THE FALL by Mark Gorton

I wrote this story in 1986 to enter a Gollancz/Sunday Times science fiction short story competition. It was a runner-up and published in the subsequent anthology. Set in a possible future it also harks back to the past in which it was written – when the Internet was still embryonic and mobile devices were neither small nor almost ubiquitous; when people still read books and wrote on paper. A past when you could quote Karl Marx and people would nod thoughtfully…

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Science fiction and fantasy on TV have shaped my life and what claims to be my mind.

Ask me to describe my most vivid memories of childhood television and I’ll respond: anything by Gerry Anderson, but especially Captain Scarlet. Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but especially its precursor, Do Not Adjust Your Set. Doctor Who, but especially in black and white. The Avengers, but especially episodes like The Cybernauts and The House That Jack Built. The Outer Limits, but especially Demon with a Glass Hand. The Prisoner, but especially the fact that it never made any sense.

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The story of the murders of the Lancashire witches.

Britain’s most destructive single witch hunt took place in Lancashire in 1612. It was our equivalent of Salem: twenty innocent men and women were tried; ten were executed; an eleventh had already died in prison.

The trial is remarkable for two reasons: first, it heard bizarre evidence of feuds between warring families of witches, of souls sold to the Devil and supernatural murders; second, it appears to have been recorded in unique detail for posterity by clerk Thomas Potts.  His account was published as The Wonderful Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster.

The witch hunter was local Puritan magistrate, Roger Nowell. Serving God, King and himself, Nowell manipulated witnesses and orchestrated events in court in order to frame the defendants. Potts re-arranged the evidence for publication to justify the verdicts and cover up what had really happened.

Nowell was the stage manager of an extraordinary show trial. Potts was his spin doctor.

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PLUM GOES TO WAR – P. G. Wodehouse, internee.

Young men, starting out in life, have often asked me, “How do I become an Internee?” Well, there are several methods. My own was to buy a villa in Le Touquet on the coast of France and stay there till the Germans came along. This is probably the best and simplest system. You buy the villa and the Germans do the rest.

So began the internment of P. G. Wodehouse and a route through various parts of Europe that ended in Berlin – where Plum, as he was affectionately known, made his notorious broadcasts on Nazi airwaves.

Internment as described by Wodehouse is pure comedy…but he is plainly not at liberty to say that there was enormous hardship too…The story is Allo Allo meets The Great Escape – even though he didn’t, or even try…

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A LITTLE TOGETHERNESS – Hear a Northern Soul classic tortured and finally murdered. By me.

Round about 1970 was when I joined the in-crowd.  I cut off my hair, learnt how to get my kicks out on the floor, and swore I’d just keep on keepin’ on.  Northern Soul was a unique phenomenon, youngsters from Lancaster down to Stoke seeking out the best American dance music the rest of the world seemed to ignore.

I  have no idea how it began, although I seem to remember the Stax label becoming a crucial part of the northern music scene in the late sixties. I grew up in Blackburn and, when I was eleven or twelve, I heard about the Stax club that had opened up there.  Suddenly, and almost impossibly, ‘Blackburn’ sounded exciting, the way ‘Nashville’ and ‘Memphis’ did on the radio.

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