Media Tie-in Books

9781405926508I’m a bit of a pop culture junkie. So I tend to read a fair few books that are tied in to other media – film, television, games. Mostly Doctor Who, as this is my particular area of obsession. This year I’ve read less than I normally would. But here are a few that I’ve really liked.

Night of the Kraken (Doctor Who: Choose The Future) (2016) by Jonathan Green

Looks like we’re getting a new series of interactive Doctor Who books. Yay! BBC Books tried this a few years ago with the Decide Your Destiny series. I only read a couple of those and found them a little disappointing. Night of the Kraken is the first book in the new Choose The Future series, and it’s showing a great deal more promise. Rather than putting the reader into the story with a second person narrative (which is what the previous series did), this book is in third person with the reader making decisions on behalf of the Doctor. It works well and moves at a good pace. Not all the plot strands fit together neatly and I found too many of them being a bit same-ish, but overall it was a fun read. More please!

Lethbridge-Stewart: The Forgotten Son (2015) by Andy Frankham-Allen

This is the first in a series of spin-off books about Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart from Doctor Who, prior to him being promoted to Brigadier and put in charge of U.N.I.T. (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce). Set immediately after the events of the television story “The Web of Fear”, L-S must deal with his own past as well as the Great Intelligence making another invasion attempt. So the Yeti are back! This is an excellent start to the series. There is a wonderful sense of time and place, a great build up and pretty much perfect characterisation. The plot gets a little muddy towards the end, but not enough to prevent this book from being a wonderful read for Doctor Who fans.

Lethbridge-Stewart: The Schizoid Earth (2015) by David A McIntee

The second book in the series doesn’t get off to as great a start as the first. I found the style a bit hard to get in to. But once I got used to it, the story hooked me in and I really enjoyed it. This story again involves L-S’s past, this time with some time travel to get the plot moving. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series.

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The X-Files anthologies edited by Jonathan Maberry – Vol.1: Trust No One (2015); Vol.2: The Truth is Out There (2016); Vol.3: Secret Agendas (2016).

Fans of The X-Files rejoice! This is a glorious set of anthologies, with stories set in a range of time periods – from before the series, to each of the seasons, and beyond. Not all the stories were to my taste, but they were all well-written and well thought out. No stinkers in these collections. And I’m sorry, but I can’t help bragging a little here… I have a story in Vol.3. – “An Eye For an Eye”. I’m very proud of it and super excited to be included alongside so many famous writers. My story was recently reviewed on THE X CAST blog, and I am thrilled with getting such a great review that picks up on all the things I was trying to achieve with the story.

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9781772752045Guardians of the Galaxy: Castaways (2016) by David McDonald

I never really read the comic books, but I loved the Guardians of the Galaxy film… and since I knew the author and liked his work, I thought I’d give this book a go. I’m so glad that I did! This is a fun, fast-paced, rollicking adventure, but with a good sense of character. It’s funny and exciting. Although focussing on Star-Lord Peter Quill, each of the team gets relevant time in the plot and moments in which to shine. I particularly loved Gamora’s sub-plot as protector of a monastery. And the ending! It’s an explanation I could easily imagine in an ep of Doctor Who (which is high praise in my book). This is not some quick cash-in on a hot property… it’s a quality read!

I’ve got a really tall to-be-read stack for 2017, and a good chunk of those book are tie-ins. Looking forward to reading them… and telling you all about them.

Catch ya later, George

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Big-name Doctor Who

This weekend, the world is celebrating the 50th anniversary of a little TV show called Doctor Who. Fans are eagerly awaiting the televising of the special commemorative episode “The Day of the Doctor”, which will be simulcast in many countries across the globe. A 3D version of this special will also be screening in many cinemas throughout Australia and other countries. There is an unprecedented hype in the air. So it seems like the appropriate time to discuss some Doctor Who books.

In recent years, BBC Books has been publishing Doctor Who stories by novelists well-known in their own right for non-Who material. The first of the really big-name-author books was The Coming of the Terraphiles by famed science fiction author Michael Moorcock. While I didn’t care for the book, I could certainly appreciate the attempt to do something different and adventurous with the franchise (see my review).

