Don’t Forget Me

So, it’s the birthday of Elisabeth Sladen, and to celebrate that wonderful woman, I present to you all my article from the You And Who: Contact Has Been Made book (now out of print).

“Don’t Forget Me”

There is something about The Sarah Jane Adventures that simply shouts out ‘brilliance’. A special and unique piece of Doctor Who history is encapsulated in that series. Like many fans of a certain age, Sarah (lest we forget that was her name long before she got re-christened Sarah Jane in 2006 – a trend that we can probably blame on Terrance Dicks’ The Five Doctors script which has, for the first time, the Third Doctor calling her Sarah Jane throughout), was the ultimate companion.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that she should be the first bona fide character to be brought back from the original series – and what a moment! Even now, seven years on, I get goosebumps whenever I watch the scene in which she sees the TARDIS in the gym cupboard, stumbles out in shock, turns and sees before her that strange new teacher. She immediately knows who it is, and when the Doctor utters the immortal line ‘hello, Sarah Jane’ television history is made. Curiously, up until that point I wasn’t quite convinced that David Tennant was the Doctor, but when Sarah accepted it, so did I. It’s at that moment, for me and for so many other fans, The Sarah Jane Adventures began.

It wasn’t the first time she was brought back, of course. She’s returned to Doctor Who twice before on TV, in a failed spin-off in 1981 and the Twentieth Anniversary adventure The Five Doctors – thirty whole years ago, would you believe! Since then she’s appeared in several novels and even starred in her own series of audio adventures called, conveniently enough, Sarah Jane Smith. I was almost the writer of the second season of that series, but as with these things, plans changed and other than a few ideas which found their way into the second season, my involvement came to nothing. One of a very few things I regret – missing out on the chance to work with Elisabeth Sladen, to help develop the more mature aspect of a character I always considered (and still do) the Doctor Who companion. As it turned out my involvement in that series did lead to my latter involvement in steampunk series Space: 1889, an association that continues seven years later, which just adds another reason why Sarah, and latterly, The Sarah Jane Adventures are so important to me.

It seems to me that even at its weakest, The Sarah Jane Adventures is still better than almost anything else on TV – sometimes even better than its parent show (and, frankly, towers over the other spin-off series, Torchwood). Yes, Doctor Who today is inconsistent as it ever was (although I still love it, and can forgive it of most things), but The Sarah Jane Adventures did something that the original Doctor Who used to do so well; it entertains, mixing comedy and drama with a healthy dose of reality, keeping fun smack bang at its core. There’s always a level of intelligence behind the stories it tells, an emotional centre that all ages can relate to on some level. For the grown-ups there Sarah’s new life as a foster parent, or her failure to find a suitable partner (not that she considers such a need often – since leaving the Doctor she seems to have developed a romanticised image of him as her perfect man, which always jars with me since there was never any indication of romantic interest from Sarah back her time-travelling days). For the youngsters watching there’s the children who help Sarah in her battle against evil alien invaders and mad scientists (a staple of the finest Doctor Who stories).

But for me it’s the essence of the show; it carries that unidentifiable magic that attracts millions to Doctor Who. I can’t say I’m totally in love with everything they do with the character – witness her jealousy when the Doctor is comforting Jo in Death of the Doctor – that always seems to be beneath the character of Sarah, but then I suppose this a woman who has got used to being the only ‘old love’ in his life, and she’s faced with someone who she, herself, once replaced, and in turn feels replaced by, decades later. Speaking of Jo, that’s another thing about The Sarah Jane Adventures, it simple sparkles with nostalgia. Mentions of Sontarans before they even returned to the parent show, mentions of UNIT and the Brigadier, even Harry. Sarah is imbedded in the history of Doctor Who, and as a fan I can’t help but love that. It’s through Sarah we get re-introduced, finally, to the Brigadier, a character whose return to Doctor Who had been building up for years – it’s such a shame we never got to see the Doctor, the Brigadier and Sarah reunited in The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith; that would have been a supreme moment of nostalgia for everyone watching. Alas, real life tragedy interceded, and a heart attack prevented Nick Courtney from returning a second time. But we did get another returnee from the Pertwee Years – one Josephine Jones, nee Grant. Yes! What a moment. Katy Manning is well-known for what she thought would happen to Jo in the years since leaving the Doctor to explore the Amazon with her new husband, but fortunately Russell T Davies stayed true to the real character of Jo, so that when she stumbled into the Doctor’s funeral service in Death of the Doctor there was no doubt it was the same woman. The same clumsy girl who’d first introduced herself to the Doctor back in 1971 by ruining his experiment. Brilliant. Nostalgia and comedy in one.

The final thing that will always be a personal point of interest for me is, conveniently, the final episode of the series. Many years back, in about 2003, me and my then partner asked Gary Russell to hire James Dreyfus for a Big Finish Doctor Who – we didn’t care which one, any one would do, as long as Gary would introduce us to him. Gary gave us a good reason why this would not happen, which I can’t really say here, and we were a little disappointed. Lo, in 2012 the boxset of series five comes out and who do I see in the very last episode but James Dreyfus? Some years late, and still haven’t got to meet him, but he did get to appear in the Doctor Who universe – and in a series Gary was involved in. Did Gary do that for me? It’s doesn’t seem likely, but I secretly think he did. He’s nice like that.

So, The Sarah Jane Adventures, for five years it stood as the best kind of spin-off we fans could ever ask for. It had nostalgia, it had clever use of continuity, it had fun, it had heart, and it had the essence of Doctor Who in every single episode. But most of all it had Elisabeth Sladen receiving the attention she was long overdue. It’s such a shame that the fifth series got curtailed, but more of a shame that the life of one of Doctor Who’s best companion ever had to end so unexpectedly. No one saw it coming – not even her daughter and husband. The diagnosis of Lis’s cancer was so sudden. It was kept private, and rightly so. The fans had no idea, and when the news of her death hit – well, it hit. Hit every single one of us. It certainly smacked me down. Perhaps because I almost got to work with her, perhaps because I know so many people who were part of her personal and professional life and I knew how it would hit them. Or perhaps it was simply because a world with Elisabeth Sladen, without Sarah Jane Smith, scarcely bears thinking about…

Sarah Jane Smith. She’ll live on, because Lis created in her such an amazing character. There’s not a single scene that Lis doesn’t liven up by simply being in it. All the way from the research centre in The Time Warrior to Aberdeen in The Hand of Fear, through her brief returns in 1981 and 1983, and all the way through every appearance since School Reunion in 2005 up to The Man Who Never Was in 2011.

I can hardly watch The End of Time without shedding a tear. Sarah’s looking across the road at the Doctor, who is standing outside the TARDIS. A silent moment passes between them, and Sarah just knows she won’t see him again. Not in that incarnation. That’s how it plays out. But now when Sarah’s eyes well up with that certainty, mine do, too. Because I know we’ll never see Elisabeth Sladen in any new Doctor Who again. The show’s fiftieth anniversary, and Lis should have been a part of it.

Sarah… Lis, you left too soon. But you go on always.

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – The Big Five, part three.

My fuel for the anniversary was ignited at last! Although that said, there had always been one part of the anniversary celebrations I was excited about. As soon as it was announced and the casting began, my interest was piqued, and when I saw David Bradley in costume and the rebuilt original TARDIS control set, there was no doubt in mind that An Adventure in Space and Time was going to be a gem of the anniversary.

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#3: An Adventure in Space and Time

Now this was something truly special. On the outside it looked like it was going to be a docudrama about the origins of Doctor Who, but when you watch it you realise it’s about so much more. It’s about two people struggling in industry not suited for them.

In terms of production there really is no faulting this amazing piece of television; the past is lovingly recreated, the old sets are perfectly rendered anew, from the junkyard in Totter’s Lane to the TARDIS interior, although there is something most odd An-Adventure-in-Space-and-Time-poster-1about seeing an original Cyberman and Menoptra in colour. And for the most part the casting is also superb; David Bradley convinces as William Hartnell, thankfully not attempting an impersonation, but rather a performance. Jessica Raine also puts in a sterling performance as Verity Lambert, Doctor Who’s first producer, and having seen Verity is many a documentary, I can easily accept Raine as her. On top of that Brian Cox and Sacha Dhawan pull in very respectable portrayals of Sydney Newman (the godfather of Doctor Who) and Warris Hussein (the very first director of the series). However, for my money, the rest of the cast, although good, don’t convince me as the actors they are supposed to be portraying – the worst of these being Reece Shearsmith, who I greatly enjoy in The League of Gentlemen, but he totally fails to convey an ounce of Patrick Troughton’s charm and charisma, with not even a suggestion of Troughton’s mannerisms. Indeed, it was the only moment I was taken out of the drama and wondered what had gone wrong.

