Death and Diplomacy

Roots: The Doctor Who Weekly comic strip "Doctor Who and the Star Beast" (cute furry monsters proving to be megalomaniacal monsters). Star Wars' bar cantina scene (the Fatigue Shebeen); Blazing Saddles (Jason holding himself hostage when threatened); Star Trek: The Next Generation (Captain Salth's "Make it so"). The introduction makes reference to Shakespeare's The Tempest and Titus Andronicus, Jane Austen, Jules Feiffer, Adolph Hitler and Ronald Reagan. The novel opens with quotations from Bertrand Russell's Marriage and Morals, and Woody Allen. There are references to Freud, Coca Cola, Ferrari, Cadillac, NASA, Disney, Henry V, The Bill, Karl Marx, Das Kapital, H. P. Lovecraft, Schrodinger, and Cary Grant.

Goofs: The Dagellan Cluster is referred to as the Magellan Cluster on the back cover.

Dialogue Triumphs: "A good firm manly shafting with a length of honest steel is our watchword!"

The Doctor on sex: "I'm well known for knowing nothing of such things, or getting them very slightly but extremely obviously wrong. It saves all sorts of complications."

Continuity: Each of three rough thirds of the Dagellan Cluster is occupied by a different one of Three Empires: the savage Dakhaari, the warlike Czhans, and the "sophisticated, decadent and oilily conniving" Saloi; they are on the verge of war over the ownership of the planet Moriel, which is poised equidistant between the Three Empires. Fifteen Earth years are equivalent to twenty-three and a quarter Moriel years. The Empires are secretly ruled by the Hollow Gods, which manifest as vast, grey, insubstantial figures standing miles into the sky. All three races are bipedal hominids; the Czhans have milk-white skin, jet-black hair, and vestigial tusks. The Dakhaari have olive-green skin and slitted ears and are as lithe as cats. The technology of all Three Empires is based on clockwork. The planet Anrici IV is part of the Czhanos Empire and boasts crystalline forests with silicate inhabitants. The planet Kalas is a Dakhaari outpost. The desert planet Makrath is one of the gaming centres of the Cluster. Once the Skrak are defeated, Koth, Ravla and Sareth get married, bringing peace to the Empires.

The Hollow Gods are actually the Skrak, or rather enormous illusions created by the Skraks. The Skraks live on Moriel and are small and furry with three eyes. They are actually a parasitic symbiosis of extradimensional creatures (the mindless Otherlings) and mammalian rat-vermin (the Skrak) created accidentally as the vestigial fallout of the early intertemporal experiments of the Time Lords. Their life-cycles loop back on each other in an accelerated process of macro-bootstrapping that means that they relive the same few weeks of time over and over again, existing simply because they do; this self-enclosed temporal lifestyle drives them half-mad with frenzy and paranoia. By the time of the events described here, they haven't actually existed for more than twenty years, although they are apparently unaware of this. They use clockwork automata (including the Killing Things), teleport technology, and surgical mind-control. They build the Summit as the coil for a massive directional interdimensional transceiver, which they use to create the Hollow Gods, and also to influence the Three Empires back across thousands of years so that they believe absolutely in them. Their technology is cannibalized from items scavenged across space, including Cyberman cybernetics, Sontaran living-crystal technology, and bits of Earth technology. They want the TARDIS so that they can access time as well as space; during their travels across the galaxy they found the TARDIS on the Moon and rewired its controls, secreting the trigger mechanism for them about his person. After the Skrak leader gets squashed to death by his own automaton and they are overthrown, the remaining Skrak steal a ship and flee.

The absolute ruler of the Saloi Empire is, in the two-thousand-year long absence of the Emperor, the Assistant sub-Administratorial Secretary Without Portfolio for the Pursuance of Imperial and Local Sewerage Regulation and Common Hygiene, Morweth. Unbeknownst to everyone except Morweth, Sareth is actually the real Emperor of Saloi, as he discovers when Morweth dies.

Koth, Supreme Commander of All Czhanos Forces, is the leader of the Czhans. The Czhans have a system of punishment slavery, whereby anyone breaking Czhan law is forced into subservience.

Ravla, the Warrior Queen, rules the Dakhaari.

Clientele of the Fatigue Shebeen on Jaris include Medusa Al, who has viperlike growths sprouting from her obloidular body and whose snake-eyes generate vitriotic kill emissions; Hammerhead, who has slavering and extended second jaws; and Rabbit Jack, who is predominantly humanoid but has a pronounced and reddish skin pigment and slightly elongated ears. Customers in the Citadel include a six-armed arachnid-woman from Glomi IV, and a group of piglet people from Glomi VII. One of the bouncers has four red pulsing eyes, fifteen nostrils, and several sets of jaws. There are also ursine and canine humanoids on Jaris. The mechanic on Makrath is a fluorescent yellow humanoid with displaced ears.

