreme, others have gone to a great deal of trouble to squash anything written about their characters.  Given that there have been law-suits by fanfic writers claiming that the owner of original IP stole anything from a plot-device through to a complete book which forms a part or the whole of a subsequent book in the series, it is not surprising that there are those who steer well clear of fanfic.

So, should I write fanfic?  Should you?  For the most part, I’ve never really felt compelled to write fanfic per se, there are enough of my own stories that I want to write that this doesn’t feel necessary (although I did write a piece off the back of one of our prompts that was very much an homage/parody of an Asimov ‘Union Club Mystery’).  On the other hand, I do have to watch myself, as sometimes things have a much stronger influence than some writers might like.  I don’t think that I’ve ever gone so far as to get someone excited enough to threaten legal action – but a quick smurf of the internet shows that litigation is popular in the field, and some people will suggest plagiarism or some other literary shenanigans at the least provocation.

As a clising thought, the Anglican church says of confession that “all may, some should, none must”, and that actually works quite well with fanfic, I think.


© David Jesson, 2018


You’ll see her, perhaps, if you take the time to look.  She’s there, in the crowd, or perhaps at the edge.  She’s there, in the park, in the cafe, on the bus, at the school gates.  She has a beautiful smile.  She talks to those around her: she engages.  But if you do spot her, if you notice her, you’ll see that whilst she talks, nobody ever really gets close.  Nobody ever gets close.  If they did, they might see that the beautiful smile never reaches the eyes.  Make sure she never notices you noticing, because nobody ever survives that.


© David Jesson, 2018



I can’t comment on the film, but in the book of Fantastic Mr Fox (by Roald Dahl), after Mr Fox gets his tail shot off by the farmers, he spends an uncomfortable couple of days digging hard to try and keep ahead of said farmers. They start digging with spades, and then move on to mechanical diggers. There are moments of respite. Sometimes the foxes get a lead, sometimes it looks like the farmers are going to scoop them up… #AprilA2Z is a bit like that, especially when you think you have a bright idea for a theme to carry you through the month…

But I’m jumping the gun a bit. This is my third time round on the #AtoZChallenge. Less than a year ago, once things had cooled down a bit after the last challenge, I had a bit of an idea. I thought we should put together a writing resources page here on Fiction Can be Fun. Debs thought that was a good idea, and we pooled ideas about what should be included. And then I started thinking about using those resources, especially various prompts and things to help set up a story and populate it with characters. I persuaded Debs that we could write a long form story for the challenge. To be fair, it’s Debs’ fault that I got embroiled into the Challenge in the first place. We batted a few ideas around, agreed that using a different resource everyday was probably a bit much, thought about using the “And they fight crime” generator to come up with our protagonists – and somewhere along the way we forgot all about that and ended up focusing on the NATO phonetic alphabet as a linking theme. I think we’d originally discussed using the Cockney alphabet (A is for ‘orses etc), but for one reason or another that didn’t feel right and we went with Alpha, Bravo, Charlie etc – which worked incredibly well, I feel.

The mechanics of writing the challenge might serve as a #Secondthoughts in due course, so I’ll finish off with a few thoughts on the #AtoZChallenge itself. I seem to be incapable of choosing a simple theme to run with, and also incapable of getting organised to prepare enough in advance: as a ‘planner’ rather than a ‘pantser’ this is quite stressful. April has been incredibly stressful, and I’m going to have to think very careful about whether I do the challenge again next year or not. But…it’s also been a lot of fun! I couldn’t have done this without Debs – the story, the writing, all of it has been a delight and a privilege and I’ve really enjoyed writing this story in partnership: if you can find the right person to work with, I thoroughly recommend a shared project. I haven’t checked in with as many blogs as I would have liked, but it has been brilliant to catch up with old friends and to meet new ones.


I’d participated in A2Z April for three years previous to 2018, but I’d never set myself an overly demanding challenge in terms of topic or theme. After the first year, I rapidly figured out that the way to manage the challenge best was to prepare as many of my posts in advance as was possible. For me, it was a bit of fun and rather more to do with the taking part. David, on the other hand, took the word ‘Challenge’ to heart and from the word go, jumped in with a corker of a subject. And he’s kept on upping the ante. This year, he took me along for the ride with a joint effort at this – our co-hosted site. I could pretend that there was kicking and screaming on my part but, in all truth, after we’d read and enjoyed Iain Kelly’s splendid series in 2017, we were hugely inspired by it, and I was very excited by the prospect of being able to do something along the same lines. In all honesty, it’s not something I’d have dared to dream about but David provided that courage and here we are – at the end of something which has been challenging, enjoyable, eventful and fun. What’s made it even better is the support and encouragement we’ve had from those who read along.

In a post-April tidy up of desk, I found a little bundle of my notes from our earliest discussions. I have a vague recollection of those early conversations – brought to mind by that pile of scrappy bits of papers, containing our ideas and thoughts. As always happens with the challenge, April rushed up far too quickly and my immediate difficulties with learning Scrivener in the time-frame caused a bout of hysterics. David remained calmness personified – for which my ‘Himself’ takes his hat off to him. Those wide-ranging ideas slowly became whittled down more by a lack of inspiration sparking than anything else – at least that’s how I remember it! And before we knew it, we were frantically writing the first tranche of posts. We started April with a week’s worth of posts written and scheduled, but by the end, it became considerably more frantic and last minute.

But, you know what, it was brilliant. I’ve not enjoyed an April A2Z as much before, despite falling ill in the middle. I enjoyed the way the story and characters developed, and the feedback and comments were even more appreciated than in previous years.

Despite co-hosting a site for a year, one of the major questions was whether our very different writing styles and pools of ideas would meld. But, as David has alluded to, we’ll be producing a joint #secondthoughts piece on the subject of co-writing, so I’ll say no more for now.

Working alongside David has given me the courage to take this huge leap of faith; there is no doubting I’d not be in this position but for his drive and belief. I’ve looked at those who’ve co-authored before and wondered not how, but why. But now I get it. Writing is a lonely old business and having someone to riff with, to bounce ideas off, to hear genuine enthusiasm in their reaction, and then to see the results … that’s why.


To everyone who’s taken a moment out to read, to like or to leave a comment – thank you. It’s made what we’ve done all the more worthwhile.

We’d like to say a particular thank you to Stu, Iain and Alan – who have not only stuck with us the whole month, but have commented everyday, kept us honest, and have definitely played the game, played along at home trying to guess the twists and turns in the story, and were delighted when the villain got his come-uppance. Your support has meant so much to us.