Felt Trips: “Trapped In Time” by Will Salmon

It’s Sir Francis Drake! In space! With Julie Andrews, giant sharks, a time machine and a hashtag!

For the young Will Salmon, growing up on 1980s Humberside, imagination was clearly not a commodity in short supply. He also, we assume, had a bumper back of multi-coloured biros from the Bridlington branch of WH Smith. Gifted a school exercise book to keep notes on one of the BBC’s best-remembered Look and Read educational programmes, he instead began work on a science fiction epic so grand in scale it makes Isaac Asimov look like Eric Morecambe. Which, actually, he did. A little bit.

Will is now a prolific writer for a multitude of high street magazines, including SFX, Total Film and the Radio Times. He also runs the rather splendid Modern Aviation record label, specialising in beautifully atmospheric electronic music. But none of his work in any of these fields, as far as I’m aware, has ever featured a time-travelling Spanish Armada being threatened by an oversized squid while Britain’s most celebrated 16th century naval officer hooks a rope around the incoming “Interceptor 1” fighter plane. And more’s the pity.

Still, time to redress that balance. Over to you, Will…

Trapped In Time was a ‘novel’ written and drawn in an exercise book (originally intended for notes about the schools programme Dark Towers) when I was six and seven. I know this because the hand-drawn dustjacket (now disintegrated) included a felt-tipped ‘© 1987’ on the back, next to the ‘A Salmon Book’ logo. 

I was obsessed with the idea of having my own publishing company and used to draw schematics for what Salmon Towers might look like. I work in publishing now, but have so far failed to get far enough to be part of the company name or own a tower. Maybe one day.

Trapped In Time is an adventure story ‘inspired’ by my childhood love of Back To The Future and my nascent Doctor Who fandom. The blurb at the start of the book sums it up breathlessly: ‘If you had a time machine where wolud wuold would you like to go Richard Evings and Julie Andrews have’.

Yes, Julie Andrews. I’ve no idea why I chose that name, although I’d probably seen The Sound Of Music by then. As you can see, my handwriting and drawing techniques were executed for speed and efficiency, rather than skill.

In the first chapter Richard and Julie are ‘walking home for lunch, they were Having lunch at a friends house’ when they see a sign for Doctor Stanley Dark’s Laboratory.

Ignoring the ‘Do Not Enter’ sign, the kids go in and meet Stanley ‘Call me Stan’ Dark, who specialises in unspecified potions but also happens to have a massive spaceship called Drake 1 – or, as I perplexingly styled it, perhaps with a premonition of Twitter in mind – #drake1. 

Unfortunately, this spaceship is a deathtrap. Richard trips over a chair and accidentally switches on a fan, which blows a wire into Stan’s face, which in turn makes him knock over a potion designed ‘to make people go forwards and backwards in time’. Now #drake1 has become a time machine. Stan reacts by jumping out of the window.

The rest of the book comprises a bunch of episodic encounters set throughout history. In Chapter 2, the ship goes into a time warp and suffers a fuel leak, forcing Julie to go outside (into space?) with a bucket to fix it, at which point they encounter – and pre-emptively open fire on – a ship from the Spanish Armada. 

The ship crashes and Richard and Julie spot the rest of the Spanish fleet. Julie has the idea to find Francis Drake, which they immediately do, and he helps them rebuild #drake1 – 16th century naval officers were, after all, known for their prowess in time machine engineering.

‘Then the battle began!’ with British ships fighting the Spanish. They eventually turn the tide by firing time travel potions at the Spanish ships which – as I type this now, I realise, might explain why they were in the time vortex in the first place. DID I DO A FUCKING BOOTSTRAP PARADOX, AGED 7?! WAS I STEVEN MOFFAT ALL ALONG?

At the climax of the battle, #drake1 crashes (again) into the sea. This is Trapped In Time’s darkest hour, its point of no return, an event so terrible it causes Julie to have a dadaist physical reaction to being underwater: ‘Suddenly she cried sharks!’

Yep, there they are. The one at the top seems to have a moustache. The one at the bottom has a mad underbite. And they’re all inexplicably larger than #drake1. 

It all gets increasingly peculiar from here, partly because – judging by the change in art style – I’d clearly taken a long break and forgotten the plot. Julie goes swimming for oysters. #drake1 unleashes some ‘Interceptor planes’, there’s a giant octopus and Richard utters the deathless line, ‘Oh so your Mr Brave of the year’ as he mercilessly guns a Spaniard down.

There are many questions around the end of Trapped In Time. Does Julie survive the cliffhanger, which sees her shot IN THE HAIR? What happened to Call Me Stan? And what was going to be on the planned 11 ‘free gift pages’? An origami model of #drake1 perhaps, or a pull-out-and-keep guide to Richard’s best insults.

I don’t know the answers to these questions. Or why I never finished the book and its intended sequel, Trapped In Space. Like George RR Martin and A Song Of Ice And Fire, perhaps I became overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of the plot and the number of characters, and just couldn’t bring the saga of Evings and Andrews to a satisfying conclusion. 

Either that, or I got distracted by The Real Ghostbusters and just forgot about it.”

Felt Trips is a collaborative effort. If anyone wants to contribute their own childhood drawings from the era, I would be utterly delighted – please drop me a line using the “Contact” link at the top of the page. A good quality scan would be perfect, but – if not – then a clear photo of your artwork, lying flat, is fine. And maybe a few words of explanation, too: when the drawings were done, how old you were, what inspired you to tackle those particular subjects? Thanks so much.