Tales from the Aletheian Society

Tales from the Aletheian Society is a serialised comedy-horror audio drama about the misadventures of a society of Victorian occultists.

Inspiring Ladies

As the Aletheian Society blunder about Victorian Britain, one of the tremendous pleasures we have is identifying real world people for them to run into - and Edinburgh in the early 1870s seem particularly packed with fascinating individuals for us to shoehorn into our plots. You'll meet one of those people in Episode 2 - so go and listen to that first before you read on...

...Done? Excellent. I'm referring, of course, to Isabel Thorne, one of the Edinburgh Seven - a pioneering group of women who convinced Edinburgh University to let them study medicine, characterised by their remarkable ability and perseverance.  They met with tremendous opposition from their fellow medical students, the staff and the wider population of Edinburgh- but despite being assaulted, threatened and harassed, all seven consistently excelled academically and passed their final exams with flying colours, only to be told that they should never have been admitted in the first place, and denied their degree. 

As the first group of female undergraduates in Britain, these inspiring ladies laid the foundations for equal access to higher education in a time when only a few years before it would have been unthinkable. In 1876, an act of parliament made it possible for women to study medicine in British Universities - just four years after Sophia and Isabel meet in Edinburgh. Several of the seven went on to obtain medical qualifications in other Universities - Isabel Thorne never did, but instead was instrumental in establishing the London School of Medicine for Women, where her daughter trained and became a surgeon.

You can never really hope to do your heroes justice in a fictional setting - but I hope that Isabel Thorne wouldn't have been too outraged by the version of her that appears in our story. Fictional Isabel's courage, intelligence and wit are inspired by her real-life achievements - any flaws and inaccuracies are naturally the fault of the writers. 

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T minus 24

As I write this, we’ve got less than 24 hours to go before Season 2 is launched, and the familiar buzz of anticipation and anxiety is building. It’s hard not to compare it to the day before we released our first episode, not knowing whether people would enjoy it, hate it, or worse - ignore it completely. I don’t think any of us really thought that we’d get much of an audience beyond our immediate social circles, or that we’d have been welcomed with such warmth and kindness into the established audiodrama and podcasting community. In a way, with Season 1, we had very little to lose - it was our first try at audio storytelling, and if it failed, then no harm done.

Now, six months later, the first season and accompanying minisodes under our belt, the game has changed. We’re an established audiodrama (we have fans we’ve never even met!) and we’ve tried to build on what we learned from our first few episodes to make a more complex, more nuanced, just-plain-better show- and we think we’ve managed. And correspondingly, the stakes feel that much higher than they did first time round.

Writing and performing is all about ego - and as we’ve said before, you need a fairly big one to think that people will want to listen to what you have to say - but a creator’s ego is a fragile thing. Feedback is a vital part of growing and learning as a creator, the prouder you are of what you’ve achieved the harder it is to face incoming criticism, no matter how constructively it might be delivered. Putting your best work out there and inviting people to experience it is difficult. But then, if we don’t think what we make is worth sharing, why do we bother making it in the first place?

So, here it is - Tales From The Aletheian Society, Season Two - A Parcel of Rogues - the result of six months hard work from Chris, Stoo and me, and our wonderful cast and crew. Individual thanks will come later, but as always we couldn’t do this without absolutely everyone who’s given their time and talents to the show. It’s not perfect, and with the benefit of the retrospectoscope we’re learning from yet another round of mistakes - but it’s done, and we can’t wait to share it with you and hear what you all think, and overall we're feeling pretty damn proud, and excited... 

And maybe just a little bit nervous...

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Book 2: Parcel of Rogues public video trailer release!

For those that missed it, the video trailer for Season 2 of Tales from the Aletheian Society is available for all to watch. In the dark. At Halloween. Right before you download the first episode of Season 2!

Or if you prefer the comedy part of comedy-horror (and want to see what the Aletheian Society might look like as a Hollywood film) there's some utter silliness at https://vimeo.com/291352944 and https://vimeo.com/291660808

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A Tale of Two Cities

If you've ever lived in Scotland, you'll know about the not-too-friendly rivalry between Glasgow and Edinburgh. For Glaswegians, it's baffling that a weird, cramped, posh chocolate box of a city should have ended up as the capital just because it's got a castle and a big rock - for Edinburghers, it's equally bewildering that people from dirty, smoky, ugly Glasgow think their city could compare at all.  There's a remarkable contrast between the two, given that they're less than fifty miles apart, and though you can find common ground in the leafy suburbs of both, and their areas of deep deprivation, it's clear the the origins of the two cities have led to foundational difference between the two.  Glasgow was built on heavy industry, shipbuilding, trade and the success of the British Empire, and Edinburgh was built on... well, mainly Edinburgh. 

