Feb 09

Fly those spacefighters away or she gets it in the cooch.Click for full image

Tom Noir Comments: I’ll save you some time looking this up: the title is an anagram for RACIER THIGHS BATTLE FEZ FOE.

Published 1983

Actually, that cover IS a classical work of art!I would touch it without protective gloves.I've seen worse. Far, far, worse.Interesting, but I would still read it in public.Middlng: Neither awful nor awfully goodWould not like to be seen reading that!Awful... just awful...That belongs in a gold-lame picture frame!Gah... my eyes are burning! Feels so good!Good Show Sir! (Average: 7.65 out of 10)

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83 Responses to “Fize of the Gabriel Ratchets”

  1. Bibliomancer Says:

    I’ve seen this pose before:

  2. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    She has the typical number of bosoms now.

  3. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    That looks like a Predator trapped in lava on the right.

  4. Perry Armstrong Says:

    @Tom: ‘RACIER THIGHS BATTLE FEZ FOE’ is now my headcanon title for ‘Dr Who: The Big Bang’.

  5. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    It appears that her right forearm is measurably skinnier than the palm of her right hand in profile.

  6. Tat Wood Says:

    If Anne McCaffrey genuinely read every book she blurbed it’s no wonder she outsourced writing her own novels

  7. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    ‘How many engines can you put on a spaceship?’

    ‘Well, my feeling is…if it doesn’t have engines, it should have insect bits.’

    ‘Bet you can’t make a fleet of spaceships out of just engines and insect bits.’

    ‘You’re on! And the loser has to solicit the blurb.’

  8. THX 1138 Says:

    “Oh Gawd, it’s the wife!”

  9. Ray P Says:

    Flash helps Princess Aura escape the attack of the Space 1999 Eagle variants.

  10. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @TagWizard: in contradistinction to last week, shouldn’t that be ‘BEHIND YOU!’ instead of simply ‘behind’?

  11. Tag Wizard Says:

    @DSWBT – All things that are “BEHIND YOU!” are also “behind” but not everything “behind” is “BEHIND YOU!”

    Just kidding. Tag fixed.

  12. B. Chiclitz Says:

    Thanks @Tag W.—I needed a koan to reorient myself after looking at this cover.

  13. Noel Says:

    Good grief. Some people will use any old excuse to cop a feel.

  14. A.R.Yngve Says:

    “Oh no! We’re trapped on one of Saturn’s moons! Surely the cold and lack of atmosphere will kill us within seconds??”
    “Don’t worry, girl! For we are in Pulp Space, where every moon everywhere is habitable and women are required to walk around without spacesuits!
    “So why are YOU not half-naked, Buster?”
    “Err… um… Pulp Space rules.”

  15. B. Chiclitz Says:

    “No wonder I can’t fix this gun. You handed me the Moroni ratchet instead of the Gabriel ratchet!”

    “But I thought you said you needed a ‘five’ ratchet. That’s the Moroni.”

    “Fool, I said the ‘fize’ ratchet! You are so dumb. I can’t figure out why you’re so popular.”


  16. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @TW: /me is AFK (head asplode)

  17. Anna T. Says:

    Was “Fize” supposed to be “Five”, or is “Fize of the Gabriel Ratchets” actually the name of one of the characters? If so, where’s the Gabriel Ratchets and how do you come to be from there? And was the damsel rescued from a cabaret?

    @Perry, Tom: If I get reminded of your “RACIER THIGHS BATTLE FEZ FOE” anagram the next time I watch “The Big Bang” and end up giggling uncontrollably, I blame both of you.

  18. fred Says:

    He must have to stop every 100 meters to polish his boots to a high glossy shine.

  19. Ray P Says:

    Contemplating the title (‘Fize of the Gabriel Ratchets’) and other works (‘The Seren Cenacles’) I am led to wonder whether Warren Norwood is a pseudonym of Dr. Roland Chevalier, best-selling author of the Cyborg Harpies and the Yeast Lords.

    “This is a piece that came to me in a dream when I was eleven. I call it migration, and it depicts a fleet of harpies synchronizing their mammary cannons to create laser rain. Hard rain’s gonna fall.”

  20. Tat Wood Says:

    If that’s how the artist interprets Gerard Manley Hopkins, imagine what’s he’d do with Swinburne.

  21. DaveM Says:

    Is this book the sequel to “The Windhover tapes: Fozr of the Michael wrenches”?

  22. HappyBookworm Says:

    @Tag Wizard – Thank you for the “gibberish title” tag. Now I can stop trying to figure out what Fize means.

