Split Worlds

It's been an exhausting week.  I've been plotting an episode of a new TV project, and writing Wolverine #8, which I think is one of the best single comics I've been responsible for.  I may actually give myself tomorrow off, and bake a cake.  Tom had three more inoculations yesterday, and was upset for a couple of minutes, but remains a very brave boy.  We've been enjoying our long daily walks, when he goes to sleep and I listened to audiobooks and podcasts, including, this week, Grant Morrison's rather wonderful Supergods.

Next Wednesday is the release day of Wolverine #1, and I'll be signing it at (and you can get an exclusive variant cover from), London's Forbidden Planet, from 6pm.  The last of my week of interviews about the project deals with Wolverine's friends, and can be found here.

Tonight is rather special for a friend of mine, Eddie Robson, in that his BBC Radio 2 SF comedy series, Welcome to our Village, Please Invade Carefully, starring Hattie Morahan, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Peter Davison, begins at 9.30pm.  I found the pilot episode utterly delightful.  You can find deleted scenes and see the cast here.  (US readers will indeed be able to hear it when it's on the BBC iPlayer, radio being more amicable than TV in that regard.)

There's a new Kickstarter project I'd like to bring to your attention today: the Arthur C. Clarke Award people are holding a one day conference at the Royal Society on May 1st, called Write the Future, and they're selling tickets and gathering revenues through this very modern means.  You can see the scheme in full here. And here's the video...



It's interesting to note how many people have opted for one of the more expensive pledge rewards, £100 getting you Clarke Director Tom Hunter's skills in social media, marketing and PR.  I should think this project will easily get the £2001 (ahem) it seeks in the next 25 days.  

I'm very enthusiastic about another Kickstarter project, Goldtiger by my friends Jimmy Broxton and Guy Adams.  They've recently added pictures of the rather wonderful faux-1960s merchandise a pledge can get you to the site, and they've been out and about promoting it, both of them being interviewed and Jimmy answering Nine Questions (some of which are about our time together on Knight and Squire here. Goldtiger looks to be an excellent recreation of the feel of 1960s British newspaper strips, and has a fashionable zing about it.  Do check it out.  

I had a good time at the Sci-Fi Weekender, hosting a very warm and happy panel about worldbuilding in novels, having drinks with many old friends and new and running another game of Just A Minute...



(Photo by Aidan Moran.)  From right, that's Emma, Gareth, scorer Fran Terminiello, me, Stacia and Chris.  Gareth beat Emma by one point, and a good time was had by all.

But speaking of Emma Newman, it's a big day for her too, and I'm pleased to say she's chosen this blog to host the final installment of what's been an enormous project for her: her Split Worlds stories.  I'll let her explain it herself.  Take it away, Emma...

"In 2013 Angry Robot books will be publishing three Split Worlds novels, the first is out in the UK today and is called Between Two Thorns.  I've been releasing a new story every week for a year and a day, hosted on a different site every time, all set in the Split Worlds.  I wanted to give readers a taste of my kind of urban fantasy and have the opportunity to build in secrets and extra bits for those people who, like me, love the tiny details.  It's also been a major part of my world-building work alongside writing the novels.

This is the fifty-fourth – and last - tale in the year and a day of weekly short stories set in The Split Worlds.  If you would like me to read it to you instead, you can listen here.  You can find links to all the other stories, and the new ones as they are released here.  You can also sign up to get the stories delivered to your inbox, one per week for a year and a day.

The Ugly Wish

Cathy leaned out of the open window further than she was allowed. She could smell honeysuckle and car fumes. The low rumble of the city's traffic comforted her. She wished she could see it from her bedroom window but there was nothing except the beautiful garden with its perimeter of dense hedges and tall trees. A vapour trail scratched a white line in the blue above her and she wanted to be on the plane making it.

A knock on the door made her pull back in and sit on the bed, but when she saw it was only her brother she was back at the window in moments.

"Nervous?"

She nodded. "Do you miss it Tom?"

"What?"

"Mundanus."

He came to her side, so tall now. His shoulders filled the remaining width of the window. He drew in a deep breath and smiled. "Sometimes. It gets easier. There's less pressure on me to stay in the Nether of course."

"I thought you'd have left for your Grand Tour by now."

"I do miss the birdsong in the morning."

He was holding something back. "Don't you want to see the world? I'd do despicable things for the chance to leave Bath."

He rested a hand on hers. "I wasn't ready to leave yet."

With a sharp stab of guilt, Cathy realised why. "You don't need to stay for me."

He kissed the top of her head. "I'd worry too much. I want to see you settled. Somewhere else."

She looked away from the sadness in his eyes and focused on the poppies waving in the breeze below. She shivered. "Were you nervous?"

"A little, yes."

"What's the Patroon like?"

"Stern. Like father but much older. The oldest person I've ever seen. He has rather large ears. Don't stare at them like I did."

"Did he give you what you asked for, then and there?"

"Cat," he prodded her ribs. "You know we're not supposed to talk about that."

The door opened with no warning knock and her younger sister, Elizabeth, entered in a bouncy froth of lace and ringlets. "It's today! Oh, hello Thomas. I woke so early. Are you excited Catherine?"

"No." She didn't want to participate in her dramatics.

"I suppose it's because you're so ancient," Elizabeth flopped onto the bed. "Fancy, eighteen years old! You must be the oldest debutante in the history of Aquae Sulis!"

"Elizabeth." her name emerged as a rumble from Tom's mouth.

"It's only the truth! Mama says I'm so accomplished I'll debut at sixteen."

"So you'll be married off a whole two years earlier, lucky you," Cathy replied but Elizabeth had never grasped sarcasm.

"I know exactly what I'm going to wish for. Do you?"

