Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Irony: an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected ....

My feelings for Anne Coulter aren't exactly private so my glee at her ironic misfortune shouldn't exactly be a surprise to anyone:

From The New York Post:
THAT although we didn't think it would be possible to silence Ann Coulter, the leggy reaction- ary broke her jaw and the mouth that roared has been wired shut . . .

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: Dirty Words

(the following is part of an ongoing series of columns I did for The Erotica Readers & Writers Association on the ins and outs and ins and outs and ins and outs of writing good smut)

Before I get into this month’s column, I want to impart some hearty gratitude toward those who took the time to write about last month's column. I'm glad I inspired debate concerning the risks we all might face in electing to launch into a career that explores the literary limits of sexuality.

If any of you have any thoughts on the matter, or want to suggest future topics I might address, please do not hesitate to write me (

This month's Streetwalker comes from part of an email I received from "Jill" (thanks!) who wrote about words we might have to teach our spellcheckers. This immediately reminded me of a little piece I wrote a long time ago -- "How Much?" -- about living the life of an pornographer: "My spellchecker has grown unwieldy from the words I have stuffed in its tight, resistant, pulsing, memory: cocksucker, cunt, mons, asshole, pubes, motherfucker, felch, testicles, dildo, lube, S/M, she-male, latex, faery, jerk-off, cunnilingus, fellatio, flagellation, flogger, Saran Wrap, cunt-licker, assfucker, and on and on and on, etc., etc. I ran it over a letter to my landlord and 'broken mail slot' became 'she-male slut.' Now he looks at me funny and the damned thing never got fixed."

Aside from making me chuckle at my own cleverness, I do have a point: very few genres have their writers picking and choosing -- often very carefully -- what words they can, should, or must never use. In erotica, word choice basically comes down to two questions: what's appropriate to the story, and how important is it to work around limitations.

Believe it or not, certain editors and publishers have a verboten word list that includes certain slang terms or spellings. The question of whether to argue with them isn't an ethical one -- at least not completely. Your preference for "cum" rather than "come" or your use of "pussy" when the editor doesn’t favor it isn't really the question. Your main dilemma is simply this: how much you want to see your work in print? Editors will insist you take it out or publishers will often change the word without your permission, so really, how attached are you to these words?

For the record, I believe an anthology should be consistent in its spelling -- so while I respect a writer's preference for "come" instead of "cum" I don't blink, or blink that much, when my publisher suggests a change so the word is the same in every story. In the second instance, if an editor or publisher simply doesn't like a word ... well, I suggest the editor go into therapy, and that the rest if us simply try not to sweat it when they take the word out. And we can always just not work with them in the future.

Now appropriate word choice, that's another matter. Certain words either aren't correct or don't feel correct in the context of a story. The problem could be historical, for example the word "sex" as a term for female genitalia is tolerable (barely) when you're doing a historical piece but when your character is a Gen-X, Y, or Z person, how appropriate is it? It might be technically correct but “sex” is often used as a ‘safe’ way of describing what’s between a woman’s thighs. My own rule is to use terms that feel right for the character. If someone is depicted as repressed, using words like "cunt" or "twat" is jarring. Same for an older man using clumsy slang for his own genitals, like "member."

I applaud people for doing research, by the way. Nothing adds a flavor of realism more than slipping in a good word choice for sex or the active biology of sex. One of my own favorites is a 19th century term for female genitalia, "Old Hat," because it was 'frequently felt." Yes, you may wince. I certainly did.

While I'm on the subject of vocabulary, I should repeat myself a bit and talk about ... well, repeating yourself. I know what many writing books say to avoid a small vocabulary, to use instead many unique terms instead of the same word over and over again. Sound advice, except when it comes to pornography: penis in the first paragraph, then a cock in the second, pole in the third, shaft in the forth, member in the fifth, lamppost in the sixth ... get where this is going? For smut, using just one, or maybe two, words for the same thing is fine -- better than a spiraling descent of ridiculous metaphors and more and more obscure terms.

Back to history. One thing I like to see in a story has little to do with the words of sex and more to do with the view of sex. Assuming that characters in a story set in Nero’s Rome view sex the same way we do today can result in some clumsy word usage. Certain "types" of sex were rare or seen with disfavor – such as in the case of Rome, where noticing or even admiring women's breasts in a sexual context was a sign of weakness. Just look at the Pompeii mosaics; the prostitutes depicted -- no matter what they were doing -- kept their boobies wrapped. Therefore, you wouldn’t want to spend too much time waxing poetic on some Roman woman’s tits if your story was set in that time period.

