Kim Newman (1959-) is an English author of often-satirical horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction.
Probably his best-known work is the Anno Dracula
sequence, an Alternate History
in which Count Dracula
succeeded in taking over England, played out as a Massive Multiplayer Crossover
featuring just about every famous fictional vampire ever, as well as many other famous fictional characters.
Also of interest to tropers is his Diogenes Club
sequence, concerning a secret service devoted to investigating the weird and improbable, from the return of Zombie Hitler to an insane murderer who devotes his kills to the goblins Snap, Crackle, and Pop
. Each story is a stylistic pastiche of the investigator of the unknown and/or secret agent fiction of the period in which it's set, with much Lampshade Hanging
and other playing with tropes.
Another recurring character, introduced in "The Original Dr Shade" but featured most completely in the novel The Quorum
, is the satanic media magnate Derek Leech; any time a Newman character makes a Deal with the Devil
, it's generally a Deal With Derek. Leech is an unholy No Celebrities Were Harmed
mashup of Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch who is secretly working toward some kind of consumer-culture-apotheosis apocalypse — and every single story he appears in, even the ones where he's being actively opposed, ends with him a little bit closer to achieving his goal.
Newman has also written some fiction under the name Jack Yeovil, including tie-in novels and short stories for Games Workshop's Dark Future
settings. The character Genevieve Dieudonne, who appeared in much of his Warhammer
work beginning with the novel Drachenfels
, went on to also be a part of the Anno Dracula
and Diogenes Club
universes. He also wrote the BFI TV Classic book on Doctor Who
, and is a regular film reviewer for Empire
magazine, with his own column for Direct-to-Video
releases (finding some neglected gems, but mostly dreck
Newman is a long-time friend of Neil Gaiman
; they collaborated on the hilarious and troperriffic non-fiction book Ghastly Beyond Belief
, a book of science fiction and fantasy quotations with plenty of snarky asides by Newman and Gaiman, back when they were both struggling journalists, and have made cameos in each others' work (Newman appears, in his other job as a film reviewer, in Gaiman's horror story "Calliope
According to Neil Gaiman
, he's a semi-professional kazoo player, used to carry a swordstick and is the original model for the Pinhead Cenobite
. Newman contends that Gaiman is the model for the Chatterer, another Cenobite.
Works by Kim Newman with their own trope pages include:
Other works by Kim Newman provide examples of:
- Affably Evil: Derek Leech is very, very charming. Of course, this just makes it easier for him to negotiate advantageous deals with people...
- Animal Wrongs Group: The plot of Orgy of the Blood Parasites kicks off when animal activists liberate some cute fluffy bunnies from being laboratory test subjects, without stopping to check whether the bunnies might have been used to test, for instance, a high contagious virus with a variety of weird side effects.
- Black Helicopter: Played with in Jago, with white helicopters seen hovering at various points. It turns out that they're part of a rock band's publicity stunt, and nothing to do with the supernatural goings-on.
- Body Horror: Newman has lots of fun with this in Orgy Of The Blood Parasites.
- Broad Strokes: Newman's standard approach to continuity; he's said in interviews that he'll cheerfully change a previously-established detail if doing so will better serve the story he's currently writing.
- Most obviously, stories in which Dr Shade is a fictional character are broadly in continuity with stories in which he's very real. The author's notes at the back of Mysteries of the Diogenes Club Handwave this by saying the real Shade's descendents dispute Leech Enterprises' ownership of the trademark.
- Canon Welding:
- While Kim Newman has seeded connections between his books since the beginning, the short story "Cold Snap" seems to be a concentrated effort to tie them all together. A "Diogenes Club" story (and therefore featuring characters whose Alternate Universe selves appear in the Anno Dracula novels) it adds characters from his early work such as Jago, and even features the villain from his Doctor Who novella Time and Relative.
