3 years, 11 months ago
Unnoun unwrites an unpost about Faction Paradox.
Newtons Sleep is the only Faction Paradox book published by Random Static. It's available to download as a free e-book, but please donate to help them out!
It's 1666 A.D. A spittle’s-worth of dark humour has responded to the drawing power of matter and impacted with a young man's head; the struggle between the holy houses of Christ and their eternal Adversary has erupted among the living
It's January 12th 2008 C.E. A small printing company has just released a book as part of a bizarre sci-fi series supposedly about a Time Traveling Voodoo cult. The bizarre sci-fi series is the true successor to the legacy of that cultural giant Doctor Who.
1802 actually, but close enough for our purposes. Major hit songs of the year include Ludwig van Beethoven's Mass in C, the ballet Hélène and Paris, the operas Joseph and La Vestale, and Thomas Moore's publication of Irish Melodies.
Again, actually it's 1802. So replace those with Beethoven's Second Symphony, the opera Urania, and Franz Kommer's Concerto for 2 Clarinets in E flat major, Op. 35. Sorry. I don't have many sources other than Wikipedia. Phil was kinda lucky with that one. 1807 was pretty good for music. 1802 sucked. While in non-musical news, Napoleon makes an attack on Russia, Aaron Burr is acquitted of conspiracy, the England/Argentina soccer rivalry has pre-season friendly as Britain mounts a disastrous attack on Buenos Aires, and Robert Fulton launches his first American steamboat.
And I tried looking up other stuff in 1802 and couldn't find any in the five minutes it took to write this bit. Sorry.
While in London, William Blake abandons his masterpiece actually he's just sent a letter to his friend Thomas Butt. Heh. Butt.
Meanwhile, in the time between this story and the last,
(or, at least, the last one we've so far covered,) there's been a bit of a scuffle primarily in the Middle East, one in which the United States and United Kingdomand royal sympathies – so often clothed as though of a part with gentle living and good government – conceal the actions of those true and monstrous traitors who have suckled their love of slavery from the teat of theShe-Wolf. All Earthly affairs thus lightly conceal the true conflict that shapes the cosmos, and all occurrences are as portents of the divine, or of the damned.
It's November 15th 2013. A 30-something Faction Paradox fan has just been asked to help a friend she's never met in person with an emergency by writing a guest post for his blog that she's grown obsessed with.
War on Earth presages War in Heaven Round 2. If you believe anything, believe this: As above, so below.
Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except in so far as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.
A change in motion is proportional to the motive force impressed and takes place along the straight line in which that force is impressed.
To any action there is always an opposite and equal reaction; in other words, the action of two bodies upon each other are always equal and always opposite in direction.
Hello. I'll be your guest poster for the day.
"Now I a fourfold vision see And a fourfold vision is given to me"
A friend of mine, Laura, wasn't quite able to get into Newtons Sleep. The prose style was a bit too difficult for her, and she wasn't entirely sure what it was talking about in the admittedly ostentatious prologue. But I think we might have an idea. This stuff is old hat to us by now. We know what it's all about, and we have all the answers. Don't we?
Well. Probably not, no. I mean, really.
Lately cannonballs have flown their arcs, leaving the crystal sky unbroken, while on Earth their traces are all too visible: Englishmen reduced to piles of offal and powdered bone; the ruins of fastnesses, once impregnable, now shattered and exposed; the earth ripped asunder and scorched by sizzling violent impacts. The glass dome of the sky is undisturbed, and Heaven has never seemed so far away. So are proved the observations of the Europeans; of Copernicus, Galileo, Brahe, Kepler, and of freshly-dead Cartesius (whose worlds whirl not by the command of the primum mobile but on dimly-imagined vortices): the celestial spheres are of a distance only God can conceive.
That last link brings us to one point regarding Newtons Sleep. We've seen the writer's work before. Which is oddly helpful and unhelpful. And the worst part is that this book isn't actually about Sir Isaac Newton or even William Blake. Probably. Fuck it, I have no idea. Spoilers if I'm right.
The extraordinary pretension of the prose style aside however, the book is actually rather fantastically good. It's one of those period pieces that really captures the time period involved, and the prose style helps serve this aspect. The book is about the aftermath of the Second English Civil War, and the roles of three individuals in it: Nathaniel Silver, a former soldier, an idealist and a philosopher, who is quite curious about his return from the grave and his visions of "angels" responsible for his survival, Aphra Behn, a playright and spy caught up in a significant amount of intrigue, and Mistress Piper, who has been recruited by that most delightful of the War-Time powers, the one and only Faction Paradox.
