Shadows Over the Land

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Zine
Title: Shadows Over the Land
Publisher: Other Times and Places Press/OTP Press
Editor:
Author(s): Nina Boal
Cover Artist(s): Pat Cash
Illustrator(s): TACS and Sheila Willis
Date(s): 1992
Medium: print
Size:
Genre:
Fandom: Professionals
Language: English
External Links:
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Shadows Over the Land is a 90-page Professionals novel by Nina Boal. Cover by Pat Cash with interior art by TACS and Sheila Willis.

The story is dedicated to the memory of several of the author's friends who died of AIDS.

The story was originally a short vignette called ""A Time to Grieve."

"A Time to Grieve"

"Shadows Over the Land" began as a short story called "A Time to Grieve" This story's birthplace was in Short Circuit #1 (April 1990), where it had the title: "A Time to Grieve."

It had the endnote: "AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wrote this the day after I found out that one of my best friends had died of AIDS. "Tim Anderson" is based on a composite of two people with AIDS I knew who are now both gone. Sorry about the unnamed "certain quiz show" but my friend got me addicted to JEOPARDY, and I don't know the British equivalent. Anyway, I thank you all for your indulgence in allowing me to write this tale, and get some of it out -- and I thank the "circuit" for existing. This story is dedicated to my two friends and to all people living with AIDS."

Fan Comments About "A Time to Grieve"

At least one fan found it too short, and said:

Although I sympathize with your reasons for writing your story, I'd rather have been shown Doyle caring for his AIDS-stricken friend, rather than being told. Why couldn't we meet Tim? You could serve a good purpose here. Some of us have' thad to deal with AIDS full frontal. What is it like? Victim's feelings? Yours? I think you could have told us all better through showing Doyle and Tim dealing with it.

[...]

On a strictly technical note. I find it hard to believe the premise that Doyle was caught out as a "closet gay," as it were, while he was CI5. Now, anything is possible but, given Doyle's training and the circumstances of CI5's tenuous standing to many, that he would continue to go to gay bars while on the squad boggles the mind. Also, especially since you've given him a lover. And one of CI5's top agents was caught and tracked down by a journalist!? Hard to suspend belief. But then, we are talking about the same Doyle who took a prototype weapon home with him and hid it in a closet. Who forgot to set his locks and got blown away. Who has a partner who calls a Spade a Spade and got stabbed twice for it because he wasn't watching his back.

The author replied to this comment:
Concerning "A Time To Grieve:" Don't worry. I am working on what will probably be a novel-length epic concerning the Bodie and Ray of this story. You'll get to meet Tim Anderson and see how Ray relates to him and helps him out. And you'll see how Ray is dragged out of the closet and off of C15. I've promised it to Nuthatch Creative Workshop (Jane, Kathy Keegan, etc) when I'm through. Oh, and Nuthatch now has a U.S. distributor, so we won't have to pay that ghod-awful Australian postage. "Time To Grieve" was merely a little vignette thatI felt I had to get out of my system when my friend George died. [1]

I felt like I was being pushed to accept what was going on in this story. Everything was so foreign to regular CI5 work, and the story was so short that I didn't have time to assimilate what was going on. I saw Doyle's anger and distress but I never got a good feel about the relationship between him and Tim. I would have liked to have seen more of their relationship so that I could have felt the loss and distress as well. (I am such an emotional junkie!)

The author replied to this comment:
Author's comments: I agree that A TIME TO GRIEVE was a bit sketchy. But he's not playing "housewife;" Bodie doesn't live at Doyle's flat. But Doyle does cook for his dates and lovers — this is established in the program, and is one of his "androgynous" traits. He cooks for Ann Holly, why not for Bodie? I put the flower-shop thing in as a play on common stereotypes — Doyle, who loves to rumble around on motorcycles, working at a stereotypically "pansy" occupation. At any rate, this will all be expanded when I write my big epic. [2]

"Shadows Over the Land"

Shadows Over the Land was published in 1992 and contains 90 pages.

"Shadows Over the Land" Flyer and Ad Descriptions

From the original publisher: " A tabloid not only brings Ray Doyle "out of the closet" but loses him his CI5 position. Faced with economic hard times, Ray must struggle on his own. But what of Bodie, his lover? And what is Ray's role within the burgeoning anti-AIDS movement? (Note: this is not a death story!) Half-toned cover by Pat Cash."

From a distributor: Agent With Style: "The lives of CI5 agents are never their own; even when they're off duty they must adhere to a certain standard. When one of the Bisto Kids is outted to the public, Cowley has no choice but to remove him from the ranks. What will this do to the relationship between Bodie and Doyle?"

From Kathy Resch: "Ray Doyle finds himself an outcast, separated from everything he ever knew. This novel is set in the 80s and deals with AIDS and gay activism."

From Media Monitor #34: "A tabloid not only brings economic hard times. Ray must struggle on his own. But what of Bodie, his lover? And what is Ray's role within the burgeoning anti-AIDS movement? (Note: This is not a death story!)"

