References in “Cobweb and Ivory”

Faction Paradox: The Book of the Enemy was released by Obverse Books in January 2018, and it included my first published short story, “Cobweb and Ivory”. In March Andrew Hickey published on his blog a thorough list of all the references he put in his Book of the Enemy story, which came right after mine in the anthology. I thought this was a wonderful idea! It’s been over a year since I wrote “Cobweb and Ivory”, so there’s bound to be some things I’ve missed. (I’m also be intentionally leaving out some stuff, since I’m having a lot of fun seeing all the theories people have come up with!)

Quite obviously this post is chock-full of spoilers to “Cobweb and Ivory”, so you should read it first. If you haven’t and you read this anyway, please consider buying The Book of the Enemy and/or pre-ordering The Book of the Peace, which will include my story “A Farewell to Arms” among many amazing others!


“Avus” is Latin for “Grandfather”, a name that was used by both the First Doctor and Grandfather Paradox. The original draft ended with a little line making it clear that the whole story was taken from The Infancy Gospel of Grandfather Paradox, which would have explained the poorly-done King James Version imitation for the parts of the story where Avus is sober. This still would have left Avus’ identity ambiguous, since real-life Infancy Gospels are always named after their pseudonymous authors, not their subjects (eg The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is about Jesus’ infancy). But rather late in the game I decided it was still too on-the-nose, and the line was deleted. Simon Bucher-Jones later used the idea of the Infancy Gospel in “Pre-narrative Briefing O”.

The “city of cobweb and ivory” previously appeared (albeit in a less dilapidated form) in Chris Cwej’s vision of the pre-universe in Christmas on a Rational Planet. I chose this setting because it coincides with the first mention in Lawrence Miles’ writing of … well, you can probably guess.

“Mammoth doors” is a little joke.

Depending on what you think of Avus’ identity, the “transcendent lock-pick” may or may not be a prototype sonic screwdriver.

The painted warriors are the “men of stone” mentioned in the description of the city in Christmas on a Rational Planet. In this story, they’re the enemy’s angels for the War in Heaven.

Cultures that use “breeding-engines” have included the Great Houses, Faction Paradox, the Remote, and the Osirian Court.

I’ve always found unexpected pataphors to be delightfully disorienting, and before I ever dreamed of writing for Faction Paradox I always thought they’d be well-suited for the praxis scene-shifts mentioned in The Book of the War’s account of the Rivera Manuscript. The editor added in the formatting change in the first pataphor to make it a little clearer what was going on, what with the channel switching and all.

(A delightful upside of being a writer for a fandom like this one is seeing all the fan theories that pop up, many of which are far more interesting than anything you intended. For instance, Darth Bumbles on the Obverse Wiki noted that this story “bears a great deal of similarity” to the Saragossa Manuscript mentioned in The Book of the War. That’s certainly not what I intended, but it’s far more interesting than anything I’d thought of!)

I also had the idea that, in the world after This Town Will Never Let Us Go, the Faction Paradox mask would be the default for Anonymous; it was a happy coincidence that Jay Eales used the same idea in “The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Enemy”. Regardless of what you think of Avus’ identity, this is probably the first time he hears the name “Faction Paradox” or sees a skull mask.

In the original outline, Avus became a cat, an allusion to the one-armed feline of Jonathan Dennis’ story “Gramps” from A Romance in Twelve Parts.

After escaping Abigail’s house, Avus gets his first peek at Terra Primagenia. The faintness of his connection to the caldera is meant to signal that this planet is near, or even beyond, the frontier in time.

Next we visit a huddled campfire of ritual and bone. According to the completely-unreliable BehindTheName.com, “Aguta” is Inuit for “gatherer of the dead”. I just like the sound of it.

Aguta’s story is a retelling of the anchoring of the thread, with some fairly obvious naming parallels with the story we know from Time’s Crucible, and a connection to Father Abdullah’s theory about the Mal’akh from The Book of the War.

