Outpost GallifreyFirst DoctorSecond DoctorThird DoctorFourth DoctorFifth DoctorSixth DoctorSeventh DoctorEighth DoctorNinth DoctorTenth DoctorOutpost Gallifrey
Articles & FeaturesArticles & Features
lawrence miles
Author, BBC Books' "Alien Bodies," "Interference: Books One & Two" and "The Adventuress of Henrietta Street"
Do you feel the current path of the Eighth Doctor series (the loss of Gallifrey, the isolation of the Doctor and his lack of history) is working?
"Working" might be a bit of a loaded word at the moment, now the BBC's cut the schedule in half. But obviously I'm bound to look at the aesthetics rather than the sales figures, so… …so I'm not sure. I don't think things are going well right now, but it's nothing to do with the new direction in the range and it's not really anything to do with fandom either. At the moment my feeling is that popular culture's going through the worst time I can remember, where all the television's worthless and all the films are offensive and there's no music that's even half-decent and there isn't even any kind of effective counter-culture. And nothing exists in a vacuum, so obviously it's going to affect even small-scale things like the Doctor Who books. There's this streak of pettiness in popular culture now, and it annoys me and I think it's starting to infect Doctor Who as well as everything else. I think it all started with LA executive-culture, although it's everywhere these days. You get all these "serious" dramas about lawyers or advertising executives or public relations specialists, and they've all got these petty, pathetic personal problems, and for some reason we're supposed to care about their stupid professional lives as if they mean a thing to anybody else. Maybe it's just because the people in Hollywood who make this stuff have got nothing else to whine about, I don't know. So lawyers, whom I've got nothing against per se but who are basically just office-workers no different from any other clerical staff, suddenly get re-defined by all these appalling courtroom dramas and Ally McBeal-era programmes and made out to be thrusting, heroic pioneers who can win a legal case about the rights of the slightly overweight woman in the workplace and then wrestle a bear after dinner. And it's petty and it's unpleasant and it's ridiculous. If someone tried to do an exciting TV series about a heroic landscape gardener who every week has to deal with the arduous difficulties of modern shrubbery placement then everyone would laugh, but thanks to LA this is the kind of cack we're supposed to be swallowing. And predictably, I'd say that the existence of Anji as a companion is probably the worst sign in Doctor Who so far. Back in the days of the New Adventures… back when we were more optimistic and we knew that the corporate lifestyle was repulsive...she'd be treated as a piece of self-obsessed parasitic vermin, and not without good reason, but suddenly we're supposed to be empathising with her. Let's face it, we've all got to do pointless, boring jobs, it's sad but it's the way the world's turned out. We’ve all got to spend at least some time working in a factory or an office or a supermarket, but thanks to that hangover from Thatcherism, or Reaganism, or whatever you want to call it, we're now being told that we should aspire to being these dull, self-involved people who can make whole epic dramas out of just doing the paperwork. And Anji's a symptom of that, I think. It's not the fact that she's got this job in the City that I object to, it's that she's actually proud of it. This is Doctor Who, pardon me if I've missed the point but I always thought it was supposed to be about the glory of the unknown and the imaginative and the fantastic. There have always been "professionals" involved, because it makes sense that there's got to be an Ian Chesterton figure to give some kind of contrast to the Doctor, but the idea of a companion who's defined by something that mean-spirited and trivial is just… vile. Looking at TV and literature right now, I think the idea is that we're supposed to be ashamed of liking anything that goes beyond normal, everyday professionalism. We're supposed to feel that we're sad wankers for wanting to get away from the kind of stuff that grinds our lives down to nothing, but as far as I'm concerned if you've got a story about Character X ripping out Beelzebub's heart with a pick-axe and saving the universe then it's a story worth telling, whereas if you've got a story about Character Y going to work every morning and bravely doing the filing then you can frankly piss off. And somehow we've reached the stage where the only drama programmes that get made at all, on British TV anyway, are about twentysomething law students sharing a flat and arguing about the Hackenschmacher case as if anybody really gives a toss. For a while we at least had stuff like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but now even Buffy's gone down that "soap opera is good, fantasy is incidental" path and started slagging off anyone who's got a vaguely alternative kind of lifestyle. And while I'm in mid-rant I'd also like to question the long-term effects of children's movies like Toy Story and Monsters Inc, which seem to be designed to turn things that used to be astonishing and remarkable into things that are crass and ordinary. In Toy Story, all the toys magically come alive and then… hold bureaucratic meetings about paint erosion. In Monsters Inc, it turns out that monsters aren't actually strange and fabulous beasts but bored clerical staff who spend most of the day hanging around the water-cooler at Monster Head Office. These films aren't made with children in mind, they're made by "professional" adults who want to feel good about their own petty lives, and as a result the next generation's being