25 April 2012

The Art of Faction

Incidentally, I wrote this about Faction Paradox on a mailing list this morning, and am reasonably pleased with it. Brief though it is, I thought I might as well post it here, to add a tiny bit of texture to the wall-to-wall plugging.

I think the steadily accreting continuity of Faction Paradox detracts from its core appeal. It upsets me when I see fans on Gallifrey Base replying to some newbie saying "Ooh, Faction Paradox -- what's that? Where should I start?" by handing out a reading list they have to work through before they understand it properly. The correct answer is, "Well, the best books are [give a couple of choices here] -- read those and see whether you like them."

In my view, the successful Faction Paradox stories have shared three things:
  1. A interest in history, coupled with an understanding that it's ultimately negotiable; 
  2. A subversive politics which sees all forms of authority (including that of the storyteller) as fundamentally questionable; 
  3. A syncretic aesthetic based in anachronism, cult imagery and outsider art, which articulates points 1 and 2 above. 
It's doing --- on a wider historical and cultural canvas --the kinds of things steampunk did before it lost all interest in intelligent discourse and became a fashion statement.

Some of the best Faction Paradox stories have combined all this with an exhaustive knowledge of Faction continuity (Newtons Sleep being the obvious example), while others (Warlords of Utopia, Erasing Sherlock) have basically ignored it. Both approaches work fine.

In other words, if what you like about Faction Paradox is voodooesque cultists standing around posing in period dress and skull-masks -- it's OK. You get it. That's fine.


  1. Absolutely agreed, here. I love the fact that if you read the first few Faction novels proper without having read The Book Of The War, you wouldn't imagine there was any connection at all between them, except for the authors clearly all having read I, Claudius and being interested in political conspiracies. The closer the books get to being 'about' Faction Paradox itself, the less interest I have.

  2. So, the audio dramas are the worst Faction stories?

  3. No, I wouldn't say that. I think the Eleven-Day Empire (the setting) embodies all of the above factors, so the first two audios are great by default. I also think Egyptian myth counts as "history" in a cultural sense, at least, and negotiating and subverting both those traditional myths and the Doctor Who account of them is the agenda of the Magic Bullet stories.

    The other four I'm less keen on, but two of them also have a strong interest in history. The pair I like least don't.


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