Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spanner and the Incident at Wold Newton

On December 13, 1795, a meteor fell near the village of Wold Newton in the Wolds of East Yorkshire, England. According to the late Philip José Farmer, science fiction author (of Riverworld fame) and genealogist, these people were nearby at the time:
  • John Clayton, third Duke of Greystoke, and his wife Alicia ( Rutherford), sister of...
  • George Edward Rutherford, eleventh Baron Tennington, and his wife, Elizabeth Cavendish;
  • Honoré Delargardie and his wife, Philippa Drummond;
  • Fitzwilliam Darcy and his wife, Elizabeth Bennet;
  • Sir Percy Blakeney (the Scarlet Pimpernel) and his second wife, Alice Clarke Raffles;
  • Sir Hugh Drummond (Philippa's brother) and his wife, Georgia Dewhurst;
  • Dr. Siger Holmes and his wife, Violet Clarke Raffles (Alice's sister);
  • Sebastian Noel, a friend and student of Dr. Holmes; and
  • four coachmen: Louis Lupin, Albert Lecoq, Arthur Blake, and Simon MacNichols.
The radiation from the meteor mutated these people, who became the ancestors of several of the greatest heroes in literature and pop culture. Farmer focuses in particular on three of them: Sherlock Holmes, descendant of Siger, and two Greystoke scions: John Clayton-Wilder, the eighth Duke of Greystoke, better known under the name Tarzan; and Dr. James Clayton "Doc" Wilder, Jr., whose adventures were fictionalized first as "Doc Ardan" (in French) and then, more famously, as Doc Savage.

Other characters in the "Wold Newton family" include Sherlock Holmes' archenemy Prof. James Moriarty, grandson of Sebastian Noel; James Bond, a Greystoke scion; Kent Allard, the Shadow; both Fu Manchu and his nemesis Sir Denis Nayland Smith; Arsène Lupin, descendant of Louis Lupin; Richard Wentworth, the Spider, along with Mack Bolan, his son; Philip Marlowe, Travis McGee, Ellery Queen, Frank Cannon, Angus MacGyver, Lew Archer and his daughter Kinsey Millhone, Buck Rogers and his nephew Steve "Captain America" Rogers, Jaime "The Bionic Woman" Sommers and her niece Buffy Summers, etc.; and even the Wold Newton Universe alternate version of Peter Parker, better known as Spider-Man. One Delagardie descendant is Lord Peter Wimsey; the Challengers from Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World are direct descendants of George Rutherford; and the Gordons of both Batman and Flash Gordon are, in the WNU, a branch of the Drummonds. Sherlock Holmes' nephew Stuart and his daughter Jenny are part of Professor Challenger's expedition in The Lost World. Nero Wolfe is, according to William S. Baring-Gould, the son of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler. And, of course, there's many, many more...

Farmer lays out his thesis in two books: Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke, and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (currently out of print). A very good supplement is the essay collection Myths for the Modern Age: Philip José Farmer's Wold Newton Universe.

By now you're asking, What the hell does this "Wold Newton family" have to do with Spanner?

Well, it was a decision I made many years ago that is currently hidden somewhere in one of my earlier Project Notebooks, but which ultimately proved fateful indeed. Let's get genealogical here and start with Spanner herself, Shira Thomas (born September 9, 1999). She is the daughter of Hope Maureen Reston (born 1962) and the granddaughter of Judge Philip David Reston (born 1925). Here's where the Wold Newton lineage comes in: When Phil's Apache mother, from whom Shira gets her famous nose, married an Irish immigrant named John Patrick (Jack) Reston, she already had a young son. That was Phil. Jack Reston legally adopted him, hence his name. But Phil doesn't look like he's the son of a white man. Clearly, he's the son of a bronze man. And judging by Phil's near-prodigy development, that man can only be the famous and mysterious Doc Wilder.

Then there's the question of the Beckets. Yeah. Let's talk about those Beckets.

Roger Steele Becket, founder of Dictel Corporation, has nine children. The eldest is Dictel chairman Thomas Drake Becket (born 1935), followed by Richard William (1937) and Charles Henry (1938), then their sisters Selma (1939) and Bernice (1941). Selma is married to her cousin Alec Power; Bernice is married to John Marshall Brinkman, patriarch of the Brinkman family. The youngest is the deranged New Age guru Drusilla (born 1959 to Roger's second wife, and mother [and enemy] of Shira's older half-sisters Charlotte and Desiree Richter-Thomas, the protagonists of Bad Company). Now, Roger Becket is married (and will soon be survived by) the daughter of the notorious Boston banker and crime lord Robert Putney Drake. And Robert Putney Drake is the grandson of Professor Moriarty. (Wold Newton researchers may want to fact-check me on this.)

