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.

Trailers of the City #3

This is the third trailer for the forthcoming short-story anthology Tales of the City, set in the City of the Saved and available for pre-order from Obverse Books. Here's the biog of Juliet Kemp, the author of the third story in the book:
Juliet Kemp lives in London and writes things down a lot. She has had previous stories published in the anthology Hellebore and Rue and in Eclectic Flash. She has a website at http://julietkemp.com where she talks about plants, building things out of pallets, and anything else that catches her interest.
I've known Juliet for some years now, and have been impressed by the quality of the fiction of hers I've read. Two of her stories, 'Things Found on a Beach' and 'Falling after Icarus', are available to read online (you can even buy the latter for the Kindle), so you can judge for yourself as well. (Juliet also writes articles and technical manuals for computer programmers, which I admit I haven't attempted to read.)

Her Tales of the City story, 'Lost Ships and Lost Lands', is a traveller's tale, a shipboard adventure with a twist, taking place in a District of the City unlike any we've seen before. The first sentence goes like this:
     The train rattled away and back out of Cerulean District, leaving Brianna alone on the open platform.
(You may spot a minor continuity issue here with Of the City of the Saved..., which I've taken the bold editorial step of ignoring completely.) 

To read the rest of the story, order Tales of the City from Obverse Books.

[NB: The splendid new City of the Saved logo is by Obverse's equally splendid in-house graphic designer, Cody Quijano-Schell, and will be appearing on my website shortly.]