Unfortunately ninety-minutes is not a lot of time to cover three years of TV production, especially for a show that was running almost every single week for those three years, and so we often skip large chunks of time with a few snapshots of various key moments, like the Daleks being filmed on Westminster Bridge on a Sunday morning in 1964. But this is a minor niggle, for the  moments that count are shown in their full glory. From Hartnell’s initial reluctance to take part in what he first regards as a kid’s show, to his steady realisation that he’s become a national hero for the children of the UK, witnessed most effectively in the subtle way his relationship with his granddaughter mellows, and when he’s almost worshipped by a group of school children while out in the park with his wife. It is incredibly touching to see an old man sodavid-bradley-william-hartnell-space-time out of his depth one moment, then within his element the next when acceptance sets in. Alongside Hartnell’s growth from grumpy old man to loving grandfather, we watch Verity Lambert struggle to make her voice known in an industry of men who fail to see her as anything more than Sydney Newman’s assistant. But struggle she does, until she gets her show made and convinces everyone that she was the right person for the job, and her gender is irrelevant to her position. This is shown wonderfully in her relationship with Warris Hussein (the only still-living person portrayed in this drama, a challenge Sacha Dhawan takes on with aplomb), a British-Indian who has his own struggles in the industry due to his ethnic background.

There are many wonderful touches seen throughout this production, including tying in the Doctor’s epic monologue at the end of The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve with the failing health of William Hartnell, as he realises that, like the Doctor, it will soon be time to retire and end his adventure; Sydney Newman’s reading of the first Dalek script cutting to images of Nazi iconography (although I did question the use of ‘exterminate’ as this point as the Daleks’ infamous catchphrase was not coined until a few Dalek stories later); the cameos at Verity’s leaving do (I spotted Anneke Wills and Jean Marsh instantly, actresses who played two of the First Doctor’s companions), and Carol Ann Ford (the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan) as a woman calling her children in to watch Doctor Who and even William Russell (who played Ian Chesterton, one of the Doctor’s original companions) as a car park inspector at the BBC. But the best moment of all was the surprise appearance of Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor when William Hartnell realised that his end had come, but the future of Doctor Who was assured. There was something matt-smith-adventure-in-space-and-time-600x335magical about seeing the First and Eleventh (Thirteenth?) Doctor both standing at the original TARDIS console (a scene I was hoping to see recreated in the anniversary special, with the Eleventh Doctor looking up and seeing his original self reflected back at him – alas, it did not happen).

There was a couple of moments that didn’t work (the aforementioned Reece Shearsmith being a prime example), but the majority of the docudrama was superb. A rare moment of poignant drama among a TV schedule that is usually more style than substance. A reminder of the difficulties Doctor Who faced at the beginning, and why it is such a success story today.

And now I was ready. It was only a couple of days until a trip to the cinema to see Doctor Who in 3D… But would it work? Would be a celebration of fifty years of Doctor Who, or would I, once more, become Steven Moffat’s worst critic?

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – The Big Five, part two.

My enthusiasm for the anniversary of Doctor Who was waning, and listening to The Light at the End did not help. Already I was tiring of Doctor Who, after watching every single episode over a period of five months, and researching every novel, comic and audio adventure produced, to cook my own slice of the anniversary cake – namely my book, Companions: Fifty Years of Doctor Who Assistants. Something was seriously needed to kickstart my excitement…

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Luckily the BBC were forced to released a very unexpected surprise after a mini-episode, a prequel to the anniversary story, was leaked earlier than planned. It was officially released on Paul McGann’s birthday, and what a present it was for him, and what an anniversary treat for all the fans!

#2: The Night of the Doctor

No one really expect this. Since 2005, when Christopher Eccleston appeared in Rose,  it was the one question every Doctor Who fan wanted answer. When and why did the Eighth Doctor regenerate? The obvious conclusion, based on visual evidence in that first story, was shortly before the Nu Series, at the end of the Time War. But then earlier this year we saw the end of series seven and discovered a previously unknown incarnation of the Doctor, the one who fought in the Time War, and it was John Hurt! This threw us all into a tiz, trying to work out how he fitted in the grand scheme of things; was he the older version of the Eighth Doctor, was he the Ninth Doctor (thus making Eccleston the Tenth, and Tennant the Eleventh and so on)? We were all hoping that the anniversary special would answer this, and despite McGann’s insistence to the contrary, I for one was certain he’d appear somehow. But not like this!

8docI, like so many, clicked that youtube link to see this minisode (as they’re now called) and watched as the TARDIS rushed through space to help a ship about to crash. And like all the others, my mouth at first fell open, and then broke into a wide smile when a voice said ‘I’m a Doctor, just probably not the one you expected’ and the shot cut to Paul McGann standing there with a cheeky grin on his stubbly face.

For the first time Steven Moffat (whose reign as producer has not always inspired me with confidence) was God. He delivered, in seven minutes, the best piece of Doctor Who he had ever written and produced. Finally all our questions were answered. This was the Eighth Doctor who had lived a long time past the TV Movie of 1996, who had endured much pain and loss, who had lived through the Big Finish audios (yes, for the first time since Nu Who began, the Big Finish Eighth Doctor adventures were given their place in TV canon when the Doctor names all his Big Finish companions – a lovely touch, and a most unexpected one [and one that creates more work for me, when I come to to revising my Companions book]), and was now battered and bruised by the Time War, which he refused to become a part of.  At last we knew, it was not the Eighth Doctor who fought in the Time War, and it was not he who regenerated into the Eccleston Doctor shortly before Rose. 

After years of playing the Doctor on audio, McGann stepped effortlessly back into the role, in an outfit that was the perfect evolution from that which he wore in the TV Movie. I had always liked the ‘dark eyes’ look Big Finish took to using, leather jacket and satchel included, and it always seemed a nice link between the old and new, but the outfit McGann sported in The Night of the Doctor changed that view for me. And his scenes on Karn were superb. Oh yes, Karn. Another surprising touch. A return to the location of the 1976 story The Brain of Morbius and the Sisterhood of Karn, a race of immortal The-Night-of-the-Doctor-regenerationbeings who elevate Time Lord science. For four minutes the Doctor was actually dead, unless he chose to take the offer given him by the Sisterhood, regeneration or final death. It was a sad but noble performance as the Eighth Doctor chose to end his life and become the warrior needed to fight the Time War.

There is really so much in these seven minutes to love. None of it was expected, but all of it so gratefully appreciated. It finally gave us that link between the ‘original’ series and the ‘new’, proving once and for all that they are but one series. And it was the moment I fell back in love with Doctor Who. Suddenly my fears of the anniversary special faded, somehow I just knew that Moffat was going to do a damn good job, and I held to my belief that we would see all the old Doctors in one form or another, and we’d see Peter Capaldi turn up (it was too much of an opportunity to pass up, in my view, a fact I told many people over and over again).

But before that special was something else entirely, the one thing I was truly looking forward to it. An Adventure in Space and Time

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – The Big Five, part one.

So, it’s been a week since the official anniversary of Doctor Who – fifty years of the longest-running science-fiction series in the world. And this time, it truly was the whole world, with an anniversary special shown at the same time in ninety-four countries, both on TV and (for the first time since the ’60s) in the cinema!

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We were treated to a whole host of shows, events and merchandise to mark the occasion – everything from books and CDs, to documentaries, conventions, TV specials, a cinema release in 3D, and special look at the origins of the series. But for me only five really mattered (plus my own book celebrating the series, but we’ll get to that later), and it’s these five that I’ll giving my appraisal of here.

#1: The Light at the End

The first step of the anniversary for me began when Big Finish released their multi-Doctor anniversary adventure, The Light at the End. Now I have to confess that I’m not a huge fan of Big Finish’s main range of Doctor Who adventures – I stopped listening to them when the TV series returned. Might seem a little unfair of me, but I easily tire of the over-reliance on returning monsters and companions that started to litter the releases from that point. Truly original pieces of drama seemed to diminish bit by bit, which is fine since, in my view, Big Finish needed to cater for the core group of fans – those who wanted Doctor Who as it used to be. I like my Doctor Who to continue to grow with the audience, with the social development of our culture. For me during the Wilderness Years (when there was no TV Who) Virgin Books, BBC Books  and Big lightFinish provided us with a Doctor Who that continued to grow, to echo the decade in which it existed, as it always did on TV. Then, in 2005, Doctor Who returned home to BBC One and the books and audio adventures seemed to lose a lot of their ambition, their originality. Which is a shame. There were some true classics produced between 1991 and 2005 – not to say that Big Finish haven’t produced some sterling stuff since, but usually it’s in their spin-off series’, like the Gallifrey series, or the I, Davros plays and, primarily, through the ongoing series of adventures for the Eighth Doctor that were being produced for transmission on BBC Radio. So, The Light at the End would be my first, for fun, look at a Big Finish play in a long while. (Bearing in mind I had to scour all of the Big Finish releases when researching my anniversary book, so it’s not like I haven’t heard the majority of them.) At the time it seemed that the official anniversary story, Day of the Doctor, was not celebrating the classic series but rather focussing on the mythos and characters introduced since 2005. The BBC insisted that no old Doctors would be appearing! To me, and so many other fans, this seemed to be a slap in the face. It was the anniversary of  fifty years of Doctor Who, not just Nu Who (as the series from 2005 to present is affectionately called), and so the cast list of The Light at the End decided me on getting that story. This seemed to me to be a true celebration with countless characters from the old series returning. For the old fans an anniversary story was an excuse to bring back as many old faces as possible – the strength of the story was secondary. We wanted something like The Five Doctors, which is not a terribly interesting story – it’s not known for its complexity, but it is known for the pure fun and nostalgia of seeing so many old friends return. And so The Light at the End

Hmm. How quickly one’s view can change.

