On 22nd November 1963, the God-King of the United States of America, President John F. Kennedy, was killed with a bullet through the brain. As the man in charge of an attempted invasion of Cuba and a supporter of the brutal South Vietnamese regime of the time, it’s hard to argue that he didn’t have this coming to him; but he was the Boy-King, a symbol of youth just as youth culture was taking off in his country, and a symbol of hope. He was killed, of course, by Lee Harvey Oswald, who was generally considered to be a bit of a weirdo.
On 23rd November 1963, the first episode of Doctor Who aired on BBC television. Starring a time traveller, it was initially supposed to be an educational show – travelling to the past to teach history, and travelling to the future to teach science – but this… didn’t exactly last long. There was a ‘no bug-eyed monsters’ mandate, but the second (or third, depending on how you count things) serial was The Daleks, and starred these guys:
This show continued until 1989. In that time the lead character – the Doctor – repeatedly changed actors by ‘regenerating’ into different bodies (with different personalities); it was also decided that he was a member of a two-hearted species known as Time Lords, from the planet Gallifrey.
After the cancellation of the show, there was a line of novels. As is the nature of these things, these books were for what you might call the more committed fans of the show – so there was a fair amount of focus on rather nerdly obsessive-worldbuilding stuff, like the history of the Time Lords. Turns out they’re not born, but rather artificially created from ‘looms’. The Doctor is revealed to be the reincarnation of a Very Important Person with a Destiny and so on.
In 1996 there was an attempt to bring back the show with a TV movie. This, of course, didn’t work, but it did give the writers of those books a new Doctor to play around with – one who, with only 89 minutes of screen time to his name, they could mould into whatever shape they wanted. It was out of this period – when it looked like the big chance of reviving Doctor Who had failed and it was doomed to perpetual obscurity – that writer Lawrence Miles created Faction Paradox and the War.
The Second War in Heaven was between the Time Lords of Gallifrey – known as the Great Houses of the Homeworld – and the mysterious Enemy, who were/are/will attempt to take Gallifrey’s place at the centre of the universe (the ‘Spiral Politic’). This was/is/will be a war in time, but it isn’t necessarily the same as the Time War referred to in the 2005 revival of the show (though, with a little creativity, the two can be smudged together).
Faction Paradox are a time-travelling voodoo cult, a degenerate offshoot of the Time Lords. They dress in skull masks and delight in contrariness. They also relish puns: their founder, Grandfather Paradox, erased himself from existence, creating a grandfather paradox. Their headquarters is the Eleven-Day Empire, built within the eleven days that were lost when British Empire switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calender. And so on.
<We – the Faction, the Parliament – we’re all about power, dominance, and authority. Specifically, we’re about uprooting power, setting fire to dominance and pissing on the ashes of authority. We did it to the Great Houses back in the Universe, and we’ll do it here in the City to anyone who needs it.
<Of course, some of us have to carry a plastic bottle of piss round with us, but it's worth it.
<If gods exist, it's our job to uninvent them. We'll take away their divinity and say to them, <I hope you brought enough for everybody.>>
They’re a bunch of weirdos living in the margins of society taking potshots at gods and kings. Faction Paradox are Lee Harvey Oswald.
Lawrence Miles aka ‘Mad Larry’, the creator of Faction Paradox, had a falling out with the people in charge of the Doctor Who book line, so he took his toys and went home. There are audio plays, a short-lived comic book, and – most importantly – a range of novels. The Faction Paradox series (franchise? Universe?) is a continuation of many of the story/setting threads of the Doctor Who novels featuring them, but with all the BBC-owned content filed down. The Doctor becomes the ‘Evil Renegade’, and is only rarely mentioned at all; Gallifrey becomes the Homeworld; the Master becomes the War King. The Faction Paradox literature exists in the margins of Doctor Who, Faction Paradox exists in the margins of this marginal series, and the best of Faction Paradox takes place in the most obscure, marginal little corners of that – how does the War in Heaven affect a smallish English city? What about 17th-century England? Is comic book writer Alan Moore a magician working his craft through prison tattoos??
All very important questions, I’m sure. There’s also batshit insane stuff like ‘all the Earths where Rome never fell fight against all the Earths where the Nazis won the war’.
I’m making it sound a lot more pulpy than it normally is. Faction Paradox tends towards the more cerebral, Philip K. Dick sort of science fiction; these books are some of the best science fiction that I’ve ever read. Overall, as a line, it’s probably stronger than any other ‘franchise’ (universe?). The hit rate is certainly higher than any of the various Star Wars/Star Trek/whatever spin-off Expanded Universes. At the very least, it has plenty of ideas that I’m happy to plunder for my own work.
If any of this sounds remotely interesting, I’d recommend having a look at that Newtons Sleep link – that’s a totally legal, free way to read one of the better Faction Paradox books.