- Under the pseudonym Jack Yeovil, Newman wrote a number of books based on Games Workshop properties. Krokodil Tears, one of the Dark Future books, has a scene wherein the Big Bad of that series has a vision of one of his alternate versions as Drachenfels from his Vampire Genevieve series of Warhammer books.
- Captain Ersatz:
- In The Quorum, several of the characters are fans of Captain Ersatz comics characters Amazon Queen (Wonder Woman) and The Streak (The Flash, with shades of Superman), and one is a comics writer creating a Crisis on Infinite Earths-style series about them for comics company "ZC".
- The novel also mentions Dr. Shade, a British comics character who resembles The Shadow; his first appearance was in Newman's story "The Original Dr. Shade", which in the course of describing the character's fictional publishing history performs a Lampshade Hanging by mentioning that The Shadow's publishers once sued over the resemblance.
- Celebrity Paradox: Newman loves zigzagging this, particular in the Anno Dracula stories and the Back In the USSA stories written by Eugene Byrne; fictional characters will often appear alongside (or at least in the same universe as) the people who played them.
- Choose Your Own Adventure (Life's Lottery)
- Comic Book Time (given a great big lampshade hanging in "Coastal City")
- Cool Car: The Rolls Royce ShadowShark. Only six were ever made. Derek Leech owns one. Richard Jeperson owns three.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive (Leech)
- The Cowl: Dr. Shade.
- Cross Through: Seven Stars, a sequence of novellas in which various Newman heroes one after the other have to deal with the same cursed artifact.
- Dark Messiah: "Another Fish Story" reveals that Charles Manson actually was one of these, prophecized to bring about The End of the World as We Know It via unleashing a Cthulhu-style deluge upon Los Angeles. Unfortunately for him, he brought along Derek Leech, who has much more interesting and complex ideas for the apocalypse and who, while promising to help him find the temple he needed to trigger the apocalypse, never said anything about helping him find his way out of it...
- Death by Adaptation/Spared by the Adaptation: Bad Dreams has an In-Universe example, where a play that ends with one of the characters being shot is adapted for film, and the studio executives want that character to survive, so in the film adaptation somebody else gets shot instead. (It's mentioned in the executives' favour that they did stand up to the Moral Guardians who would have preferred that nobody got shot at all.)
- Detect Evil: In "Out of the Night, When the Full Moon is Bright", the protagonist becomes the latest upholder of a heroic legacy that, among other things, causes him to see an unpleasant glowing aura around evil people.
- Dream Within a Dream: Happens several times, to various characters, in Bad Dreams. At one point, the heroine spends several (short) chapters cycling through the same two dreams, waking from each into the other, until she finds a way to break the cycling.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: The Alternate History novella "Teddy Bear's Picnic" features a truly psychotic version of Sergeant Grimshaw, the drill sergeant from Carry On Sergeant, mixed with a large helping of the Trope Codifier from Full Metal Jacket.
- Emotion Eater: The Kind in Bad Dreams feed on humanity's emotions and imaginings. Some of them are emotional vampires who specialise in negative emotions; others act as muses to great creative minds. One way and another, they did quite well out of Hollywood.
- Evil Colonialist: Basil Fotherington-Thomas in the Alternate History novella "Teddy Bear's Picnic", where he has become his world's equivalent of Colonel Kurtz.
- Evil Inc.: Derek Leech's multinational corporation.
- Evil Versus Oblivion: Derek Leech appears to prefer some kind of lingering, ongoing consumerist excess version of the apocalypse to the typical The End of the World as We Know It Omnicidal Maniac version, and can usually be counted on to intervene against those who would attempt to initiate the latter (even if it is purely in his own interests).
- Going Native: Basil Fotherington-Thomas (from the Molesworth books) fills the Kurtz role in "Teddy Bear's Picnic", a bizarre Alternate History retelling of Apocalypse Now. Just William also fits as the soldier sent to kill Fotherington-Thomas who ends up joining him.
- Historical-Domain Character: Just about everything Newman writes with a historical setting has at least a cameo from a historical figure.