    @Tat Wood – Nice literary reference. I shudder to think what Hopkins (my favorite poet) would think of the title being applied to this story.

    The blurb quote says that the hero has an obscured past. What about this cover is not obscure…

  23. anon Says:

    O. Worndown Rear
    Gabriel’s Pet Hat: Seize the Wind of the Hovercraft

  24. Elvraie Says:

    When I opened the page, I read Size of the Gabriel Ratchets instead of Fize.
    Makes you wonder…

  25. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    Is he wearing falsies?

  26. Tat Wood Says:

    @Elvirai: If you’re old enough to remember ‘The Banana Splits Show’ that almost makes sense.

    “Rosan Bikini-ar…”

  27. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    I’ve been trying to make a Fize of the Gabriel Ratchets/Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald joke since February, I’m officially giving up. 🙁

  28. RachelJ Says:

    @Dead Stuff (#27).

    The legend lives on from the spacemen on down
    Of the big moon they called Dione.
    The moon, it is said, never gives up her dead
    When the rings of Saturn look lonely.
    With iridium ore twenty-six isotons more
    Than the “Gabriel Ratchets” massed empty
    That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
    When the Insectoid Reavers struck early.

    Shall I go on? I fear it’s going to be a tragic tale.😢

  29. FluffyGhostKitten Says:

    @RachelJ: Making fun of a bad song is okay, but could you have picked one that isn’t about people dying? Like say, ‘MacArthur Park’?

    Someone left the Rachets out in the rain
    I don’t think that I can take it
    ‘Cause it took so long to find a girl who’d let me do this
    And I’ll never have that gun again
    Oh no!

  30. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @B’mancer way back at (1):

    Egads. That really *was* traced by the later blobby pastel book, wasn’t it? Just with flannel jammies instead of bikinis and a smaller handgun.

    @Rachel, FGK: GSS! Certainly the appropriate reaction to this “art” and the gibberish title is a heartfelt “oh nooooooo”.

  31. RachelJ Says:

    @FluffyGhostKitten. Maybe it wasn’t in the best of taste- but blame Dead Stuff! He started it!

  32. FluffyGhostKitten Says:

    @RachelJ: I understand, it’s a terrible song, what with that Pink Floyd knockoff intro and all. It’s just that my dear, sweet mother will smack me with a lefse paddle if I make fun of dead people and/or Gordon Lightfoot. (And I do think mocking drowned sailors is kinda gauche.)

  33. GSS ex-noob Says:

    I think making fun of the *song8 is entirely all right. It is pretty naff. Not sure if it’s how the sailors would have wanted to be commemorated, either — a Top 40 droning dirge that repeats the same 4 lines (or is it 2?) over and over and over? Their surviving relatives must have avoided the radio for ages.

    Would like to hear more McA Park, though. And since DSWBT has abandoned us, we can blame a lot on him.

    I see this has another nonsensical McCaffrey blurb. Obscured past? It’s got a Space Sheep, a Lewis head, tasteful smoke, or a price tag over it? Why the final letter?

    Which one’s Fize?

  34. RachelJ Says:

    @GSS ex-noob. Don’t know. How do you suppose you pronounce it? Fyze? Feez? Fi-ZAY?

  35. Kihe Blackeagle Says:

    Having met the gentleman while he still lived (d. 2005?), can guarantee W. Norwood was not a pseudonym for some wannabe Texan. Warren was the real, honest-to-Ghu thing, a Texan who wrote … err, strange things.

    The Windhover Tapes are an interesting read overall, and have held up far better than many other novels writ in the same timeframe. Well worth the read, esp. if you have memory issues (and these days, who does not?)

  36. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @RachelJ: I’m going with “fyze” (like “fie on this cover! no, it’s so bad I give it two fies!” but I doubt it matters.

    Norwood was his real name, btw, though publishers sometimes got his middle initial wrong. Wiki isn’t sure if he’s notable enough, alas.

  37. Bibliomancer Says:

    Here is a little background on the meaning of the Gabriel Ratchets.

    I amaze myself what I learn hanging around GSS. Now if I can just figure out what a Fize is.

  38. Tor Mented Says:

    It just occurred to me that “Tapes” in the title means there will still be analog media in the distant future.
    Some people just like the warmer sound.

  39. B. Chiclitz Says:

    @ Bibliomancer—tu optimus omnium scholar 😉

    I am fascinated to learn that the yelping of these hounds is “unearthly.” I guess that’s why they are GSS-worthy!

  40. GSS ex-noob Says:

    So who’s got analog tapes of Northern English night-calling birds (mistaken for yelping hounds) in the future where scantily-clad chicks cling to heavily-armed dudes on the moon of a gas giant? And why?