Since then, I’ve read another two big-name-author Doctor Who novels. The Wheel of Ice by science fiction author Stephen Baxter was certainly more to my taste than The Coming of the Terraphiles. It’s a full-on sci-fi adventure set amongst the rings of Saturn with the second Doctor and his travelling companions, Jamie the highlander and future-girl Zoe. While I enjoyed the basic story, I found the novel as a whole, problematic. The characterisation of the Doctor and his companions is patchy — particularly Jamie. Sometimes I could imagine the dialogue being spoken by the respective actors and sometimes it seemed all wrong. And the book could have done with some editorial moderating, particularly with the astonishing over-use of the word ‘swarming’. Every time the little blue aliens appear, there’s that word… over and over and over and over again. On the plus side, there is an abundance of lovely little references to the events of televised episodes of the series.

Dark HorizonsI followed up this book with Dark Horizons by rom-com author Jenny Colgan (writing as JT Colgan). Of the three, I enjoyed this one the most. Set in a remote Scottish seaside village during the time of the Vikings, it pits the eleventh Doctor against an alien force that incinerates living beings as it tries to survive. It’s a terrific concept that is executed very much in the style of a Moffat-era television episode, with a very accurate characterisation of the Doctor. Reading it felt just like watching the series.

That’s not to say I loved every bit of it. There are moments that stretch credulity — but thankfully, not to breaking point. And there are some glossed over explanations that probably do not bear too much thinking about.

Even though I did not love each of these three books (as I did Paul Cornell’s Human Nature or Mark Gatiss’s Nightshade), I did enjoy reading them. It is interesting to see what these authors bring to the Doctor Who mythos and it is gratifying to see BBC Books allowing authors to stretch the boundaries of the Who-niverse.

And for something completely different, but still Doctor Who related, check this out…

Catch ya later,  George

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Outside In with Robert Smith?

Outside InRobert Smith? — the man with the question mark in his name. He’s an academic, he’s an author, he’s an editor and he’s a Doctor Who fan. His books include Braaaiiinnnsss: From Academics to Zombies, Modelling Disease Ecology with Mathematics and Who Is The Doctor (co-written with Graeme Burk). And most recently, he’s edited the mammoth essay anthology, Outside In: 160 New Perspectives on 160 Classic Doctor Who Stories by 160 Writers. Robert was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions for me…

How did Outside In come about?

It really started with the “say something different” idea.

I was editing the Doctor Who Ratings Guide one day when I was reading a review of “The Seeds of Doom” by Mike Morris (the one that ended up in the book). It was such a radical take on the story that I wondered if I could find equally radical takes on all the stories. The DWRG has almost 8000 reviews, so at first I figured I could just trawl through that and surely find at least one review per story that said something different?

Sadly, the short answer was no. While there were a few that fit the bill, I quickly realised that there was no way I could fulfil this mandate just from my own website. So I started to look further afield.

And then I had the wild thought of doing 160 different writers. It had never been done before; indeed, I’d been responsible for the most diverse collection of Doctor Who essays already: Time Unincorporated 2, which had about 48 writers. This was tripling it, which seemed kind of foolish… but I also liked the challenge it presented. (I have a PhD in mathematics, so I can kind of hold this sort of complexity in my head.)

Meanwhile, I also heard on the grapevine that Arnold Blumberg was setting up a new press (ATB Publishing). Arnold was a bit unconvinced, because things on his end were really only in the planning stages. And I ended up running far ahead of the business side of things, so it felt a bit as though we were making things up as we went along. But having a definitive goal probably helped to force everything to come together.

“160 New Perspectives on 160 Classic Doctor Who Stories by 160 Writers”. Was it difficult to wrangle so many writers?

Yes and no. At first, I didn’t think I’d be able to pull it off, so I had several writers on standby to contribute further pieces. But then word of mouth helped, as good writers were able to recommend other good writers and then I got into the groove of recruiting people. Conventions helped a lot, because I just walked around with a sheet of paper with the last 20 or so stories on it and asked people if they had any radical takes on the stories in question. Almost everyone did!

I did find several brilliant pieces, but couldn’t locate the writers. I chased one guy through all the Coronation St forums for his review of “The Dominators”, but then the trail went cold, so I had to look elsewhere. Fortunately, my convention asking led to Bill Evenson’s hilarious take on the story — still my favourite piece in the collection — so it worked out in the end.

But it was also a bit of a wild ride. One of the authors demanded I not change even a single comma, not even the typo we both agreed was there. Another never sent my personal copy of the DVD back to me. I also got a bit of a reputation as a hard-sell after (entirely accurate) rumours spread that I was cracking the whip on several pieces that weren’t up to scratch. Stephanie Blumberg — the boss’s wife, incidentally! — sent me her “Silver Nemesis” piece with such fear in the email I thought she was going to have a meltdown. (Luckily, I loved it outright, so she needn’t have worried.)