But that's not all. Let's trace the origin of the Beckets, so shrouded in mystery. It starts with Captain Ahab. Yes, that Captain Ahab. He was married and had a son, remember? Everybody knows what happened to Ahab and his crew, because the sole survivor told the tale. But history does not record the names of his wife and son nor what became of them. Actually, we do know what happened to Ahab's son. He first emerges out of obscurity under the name John Becket. Normally, that name takes an extra "t", but "becket" is in fact a nautical term (itself of obscure origin). He married a female descendant of the exiled Richard Cromwell, son of Oliver the dictator, and their son was Alexander Cromwell Becket, born during the Civil War if we assume John was born in 1839. Alexander would grow up to marry the daughter of the would-be King of America, Confederate colonel Alexander Augustus Power (born 1835), ancestor of Alec (Alexander Power IV, born 1937). Research will have to be done, but their son William Alexander Becket (born 1888) marries a Wold Newton scion. And their son is Roger Steele Becket (born 1911).

Their allied clan, the Brinkmans, have a colorful history of their own. They're related to that branch of the Sinclairs that moved back to Scotland after they developed a tendency toward lycanthropy. John Marshall Brinkman, husband of Bernice Becket, is of Byron descent. His son, James Walter (Wally) Brinkman, a major Spanner villain, is the estranged ex-husband of Emma Augusta Shield, who claims Merovingian descent on the direct matrilineal line (which Laurence Gardner calls "del Acqs" in Bloodline of the Holy Grail); their children are Arthur David Brinkman a.k.a. Arvid Napoleon Shield (father of Emerson, Redmond, and Rhian Shield), (Suzanne) Taylor Brinkman (mother of Robert, Leila, and Fiona Shelley), and Rukmini Ariel Shield (née Brinkman; mother of Uma Parvati Shield). His brother, John Gordon Brinkman, is the father of John Marshall Brinkman II, Drusilla Becket's ex-lawyer (in Bad Company and part way through Black Science) and the second most ambivalent villain after Will Becket, and he is the father of Robert Marshall Brinkman and his sister Rachel. There's a sister, too. Oh, and they might be descended from Kane the Immortal.

The Becket/Brinkman family tree is complicated and will probably require an entire series of entries of its own, complete with genealogical charts. No doubt some of the Beckets and Brinkmans have married into other Wold Newton lines as well, I just haven't figured out which.

Now, what about connections to other Wold Newton family branches outside the Restons, Beckets, and Brinkmans?

Remember Peter Parker? According to Wold Newton researchers, he is the grandson of the Shadow's brother Captain Midnight/G-8 a.k.a. Jim "Red" Albright, full name Bruce Hagin Rassendyll; their mother is a Delagardie. (The Shadow's full name is actually Kent Allard Rassendyll; he generally drops that name. Oh, and Richard "the Spider" Wentworth is their brother, too. All are descended from Rudolf [The Prisoner of Zenda] Rassendyll.) Their sister Margaret married Francis Murtagh (Fergus MacMurdie of Justice, Inc., Richard "the Avenger" Benson's counterpart to Doc Wilder/Savage's Fabulous Five). Francis and Margaret Murtagh took the alternate identities Richard and Mary Parker. Peter Parker is their son, and their other known (to WNU researchers) son is Nicholas Parker, the American Zatoichi of Blind Fury fame. Now, he may or may not have children of his own. But one of the first characters I ever created was Shira's father Cedric's first girlfriend, Rosalie Parker (born 1964). She has a sister, Kim (born 1966), a disgraced former astronaut with a prominent role in Black Science; and they have a brother, whom I'll call Everett (born 1969). He is the father of Mary Ellen (Polly) Parker (born 1997), a classmate of Shira's who plays a major role in Spanner.

Yes, Polly Parker the teenage witch is not only the niece of (the WNU version of) Peter Parker, but a Delagardie scion as well, related to the Challengers and Wimseys. So she's as "Wold Newton" as any Becket or Reston.

Some of my other characters, especially minor ones, may have Wold Newton connections. One is minor villain Dr. Cain(e) Archer, and his first name may indicate a connection with any of the Caine families connected with the Wold Newton family. The father of Dr. Willa Richter-Thomas' children Connor Blair and Jennifer Richter-Thomas, Dr. Julian Blair, may have Holmes connections. Shira uses the name "Lael Deirdre Swift", which may have been taken (via ID someone else had stolen) from another character — who could, for all we know, be related to or even descended from a certain Tom Swift. No doubt there's others, once I remember them...

However, the Richter-Thomases as such are not part of the Wold Newton family, with the above exceptions.

Of course, there will be clues. Subtle references to other stories, well, lassoed into the Wold Newton Universe will have to be planted here and there. There's the issue of why Shira's incorporation has given her near immunity (SPOILER: it's because the name she used on her incorporation papers is Miranda Clayton-Wilder). And so on.

And then there's the future-universe connections that I haven't even gotten into yet...

There will be future entries on this. That's a no-brainer.

Back to Spanner’s World...

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