Writing is a funny old pastime when you think about it. It is at once the most solitary of pursuits while at the same time it throws people together into weird looking clusters; like those new-fangled breakfast cereals where grains and nuts are glooped together with honey (supposedly honey, corn syrup more like). And so my own story goes. The sticky substance of collaboration stretched sweet tendrils and drew me fast, into a world I had no inkling of before. And there, in the milky morning bowl of writerliness, I found some kindred souls (and overstretched a simile).
Faction Paradox (FP) is a fictional universe (multiverse, is perhaps more accurate) created by Lawrence Miles. It is based on the worlds created in the BBC TV series Dr Who, particularly the struggles and wars fought by Timelords and other dastardly shenanigans throughout history. FP stories are wide-ranging and varied. Time-travel can take you anywhere, after all. There is a defined nucleus to all the stories, the city of London and the mythical 11 Day Empire which is home to the time-travellers. There’s a lot more too it, of course, which you can read about here, if you want.
And so Jay Eales, Obverse Books’ editor of the story collection Burning With Optimism’s Flames asked me to contribute. Jay and I are both long-term members of The Speculators writers group and had invited me (and fellow ‘Speccie’ Jim Worrad) to contribute stories. For me it was an honour, a chance to collaborate with Jay and contribute to my first ever short story anthology. I’m so glad I did.
Burning With Optimism’s Flames is an excellent read. All the stories are good, although, of course I have my personal favourites. Stephen Marley’s ‘All the Fun of the Fear’ set in an Ealing comedy version of 1950s London made me chuckle and had a great little plot in there, driving the story. Cate Gardner’s Elizabethan tale of doom and ravens is another highlight. Alan Taylor’s story is also dark and weird and its description of the banalities of office life struck a chord too. Philip Purser Hallard’s story bubbled with ideas esoteric and doctrinal and reminded me of Philip K Dick’s last book, ‘The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. Helen Angrove’s epistolary into the travails of an anti-Darwinist explorer. A mention too to Jim Worrad whose dazzling prose made an alien world come alive (It also reveals his background as a classicist, methinks). But as I say, those are the ones that I liked best at the first few readings. I shall, however, keep a lookout for further works by all these authors and am now hooked by the Faction and its devilish paradoxes. Cheers, Jay!
A special mention has to be made of the fantastic cover illustration made by Paul McCaffrey, especially as my wee story ended up being featured in the largest Russian Doll!