The bottom line is that certain words and ideas work and others don't. The trick to picking the right ones has little to do with the power of them at this moment or your own personal preference as it does with their relevance within the story. "Naughty" words shouldn't be ones that reach the modern libido but instead be used to continue to keep the reader within and enjoying the story. Because when you get down to it, an erotic story isn't about the words but rather what you are saying with them.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dark Roasted Science Fiction: The Computer Connection

Here's a new classic science fiction review, this time for Alfred Bester's wonderful The Computer Connection.

This is a toughie - not because this isn’t a great book, or that it’s hard to define - but because it’s one of my all-time favorites. You know: ‘stuck on a desert island with only three books’ kind of favorite. That’s the tough, you see - I know why it’s a great book, the trick is trying to find a way to tell you, out there, how good it really is.

So ... let’s start with the basics: Alfred Bester, the legend. Winner of the first Hugo for "The Demolished Man", established Grand Master of SF with such ground breakers as "Fondly Fahrenheit", "The Stars My Destination", and - later - with "The Deceivers" and (you either loved it or hated it) "Golem 100". Bester is also a legend in the radio and comic world, having worked on scripts for Charley Chan, The Shadow, Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern - in fact the Lantern Oath ("In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight, let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power, Green Lantern’s light") is Bester’s. Alfred was the original writer’s writer: he wrote for everyone, everywhere - but it’s his SF that he’s most known for.

For the longest time, the only place you could find Bester’s stuff was in the dusty halls of used book shops. Now you can pick up some of his best: "The Demolished Man", "The Stars My Destination", "Virtual Unrealities" (a collection of his marvelous short stories), "The Computer Connection", and even the book he left unfinished (and Roger Zelazny completed), "Psychoshop".

Even though his books are available it’s still sad that people don’t know Bester. Sigh. It’s especially disappointing when I hear people praise the stylistic endeavors of certain popular SF writers - when Bester blew them all away decades ago. As Harlan Ellison correctly states in his introduction to the "Computer Connection": “Bester was the mountain, all the rest of us merely climbers toward that peak.”

So what is it about Bester that just absolutely delights me? Well, man, you just have to be in the groove, capiche? You gotta plug in and ride the crazyhouse currents. Y? Y! Reading a Bester book is a trip, a stroboscopic madhouse of ideas, brilliant concepts, delightful characters, crackling language, and just plain fun. Now I don’t mean the kind of empty-headed fun you get nowadays - no, Bester’s fun is multi-language word play, obscure (but still understandable) references, and absolutely incredible, mind-boggling inventiveness.

Take, for example, "The Computer Connection" (also called "Extro" or "The Indian Giver"). In one blistering romp we have immortality, time-travel, cyberpunk (long before Gibson was born or computers got personal), cloning, an Amerinds nation in the toxic dump that was Lake Erie, characters like the nymphet Fee-5 Graumans Chinese (so named because she was born in the fifth row of the theater and is kinda of snotty about it), Dr. Sequoya Guess, a trip to Titan, a merging of man and computer, and, and, and ... overload!

Our hero is one Ned Curzon; a delightful fellow who’d been transformed into an immortal through an strange accident involving the explosive destruction of Krakatoa, and a member of an extended family of same eternal and eccentric folks: Nemo, Herb Wells, The Syndicate, Hillel the Jew, Borgia, Jacy (yes, that J.C.), Sam Pepys (not their realsies, you understand, just their ‘nom de years’). Ned, it seems, has been nicknamed Guigol (Guig for short), for his attempts to indoctrinate other people into their unique group. The problem, you see, is that to become immortal you have to go through a lot of terror and pain - and a lot of folks just don’t make it. Guigol as in Grand Guigol.

Then, right out of left field, the Group has a new member, the brilliant Amerid scientist Dr. Sequoya Guess - but an unforeseen side effect slipped into the immortality process as well, a side effect that has linked Guess to the Extro, the planet-wide system of intelligent machines and has given him incredible abilities and a lethal intent towards Guig and the members of his delightful group. As the back cover puts it: so how do you kill an immortal?