Jaris is the only large-scale settlement on the planet Jaris, which is the only planet of the Jaris system. Jaris' main exports are livestock, meat, and anthracite. The planet Jaris is destroyed in an explosion one thousand, four hundred and seventy years after the events here, which in turn knocks still-fissioning debris into its sentient sun, which triggers a chain reaction that destroys the star in two million years. A catastrophic environmental cascade process caused by the materialization of the TARDIS causes the explosion of Jaris. Fauna on Jaris includes a species resembling a cross between a Friesian cow and a three-toed sloth. Kalas has fungus jungles, in which dwell Walking Puffballs, harmless semi-sentient mimicking organisms.

The Doctor suspects that he sent himself the invitation that forcibly drags the TARDIS to the Dagellan system. The Hollow Gods force him to act as Arbiter between the Three Empires over the ownership of Moriel. He carries a Chinese finger trap in his pocket. He wears his brown jacket for a while here, before changing back into his linen suit jacket. He opens a surgery in the TARDIS to remove the implants from those soldiers modified by the Skrak; he sews Sareth's hand back on at the same time.

Quantum Theory A-Ω for Dumb People is a self-generating database application coded by Professor Beatrice Winterhill and Dr John Smith (Winterhill is the alias that Benny adopts in Warlock). When Benny first meets Jason Peter Kane, she holds him hostage at gunpoint (albeit with a non-existent gun) to keep the Jaris Militia back. She speaks Galactic Basic. She steals Jason's gun and a taxi driver's serrated knife. She suffers anoxia when Jason's ship decompresses. Stuck with Jason on his ship for days, it isn't long before they swap life stories, get drunk, and end up in bed together.

Roz and Chris both lack an appendix and wisdom teeth. To her horror, Roz is forced to dress in a towel and pose as Chris's slave on Czhanos. She later obtains a Czhan uniform and steals the ID of 1934-2675-0481 Skana. Whilst infiltrating the Czhanos army, she and Chris don exo-rigs. Roz has seen the battlefields of the 2697 Rigel Wastes.

Having arrived naked on Czhanos, Chris dons a Czhan uniform and steals the ID of 1934-2675-0473 Verkog. His family were Indentured Chattels during the New Earth Feudalism.

The TARDIS maintains several internal illusions to stop human occupants going mad; the Doctor maintains these as a default setting. He later rebuilds the hynoleptic interface responsible for this from scratch. A room in the TARDIS contains refrigerated storage cabinets labeled "Piltdown Man", "Anastasia Romanov", "Ambrose Bierce", and "Typhoid Mary"; the same room has jars labeled "John the Son of Zachariah (Knuckle)", "Vile Jellies", and "Hitler's Brain". The Doctor keeps a jackknife in the same room. The TARDIS also contains a ballroom and a Caligari cabinet.

When we first meet Jason Peter Kane, he is cheating at dominos for money. He has been stuck on Jaris for months. Until Benny enters his life, he hasn't seen another human for fifteen years. He's approximately thirty years old. Previous human girl- and boyfriends include Kara, Beth, Danny, Susan, Lisa, Carla, Sean, Danielle, Mo, Susan, Kimberly, Micqui, Justin, Peter, Carmel, and Louise; non-humans include Rana, Liva, Sali, Moiara, Kamo, and Sai d'RaKosh. He originally left Earth in nineteen ninety-six. He grew up in the countryside sixty or seventy miles from London. Jason's grandfather was on the Normandy beaches in 1944; his grandmother gave him a silver crucifix, which deflected a bullet that would otherwise just have clipped him through his left lung, liver, kidney and intestine, killing him; inspired by this, Jason had his jacket lined with a couple of layers of long-chain polycarbon micromesh. His father used to regularly beat him, his little sister, and his mother, so he ran away to London, where he lived on the streets. His little sister Lucy was six when he left; their father broke one of her fingers every night at the same time for three days. One night, he woke up in some woodland, and encountered Shug, who knocked him unconscious; when he woke up, he was on the planet t'Kao in the Dagellan Cluster and has been wandering around the sector ever since. He has heard of Time Lords. He has also heard of the Daleks, although in this time period they have yet to become a force capable of conquering entire galaxies and are considered to be something of a minor threat. He wears a leather jacket, and trousers made form local vegetable fibres. He carries a small-gauge microflenser. He steals a coat and riffles the pockets for money. He once barely escaped with his life after smiling at a Fnarok from Rensec XIV. He speaks Basic as well as English. When he first meets Benny, he pretends that he can't speak English or Basic and spouts gibberish, because she assumes that he is a native and patronizingly takes to him in Pidgin English. Jason has a pet Skrek called Shug, which he keeps on board his ship; he is unaware of Shug's true nature. Jason has at some point drunk Malkovian mead. Despite initial appearances, he's a very good pilot. Bravely, he undertakes a space walk without a suit, using elasticized bandages to protect him against decompression; he suffers vacuum lesions to his face, and then gets his nose broken when he gives Benny mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and she wakes up... It doesn't take long before they fall in love, and Jason proposes to her.

