Blair Bidmead | FACTION PARADOX: WEAPONS GRADE SNAKE OIL

PrintE-mail Written by J. R. Southall

Doctor Who spin-off Faction Paradox turns twenty this year. Blair Bidmead, the author of the novel that coincides with the anniversary, talks about his book Weapons Grade Snake Oil, and about the Faction Paradox themselves.

STARBURST: What is the Faction Paradox?

Blair Bidmead: Faction Paradox is a nefarious, criminal, time-travelling, voodoo death cult, who first appeared, twenty years ago, in several Doctor Who books, but have since diverged into their own series of novels.

Their first appearance was in the book Alien Bodies by Lawrence Miles. A sort of counter-culture sect, founded by a heretical Time Lord known as “Grandfather Paradox”, the Faction sneer at old-fashioned ideas of non-interference with the prescribed course of history. Always twisting events to their own advantage, usually from behind the scenes. They are similar to the Bavarian Illuminati of pop-culture conspiracy theory. Being as they exist throughout all history, their stories can happen anywhere, at any time and focus on any set of protagonists. This broad canvass has encouraged a diversity to the Faction Paradox novels, and also goes some way to explaining why there is still such an interest in them, twenty years on.

How has the idea evolved?

Faction Paradox was written out of the ongoing Doctor Who books series and Lawrence Miles felt that there were more stories to tell with the concept. He launched the first Faction Paradox range, with Mad Norwegian Press, and wrote the initial book in that series, This Town Will Never Let Us Go. Over the years, the brand has moved between publishers, and currently resides with Obverse Books. Given the nature of the subject, there is a tendency to have the Faction themselves slightly tangential to the stories that bear their name. On this occasion, Obverse was very keen to have them front and centre in my novel. Weapons Grade Snake Oil has a large chunk of the story set within Faction Paradox’s home, the Eleven Day Empire, a shadowy alternate London that exists outside space and time. I’ve explored new areas of the Empire and revealed previously unmentioned branches of the organisation. The overall plot involves the drawing together of a band of disparate, antagonistic individuals, from across history, in order to stage a daring heist. There are nods to Faction stories of the past, and if you know your Doctor Who, there may also be the odd allusion to things you might not have expected. That said, you don’t need to know anything about either franchise to follow and enjoy the story.

So how did you get involved?

I had already written a short story in the anthology, Faction Paradox: A Romance in Twelve Parts a few years ago. It was called Now or Thereabouts and it revolved around the initiation of new recruits. The main character was a young woman from contemporary London, called Ceol. Weapons Grade Snake Oil is an ensemble piece, but the woman who was once called Ceol has since escaped the Faction, faked her own death and created a new identity for herself. She’s now called Sojourner. She’s in her fifties, a grandmother and an inspirational political leader on Pluto, in the far future. Just as everything for her is utterly perfect, the Faction reappears in her life and force her to come back for “one more job.”

And was it an honour to be asked to write the twentieth-anniversary novel?

It’s amazing. My first exposure to Faction Paradox was the Doctor Who book The Taking of Planet 5 by Mark Clapham and Simon Bucher-Jones. This was around the turn of the millennium. I was a bit of a lapsed Who-book reader at the time, I hadn’t read one for years. But that novel blew me away. I was so drawn to the ideas in that story, especially the Faction themselves, it dragged me back in. I tracked down all the previous books I’d missed and devoured them. Now, all this time later, to be able to add my link to the chain, it’s an incredible honour. There are a couple of other Faction Paradox books to be published, during this anniversary year though. Dale Smith’s novel, Spinning Jenny is imminent, and the aforementioned Simon Bucher-Jones is editing a new anthology. It’s a great time to get involved with all things paradoxical. 

Weapons Grade Snake Oil is available from http://obversebooks.co.uk/product/wgso/.


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