But one of the things I’m so proud of is just how many new voices there are. For so many people, this is their first published work and I think that’s hugely important. So much of Doctor Who output, from the TV series to Big Finish, is jobs for the boys, with the powers that be recruiting the same old names on the entirely reasonable grounds that they can trust them to produce good stuff. I really wanted to break that cycle, which required a lot of work on my part, but the payoff was enormous.

Did you have any trouble finding writers to cover all the stories?

Finding writers was both a pleasure and an incredible challenge. I ran out of my own contacts after about 50 people, which put me in a bit of a bind. So I spent ages trawling the internet for good reviews, often striking gold on the 1,900th entry in Google. When you’ve spent two days searching for a review of “The Mutants” that doesn’t say the same old thing, the pleasure when you find exactly what you’re looking for is immense. I think I shouted for joy when I stumbled upon Philip Sandifer’s piece, never having heard of his blog before (although it’s now fairly famous).

And as I started to recruit more original writers, I simply asked them for recommendations. So it spread virally, which is something I know more than a little about, thanks to my day job. (There are a surprising number of siblings in the list, as well as a number of husband and wife teams.) The only time I sat down and thought about specific names was when I looked through the table of contents of Chicks Dig Time Lords for names of good writers. The rest was very organic.

It was actually Graeme Burk who suggested I recruit a majority of original pieces. Originally I was going to do mostly reprints, because I was worried about the budget. But then I came up with the charity idea and that helped focus things: I realised that one of the strengths of the book was that, as a group, we were much stronger than as individuals. Given that everyone — myself, Arnold and all the writers bar two whom I won’t name — donated their fees to charity, it meant we were working for something bigger than just another Doctor Who non-fiction guide.

A lot of the book’s genesis thus coasted on goodwill. I was especially pleased that the professional writers involved were happy to donate to charity, even though this is their livelihood. And some of these were just brilliant: Andrew Cartmel’s letter to me regarding “Talons of Weng-Chiang” made me laugh out loud, while David Howe stepped up very late in the day with a sweet piece on “The Mythmakers” and a photo to boot.

And then Anthony Wilson — one of the unsung heroes of Doctor Who nonfiction writing — came along and proofread the book and told me to throw away about 15 pieces and get the authors to rework about as many again. He grasped the concept of the book intuitively and had enough distance to simply tell me “no” on a number of occasions. Some of the best pieces in the book — Piers Beckley’s Shakespearen play, Stuart Milne’s letter to the reader, Stuart Douglas’s alien flow chart — are a direct result of Anthony. The only credit I give myself on this is that I wasn’t precious about anything and deferred to his judgement entirely!

What is it about Doctor Who that inspired you to take on such a huge project?

It’s the sheer diversity of talent in fandom that continues to inspire me. Go to any gathering of Doctor Who fans, even when you don’t know anyone there, and you’ll hear fascinating opinions, vociferous disagreements and new insights on decades-old stories. You hear this at conventions, at pubs and on the internet. It continually amazes me just how thoughtful and articulate Doctor Who fans can be.

So that really made my job easy. The technical accomplishment of 160 writers was a cute gimmick, but what really makes the book shine is the fact that everyone’s saying something different. (Sometimes very  different: the other proofreader, Paul Simpson, complained that Lindy Orthia’s intense academic dissection of “Ghost Light” gave him whiplash after Sean Twist’s hilarious within-text take on “Battlefield”.) It meant I really just had to sit back and watch everyone bring their A-game to the table. That made it a joy to assemble and then edit.

You’ve written about Doctor Who, zombies and even Justin Bieber. What’s next?

I’m going to create a mathematical model of a Monoid invasion. You heard it here first.

Thank you Robert. That was a rather lengthy interview, so I won’t add anything beyond…

Catch ya later,  George

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Everyone digs Time Lords

Chicks Dig Time LordsI may have already mentioned that 2013 is the 50th anniversary of a little TV show called Doctor Who. Every year there seems to be more and more books related to the series being published, and this year is seeing a Doctor Who publishing explosion. In addition to all the official licensed books, there are also quite a lot of unlicensed publications about the show.

Perhaps the most well known of these unofficial Doctor Who books is Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who By The Women Who Love It. And that title says it all, really — it’s a collection of essays about the series by women. It was a hugely popular book and it won a HUGO award in 2011 for Best Related Work. In fact, it has been so successful, that it spawned two other books — Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who and Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It.