The Citadel Central franchise has refineries on Paolos IV. Seventh Generation Kai Oolonian resin-cheese boards are mentioned. The best way to resuscitate an Oolonian suffering from anoxia is to hit them repeatedly in the face with a spanner.

The Tragorian process of sclaki is the channeling one's entire forces and resources into a single focused burst towards a specific end.

Links: Death and Diplomacy is the second part of the trilogy that began with Sky Pirates! The TARDIS has just left Cinnabar and Byerley's wedding on Yemaya 4 at the start of this novel (SLEEPY). The Doctor recalls receiving an invitation to the Armageddon Convention on the Moon in 1609 (The Empire of Glass). There are references to the Brigadier, Peri, Mel and Ace, Reklonians (Sky Pirates!), UNIT, Daleks, and Heaven and the Hoothi (Love and War). Roz notes that she has seen the battlefields of the Somme (Toy Soldiers). She reads a copy of Dr. John Watson's The All-Consuming Fire in the TARDIS library (All-Consuming Fire).

Benny and Jason get engaged at the end of this novel, leading into their wedding in Happy Endings.

Location: Jaris, Czhanos, Moriel, Kalas, Makrath, 2011.

Future History: The New Earth Feudalism took place in the twenty-seven and twenty-eight hundreds and laid the foundations for the Earth Empire. The Dagellan Cluster is named after the female Captain of the first Earth ship to reach it.

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor once tried to teach subtlety of thought to a Macedonian king. The Doctor has visited Sarajevo in 1995 with Benny, Roz and Chris.

The Doctor materialized on the Moon in a previous incarnation prior to 2011, where the Skrak rewired the controls of his TARDIS.

The Bottom Line: "Doctor, this is Jason. My fiancé. He's just proposed and I've accepted. Please don't kill him." Although not quite as funny as Sky Pirates!, Death and Diplomacy is enormously entertaining and brimming with great ideas. The introduction of Jason marks a turning point for the range as Benny gets engaged, and nobody writes for Mr. Kane as well his creator; he's a great character, thoroughly realised, likeable and decidedly shifty.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke

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I'm only a little way into this book as I work my way the whole NA series, and just popped onto this page to read your bottomline, not the rest yet. But I coudn't help noticing that while in the 'Roots' you mentioned the Star Wars' bar cantina scene for the Fatigue Shebeen scene, you appear to have missed that one of the domino players - 'Hammerhead' - is not only clearly described as the Xenomorph from the Aliens movies, but it includes a clear precis of the plots of Alien, Aliens and Alien3!

"But when you look like Freud’s worst slimy nightmare, are born by exploding spectacularly out of somebody’s sternum, can brutally slaughter the entire crew of a starship, the population of an exploratory colony and the inmates of a prison complex in an hour and a half and then hound any last survivor across half a galaxy until they kill themselves with their own flamethrower just to put themselves out of their misery and avoid the subsequent complications of the child-access rights ..."

I'd say that Alien, Aliens and Aliens 3 deserve a mention as much as Star Wars.

Pretty much anyone in the UK who lived through the 70s wil recognize that Sergeant Vim, with his 'You is a poof Gunner ------. What is you?', and ‘Does I look like a hofficer, Gunner -----?’, and 'Lovely shoulders. Lovely shoulders' to the one gunner he unaccountably likes, and to crown it all the ‘we’re a concert party. That’s what we are. Here to entertain you’ is a complete deliberate lift, for humerous effect, of the character of Battery Sergeant Major Williams, complete with his catchphrases (barring changing the names of the gunners addressed) in the sitcom 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum', from the BBC, originally broadcast from 1974-1980, which was a comedy following the (mis)adventures of a group of useless soldiers forming a concert party at a Royal Artilery depot in India during WW2. The writer would definitely have expected all British readers to recognize this, and laugh or groan (I groaned)..

I have to say i disagree with your 'bottom line'. I enjoyed Sky Pirates, but Death and Diplomacy is just terrible. On the one hand the author has a basically serious plot with some supposedly intense and serious scenes, but on the other hand he has completely non-serous elements and he writes it like he's trying to ape Douglas Adams's Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy ... and I',m sorry to break it to him, but he's no Douglas Adams. The whole mess veers jarringly in tone back and forth, sabotaging both the humour and the supposedly moving bits, and doesn't so much fall as plummet screaming between two stools.

