The Time Traveller

Posted in Origins on June 12, 2011 by vbdetective

I think of time travel as a very London concept. I’ll explain why.

Living in London means that you constantly come across the past. The Tower of London is the most obvious example: it’s surrounded by buildings from all sorts of different periods, but never looks out of place. And then there are the more subtle details: faded advertisements painted on the sides of buildings, abandoned tube stops, even coal-hole covers set into the pavement.

If you look at this city from the right angles, you can transport yourself – albeit briefly – into the past.

Time travellers might wish to investigate further: here and here.

Veronica

Posted in Origins on May 29, 2011 by vbdetective

I first came across the model for Veronica Britton in an exhibition of John William Waterhouse’s paintings at the Royal Academy in London. To me, the women Waterhouse painted have a sense of character, of wants and desires that few other artists of his time achieved. To translate it into literary terms, it’s like comparing Wilkie Collins’ female characters with those of Dickens.

‘Destiny’ (1900)  is an obviously patriotic picture: note the prominent red, white, and blue. But I also found something interesting about the woman’s expression. She may be portrayed drinking a toast to departing warriors, but I suspect the moment the picture was finished, she’d be out of the window and swimming over to the ships to join them.

The name came soon afterwards. ‘Veronica’ comes from H. G. Wells’ ‘Ann Veronica’ (a character partially based on Rebecca West). ‘Britton’ was chosen as she has true bravery, compassion, and a deep and absurd sense of humour. These qualities are, I think, what make you British – wherever you happen to have been born.

The Land Ironclads

Posted in Origins on May 7, 2011 by vbdetective

‘The Land Ironclads’ is a short story by H. G. Wells that first appeared around the beginning of the twentieth century. It’s not as inventive or subtle as ‘The Time Machine’ or ‘The War of the Worlds’, but well worth a read.

I first came across it in the excellent Oxford University Press Science Fiction anthology. The plot is fairly straightforward: a new weapon breaks the deadlock between two armies. That’s it. Yet ‘The Land Ironclads’ is one of those short stories that lodged in my brain. Why?

There is the obvious factor of its prescience: it gets the important military and technological developments of the Great War spot on, over a decade before the conflict started.

The thing which caught my attention, however, was the background setting. Wells portrays a world in which nationality, culture, identity, in fact just about every facet of human existence has been stripped away, leaving nothing but war. This is, I think, why the story is still so powerful, and its simple plot reinforces this strength: it’s Wells’ version of Orwell’s ‘boot stamping on a human face – forever.’

A variation on the ironclads will appear in ‘Veronica Britton’. Meanwhile, you can read Wells’ story here, and even make your own land ironclad.

Begin the begin

Posted in Origins on April 28, 2011 by vbdetective

Who is Veronica Britton?

In short, she’s a time-travelling detective from Victorian London, and the heroine of a new e-serial being published by Proxima Books in September 2011.

In long…

… I liked the idea of a Victorian heroine with the intelligence and resourcefulness of some of my favourite fictional characters – notably Miss Halcombe in ‘The Woman in White’ by Wilkie Collins. If you haven’t read this shockingly good book, I recommend you do so forthwith. Miss Halcombe is wonderful: loyal, brave, forthright, and above all, funny. She outwits supervillians; she hangs off balconies in the pouring rain to eavesdrop on their evil schemes; she has strange psychic dreams. A true heroine for any age, and far more attractive than her beautiful but rather Penelope Pitstop-ish half-sister, Miss Fairlie (who is the object of the hero’s affections).

Read all about Miss Halcombe here. That’s an order. More to come.

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