Running Through CorridorsThe three above books are all from Mad Norwegian Press, who have also published a six-book series of guides to the classic series (About Time) as well as a history of the series, guides to the novels and even a fanzine archive. And Running Through Corridors: Rob and Toby’s Marathon Watch of Doctor Who. The two authors are Doctor Who fans who have had some official connection to the series. Robert Shearman, of course, wrote “Dalek” for the first season of the revived series in 2005. Toby Hadoke is a comedian who has had much success with his one-man show, Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf. He has also been a moderator on many a Doctor Who DVD commentary. Rob and Toby are also friends. And the two of them embarked on the mammoth task of watching every episode of Doctor Who, two eps a day, every day, from the show’s start in 1963 to David Tennant’s final episode in 2010. They have chronicled their epic viewing as a set of literary conversations in a series of books. Volume 1: The 60s is out, with Volumes 2 and 3 coming soon.

But there are many other books out there.

Behind the Sofa: Celebrity Memories Of Doctor Who
Contributors include Bill Oddie, Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Ross and Rhys Thomas, along with loads of other writers, comedians, actors and even politicians. 100% of the book royalties, proceeds and net profit are being donated to Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Outside In: 160 New Perspectives on 160 Classic Doctor Who Stories by 160 Writers
Each story from the classic series has an essay from a different writer. The thing about this book is that every author had to find a unique approach to the story s/he was writing about. So you have everything from scripts to letters to Shakespearean verse. I’ve got an essay in this book — it’s about the William Hartnell story “The Reign of Terror”, and I’ve written it as a Sherlock Holmes mystery.

There are many more books out there — from Triumph of a Time Lord: Regenerating Doctor Who in the Twenty-first Century to Dining with the Doctor: The Unauthorized Whovian Cookbook. And there are many more due to make an appearance later this year, including a few that I’ve written for. [For a quick roundup of my writing about Doctor Who, check out my personal blog.)

It seems like the publishing world is obsessed with Doctor Who at the moment. And I rather like that. 🙂

Catch ya later,  George

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Doctor Who and the Daemons

The DaemonsIn my last post, I wrote about The Diary of a Dr Who Addict by Paul Margs. In that book, the protagonist, David, mentions that his favourite of the Doctor Who novelisations (indeed, he says “Best book ever. No contest.”) is Doctor Who and the Daemons. So, of course, I had to re-read it… and tell you about it.

I used to read the Doctor Who novelisations all the time as a teenager — read and re-read and re-read — until my copies were tattered and dog-eared. Now, as an adult, I tend not to re-read books all that often. So it was rather nice to take a little nostalgic wander and re-read Doctor Who and the Daemons — my first novelisation re-read since Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth and Doctor Who and the Cave-monsters back in 2011 (see “Daleks and Cave-monsters”).

In this adventure, the third Doctor and his assistant, Jo Grant, head to the small town of Devil’s End, where an archaeological dig is about to unleash a demon. Of course it’s not really the occult at work — it’s an ancient alien science with the Doctor’s old enemy, the Master, at the helm.

The book is written by Barry Letts, one-time producer of the series and the co-scriptwriter of the televised story (using a pseudonym).

In all honesty, I don’t think this is the best of the novelisations. In fact, I thought it was a tad pedestrian, adding little to the on screen story (which I reviewed last year) beyond enhancing the spectacle of scenes that suffered from lack of special effects — the flying gargoyle chief amongst them. While I enjoyed reading the book, I much preferred Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth and Doctor Who and the Cave-monsters. All up, this book is not as good as the televised story, which has bucket-loads of atmosphere and visual style.

One of the charming things about the old Doctor Who novelisations is that some of them had black and white internal illustrations. Such is the case with Doctor Who and the Daemons, which has illustrations by Alan Willow.

The Daemons 2

While Doctor Who and the Daemons may not be the “best book ever”, it has made me yearn to dig out a few more of the old novelisations and give then another airing. But which one to start with?

Unfortunately Doctor Who and the Daemons is not currently in print. But fear not… because it is available as an audio book. And it’s read by Barry Letts! Now that I’ve re-read my print copy, I’m tempted to get a copy of the audio book to see how it compares.

Catch ya later,  George

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The Diary of a Dr Who Addict

The Diary of a Dr Who AddictHow could I possibly come across a book called The Diary of a Dr Who Addict and not want to read it immediately? After all, I was, am and will always be, a Doctor Who addict. So, a novel about a kid with a similar obsession just had to be read. The fact that it was written by Paul Margs, who has also written Doctor Who books, made it even more appealing.