"Shadows Over the Land" Art


Author's Comments About "Shadows Over the Land"

From November 1994:

I've found that if I'm reading more slash and enjoying it less, the solution for me (other than leaving the fandom) is to begin writing what I want to read. I wrote SHADOWS OVER THE LAND because I got tired of reading "we're not gay, we're heterosexual men who love each other." I have no problem with others who like this scenario. But it wasn't what wanted. I wanted my characters to be Queer. I wasn't getting enough of it. After grumbling a bit, I wrote my own slash, the sort I wanted to read. While writing it, I also found other Queer slash (where be characters are clearly gay or bisexual) and I read it vociferously. But I also was looking for other

things in slash that I wasn't quite finding about the particular nature o fa relationship I wanted to study. I wanted a certain sort of plotting of the sort I wasn't finding enough of. Many writers are not quite satisfied with what they are reading, which figures as a strong motivation to write. The same sort of process happened with F/F stories. I wasn't seeing nearly enough of them, especially the sort wbere the women become heroic, then break through the barrier to erotic intimacy and accept their own beauty as women. So I began writing these sorts of stories. So, in my humble (?) opinion, if the slash you are readipg is not to your liking, then start writing your own. [3]
From November 1994:
Re fans' reactions to NEVER LET ME DOWN: I remember when I first published SHADOWS OVER THE LAND. I wondered about fannish reactions to it. I was happy to get the LOCS where people told me how much they enjoyed it. But I did hear about some feedback which said that it was "too "political." I didn't worry about less than positive comments, I realized that it was a matter of tastes. I also got a few comments stating that SHADOWS was too sentimental. I l-o-o-ve sentimental slush, but I know that other people don't always like it; or perhaps believe that it didn't fit in SHADOWS. I had enough positive feedback on SHADOWS to see that it was successful for at least part of the fannish community. [4]

Fan Comments About "Shadows Over the Land"

1994

Some 'serious' stories are so portentous as to be boring, and too many 'serious' stories contort the characters to make a point (Shadows Over the Land), or claim to be 'serious' but are, in actual fact, just leaden. [5]
Susan Douglass' story is a political statement [with] people with not characters but cardboard cutouts. Actually, next time someone maons at me for not using female characters and asks me why not, I should just hand them Douglass' collected works. Meow, definitely, but I really think she does a really awful job with female and/or gay characters, and she makes these female characters soooo annoying, and then there's the continuing stereotypes (Doyle comes out. Is fired. Goes from being a perceived heterosexual who is a tip-top CI5 agent to a perceived homosexual who suddenly can't even get money out of the government or feed himself. Is saved from his own inability to stand on his own two feet by two lesbians who read like something out of Rush Limbaugh. And is finally given back his self respect when they give him a job as a --wait for it-- florist.). [6]

1995

I don't think so. This was a tale set in the early 1980's, though possibly as late as 1987. Basically Doyle was caught, I think in a public toilet, and Cowley made him resign. He had to claim the dole, but was disallowed because of some impossible reason, and he wasn't offered a transfer into another government department. (In direct contradiction to Civil Service policy even then, not to mention that no-one even suggested going to his Trade Union [...] He ended up selling flowers in the Berwick Street market, called throughout the story the Berwick Street Fair or something like that. I know the story had the word 'Shadows' in the title - and the other thing I remember about it was that the writer had clearly read the handouts on Supplementary Benefit, but they were the (different) Scottish printing covering the Scottish rules. And in one of bits a car drove through a street which is a pedestrian-only right of way with bollards at both ends.

This must be SHADOWS OVER THE LAND, by Nina Boal, which does indeed deal with AIDS. (Hence the title: "shadow over the land" was originally a phrase referring to the threat posed by endemic syphilis in the early 20th century.) Or it might be the short story, probably of the same title but I'm not sure, out of which her novel grew. To be fair, she did a lot of research, although clearly she missed some bits (and you are quite right; as I understand it, she had Jane Carnall, a Scot, help her with rules for benefits.)

On the other hand, this novel has one of the worst oopses I've ever seen in fanfic: a newspaper headline at the very end of the book, revealing to the world the scandal of queers in high places, blazons:

"Your Tax Dollars Pay For Perversion in CI5!"
Ouch, indeed. [7]

1997

The only other slash stories I can recall that's set in London and contains such detail is Nina Boal's "Shadows Over the Land" (Pros) which was so full of technical errors and misunderstandings that I found it almost unreadable. [8]

References

  1. comments by Linda Terrell in Short Circuit #2 (July 1990), reply by Susan Douglass in "Short Circuit" 3 (October 1990)
  2. comments by Alys in Short Circuit #3 (October 1990), reply by Susan Douglass in "Short Circuit" #4 (January 1991)
  3. from Strange Bedfellows APA #7
  4. from Strange Bedfellows APA #7
  5. a fan on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously with permission (January 20, 1994)
  6. a fan on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously with permission (December 26, 1994)
  7. a fan on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously with permission (June 15, 1995)
  8. a fan on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (June 15, 1997)