It took me a while to work out why I left The Light at the End feeling so blah. The story was straight forward enough, although possibly not the most well-structured. It certainly brought back a whole host of old friends, every Doctor from the first to eighth made an appearance, countless companions. Essentially all one could want from an anniversary story. At least that’s what I had always thought. but upon reflection I came to realise the problem – for me, at least. Ever since Virgin got the licence to publish original Doctor Who fiction the guest appearance of old Doctors and companions had become something of a regular occurrence. Indeed, the very first novel, Timewyrm: Genesys, featured guest appearances by the Third and Fourth Doctors. Later stories saw the return of all kinds of Light_at_the_end_limited_collectors_editioncompanions from Peri to Liz to Susan, and featured all sorts of multi-Doctor stories (although none topped Lance Parkin’s Cold Fusion which featured a bona-fide reason for two Doctors being in the right place, and a wonderful spin on how the Seventh Doctor did not recall the events already, since his fifth self was also involved – the answer was simple, he did remember!). Big Finish have also featured various versions on the multi-Doctor story over the years, everything from The Sirens of Time (their very first release! Much like Virgin and BBC Books did before them), to The Four DoctorsProject: Lazurus and The Wormery. Even companions got their own stories with releases like The Five Companions. And so the problem as I see it; The Five Doctors was a success because of the nostalgia. Characters we had not seen in years returned, Doctors joined forces for the first time in ten years (well, eleven really when you consider The Three Doctors was transmitted in 1972, almost a year before the tenth anniversary). In The Light of the End it’s essentially just more of the same. We hear all these actors so often throughout the year, hear these characters interact, heard the various Doctors team-up countless times. There’s no sense of anniversary or nostalgia. Linking it to 1963 didn’t do anything except offer a failed attempt to enforce a feeling of nostalgia. We can’t orchestrate such a thing; it comes from within, from the memories. Don’t get me wrong, hearing Tom Baker and Paul McGann together is fun (although the BBC were soon about to officially do something even better with these two!), but having actors come in to impersonate the first three Doctors is not. I can see what was being attempted, but it felt like an insult. It didn’t help that none of the three actors sounded anything like the characters they were supposed to be (something in common with the Patrick Troughton impersonator on the upcoming An Adventure in Space and Time). I left the story with a feeling of blah, of ‘yeah, seen it all before’, and I realised that it was no longer just enough to have loads of old actors return to Doctor Who. An anniversary, to me, needed to be something different. A good story, a development of the mythos of the show, and a sense of nostalgia.

Enter the BBC’s first surprise… Coming in part two.

Outing a Fictional Character

Space: 1889 & Beyond has been running for over two years now, with ten books published and a further two on the way to wrap up the second season. Since day one, one of my own personal goals was to explore Victorian views on sexuality, both through the characters of Annabelle Somerset (not your clichéd Victorian adventuress – although she does have her moments) and Nathanial Stone. Exploring such views via Annabelle would seem obvious and not worthy of pointing out, although holding her own against a predominantly male-led society is only one issue Annabelle has to deal with – losing a limb is another, not to mention certain revelations explored in the final three books of season two. With Nathanial it would seem to be less obvious, although this line from the opening chapter of Journey to the Heart of Luna (published September 2011) would offer up the first clue…

When we do, I hope I am there. For I would like to ask him this: Why, O Lord, did you make me wrong? My dean at Mortarhouse College could never answer such a question, and he was a very learned man. Only the Almighty can answer me now.

Throughout the two years and ten books we have revealed hints and clues about Nathanial’s personal journey, most especially in Conspiracy of Silence (published August 2012) and Mundus Cerialis (published December 2012). One would hope that at the end of the latter book all our readers would be able to work out that Nathanial is a gay man. This is how Mundus Cerialis ends…

Arnaud noticed Nathanial standing there. “Annabelle suggested we ‘bunk together’. I do not think Captain Folkard would like me to be in his room.”
 
Nathanial glanced up the gangway towards the control deck. “No, I don’t suppose he would.”
 
Arnaud placed a finger in his mouth and looked around the lab. “Not much space, non? What to do? I have no sleeping bag.” He coughed abruptly, and looked up with the most pathetic expression Nathanial had ever seen.
 
“You are unwell?”
 
Oui. A virus from the Ceres underground, I think. Ne vous inquiétez pas,” Arnaud said, waving away Nathanial’s concern. “No snuggling,” he added, with a slight smile.
 
Nathanial shook his head. There was a time when he would have responded to that, but instead he smiled. Always the same Arnaud.
 
“I think we shall have a lot to discuss, then,” Nathanial said and stepped into the lab, feeling better than he had in a long while.
 
Things were not perfect with Annabelle, but they were on the right path to healing the wounds, and he had made his peace with Folkard. Surely he still held some animosity because of Edwin’s death, but the captain had brought Arnaud back to him – from death in some respects. That went a long way.
 
He closed the door behind him. It was finally time to move forward again.

fistfulMEDIUMThe most explicit confirmation of Nathanial’s sexuality, and his difficulty with such, was due to be shown in The Forever Journey, but due to some ‘technical difficulties’ the book which followed this, in terms of narrative, was released first. Thus the consequences of certain revelations and themes from The Forever Journey were felt throughout A Fistful of Dust (published October 2013). In terms of narrative I, as editor, had no issue with the consequences being seen before the events that led to them. In fact, I felt (and still feel), it adds to the mystery, leaving the readers to wonder what actually happened to our gallant crew on the way to Mars (answers to which will be revealed next month when The Forever Journey is released!).

Our readers have been very supportive of the series thus far, with many applauding us on the ongoing stories for our regulars cast of characters, as well as those who appear occasionally (such as Doctor Cyrus Grant and Commander George Bedford). They seem to understand that, as author David Parish-Whittaker put it, ‘it’s not just “Airships and Adventures!” (Not that it doesn’t have those, too). I think this particular subplot helps remind the reader of the very real social differences and constraints of the time period. We’re not writing about modern people in top hats here.’ This personal journey for Nathanial has been there since day one, as I said, and I knew that once we brought it to the fore it would illicit some interesting responses. I especially expect some choice comments being made in reviews of The Forever Journey, not just about Nathanial, but about other revelations made in that book, but what I was not expecting, not in a million years, was this ‘review’ on Amazon.com for A Fistful of Dust

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So shocked was I that I posted it over Facebook, to get the opinions of fellow authors, readers and even Anne Rice – since she’d recently been talking about reviews on Amazon.com, and was curious as to how she, a best-selling author of world renown, would respond were it in response to one of her books. Her response was, ‘it’s typical of some of the trash reviewing going on, on Amazon. I clicked report and gave the reason. Imagine a review like this attacking “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” because Uncle Tom is black.’

I am still somewhat miffed as to why, ten books on, someone should take such a position. One person suggested it was akin to revealing that a character like James Bond was gay all this time, a comment which I find bizarre in itself. With the Bond example, I agree it would be a case of ‘what were you thinking?’, since he has a history with women and is quite clearly a straight character. Not so with Nathanial. As shown in the examples above, Nathanial has always been gay, and his personal journey encompasses this element of his character. From actively allowing people to believe he had some interest in Annabelle, to his flirtatious behaviour with, at first, Erasmus Stevenson in Journey to the Heart of Luna and Dark Side of Luna all the way to his first meeting with Arnaud Fontaine in The Ghosts of Mercury to his insistence on having Arnaud join them on the season two mission. Later the reviewer did go on to explain why he made the above comment, in an equally inexplicable manner…

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The implication that we included a gay character because it’s ‘cool’ to do so, is one that puzzles and irritates me. It seems to suggest that we made Nathanial gay all of sudden, that it was a stunt to fit some kind of political correctness. Never mind the previous nine books of character development and steady unveiling of this aspect of Nathanial’s character. Surely the whole point of fiction is to not only tell good stories, but to explore the nature of people along the way? This is done gradually and carefully, without being offensive or, in this case, explicit. To be offended and thus reject a series of novels you were, presumably, previously enjoying just because a character is revealed to be gay, strikes me as a very silly and bigoted way to react. Would it not make more sense to stick with it, and see how the character’s journey pans out? After all, Nathanial is a man living in the 19th Century, the implications of his sexuality will have consequences.

Despite this and the somewhat unexpected reactions from a few people yesterday, I still hold true to what we are trying to achieve here with Space: 1889 & Beyond as a whole, and with the character of Nathanial Stone in particular. All I can say now is this; readers, stick with us, there’s an end game here, one that most will not see coming, but hopefully one all will find interesting and will spark some thoughts in you all. In closing I’d like to quote Arnaud’s father, Sébastien Fontaine…

“Could it not be that they are merely laws man has attributed to God, led by their own fears and ignorance? It is my belief that not everything can be split between right and wrong. There is a whole area that falls in-between. Just because someone disagrees with another, it does not make one more correct than the other.”

