I don’t know how others do research for stories, but I use a combination of reference books and Google. For me Google is a supplement to answer questions after having read the reference books rather than an initial go to.
In writing stories which I hope will be accepted by Black Coat Press‘ Tales of the Shadowmen series I have been reading a lot as it is important to get details of characters and their timelines right. I was aware of many of the characters in French science fiction and pulps but hadn’t read too many of the stories in the originals. The first starting point was Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier’s two Shadowmen reference volumes – both from Black Coat – and the Crossovers books from Win Scott Eckert and Sean Lee Levin. However as the stories featuring the characters are constantly developing by other authors and devotees of the Wold Newton Universe are constantly finding new links to other media, keeping up does involve lots of visiting websites and writing notes. I’ve attached my list of reference books used in the process in case anyone else is travelling on the same journey and would welcome further suggestions. Unfortunately the Lofficier’s giant volume on French science fiction, fantasy and horror is out of print and there don’t seem to be any copies available at a reasonable price online. Luckily their Cool French Comics site has a regularly updated biography and timeline for most of them.
One reason the research is essential is that the work of fitting in characters to the overall WNU timeline often means changing the dates of the original stories. This is sometimes because of internal inconsistencies – Rouletabille’s first adventure: The Adventure of the Yellow Room, is supposed to be set in 1892, but later books suggest a better date would be 1902. Devotees of the Sherlock Holmes canon know how casual Dr Watson was in chronicling his friend’s continuity – sometimes to protect clients and sometimes because he just forgot. One could suggest it is just bad form for authors not to consider the needs of writers 100 years later.
The trick in writing crossover stories for me is to concentrate on the story and characters and avoid the temptation to forget the plot and write out the research. While there are now thousands of characters that exist in the same WNU that doesn’t mean it is likely they would have had adventures together even if they were in the same time period, or that shoehorning them together makes for a coherent story. There are some strange team ups that work such as Peter Cannon’s Scream for Jeeves, but others that seem a little forced. Hopefully that is a trap I will avoid.
This is number 26 of my Lockdown Stories (I lost count after doing two posts at once) – Act of Gods.
It is another story featuring Tom, Simon and the London Institute of Parapsychology. It gave me the chance to delve into further aspects of the way this universe works, but also talk about issues of race and privilege. When I started the series I took on board several standard tropes which sit below even the best fantasy fiction. The main characters are generally “special” with a destiny that sets them apart from the rest of humanity even if they come from humble origins or an outsider group. Norman Spinrad satirised the same tropes in golden age science fiction in his wonderful The Iron Dream – supposedly a novel written by an Adolf Hitler who moved to the US in the 30s and became a science fiction writer.
There are always honourable exceptions – especially Terry Pratchett who used his books to simultaneously question the assumptions of fantasy and the real world. However I have become uncomfortable with the idea that magicians are part of an exclusive club which in my view mirrors the exclusive club of the elite in our society. Having Tom as a voice which challenges that is something I will continue as I write more.
This is number 24 in my lockdown stories – Slay Ride. I’ve always wanted to do a Christmas story, and although this is a bit late, here it is.
It features the Monster Club who were also in Necrocomicon and are junior members of the London Institute of Parapsychology.
There are a couple of more stories I am in the process of writing, but if you have any suggestions for future stories – a lead character, location and genre – I would be pleased to receive them. Plan is that I will edit all the stories in February and then produce them in book form with profits going to a local food bank.
This is number 23 of my lockdown stories – Crossed Lines. It features Simon and Tom again from the London Institute of Parapsychology but only in the framing story. The Crossed Lines were a real thing in the days of turn dial phones and those switchboards where they would put plugs in and out of a big board to connect you.
The plan is still to publish all of the stories as a book with profits going to a local food bank. If you would like to help, you can give me a suggestion of lead character, genre and location which I can turn into a story. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this post or message me at my Facebook page Tim Newton Anderson.
This is the latest of my lockdown stories – The ‘Pataphysical Detectives.
