Both Sides Of The Tracks

It's true, you know. There are two sides to every story.

This is my Writer's.

Mm? Oh. Imran.

Quiet guy. Really got to do something 'bout that, sometime. Falls down a bit, there... bit over-thoughtful. Writing, and writing, and writing - think he's got a ritualised fear of what might happen if he stopped... About yea high, 5 foot... 8, I think. Short black hair, offset eye, and the less said about the nasal polyp, the better...

Sorry. /Too/ much detail.

Yeah. Nice, isn't it? Calm, peaceful, quiet. Sitting next to a river.

Especially around here. It needs somewhere quiet.

Come on.

Okay. The door there, the one not attached to anything? That leads to the house - somewhere they can stop off when they don't want to risk another adventure. The thing is that sometimes, the Doctor has this habit of setting the TARDIS in flight, without stopping to check who's in the bedrooms. So they got this made for them - on commission from over anime side.

The Doctor?

Mysterious wanderer in time and space. Defeats evil, destroys monsters, topples tyrannies. Has two hearts - and a lot of lives. You'll hear a lot of stories about what he is - Time Lord, inventor from the far future, magician... a lot of things.

And they're all true. That's the thing to remember. They might all be true - or none of them might be true.


You'll see.

Come on. Up the hill.

Now, see that there? Across the road? That's This Time Round, the pub outside continuity.

Where is it?

Somewhere in Britain. We're pretty sure it's near the coast.

'Course, being in the Outside Dimensions does make it a bit hard to find - Muses, writer avatars and characters have no problem. Try finding it on a Real road map, though... ooh, then things get difficult.

Small, I know. And they really ought to do something about that paint job. Really needs redoing - not that dark brown doesn't work... Yeah, I suppose it would. Anyway. A perfectly ordinary British pub.

The Police Boxes in the car park?

They're the TARDISes. Plural.


Landed in '60s London, and its chameleon circuit - thing that's supposed to make it blend in with the surroundings - broke, leaving it like this.

She and the Doctor like it like this, anyway.

It's a space-time machine. Can go anywhere in space and time. Bigger on the inside than on the outside, all that sort of thing. Not all TARDISes are like that though - the London bus over there, that's a TARDIS too. Slightly smaller on the inside than on the outside. Long story.

Might even meet one of the human TARDISes. Be careful - and no, you don't wanna go there.

Mm. Impact crater. Rocket launcher. She went for the explosives this time. Really doesn't seem to have her heart in it any more... not after Adric stood up to her.

'Course, she killed him again - but she'd crossed a line with that one. A step too far.

Adric and Nyssa. She's been killing him for... well, the last few years.

Oh, he keeps coming back. Has a Mortality Deferment Card - and he's on personal terms with Death.

Hmm. Better sort this out. If you die here, you can come back. Can. Some don't choose to - they either face Transcendence or Oblivion - they don't come back, after that. None of the Doctors or companions have faced either, though - and one companion managed to Transcend without dying.

When you come back to life, your old body disintegrates - and the Mortality Deferment Office has an odd sense of humour about where to return you.

Oddly enough, most people - even the Daleks - don't end up killing someone else around here...

No, no, Adric's not that bad. Ask Mel or Sam about that sometime.

It's just that somewhere along the line, Nyssa took up killing him.

And we have no idea why.

It's him - and only him. Technically, it's homicide multiple times over, but since he always comes back... it's hard to prove a victim. She says it's because she hates him - the lady doth protest too much, I think. She never hated him like that when they were on-screen together - was devastated the first time he died on-screen. Why she's going through all this...

...well, it doesn't help that the guy's pretty much loathed by fandom. It's been - what? - 20 years since he left the series, and some people just keep on bashing, and bashing, and bashing - bandwagon syndrome, I think. Doesn't help that Adric's just a little too close to home for a few people.

No-one else deliberately wants to kill him - fact is, we kinda like him, you know? And anyone else even trying would get Nyssa's personal attention. Very possessive. Very... jealous, almost, one might say.

Yes, it is one hell of a weird way to show love, believe me. If they are - which both of them seem to be massively in denial about. But think about it - him, and only him. No-one else. She chooses it, she plans it, she keeps doing it, over, and over, and over... almost as if she's trying to get his attention.

Anyway. Got other things to think about. Come on. You're with me, that means I'm responsible for any trouble you get into, so don't get too worried when Polly - that's the blonde 60s girl - starts watching us. If you mess up, I have to pay for the damage - and take over her job, watching the crossover characters.

Nice. Oh yes. Don't mention apes. Whatever you do, don't mention apes.

