Tales from Space City #4

Review by Hafren

Tales from Space City 4, ed Helen Patrick 2002

The theme of this one is "the interplay between writers that email facilitates" (Editorial). There's a pair of linked stories that came about because one writer sent another a gift of a story written in her style, whereupon the recipient promptly reworked it the way she saw it, so that you end up with something the same but different. And a cycle of stories spinning off from one, with writers joining in to create sequels, change the viewpoint and what all. Also some unrelated stories, like Sally Manton's "New Year's Resolutions... Not", where resolve gets tempered by reality, so that "I will not get taken over by aliens becomes "...more than twice a month" and Belatrix Carter's "Two Minutes on the Way to Terminal", some agonising thoughts on what might have been if only computers could keep their bloody mouths shut when people are about to say something interesting.

The Atonement Cycle (title courtesy of Executrix) started because I wrote a PGP, in Avon's POV though not his voice, where he is living in a cell (without a lock), doing what Blake orders him to and is more or less deprived of speech or touch. He doesn't know how long the sentence will last but is sustained by a book of Hans Andersen fairy tales which seems to promise redemption if you pass enough tests.

Some folks on the list protested that Blake wouldn't be that cruel. In my mind, Blake was humouring Avon's craving for redemption, afraid that otherwise he might kill himself. But I didn't say that, because Willa had already asked if she could write it from Blake's POV and I didn't want to pre-empt what she might do. As it happened, her take on it was exactly mine, but with a brilliant twist - Carnell had devised the plan and was overseeing it. Since I love writing him, I decided to take it further. In subsequent episodes, he devised a scenario that would allow Avon to redeem himself and Blake to remit his sentence. Meanwhile Carnell had fallen for Vila and nearly got his wish, but backed off because Vila was scared. Avon found out the truth about the set-up, got mad at Blake but, since Willa was writing this bit, ended up happily shagging him and finally honeymooning in a hotel with an enormous bubble bath. In another part of the forest, Nova could not bear to leave Carnell unHEXed and wrote a reconciliation for him and Vila in the same hotel (and you thought the RPG was complicated?) The Nova story, in Carnell's (drunken) voice, is lovely. The whole thing is an interesting example of how fanfic writers get inspiration both from profic writers and each other.

The same happens in Nova and Executrix's exchange of stories based on "Much Ado About Nothing", Nova's "A Lot of Fuss About Nothing" and Executrix's "More Fuss About Less". Same setting, same characters, same outcome - but it's like getting to the same place by two quite different routes and neither is the "right" one; they're just viable alternatives, AUs. Nova's makes more of the characters' emotional journey; Executrix's version has her trademark dry humour ("the drummers were out in full force. Mercifully, four of the pipers were dead drunk") and gets our heroes in kilts. There's no way you could choose between them and happily, we don't have to. This little exchange is fascinating to any reader because the stories are so good; for a writer it has the additional fascination of being able to watch, both via the stories and via the two writers' comments on them, how they go about it.


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Editor/Publisher: Helen Patrick
Date: December 2002
Format: digest, half letter size, 72 pp. plus inside front cover, blue card cover, center staples

Sally Manton, "New Year's Resolutions...Not?" (gen; S1234; humor; 3 pp.)
Belatrix Carter, "Two Minutes on the Way to Terminal" (S3, alt-Terminal - S4, alt-Blake; A/B, A-Ta; 3 pp.)
"The Atonement Cycle"
Hafren, "Sentence" (gen; part 1 of 7; S5; A-B; 6 pp.)
Willa Shakespeare, "Penance" (part 2 of 7; S5; uc A/B; 3 pp.)
Hafren, "Recompense" (part 3 of 7; S5; uc A/B, uc B/Deva, uc V/Carnell; 10 pp.)
Willa Shakespeare, "Consequence" (part 4 of 7; S5; A/B; 8 pp.)
Nova, "Evidence" (part 5 of 7; S5; V/Carnell, A/B; 5 pp.)
Willa Shakespeare, "Indulgence" (part 6 of 7; S5; A/B; 4 pp.)
Hafren, "Once" (part 7 of 7; S5; A/B; 2 pp.)
"Much Ado, or, The Nova and Executrix Show"
Nova, "A Lot of Fuss About Nothing" (S2; A/B; 14 pp.)
Executrix, "More Fuss About Less, Or, A Story Kilt with Kindness" (S2; A/B; 8 pp.)

Helen Patrick, "Editorial"
Tom Forsyth, "The Other List" (humor)
Nova, Executrix, and Willa Shakespeare, authors' comments on "Much Ado"

Willa Shakespeare, front cover, photo manip, A-B
Helen Patrick and Photoshop, assorted photos

Posted on 21st of December 2007

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