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More lovely fanmail re: Triptych (and Welshness)

Hi there!

Finished Triptych not long ago and wanted to express my appreciation. Found it on a list of recommended queer-themed SF and got hooked immediately. Loved the characters and culture-building. Given your involvement with Doctor Who fandom, I’m guessing Basil’s Welshness is in part a nod to Who and Torchwood? Actually, the book feels like the Torchwood I wish we’d had more of — adult and thoughtfully so, with a warmth and humour that balance and sharpen the tragic parts. Good stuff. Really looking forward to more of your work!

— [redacted]

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My reply:

Hi back! Thank you so much for your message!

I’d love to know what list you saw it on so I can archive it.

Basil’s Welshness came from a lot of places, actually, but yes, Torchwood was one of the influences. I loved Kai Owen in Torchwood (would love to see Kai Owen play Basil, actually), and I thought Rhys had such potential and was a character of great depth and compassion, by the end of the series. Much of Basil’s heart came from there.

It also came from actor David Hewlett, who played Rodney McKay inStargate, another geek everyman character that I sympathized with greatly, and who was more than just his prickly exterior.

Both characters had such heart.

(And yes, Gwen Pierson is named in tribute to Gwen Cooper in Torchood. I nicknamed the character Gwen in the manuscript as a placeholder. I had full intention of going back and doing a Find + Replace to change her name at the end, when I had a better sense of her character. But everything I tried, she didn’t like. We comprimised and we stuck with Gwen. Which was funny, because later, Gwen Gaddes became the book’s publisher!)

But Basil’s Welshness also came from the fact that I was in Wales for some of the time I was working on Triptych, and my love of the accent, the people, and the architecture. My friend’s beau at the time was Welsh, so there’s a bit of him in Basil, too.

Wales is a fascinating place, and the mythology, castles, and sense of community moreso. I thought, if anyone could understand what Kalp was going through, what it meant to be, as Sondheim put it, “expatriates in your own country”, then it would be a Welshman in England.

Part of the influence on Triptych was, too, as you say, Torchwood andDoctor Who. It was also Stargate, and Star Trek, and Farscape, andAndromeda, and The Visitors, and Alien Nation, and all these amazing socially apt science fiction properties that engage with aliens not as something to practice at the shooting range on, but as whole peoples with different cultures and different values. And while the stories in those shows have to wrap up in 48-minutes-with-commercials, a novel afforded me the opportunity to take the foundation of those sorts of stories and build on them.

“What would a proper, well thought out governmental response to alien refugees be?” I wondered. “And would it end all shooty, like it usually does?”

(I was disappointed to realize that yes, it probably would end all shooty. I wrote Triptych between 2005-2009, and looking at the world right now, looking at #BlackLivesMatter and the kidnapped schoolgirls, ISIS and Syria and Ferguson, and the missing aboriginal women from around the world, and all of the revolting things that human beings do to one another, I am sorry, and sad, and ashamed of my species when I am forced to point out that Triptych is, in 2014, sadly even more socially relevant than it was when I wrote it.)

So, thank you very much for your thoughtful message, and I’m so very glad you enjoyed the book.

—J.M. Frey

JM FreyMore lovely fanmail re: Triptych (and Welshness)