That's Francois. He's an Ogron. He gets... a little irritated... if someone calls him an ape. Original character. Hasn't shown up outside the 'Round. And he does have a vocabulary bigger than 'Ook'.

Okay. This is the Round's main floor. The wine cellar's in the basement, the sleeping and private rooms are all on the first floor, and down here, we've got a saloon bar, a poker room, a LAN room, a library, the toilets, and a room with a Time Scoop. At least, that's all the rooms we know of, at the moment.

Oh, that? That's the scheduling board. Lists the upcoming stories, and which Doctor/companion team's in them.

Umm, lemme see. Audios, novels, comics, fanfic... pretty much everything bar a continuing TV series. Or another film. Pretty good for a series that went off the air 10 years ago. Don't get into the 'are they official' argument - what's official around here's what you want it to be - but the audios, novels and comics are licenced by the BBC... even if they do contradict occasionally, but we eat contradictions for breakfast. In fact, some things around here do eat contradictions for breakfast - pray none of the Chronovores are around.

Eight 'official' Doctors, Calliope knows how many alternates, possible futures, and spoofs, and as for the companions...

And let's not get into the crossovers. Star Trek, Quantum Leap, Ranma, Tenchi, Buffy... there are just so many in fanfic, and you begin to wonder why it's even worth trying to keep track of who has and who hasn't showed up. Some still try, though.

So it's ended up as something of a melting pot for the Outside Dimensions, in the end - but the emphasis stays on the Doctor and companions; this place was created because of them, after all.

To them? 1963. To us? Late 90s. Retrofitting continuity.

The Proprietor runs this place. Not quite sure how old he is - however old he is, he's definitely in over his head. Probably not a Time Lord, though.

Bartenders're usually on a rotating basis. If it's not Francois, it'll probably be one of the male companions - Adric, Harry, Fitz...

They have a lot of time on their hands, sorta thing.

Okay. Writer/Character relationships. Basically, the characters work under writer contract - they sign a contract with the writer for stories Inside continuity (and sometimes Outside). Writers pay them a fee, writer gets a piece of fiction out of it, and everybody gets along outside the job. Changes a character experiences in fic are only permanent if that character originated in that particular medium - otherwise, it's optional.

Writer powers... well, don't exist outside the contract, as far as we know. It depends how they shape their avatar. If their avatar has an ability, fine. No wholescale rewriting of reality.

And we, the Muses, help inspire the Writers to write and complete stories. Depends if Calliope assigns them a Muse. Or whether they think they want one.

Yes, I went to the Collegium. Haven't passed yet - I'm on work experience.

Yes, work experience.

No-one's forgotten or abandoned - nothing like the Shantytown - left half-formed and generic, maybe, but that's about as bad as it gets.

Town nearby, where most of us go shopping. Has a very, very strange range of shops. And a day care centre.

No, not for the characters' children. For the baby versions of the characters.

Swallow. You're turning colours.

For the baby versions of characters, yes. More relaxed on the crossovers than here - almost too relaxed, sometimes. Fun, though. Last I heard, they'd started a TV station of their own...

This isn't the only place Outside, though - there's a holiday resort called Fantasy Island, I think a good chunk of Tokyo, the Satellite, up in orbit - and us guys. Subreality.

All of them operating by their own weird rules - we are Outside continuity here...

It's... homely. That's the word.



My Muse's side of the story.

This ia where Allie comes from. Her home. Subreality City.

She doesn't talk about it much. Not painful... the subject's just never come up.

But... But I thought I should at least get an idea where she came from.

Allie? Um... Okay. Let's see... Major otaku (no problem there), specifically Sailor Moon (definitely a problem there), which explains the green sailor fuku. With yellow edging. Short, wavy brown hair, grey eyes - big grey eyes, and I mean big. She's 'bout... 5' 2", I think. I'm crap at judging heights, though. She grumbles 'bout this a bit, but... well. I dunno. She likes being around. Likes this, and the weirdness that turns up.

Had typical student Muse thing - singing in a musical duo, arguments with the roomies...

There are a lot of places, aren't there?. A very large number of places.

Yes, I know.

I'm a Writer. Worse, I'm a Writer with notebook and pencil. Around here, that's the same as saying "I have a nuke, and I'm not afraid to use it!".


Let's start here.

The Collegium Imaginarium. Where the Muses get trained. Not all of them, if what Allie's said is true - but it helps, if you're going to act as one. Run by Calliope, one of the nine original Muses - close enough to a goddess in her own right. But even goddesses can't be everywhere... so, the Collegium. New Muses - if it can be inspired, there'll be Muses for it. I have no idea how much of what she says is irony or real, sometimes. Better be careful... I've seen what happens to Writers who end up with another Muse, and having Calliope decide I need another one is not what I need at the moment.

