Maxwell Grantly is a non de plume for an anonymous school teacher, living in a small seaside town on the east coast of Great Britain. Although he has written many free short stories, he does not consider himself an author. He simply writes just because he enjoys doing so (and for no other reason.)
So reads the Profile summary of, well, Maxwell Grantly, a Second Life resident living in England, and who has a remarkable talent for creating illustrated short stories and graphic novels using Second Life as the environment to create his main character and the medium by which he creates the illustrations for his stories.
I confess that Maxwell’s work had actually slipped right past me, and quite possibly might have remained out-of-sight to me had it not been for Charlie Namiboo circulating information on his latest book, Timothy’s Big Adventure which is currently available free-of-charge for 5 days on Amazon for download on the Kindle reader or similar devices, and computers with the Kindle Reader app installed.
The book follows the adventures of Timothy tortoise, who lives with a little boy called George, who lives with his parents in a small house “many miles from anywhere” (photographed in Frisland) and is too young to go to school. Timothy is somewhat envious of George’s fast-paced and, to Timothy’s way of thinking, exciting life. However, all that changes when Timothy falls through a hole and finds himself in an intergalactic adventure in another universe.
Timothy’s Big Adventure is the kind of short story which harkens back to childhood memories of bedtime stories; indeed, the book itself makes excellent material for such a setting if you have small children of your own. The plot is uncomplicated, easy-to-follow and the illustrations, created using characters and settings from inside Second Life, are delightful.
As well as Timothy’s Big Adventure, Maxwell has written longer, more complex pieces, such as his Fingers stories, set in New Babbage, which follow the adventures of a young pick-pocket, Edward “Fingers” Croydon, abandoned to the streets of that town whilst very young.
Maxwell admits that he doesn’t actually write first and foremost with children in mind; his stories take a form that he is prone to enjoy, and he views some of the concepts then can enfold as being perhaps more suitable to older children and perhaps adults, rather than being purely for bedside story enjoyment – although he does acknowledge that this is those with younger children might well enjoy reading them to their kids.
As well as telling stories of adventures and intrigue, Maxwell’s books also touch – albeit perhaps in a very subtle manner – on what might be terms social issues from the periods in which they are set. The Fingers stories, for example, deal with matters of Victorian street urchins and how social care was more a matter for philanthropists (real or apparent) rather than the state.
Likewise, Jack and the Space Pirates touches on child labour: the story’s hero is Jack, is employed to “creep into the tiny gaps gape between the timbers” of space ships to apply the tar need to keep “space out” – a job which sounds akin to the Victorian use of children as chimney sweeps because of the ability to worm their way up flues, or in earlier times, to clean out the spaces behind tightly-packed spinning jennies at the start of the industrial era. Sprocket and the Sparrow carries a more obvious message on the importance of conservation, but it is one that is again imaginatively told.
Again, this is not a deliberate approach on Maxwell’s part; but it does form a natural element in his creative process, as he explained in a recent interview with Writing.com.
“When I write, I just want to tell a good story,” he said. “I feel that it is a basic feature of every human being to be creative. Some people find their creativity in their hobbies, art, dance, music; other people find a release for their creative spirit by consuming the creativity of others. I find that the production of stories is a great release that allows me to be creative, simply for the joy of doing so. Sometimes a fable or lesson might arise naturally from the plot but, when it does, it is often unintentional. I would like to think that, when a reader browses through my work, they are able to enter a magical world of suspended belief and join me in my bizarre world of fantasy, if only for a brief moment.”
Another aspect to the appeal with these books is the care with which the illustrations have been composed; facial expressions have been deliberately selected, for example, to help give even passing characters their own personality – and I admit to smiling at both the astronaut’s expression and choice of words “Yikes!” on being confronted by the lizard aliens!
There’s also a richness to Maxwell’s use of genres; while the Fingers series and Jack are most assuredly Steampunk in setting, his stories involving the elven children Maxwell and Skippy are equally assuredly rooted in fantasy, as is Leif’s Quest, which also has more of a graphic novel look to it.
While the scenes depicted in the stories are located in Second Life, encompassing places as diverse as Frisland, Calas Galadhon, Escapades (and one of Loki Eliot’s magnificent steam-powered airships is Jack’s rewards in Jack And the Space Pirates), New Babbage and other locations, it would be a mistake to say the stories are about Second Life – and it shouldn’t be for a moment considered that they are. Again, that’s not Maxwell’s intent.
Instead, what we do have is another example of how rich and diverse a place Second Life can be when it comes to inspiring our imaginations and for acting as a springboard for our creativity. These are imaginative stories, and I found myself getting drawn into them as I read them in turn.
If you have young(ish) children of your own and are looking for a range of bedtime stories with which to entertain them, or if you want to read adventures of a different kind, I have no hesitation in recommending Maxwell Grantly’s books. They are available on Amazon worldwide – just search for “Maxwell Grantly”, and are offered as e-books on either the Kindle PC app or via the Kindle Cloud.