primed for clerical work from birth. I think the word I'm looking for here is "evil". I get the feeling some of the younger readers and writers… possibly the ones who were still children in the '80s and don't know any better… is that Anji's some kind of aspirational character, that people like her are successful, go-get-'em professionals and that we should all want to be that way. Whereas as far as I'm concerned, people like her are scum and should have their throats slit. I loathe her. If it weren't for the existence of Bonnie Langford then I'd say that she was the worst companion imaginable, she represents everything I find sick and ugly and pointless and pathetic about the modern media, and at the end of the day these people are the vermin who've destroyed our culture. There was a time when we were proud to do things that were new and interesting and eccentric, the whole point of Doctor Who as a TV programme was that it was the victory of the fantastic over the mundane, and yet now all of a sudden we're being asked to side with the mundane and being told that you're "naïve" and "unprofessional" if you don't. The day I start being "professional" is the day you've got permission to murder me in my bed. So I think we're starting to forget the point, overall. To actually look for that kind of life, where you're stuck in an office job and acting like it's a great heroic victory… it's a kind of living death, I think. To be so badly messed up that you can't even imagine anything better. Although I know nobody's going to agree with that, because apart from anything else there's this idiotic '80s revival thing going on at the moment, so anyone who really remembers how bloody dire things were during the Yuppie Era gets laughed at for being some kind of tree-hugging idealist. But the '80s were bleeding awful, and the last thing we need is a comeback. Obviously Anji doesn't do much in Adventuress, largely because I didn't want to go anywhere near her. I did toy with the idea of a scene in which she has the words I AM HUMAN FILTH PLEASE KILL ME permanently tattooed on her forehead, but I didn't think I could get away with it. Is somebody going to stop me talking now, or what?
Understanding the relationship between yourself and previous authors who took the Faction Paradox storylines (and the Eighth Doctor series) in different directions, do you have any opinions about the developments since the series changed gears?
“Understanding the…”? You mean, I keep insulting them? It comes back to what I was saying before, really. I suppose I feel a bit disappointed in some of the other writers for… no, I refuse to say "selling out". But I feel disappointed in them for not resisting the easy options, the lazy options. I think the thing that gets to me most is the idea of companions, or any characters, being created "demographically". You know what I mean. They're not designed because they're intrinsically interesting, they're designed in the desperate hope of appealing to a certain section of the audience. They're the kind of characters who get invented by Hollywood executives because a story's not going to be marketable to such-and-such a market-group. And that's the most arse-witted thing imaginable, it's the one sure way to stunt the growth of anything that might be vaguely worthwhile in what you're doing. I know a lot of writers like demographic characters, because… it means they have to put less effort into things, basically. I suppose Bernice is like that, to an extent. Bernice was great as a companion to the Seventh Doctor, she worked really well when she was taking the piss out of the whole "what is it, Doctor?" thing that companions always have to do, but at the end of the day she usually just ends up being used as an extension of the author. She's like a kind of "suit" for the writers to wear, she's this sarcastic, likeable middle-class academic and anybody who reads Doctor Who books is obviously going to be able to relate to her. So she just becomes a sort of idealised Mary-Sue, but ultimately she doesn't actually have a personality of her own, she's popular because she's easy to write for and easy to swallow. And nothing good comes from being easy, as far as I'm concerned. Someone once described Bernice as a cross between Bridget Jones and Lara Croft, and I don't think I can really add anything to a condemnation like that, seeing as they're the two fictional characters most likely to ensure that the next generation grows up self-absorbed and self-obsessed. That's probably why I liked Roz Forrester as a companion, because apart from her overall grumpiness she had nothing in common with the people who wrote her or the people who read about her. She was spiky and awkward and vaguely racist, she had a background that wasn't remotely comparable to the background of any of the readers. The writers had to try bloody hard to get to grips with her, and that made her worth doing, it made her a genuine character in a way that Bernice and Anji aren't and I suppose never could be. I can't stand the path of least resistance, basically. From my own point of view I suppose that's why I wanted to do Compassion as a companion, because she's not immediately on the writers' side, although in the end it didn't work because… well, I suppose when Roz was around the books had a very strong editorship, if you didn't do a character properly then Rebecca Levene would make you do its properly. But of course, by the post-Interference era Stephen Cole was leaving BBC Books and nobody was keeping a tight reign on things, so Compassion failed miserably and turned into a second-rate clone of Seven of Nine from f***ing Star Trek, which is a fate worse than death as far as I'm concerned. Maybe you should post all of this under the heading, "Lawrence Miles: his bitterest interview yet".
