Monthly Archives: June 2014

THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR REVISITED

The Knights Templar (The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon), were religious warriors formed in 1119 after the First Crusade. Nine French knights, led by Hugues de Payens, took vows of poverty and chastity, and got together to protect pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. After those early days, the Knights Templar grew into something else entirely–basically, a rich and powerful corporation.

The Templars have always held an interest and a fascination for many people, including me. They’ve long been a subject of discussions, books, papers, films, but after the runaway success of author Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, where the Templars were mentioned in mysterious, historical (or not) context, the Knights Templar have resurfaced as a cultural phenomena.

Though a lot is known about the Templars historically, various myths about them abound (and, let’s face it, those are a lot more fun!)–they are the keepers of the Holy Grail, they still survive today as the Freemasons, they found and hid the Ark of the Covenant, even that they discovered America! Take that Vikings!

They are given credit, in fact, for creating the modern system of banking. Ironically, taking vows of poverty, the Templars eventually became one of the richest organizations in the Old World, who could lend money and buy property with ease. It got to the point, in just a short century, that governments depended on them to help finance certain projects. That’s considered one of the reasons King Phillip IV of France and Pope Pius V orchestrated the Templars’ downfall in 1307. The “impoverished” Knights were perceived as having become too rich and powerful (although most historians figure Phillip just wanted all that loot for himself) and turning against their vows and God.

The fall of the Templars is one of the origin stories attributed to the legend of Friday the 13th. On Friday, October 13th, 1307, most of the Templars throughout France were rounded up from their various castles, commanderies, perceptories and farms. Again, most, not all, were tortured to confess to false crimes, and burned at the stake for heresy (although one legend has it some escaped to become the Freemasons and to hide their legendary treasure, though no trace of whatever that treasure is has ever been found).

The heresy crimes included the worship of a god or demon called Baphomet. This is variously described as a disembodied head (possibly of John the Baptist!) of a goat, a horned demon, a skull, a cat, etc. It’s depicted as a winged, goat-headed human in certain decks of Tarot cards.

All nonsense, of course. But what if it wasn’t? One source I read described how the apocryphal Lilith (the Biblical Adam’s supposed first wife, according to some sources, and the lover of King Solomon) transformed, through her followers neglect, into the Baphomet. How cool and creepy is that? I used that idea in my first “Knights Templar in Outer Space” story, Crusade.

In my crazy future history, the Knights Templar have been reborn into the 23rd Century to become the Templar Accord. Their long war with the alien Kazoran Union is at a stalemate. Both sides are equal in numbers, strength and technology. But what if the Accord could discover and resurrect certain “artifacts”, which are not myths and legends but real? Including the Baphomet? The Union would have no defense against these ancient “weapons.” Or so the Accord hopes.

My new serial novel, The Endgame Chronicles, posted by chapter for free on the JukePop Serial website, posits that theory also. The Templar Accord, now serving a church of their own making, struggle to survive against their enemies. You can read about what happens after they discover an artifact long buried on a remote, backwater planet in an ancient tomb. They find out their “Endgame Initiative” may sound good on paper but even the best-laid plans can go horribly wrong. Yikes.

I’ve tried to capture the essence of the Knights Templar and their Code in my stories but have updated it to include female Knights and administrators (this is the 23rd century, after all). No vows of poverty exist and, especially, no vows of chastity. How boring would that be?

The first chapter is available to read free without a JukePop account, but you’ll have to create an account (also free with no obligations) to read any further. Let me know what you think!

http://www.jukepop.com/home/read/3471
http://inkfish1.wix.com/larryivkovichauthor

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GENE AUTRY: SEMINAL SCIENCE FICTION HERO

.Gene Autry, famous singing cowboy star of radio, television and the movies (and very successful and lucrative recorder of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”), may be the last name one thinks of when imagining adventurers of the sci-fi pulp era. If at all.

But the 1935 Saturday matinee serial, The Phantom Empire , one of Autry’s first forays into film, depicts him as exactly that. Starring as himself and singing in almost every one of the serial’s twelve episodes, Autry and his sidekicks fight evil of a futuristic, subterranean and very low-budget kind.

The opening credits for each episode identify Autry as “Radio’s Singing Cowboy.” Young costar Frankie Darro is listed next and would later portray Robbie the Robot in the classic sci-fi movie, Forbidden Planet (1956). Even younger fourteen-year old costar Betsy Ross-King is described as “World Champion Trick Horse Rider,” which, apparently, she once was although you’ll be hard pressed to find any information about her, googling or otherwise.

And finally, in the first few episodes, the “Scientific City of Murania” is also credited as if it, too, was a character in the story. Constructed as a miniature set, Murania hosted futuristic-looking buildings, painted backdrops and flashing lights. Giant elevators ascend and descend to and from the surface accompanied by a funny un-theramin-like whistling sound. Scientific indeed.

Inhabited by citizens dressed in Roman-style togas and pointy hats, Murania also boasts giant robot servants who swing hammers and open doors a lot. As an interesting sidebar, these ridiculous looking mechanical men were taken out of storage from the set of the 1933 Clark Gable/Joan Crawford musical, Dancing Lady. Which begs the question: Could >Dancing Ladyalso be an early and influential work of science fiction cinema?

As the serial unfolds (complete with such ominous episode titles as “Jaws of Jeopardy,” “Prisoner of the Ray,” and “A Queen in Chains”), Autry is co-owner of the Radio Ranch. Darro and Ross-King play siblings whose father is Autry’s partner in running the ranch.

The two kids have formed a club called “The Junior Thunder Riders” (complete with clubhouse and secret periscope). The members wear capes and what look like buckets on their heads as they ride around on horses giving voice to their motto, “To the Rescue!”

Autry and his backup musicians must perform their live radio recordings every day at 2PM or, according to their contract, will lose the ranch. Sounds like someone needed to negotiate a little harder on that point.

As a result, this insidious line item conveniently sets up several cliff-hangers revolving around whether Autry will make it back in time to perform. Of course, he always does, a lot of the time with the help of the ever resourceful Junior Thunder Riders. And Radio Ranch is always saved. Or is it?

A couple of crooked scientists and their gang discover that there are large deposits of radium buried underneath Radio Ranch. Their plot is, of course, to dig up the valuable mineral and spirit it away so they can get rich. In the meantime, in an absolutely amazing coincidence, Murania (once part of the lost civilization of Mu) and its technologically superior inhabitants also reside 20,000 feet under the surface of Autry’s ranch and is the source of the radium!

Danger and non-stop action (and singing) and a lot of running around ensue as both the scientists and Murania’s evil Queen Tika strive to either capture or kill Autry for various reasons, none of which make much sense but do advance the story, such as it is.

It’s pretty obvious that The Phantom Empire, along with other movie serials of that time, was made strictly for juveniles. If you can get past the cheesy acting, dialog, costumes, special effects and the very irritating high-pitched voice of Ms. Ross-King, it can be an enjoyable time-waster. Of course, as Gene Autry got more and more successful, he was laughing all the way to the bank, radium or not.

Just ask Rudolph.

Speaking of serials – I’ve just posted the first chapter of a science fiction/horror serial on the JukePop Serial site – it’s free to read although you do have to create an account to read beyond the first chapter. Please check it out and let me know what you think. Thanks!

http://www.jukepop.com/home/read/3471

 

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