Want to read an awesome alternate history, space-colony spy story from Doctor Who scribe and comic book writer Paul Cornell? Pyr Books publisher Lou Anders posted a free preview of Cornell's story "Catherine Drewe" online last week — the tale serves as the opener to short story collection Fast Forward 2, which Anders calls "all original science fiction stories — no fantasy or slipstream." Cornell has a great introduction to the story's main character, whom he describes as somewhat similar to Ian Fleming's greatest creation, James Bond. About his story, Cornell writes:
Major John Hamilton serves with the 4th Dragoon Regiment of the British army in a present day rather unlike our own. Because of a single difference in the timeline that I haven't yet revealed, the empires of Europe remain in place, and have indeed spread out to compete in the colonisation of the solar system, and the Great Game espionage cold war between them continues on many fronts. Indeed, the concept of a great balance to be kept has seeped into the fabric of these civilisations in all sorts of ways. Hamilton is often called upon to work out of uniform, as what we'd these days call an intelligence officer, intervening in the plans of rival empires. Hamilton himself is damaged, vulnerable, but also terse, repressed and honourable, though his concept of honour is shaped by his society. He can be horribly dangerous to those who get in the way of his duty, but he feels a need to be tender with innocents. He's not cruel in everyday life, but he can be something of a sadist when his mission and the nature of his enemy gives him leave to be. Indeed, he lets himself enjoy those moments of release. His relationships with women are complicated and rare. I like to think I'm writing in the tradition of Ian Fleming's Bond novels (not the movies) but I'm trying to stay away from pastiche, and instead hope to explore the same debates about masculinity and Britishness he did, while perhaps coming to different conclusions. I also hope this is serious SF in all sorts of ways, and that the politics and tactics make them genuine espionage stories too, but that they're also, well, fun!
You can read the story online this afternoon, and then you'll want to scarf down the whole amazing short story collection, which includes new stories from Cory Doctorow, Pat Cadigan, Paolo Bacigalupi, and more. Catherine Drewe, by Paul Cornell [via Pyr]