How likely do you feel it would be for you to return with another book in the range in the future?
It… doesn't seem very likely. I think I've recently come to realise that for the first time I can remember, I genuinely don't have a sneaking desire to write Doctor Who stories any more. And when I say "the first time I can remember" I'm talking about an urge which goes back to a time when I was about three years old. Well, actually… I say that I've got no interest in writing Doctor Who, but does the Faction Paradox stuff count as Doctor Who? I suppose it must do. A Doctor Who spin-off, maybe. I don't like saying anything for certain, though. I didn't write Adventuress because I had the desperate urge to write another book, I did it because I needed a job, and I've never done that before and I hated doing it. It hurt writing that book, it almost literally hurt, because every day I'd start work and I'd secretly be thinking, "well, you do realise you're just doing this for the money, don't you?". I couldn't stand that. Loathed it. Writing's a vocation as far as I'm concerned, it's not a profession, from my point of view it's like a duty and I felt like I was stabbing myself in the back just by starting Adventuress. I felt like I had to make sure it was the best thing I'd ever written, and I was terrified that it wouldn't be, and in the end I can't figure out if it is but it's probably close enough to justify its existence.
Introducing Sabbath, a major new character in the BBC range, is certainly a landmark. How much of the character was yours versus the development from the editors and/ or other authors? Do you feel you hit the mark with the character?
To be honest, I wasn’t really looking beyond Adventuress at all. After I wrote the synopsis Justin said that he’d quite like to use Sabbath as a recurring character, which was quite surprising because the synopsis didn’t really describe him and by that stage I had no idea what he was going to be like. I didn’t even know how he was going to look, at the time. Maybe Justin just picked up on the character because he’s got a very good name for a quasi-villain. Sabbath, I mean, not Justin. I’m not sure I remember any of Sabbath's development coming from anybody else. I think I just wrote him the way I eventually saw him, then sent in the book once it was finished. But I was drunk a lot of the time, so I could be wrong.
Have you had the opportunity to interface with the other authors in that particular range? How have they treated the character you developed?
I like the use of the word “interface”. It makes me sound like I’m going to stick a SCART lead up Lance Parkin. As far as I know… and I’m always the last to know these things, so I could be talking rubbish… Sabbath isn’t going to be turning up as a lead villain much. It’s not as if he’s the lynchpin of some story arc or other, every now and then he just pops up in the background and moves the furniture around. So to speak. I think the only person who’s using him as a principal character in the near future is Justin. He sent me the synopsis of Time Zero and asked for comments, which was nice because it meant I got to turn the tables and go “no, you fool, not like that, like that”.
Tell us about "The Book of the War". What do you intend to do with this collection?
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… well, it's not exactly a "collection". It's more a sort of guidebook. To a continuity that doesn't really exist yet. If that makes any sense. You might have noticed this from Adventuress, but I'm starting to think that prose is a bit overrated. Vastly more happens in Adventuress than in most books of that length, because if you want to create a story-world then you don't necessarily need prose style. If the world works well enough in itself, anything you say about it will be interesting even if you record it as a straightforward history rather than as a novel. The point of The Book of the War is that it's a continuity in a book, it's an encyclopaedia to the War Era universe. It's got a structure rather than a plot, the way history's got a structure or a Bible's got a structure. Some parts of the universe are cross-referenced with other parts, and it all comes together to make up this great big, er… thing. Vision. World-view. Just before I started work on it, Mad Norwegian Press sent me a copy of their Transformers episode guide and it pretty much proved my point. I've got no interest in Transformers at all, I've never seen an episode of the cartoon and if I did then I'm sure I'd be bored stupid, but there's just something irresistible about flipping through an entire 200,000-word guidebook to this entirely unknown artificial universe. Even if the stories on TV were dull, seeing them all laid out in front of you along with footnotes on how the continuity links together is almost like… I don't know… like finding a bunch of old Egyptian manuscripts and trying to work out the complete myth-cycle of the First Dynasty. That's the way The Book of the War's supposed to work, in a sense, although obviously it's a lot bigger in scope and most of the audience will already have an idea how the War works. It struck me as the ideal thing to do with a bunch of the other writers, because if it's fake-history rather than prose then everybody's going to be able to write in the same kind of style. So hopefully it should all come together as one big coherent continuity, you lose that patchiness you tend to get with short story collections. Actually it was a very difficult thing to set up, because… how do you explain something like this to the other writers? They're used to editors saying "yes, you can write a story about X happening to Y characters inside Z universe", they're not used to treating the story-universe as an end in itself. When I first started getting submissions from the other writers there was a lot of stuff coming in that was… well, some of it was quite good, but it was basically stuff rooted in the Doctor Who mythology. You know. There was this sense of "oh, we're doing an unofficial Doctor Who book, well here's some stuff about the Nimon invasion of Gallifrey and I've changed the names a bit so that nobody will ever be able to sue, nudge nudge wink wink". Which isn't the point at all here, the point is that the book's supposed to be a self-contained universe in paperback form, anybody is supposed to be able to read it without knowing what the hell it's about or where it's come from. And obviously most of its readers are going to be inside the New Adventures fanbase, and I'd be stupid to pretend otherwise, but… there was a point, a few weeks into the process of putting the book together, when I realised that the focus really had changed and that the continuity really was taking on its own identity. When Alien Bodies came out the point was to set up a possible new version of the future for the Doctor Who universe, so, for example, there were Time Lords but War conditions had changed them to the point where they weren't immediately recognisable as the Robert Holmes version of the Time Lords. Except that the more I went down this path, and the more I went into the mechanics of the War, the less like Time Lords they got until by the time I came to write The Faction Paradox Protocols they'd turned into Houses - which is a very Marc Platt idea, it's got to be said, rather than one that's directly connected to the TV programme - and they'd become something completely different. So there was a definite point in The Book of the War when I suddenly realised that even if I had BBC permission to use phrases like "Time Lords" and "TARDISes" then… I wouldn't. Because they're not. Because it's turned into a different kind of universe. Like I keep saying, I've always seen the Time Lords as being elementals rather than aliens anyway, so I suppose the point is that The Book of the War uses the mythological elements from Doctor Who but nothing else. If someone from outside fandom compared the two continuities they'd be able to tell that they both come from the same roots, they both use the same kind of folklore, but there's nothing else connecting them now. It's a very Wagnerian view of the universe, really. The continuum's being run by ageless, immortal sorcerers - Time Lords in the BBC version, the Great Houses in this one - so obviously there are going to be ancient sleeping giants and Faustian scientist-magicians and… oh, you get the idea. It's that kind of War, I think. When I was trying to explain the point of the book to the other writers I ended up sinking to the level of a crap TV analogy, which was that the connection between Doctor Who and The Book of the War is like the connection between Star Trek and Babylon 5, you can tell that one's descended from the other but there's obviously a lot of mutation going on. God, that makes it sound appalling, doesn't it? I'll shut up now. But that's the point of the book, basically. New-universe-in-a-box. Hang on, forget the stupid Star Trek analogy. It's like the gap between pre-movie Transformers and post-movie Transformers. That's more like it.
What sort of mythology did you intend to impart upon the Doctor Who novel series that ultimately didn't fly?
