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My first professional fiction sale was in 1991, a story in Temps, a shared-world anthology of superhero stories put together by the Midnight Rose Collective (most notably Roz Kaveney, Neil Gaiman, Alex Stewart and Mary Gentle).
Recently Roz and I were talking about this and I finally got round to asking about the copyright situation. It turns out I can do pretty much what I like with it. The book is long out of print, so I've decided to put the story on line for the pleasure (or derision) of others. I've avoided the temptation to update or rewrite it, so readers may notice occasional points at which there is a certain period charm. I hope that I'm a slightly better writer these days - most of the coherence of the story comes from Roz and Alex, who did miracles with my grammar. Alex Stewart came up with the title - can't even remember what it originally was, but I'm pretty sure it was BAD...
I've had to scan it, since I was using an IBM PC with 5¼" floppies at the time I wrote it, and I'd be grateful for comments on anything that looks like an OCR error.
Some background that makes the story a little clearer: in the Temps world there have been paranorms, basically people with abnormal powers, throughout history. Somehow history has stayed much the same, not least because most of them aren't particularly powerful, the ones who are generally learn to keep a low profile.
In the USA the current generation are basically superheroes in comic book style. In Europe they are usually under fairly close control, regulated by whatever bureaucracy got stuck with the job. In Britain this is the DPR, the Department of Paranormal Resources, set up in the late 1940s along socialist lines (think National Health Service) and slightly anachronistic in the 1990s. All Paranorms are expected to register and get paid a small monthly fee, the amount depending on how powerful they are, on condition that they make their powers available if needed. Some are in constant demand, others... well, that's part of the story.
One point that may need explaining; as the result of a weird science experiment gone wrong Marcia, the DPR receptionist, is one of 200 identical clones, all of them appallingly bad secretaries working for the organisation in one or another capacity. This doesn't actually affect the plot in any way, it just helps explain why they turn up in all of the Temps stories.
This is the first story I wrote in the Temps universe; Frog Day Afternoon
My second story in the Temps universe appeared in the second (and unfortunately last) book of the series, Eurotemps. An important theme of this collection was the problems that might arise if Britain had to harmonise its policies on Paranorms with Europe. At the time the EC was still often called the EEC, and I (and several of the other authors in the collection) used the longer form. Since this is a period piece I'm leaving that unchanged.
Again I've had to scan the story, since the disks are long gone. I think I've caught all the errors, but if you spot anything that looks like an OCR error please let me know.
Readers may notice several influences at work in this story; memories of the old Motorcycle Action Group, which fought Britain's motorcycle helmet laws in the 1970s, occasional encounters with the wonderful world of health and safety via my job, the corn circle craze (then just beginning), and more than a little homage to Len Deighton and the nameless spy often known as Harry Palmer. I'm not convinced it's as good a story as Frog Day Afternoon, but judge for yourself when you read Playing Safe
The third and sadly last of the stories I wrote for the Midnight Rose Collective's fiction anthologies was set in a different shared world, based on an SF / Horror theme. The Weerde are shape-changing primordial beings living amongst humanity, their powers based on mimicry rather than magic or the supernatural. I'd rather not say much more about the background, since it builds up over the two books and works best if read that way; since this story is told from an outsider's perspective it isn't really needed.
For various reasons I had trouble getting into the right mood for this world, and didn't have a story in the first book of the series; this one's from The Weerde: Book 2 - The Book of the Ancients.
Influences include Raymond Chandler, Rex Stout, Ed McBain (who suggested the name of a detective), and numerous other crime writers of the thirties, forties and fifties. Most of the other character names are anagrams of bits of my name; the exception is Louis Ginsberg, a distant relative of my great-grandparents. One near-anagram wasn't invented by me - Claude R Worlsman first appeared in the Call of Cthulhu module Statue of the Sorcerer by Chris Elliot and Richard Edwards, published by Games Workshop in the days when they were an RPG company.
On the whole I'm reasonably happy with this story, even after 12 years, though I think I would change the last few paragraphs a little if I were writing it today. The title, The Missing Martian, is a little misleading.
Sadly the publishers, Roc, pulled the plug on the whole Midnight Rose range after a total of five books had appeared; the two Temps and Weerde books, and the first of a fantasy series, Villains!, which showed great promise. The story I submitted for Villains was rejected with extreme prejudice (and deservedly so), there was no second volume. One spin-off from the series was Mary Gentle's novel Grunts.