Re: [barsoom] Kregen Essay
- In a message dated 4/10/2008 9:21:26 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
I've never actually read any, to my knowledge.
Here is an essay I put together a few years ago on the Dray Prescot Saga. It
does need to be updated due to recent publishing developements.
When famed editor Don Wollheim launched his science fiction publishing
venture DAW Books in 1972, he wanted to include a Burroughs/Norman-style
interplanetary adventure series in his lineup. Wollheim turned to English author Ken
Bulmer, one member of his stable of writers from Ace Books, to undertake the
assignment. Bulmer declared this type of series was something he had wanted to
do for a long time, and virtually leaped at the opportunity to do so. Thus,
in December of 1972, "Transit to Scorpio" was published under the pseudonym of
Alan Burt Akers. This first adventure of Dray Prescot was the beginning of a
series that would eventually reach 37 (38 if you count a short-story in an
anthology) volumes under the DAW Books imprint, finally drawing to a close in
April of 1988.
Wollheim repeatedly expressed that the saga of Dray Prescot was his all-time
favorite science fiction series, but lowered sales, Wollheim's failing
health, and a move away from series books at DAW, led to the cancellation of the
series after volume # 37.
But the Dray Prescot Saga was far from over, as Ken Bulmer had developed
quite a following in Germany with these books. The publishing house Heyne Bucher
asked him to continue the series, with Ken's English translated into German.
Obliging in an enthusiastic manner, Ken extended the saga to 52 books with #
53 a fragment, for Ken was struck down while writing it. Unless you could
read German this seemed the end of the road for English-speaking Prescot fans.
But thanks to the Internet this story is still ongoing Just as Bulmer's
Kregen was inspired by Burroughs' Barsoom, so too are Prescot's fans. Much of the
core support for Ken and his Dray Prescot series is derived from ERB fandom
and the Internet. One such fan, Mike Sutton, has even undertaken the task of
providing English versions of the post # 37 Prescot adventures, through his
Internet publishing site, Savanti Press.
The popularity of the series was such, that a role playing game based on
Prescot's Kregen, was released in 1988, Beneath Two Suns from Mayfair Games. It
will hopefully serve as a predecessor for Mike Sutton's own Scorpion Crown.
Time will tell. It was my pleasure to conduct an interview with Mike of which
I have included excerpts here. Much of it revolves around conversations
between Mike, Ken, and Elsie Wollheim. Unlike Barsoom and Gor, slavery is frowned
upon by Prescot on Kregen. This is simply a reflection of Ken's views and
gets translated into Dray wanting to eradicate that evil institution from the
face of Kregen. And women play important roles in the saga. No shrinking
violets here, waiting to be saved or ravished. Ken's daughters played a huge part
in the shaping of several of the female roles within the series. Likewise
Ken kept most of the sex in the books implied, while he concentrated on the
adventuring aspects of the stories. After all, Prescot does come from a
relatively conservative era, sexually (the turn of the 19th century) and this is
reflected in his character. When asked how Ken and Heyne Bucher struck there
deal, he replied that while seated at a cafe in Brighton, his German agent
dragged over a representative from the German publisher and a deal was arrived at
in five minutes! The only conditions were that the stories feature Prescot and
not a close comrade or family member, and each book must end in a
cliffhanger. It's what the German readers wanted.
And so the Scorpio saga had been reborn for a new generation of readers, a
generation that may be ignorant of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the authors he
inspired. So here is an introduction, or reintroduction to the civilized yet
barbaric world that orbits the binary star Antares in the constellation Scorpio.
We will also see what the future holds for both Dray Prescot and Ken Bulmer.
Dray Prescot, as fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs may or may not know, is an
Earthman transported to the planet Kregen. Kenneth Bulmer created this world in
the constellation of the Scorpion and how prophetic it is, that just such a
creature kills Prescot's father in late eighteenth century England and a giant
(phantom)? cousin greets him upon his advent to Kregen. Even more important
is the image of the scorpion utilized by the Savanti to effect Prescot's
transit to their wondrous planet and also used by the Star Lords (Everoinye) to
further their mysterious plans for the myriad races and lands of Kregen. They
are one of three (known) cosmic forces that contend for mastery over the
planet, pitting hemisphere against hemisphere and species against species. In
addition to the Everoinye there are the Curshin and Others. Plus there are the
Savanti of Aphrasoe who add to the mix.
In the sixties and seventies there were several other interplanetary
adventure series. All good in my opinion, but none to rival the adventures of
Prescot. Among them: Dannus of Reglathium by Mike Sirota, the Llarn duology by
Gardner Fox, The Warlord of Ghandor by Dell Dowdell, Jandar of Callisto and the
Green Star by Lin Carter, and the Gorean Cycle by John Norman, which gave
Kregen a run for the money, in terms of longevity. But it is without a doubt,
that the Dray Prescot Saga was inspired by the adventures of John Carter, the
lone Virginian on Barsoom. In fact, the two swordsmen may have even met, on
Earth. Both series start up with the protagonist fleeing certain death from
savage adversaries and both gazing to the heavens in desperation, at their
respective future homes: Kregen and Barsoom. Prescot and Carter soon meet the loves
of their lives and both Delia and Deja Thoris are princesses of the most
powerful nations of their planets. At the end of the first book, both heroes are
thrown back to Earth and despair of returning to their newfound homelands
and women. From here though, Ken develops the saga with much more in depth
characters, detailed geography, long-playing plot threads, and no let down in the
quality of the books though the quantity dwarfs Barsoom (52 to 11.)
A brief overview of the saga must begin with Prescot's advent on Kregen and
his journey down the River Alph to Aphrasoe on the Island of Ba Domek. For it
was through the super science and mechanization's of these remnants of the
once superior race of Kregen, that Dray is transited to Antares. He is being
groomed to be a Savapim, to serve and carry out the desires and programs of
the Savanti. Just what the goals of this super-race entail, is just part of the
continually evolving plot devices utilized by Ken. However, it appears the
Star Lords dangle the proverbial apple of Eden in front of Prescot and he
bites. He and Delia are banished from paradise and Prescot strives for years to
find his way back and ultimately does. Therein hangs a tale ...
The series are divided into cycles of three to six books, dealing mainly,
but not wholly with a specific theme or plot. In the first or Delian Cycle,
Prescot spends most of his time trying to get back to Delia and acquiring titles
and power along the way. It is his initiation into the chivalric order of
the Krozairs which affects him most profoundly and the third cycle is named
after that renowned order. In the second or Havilfar Cycle, Dray strives to
learn the secrets of that continent's voller or flier production. This is
necessary to sustain the power of Vallia, Drays adopted homeland, for an
expansionist Empire of Hamal threatens all he holds dear. After regaining his honor and
status in the Krozair Cycle, Prescot explores his own nation-empire of
Vallia. During the intrigues that ensue, the Empire falls into smoldering ruins and
various factions vie for control and power over the shattered remnants. But
Dray has begun the long process of reunification. This continues throughout
the next several cycles and there are family problems which plague Prescot as
much as trying to save his hemisphere of Paz. For it is threatened by fish
and snake-headed humanoids from the mysterious and unexplored hemisphere of
Schan, on the far side of Kregen. Dray is a pawn in this struggle, which
culminates in the Lohvian Cycle.
There are further adventures in the subcontinent of Balintol and Schan
itself. It is evident that Ken could have written a hundred books concerning
Kregen and still not filled in all the holes or explored all its avenues. Sadly,
Ken was struck down while writing the 53rd Dray Prescot book and it remains
unfinished. Who knows where the further adventures would have taken Prescot?
What wondrous facets of that planet and the forces contending for ascendency
could have been explored? These are questions that may never be answered, but
we do have 52 books of the Dray Prescot Saga to read and reread, to discover
and explore, to escape to in our minds and hearts, and ultimately to love. I
believe that if one reads the saga for the first time, they too will be
captivated and lost forever, under the mingled rays of the suns of Antares!
Stephen James Servello (Seg)
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