The Last Days Message is primarily a bit of a dig at those religious fanatics who predict the end of the world every so often and persuade desperate and vulnerable people to sell everything they own to pay for passage on a spaceship to heaven or some variation on the theme. The biggest such event in recent years was the ‘Rapture’ predicted by American evangelist Harold Camping that failed to happen several times in 2011. This, frankly, looked so much like a major scam it is hard to fathom why well educated Americans would be caught up in it. Camping himself died in December 2013 with no bright angelic lights around him, and his reputation and business assets in tatters.
These things don’t seem to happen as often in the UK. We don’t have the sort of TV evangelism with the big money coming in that they have in the USA, and generally people who are interested in religion go to the mainstream churches where the message about the end times is found in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 24, verse 36 - “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven.” This is the King James bible version as used in most Anglican churches in Britain. The Catholic Church uses the New Jerusalem Bible which says the same with slightly different words. There are a few other slight variations of the words in other versions of the Bible, but the meaning is perfectly clear. Christians in Britain are taught that the end of the world is NOT nigh, and even if it was, they wouldn’t know when it is going to happen, so anyone claiming they do know is a false prophet. This ought to be enough to guard against the ‘Rapture’ culture.
And yet, perfectly sensible church going people who ought to have known better thought the world was going to end on the Millennium and on the winter solstice of 2012 and other dates passed around. This is something that does seem to grip people all the time.
The monastery that the story is set in is fictional, but I set the whole thing in real geography. The first clue about that is when Toshiko sends Patricia to the bus stop on Strathblane Road. I made up the phone box. Those are disappearing rapidly since mobiles came long, but there actually is a stone-built bus shelter on the junction with a road called Clachan of Campsie that served as a point of connection with the real landscape. It is about eleven miles from the location of Torchwood Glasgow in central Glasgow, but though that sounds close, it is a different world in the countryside outside the city.
Campsie Fells are a range of hills made for ramblers and climbers. It is not exactly unoccupied land, but it is remote enough for aliens to make a rendezvous there. The weather station with a huge white ball on top is a bit of an alien place on its own, so it serves, again, as a real life location for the fiction.
The weaponry used in the fight against the aliens is all real. I wanted to use ordinary weapons in the British military arsenal rather than inventing anything sci-fi. The idea was to show that we’re not completely helpless against alien invasion. A small ship within range of a Rapier surface to air missile would be just as vulnerable as the Russian planes they were designed to blow out of the skies. The alien ship on the ground could easily be wiped out by the LAW 80 anti-tank weapon and the aliens themselves vulnerable to standard British army SA80 rifle with its 5.56mm ammunition. The idea that aliens are invulnerable to bullets is over-used in sci-fi. Even The Brigadier in Doctor Who complained about never being able to just shoot something. In this instance they have all the firepower they need to send the aliens packing with merely a show of force. The bluff about the weapon used to destroy the Sycorax doesn’t need to be called.