Series Two – Conspiracy of Silence Released

Roll up, roll up… the fall of Nathanial Stone starts here!

Space: 1889 & Beyond series two begins today with the worldwide launch of Conspiracy of Silence, which sees series creator, Frank Chadwick, and series editor, Andy Frankham-Allen, joining forces to set up the biggest phase in Space: 1889‘s history!

Series two picks up at the tail end of 1889, and finally launches the series beyond… not only beyond the old decade it’s lived in for twenty years, but you will witness the first steps that takes the property beyond the inner planets!

For Nathanial Stone and Annabelle Somerset, the most harrowing journey has only just begun!

At long last, Nathanial and Annabelle are back on Earth, but the reception is hardly what they hoped for–Nathanial locked up in Chatham Convict Prison, Annabelle and her uncle Cyrus Grant held in the Tower of London: the charge–treason!

Someone high up in the British government is putting pressure on them for mysterious reasons. But when the Austro-Hungarian ambassador to Britain is assassinated in a gunpowder plot, which would have made Guy Fawkes smile, events spin out of everyone’s control.

The clock is ticking down on the arrival of the new Austrian ambassador, and on an assassination plot which aims to cut the heart out of the British monarchy and government. The race to thwart the conspirators will take Nathanial, Annabelle, and George Bedford through the heart of Whitechapel at night, to gunpowder barges anchored in the Thames, to seedy boarding houses attacked by infernal clockwork devices, and finally to the dizzy heights of a zeppelin docking gantry packed with explosives and where a single spark will mean extinction for all.

She heard a knock on the sitting room door. “Come in,” she said and Stanhope appeared with a small silver platter holding a white card.

A gentleman to see you, Miss,” he said and offered her the card. For a moment her heart raced at the thought of George Bedford, or perhaps Nathanial, finally finding her, but the card dashed her hopes.

Major Walter Hallam Gordon, CGM

5th Regiment of Foot, Northumberland Fusiliers

Very well, show him in,” she said, knowing very well this was merely a polite formality. Jailers do not require permission from prisoners to enter their cells.

Major Gordon was tall and slender, dark-haired, and she might have found him good looking under different circumstances—or perhaps not. Whatever attraction his face might have had was ruined by his grey-blue eyes: cold and calculating.

Miss Annabelle Somerset? Please accept my apologies for having to introduce myself under these circumstances. Major Walter Gordon, at your service,” he said with a little bow.

I doubt that very much, Major Gordon. Were you at my service you would have two steamer tickets to America in your pocket and a carriage waiting out front.”

Nothing would give me more pleasure, Miss Somerset, I assure you, but my duty comes first. I am sure you understand.”

I understand nothing. No one has told me why we are being held against our wills, nor has anyone told me what has become of our friend, Professor Stone. Unless you can do so, I suspect this interview will be brief.”

Of course,” Gordon answered. “You undoubtedly have many questions.” He gestured to an arm chair. “May I?”

Your vocal powers seem to function satisfactorily while standing,” she answered.

He inclined his head slightly in acceptance. “Very well. I can hardly fault your hostility. I apologise for your having been kept in ignorance, although in truth I doubt any of your…keepers knew quite what to tell you. Let me remedy that at once. Your uncle, Doctor Cyrus Grant, is held here for his own safety. As you can see, he is incapable of caring for himself, and may come to some harm left untended.”

I tended him in the Tower, and I tend him here. I can as easily tend him in Arizona,” Annabelle answered.

Ah…yes, well, that is where it becomes complicated. You are not free to go, Miss Somerset, I am sad to say. While no formal charges have been filed, I am obliged to say that the Lord Chancellor is currently studying the evidence and is deliberating whether charges should be levied. Until such time as a decision is made, I am afraid you must remain here. I know that a week in the Tower as a prisoner must have been a harrowing experience, and now the thought of further captivity must be positively terrifying, but I ask you to…”

Annabelle laughed, and Gordon broke off speaking, his eyebrows lifting in surprise. “When I was twelve years old my parents were murdered and I was taken captive by a band of the Chiricahua Apache. The chief, Goyahkla, led that band and I was held prisoner by him for two years until rescued. Three months ago I laid in a filthy tent in the Martian desert while, to save my life, two dear friends, neither of them physicians, sawed off my rotting right leg—rotting, I might add, due to a pistol ball from the French saboteur who was the actual architect of the Peregrine Station explosion. Major Gordon, if you honestly believe I find this,” and her gesture encompassed the sitting room, “or the austere comforts of the Tower harrowing, or the prospect of being held captive by the British Army terrifying, then you are a fool.”

She sat on the sofa with her back to the arm on the left and her artificial leg, her peg, extended out on the sofa itself. It was not heavy and did not require support, but it did not bend at the knee and if she allowed it to stick straight out she feared Uncle Cyrus, in his aimless wandering, would trip over it and hurt either himself or her, or both. She looked at it, at the reddish-black wood carved to look like a piece of machinery, with rivets and the suggestion of gears and pistons. Her Martian friend Kak’hamish, who had carved it and saved her life time and again, was dead, but she knew that near the top of the peg he had carved a legend in an arcane Martian script. It read, he had told her, Annabelle’s Spirit. It’s meaning, he explained, was that her spirit was like the peg carved from Martian blackwood—alive, but like steel.

She did not feel like steel, not really. Despite her defiant words she felt powerless and frightened and very much alone, but she would never let this Major Gordon see that. Perhaps that was what Kak’hamish had meant.

I admire your courage, Miss Somerset,” Gordon said. “You will have need of it in the times to come. I must tell you that the charge the Lord Chancellor is considering is one of high treason, which is a capital offense.”

High treason?” she exclaimed, and she felt her voice rise even as blood rushed to her face. “You must think me very silly and gullible to take such a threat seriously. I am an American citizen, not a British subject, and so whatever you imagine I have done, it could not possibly constitute treason. Really, this is too much. I must ask you to go, Major, and I demand to speak with the United States Envoy at his earliest convenience. That is my right, I believe.”

As you wish, Miss Somerset,” Major Gordon answered. “I will arrange the meeting with the envoy.” With another small bow he left her.

Annabelle sat on the sofa for several minutes, struggling to get her emotions under control, or at least her breathing and heart rate. The nerve of the British! Who did they think they were to treat Americans this way? And treason? What a preposterous threat! It was so preposterous…in some ways she found it more unsettling than a more modest and believable threat would have been. Why would he even say such a thing?

Andy Frankham-Allen is a Welsh-born author of many short stories, both for Untreed Reads and the Big Finish’s official range of Doctor Who anthologies. In 2005 he co-authored the last in Noise Monster Productions range of Space 1889 audio dramas, and in early 2011 Untreed Reads published the first novel in his new real world dark fantasy series, The Garden, which was nominated for the Rainbow Award, Best Full-Length Supernatural Novel 2011. He continues to write short stories and novels, with upcoming projects including a novel in Crossroads Press’ Scattered Earth series, and non-fiction Doctor Who book for Candy Jar Publishing, as well the second book in The Garden series. On top of all that, he’s also the series editor for Space: 1889 & Beyond.

Frank Chadwick is no stranger to the Victorian science fiction field. He is the creator of the Space: 1889 universe, with the first in a series of role-playing adventures, board games, and miniatures rules appearing over twenty years ago. He is known throughout the gaming industry as one of its most prolific designers, with over a hundred published games. He is also well-known in the history and military affairs field, with over two hundred books, articles, and columns. His 1991 Desert Shield Fact Book reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list, but he still lists steampunk as one of his first and greatest loves.  As well writing one and a half novels in the first series of Space: 1889 & Beyond, his forthcoming works include two novels with Baen Books, How Dark the World Becomes and The Forever Engine which is set in the Space: 1889 universe.

Conspiracy of Silence is now available through…

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Conspiracy of Silence © 2012 Andy Frankham-Allen & Frank Chadwick and Untreed Reads Publishing.

Space: 1889 & Beyond © & ™ 1988/2012 Frank Chadwick.

All Rights Reserved.

Kuang-Shi (2012) – Sneek Peak

‘Kuang-Shi’ is a story I wrote way back in 2002. It’s one of the Legacy stories I’ve been most looking forward to revising. Ten years is a long time, and there’s much about that story which needs fixing. Or more like beating into shape. And so this week I’ve started revamping it! The core story is the same, the events are, more or less, as people will remember them. Only this time it will all make sense, there’ll be some real depth to the characters, to the dark journey they all take in this story. And there will be loads of new material.

The book is due out at the start of 2013, but here’s a sneak peek at the revised first chapter…

Chapter One

The air frizzled and an outline of three people appeared. Within seconds they had solidified, standing in a circled off area under a large cedar tree. The Doctor was the first to act, removing his hands from his two young friends. He looked around, rubbed the bronzed amulet hanging from his neck and muttered to himself.

‘So, not Westminster Abby, then.’

The young man and woman looked at each, smiled and looked up at the sunny sky. Almost in unison they raised a hand to protect their eyes from the glaring sun.

‘This is Earth, isn’t it?’ asked the woman.

The Doctor turned to face her. ‘Yes, Alf, it certainly is Earth, but not where I expected us to materialise.’