    And what’s a “fyze”, that a Gabriel Ratchet might have one?

    No wonder yon damsel looks so askance.

  41. RachelJ Says:

    @Bibliomancer. Well, well. I’d heard of “Gabriel Hounds”, but “Ratchets” is a new one on me.

    So what’s the scenario? They wanted to be known as “THE HELLHOUNDS”, but it turned out the name was already taken?

  42. GSS ex-noob Says:

    Sure. By the time of the starship and zap gun future, so many things are going to be copyrighted and trademarked that you gotta go more obscure.

    Still doesn’t explain fyze.

  43. Longtime_lurker Says:

    Some googling reveals that there is a French sociologist named Michel Fize, who probably doesn’t have a lot to do with hell-hounds. I was kind of wondering if there was a meaning to the title buried somewhere in Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetry, but I’d need to be much more of a Hopkins reader to find out. Also, probably, need to read the Norwood book.

  44. Longtime_lurker Says:

    Um, no. Having discovered that there is an on-line concordance to the works of GMH, I am now able to say that “Fize”, “Gabriel” and “Ratchets” do not occur in them. Back to the drawing board.

  45. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @Longtime_lurker: Good research, though!

    I think we can conclude that Mr. Norwood made up the word “Fyze” and we’ll never know what it meant unless Khye comes back and tells us.

    This link explains Gabriel Ratchets, but no mention of Fyze

    This link doesn’t help, but it comes from a book that I found so interesting I spent a lot of time reading the other content

  46. RachelJ Says:

    @GSS ex-noob, I refuse to believe this is genuine:

    “Return with contract diplomat Gerard Manley to the lost decade before the exciting adventures recorded in the Windhover Tapes. Recapture the intrigue, treachery and passion of his years as Consort to Fairy Peg, ruler of the Ribble Galaxy, and supreme Commander of the elite fighting force known as the Gabriel Ratchets.”

    Own up. You hacked the site, didn’t you?

  47. Longtime_Lurker Says:

    OK, I’m taking the nuclear option. I just went on Amazon and ordered all 4 books. Not expensive if you stay away from the optimists asking £25 a copy. Assuming I can actually bring myself to read them I will shortly be able to say what it is supposed to mean, at least.

  48. RachelJ Says:

    @Longtime_Lurker You read my mind- I literally came back to say, hey, somebody has to track down a copy!

    This book is the gift that keeps on giving, all right. We finally resolve the meaning of one piece of gibberish, only to have another take its place.

    Fairy Peg, ruler of the Ribble Galaxy???!!!

  49. Longtime_Lurker Says:

    Fortunately, this title does not seem to offer the range of opportunities that The Doom etc did. The Fairy Peg that Came to Sarnath? The Doom that Came to the Ribble Galaxy? No way.

  50. Tor Mented Says:

    The Mushroom that Came to the Ribble Galaxy!

  51. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @RachelJ: It wasn’t me! If I’d hacked it, I’d have picked less-stupid names! And said “Intr-oyg”.

    Perhaps Fairy Peg O’Ribble had some kind of speech impediment, or named everything using random Scrabble tiles. Fize! Ribble! Mrifk!

    @Longtime_Lurker: godspeed and I hope it’s not too painful.

  52. Longtime_lurker Says:

    When the book arrives, I’ll reveal all that I find out (that is, if I can actually bear to read the thing).

  53. Ray P Says:

    I hope the Ribble galaxy features the Settle Spiral arm, the West Bradford wormhole and the Preston abyss.

  54. GSS ex-noob Says:

    And Mornington Crescent.

    (Who will probably be a person or an alien and not crescent-shaped)

  55. Longtime_lurker Says:

    This is another gift that keeps on giving–only 9 more comments and we have a Bokrug (

  56. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @L_l: has your copy of this masterpiece arrived yet?

    Although now I’m afraid it might ruin the fun if/when we learn what a “Fize” is.

    Still, we must always go on searching for the truth behind the lurid covers.

    I guess that’s Fairy Peg O’Ribble on the cover? She doesn’t seem to have the confidence needed to become ruler of an entire galaxy, even a stupidly-named one. Maybe she needed the manly Manley and his Ratchets to do it.

  57. Longtime_lurker Says:

    Sorry, I don’t live in the country where my mail gets delivered, and the 2 are about 3000 miles apart. Going to pick up the mail next week tho.

  58. GSS ex-noob Says:

    Wow, that’s dedication! Safe travels.

    Referring to my last comment, “Manly Manley and his Ratchets” is obviously the name of a terrible band.

  59. Longtime_Lurker Says:

    Hi all. I now have all 4 of the Windhover Tapes books. Naturally I began with Fize of the whatever’s. I’m now about one-third of the way through. So far:
    1. I still don’t know what the Fize is, but the Gabriel Ratchets are indeed some sort of personal guard for Princess Peg.
    2. Princess Peg is young and gorgeous and she and our hero have the hots for each other in a really serious way. There have already been several episodes of serious hanky-panky.
    3. Warren N could have used a good editor. In at least one place he has “Gerard Ratchets” instead of “Gabriel Ratchets”, probably confused by a reference to Our Hero in the line above.
    4. There’s poetry, purportedly by Our Hero. My devotion to Science didn’t extend to reading it. I’ll stick to the poetry of Our Hero’s near namesake, thanks.
    5. One detects a certain strain of cynicism on GSS about blurbs by Anne McCaffrey, may she rest in peace. My reading of this book has so far given me no reason to question that cynicism.
    Actually, I think Ray P, back around #19, was about right.
    All in all, I wouldn’t be reading this book except in the interests of science. But, ever persevering, I will finish the bloody thing (and hopefully find out what the Fize is) and then you can all owe me a beer.

  60. Raoul Says:

    @LL – Perhaps the “Fize” in the title is a typo? Can’t wait till you finish the book to find out.

  61. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @LL: Sounds like we’ll owe you more than a beer. Wonder what beverages got you an Anne McCaffrey blurb.

    How did the Ratchets get their name? Gerard-or-was-that-Gabriel just outta the blue named them for yelping bird/hounds? And in this future, people don’t see the word “ratchet” and think of socket wrenches that only crank in one direction?

    At least it seems to be a mutual relationship betwixt Gerard and Fairy Peg, which you don’t always get in books with this type of cover. Guess she liked bad poetry.

    There’s only so much one should suffer for Science. Quit when you learn WTF a “Fize” is.

  62. Longtime_lurker Says:

    Mutual? You bet! if anything Fairy P initiated it. She is definitely the boss. I was going to say she wears the pants, but …

  63. Longtime_lurker Says:

    Re McCaffrey blurbs: I’ve just glanced at the back cover of “An Image of Voices” and seen that there was a bit more blurb. I quote:
    “I’ve known of Warren’s ambition … for four years. I sure as hell never suspected he could write like THIS! Twelve years ago, when I finished reading Stanislaw Lem’s “Solaris”, I was similarly awed by an originality of alien sentience and other-worldliness, of the fragility of personal awareness and of the struggle of maintaining personal identity.”
    I’ve read “Solaris”. I was not similarly awed by Mr Norwood.

  64. Longtime_lurker Says:

    Now finished the first book. Last word on the Gabriel Ratchets: “… the Gabriel Ratchets. A highly disciplined, uniquely trained unit of sadists, assigned as the permanent Royal Guard. The toughest, meanest, most deadly group of misfits ever produced by three species and seven races.”.

  65. THX 1138 Says:

    But… isn’t ratchets what you get if you don’t have enough nutrition?

  66. FluffyGhostKitten Says:

    @THX: That’s rickets, specifically if you don’t get Vitamin D. Ratchets is what you get when you mix an over-ambitious writer, a visually-impaired editor, and a deadline in three days.

  67. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @L_L: So you never found out who or what the hell a Fize is? Ripoff!

    And Our Hero just decided to call the royal guard “Gabriel Ratchets” and no tough guy asked, “dude, what the heck are those? Isn’t Royal Guard a better name for us?”

    Apparently nobody had any blood going to their brain; too much on Fairy Peg’s charms.

  68. Bibliomancer Says:

    @Longtime Lurker – I chanced upon a copy of FotGR at my local paperback shoppe and bought it on the spot. Here is a photo of the front endpaper.

    As custom requires, our Consort will be trained immediately. On the day of Conclusion, he will be presented to the Noble Assembly as Fize of the Gabriel Ratchets.
    Gerard was stunned. It was one thing to be lover to the Ruler of the Seven Systems, quite another to Supreme Commander of the Gabriel Ratchets.

    This approximates what is inside on page 65. So, as was discussed on the other book post, Fize = Supreme Commander.

  69. Longtime_lurker Says:

    My goodness, it’s on my copy too. Now you know what happens if you try to read the books: your brain freezes up. Never thought to read the endpaper, did I? I’m glad it’s settled anyway. But we never worked out where he got the word from.

