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Literature / Temps

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Temps is a 1991 Shared Universe anthology with stories by various authors set in a world where superhuman powers are common and the British government requires everybody with a Talent, no matter how useless, to register with the Department of Paranormal Resources and be on call to serve their country. Edited by Neil Gaiman and Alex Stewart, Temps contains stories by Alex Stewart, Brian Stableford, Marcus L Rowland, Kim Newman, David Langford, Roz Kaveney, Liz Holliday, Graham Higgins, Colin Greenland, Storm Constantine, and David V Barrett.

A sequel, Euro Temps, expanded the scope to other nations of the European Economic Community. Edited by Alex Stewart, it contains stories by Brian Stableford, Marcus L. Rowland, David Langford, Roz Kaveney, Graham Joyce, Jenny Jones, Liz Holliday, Colin Greenland, Anne Gay, Storm Constantine, Molly Brown, Tina Anghelatos, and Chris Amies.

Temps and Euro Temps provide examples of:

  • Blessed with Suck/What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Most of the protagonists.
  • Canon Discontinuity: "Pitbull Brittan", a savagely angry satire on the government of the day that features Margaret Thatcher taking one for the sake of the country, has an editorial disclaimer establishing it as an in-universe fiction and not a "real" event.
  • Canon Welding:
    • David Langford's "Leaks" is set in the same Atomic Weapons Establishment parody as his novel The Leaky Establishment.
    • Alternate universe versions of a minor character from Kim Newman's "Pitbull Britain" appear in the Richard Jeperson story "Swellhead".
  • Captain Ersatz:
    • "If Looks Could Kill" stars the overweight detective Caligula Foxe (Nero Wolfe), along with his legman Charlie Goodman (Archie Goodwin), his chef Franz (Fritz), and his associates Paul Sanza (Saul Panzer) and Terry Carver (Orrie Cather). Also mentioned are Charlie's lady friend Lila (Lily Rowan), paranormal detective Sally Cole (Sally Colt), and journalist Ron Cohen (Lon Cohen). DPR official Mr Cream might be intended as Inspector Cramer.
    • Pitbull Brittan is a parody of Bulldog Drummond.
  • Creator Cameo: Alex Stewart suffers Death by Cameo in "Pitbull Brittan".
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: There's a brief reference in "Leaks" to snake oil salesmen advertising in the back pages of Knave and Private Eye that if you rub their Cerebral Enhancer Tonic into your temples you are guaranteed a forty-inch talent.
  • A Dick in Name: The title character of "Pitbull Brittan" is named Richard, a fact which is appropriately made use of by the many people who think "Pitbull" does him too much credit.
  • Expospeak Gag: "Pitbull Brittan" opens with Brittan's papers regarding his transfer from One Para to the Department of Paranormal Resources. The DPR official is suspicious, believing "this is an oblatory equine situation, and we should acquire the services of a veterinarian dentist". (They should look the gift horse in the mouth.)
  • The Fagin: In "Sortilege and Serendipity", when the hapless hero, whose job is testing Talented kids, is mistaken for the super criminal known as the Taxman, he finds himself spinning a yarn about being a Fagin-figure using his work to recruit powered youngsters into his gang. He briefly wonders why he's never actually done this, before remembering that all the kids he works with are mouthy pains-in-the-neck with useless powers.
  • Flying Brick: The unseen American superhero Zeus appears to be this. If you call moving through the sky like a bulldozer on ice "flying", anyway.
  • Gentleman Wizard: Loric.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power:
    • The main character of "Leaks" may start out only being able to teleport beer from other people's glasses into his own, but in a life-or-death situation he finds that he can extend the power to other liquids such as his tormentor's blood. And then his power completely mutates into the new and more obviously useful ability to teleport money from other people's pockets into his own...
    • "Leaks" also mentions a wild talent with the ability to incinerate individual grains of dust—but only one at a time. He gets the idea of focusing his power on gunpowder, and goes on to have an illustrious superhero career as Mr Misfire, the Man Whose Adversaries Shoot Themselves in the Foot.
    • The heroine of Roz Kaveney's "Totally Trashed" can materialize random pieces of litter and garbage out of the air. She stops a homicidal robot by covering it in old stamps and scraps of paper that block its sensors, and discovers that when she really gets mad, she can drop an old, rusted-out car on top of someone. Later she finds out that many of the things she materializes are actually potentially valuable antiques from alternate universes or timelines, such as a tarnished, slightly dented Mycenaean shield that looks at first glance like a garbage can lid and old newspapers from other timelines that prove the existence of alternate universes, drawing in the interest of Nobel Prize-hungry researchers.
  • Heroes "R" Us: The DPR. In theory, and sometimes in practice. (They come down very heavily on vigilante activity, though.)
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: A running gag is that every DPR branch office in every story is run by the same inept secretary named Marcia. The anthology's foreword explains that this is a result of a cloning mishap.
  • Lethal Harmless Powers: The denouement of "Leaks".
  • Listing the Forms of Degenerates: In "Pitbull Brittan", a satire based on assuming everything the Daily Mail says is actually true, the forces of evil behind the miners' strike are a "consortium of South American dictators, Marxist ideologies, organised crime figures, Irish Republicans, hippie drug-fiends, Japanese businessmen, KGB hardliners, French pastry-chefs, Middle Eastern Mullahs, Nazi mad scientists, shapechanging vampire paranorms, Labour Party politicians and anarchist agitators".
  • Mad Scientist: Cranston.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The famous Mad Scientist Cranston did keep detailed notes of his experiments in robotics, cloning and advanced nuclear power... but because his superpower was the Placebotinum Effect, almost all of them are total nonsense.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Darren's friend Damon in "Someone To Watch Over Me", which the DPR classifies as a semi-autonomous psychokinetic energy field, but Loric prefers to call a familiar.
  • Placebotinum Effect: Cranston, a WWII Mad Scientist. His giant robot is unaffected by a character with psychic control of computers because "he never liked Turing, and used entirely different principles". He died when he sucessfully split an atom with a hammer and chisel.
  • Post-Modern Magik: Loric's briefcase contains "the disassembled neon tubes of a small but effective electric pentacle".
  • Shapeshifter Baggage: One of the reasons turning into a frog isn't as awesome as you might think in "Frog Day Afternoon": conservation of mass means that he turns into a very large frog that can't jump much.
  • Shared Universe
  • Shout-Out:
    • Leonora Norton, whose paranormal power is causing rubbish to spontaneously generate around her, is given the nickname "Captain Kipple", after Philip K. Dick's word for spontaneously generated rubbish.
    • In "Someone To Watch Over Me" by Stewart, the Tome of Eldritch Lore Loric has photocopies of is the Fulvarum Paginarum, a reference to a shared Gaiman and Terry Pratchett joke that also crops up in Discworld, The Sandman and Good Omens. The electric pentacle mentioned in the same story is the iconic tool of Carnacki the Ghost-Finder.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: In "Totally Trashed", Leonora can pass for a Marcia by changing her hairstyle. This is the first clue that the Marcias were cloned from her mother.
  • Super Registration Act: All British "paranorms" are required to register with the Department of Paranormal Resources and, in exchange for a monthly stipend and a cheap suit, can then be called up as government operatives and penalised for vigilantism. Mostly, the paranorms view this the way most people view government interference in their lives; annoying, but not worth making a fuss over.