Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Complete Wildthyme III: "Femme Fatale"

"Femme Fatale" (More Short Trips, BBC Books, 1999)

Ah, this is more like it. This is where it really gets going. To coin a
phrase, there's a riot goin' on in this story.

This is Doctor Who recast as the Avengers, obviously, but it's also Who as
written by Michael Moorcock, with the Doctor, Iris et al filtered through
Paul's take on the 1960's New Wave, with the music of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed
playing in the background.

Equally obviously therefore, it's about as far from trad Who as you can
get - timelines bend round in knots, chunks of text are repeated word for
word a page or two after their original appearance, and it's never entirely
certain just whether everyone is who they seem to be (actually, it's very
clear that often they're not - what isn't always obvious on first reading is
who they *are*).

Themes which pop up in later Iris short stories make their first appearance
here - using clones for sex; literally re-writing one or other version of
history; the problems of maintaining a consistent continuity - but
concentrating on that kind of thing only serves to blind the reader to the
sheer exuberance of the prose. This is genuinely unlike almost anything
seen in Who fiction up until this point (Jim Mortimore's 'Campaign' actually
goes even further, even down to using wacky New Wave typesetting styles, but
that's the only comparable text in Who until John Anderson deliberately - I
assume - utilised a more upbeat version of the same style in DWIN's Myth
Makers collections). This is proper literary fiction, with little or no
concessions made to the fact that Doctor Who is, traditionally, aimed at
'intelligent 14 year olds with glasses'. It's very well-written, requires
some thought from the reader and utterly fails to do anything expected.

That's not to say that "Femme Fatale" is incomprehensibly dense or
deliberately hard to comprehend. Instead it's packed full of great ideas
and good jokes - just off the top of my head, there's Andy Warhol in 1968
wondering if he'd agreed to merchandise the Marilyn Monroe T-Shirt Iris is
wearing and which she'd bought in Camden Market in the 1990s; there's a book
written collaboratively by the Marquis de Sade, Gertrude Stein and Flaubert;
Iris writing a porn version of her travels for the Olympia Press; a clone of
Valerie Solanas; Sam and Iris discussing time travel in the Factory toilets;
the eventual destinaton of the Doctor and Mrs Jones...and so on. Take your
pick of your personal favourite.

There are more cool ideas in this short story than in most novels you'll
read - buy a copy of More Short Trips on ebay for a pound and turn to page
317. You won't be disappointed.

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Blogger alienvoord said...

I guess it was deliberate. I had Michael Moorcock in mind.

I've put Tomorrow World on my site.

9:11 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Excellent - I've never read that.

8:24 pm  

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