Set in 1982, The Diary of a Dr Who Addict is a coming of age story — a little one-year slice from the life of a boy named David at a crucial time in his growing up. He is about to become a teenager. He is about to start high school. And most important of all, he is about to watch season 19 of Doctor Who — the season in which Peter Davison took over the role of the Doctor from Tom Baker, who had held it for a marathon run of seven years.

David is a boy who relates so much of his life and experiences to his favourite television series. So there are lots of references to Doctor Who, both obvious and subtle. This includes what is perhaps the best Doctor Who to real-life comparison ever… when talking about his love of books and reading, David says:

“Books are bigger on the inside than on the out, just like a police box.”

Truer words were never written.

But there is a lot more to this book than Doctor Who. It is also a story about growing up, about accepting who you are and about finding your place in life. Most importantly, it is about the realisation that you don’t have to give up everything from your childhood in order to grow up.

I found reading this book to be an incredibly personal experience. Firstly, because it is such an intimate account of David’s thoughts and feelings about so many things (and one gets the feeling that there is a lot of Paul Margs in David). And secondly, because I saw so much of myself in David. In 1982, I was 14… so a little older than David. But I felt the same excitement as him over the introduction of Peter Davison. I too had read all about the new season of Doctor Who and eagerly awaited it, wondering what this new Doctor would be like… talking about it incessantly. I too, read and collected the series novelisations. There are so many little things that I could relate to as I read this book — from Doctor Who, to the excitement of a first video cassette recorder, to a growing interest in writing. Yes, just like David, I wrote my own Doctor Who stories as a kid.

But I also related to David’s feelings of isolation. I too often felt different and out of place, even though not always in the same way as him. I was a strange nerdy kid who preferred books and tv to playing sports. I wrote stories. I was quiet and socially awkward. I thought Doctor Who was the greatest thing EVER!

Just as I eventually grew up and found my place in the world, I finished The Diary of a Dr Who Addict feeling certain that David would as well.

The Diary of a Dr Who Addict is a lovely, thoughtful, touching, amusing, life-affirming, joyful read. And it has shot up into my list of all-time favourite books.

One final thing. Towards the end of the book, David reveals that, in his opinion, the Doctor Who and the Daemons novelisation is the “Best book ever. No contest.” So, of course, as soon as I finished The Diary of a Dr Who Addict, I went over to my Doctor Who bookcase and pulled out my battered old copy of Doctor Who and the Daemons. But I’ll tell you about that in my next post.

Catch ya later,  George

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Doctors, Daleks and drawings

Sticking with my recent graphic novel theme (see “Moore’s Extraordinary Gentlemen” and “Moore extraordinary adventures”), I thought I’d write about Doctor Who comics. They’ve been around, in many different forms, for a long time. My experience with them has been minimal, but let me tell you about it anyway…

I’ve got to admit that although I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, I’ve never really been into the comic versions. Many years ago I used to regularly buy Doctor Who Monthly — and in each issue there would be the latest episode of the good Doctor’s graphic adventures. I didn’t care for them all that much. The likenesses were often a bit iffy and I thought the plots a little silly. I have vague memories of the Doctor having a shape-changing penguin as a companion in some of them and a series about some macho Dalek killer named Abslom Dak. (Actually, I just Googled him and found he has a website.) They just didn’t fit in with my view of the series at the time, and I’ve never gone back to re-examine them.

So it was with some trepidation that I picked up a copy of The Only Good Dalek by Justin Richards and Mike Collins. The story is set during a hundred-year war between Humans and Daleks. For those of you who follow the series, it’s the new bigger more colourful Daleks. I thought these Daleks looked a bit ridiculous when they showed up in the series, but they seem to work better in illustrated form.

The Doctor and Amy land aboard a super-secret Earth space station where scientists are researching ways of defeating the Daleks. Much to the Doctor’s horror, they actually have a few captive Daleks that they have been experimenting with. One scientist has even been trying to modify Dalek DNA to introduce human emotions, thereby creating a “good Dalek”. Of course, the Daleks don’t like the idea of humans tinkering with their genetic makeup and so formulate a plan to find and take over the space station. What results is a lot of action and adventure, some thrills and spills, and even a surprise or two.

It’s quite a good plot and is, in fact, better than any of the more recent televised Dalek stories. (We haven’t had a truly brilliant Dalek story since Series 1 and everything since Series 3 has been pretty CRAP.) The artwork is also good — the Doctor and Amy are convincingly portrayed and the Daleks actually look better than in the TV series.