The characters of the book, especially our mains, are really well-done, especially Aphra Behn. Who, incidentally, was actually a real person. Bringing to light some of the more obscure figures of history is always worth doing, especially women. I mean, a female dramatist and spymaster in the Restoration. More people need to know about this. There need to be more of these types of stories being told. Faction Paradox, fitting given its status as the more obscure bud of Doctor Who, has a tendency to tell these sorts of stories about history's obscurities.
The novel itself is a story of historical political intrigue. On multiple levels. On the one hand, you have the scale of England in the mid 1600s, with all of the backstabbing that implies. On the other, you have the War in Heaven, as the "Angels" of both sides rewrite history and time around them. Our protagonists, being natives to the time period, have little understanding or conceptualization of time travel or other worlds. And since most of the novel is from their perspective, this obviously presents difficulties to the reader in understanding what the bleeding hell is going on.
So that's where we are with the book itself. Sorry, I know it's not supposed to be a review blog, but just had to get this out of the way. We have a book with a plot primarily about political intrigue and a time traveling war, with a prose style that is so purple it has effectively gone ultraviolet. Of course it's a bit of a difficult read for those either unwilling or unable to meet the book halfway on its own terms. And I feel just a tad disappointed for those that are unwilling because wow is it good.
But we aren't especially worried purely about the quality of these sorts of things, now are we? So let's look at this from a cultural standpoint. And from a cultural standpoint, this is Faction Paradox. A spin off of a spin off. And of Doctor Who no less. Nay, of Classic Doctor Who, with all that that implies. Just take a look at this review
for an example. So what kind of cultural object is Newtons Sleep perceived as?
Well. For those without the experience of the cancellations and The Wilderness Years, the only frame of reference is Classic Who. An it is an invocation in the same manner as the foul and pernicious murder that robbed the Faction of its birthright. The cultural legacy of the wobbling sets and evil bubblewrap condoms still stands strong, swallowing everything that followed. Credit to my friend Null for the immediately previous sentence. And the review's own comment is even more striking: "O'Mahony does his best with the material available, but a few of the cracks still show."
Well. As previously mentioned, we've seen O'Mahony's work before. And, well. The idea that the material itself is flawed, and O'Mahony's writing is the saving grace is rather difficult to swallow given our previous experience. O'Mahony is, after all, the type of writer who tries to portray a character from the sixties in light of the seventies, that tries to, excuse me, "retcon" in aspects of portrayal that nobody in their right mind would ever otherwise attempt to. Because, quite clearly, the writer is not in his right mind. He is clearly a bearer of but a single vision. And his Sleep is not his own.
So Faction Paradox, as a cultural object, is about a bunch of low-budget crappy sci-fi bubble wrap monsters for those without any frame of reference for the cancellation and The Wilderness Years. For those of us with that frame of reference, it's a spin-off of that period, which has itself been relegated to the realm of spin-off, which is most certainly not what it was considered at the time. In the eyes of the Fan, this book and the series commit the sin of being non-canon.
So this book and all the others are in the position of, on the one hand, from the perspective of the culture at large, being too connected to the source material, which casts a shadow on the whole proceeding. And on the other hand, from the perspective of Fandom, the book isn't connected enough to the source material, and it's splintered, unofficial origins cast a shadow on the proceedings. It's a paradox. The Faction itself almost certainly loves it.
Newtons Sleep is another myth to be told. The book holds a rather impressive cultural significance. Something is stirring. The era of the usurper is drawing to a close. Over the next year or so, The True History Of Faction Paradox slowly emerges.
"Tis fourfold in my supreme delight And three fold in soft Beulahs night And twofold Always.
My earliest memory was the Five Faces Of Doctor Who
repeat of An Unearthly Child
. I can safely say that it has driven me throughout my entire life. My story started before then, however. I was born in the United States to United States citizens. An extremely short amount of time after my birth, my entire family packed up and moved to the United Kingdom. My childhood can safely be said to have been a troubled one.
In spite or because of this, Doctor Who was one of my objects of devotion. A means of escape. When Ian and Barbara fell out of the world, so did I, because I found a great deal of the world to be hostile. A family friend, a godfather, was a fan of the show as well, and recorded episodes on tape as they aired. He had recorded the show for a while, and my memory is vivid with episodes and serials that are now numbered among the lost. I haven't actually had contact with the man in a while, so I'm afraid I can't answer why he never turned them in. I do remember that he was in debt a lot, so I speculate some may have been sold, and they may be circulating somewhere. (For the record, I always loved The Enemy Of The World, and loathed The Celestial Toymaker.)