Stop, wait - I’ve sinned: you can’t describe a Bester book like you’d give a pitch for a block-buster flick. His ideas are mercurial: slippery and brilliant. Each page - no, each paragraph - sparkles with insane wit and crackling imagination. Now that trick - pyrokinetic writing - isn’t all that hard, but the miracle is that when Bester does this he also makes you care for these people. When characters get hurt, die, you might have only known them for a few lines, a few pages but - damnit - you feel the tears start. You really want to know these people, this glorious family of immortals and the various other folks that dance and cavort in any of Bester’s books. Bester was never a ‘hard’ SF writer - his science is as slippery and quick as his style - but then you don’t read his books to see if he crossed all his t’s or dotted his i’s ... no, you read Bester to take a wondrous trip, to be told a story by one of the few true masters of science fiction, of modern literature.

Well, I tried folks - tried my ever-lovin’ darnedest to pin down the beautiful brilliance of Alfred Bester. I gave it my best shot, trying to capsulize the effervescent, freeze-frame lightning. I guess there’s only one way to find out if I succeeded or not: go out - now - and pick up a copy of any of his books and see. It’s more than worth it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Awwww ....

It means a lot to me that people read and enjoy my work -- or even just read my blogs -- so this post from the wonderful Neve Black really made my day. Thanks!

I've been reading M.Christian's blog for a few months now, rather voyeuristically as I digest every word of his thought provoking posts. He's such a well respected writer and I have to thank Alison Tyler for turning me on to him. I recently left a comment on his blog. I felt compelled to do so, and he replied to me via e-mail, so graciously. He thanked me for stopping over; letting me know how much he appreciated the support - inviting me please stop back again. "Really, it was all my pleasure." I sighed to myself.

What I learned from our brief e-mail conversation was that M. Christian has another erotic blog which is filled with what he calls, trivialities, oddities and the miscellenous - Frequently Felt. If you're anything like me, you're always looking for new ways to expose yourself in public, rather exhibitionistically, I mean...uh, ahem...gain more exposure for your work. The Frequently Felt blog is a fun little place to set yourself free; to streak across an open field and show the world what you got! Go check it out.

Voyeuristically and Exhibitionistically yours

p.s. The binocular pendant pictured above can be purchased via Etsy here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dark Roasted Science Fiction: The Cosmic Rape

As promised here's the first of my on-going classic science fiction reviews for the always great Dark Roasted Blend:

Good science fiction is fun to read. Great science fiction says something. Fantastic science fiction changes the way you think.

The Cosmic Rape by Theodore Sturgeon is good, great, and – most of all – fantastic. Sturgeon’s writing is (as always) fun and engaging, the story addresses identity and individuality, and – best of all -- Sturgeon changes the way you’ll think about one of the most common science fiction bug-a-boos: the idea of collective consciousness, a human hive mind.

Originally published in Galaxy Magazine as a novella called To Marry Medusa, the Cosmic Rape is initially told through a series of characters, each one separated from everyone around them and the rest of the world by shame, miscommunication, guilt, fear, and inexperience. Paul Sanders is a empathy-less sexual opportunist, Guido is a teenage musical genius trapped by an abusive history into a life of violence against the music he subconsciously craves, Dimity Carmichael is a self-satisfied abstinent getting off on the sexual sufferings of others, Mbala is a tribesman fighting his own fears along with the demon stealing yams from his family’s scared patch, Henry is a boy living a life of unrelenting fear, and Sharon Brevix is a little girl lost in the middle of the desert.

Flowing, separately at first, between these characters is the skid-row loser Gurlick who just happened to have bitten into a discarded hamburger – a hamburger containing a scout seed from a galaxy-spanning hive mind called Medusa.

But Medusa has a problem: every other lifeform it’s absorbed into itself has been in some way a shade of its own collective consciousness. Humanity, though, is different: here everyone is separated and alone, disconnected and unique.

So, thinking that humanity must have been together at one time but then broke apart, Medusa the alcoholic out to find a way to "put people’s brains back together again" by promising the smashed-up and broken Gurlick whatever he wants.

Like everything of Sturgeon’s, The Cosmic Rape is brilliantly written: the characters are rich and full and alive, the language is equal parts lyrical, poetic, and carefully structured and classical. Also like everything else of Sturgeon’s, the story is bright and clear, a sneaky trick that takes you completely by surprise without ever resorting to cheap devices.

Here too are Sturgeon’s favorite subjects: the explosion of what is sex and sexuality (as in Venus Plus X), the careful and perceptive look at humanity (as in Godbody) and especially the reinvention of what consciousness is and could be (as in More Than Human).