"You know the rules, Elizabeth," Tom said and she pouted at him.

"What are you doing here anyway? You had your coming of age ceremony months and months ago."

Tom shared a look with Cathy that she'd missed since he left, the one expressing disbelief they could be related to such an empty-headed doll of a girl.

"I came to see if Cathy was-"

"Golly! I'll be the only one left in the mundane wing of the house! I hope they find a new governess for me soon, I shall be lonely. Hopefully she'll be better than the last one."

Cathy leaned further out of the window, hoping the breeze would cool the urge to punch Elizabeth into next week.

"She doesn't understand," Tom whispered to her.

"She never will, the spiteful little b-"

"Time to get dressed, Catherine." Her mother's announcement from the doorway made her bang her head on the window frame.

Tom embraced her and led Elizabeth out of the room as she chattered about the gown she wanted to wear for her ceremony. Cathy followed her mother into the main part of the house, disliking the feeling of crossing the threshold into the Nether. It was like walking through spider webs and the air seemed stale on the other side. It was really happening. Would she be able to do as she planned? Could she see this through?

As tradition dictated, she was dressed by her mother instead of the maid and it was deeply unpleasant. Her mother's critical eye scanned her appearance at every stage, from chemise, then corset to ivory gown. Poppies were embroidered around the top of the bodice and the edge of the train. It was the grandest dress she'd ever worn and she felt just as fake as the stitched flowers.

"Have you decided what to wish for?" Her mother asked.

"I think so."

"It's a difficult choice," she said. "But having reflected upon it, I think you should ask the Patroon for beauty. You're so plain it's a necessity. Whilst I feared you'd be unable to survive without wishing for grace, I think that could be overlooked if your face was more pleasing to the eye. And grace charms are less expensive and easier to maintain."

Cathy looked down at the rug. At that moment she would have wished for another mother.

Once the maid had arranged her hair - and her mother had disapproved of how it refused to curl and stay pinned where it should – Cathy was led to the drawing room where her father was waiting. It was hard to control her shivering. Then the urge to giggle began to build so she bit her tongue in the hope the pain would quell it.

"Have you made your decision, Catherine?" he asked.

"She's going to ask for beauty," her mother replied.

Cathy just kept looking down. If she looked at him, if she opened her mouth, she feared what she would give away.

"Remember what we've taught you," he said. "This is the only time in your life that you'll be given such a powerful wish. I'm glad you've made a sensible choice."

She clenched her fists as he kissed her forehead, bristling at the contact but it was over soon enough. He went to the cheval mirror, pressed the signet ring bearing the family emblem against the glass and whispered a Charm.

"Don't forget to curtsey," her mother whispered as the glass began to ripple like the surface of a pond. "And for all our sakes be respectful. He's the head of the family and this is-"

"I know," she cut her off, unable to bear the reminders a moment longer.

Cathy could see a different room in the mirror now, one larger than that she stood in, with elaborately carved wooden panels covering the walls. The Patroon was behind a desk and she couldn't help but stare at his ears.

Her father extended a hand to her and when she took it he led her through the Way opened in the mirror. The Patroon's study smelt of old wood and cigar smoke.

"May I present my daughter, Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver," her father said and she curtsied on cue.

The Patroon barely glanced at her. "I recognise you as the daughter of Charles and Isabella Rhoeas-Papaver of Aquae Sulis."

"Thank you, Sir Papaver," she said, as rehearsed.

"Leave us," he said to her father and he obeyed.

The Patroon seemed bored. Cathy noticed a fountain pen still in his hand. They'd all made out that this was something so special and serious. She smiled at the reality of it. This was just one tiny entry in his diary.

"Now you have come of age, Miss Papaver, it is the tradition in this family to offer you a wish. As a young lady you'll want to choose something that will benefit you in your first season, which as we all know is the most important time of your life. You'll want your family to be proud of you and able to make an excellent match for the good of us all. Therefore, think carefully now. What will you wish for? Beauty? Grace? A superlative singing voice? Whatever is in my power to give will be yours."

Cathy wondered how many times he'd given that speech over the last few hundred years. He hadn't even pretended to be interested in her as an individual. She was nothing but a commodity to him. That's all she had ever been to her parents. And that was why, faced with such an opportunity, she knew what she had to wish for.

"I have made my decision, Sir Papaver," she said, the nerves making her voice croak a little. "I suspect it's something you've never had to grant before."

He frowned. That wasn't in the script. "Is it in my power to grant?"

"Yes, Sir Papaver. In fact," she took a step forwards, feeling bolder, "you're the only man in the Nether who could grant this wish."

"Speak it then."

"I wish…" she hesitated. Her father would be furious. Her mother too. What would Tom say? Could she really ask for something so scandalous? Then she thought of that blue sky, the vapour trail. She couldn't just let them drag her into the Nether without a fight. "Sir Papaver… I wish to go to university!"

---

Thanks for hosting, Paul!"

Thank you for doing that, Emma.  You can breathe a sigh of relief now the project's complete.

I'll be popping along to Forbidden Planet in London on Friday night to join the crowd for Emma's London book launch (the actual launch is at Bristol FP tonight), and then again the next day to see Ben Aaronovitch, Terrance Dicks, Gary Russell and Dan Abnett signing their Doctor Who books.  If I don't see you there, I hope you'll come along on Wednesday.  Until then, Cheerio! 

3 Response to "Split Worlds"

  • Paul Weimer Says:

    Aha!

    This IS a key moment, for those who have read the book.


  • Emma Newman Says:

    Thanks Paul! Lovelies, the London launch is on Friday (tomorrow) and in Bristol tonight (7th March) :oD


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Excellent! And sorry, Em, I've changed the days. I keep thinking it's Friday!