As for the rest of my family, my father and brother were ambivalent to my interests, but always supportive of my choices. I had a friend from school I was always close to, and she, my brother and I would get into no end of trouble. And my mother always kept a keen watch on us, for when we strayed from her vision for us, or partook in philosophies she was threatened by. Always ready to take action, for our sake. The fact that we couldn't see her vision was irrelevant, and neither was the fact that it was never explained to us. Neither was the explanation of what was so wrong with the the Kabbalah or alchemy.
...Sorry, there was going to be a whole section here about my early years, but I cut it because it was too triggering to myself, and I felt uncomfortable with the amount of sincerity I was capable of on various issues important to this blog. "The memory cheats" afterall. It's all fair for this blog to draw the connections between Logopolis and The Kabbalah or between The Daemons and Ace Of Wands, but as a childhood fan of Doctor Who as well as all manner of mystical bullshit, while reading this blog helps in some ways by connecting these disparate childhood interests, overall this approach seems arrogant. Insisting on holding on to the ego while attempting to cross the Abyss.
The other issue of sincerity is that I really don't want to start talking about being abused by a parent, because if I did I might not stop. I don't want to go down that road. Going too far down this rabbit-hole is too all-consuming. Going back would be too destructive.
Which brings us back to Faction Paradox. Which is all about communicating horror without actually depicting it.
One of the key things about Faction Paradox is that it is always capable of going anywhere, of doing anything. Period drama, prison breakouts, political intrigue, sci-fi. This is made even more clear from the sorts of people that have written for the line. No lesser personages than Simon Bucher-Jones, Ian McIntire, Mags L. Halliday, Philip Purser-Hallad, Kelly Hale, Lance Parkin, Kate Orman
, Andrew Hickey and so many more. All of them with roots in the gray tradition.
All with roots in Doctor Who.
Doctor Who as native mythology. Faction Paradox provides an additional perspective on Doctor Who, and Doctor Who provides an additional perspective on Faction Paradox. The one is a distortion of the other, and it can be difficult to determine which is which. Unfortunately, it seems clear that Faction Paradox must stay relegated to the background here. If Doctor Who's purpose is to place the weird and unusual into the cultural mainstream, then by this stage of the historical process, the Welsh series has undoubtedly won the game. Statues that move when you blink, the entirety of Love and Monsters, and Daleks In Manhattan. Faction Paradox, by virtue of not being mainstream, cannot fulfill that directive.
...But then, what about the other side of Doctor Who's history? As above, so below. What is the solution to the problem of the alchemists? Material. Social. Progress. Does the Welsh Series of Doctor Who provide there? And even if it does, does it match up to what Faction Paradox provides?
Loaded question of course. I linked to Liberating Earth
deliberately after all. A whole book written just to get female, transfemale, and genderqueer writers out there, in their own space. And the content of the series itself certainly helps, with most books having at least one well-rounded female protagonist. Newtons Sleep in particular illustrates one of the real women in history's narrative that so often gets overlooked.
Doctor Who has never had a good relationship with feminism.
To this date, the Welsh Series has had exactly one female writer. Faction Paradox has at least two female writers with their own independent novels. And there are a lot fewer Faction Paradox novels then there have been episodes on television. But there are a lot less novels of Faction Paradox then there have been episodes on television. And many of the books are short-story collections, with several female contributors. Liberating Earth consists entirely of female writers. And is being edited by Kate Orman, one of the people that first introduced feminism to Doctor Who. Most if not all of the Faction Paradox writers are publicly devoted to Social Justice in some capacity.
As, indeed, is much of their work. Nathaniel Silver, the liberal, enlightened, alchemical and philosophical man seemingly meant to be our Isaac Newton analog, starts off trying to establish a small commune to develop ideas of a decidedly proto-marxist nature, although not referred to as such. Indeed, the chosen virtue of the Silverites, love, owes decidedly more to some interpretations of Christianity, in particular the first century. (Of course, there are more than a few conceptions of Jesus of Nazareth as a sort of proto-marxist himself, but that's another story entirely.) Silver's first speech makes a statement representative of the desires of most social movements. Not to create a perfect world, merely a better one.
...And yet even this expression of ideology is poisoned when he says, in the very next breath, the words that in the mind of Blake represented the downfall of the historical Isaac Newton: Single Vision. With those two words, the Silverites are damned. Single vision can do nothing else.