There is a part of The Cosmic Rape that lays it all out: the fun reading, the perfect ‘something’ that great science fiction has, and especially the way Sturgeon changes how we think but I won’t just excerpt it here because that would be … well, wrong. Like – maybe, just maybe overdoing it a bit -- pasting in Michelangelo’s God Creates Adam without the whole of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. You have to read it yourself, but to give you an idea of what happens in that chapter, as well as the whole conclusion of the book, just think about the idea of a hive mind, a united human consciousness.

It’s an old science fiction cliché, from Star Trek’s borg to the Flood of Halo: "resistance was futile" and all that. Lots of folks lay awake at night and shudder at the thought of being merged, combined with something else, of losing their identity to some monstrous and hungry collective. But what Sturgeon did with The Cosmic Rape is to take that idea and twist it, turn it upside down and make it not hideous and frightening but warm, welcoming and wonderful: a humanity without judgment or fear, loneliness or shame, a united mankind of acceptance and understanding.

I can’t recommend The Cosmic Rape enough. It's fun to read like all good science fiction, it says something important like all great science fiction, but best of all it’s fantastic because Sturgeon manages to change the clichéd terror of a collective humanity into something that, like the book itself, is brilliant and wonderful.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dark Roasted M.Christian

Here we go again, folks: another fun article for the always-great Dark Roasted Blend. This time it's about some of the biggest BOOMS, KABLAMS, and KABLOOIES - the world's biggest non-nuclear explosions. Enjoy!
For most of us BOOM, KABLAM, KABLOOIE mean a mushroom cloud and a cute little animated turtle talking about ducking and covering – as well as the possible End Of All Life As We Know It.

But, unfortunately, not every monstrous explosion began with J. Robert Oppenheimer saying “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." Even putting aside natural blasts such as the eruption of Krakatoa, which was so massive the sound of it was heard as far away as London, the earth has still to be rocked by more than it’s fair share of man-made, non-atomic BOOMs, KABLAMs, and KABLOOIEs.

One of the more terrifying non-nuclear explosions ever to occur was in 1917 up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Back in December of that year the Mont-Blanc plowed into another ship, the Imo, starting a ferocious fire. Ten minutes later the Mont-Blanc went up, creating what is commonly considered to be one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in earth history.

The Mont-Blanc was a big ship carrying a lot of extremely dangerous cargo -- almost 3,000 tons of munitions bound for the war that was then tearing Europe apart. What happened that morning, which lead to the blast and the nightmarish loss of life, reads like a textbook example of whatever could go wrong, did. To avoid being torpedoed, the Mont-Blanc wasn’t flying any dangerous cargo flags, so no one except for her crew knew her cargo was so dangerous. When the fire got out of control, the Mont-Blanc’s crew tried to warn as many people as possible – but they only spoke French and the language of Halifax was English. Not realizing the danger, crowds began to form to watch the blaze. The Mont-Blanc, on fire, also began to drift toward a nearby pier … that was also packed with munitions bound for the war.

When everything finally came together – the criminal negligence, the miscommunication, and worst of all the fire and the explosives – the blast was roughly equal to 3 kilotons of TNT. The fireball roared up above the town and the shockwave utterly destroyed the town and everything within one mile of the epicenter. Metal and wreckage fell as far away as 80 miles from the blast and the sound of the detonation was heard more than 225 miles away. The explosion was so huge it generated a tsunami that roared away from the epicenter and then back into the harbor again, adding to the death and destruction.

It wasn’t until days later that the true horror of what had happened was realized: Halifax was completely gone, erased from the face of the earth, along with every ship in the harbor and most of the nearby town of Dartmouth. Approximately 2,000 people died from the explosion and another 9,000 were injured.

Unfortunately Halifax wasn’t the first such explosives-related accident in 1917. Unbelievably, before the Mont-Blanc destroyed the town, 73 people were killed in the explosion of a munitions factory in Silvertown in West Ham, Essex. The sound was heard as far away as 100 miles. A year earlier, the Johnson Barge No.17 went up Jersey City. Although only a few people were killed, the explosion managed to damage not only Ellis Island but also the Statue of Liberty. There were many other blasts as well, but these are only a few of the more dreadful highlights.

You’d think after these nightmarish explosions, caution about things that go BOOM would have sunk in a bit, but the second world war also saw more than its fair share of explosive accidents. In 1944, for instance, the SS Fort Stikine went up while docked in Bombay, India. When her cargo went up, the blast killed 800 men and injured 3,000. The fire that followed took more than three days to control.

