August 5th, 2013
Scholars attempting to trace precisely the cataclysm that is known variously as “the Time War”, “the War in Heaven” and “the Wilderness Years” have placed the events of July 2000 at the centre of the mystery surrounding that most ambiguous of events.
For it was in July 2000 that the document known as The Ancestor Cell was published. Nothing is now known of this book, all copies of which were, thankfully, burned some time later, except that it caused the great schism between The Faction and The Whovians.
It is difficult to define early-twenty-first-century fandom politics, mainly because, by today’s standards, both sides appear insufferably patriarchal, but suffice it to say that on one side were placed the followers of Miles, the visionary who saw a vision of a better future away from the constraints of traddom, while on the other were a motley collection of Richardsites, Coleys and Anghelidedes, dedicated to the creation of impenetrable story-arcs.
Of course, the division was no starker than any other division, and one finds among the ranks of the Whovians such nobles as Parkin, Magrs, and Rayner, who no-one could accuse of a lack of playfulness. And yet, the stereotype holds.
So it was all the more surprising to find, fifteen months after he was permanently exiled from the Whovian Party, the return, one final time, of Miles to those who had expelled him.
Miles’ exile later became the stuff of legend, of course, but at the time nobody could know what the future held — or, at least, those who did know kept silent — and so the Whovians waited, anxiously, to see what magicks Miles might produce, now that his beloved Faction, universes-in-bottles, War, Enemy, and all the rest of the acoutrements with which he wove his spells, had fallen victim to the dread Retcon (though like all things in this narrative, their fall was only…from a certain angle).
What nobody was expecting was for Miles to turn in a volume, The Adventuress Of Henrietta Street, that took the form, not of a novel, but of a work of non-fiction — an historical narrative, supposedly reconstructed from documents preserved from the time, set in the late eighteenth century.
We can provide a short excerpt from this book — which has, thankfully, survived the purges that have consigned so many of its contemporaries to oblivion:
Though her exact role at Newgate in 1780 is unclear, it was often suggested that a man had been involved. Scarlette is known to have studied ritualism under one of the Mayakai, and such instructresses tended to frown on the male ability to ‘perform’ in a ritual sense, but it seems that an effort was made to seduce the young Scarlette by a gentleman of another tradition.
This isn’t surprising. In that era, occultism and libertinage went hand-in-hand, and wherever there was black magic there were prostitutes: great libertines were often regarded as great miracle-workers (Casanova, Francis Dashwood, etcetera). It may be true that part of Scarlette’s ‘initiation’ under the sky of burning London was a confrontation with her would-be lover. It’s tempting to think that perhaps the man who attempted to seduce her was one of the opposition, in league with the unholy monks supposedly at work in the tunnels. . . that his purpose was to corrupt her and bend her to his own will. . . but this could be sheer fantasy.
This should suffice to give a flavour of the work, perhaps.
It should also, perhaps, give one an idea of why Miles was no longer welcome among the Whovian party. He was no longer content — if ever he had been — to work within the confines of serial narrative, to — as the phrase has it — “put the toys back in the sandbox”. Instead, he wanted to pour the sand out of the sandbox, fuse it, and create a gigantic prism through which could be generated a whole rainbow spectrum of new possibilities, infinitely more interesting than mere toys.
Thus this novel has the Doctor, as part of an alchemical marriage, marrying a sex worker and having one of his hearts ripped out, losing his Time Lord nature. After the destruction of the old Doctor Who “universe” in The Ancestor Cell, and the subsequent loss of, not just Miles’ creations, but almost everything on which Doctor Who fans could rely, Miles was trying to find something to put into its place. He has the Master, yes — as a Whig opposing the Toryism of the Doctor and his friends from the brothel — but he also has Sabbath, a far more interesting figure who lesser writers promptly turned into the Master redux.
Of course, merely by choosing individual points in a narrative and focussing on them, one distorts the truth. The process of selection minimises as much as it magnifies. And so it is only fair to acknowledge the unfortunate truth that due to publication schedules the works of Simon Bucher-Jones and of Paul Magrs often abut Miles’ in time, leaving them ignored in this narrative.
Suffice to say that while this is the last we shall be seeing of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, as the narrative we are following goes off into multiple interesting directions, Miles was not the only good — not even the only great — writer in the range. Had our focus been slightly different we could be looking at the camp postmodern joyousness of Magrs, or Bucher-Jones’ Lovecraftian hard SF, or Parkin, who so overloads his work with continuity it becomes paradoxically free of all restraints.
They all produced extremely good work (and in the book version of this I may well deal with some of it in an additional essay), but here and now we are talking about the only masterpiece in the latter half of the Eighth Doctor Adventures range.
This is a book about sex and violence, about magick and reality, about the historical process and false dichotomies. It requires rereading, but all the information you need to understand it is there.
Little is known of Miles after his departure. Some speak of a “blog”, and of a war with the Grand Moff. Others say he gave up writing to live an ascetic life. Yet others claim he lost an arm and wrote himself out of history, becoming a character in his own fictions. All we know for sure is that in the months that followed, the names “Faction Paradox” and “Sabbath” were heard in obscure corners, and that history we shall be telling soon.
Apart from that, it wouldn’t be going too far to say that the stories are too numerous to recount here.