Single vision is what it sounds like. The vision and the visionary are essential to Blake, and to see but a single vision is to see on only one level, to see one perspective, one side, one dimension. It is canon, which sees things only in terms of what happened and what didn't, in spite of the fact that all works are equally fictional. It ignores the way that fiction represents things and understands fiction to be, "gossip about imaginary people". The monomyth of Joseph Campbell is single-visioned, in the claim that that all stories represent some primal ideal of human nature. A single structure. Single vision also leads to the danger of a single story,
that only one kind of person is the norm, that there are worlds that cannot exist in literature. Single vision gives rise to preconceptions and stereotypes, blinding us to truth, to the world around us, to people.
Because ultimately, all prejudice is born from Single Vision. All racism, all classism, all sexism, all born from a single perspective of the world, a perspective which itself affirms that it is right and all others are wrong. To some extent this is only natural, as, under postmodern liberalism, the goal is to weed out the worst views and perspectives. But single vision itself is more under the lines of enlightenment liberalism, the perspective that will win out and be shown to be right is the perspective that will guide us to reason.
The single vision of Mary Whitehouse
brought down the Hinchecliffe era. Nothing will bring down the Davies era as it stands. Doctor Who, as it exists now, is a cultural giant, always on the rise. Since its second series, the show has been toying with this, trying to both celebrate and cast doubt on itself. And this is no more evident then in the personages of the current
Evil Renegade, and the companions he takes with him.
The series, thankfully, has adopted at least a two-fold vision for a great deal of this run. But the stories themselves, and the characters, do no always seem to share this commitment. Especially our renegade and his latest emanation. The Tenth Doctor. As portrayed by David Tennant. Ten. Decem. A fallen figure who seems not to have realized it, who glories in it and in himself. His ego is only overcome by his singularity of vision, a focus that would put Blake's Newton or Silver himself to shame.
In an odd way, hypocrisy is a form of single vision, but one that seems at odds with itself. To be a hypocrite is to have a single vision that faces only outward, because to reflect the self is to gaze inward, even for an instant.
It is helpful to pause, and take stock of some of the principles of this project. We do not take stock with "suspension of disbelief" here. We do not consider the series to be "gossip about imaginary people". The Doctor, even and his "Tenth" persona and portrayal, is fictional. Albeit, fiction's land's Lord and Master. As our host has mentioned, however, we don't need suspension of disbelief account for the feeling of betrayal at a particular inconsistency. An understanding of narrative based entirely on tropes, expectations, and interpretation is more than up to the task of accounting for that. What's disruptive isn't any sense of ambiguity in the "reality" of the story, but the status audience expectations. A viewer operating under the assumption that some aspect of reality was in play is surprised by the sudden intrusion of the unreal.
This is the basic flaw of suspension of disbelief and its singleness of vision. It's not that it is incapable of explaining anything. It's that anything it explains can be explained by a model capable of dealing with the fact that there's usually no way to account for a narrative without relying on knowledge that is extra-narrative.
And this is the problem with the Doctor as he is now: The story often refuses to provide an explanation for the frequent about-faces in his morality, nor does it provide a reason why people within the story don't react with confusion or irritation or, in some cases, even anger to the fact that the Doctor pretends to moral absolutism and yet his actual code changes from episode to episode. The Tenth Doctor is not characterized as a hypocrite, he's barely coherently characterized at all, and thus it becomes impossible to interpret his actions in any scene in which he moralizes.
We have no way to track how the Tenth Doctor will respond to any given situation. Therefore his narrative is uninterpretable, and we're well within our rights to reject the story.
Let us now gaze upon his introduction.
As so helpfully outlined, he triggers his own downfall with an arrogant, angry petulance, and rewrites history. He shows off, humiliating a woman that has thus far been his ally, and that he knows full well is capable of better. He has no regard for his own responsibility for the events that take place, from his absence to his own actions, the fear he instills in his speeches and his own failures driving Harriet to desperation. However justified his outrage over her attack of the fleeing ship is, the fact is that the only alternative is relying on him and solely him for the protection of Harriet's entire planet. And mercury does tend towards unreliability.
Let us look at the formation of Torchwood.
And here, it seems, our host makes some major missteps. Even if we accept that Tooth And Claw is not a bad episode, and this quality is somehow an indication that the Doctor is in the right. For which a counter may be that if Tooth and Claw was a good episode it would have definitively shown where the Doctor might have been in the wrong. Let us also accept that the Queen may not have been the viewpoint character, and her turn on the characters his shocking because the audience has been expected to be enjoying themselves through the romp. Fair enough. Except possibly for the fact that the audience may not have enjoyed a thing. And the fact that the Doctor and Rose are unaffected indicates that the criticism was in the wrong. When it could simply be that singleness of vision, whether hubris or love, has blinded them to any flaws in themselves, or each other.