Also in 1944, the UK experienced what is commonly considered the largest blast ever to occur on British soil when 3,700 tons of high explosives were accidentally detonated in an underground munitions store in Fauld, Staffordshire. The explosion was so massive it formed a crater ¾ of a mile across and more than 400 feet deep -- and destroyed not only the base but a nearby reservoir (and all the water in it).

But one of the biggest blasts – aside from the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan – was also one of the largest in human history, and one of the most tragic.

Once again in 1944, on July 17 to be specific, munitions being loaded onto a ship in Port Chicago, California, (very close to San Francisco) detonated. No one knows what exactly caused the blast, but the damage was biblical. All in all, more than 5,000 tons of high explosives, plus whatever else was in the stores on the base and on any ships docked, was involved. The explosion was so massive it was felt as far away as Las Vegas (500 miles distant) and people were injured all over the Bay Area when windows were shattered by the immense pressure wave.

320 were killed immediately and almost 400 were seriously injured, but that’s not the real tragedy. Most of these men were African American and this single disaster accounted for almost 15% of African American casualties during that war.

Still fearing for their safety, the remaining men, who had just spent three weeks pulling the bodies of their fellow sailors from the wreckage, refused to load any further munitions. The Army, in a characteristic show of support, considered this an act of mutiny and court-martialed 208 sailors, sending an additional 50 to jail for 8 to 15 years.

Fortunately, the ‘mutineers’ were given clemency after Thurgood Marshall fought for them, though the final member only received justice in 1999 in the form of a Presidential pardon by President Bill Clinton.

Today in Port Chicago there’s a marker on the spot and it states that the event was a step toward "racial justice and equality."

And all it took was one of the largest non-nuclear, man-made, blasts in the history of the world -- and the deaths of 320 sailors.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Coming Up

Just to wet the whistle of the three … well, okay one and a half … people who read my blog, here’s a few teasing hints of what I have in the works:
• reprints of some of my short story collections
• a new gay-erotic-thriller novel
• a new collection of my straight erotica
• an on-going series of classic science fiction reviews
• new anthology projects
• participation in a wonderful new shared universe project
• a collection of my science fiction stories
• a movie!
Keep your fingers crossed that at least some of these work out!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

America the Beautiful

It's easy to think that with Obama stepping into the White House things are going be fine and dandy: that we are moving towards a well-deserved Golden Age.

But America has a very long way to go.

Celebrate all you want but read the following from Brenna Lyon and remember that we are still a country ruled by stupidity and bigotry:
I'm seeing red, with good reason. Why?

One of the best selling subgenres of erotic romance is M/M. At least three erotic romance publishers have reiterated to me in the last few days that M/M is their #1 bestselling subgenre, bar none. People are buying. A large portion of the erotic romance market is accepting of M/M.

In addition, we've had laws against hate crimes for a couple of decades. We've had (supposedly) tolerance taught in the schools. You'd think the majority of thinking adults would be properly taught to simply walk away from what they don't "approve of" or "want to try."

So, what did I wake up and find this morning?

Terri Pray and her husband Sam are part owners of Under The Moon/Final Sword Productions Terri and Sam were set to buy a house in Greene, Iowa. They had their loan approved, the bid on the house accepted, but Greene has a requirement that they have to have the final sale approved by the town. They weren't approved.

Now, why were they turned down? Terri and Sam, as I noted, are part owners of UTM/FSP. A portion of the business is run out of their home and a part out of the office, as it is with many indie presses. Between the two sides of the company, they have dozens of books out and contracted, everything from straight genre military fiction, horror, and fantasy to erotic romance of all sorts. To be honest, the lion's share of their books aren't even erotic. They have several major gaming franchises, including Honor Harrington gaming. They sell t-shirts and even audio CDs.

What does this have to do with the price of beer? It's simple.

ONE book, out of their entire stock, is a M/M erotic romance anthology, titled SACRED BANDS. While the townspeople of Greene, Iowa found the M/F erotic romance perfectly acceptable, they called the M/M erotic romance "gay porn." Some of them further stated (now, mind you...these aren't older people...these are 30-45-year-old people, which makes it all the more deplorable, in my mind) that publishing SACRED BANDS was "morally corrupt" and that choosing to publish the anthology demonstrated "questionable business practices."

In short, Terri and Sam lost their house, because the people who live in Greene, Iowa are a bunch of backward, homophobic dinosaurs. They lost their house, because (out of hundreds of items available from their business) one book is M/M erotic romance. The deliberations ended with the comment that Greene, Iowa didn't want to be "known for harboring a publisher of gay porn." KUDOS to Greene! You're now exposed for being a bigoted backwoods bunch of rednecks.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Just Another Reminder -

- that I have (ahem) a few books out right now. Please support this humble pornographer by buying a few ... please?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Just A Reminder -

- that I don't post here a lot: just when I have something important to report.