Why (except for a mysterious letter and a pushy maiden aunt, that is) would you want to journey to the perilous East? The weather's better, no doubt, with Glasgow's perpetual drizzle giving way to a soulless, bone-deep chill in the air as you pass the mid-point of the country. It's well worth a visit for the architecture and history alone - and it's obvious from the moment you step off the train that Edinburgh is built in more than the usual two dimensions. From your first sight of Castle Rock towering over Waverley Station, to the winding stairways that lead you up vennels in the cliff-face, Edinburgh is built on a haphazard series of levels, where the back doors of buildings are two streets below the front,  and houses you thought stood on solid ground turn out to have their foundations in bridges five stories high. You can end up lost in an Escher drawing of archways, platforms and staircases, able to see your destination but quite incapable of working out a way to reach it.

This geographic peculiarity can all be dated back to the Battle of Flodden, where the Scots suffered a defeat sufficiently crushing that building a massive wall around their capital seemed like the best plan to withstand an English invasion. That invasion never came, and rather than keeping enemies out, the sense of security the wall provided ended up keeping the rapidly expanding population in. Tall, cramped houses, streets built on top of other streets, and cellars built into the massive bridges that span the city became the norm, and it was only in the 1800s that the city's footprint expanded along with the population and the Georgian New Town was built.

Since then, like any city, it's expanded to engulf the outlying burghs - Portobello, Canongate, the shipyards of Leith - but that rocky extrusion at the heart of Edinburgh remains remarkably similar to the streets that the Aletheian Society knew. When we researched this series, the more we read into Edinburgh's dark secrets, the more awful horrors we uncovered - and it's quite possible that Auld Reekie's past might be even murkier than Glasgow's.  Only one thing is for certain - when you walk on Edinburgh's streets, you're literally walking on its history. 

But tread carefully. You wouldn't want to wake anything up...








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Season Two- Coming (Very) Soon!

It’s been hard work getting here, but Season Two is almost ready to go!   

After the flurry of activity that saw the first series of Tales go from a half-baked idea to scripts to finished episodes, it seemed that Season Two took a long time and twice as much work. Part of that probably stems from the fact that initially we had the background to the story half-conceived as a LARP setting anyway, so the difficult world building for Season One had been done years in advance - but there was more to it than that. 

The second round of scripts took longer to write - Chris and I were busy over the summer with social events and family commitments (LARP season alone seems to derail everything), and we rapidly realised that we’d packed the series pretty tightly with complex framing, character progression, historical factoids and a huge amount of plot, all of which took quite a lot of careful arranging and editing to bring it to a state we were happy with. Add to that a real push on female representation and not one but two new regular characters, and it was pretty obvious we weren’t making things easy on ourselves.    

The summer also made it difficult to get our expanding cast together, with various work commitments and holidays abroad meaning that there was often a gap of a month or more between recording sessions. I got quite obsessional about trying to get everyone along on the same evening to record together- but in the end that simply wasn’t possible and we had to record some lines separately. On the other hand, the pressure meant we got really good at recording lots of material in a very short space of time - by the end of season 2, we could get a quick rehearsal and two full episodes recorded in a single three hour session.  And in the midst of it, Stoo got a new job, which meant we could no longer completely monopolise his time (though he seems to have removed "sleep" from his diary, if the pace he's continuing to edit at is anything to go by).

But despite all the difficulties, it’s all coming together beautifully, and we’re pretty damn proud of what we’ve achieved so far. All of us - writers, actors, art wizard and sound magician alike - have developed our skills immensely and in unexpected directions since we began work on this project, and the learning process is far from over. It's safe to say we've well and truly got the audiodrama bug, and (shhh - it's still a secret) Shadow Factories and We Evolve's second collaboration (guaranteed to contain neither Victorians nor tentacles) is now at the plotting-it-out-in-the-swingpark stage of development.

And what’s next for the Society? Next up we’ve got a selection of Patreon minisodes ready to record (including one very special one casting a light on a fan-favourite character often denied their rightful place in the limelight) and one or two giving a sneak peek at a few of the secrets coming up in Season 3 - and yes! There will be a Season 3, half of which is written already, with the second half flying off our keyboards as I write. Once that's out the way the grisly process of comparing diaries and swearing over doodle polls begins once again, and I can hardly wait.

But for now, put Halloween in your diary, pack your occult paraphenalia and book your train ticket to Edinburgh - because the Aletheian Society has work to do...


Jude

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