Temps is an anthology of short stories edited by Neil Gaiman and Alex Stewart.

Set in an alternate universe where paranormal powers (psychic or superhero type powers) are an accepted fact of life, the stories, while they are written by different people, are all part of a self-contained, consistent universe, with many characters appearing in more than one story, which is fleshed out in linking material by Gaiman, Stewart and Roz Kaveney.

Described in the press when it came out as 'Superman crossed with Yes, Minister', the thesis is that if superheroes existed in Britain, they would be controlled by a government body - the more powerful being on permanent staff, the others merely being 'temps' called in when their particular field of expertise is necessary.

Thus, in the book, we get to see a variety of characters with 'paranormal' powers, many of whom are nonetheless utter failures in life, contending with an impersonal and incompetent beaurocracy as well as trying to 'fight evil' - difficult if one's power is merely to be so bland no-one notices you're there, or to turn into a giant frog.

The stories cover all the facets of the world in which they're set, from beautiful little vignettes like The Rose Garden to characters trying to deal with being both superpowered and gay (A Lonely Impulse), and even an example of the kind of short story that might be written in this alternate universe (Pitbull Brittan, a wonderful parody by 'Jack Yeovil' (Kim Newman) of Bulldog Drummond and stories of that ilk, in which our hero, whose power is that his entire body is made of erectile tissue, fights the evil mastermind who is trying to bring down Britain in the Miner's Strike...). The general tone is light, but the comedic and more serious stories work very well together, and this is particularly recommended to any fans of Gaiman's work (he doesn't write any stories, but came up with the concept and wrote some of the linking material - the whole book has the flavour of his best work).

The stories in the book are:

Nothing Special - Colin Greenland
Leaks - David Langford
Third Person Singular - Liz Holliday
Frog Day Afternoon - Marcus L. Rowland
Pitbull Brittan - Jack Yeovil
The String Man - Graham Higgins
Someone to Watch Over Me - Alex Stewart
The Oedipus Effect - Brian M. Stableford
The College Spirit - Storm Constantine
The Rose Garden - David V. Barrett
A Lonely Impulse - Roz Kaveney

The book is available from Roc books. Stewart also edited a sequel, Eurotemps, which I haven't been able to find yet.

Temps (?), n. [OF. & F., fr. L. tempus. See Temporal of time.]

Time.

[Obs.]

Chaucer.

 

© Webster 1913.

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