But I do try to put interesting stuff up on my other blogs every day:
Meine Kleine Fabrik is where my brother, s.a., and I share the weird, wild, wonderful stuff we've come across. If you like unusual history, great movies and books, or just the generally bizarre it's the place to go.

Frequently Felt is where I post fun - and very often twisted - erotic strangeness ... and it's the place for you if you write erotica: just send me something fun and I'll post it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dark Roasted M.Christian

Head on over to Dark Roasted Blend for my newest article, this time on some crazy (or brilliant) early aircraft pioneers.

As the old saying goes: "If at first you don't succeed." But there's also the saying: "The line between genius and insanity is a fine one." In the case of aeronautics the success of early pioneers like Gustave Whitehead, Alexander Feodorovich Mozhaiski, Clement Ader, and - of course - those bicycle mechanics from Ohio seem to have been a combination of both trying a lot and being a bit nuts.

We remember Whitehead, Mozhaiski, Ader, and the Wright Brothers because they did what they sought out to do, with varying degrees of victory: get themselves into the air. Alas, there is a while world of people who kind of, sort of, just barely did the same - or even sometimes not at all. But certainly not for a lack of trying.

Like with whole actually flew, what actually counts as flying is a matter of debate. The Wrights took their bows for the first heavier-than-air controlled flight, but there were a lot of other inventors who flew, but didn't have any control. For instance:

* In 1848, for instance, John Stringfellow flew a short distance in a steam-powered craft - wowing the crowds at London's Crystal Palace.
* Jean-Marie Le Bris is credited as flying higher than where he lifted off from by using a the very terrestrial power source of a horse to pull his elegant glider into the air. This was in 1856
* The affor-mentioned Clement Ader made his way into the record by taking his Avion III more than 30 feet in 1897 - but it depends on who you talk to as what he did is a matter of some debate.

Then there's the inventors who flew machines that were (sort of) controlled but not exactly heavier than air”

• The legendary Montgolfier brothers were the kings of the skies for a long time, notably around the middle seventeen hundreds, when their hot air balloons gave people their first taste of flight.
• Jean-Pierre Blanchard did the brothers one better by adding a motor to a balloon – though it was a hand-cranked one.
• Henri Giffard, in 1852, added steam to a balloon making, for many people, the first true powered airship.

But then there’s one special person who not only tried and tried again but who also skated very near that edge separating brilliant and nuts: the man who flew without power, without much control, and heavier than air.

Ladies and gentlemen, and children of all ages, I give you the flamboyant, the amazing, the possibly-crazy Samuel Franklin Cody!

What Cody flew isn’t all that new, but his showmanship and dedication to his own unique way of defying gravity certainly is. The Chinese, after all, had been putting men into the skies with kites for a long time (just read Sun Tzu's The Art of War), but Cody was a human-kite flying zealot.

Cody – who took his moniker from that other great showman Buffalo Bill Cody – went from a music hall and wild west show star to sky when he became fascinated by the idea of using human-carrying kites in all kinds of unique and imaginative ways.

Determined not to just talk a good game, Cody used his natural flamboyance to drive the point home: around the turn of the century he crossed the English channel in one … though it was towed by a boat the whole way. In 1906 Cody was tasked by the British Army to develop his kites for military uses and soon was using his designs to set world records like getting a kite to a incredible 1,600 feet. So impressed with the Brits with Cody’s kites they used them successfully during the first world war to spy on the Germans – until airplanes became more reliable and Cody’s kites were shelved.

Not to be undone, Cody mixed power and kits and began to leave the ground, and his tow-rope, behind. In 1908 he created his imaginatively created named British Army Aeroplane No 1 and successfully flew it an impressive 1,390 feet – which, according to some, was the first heavier than air flight in Britain.

Cody went on to become a real legend in the early days of flight, winning the Michelin Cup in 1910 and an military flying contest one year later.

A perfect capper to his larger-than-life career with kites and then planes Cody met his end at the controls of one of his machines. In 1913, while flying his unique seaplane, he and a passenger were killed.

Even though he is sometimes cruelly dismissed as just a showman, Cody deserves respect and admiration – one of those early fliers who never gave up, and who used their crazy brilliance to get them higher than anyone had been before.