I believe the first public mention of the Plume Coteries was in this Tardis Wiki discussion (see also the words “New Earth” in Linemica’s speech). They were further discussed in my short story “The Library: A Comprehensive History” in the fan anthology Shit Trips: Vol. 2. Keep an eye out for more mentions of the Plume Coteries in the future; ditto the “cactus-skinned child”.

Fun fact: Linemica is the first named character to actually appear whose name doesn’t start with “A”. There’s a pattern there.

“Cernunnos” is a name of the Horned God motif in ancient Celtic art. Of course, it looks nothing like a mammoth, so I’ve recast it as a “tusked god” and hoped no one notices. One day I’d love to explore its connections to Herne the Hunter.


A brief digression. When I was sent the pitch info document for The Book Of The Enemy, or, A Briefing For Fourth Wave Observers, there were three conditions, and I quote:

  1. The enemy must (in whatever sense) originate on, or in, or via the agency of Earth.
  2. The enemy must be sufficiently humanoid (or have humanoid agents who can), in mockery wear Great House Regalia.
  3. The enemy are not the bloody Daleks or anything else we can’t get the rights to, for next to nothing.

George III’s woolly mammoth was first mentioned, almost parenthetically, in Lawrence Miles’ short story “Grass”. In the story, the mysterious Frenchwoman Lucia Cailloux kills a herd of mammoths in the Louisiana territory. (In Christmas on a Rational Planet, “caillou” is the word the French Shadow Directory uses for Time Lords.) The mammoth was subsequently mentioned in The Adventuress of Henrietta Street and The Book of the War before debuting with a central role in the Faction Paradox comic, where it’s a relic in the 18th century in the same way that the Faction is a relic in the post-War universe.

image

The mammoth appeared in both the first teaser images of the comic’s first issue and the cover of the third issue; as the comic was cancelled before the third issue could be released, those two images of George III’s mammoth bookended the Faction Paradox comic and, with it, Faction Paradox’s last best shot to break out to a wider audience and rescue itself from its ostentatious obscurity.

These are all facts that anyone could tell you; I’m not going to provide any commentary. If I did, I might say that I’m a big fan of Robert Silverberg’s Downward to the Earth. Or that I’m very annoyed no one has ever returned to Daedalus’ war against the universe in The Blue Angel, and that Daedalus appears as … well, anyway. Back to the story.


“He wondered how, now free of the warrior, he could get back to the Homeworld.” A little nod to the arc of a certain character in Doctor Who.

This temple is the one Avus saw earlier at the end of the avenue. Since he’s out of his praxis-induced stupor, the prose returns to the faux-KJV style, complete with “thou hast”s and all. (I’m pretty sure there’s actually a mistake in the grammar of Cernunnos’ speech; I tried to have it corrected for the final manuscript, but the edit apparently didn’t make it in.)

Depending on what you think of Avus’ identity, “he lashed out like the shadow of a falling guillotine in the streets of a purgatorial city” may or may not be the first usage of a shadow weapon. Alternatively, it’s just a descriptive instance of regular old Great Houses psychic powers!

Avus’ final visions include an abbreviated tale of two cities: I imagined the “purgatorial city” to be revolutionary Paris, and as is made clear, the “busy city” is London in 1774, on the cusp of the British Empire’s own 18th century revolutionary war.

The bestiary is straight out of the Faction Paradox comics, and the presence of a girl named Lucita is a nod towards one of the most inexplicable loose ends in the Faction Paradox audios. I tried to leave it just vague enough to accommodate any future contradictions.

Regardless of what you think of Avus’ identity, the loomshed he stumbles out of is probably House Lungbarrow’s, the “elder” that greets him is probably Quences, and the “one Homeworld shall be brought down by [Avus’] will” is probably a reference to The Ancestor Cell.


It’s worth reiterating that if you enjoyed this, please consider buying The Book of the Enemy and/or pre-ordering The Book of the Peace, which will include my story “A Farewell to Arms” among many amazing others!

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