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Volume 3196
Princess of Az-Lium
by Den Valdron

Well, it's done, finally.  Pretty much exactly the way I envisaged it, though it was a bit longer than I expected.  The original outline was 19 chapters.  But you know how it goes, it always takes longer.

By my count, I think a total of seven, maybe eight people have stuck through, reading this.  Or six at least.   Ah well, there's a certain sense of futility that goes with that.  But I figured it out pretty early and did the soul searching thing.  I think even for one reader, it would have been worth doing.  So for Steve and Rick, Robert and Paula and Elizabeth, and others thank you for joining me on this ride, I can't express my gratitude.  Writing is a lonely thing, and it meant a lot to know you were out there.

And there's a certain feeling, that comes from having done this.   right now, at the end of Princess of Asylum, I feel good.  I feel like some ordinary shlub, walking out onto the field at Yankee Stadium after everyone has gone home, someone who was good as a little leaguer, who had that talent and had that dream.  And now at the end, he tosses a baseball up in the air, and swings a bat and ... KRACK!  Sends that bastard into orbit.   And in that moment, he knows, he feels it in his bones, that if things had been a little different, some coin had flipped the other way, a touch in the right direction at the right time, he could have been someone, he could have been a contender.

This isn't a great novel by any stretch, it's all first draft, hot off the presses, lousy with typos, with lots of rough spots.  The plot's a potboiler, and in the end, I know it's light fare, not terribly meaningful in any great scheme.   But it's mine, and I think it's pretty good.  Seventy-eight chapters and a hundred and forty thousand words, and its smart and its funny and its got energy and style, all of it done to a deadline razor tight, coming in two chapters a week, on time, week after week for almost forty weeks.   I feel damned good.

So anyway, if anyone does come along later, thanks for reading the damned thing.  Thank you, sincerely.   Drop me a line and say hello if you liked it.

Now, if you'll allow me, I'll pull the curtain back a bit, and reveal the bits and pieces, and where they come from and what they're about, and say a few thanks and make a few apologies...

I guess the first thing I'd like to do is extend my thanks and appreciation to Bill Hillman a true gentleman, and to his wife Sue-On, a lady of the finest quality.  They have given me their friendship and welcomed me into their home, and hosted my occasional rambles.  I know many good people, but none better than them.  I thank Bill for the opportunity to present this silly effort, and I hope that in the process of formatting it and mounting it on the web site, that he's had the chance to read and be amused.  I really don't have words to express my feelings for Bill and Sue-On, the appreciation I have for them, or my best wishes.  I'll just say that without them, this novel would not exist at all.

As for the novel itself, I suppose I should fess up to various sources and attributions.   First things first, the inspiration and much of the background, is straight from Edgar Rice Burroughs and his Martian series, obviously.   Various bits and pieces:  Barsoom itself, the Red Men, the Six-Armed Green Men, the savage Thoats, the lost Orovars and the race of Therns and their religion are all straight Burroughs.   And admittedly, even the stuff that isn't Burroughs, the bits borrowed from Lin Carter, Leigh Brackett, Otis Kline, or the inspirations of the movie, all come back to the master himself.

Next up, as a source of inspiration, comes the Asylum movie, Princess of Mars, its cast, crew, visual elements and production company. Az-Lium, of course, is just a play on Asylum.  If you look to Chapter headings, you'll find that all of them are derived from films that Asylum has produced or distributed.  A lot of the names are mangled or ‘Barsoomified’, 'Treasure Island' for instance is converted to Tazor Ylan, but they're easy enough to spot.

Traci Lords, who plays Dejah Thoris in the movie, is of course the inspiration for Tay See Lors, third rate actress and desperate pathological liar.  The real Traci Lords has had an extraordinary life by any standard, from abused and unloved child, to teenage porn queen, to an actress of genuine accomplishments.   Critics have abused her age, her looks and her talent, all of it malignly.  Given her history, her accomplishments in the mainstream are remarkable.  One can argue either way that her success as an actress was helped or hindered by her prior career.  I will not argue the point.  I will only say that her real life would be a more adventurous and remarkable novel than I could write.   I know little of her personality or character, those parts of Tay See I simply made up.  If the real Traci Lords comes across this, I would assure her I meant no ill will, and hope that she's forgiving.

Of course, Traci Lords is a blonde in real life (reasonably) and in the movie.  A blonde princess on Mars is definitely an Orovar, a supposedly extinct race on Burroughs Barsoom that keeps showing up in little lost niches.   So, I played with the notion of an Orovar Princess, which pretty much meant that she had to be a princess of a lost city, and that generated a tidy bit of plot.  The other key inspiration was that she was really an actress playing the part of a Princess....   A plot reminiscent of Kagemusha, the Inspector General, Prisoner of Zenda, etc., etc.

Tay See Lors' alter ego, Princess Kam Asutra...  Well, that needs no explanation, really.  To be fair, Asutra was just an alien sounding name from a Jack Vance novel.   The ‘Kam’ part was a later inspiration that fit so perfectly in so many different ways.

The character of Japh Leah is not found in Burroughs, or in Asylum.  But is rather based on Traci Lords real life romantic partner and father of their child, Jeff Lee.   I don't know anything about Jeff Lee apart from his name, through a few lines of Wikipedia.  But fundamentally, this is an adventure romance.

Ton Sabat is drawn from Antonio Sabato Jr., mid range actor, handsome and rugged leading man, who plays the role of John Carter in Asylum's movie.   Sabato's got a respectable career, no disrespect is intended.  I suppose he should have been the leading man, but it didn't work out that way.  I did incorporate a bit of him, and a bit of his portrait of John Carter from Asylum's movie.

One note I'll make -- to the other characters in the novel, the Earthman Ton Sabat seems brain damaged.  He speaks with a strange accent, can barely manage the language, doesn't know which end of a sword to hold and seems ignorant of the most obvious facts of life.  So they take him for a superhuman idiot.  He's nothing of the sort, of course, he's just an Earthman coping with an incredibly steep learning curve, stumbling through an alien culture, much as John Carter did in the novels.  The difference with the novels, is they're told from John Carter's perspective, so we miss all the moments when Dejah Thoris or Tars Tarkas must have thought ‘what an idiot.’

Vadak Eth is obviously modeled on Chacko Vadaketh.  When I started writing this, the character was called something else and was a fat, garrulous avuncular personality.  I was thinking a Falstaff.  As I played with lifting ideas and images from the movie, I took the name Vadak Eth for the hidden villain, it seemed obvious.  And then rather than making the character fat and talkative, I found myself drawing on Chacko Vadaketh's look and performance.   It worked nicely, because his baldness suggested a covert Thern, and that opened up some useful plot points.

The Orgus race are straight out the Tharks from Asylum's movie.  To tell you the truth, I thought they were just terrific masks and costumes, a highlight of the movie.   They had to go in.  I rationalized them as a dwarf form of Burroughs six-limbed Green men.  Burroughs himself wrote in Princess of Mars that the Green men carefully inspected their eggs and destroyed signs of imperfection or mutation, so I rationalized that there was a certain predisposition to mutation.  The notion was that one of these mutants, perhaps a short stubby dwarf, might survive and decide to propagate a new race.   Of course, descended from six-limbed green men, they had to have six limbs themselves, so I made them withered and hidden, which led to a cool gag up front and a key plot point near the end.

With the Orgus things get a bit comic.  Aspar Aguus gets his name because my nickname for the movie Tharks was asparagus heads, for their little crown of horns.  Which started a vegetable theme, with Heddo Lettus and B-Rok Olay.  I don't need to explain those.  Konand Oyl of course is a movie gag.   Matlass Kay, Aspar Aguus's mostly unseen nemesis, is obviously Matt Lasky who played the lead Thark, Tars Tarkas.   A lot of Lasky’s performance found its way into the character of Matlass Kay.

Admiral Latta is taken from David Michael Latt, and one-eyed Pirate Chief Pul Bayl is Paul Bales, both producers of the movie and bit wheels in The Asylum.  I've never met these guys, never seen a picture, never read an interview and have no idea what they're really like.  I just borrowed the names.  Hopefully they're not offended.   If the character of Latta is drawn from anywhere, I'd say it's a cartoon sketch of Chancellor Hindenberg, an honourable man completely outmaneuvered by the unscrupulous Hitler.

Markath Khan, or Mar Kat Kins is actually the writer and director of the movie, Mark Atkins.  So I cast him as the villain, primarily an offscreen presence who drives the plot.   Seemed appropriate.   He's probably not a supervillain cannibal with a paranoid megalomaniac streak, but then again he is a writer and director, so draw your own conclusions.  Bits of Khan's character, his aimless path to power, his incessant self pity and arrogance, and in particular his ‘Orovars/Germans don't deserve me’ speech are drawn from the Nazi dictator.

If you go looking, you'll find a lot of supporting characters named after actors or production personnel involved in the movie.   It's like the chapter titles, lots of in jokes.  Anyone sufficiently interested can search them out.

Oh, the character of Haja Obol, slave trader, is actually one of mine.   He appears in Torakar of Mars, last scene being attacked by Great White Apes and apparently killed.  Well, he seems to have survived, because here he is, pretty scarred and chewed up, but alive, well and trading slaves.  Hey, if I borrow from other people, I figure I'm allowed to borrow from myself.  I happen to think it's also a really good novel, so if you haven't read it yet...  Go read it now.

And there's a few names that just mean or derive from absolutely nothing.  I just threw in an occasional ringer to mess with people.

The Spiderlings are drawn from the movie as well, though obviously barsoomified up a bit like the Orgus.  Barsoom is full of multi-legged monstrosities.  I just decided to explain their ‘spiderlike’ ways as being a factor of cliff dwelling lifestyle.  When you are roaming across open plains and deserts, its fine to keep your legs under you and stand tall.  When you're clinging to the side of a mountain, I figure best to spread out and hold tight in a more sprawling, spiderlike posture.

As far as other critters go:  The giant birds are from the movie, but they're also derived from similar Birds in Otis Adelbert Kline's Mars novels.   The smaller birds, called Rodals are also from Kline.  Thoats are from Burroughs, of course, but Slidars are the mount of choice from Lin Carter's Martian novels.  The Sand Dragon or Sadok that they encounter is from Lin Carter as well.

Also from the Lin Carter novels, I believe Beneath a Sunless Sea, are the cities of Diome, Shiaze, Bukhara and Yukara.  These are just throwaway names in Carter's novel, references to independent city states that are on a trade route, but Carter's protagonists never get there, so we have no idea what they're like.  I just took the names as a tribute.

The Jagged Lands are just slightly inspired by the Gomez rocks that featured in the movie, but mostly by my need to have a really inaccessible, hard to reach place to set the city of Az-Lium.  The horrible and treacherous air currents come about because I needed to make the place normally inaccessible by air.

The people and city of Mant?  Well, Mant comes from a movie within a movie by Joe Dante, but that's just the word and nothing else.  It's a cliche in these swords and planets sort of romances that the characters discover a lost city.  I just thought it would be fun to play with it - the denizen of a lost city discovers an even more lost city, the inhabitants turn out to be both alien, civilized and quite cynical, and our heroes escape by negotiating a trade agreement.  The part about the Az-Lium stage tradition of the Mollusk-Man was a straight gag.

Apart from that, there's bits of world building going on.  In notes I've sketched out the history of Az-lium and Tazor Ylan, the evolution of Mant, the geological origins and geography of the Jagged lands.  I've got dissections of spiderlings, their society and ecology, and ecological differentiations of Barsoomian riding animals.  I won't bore you with it, I'm just saying that it wasn't entirely all just random cut and paste.  I tried to put a little intelligence into it.  Maybe that showed through, maybe it made things a little better.  Who knows.

Let's see, is there anything left?   Probably not much.  Oh well, whatever's left is mine.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Best wishes.  Whoever you are out there, god bless you.

Den Caldron's Princess of Az-Lium
Meet Den Valdron
3160: Princess of Az-Lium | Art 3161 Az-Lium 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 3162 Az-Lium 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
3163 Az-Lium 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 3164 Az-Lium 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 3165 Az-Lium 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 3166 Az-Lium 21 | 22 | 23 | 24
3167 Az-Lium 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 3168 Az-Lium 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 3169 Az-Lium 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 3170 Az-Lium 37 | 38 | 39 | 40
3171 Az-Lium 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 3172 Az-Lium 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 3173 Az-Lium 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 3174 Az-Lium 53 | 54 | 55 | 56
3175 Az-Lium 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 3176 Az-Lium 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 3192 Az-Lium 65 | 66 | 67 | 68 3193 Az-Lium 69 | 70 | 71 | 72
3194 Az-Lium 73 | 74 | 75 | 76 3195 Az-Lium 77 | 78 3196 Afterword and Annotations
Torakar of Mars

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