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Saturday, January 01, 2005

The Conversion of Tegujai Batir

In the 1995 anthology DAVID COPPERFIELD'S TALES OF THE IMPOSSIBLE, you'll find the short story "The Conversion of Tegujai Batir", which was "extrapolated" by Janet Berliner from Kirby's unfinished novel THE HORDE, one of two such stories published (the other was in a sci-fi magazine called GALAXY in 1994). If you want to know more about the complicated history of the novel and the various attempts by others to complete/expand/adapt it, check out the 32nd issue of THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR, or this page on the TwoMorrows website.

This chapter isn't really an easy story to read. I got the book several years ago, and it took me a while to get past the first few pages. After that it opens up a bit, either because I got used to the rhythms of the writing or because the plot moved to more interesting things. This story tells how the Mongolian youth, Tegujai Batir, came to be possessed by a jinn, then exiled from his home to join the Russian army in WWII, returns home to conquer as part of the Chinese army after the war, and began his plans for conquest that involve tunnels under the earth.

Out of this hatred was born the concept of the army that he would form., the one that would become known as the great worm. Its guiding will lived with him and among those who surrounded him


I'm not sure how much of Kirby's own version of the story is in this extract, but it does have a few moments that seem to distantly echo themes he explored in other ways in his comic book work. Hopefully, if/when any of the attempts to complete the story reach fruition, we'll at least get to see the 1979 five-page outline mentioned in the JKC article, or ideally one or more of the complete unfinished manuscripts that Kirby wrote.

The story is 18 pages, plus a short introduction by Copperfield and a chapter illustration by an artist who seems to be uncredited in the book. There's also a brief bio of Kirby in the back.

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