- Hot Potato: The short story "Mother Hen" is about a group of people all trying to avoid ending up with a cursed statuette, in a reversal of The Maltese Falcon.
- Immoral Reality Show: The Reality TV Show Mansion show It's a Madhouse!, in "Going to Series" — the housemates have been deliberately selected to be psychologically unstable and to have traits that will rub each other the wrong way, and the mansion has been carefully designed to get on its occupants' nerves in a variety of subtle ways, and furnished with objects chosen for their potential as Improvised Weapons.
- Indian Burial Ground: Parodied in "The Pale Spirit People", in which an Indian tribe in an After the End setting suffer from supernatural manifestations after locating their new burial ground on the former site of a suburban housing development.
- In Spite of a Nail: In Back in the USSA, American government and capitalism collapse in 1917 and Eugene Debs leads a Socialist revolution. After that things go much as in the USSR in our timeline, but with American figures — e.g., Al Capone fills the role of Stalin, J. Edgar Hoover is the equivalent of Lavrentiy Beria, and Eliot Ness is an agent of the Federal Bureau of Ideology. Dissidents risk getting exiled to Alaska.
- I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: Sergeant Grimshawe in "Teddy Bear's Picnic" does this.
- Jack the Ripper:
- Anno Dracula features an Alternate Universe version of Jack the Ripper whose victims are all vampires.
- The Warhammer spin-off novel Beasts in Velvet features the Warhammer universe's version of the Ripper murders, investigated by the Warhammer universe's version of Dirty Harry.
- Landmarking the Hidden Base: In some stories, vigilante Dr. Shade is described as having a secret base in the clock tower that houses Big Ben.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo:
- Malicious Misnaming: In the Alternate History novella "Teddy Bear's Picnic", film director Michael Powell makes a deliberate decision to refer to the government censor Putnam as "Putt-man", and instructs all of his staff to do the same.
- Legacy Character: Dr. Shade has two, his son Jamie Shade and his thus-far-only-mentioned-in-the-notes niece Lady Shade.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Happens a lot in Newman's work. For one example, "Teddy Bear's Picnic" is about Terry and Bob of The Likely Lads fighting in the Vietnam war with William of Richmal Crompton's Just William stories and other fictional characters.
- Meet Cute: Lampshaded by name in what turns out to be a dream sequence in Bad Dreams.
- The Multiverse (The Diogenes Club Universe version of Keith Marion [from Life's Lottery] can see into multiple universes, including all Newman's other settings)
- Mundanger: The "Where the Bodies Are Buried" stories are about a supernatural Serial Killer emerging from a Slasher Movie — except "Where The Bodies Are Buried 3: Black And White And Red All Over", which is a Ripped from the Headlines tale of tabloid hysteria and hypocrisy over such movies.
- The Muse: In Newman's Warhammer-set stories, his vampire heroine Genevieve serves as muse to Detlef Sierck, poet (he writes her a sonnet cycle titled "To My Unchanging Lady"), playwright (he meets her while preparing to stage the story of Drachenfels, in which she features), actor, musician, and so on and so forth. Warhammer being a Crapsack World, it doesn't work out so well, and she leaves him. Kim Newman being ultimately a rather romantic sort, she comes back in a more recent story, and they get a remarkably happy ending to a story featuring murder, mayhem, political chicanery, and ventriloquism.
- Mythology Gag: In Bad Dreams, a composer is shown a vision of a potential future in which he lives a long and happy life but never creates any more great music. One of his hypothetical collateral descendents, an artist in a medium that hasn't been invented yet, has the same name and occupation as the protagonist of Newman's earlier science fiction novel The Night Mayor.
- The Neidermeyer: Captain Fisher, a.k.a. "Billy Liar", in the Alternate History novella "Teddy Bear's Picnic".
- The New Rock & Roll: The moral panic around violent horror movies is parodied in the short story "Where The Bodies Are Buried 3". A series of brutal murders is blamed on the titular horror movie, which prompts a tabloid journalist to spearhead a campaign which eventually leads to horror movies getting banned because of their influence. He later comes to realize that there is indeed a dark, demonic presence at work corrupting people into committing these crimes... but it's got nothing to do with the movie. It's working through the tabloid newspaper and his campaign.
- Occult Detective: Sally Rhodes, heroine of "Organ Donors" and The Quorum.
- Our Vampires Are Different: The villain in Bad Dreams is a member of The Kind, Emotion Eaters who inspired humanity's legends of vampires.
- Peeling Potatoes: Done by the Drill Sergeant Nasty to the trainees in "Teddy Bear's Picnic". In a particularly sadistic twist, he then changes his mind and orders the recruits to glue the skins back on.
- Pen Name: "Jack Yeovil", used for his Games Workshop spin-off novels and for the splatterpunk Orgy of the Blood Parasites.
- Public Domain Character: Show up about as often as the Historical Domain Characters, and often even in the same stories.
- Raised as the Opposite Gender: One of the characters in Beasts in Velvet — and there's really not much more can be said about that without massive spoilers.
- Reality Bleed: In "The Original Doctor Shade" an author is hired to revamp an old franchise. However, the original versions of the characters start intruding into the real world and aren't happy with his changes...
- Reality TV Show Mansion: "Going to Series" recounts the behind-the-scenes of a Reality TV Show Mansion show called It's a Madhouse.
- Reality Warper: The main antagonist in Jago.
- Reality Warping Is Not a Toy: Jago.
- Red Scare:
- McCarthy's witch hunt forms part of the backstory of Bad Dreams; the heroine's father was a playwright whose career was ruined.
- "The McCarthy Witch Hunt" is an Alternate Universe in which magic is an acknowledged reality and McCarthy's hunting actual witches.
- Richard Nixon the Used Car Salesman: There are a bunch in Back in the USSA, including Al Capone as the American Stalin, Kurt Vonnegut as the American Gorbachev, and Trotsky's daughter is a commoner who marries the British Crown Prince. Lafayette Hubbard, Mitch Morrison, Charles Lindbergh and Joseph McCarthy appear as a propagandistic "troupe of war heroes" in the 1950s Communist America.
- Second Place Is for Losers: Discussed in "The Germans Won".
- Send In The Search Team: "Teddy Bear's Picnic", which is essentially a retelling of Apocalypse Now with British characters and a few nasty surprises.
- Status Cell Phone: In "Organ Donors", Sally Rhodes's new job includes being provided with a "portable phone", which is indicative of how important it is (although being Sally, she doesn't actually use it). Newman notes this as one of the things that makes the story an Unintentional Period Piece.
- Tag-Along Actor: In "Out of the Night When the Full Moon Is Bright", the protagonist is a writer who's riding along in an LAPD squad car as research for a screenplay. (The usual course of the stock plot, however, gets derailed after a werewolf shows up.)
- Tap on the Head: Lampshaded by the unnamed private eye in "The Big Fish".
- Two-Fisted Tales: Dr Shade ... sometimes. Some of the stories featuring him are celebrations of the pulps and others (most especially "The Original Dr Shade") are deconstructions.
- Unfriendly Fire: The final fate of Captain Fisher, a.k.a. "Billy Liar", in the Alternate History novella "Teddy Bear's Picnic". He gets fragged by his own troops using a white phosphorus grenade.
- Unintentional Period Piece: Newman has acknowledged that his Sally Rhodes stories have become unintentional period pieces; the character is just as tied to The Eighties (or very early nineties) as Edwin Winthrop (an intentional period piece) is to The Roaring Twenties. "Organ Donors" features references to the poll tax, seven satellite TV channels, the ITV bidding war, and a "portable phone" as being a big deal.
- We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: In The Night Mayor, the protagonists are writers, and there's a sequence about the difficulties of the hack romantic novelist now that science has eliminated all the diseases that heroines used to romantically die of.