‘Nice one, Doctor.’ Alf removed her sunglasses from one of the pockets of her combat trousers and placed them over her eyes. She looked over at Nick who was putting on a less advanced pair of sunglasses. ‘Nick, I’m home,’ she said, and the Doctor grinned behind her back.

After almost a year in the 26th Century it felt nice to be back on Earth. He had to admit he did miss the old place, but probably not as much as Alf. For her, she didn’t even remember her homeworld – the future Earth had been consumed by the Cybermen, and made uninhabitable as a result.

Nick subtly squeezed Alf’s hand, not that the Doctor noticed, of course.

He smiled to himself. ‘Well, we are in the correct year, although not in the place I wanted to be. We were supposed to arrive in Westminster Abby, just in time to witness Andrew marry Fergie. Still,’ he added, checking his watch, ‘we appear to be in the right temporal location. July 23rd 1986.’

‘This the Lebanon Circle, which means we’re in the East cemetery.’

He wandered off to look at the stone wall, overgrown with foliage. ‘Highgate Cemetery unless I am mistaken.’

Nick looked around. ‘How can you tell that?’

‘This the Lebanon Circle, which means we’re in the East cemetery.’ The Doctor looked over at Alf. ‘I brought us to Earth on purpose, for you. Neither Nick nor I have homes we can return to, but you at least deserve to see your home.’

Alf was still smiling. ‘Thanks, Doctor.’

‘Least I can do. After all it is my fault that you lost your memory. Kind of.’

Alf looked around, awkwardly. ‘Look, Nick, do you mind if I go off on my own for a bit?’

‘I…’ Nick clearly did mind, but the Doctor stepped in before Nick could say anything else.

‘That’s a good idea. Reacquaint yourself with London. Explore your roots a bit. Who knows, being here may spark some memory in you?’

‘Hope so. Remember that jacket I had? The one that looked like it once had things stitched to it?’

The Doctor nodded. ‘Yes. Whatever happened to it?’

‘Lost it during the war somewhere. Maybe in the Settii cluster?’ Alf shrugged. ‘Don’t matter. Point is, the last badge to fall off, when I was working at the internment camp, was this little black and silver thing that has “1987” embroided onto it. This is 1986, right?’

‘Hmm.’ The Doctor could see where Alf was going. He wanted her to find her roots, but if that badge came from 1987, then it followed so did Alf. What could he do, though? Could he really deny Alf this opportunity? No. This universe was not the one from which she originated, so maybe she never existed on this Earth.

The Doctor hoped so.

‘Okay, there’s an Underground station nearby. Archway, I believe.’ He reached into his deep pockets and pulled out a role of notes. ‘Money. Look after yourself. You can use the amulet to find us.’

Alf looked down at her own amulet. ‘Yeah?’

‘Yes, just hold it, think of us, and it will guide you. Low telepathic feild,’ the Doctor added with his brightest smile. ‘Not as good as the TARDIS, but…’

‘Works for me.’ Alf smiled and looked over at Nick, who was standing a little distance away from them.

The Doctor noticed a strange look pass across his face; disappointment.

Nick looked away.

Alf shrugged. ‘Fine,’ she said softly. ‘Cheers, Doctor, catch you in a bit.’

Nick watched her as she walked out of sight. ‘That was nice of you,’ he said, coming over to the Doctor. He didn’t sound so happy.

‘Well I owe both you and Alf a lot. Besides, you and I have to talk. We haven’t really spoken since you left for your mission to New Mars, and then, I seem to recall, we didn’t part on the best of terms.’

Nick scratched his head. ‘Yeah, keep forgetting that.’ He nodded. ‘Clone you on Nova Mondas.’

‘Quite.’ The Doctor sniffed. ‘Can you smell that?’

‘Yeah.’

It was a faint burning. The Doctor looked around the small circle, and with a cry of excitement pointed to a small build up of energy hanging before the cedar tree. They both walked over to it.

‘What is it?’ Nick asked.

The Doctor probed it with a chubby finger and pulled back quickly. ‘Ow!’ He sucked the tip of his finger. ‘That hurt.’

‘So, what is it then?’

‘The remains of some kind of temporal-spatial portal. At a guess I would say that it was this that pulled us slightly off course.’ With a pop the fissure closed up and faded into nothingness. ‘And now it is gone. Hmm.’

The Doctor looked around. It had been a while since he’d travelled through time, and his time senses were rusty. He concentrated. As a Time Lord he should have been able to sense disruptions in time, but that ability had weakened ever since the planar shift that had altered reality around him.

Ever since Gallifrey had gone.

He removed his amulet and waved it around in front of him.

‘Some kind of divining rod?’ Nick asked.

The Doctor was impressed. ‘Yes, actually,’ he said slowly. ‘I’m fine tuning the amulet’s temporal field to the portal; if it returns the amulet will let me know. There!’ He pocketed the amulet.

‘So, this talk then?’

The Doctor looked at Nick with a smile. ‘Yes. And I know just the place!’

*

Nick sat down as the Doctor went to fetch some drinks. They were in a small coffee shop just off Hampstead Heath, and Nick was in the best mood he had been in for half a year.

The Doctor is alive!

Things had happened so fast since the Doctor had walked into the shop of Alpha Centauri, carrying a teddy bear and a Ming vase. Nick had tried to slow things down, get some sense out of the Doctor, but it had been a whirlwind of activity and explanations. Nick did not doubt the Doctor, he never would, but he hadn’t had the time to truly process everything.

‘What about Falex?’ Nick asked as the Doctor sat at the table and passed Nick a drink.

‘He’s where he needs to be once again.’ Although he put on a smile, Nick could tell the Doctor was lying.

‘But you promised to look after him, we both did.’

‘I know that, Nick, but when I met his aunty on Taureas II she made me promise to return him home. I should have returned him straight away… but the war…’

A lot of things went crazy with the war. Nick could at least understand that. ‘But I should never have taken him to Chronos with me, I should have…’

The Doctor looked up from his drink sharply. ‘Chronos?’

‘Yeah, some totally screwed up planet. Void pirates, living sky barrels…’

The Doctor rubbed his beard. ‘Oh, a planet. I thought…’ He shook his head. ‘It doesn’t matter. Look, Nick, I understand what you’re saying, but Falex will be better with his own people. Remember what you told me about the Black Sun Station. What Falex did there. While the war went on, while I was in hiding so the clone could do his work, I looked into what Theahmin said. No, not said, implied. She told me it was not safe for “someone like him” to be off Taureas II. And then there was something Alf noticed; that there were no children to be seen anywhere in the capital city of that world.’

Nick didn’t like the sound of that. ‘Then why send him back?’

‘Because of what I discovered. Nice coffee, don’t you think?’ the Doctor asked abruptly, even though he’d yet to pick his cup up.

Nick knew this one. Deflection. He’d seen it practiced many times; heck, he’d done it enough with Falex, especially after he’d thought the Doctor had died and Falex continued to barrage him with questions.

He sat back and folded his arms. ‘This isn’t going to work on me. I’ve been without you for months; I almost died! Lost the use of my legs.’

Now it was the Doctor’s turn to furrow his brow. ‘What? But you’re…’

‘Implants.’ Nick sat forward again, and picked up his cup. ‘Let me tell you what happened on JS-439,’ he said, and outlined the events that led to him being crippled, and the subsequent implants given to him by the Martian surgeon Zylarx, and then the best Draconian cyberneticists who fixed them after the war. While he did this, he sipped the coffee. It was a strong taste, quite unlike anything he’d ever tasted before.

‘No other planet has ever come up with anything like coffee,’ the Doctor pointed out. ‘Oh, there’s worlds which claim to have drinks called coffee this and coffee that, but none quite have the right kind of beans. Remind me to take you the early 21st Century sometime. Coffee seems to be the taking over the Earth by 2011.’

Nick chewed his lip. ‘I don’t think Cybermen really have a taste for coffee,’ he said, trying to keep his tone light, but it was difficult when he remembered how many had died because the Cybermen.

‘Yes. I keep forgetting. Need to get used to this again.’ The Doctor finished his drink. ‘What about Alf?’

Nick nearly spilt his drink; such was the unexpected way in which the Doctor had changed the topic. He eyed his mentor. Had Alf been talking to him? No, of course not, she wouldn’t have had the chance. Unless it was before the war… only, there was nothing to tell the Doctor then.

Was there even something to tell him now? Nick wasn’t so sure. But he remembered the way Alf had massaged his shoulders before the ceremony on Draconia…

‘Erm, what about her?’

‘She’s only with me because I am the only link to her past. But she doesn’t belong with me, nor does she belong on Alpha Centauri. That life was forced on her by the Dommervoy.’

‘Seems to me, mate, the entire last year was forced on all of us.’

‘That is true.’ The Doctor pulled the amulet out of his pocket. ‘Nothing.’

‘What do you think that portal thing was?’

‘No idea, Nick. But whatever it was, it was powerful enough to pull us off course.’

Nick stood up. ‘Then maybe we should head back to the cemetery? Can’t sit here drinking coffee all day.’

The Doctor beamed at him. ‘That’s the spirit, Nick! Now we’ve cleared the air, let’s go and make ourselves useful while Alf is off recollecting.’

At the mention of Alf, Nick paused. The Doctor stopped in the doorway and looked back.

‘What is it?’

‘You don’t think Alf will want to stay here, do you?’

The Doctor thought about it for a second. ‘I don’t know, Nick, that’s up to her.’

Nick sighed inwardly. Yeah, it was…

*

There was definitely something familiar about the place, almost as if she were visiting somewhere she had grown up in and only had a vague memory of. Which, Alf considered, wasn’t that far from the truth.

She had distant snatches of London, as she was now realising. Passing through the various tube stations on the way from Highgate to Oxford Street awoke certain feelings in her.

There was nothing too specific, just a sense that she had been on a similar journey before. A child bored out her head, while a woman sat beside her, head buried in a magazine. Presumably her mother. Someone who encouraged strong feelings in Alf, either way.

She stepped out of Oxford Circus Station and looked around. So many people!

People like her. Humans! For so long it had only been her. Sure there were plenty of humanoid races in the Galactic Federation, those who looked almost human, but even Nick, the closest to human she had found out there, wasn’t really human. During their long mission to find those spies for the Cybermen, the Doctor had explained a little something about Nick. That he’d once been part of this almost-omnipotent race called the Millennium People, but something had happened that had turned him human. Or at least a close approximation of one. That should have bothered Alf, but living on Alpha Centauri tended to expand one’s horizons. Some of her best friends had been non-human. People she respected, and trusted. But at least being around Nick, and to some extent, the Doctor, made Alf feel a little closer to her own people.

Now here she was. Once again on Earth, surrounded by real human people!

She set off down Oxford Street…

She set off down Oxford Street, looking for somewhere to eat real greasy, unhealthy food. The kind only humans could make.

A number 88 bus passed her by, and she looked up at it. Snatches of memory came back to her. She could see herself as a young girl, with a bunch of other girls, on a bus as it drove up Oxford Street, intent on visiting Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus. She was sitting next to the window, looking down at the sea of people, while a brown girl chatted to her. They were laughing about something, although Alf could not remember what. She thought hard. That girl – her best mate. What was her name?

It was frustrating, but at least it was a memory. Alf smiled. Thanks, Doctor, she thought, a real trip down memory lane.

As she walked she noticed the bill-posts pasted to closed shop fronts. She had seen similar things on the trains. It was an imitation of the Kitchener posters used in 1914, a recruitment campaign of the First World War (she dimly recalled learning about this in History at Greenford Secondary School – more random memories!).

UNIT WANTS YOU, it said in bold letters, with JOIN THE UNITED NATION’S ARMY! GOD SAVE THE KING written underneath in a smaller font.

Ever since she’d entered Archway Station Alf had the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. These posters confirmed it. She had never heard of UNIT, and since when did Earth have a United Nation’s Army?

Then there was the mention of a king… Alf was pretty sure that the UK had a queen in 1986.

She shook her head and continued walking. Maybe the Doctor could explain it later. For now she wanted a good old fashioned burger.

*

A man walked a few feet behind Alf, unseen by her. Short blonde hair and eyes like blue steel, he followed her, unable to believe what he was seeing.

He smiled. He knew this was a different world from Styria, but it still felt familiar to him, as strange as it might be. Full of machines, carriages without horses, and people wearing the strangest clothes. It was, he thought, the perfect place to hide.

Until he saw her.

For a moment he thought the blood countess had followed him, that she too had discovered one of those magic doors, but as he reached out his mind he felt nothing. No presence at all. The young woman, although an exact double, was empty.

Yet, somehow, she looked just like the Countess Dorothea.

And so he followed her, intrigued, memories of their short-lived marriage filling his mind.

*

Nick buckled but the Doctor caught him before he hit the ground. Nick took a deep breath and steadied himself. He looked at the Doctor, and saw the sympathetic smile.

‘The implants?’ the Doctor enquired.

Nick wasn’t so sure.

Yes, pain from the implants was a constant, one his the pain-centre of his brain was getting used to. Like an itch he could not scratch. This was different.

‘Ain’t got a Scooby,’ he said, rubbing his legs.

The Doctor nodded, then blinked. ‘A what?’

‘A Scooby. Scooby-Doo. Clue. You know.’

‘Oh. Rhyming slang. Okay. Well, come on, let’s uni.’ The Doctor smiled at his own cleverness but Nick only looked confused. ‘University don, move on?’

Nick smiled through the pain, and raised his eyebrows. ‘You made that up.’

‘I did not!’

Nick laughed, folding his arms. ‘Yes you did.’

‘I… did, yes.’ The Doctor cleared his throat and glanced down to the pavement below him. He looked up with a cheeky grin. ‘Right. You fit enough to carry on?’

‘Thanks,’ Nick said, realising what his friend was attempting to do. He practiced running on the spot. ‘Yep, all systems go.’

‘Come on then.’

*

Alf bit into the quarter pounder with relish, and chewed. It was amazing! She didn’t even mind the sharp taste of the pickled gherkin; it just felt good to eat real Earth food again. The Doctor had done his best back on Alpha Centauri, but it hadn’t been the same.

She looked out of the window as she chewed. People continued about their business, unaware of the phenomenal moment Alf was having. To her, that only made things even more incredible.

For the first time in ages she felt truly alive. Vibrant!

She blinked. Across the road she thought she saw… She looked closer.

Nah, it couldn’t have been. Although it did look like Nick. Their eyes connected and the man looked away.

She closed the polystyrene burger box and picked up her milkshake. She could have sworn it was Nick – even though he was dressed in some ancient looking clothes, and his hair was short.

As Alf moved from the table she bumped into a McDonald’s crewmember. ‘Oh, sorry,’ she said, then stopped.

Beneath the cap there was no mistaking the rounded face. It was Alf. Younger, less worn, but Alf nonetheless. The younger looked at the elder with equal surprise.

‘Gordon Bennett!’ the younger exclaimed.

*

The rest of the walk to Highgate Cemetery was uneventful. They passed the obelisks that gated the shaded lane, and Nick pointed to one of the nearby tombs. On the wall next to the iron door hung an inverted torch.

‘What’s with the torches, Doctor?’

‘They are an ancient symbol of death. Indeed, according to old Earth mythology…’ He tailed off and pulled the amulet out of his pocket.

In the centre a sapphire glow emanated.

In the centre a sapphire glow emanated.

‘It’s back!’ he said, his bearded face lighting up. He set off at run.

Nick watched him hare off and groaned. Why does he need to run around so much? Bracing himself for the pain, Nick set off at a brisk jog after the Doctor. His route took him through the two rings of catacombs. As soon as he emerged from the inner ring Nick came to an abrupt stop.

The Doctor stood there, a look of total disbelief on his face. Nick looked beyond the Doctor to the portal that hung before the massive cedar tree.

A man was standing by the portal, looking around as if dazed by something. He was dressed in clothes from a simpler time.

A man from their past.

The Doctor stepped forward and held a hand out. ‘Bradley?’ he asked, his voice choked.

The young man turned to look at the Doctor. Nick took a step back. There was no doubt about it, the man before them was Bradley DeMars – one time companion of the Doctor, and a man who had died on Nova Mondas in 2101. Nick remembered it clearly.

This was not good.

‘Erm, hi,’ Bradley said.

*

Alf stepped back and looked herself over. She could not believe it. Then it came to her. Summer 1986, and with a month to go before her sixteenth birthday she had been doing work experience in McDonald’s on Oxford Street. She had hated it.

‘Ere, how come you look like me?’ asked the younger Alf. She peered closer. ‘You are me, ain’t you?’

‘Yeah.’ Alf was not sure what to say.

Young Alf grinned. ‘I knew it! Knew I wasn’t from Earth, no way I’d be from that naff family. Time travel,’ she asked.

All the name badge said was ‘trainee’. Alf shook her head. She needed to know something important. The most important thing ever. ‘What’s my name?’

‘What? You don’t know? But you’re me…’

‘From a future where you’ve lost your memory.’

Young Alf looked crestfallen. ‘Brilliant.’ She shook her head. ‘Well, I know what it ain’t. It ain’t Dorothy, that’s for sure.’

Dorothy. Yes, that sounded right somehow. Only there was something else that came with the name. A sense of disappointment.

‘Call me Ace, that’s what everyone else calls me.’

‘Ace?’ Alf repeated the name to herself. She thought back to the jacket that she had left in Earth’s Pride. There used to be a name on the back of it, but all that was left was an ‘A’. When Vasek had suggested she call herself Alf, she’d figured that made sense of the ‘A’. But now… She reached out for the girl. ‘Listen! You have to tell me…’

Alf’s hand connected with Ace’s shoulder and time seemed to stand still around them. They blinked in unison.

There was a crackle of energy and the two of them hit the floor together.

Ω

Kuang-Shi © 2002, 2012 by Andy Frankham-Allen, All Rights Reserved

‘Time Amulet’ design © 2012 by Mark Pilbeam/Frankallen Books

Space: 1889 & Beyond – News Update

More Space: 1889 & Beyond news!