It is one of my stories of the London Institute of ‘Pataphysics – not the real organisation of which I’m a member, but what it could be in an ideal world. Although I’ve tried a bit harder to use some of the pioneering techniques developed by pataphysical writers it’s still a bit of a grab bag of jokes, cultural references and random ideas I can’t be bothered to develop properly, so it doesn’t pretend to be a proper story.
Like all of the other lockdown stories it will be published when revised in a book whose profits will go to a local food bank. I’m still open to suggestions for other stories if you email the genre, main character and location to me at email@example.com or comment at the bottom of this post.
If you do enjoy the story there are more in my e-book The Cat Factory and Other Stories.
This is the 21st of my stories for Lockdown. There has been a bit of a gap due to family issues, but I’m now back writing and here is The Portrait of Damian Black.
This features the London Institute of Parapsychology – which is also in Necrocomicon and The Vanishing Countries of Middle Europe as well as my to be edited novel Masonic Fire or Chasing the Dragon.
I’m still open to suggestions for further stories. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on this page or send me a Facebook message with a character, setting and genre and I will do my best to create a story based on them to be included in the collection of Lockdown Stories which will come out later this year as a book with profits going to a local foodbank.
This is number 20 of my lockdown stories: The Brasher Bat. Sorry this is a week late, but life intervened, and in any case it is twice as long as the usual stories.
This is a Wold Newton story. Author Phil Farmer extended the Game played by Sherlock Holmes scholars of pretending the stories and characters were real by adding dozens of other characters in popular fiction and claiming they are all members of an extended family. This has since been extended enormously by other authors – visit the Wold Newton website for more details or buy the classic reference books Crossovers, Cr ossovers expanded, Shadowmen and Myths for the Modern World.
MY starting point was the fact that P G Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler attended the same school – Dulwich College. Wodehouse left in 1900 and Chandler started the same year. Although there is no evidence they met, I’ve imagined Chandler starting early and Wodehouse staying on for a cricket tournament.
Knowing Wodehouse had written a story The Gold Bat based on Dulwich, which had characters called O’Hara (KIpling’s Kim’s surname) Moriarty, and Ruthven (the vampire in Polidori’s story) allowed me to add in lots of other fictional characters including and ancestor of Giles from Buffy, several people from the Holmes canon, and the cast of the Billy Bunter stories. I won’t say any more to take away the fun of finding the references yourself.
If you like this sort of story look at the Tales of the Shadowmen series published by Black Coat Press.
Number 19 in my lockdown stories. This is one I wrote earlier and have just revised: famous last words. It’s a tribute to all of the post war writers who were lucky enough to have lots of options for their stories and who wrote quickly and efficiently to fill the voracious columns of papers and magazines. Some of them are mentioned in the story and if you want to learn more look at biographies of Gerald Kersh or Jack Trevor Story or read Mike Moorcock’s semi autobiographical fantasy The Whispering Swarm
The option is till open if you want to suggest ideas for future stories – which will be published in book form post lockdown with the profits going to a local food bank. Just send a genre, character and location to me via email@example.com or my facebook page tim newton anderson.
This is the 18th of my Lockdown stories : Necrocomicon. Another story that comes from an idea of my own – particularly the pun in the title. I have a few ideas for other stories featuring the same characters.
Hope you enjoy and if you want to request a story to be dedicated to you just send me a genre, character and location to my email firstname.lastname@example.org or via my Facebook tim newton anderson.
This is the 17th of my lockdown stories: Across the Border. It doesn’t come from someone else’s suggestions but from thinking about how unexpected consequences flow from things – in this case the social isolation of Coronavirus, the hollowing out of cities as people work from home and the consequent changes in property values – especially in big cities like London – and the opportunities those bring for different types of community.
If you would like to give me a suggestion for a story let me have a genre, character and location and I will see what I can do. Email it to email@example.com or message me via my Facebook page Tim Newton Anderson.