A second volunteer stands – another of the World’s regulars, a florid, grossly fat man in a tailored suit that could clothe a double bed. He is immediately joined by the floating mikedrone. Finding no other calls on his attention, Akroates leans forward on his bar, eager to hear what story this new teller has to tell.Ian Potter is an author I've had my eye on for some time.
‘People used to say there were just seven stories, didn’t they? Well, they did in my day. When you tried to pin down what the seven actually were they’d usually get a bit vaguer.
‘As a matter of fact there’s just the one story. You just have to choose how you slice it.’
(That's not him in the description above, by the way. That's the narrator of his story, Lewis Greaves. And it's not Ian's description, either, it's mine -- though Lewis's words are Ian's own. This may make more sense later.)
Ian's an accomplished writer of radio comedy, drama and documentaries, as well as a historian of television, but I know him from his splendid short fiction: five short stories in Doctor Who anthologies and two in previous Obverse Books collections, including the excellent Faction Paradox story "The Story of the Peace" in A Romance in Twelve Parts. All his stories are well worth reading, but my favourite is probably "Erato: Confabula" in Short Trips: The Muses, an extended misdirection which just happens also to be a sustained piece of deft and convincing worldbuilding. As it turns out, the story's true interests lie altogether elsewhere.
Ian was one of the first authors I asked to write a City of the Saved story (after he'd contributed one of the guest drabbles to my own "A Hundred Words from a Civil War"), and although for various reasons his submission then didn't quite fit with the others in Tales of the City, I intended all along to resurrect it for More Tales.
It has the marvellous title 'The Long-Distance Somnambulist', and it's midway between bildungsroman and detective story. It's about how people -- in this instance, a historian, a murder victim and one other -- adapt to eternal life.
(Ian himself disagrees with me about his merits, or so it seems. Here's his author biog:
Ian Potter is a loathsome human being whose Wikipedia entry contains Qliphothic snares for the unwary. You have vowed to destroy him should the chance arise. I will be believed to have had no part in it. When he was alive he was mainly older than he seems now and wrote jokes, plays, short stories and factual things no one much cared about. He’s most famous for that really bad thing that kicked off after he died that he’d no idea he set in motion. It was definitely his fault though. He hides in darkness underwater now. When you find him, understanding these words means you’ll know what to do.No, I don't know what "Qliphothic" means either.)