Series One, now with 50% off

Two fantastic offers that run through until August 15th 2012…

Untreed Reads is having a big sale at their store, with 50% off all titles. This includes the entire series one back catalogue – so if you’ve not joined the adventures of Nathanial Stone and Annabelle Somerset now is the time. And, on top of that, you can pick up the series two Season Pass for £10.87, saving yourself £3.20 off buying the titles individually as they’re released.

Pop by the Untreed Reads Store now to take advantage of these amazing offers.

Coming mid-August 2012

The second exciting series of steampunk adventures!

 

Series 2.
2012-2013

Everything H.G. Wells could have written.

Everything Arthur Conan Doyle thought of,

but never published – because it was too fantastic!

 

Following on from the success of the first series, Untreed Reads Publishing is proud to present the second series of six books based on the world-renowned Role Playing Game, fully licensed from creator, Frank Chadwick, and headed by best-selling author Andy Frankham-Allen.

The series begins mid-August, and will be released bi-monthly, thus running for a whole year. Once again we’ve brought together some of the best names in fantasy fiction as well as some relatively new names to bring you a series that will continue to re-shape the popular steampunk universe first created almost twenty years ago.

This series our heroes, “Professor” Nathanial Stone and Annabelle Somerset are joined by two others on their journey through the aether. Captain Jacob Folkard, the commander of HMAS Sovereign, and another familiar face. There is much turbulence and change ahead, as secrets are unveiled, mysteries revealed, with the fate of the British Empire hanging in the balance. Think you’ve seen it all? Think again. Join Nathanial, Annabelle, Folkard and guest as they travel from one corner of the Space: 1889 universe to another, from the conspiracies that eat away at the heart of the British Empire to the underworld of Ceres, watch them as they encounter pterodactyls in the clouds above Venus, join them on their longest journey between worlds where it seems their darkest fears follow them all the way to Phobos and the mysteries contained inside that moon… Where will their journey end? Nothing is certain, except that by the end of series two the 1889-verse will be shaken to its very core!

Previously On…

At the end of the last series, Nathanial and Annabelle found themselves in something of a tight spot. Annabelle lost one of her legs due to the machinations of the manipulative French man, Le Boeuf, on an experimental heliograph station, and Nathanial found himself placed under arrest for the destruction of said station. It seemed things were looking up for them after they helped rescue Annabelle’s increasingly mad uncle, inventor Cyrus Grant, and foiled a Russian plan to secure the moon and the alien Heart at its centre. But as series one closed, Annabelle was disheartened by her uncle’s deterioration, despite the support of Lieutenant George Bedford, first officer of the Royal Navy’s flagship HMAS Sovereign, and Nathanial was left to ponder his own future. He hopes that his actions on Luna will give his innocence some credence, but is concerned about the reception awaiting him on Earth… No one but he and Annabelle survived the destruction of Peregrine station, so who is behind the charges levied against him?

A view from a gantry…

Series two begins mere hours from where series one left off, with the series creator, Frank Chadwick, joining forces with series editor, Andy Frankham-Allen, to bring you a tour-de-force in Space: 1889 adventure!

The Stories

  1. Conspiracy of Silence by Andy Frankham-Allen & Frank Chadwick
  2. To Ceres by Steam by Paul Ebbs
  3. Leviathans of the Clouds by Steven Savile & David Parish-Whittaker
  4. The Forever Journey by Oli Smith
  5. A Fistful of Dust by Sharon Bidwell
  6. Horizons of Deceit by Jonathan Cooper

 

The Team

Series Editor, Andy Frankham-Allen (co-author, Conspiracy of Silence)

Andy Frankham-Allen is a Welsh-born author of many short stories, both for Untreed Reads and the Big Finish’s official range of Doctor Who anthologies. In 2005 he co-authored the last in Noise Monster Productions range of Space 1889 audio dramas, and in early 2011 Untreed Reads published the first novel in his new real world dark fantasy series, The Garden, which was nominated for the Rainbow Award, Best Full-Length Supernatural Novel 2011. He continues to write short stories and novels, with upcoming projects including a novel in Crossroads Press’ Scattered Earth series, and non-fiction Doctor Who book for Candy Jar Publishing, as well the second book in The Garden series. On top of all that, he’s also the series editor for Space: 1889 & Beyond.

Series Creator, Frank Chadwick (co-author, Conspiracy of Silence)

Frank Chadwick is no stranger to the Victorian science fiction field. He is the creator of the Space: 1889 universe, with the first in a series of role-playing adventures, board games, and miniatures rules appearing over twenty years ago. He is known throughout the gaming industry as one of its most prolific designers, with over a hundred published games. He is also well-known in the history and military affairs field, with over two hundred books, articles, and columns. His 1991 Desert Shield Fact Book reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list, but he still lists steampunk as one of his first and greatest loves.  As well writing one and a half novels in the first series of Space: 1889 & Beyond, his forthcoming works include two novels with Baen Books, How Dark the World Becomes and The Forever Engine which is set in the Space: 1889 universe.

Paul Ebbs (author, To Ceres by Steam)

Paul Ebbs has written various Doctor Who related things for the BBC, Big Finish Productions and BBV, and as a TV writer he’s written for such notable shows as EastEnders, Casualty, The Bill and Dead Ringers.

Steven Savile (co-author, Leviathans of the Clouds)

Steven Savile has written for Doctor Who, Primeval, Stargate, Warhammer, Slaine, Fireborn, Pathfinder and other popular game and comic worlds. His novels have been published in eight languages to date, including the Italian bestseller L’eridita. He won the International Media Association of Tie-In Writers award for his Primeval novel, Shadow of the Jaguar, published by Titan, in 2010, and has been nominated for the British Fantasy Award on multiple occasions. Silver, his debut thriller reached #2 in the Amazon UK e-charts in the summer of 2011 selling over forty thousand copies in the process. He wrote the story for the huge international bestselling computer game Battlefield 3, which sold over five million copies in its week of release, and he served as head writer on the popular online children’s game SPINEWORLD which have over one million players. His latest books include Tau Ceti (co-authored with International Bestselling novelist Kevin J. Anderson), Each Ember’s Ghost and the novelisation of the computer game Risen 2: Dark Waters.

David Parish-Whittaker (co-author, Leviathans of the Clouds)

David Parish-Whittaker was a winner of the Writers of the Future contest for emerging talent in speculative fiction for his short story A Warbird in the Belly of the Mouse.  He’s previously written tie-in fiction for the Rezolution miniatures ruleset by Aberrant Games, to be published in an upcoming anthology.  His short fiction has also appeared in Every Day Fiction.   He currently writes videogame analysis and reviews for Geekosophy and Bag of Games. When he’s not writing, David works as a captain for a national airline. In previous incarnations, he has been a naval flight officer, traffic watch pilot, glider tow pilot and aerobatic instructor.  He is a rated commercial glider pilot, and holds an H-2 hang glider rating.  In his off hours, he plays a replica medieval harp for the Goliards, an early music group specializing in 13th – 15th century music, mostly to cement his geek street cred.

Oli Smith spent two years as a freelance writer working on novels, audio books, comic strips and video games for the BBC series Doctor Who. Now he works as a creative producer for London-based video games company Mediatonic and spends his evenings playing board games. He still likes writing, retro sci-fi and RPGs so it looks like Space: 1889 has got him covered.

Oli Smith (author, The Forever Journey)

Sharon Bidwell was born in London on New Year’s Eve. The first short story she submitted — Silver Apples of the Moon— was accepted by Roadworks Magazine. The editor announced her as ‘a writer who is going places’ and described the story as having ‘both a Sci-fi and horror element,’ and being ‘strong on characterisation, and quite literary, in terms of style.’  With a repertoire of twisted tales and a love of cross-genre writing, it surprised everyone (including herself) when she branched out into erotic romance. These works have been critically acclaimed and often described as ‘deeply passionate’. Sharon’s worlds are vivid, unexpected and sometimes intensely magical. She is the author of the best-selling gay romances ‘Snow Angel‘ and the sequel ‘Angel Heart’. Sharon writes whatever her warped mind can come up with. Although her longer works to date mostly involve a variety of wonderful men finding true love…or at least some loving, she’s quite capable of writing something darker, grittier, and even outright twisted.

Sharon Bidwell (author, A Fistful of Death)

Jonathan Cooper (author, Horizons of Deceit)

Jonathan Cooper was born in Wolverhampton in 1981. He started his career in theatre, writing plays from the Birmingham REP and the King’s Head in Islington. He has written extensively on the web on film, TV, video games and other assorted geekery, including a stint producing reviews and opinion for Mirror.co.uk. He has written and produced two short films with another two in production and has had short stories published internationally – he is also, according to the BBC – one of the top 200 comedy writers in the UK. Horizons of Deceit is his first full-length science fiction piece, and he remains bizarrely proud of the day Steven Moffat threatened to set his eagles on him.

Adam Burn has been drawing from an early age, and has been working with digital art for at least seven of them. He is a freelance artist who has worked for Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight Games. He was, most recently, the Senior 2D Artist for Taitale Studios on their forthcoming MMORTS game, Novus Aeterno. Steampunk is a new genre for him, but one he’s finding his way around quickly, and he is responsible for the covers of series two, as well as the revamp of the Space: 1889 & Beyondlogo.