  70. Bibliomancer Says:

    @LL – I liked your idea that it was kind of connected with “vizier”. I was thinking that it could also be related to “fiz” or “phiz” which I though meant “head”. Looking it up though, “fiz” seems to mean “face”. As to where he got the word from, probably out of his “arze”.

  71. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @B’mancer, LL: So it still remains a mystery, even though we sussed out the meaning. Fize. Perhaps it came up in his alphabet soup, or he drew Scrabble tiles.

    LL, sorry for your brain.

    As to the blurb on the endpaper: Anne, it ain’t the plot intricacies that are leaving readers breathless.

  72. Bibliomancer Says:

    Somebody head over to the University of North Texas and paw through their 63 boxes of Warren Norwood papers. Look in Box 9, Folder 1. There’s an “editor’s glossary” for Fize of the Gabriel Ratchets that wasn’t included in the book. Hey, ex-noob, you in da neighborhood?

  73. B. Chiclitz Says:

    @Bibliomancer—Once again GSS Scholar Extraordinaire! But I’m more interested in Folder 3, with the “Coffee stain through pages 384-398.” That’s some coffee stain. Sounds like that glossary was taking its toll on old Warren there.

  74. Longtime_lurker Says:

    BM: just out of curiosity, how much did you have to spring for the book?

  75. Bibliomancer Says:

    @LL – half the cover price.

  76. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @B’mancer: Nowhere near, alas. No friends near enough to ask, either. I wonder if there’s any way to contact someone there at UNT and ask them to get a scan or Xerox of just the glossary? Or just to look at it and write down what, if any, it says about Fize and Ratchets in the glossary.

    Wonder if we could send lunch money to some student to get them to go in and consult Box 9 for us? Put an ad on Craigslist or Facebook? (neither of which I actually know how to use)

  77. Bibliomancer Says:

    @GSSxN – I don’t think it is as easy as walking in to the library and looking in the box. I think the materials are stored offsite and you have to request them in advance. Although an email communication with a librarian might get them interested enough to look into the glossary to see if it’s relevant. My guess is it only says fize = leader with no etymology. Or is it entomology?

  78. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @B’mancer: If it’s entomology, then the library isn’t storing things correctly!

    Whilst reading “No Time to Spare” (Ursula K. LeGuin’s last book of essays), I discovered that “windhover” is a fancy archaic name for “kestrel”.

    So Mr. Norwood liked him some obscure English terms when he wasn’t pulling FIZE outta his arze.

  79. Longtime_lurker Says:

    As we mentioned somewhere above, Norwood liked Gerard Manley Hopkins (hence the names of Our Hero and his space ship).
    The Windhover
    “I caught this morning’s minion, king-
    dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
    of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
    High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
    In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing
    As a skate’s head sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
    Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
    Stirred for a bird,–the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
    Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
    Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
    Times more lovelier, more dangerous, oh my chevalier!
    No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
    Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.”

    Nicely demonstrates Hopkins’ use of obscure words and idiosyncratic combinations of words. Better than Mr Norwood’s poetry, with all due respect. I could type the first couple of lines without looking it up, but had to go to the bookshelf for the rest. The punctuation and odd capitalisation is as per the printed version in Ricks’ Oxford Book of English Verse.

  80. Longtime_lurker Says:

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself. I’ve loved that poem ever since high school, which was [mumble mumble] years ago.

  81. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @LL: Quite all right, you deserve something nice after all your sacrifices.

    It’s more florid than I usually like, but has some lovely images of the bird at dawn. He obviously studied them a lot.

  82. Tom Noir Says:

    I really think you’re all thinking about this way too hard. Here is how the title surely came about:


    BARTENDER: Jeebus Warren, you need to slow down. That’s your third of my new specialty mixed drinks tonight, and I make ’em pretty potent! You drinking to forget?

    WARREN NORWOOD, AUTHOR: *heavily inebriated* Nah… I’m just shtuck. I mean stuck. My publisher wants me to write another hazel… navel… novel… in my sexy intergalactic Windhover Tapes series, but I’m all outta ideas!

    BARTENDER: Have you tried reading acclaimed poet Gerard Manley Hopkins for inspiration?

    WARREN N: Oh yeah. But I think my moose… zoose… I mean muse… has run dry. Speaking of dry, gimme another fize of these delicious Garbled Rockets!

    BARTENDER: Do you mean five more of my Gabriel Ratchets? No way, Warren! I’m cutting you off.

    WARREN N: *excitedly* THAT’S IT!!!

    And, scene!

  83. Ray P Says:

    It’s not the fize of the Gabriel Ratchets that counts.

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