Alright. Fine. As far as it goes. The counterpoints aren't as compelling as the originals. But then the most glaring mistake of all rears itself. The adventure doesn't cause anyone to die. Because this is fiction. And fiction isn't real, and it's alright to delight in death and carnage for the sake of the game. There are no issues with the killing of imaginary people, because fiction's power is in its imitative power.
But that imitative power is, in fact, the real source of moral outrage. Fictional people are imitations of real people. Fictional death is an imitation of real death. And the Doctor is and has been the true heir, the traitor of, the lord and master of the Land Of Fiction. And Tooth And Claw demonstrates how little he cares for his subjects. Queen Victoria's problem is that she doesn't realize she's in a fictional story. The Doctor and Rose do. Queen Victoria is under the single vision that they are peasants in her domain, when the truth is that she is the peasant in theirs.
"May God us keep From Single vision & Newtons sleep"
It's January 2 2014. A 30-something Faction Paradox fan is in about doubt how to end this meandering post.
There's a real problem with being the Master of the Land Of Fiction, and with being a Lord, of Time or War or what have you. Namely that, to quote longtime commenter Andrew Hickey
Lordship and Mastery are based on hereditary aristocracy, the entire point of which is being superior to others because of breeding and background. Racism and snobbery are the purpose of Lordship. From this standpoint, the way the Doctor treats Martha Jones is deeply problematic, as this fixation on Rose Tyler and overlooking of the next companion becomes all of the worst aspects of single vision, race, and class all tied together as nastily as possible. (As a side note, this truth of the aristocracy also brings up the fact that he's looked like a white bloke for fifty years, in turn providing a more than adequate explanation for why acting like he owns the place "works for him").
Of course, the fact of the matter is that the aristocracy emerged from a system of feudalism unfamiliar to us today. I admit to not being an expert on the subject, my field of study is the science of biology. But the basic fact is that the first "lords" were the warriors and knights, ruling the peasantry from the safety of their citadels and demanding tribute in return for "protection". It was a twelfth millennium extortion racket.
To be a lord is to be a warrior. Whether the war is of class, or of time.
The Time Lords have been described as the Guardians of the Arc of History.
This is apparently meant to mean that, rather than control over time, they merely guide the social processes of history along certain paths, towards certain ends, and this is apparently the more interesting conception of the Time Lords. It's meant to show that social progress of this nature is inevitable.
Of course, if it was so inevitable it begs the question of why the Time Lords are needed at all. And the idea that progression along these same lines is shown throughout all of history is single-visioned and a perfect example of Enlightenment Liberalism. That the right view is the one that will win out. Not that the worst view is the one that will die. And, of course, there's the ever-present imperialism involved.
Imperialism is rather at the heart of Lordship of course. "Do I have the right?" Says Thomas Stewart Baker. "I'm a Time Lord. I have that right." Says John Ronald Simm. There are Laws. And people in charge of those laws. The laws are theirs. And the laws will obey them. Not the other way around.
It's 2008. Though nobody knows it yet, the world is heading into financial crisis and recession. The bank lords were faced with the same Enemy every Lord and every Great House must face: a process of reevaluation of the meaning of symbols. One based purely on the material realities. Their vast empires built on elaborate mathematical models of money disconnected from any real assets instantly came crashing down.
But we saw this story before already. As above, so below. The Doctor's love story with Rose, their jokes, their hubris, the idea that it would never have to end. Just the excitement, just the excess, nevermind the realities, nevermind the material impact on others. A single visioned romp through space and time. Not too dissimilar from the single visioned romp through the stock and housing markets that had been ongoing the entire time, and finally came to the same end a year later. Of course, the Lords want us to think that their problems are our problems too. When they aren't. Our problem is them.
But, finally, someone is able to recognize it. To see injustice and identify it. They get together, they organize, they start moving. From many backgrounds, many visions, they speak out. They say "No more". Occupy Gallifrey. With a skull mask, and a smile.
Or, better yet, Occupy the TARDIS. Doctor Who's Single Vision has dominated the mainstream. Not even a narrative collapse can kill it.
Faction Paradox lurks, and it waits, and it tries to show the alternative. It presents four-fold visions, and brings forth tenfold visionaries.
It can't beat the number one thing on television. It can't present any meaningful alternative to something with 10.6 million viewers. And in trying to do so, it can only gain scorn in return.
The problem with single vision is that in the absence of any other way to see, it can see everything. It's the abyss gazing also, and to look at it for too long is to become it. Some other tactic is required.
Share on Facebook