Adam Burn, cover designer

Exclusive: Conspiracy of Silence (prologue)

1.

“AETHER PROPELLOR SECURED and ventral mast shipped, sir.”

“Very good, Mister Barry.” Lieutenant George Bedford, acting captain of HMAS Sovereign, the most modern aether battleship in the Royal Navy, took a quick scan of the bridge instruments and engine room repeaters before turning back to the young sub-lieutenant. “At what would you estimate our drop, Mister Barry?”

Barry had only worn the single thick stripe of a sub-lieutenant for eight months and Bedford hadn’t known him as a midshipman. The youngster had a good level head on his shoulders, Bedford had learned that much about him several weeks earlier when the two of them had dropped half a dozen Saltators—giant lunar red ants—with revolver fire when the monsters had boiled unexpectedly out of the hatch of a cutter on the docking bay. His technical skills were another matter, but they were coming along.

Barry squinted through the lens of the horizontal inclinometer, aimed out the bridge’s starboard observation blister, consulted his pocket watch, waited ten seconds and took a second reading through the lens. He paused, doing the calculation in his head.

“I make the drop fifty-five fathoms per second, sir.”

Bedford nodded; he made it nearly the same. Fifty-five fathoms a second, a descent rate of almost four miles a minute, was a bit steep and on this trajectory would put them down in the North Atlantic instead of the English Channel, as well as scorch the lower hull. “Trimsman, let’s have fifteen percent buoyancy on the lifters.”

After commanding Sovereign, however briefly, no other assignment had the capacity to stir his blood. Damn, she was a fine ship!

“Fifteen percent buoyancy, aye, sir,” the petty officer answered and went to work on his forest of levers, each controlling the angle of one of the liftwood  louvers which covered much of Sovereign’s lower hull.

“Mister Barry, my compliments to Lieutenant Boswell and he may light the coal boilers at his discretion.”

“Sir.”

They wouldn’t have enough atmospheric oxygen for the boilers for another ten minutes or so, but Boswell, the chief engineer, knew that well enough. The sun was still visible above the curvature of the Earth and would remain so all the way down through cloud-free skies. Although it was not yet day in Southern England, the eastern sky would already be pink and the sun would rise full up in the hour their descent from orbit would take, racing as they were toward the dawn. The solar boilers would do until Boswell put the black gang to work, would probably suffice until the last ten minutes of the flight, when they would penetrate the near-permanent cloud and smoke cover over Greater London. No solar boiler yet made would work down under that grey-brown shroud.

Bedford took another look at the bridge, its gleaming brass instruments and polished mahogany panelling, and he sighed. In an hour, a bit more, Sovereign would be down and secure at Chatham Dockyard and his temporary command would end. There was no chance for a simple lieutenant with eight years seniority to land a permanent command such as this—the choicest command in the fleet, coveted by officers with two more stripes on their cuffs and with the all-important political backing and social standing he lacked. No, he would be reassigned. In the past he had always looked forward to a new assignment, but not this time. After commanding Sovereign, however briefly, no other assignment had the capacity to stir his blood. Damn, she was a fine ship!

More than that, she held memories. Were it not for his assignment to HMAS Sovereign, he would never have met and befriended Nathanial Stone, and would not now be delivering him to the police for trial as a traitor and saboteur. He would never have met Cyrus Grant, one of the greatest scientific minds of the age, now reduced to confusion and madness by their experiences on Luna. Most importantly, he would never have met Grant’s niece, Annabelle Somerset.

Annabelle…

2.

NATHANIAL WATCHED AS the line of Russian former captives was led to the steam omnibus waiting at dockside. The irony of their situation and his washed over him like a cold wave. Former enemies of Britain, they, along with British personnel, had been captured by the alien Drobates on Luna, and all had been rescued by Bedford’s daring raid, leading fewer than a dozen Royal marines and naval ratings. Now the Russians would be released, amidst much public fanfare, to the custody of the Russian ambassador, who would in turn express the heartfelt gratitude of the Tsar.

In the subsequent fighting which had nearly cost all of them their lives, the Russians had done nothing to help while Nathanial, with a captured Drobate electric rifle, had held a long, dim tunnel against an alien horde, and had done so nearly alone and with little expectation he would escape with his life. Now British soldiers helped the Russians into the steam omnibus, showed them every courtesy, while a quartet of hard-eyed constables marched purposely toward Nathanial, obviously intent on taking custody of him from the two Royal Marines who guarded him.

Nathanial had at least expected to be met by some sort of government official, have the charges explained. Instead a black police four-wheeler loomed behind the constables. Were they really simply going to pack him up and cart him off to prison with no further ado?

Nathanial looked for any sign of his friends. Captain Folkard, who had relieved himself of command of Sovereign after the disastrous events on Luna had played themselves out, was nowhere to be seen on the dock, but Nathanial spied Annabelle making her way to him on the arm of Lieutenant Bedford, both of them limping. Bedford had suffered a nasty sprain of his ankle on Luna and Annabelle… Months earlier Annabelle had lost her right leg above the knee and now wore a mechanical limb designed by Nathanial and built using Drobate technology over the course of the last few weeks. It seemed to serve her well, the only bright spot in this uniformly bleak scene.

“Is this Stone?” the leading constable asked.

“Of course it is,” Private Jones answered, bristling slightly. “And what of it, then?”

“It’s all right, Private,” Nathanial said. “It is clear enough they are here for me. If you gentlemen would be so good as to give me a moment to take my leave of my friends, I would appreciate it.” He addressed this last to the leading constable.

Instead the man gestured to his assistants. “Seize him and put him in the van.”

“No! Just a moment, please!” Nathanial entreated but to no avail.

Two constables pinned his arms to his side and pulled him toward the black carriage. A few yards away Annabelle cried out and broke free of Bedford, reached out to him. The leading constable made as if to stop her but Jones’s rifle was suddenly in his hands at high port.

“Touch the lady, friend, and you’ll be chokin’ on your teeth,” Jones growled and the constable took a step back.

“Nathanial,” Annabelle said and thrust something round, flat, and metallic into his hand, “take this and remember—never lose hope.”

The constables pulled him away and he saw George Bedford comforting Annabelle as the doors on the back of the van closed and plunged him into darkness. He looked at his hand and saw a small gold watch, gleaming dully in the faint light which entered through the overhead ventilator. He recognised it as the pocket watch her father had given her—which contained on its inside a daguerreotype of her deceased parents; the only thing she retained from that former life.

Never lose hope.

 

Space: 1889 & Beyond series two update

Well, as we’re nearing the start of series two it seems things are hotting up behind the series. First off all, we can announce the title of the series two finale; Horizons of Deceit. What kind of deceit is going on in series two? All will be revealed!

Oli Smith, author of The Forever Journey

Secondly, we’ve got a new author coming on board. Oli Smith, author of the Doctor Who novel ‘Nuclear Time’ will be taking over writing duties on story #4, The Forever Journey

“Oli Smith spent two years as a freelance writer working on novels, audio books, comic strips and video games for the BBC series Doctor Who. Now he works as a creative producer for London-based video games company Mediatonic and spends his evenings playing board games. He still likes writing, retro sci-fi and RPGs so it looks like Space: 1889 has got him covered.”

Jeremy Carver talks ‘Supernatural’ season eight

Season One promotional picture

It’s no surprise to hear that I love Supernatural – just read Seeker and you can see that – but it’s always a concern of mine every time the series gets renewed for another season. After finding it’s feet in season one, creator Eric Kripke made it clear he had a five year plan for the series, and that five-year plan came to its obvious conclusion at the end of season five. It was clear the series as whole would have ended with Sam pitted against Dean – the result being that they both lost. Sam in the cage with Lucifer for ever, and Dean settling down to an ‘apple pie’ life, his brother essentially dead. It would have been an awesome ending. But the series got renewed. Eric Kripke, although still about, gave up the reigns as show-runner and allowed Sera Gamble and Robert Singer to take over. Which they did for the following two seasons – ramping up the mythology and danger to new levels.

Each time I’m concerned that the show might go too far. I worry that the show will end with, as TS Eliot would say, ‘not a bang, but a whimper’. But now Jeremy Carver, who left at the end of season five to set up the American version of Being Human, has returned as the show-runner for season eight. And it seems that his two years away has given him a more distinct perspective. One perhaps he’d not have had he remained on the show.

The Winchester brothers, Sam & Dean. Changing, and trying to find out who they are.

When talking about the previous two seasons, Carver says; “The one thing that struck me [when] watching season seven was I felt like the show got a little bit buried under its mythology. It became a little hard to tell exactly what was going on at times. The longtime fans all deserve intricate plot, but it felt a little burdensome.”

This to me is great news. But not as great as his goal for Sam & Dean; “Part of this season is realising they didn’t just spend several years together; they really matured in different ways. It’s one thing to get in a car with your brother in year one, but eight years later, you’ve both matured and grown. You’re both changing and trying to find out who you are. There’s a lot of that type of exploration for these guys this year.”

Gives me hope for the future of Supernatural. For more from Jeremy Carver, pop over to SFX.

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