Umm… I'm not sure I "intended" to do anything to the series, as such. Somehow I always end up getting ambitious and making everything as big as possible, and because of that I think it tends to look as if I'm working to a masterplan, but I've never really had a masterplan in my life. I do try to put things into books that might be important enough to change the continuity, but that's mainly because books should be full of important things. Actually, no, I'll take back what I said. I did have a sort of masterplan, but a very loose one, in that… I just felt things should be more interesting all round. That was the point of a lot of things I did, to try to subtly, erm, coerce other people to go further with things than I felt they were going. And it usually didn't work, obviously. If I can go back to Compassion for a moment… that was the whole idea behind having her as a companion, to force everyone to go out on a limb, because if the Doctor's travelling around with a TARDIS as a companion then you just can't do all that pointless getting-locked-up-and-arguing-with-futuristic-policemen rubbish that slows Doctor Who down so much when it's done in the books. You can't do storylines where the Doctor gets thrown into a locked room and has to escape before running around various corridors, because if Compassion's with him then all he has to do is step inside her and they can pop off again in a split-second. The whole point was to try to force everyone to genuinely think about the storylines, to force them to scale things up a bit, to be more inventive. You know the process that the Seventh Doctor goes through in the late McCoy stories and the early New Adventures, where suddenly he's not dealing with half-arsed aliens but taking on demigods with universe-shattering weapons instead? I wanted to encourage people to think that way again. Not to go back to the Seventh Doctor stories, obviously, but to stop relying on these terrible, plodding set-pieces. If you've got a TARDIS at the Doctor's side then you have to think on a whole new level, that was my logic. I didn't even expect her to stick around for long, but I thought that while she was there she might be able to push things along a bit rather than just being one of those lazy demographic characters I was talking about before. But of course it didn't come off, because instead of becoming more ambitious the other writers just tried to get round the problem by having Compassion malfunction in every story. It works in The Fall of Yquatine, thanks to the whole randomiser-as-violation subtext, but after that it turned into a case of "well, let's see what's wrong with Compassion this month". It got ridiculous, she just turned into the new K9. Or the new Kamelion. Like I said, writers always take the laziest possible route if you don't put them under the whip. The problem is that I can't normally risk saying things like this, because there's so much ego among the writers - there are so many people who insist on being treated like some kind of "fandom elite", or who insist on being treated like "professionals", or who want to believe in this ludicrous code of conduct which makes it illegal for anyone to say anything bad about them even if they act like complete tits - that whenever I say something like "ooh, Compassion was used really badly, it was crap" people immediately assume that I'm making it personal. Which I'm not, usually. I know that [Paul] Cornell, for one, was very critical of the way I slagged off the other books which had used Faction Paradox and said that you had to give up the idea of autonomy if you're working in a shared universe. And that's true, absolutely true, although he did say it at the same time that he retracted his permission for me to use Bernice as a guest-star, which I thought was a bit contradictory. The trouble is, he missed the point completely. I didn't give a damn what happened to Faction Paradox in the EDAs, as long as the books turned out to be interesting. But they didn't, and that's the real issue. I might have been angry about the way The Ancestor Cell horribly misused the Faction, but I was much, much angrier about the way it horribly misused the Time Lords, and… I can't help noticing that I didn't invent the Time Lords. On the other hand The Taking of Planet Five utterly messed up my version of how the War was supposed to work, it took the Celestis out of the picture far too early and turned the continuity of things like The Book of the War into a complete nightmare, but I've never said a bad word about it because it happens to be a very good book and one of the few EDAs I genuinely like. It's not about me, and it's irritating when other writers have a go at me because they can't understand that I don't think like them and I don't see everything on a personal level the way they do. I've frequently made personal comments about other writers, but only when they started it, and it was never, ever the point. I think what I'm saying is that if you're involved in a shared universe like the EDAs, then anything you do is immediately "public domain" and you don't have a right to complain if things don't go the way you planned them. But by the same token, if the books are part of an ongoing project - and one with a definite "community" reading them, as in the case of Doctor Who - then every writer is also accountable to every other writer and to every reader. And nobody, nobody is going to tell me that some "unspoken code" is going to stop me speaking my mind if a writer does something stupid, offensive, incompetent or just downright dull. Incompetence by writers makes me angry, and that includes my own. I should have the Complete Wit and Wisdom of Sutekh as my sig-file, shouldn't I? 'Your evil is my good…'
Would you have taken the job of editor if it were ever offered to you?
Up until a couple of months ago I would have said "yes, obviously". I've always been very optimistic about the books, mainly because I still think of the heyday of the New Adventures as being my era of Doctor Who far more than the TV series ever was, but now… I don't know. I'm starting to feel that it's too late to salvage anything. When the New Adventures got into their stride they really were the future of Doctor Who, they were taking the mythology in whole new directions, they used styles that nobody had ever used before and did stories that fit the feel of the 1990s perfectly. But for the last five years the books have generally just been cash-ins and fill-ins, and I feel like we lost the future somewhere along the line. Now the BBC's cut the output in half… which is what we always said they should do… and theoretically it's supposed to be a chance for the books to get back on their feet and actually mean something again, but for one thing it's happened far too late and for another the BBC's gone for this ridiculous idea of alternating between EDAs and PDAs. We don't need PDAs any more, if you want "traditional" Doctor Who material then Big Finish is putting it out every month and you even get to hear the original actors delivering the lines. And you don't get half of the Doctors, it's true, but if all you're interested in is gawping over a story which contains Doctor number X and such-and-such a TARDIS crew then you're too stupid to be reading books anyway. The PDAs are about an approach, far more than they are about any particular Doctor-companion combination. A PDA, by its very nature, says "like the old days". It says "filler". Maybe good filler, at the best of times, but by its very nature it's still devoted to recapturing the past. Whereas the whole point of the EDAs is progress, it's the idea of "moving on". In a PDA everything has to remain static, you can't have anything life-changing happen to Jo Grant between Day of the Daleks and The Curse of Peladon because we already know it didn't happen that way, whereas in an EDA you can develop characters, themes, directions and storylines without any limitations at all. Reducing the output should finally give the EDAs the chance to go somewhere, but instead this idiotic PDA-one-month, EDA-the-next idea just means they'll lose even more impetus. Half of the range is obsolete with Big Finish around, and the other half has been robbed of so much of its impact that I doubt there'd be a way back even if you drafted in the best new writers on Earth. I know what the sales figures have been like lately, and it's probably rude to talk about the numbers in public so all I'll say is that I'm frankly surprised the BBC hasn't pulled the plug on the series altogether. And on a purely personal level, I've got to say that… I'm quite happy playing with my own sub-universe now. Let's face it, The Book of the War will sell even less than the worst of this year's BBC novels, but even if it's a minority interest it feels like my minority interest. To an extent, I feel like I've picked up various bits of the Doctor Who universe that have dropped off over the years. After The Ancestor Cell the Doctor stayed with the BBC, but a lot the material that had built up around him since the end of the TV series - my own War stuff, obviously, plus a lot of bits and pieces that had built up around the Platt/ Aaronovitch version during the Virgin era - ended up… well, with people like me. Meaning, with the kind of writers who are, er, more like me than like Gary Russell. It's easy to see how a character like Bernice would fit into the Big Finish line, but even ignoring Compassion I think it's fair to say that the Book of the War universe is the sort of place you'd be more likely to find a character like Kadiatu, and that's always been the kind of thing I'm more interested in. Or maybe even a character like Cwej, although he'd have to be in his "Dark Cwej" mode. So the editor's job no longer seems as appealing as it would have done, say, two years ago. "The Book of the War universe". That sounds crap, doesn't it? I really need to give it a proper name.
The "Faction Paradox" audios at BBV seem to have been very well received…
Have they, though? I’m not really sure. I know a lot of people have said “oh, yes, they’re good”, but I think there’s that undertone of “oh, yes, they’re good considering that they’re audios”. I think they’re seen as being a bit… inconsequential. As not being as important as the books, as not quite having the same depth. And to be fair, they don’t have the same depth, but that wasn't really supposed to matter. I wanted them to be like a voodoo-goth version of Star Wars, I wanted them to be this complete sensurround experience, so even if the Faction Paradox stuff wasn’t as complex as a book like Adventuress it’d feel like there was a complete world to feel your way around. But the trouble is you can only pull off something like that if you’re writing and directing and casting the actors and doing the music. And obviously I don’t know the first thing about making audios, I don’t have a shred of experience in directing actors, so it’s not as if I’m going to go to BBV and say “right, this is how we’re going to do things because it’s my vision so nyaah”. Which means that… actually I’m not sure what it means. But I’m still not entirely sure how I’m supposed to write the next volumes, because I feel as if I should do something a bit more substantial, except that it might backfire horribly and bring the whole project to a grinding halt. Which is one of the reasons that the scripts are now overdue. The other reason being that you've got to stick with a very limited number of cast-members when you're doing an audio script, and even though I finished working versions of Volumes Three and Four several months ago they currently need one more actor than I'm technically allowed. I've had a hell of a time trying to figure out how to re-do the storyline with an actor less, but frankly I've got a bit stuck and I'm so busy with other stuff that right now I'm having trouble pulling everything together.
How successfully (or unsuccessfully) do you feel BBV produced the audios? Did they meet with your approval?
Erm… actually I don’t know, I haven’t listened to them. It’s like I said, I had a complete world-view in my head when I wrote them, so I knew exactly how everything's supposed to sound and how all the lines are supposed to be delivered. And as a result I’m now scared stupid of listening to the finished product. I was asked to go to the recording of Volumes One and Two, but I couldn’t make it at the time, and after that it sort of seemed a bit late to try to get involved. I know there are going to be things in the finished versions that I don’t like, because I thought everything through so precisely that it’d be virtually impossible to get everything just the way I imagined it. I've been told by several people that Justine doesn't sound anything like the way they were expecting her to sound, and I'll have to take their word for it. To be honest, I think I probably see the audios as being “done” as soon as I’ve finished writing them. I know what they’re like, at least in my world, so if I listened to them I’d just have to face the fact that… they’re not really like that.
Why did you decide to develop that particular story in another medium?
Because, um, Paul Ebbs came up to me in the pub and asked me whether I wanted to do anything for BBV. And generally speaking when someone offers me a writing job I'm going to say yes, because if they like me enough to want me to do something then… it’d be ungrateful not to do it, really. I know it's never a good idea to force things, but there was so much I knew I could do with Faction Paradox that it would've been stupid to turn down the offer. I think it was quite predictable that I’d want to do another Faction Paradox story, though, just because nobody’s ever done the Faction properly. Not me, not anyone. Alien Bodies isn’t consistent enough to make it work, and The Ancestor Cell is just… well, never mind The Ancestor Cell. I just wanted to do it right, although given my lack of involvement in the recordings maybe The Book of the War is a lot closer to being "my" version. I know there’s always been something worthwhile there, and I’ve always ended up blowing it before.
Will the second wave of Faction Paradox audios from BBV take the Faction in any new directions? How do you avoid retelling the same stories -- changing time, time paradoxes and so forth?
That's not really a problem, mainly because I've never actually done those stories. I think maybe the name can be a bit distracting. The point of Faction Paradox is that it's a criminal-terrorist organisation, it uses all the death-and-biomass imagery in the same way that voodoo cults and pirate cells used the skull and crossbones, it's a way of making a point rather than being the point in itself. The original idea behind the Faction in Alien Bodies was that while this bleeding great War was being fought between the Time Lords and the enemy, Faction Paradox was… sort of like SPECTRE in the James Bond stories, it was the small-but-well-connected underground operation urging the major power-blocs to annihilate each other. It was all a bit Live and Let Die. The name "Paradox" was chosen just because it was so obviously going to be offensive to the Time Lord hierarchy, it wasn't meant to suggest that the Faction's particularly interested in time paradoxes, as such. Well, I know I'm not that interested in time paradoxes. They're very very dull. Someone's probably going to find a loophole in this, but I think I'm right in saying that I've never really done a story about paradoxes or time being changed. Occasionally the Faction uses that sort of thing as a "prop", there'll be the odd mention of some weapon or ritual which involves an alter-time state, but it's not the sort of thing you can use to build a plot. It's been done to death. The whole point of calling the founder Grandfather Paradox was that I assumed everybody would already know what a grandfather paradox was, it's not as if I was claiming it was an original idea. Is the subtext here that the first audios don't take the Faction in any new directions…? Maybe that's true. With the first story I had to define things properly, especially after the EDAs. But I think the ending of Volume Two makes it clear that the story has to go in a different direction, it can't really do anything else. Is SPECTRE actually in Live and Let Die? I don't think it is. Oh, you get the idea.
Finally... congratulations on your short story "Grass" being featured in a 'best of' compilation in 2002. Have you any future mainstream science fiction or other fiction projects on the horizon?
Well, I’m still trying to find some way of getting into television by writing something vaguely interesting that doesn't involve the characters working in an office, hanging around in a pub or sharing a bedsit. It’s a piece of piss getting into television, if you want to write episodes for soap operas or very dull sitcoms, but I know I'd hate every minute of it. And right now I’m starting to plan that low-budget film I’ve been talking about for ages, although frankly it’s a nightmare of logistics and it’ll be months before everything’s sorted out. Never mind the filming, just laying the groundwork takes forever if you don’t have the money. I'm being slowed down by The Book of the War, of course, which was originally meant as a side-project but which has now expanded to take over my whole life. And, ohhhh, there are probably other things. So I’m dabbling, basically. You know. The usual.
Lawrence Miles, thank-you.