Location around here is relative - it varies, depending on Writer and story. Malleable, like Subreality itself. And I'm one of those with the power to reshape it - to do anything, if I can write it. Thing is, there's always someone who can outimagine you...

Fictives. Lots of Fictives. A Joe Fixit over there... hmm, didn't know anyone was doing Hulk fics, Superman over there - looks pretty current... Step carefully.

Multiple versions of the same character - from different continuities. And very, very few of them the originals - the Mainstreams. More used to versions from different universes, myself, rather than diverging timelines. Still. We create them - or recreate them...

Big place, Subreality. Almost has to be. And it's not just the city, either.

The legendary Cafe. And the Bouncer. Not a Writer's Night, not even going to bother - should be a change for the Bouncer. And quite frankly, the guy scares me. Big, brawny... Reminds me of Fezzik, for some reason.

Fezzik? From 'The Princess Bride'? No? Oh, okay.

Imagining the place as pretty much one of those Western-type restaurants, for now - this is how I'm seeing it, on this occasion. It'll change if I come here again - or when another Writer shows up. And since I'm imagining it... hmm, is the food quality dependent on my imagination? Don't wanna give it a shot just yet.

'Subreality Cafe'. There's the sign.

Fictives, fictives, and more fictives. Ah. Couple going into that place down the road - must be the Mainstream Cafe.

Oops. That's the Villain's Bailiwick... look, see all the Apocalypses? And the Amazos?

Okay, carefully now, carefully....

Mainstream's that way. I think it is, at any rate.

Oh. Subreality Cafe's managed by the Manager. Ambiguous in a lot of ways - indeterminate gender, appearance. Personality stays pretty much the same, I think - has to keep a clear head to deal with the patrons. Kielle actually owns the place, but I think she's more a sleeping partner these days. Well, maybe.

Sorry. Just getting used to this.

Yeah. Okay. Characters - fictives.

What was I gonna say? Oh yes.

Here, they're dependent on us - we create them, we form them, we complete the story, so they're not forgotten. It's about imagination - if the story's complete, imagined into existence, then so are the characters. They can't actually die here, 'cept under special circumstances - it may look like it, but they don't die. Fade out of existence, thanks to neglect, on the other hand... Wonder how many of them complain about being created? What happens when the story's over? Do they live ever afterwards?

Sorry. Getting philosophical there.

Club Concepto's over there - that's where the uncreated hang out. Fictives before they become fictives. Pretty nebulous - actually, that one /is/ a nebula. Someone's getting literal...

And those whose writers never complete the story?


Shantytown. That's where the unWritten go. Their Writers write part of their story - then they never finish it. I've done it sometimes, myself. The plot pans out, the characters don't seem quite in focus...

That's where they end up. Until they fade away from sheer neglect.

Is it just for Subreal Fictives? I don't know - I'd hope, in a strange way, it is. Seen too much of that.

Far too much.


Where is it? Oh. Between Imagination and Reality - hence the name Subreality. In the fictives' terms? It's always existed - well, as long as people have been Imagining something, at any rate. Then Writers, Muses and Fictives came pouring in - and the place expanded. In our terms, it came into existence a few years ago, thanks to Kielle - and then others started building on the concept.

You can still see the Mists this place was formed from, if you look at the borders closely enough. Not many want to, though...

Ah. See that? The mansion? That's the House of Strange Dimensions - where some of the Fictives and Writers live. Massive and messy - and fun.

Should be somewhere around here... ah. Got you. Left, left again. Take a right...

...down here, and along this street...

Here. This is Allie's home.

Not quite what I thought - I was thinking something Classical, not... well, semi-detached.

Don't tell her I said that.

< blinks > Okay. She never mentioned a kid sister, I know that much...

Maybe I should've asked before I left?

Better stay out of sight - I have no idea how they'll react to me...

Oh. Uh-oh. Now that's gonna be a surprise for her.

Yeah, it is narratively convenient. Think that comes with the territory...

Well, Subreality as it stands is largely comic fanfic - it was the baseline, and everything else accrued later. We're not quite sure what's in the Outside Dimensions, and what's in Subreality proper. Then again, given they're shaped by imagination, it wasn't likely to be otherwise...

Come on. We'll hop down the Writer's Cafe, have a quick drink, then we'll head back. Yeah, I know. Can't stay long this time, though. Just wanted a quick nose around... whistlestop tour, if you like. Just hope we don't end up in the AlterCafe by accident - I really, really, don't wanna find out what my opposite's like.

Apart from the white hair, though.




Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat