I’ve blogged previously about the ‘pilot’ for the series, The Memory Box. With the first series, it’s given me an opportunity to do fantastic things; firstly, to develop the character and explore her back-story, and secondly, to give other writers a chance to write Vienna stories.
The box set, currently available from Big Finish as a download or CD box, consists of three stories. The first is Dead Drop by Mark Wright, and is a no-holds-barred rollercoaster ride as Vienna finds herself on board a spaceship in the middle of a warzone, where everything that can wrong, does. It’s action-packed, heart-racing, white-knuckle-ride stuff and that’s just from reading the script. It’s a sci-fi spectacular.
The second is Bad Faith by Nev Fountain, and is harder to describe because it’s so, well, original. It’s very funny, incredibly imaginative, includes a wonderful alien race, the Kreyfin, and contains more twists and turns than a twisty-turny thing; Nev is known for his ingenious twists from stories like Omega and Peri and the Piscon Paradox and with this story I think he surpassed even those.
And the third is Deathworld, by me. Which is kind of a densely-plotted mash-up of every sci-fi book I’ve ever read and every film I’ve ever seen, as well as the original myth of the assassins, and which concerns the nature of identity, memory and reality itself, where nothing and nobody is quite what they seem.
What I’ve tried to do with these stories is to tell a different sort of science fiction story. You see, the ‘science’ in science fiction usually refers to technology or astrophysics, when it can apply to any science – psychology, economics, even philosophy. The sort of science fiction that was written by Philip K Dick and Kurt Vonnegut and which is still being written by Ursula K Le Guin, Brian Aldiss and Christopher Priest, which isn’t about the technology of ‘hard science fiction’ but which concerns the state of consciousness, of imaginary realms where reality, dreams and virtual reality interact, where the stories are about inner worlds rather than outer reaches. At its best, it’s mind-bending stuff that gives you the same vertiginous feeling of arriving at a new vista or understanding a new concept - a ‘consciousness-expanding drug’. It’s an area ripe for exploration, it’s about extraordinary ideas and generates great, dramatic stories, and that’s what I find exciting. Vienna still has all the trappings of science fiction, laser guns, spaceships, robots, aliens and distant planets – but the stories are about ideas of telepathic hive-minds, subconscious programming, belief systems that you can inject into your brain, unreliable narrators, unreliable memories, unreliable realities.
Hopefully it’s giving people something they haven’t had before, to not just push the envelope but to tear it to pieces and stick it in a blender, to tell the boldest, weirdest, most thrilling, most unpredictable, most mind-boggling stories imaginable.