To me the only redeeming quality is that it's setting the stage for the imminent departure of the odious Benny. Back in ... 1995/6/7 I first read the first 9 New Adventures, plus Deceit, Set Piece, Head Games and then Lungbarrow (after the first 8 I had an idea for writing one myself, but it featured Ace in a main role, and I gathered from SF magazines I read at the time that her character had gone, then come back changed, then left again, but popped back for some occasional reappearances, hence the NAs i jumped to after Love and War - figured I could still make it work, sent off to Virgin for the submission guidelines, which i still have somewhere, retooled my story a bit, wondered whether to submit it as a New Adventure, as it would be from Ace's timeline, or a Missing Adventure, as it would be from the Doctor's, wrote the detailed synopsis, and was just writing the sample chapters when the news came through that the BBC had pulled the plug on Virgin's license, all remaining new releases were already comtracted, and no new submissions would be accepted - grrrr - so I gave up, but did get and read Lungbarrow as it was supposed to finally explain the 'Cartmel Masterplan') so I'd only read 4 Benny stories back then. Didn't much like her then, but heard how she'd become a 'fan favorite' and got her own ongoing series, so I hoped other writers had made her a better character. For me - no such luck. She has been consistently dreadful - an arrogant, pompous and most especially SMUG complete Mary Sue of a character. I had to get right the way to The Also People to find one story i found her ... not good but just about tolerable in. Had my hopes raised that her torture in Just War might bring about a welcome character change (and it should have), but no such luck - the reset button was firmly pushed for the next one and all since. Mind you, much as I want her to go, I just don't believe that she (as written throughout the series) would fall for Jason Kane. (Then again, I suppose that's fitting as I didn't believe most of the sudden romances that had companions leaving in the original series either ... Susan, Jo, Leela et al, even when I welcomed the leaving of the character).

The most galling thing for me, working my way through reading all the New Adventures, most for the first time, is how my reaction on certain matters is the opposite of what i read in the SF magazines was the 'fan reaction'. Fans loved Benny, it was said, but hated Space Fleet Ace. I detest Benny, but ... well, I really like the IDEA of Space fleet Ace. I just think that Space Fleet Ace was written terribly by all the authors, none of whom appear to have any idea of what a soldier and soldier metality is really like, and none of whom can actually write a realistic close combat scene involving at least one well trained combatant to save their lives (plus all of them seemed to want to do down Ace and raise Benny as a paragon of companionhood to beat Ace over he head with, for whatever reason). For all the stories with Ace in from Deceit on, I'd have a special subsection under Goofs called something like 'Making Ace the worst supposedly well trained and skilled soldier ever'.

Oh no. Came back here to see what you have to say about the next three NAs, which I've now read, and remembered I'd meant to add the thing about It Ain't Half Hot Mum. Thought that after the next one I was done with Benny (I will NOT be reading Benny's own series of NAs), and I so enjoyed her absence from the next two, but she's back again in the next one for me to read! That's one less Benny-less one out of the few left to read.

First, a quick indirect reference: Starting in the late 70s, Doctor Who featured an increasing number of charming rogue characters. But bizarrely, they all fit the 60s archetype, which for the entire rest of the world (especially in SF) had been completely replaced by Han Solo. With Jason, they finally caught up to the late 70s. (Or reverted to the mid 30s, which is the same thing here.) Sabalom Glitz was a lovable rogue that nobody could actually love; Jason Kane is one that anyone can. Of course he's really more a parody of Han Solo taken seriously than he is the character played straight, but that's true for everything Dave Stone does.

Anyway, I realize that Dave Stone is the marmite writer of the New Adventures, but I can't believe anyone who liked Sky Pirates could hate Death & Diplomacy. Critics point out--rightly, and with Dave's assent--that the former is all broad gags and wild ideas that, while fun, add up to nothing.

As for Space Bitch Ace, I think most people would agree that the idea of her was interesting, but the execution was terrible. But I don't think that's because the writers hated the idea. She was terrible when PDE wrote her, and she was his idea, while Kate Orman, the ultimate frocks-over-guns writer, was the only one to make good use of the character.

As for Benny: almost nobody could write Space Bitch Ace, most of the writers couldn't handle Roz, and everyone did Chris well but only writing him as a completely different character beyond the surface stuff; Benny was the only companion (until Fitz) who was well-realized enough that almost everyone could make her work. And I don't see her as a Mary Sue at all. But if you don't like her, I'm obviously not going to change your mind after all these decades.

That being said, I would suggest reading one of the Benny novels: Dead Romance. Benny isn't even in it, only a distant relative of hers. (And she's not even that if you read the Mad Norwegian version.) Actually, the book before it (speaking of Mary Sues) only peripherally includes Benny as well, but I suspect you'd hate that one, as it's Dave Stone at his Dave Stoniest.

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