It’s nice to see some classic series continuity being acknowledged with the presence of Robomen and Organs and even a Slyther and some Varga Plants. From this, I gather that the author, Justin Richards, is a fan rather than just a hired writer.

The Only Good Dalek is part of a series of Doctor Who graphic novels published by BBC Books. They are quite good-looking hardcover releases, and if The Only Good Dalek is anything to go by, I certainly wouldn’t object to picking up a few more.

Catch ya later,  George

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Elisabeth Sladen’s life

I’m not normally a biography sort of person. Many years ago, when I was an acting student, I read Laurence Olivier’s On Acting (which is a sort-of quasi autobiography focusing on his acting career) and I wasn’t riveted. So reading an autobiography was not really high on my list… until Elisabeth Sladen died.

Ms Sladen was the actress who played Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who and various spin-offs. I’m a HUGE Doctor Who fan and Sarah Jane was my favourite character and I was rather devastated to hear of her passing (see my post from last year “Famous Dead People”). So when I discovered that she had completed an autobiography shortly before her death, I thought I’d give it a go.

Reading an autobiography is an odd experience. It often feels like the subject is talking specifically to you… but of course you know they’re not. And there is the danger that a person you have admired from afar, may end up disappointing you. Reading Elisabeth Sladen: the autobiography, there was a certain amount of both.

As I started reading, I found the style a little disjointed. It took me a while to settle into it and accept the conversational approach, where thoughts sometimes jumped back and forth. By the end of the book, I was quite enjoying the style, and even getting that “specifically talking to you” feeling.

And yes, as I read Sladen’s reminiscences, I sometimes found myself thinking that her response to certain people and events were a little disappointing, or uncharitable or whatever. I guess, as a fan, I had imagined perfection… but what this book showed me was a human being.

In the end, that’s what I ended up loving about it… the fact that this book shows Elisabeth Sladen, the flawed human being. The person who was sometimes impatient with others; the person who sometimes made the wrong decisions; the person who stumbled through life and career without any sort of plan. It makes for a fascinating read. And in the end, it did not make me any less a fan.

On a personal note, this book provided me with an exceeding sense of relief that I did not end up pursuing an acting career. I went to drama school and I did some acting (and still do occasionally), but I never actually pursued it as my one and only career option. Unlike Ms Sladen and her husband Brian Miller. Acting was the sole career for both of them… and OMG, what a hard life. It’s all well and good if you’re a star, earning bucket loads of money, but most actors are not in that lucky situation. Particularly striking are Sladen’s descriptions of life in repertory theatre, where she was paid a pittance to be working on a gruelling schedule — performing one play in the evenings, while rehearsing another during the days, on a schedule that rotated every couple of weeks. You have to be incredibly dedicated to do that.

Of course, what I loved most about this book was its focus on Doctor Who. Eight of the seventeen chapters are devoted to Sladen’s days with Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. It was really interesting reading about her dichotomous relationships with these two men — how she loved Pertwee and ended up being friends with him and his wife, but how he also often infuriated her and how she often found him difficult to work with; and how she loved working with Baker, but was never friends with him outside of Doctor Who. In fact, she describes a wonderfully awkward meeting between herself and Baker (and his then wife), when he, out of the blue, insisted on having to buy her a coat. The Baker she writes about is definitely a larger-than-life, eccentric character.

Sladen’s perspective on the transition between Pertwee and Baker is also intriguing… and quite sad. I’ve not read much about this before, but from her account, Pertwee ended up deeply regretting his decision to leave Doctor Who. I now want to seek out Pertwee’s autobiography (unfortunately out-of-print) to find out his thoughts on the matter.

There’s not a huge amount in this autobiography about Sladen’s personal life. Yes, there’s a bit about her parents and her marriage and her daughter… but not much. The book very much focuses on her as an actress, and her personal life is generally touched on in relation to her acting life. I would have liked there to be a little more about her life outside of acting. I was also disappointed that there wasn’t more about her work on The Sarah Jane Adventures. She filmed four and a half seasons before her death, but it barely gets a chapter.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy this book. It felt very honest. I never once got the impression that Sladen was trying to put on a façade. She just told things, good and bad, how they were. And it’s persuaded me that I should, perhaps, read some more autobiographies.

And for those of you who may be interested, a little while ago I reviewed the DVD release of The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Complete Third Series.

Catch ya later,  George

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Daleks and Cave-monsters

Last week I read and reviewed Michael Moorcock’s Doctor Who novel The Coming of the Terraphiles. I wasn’t especially enamoured with this book and had to follow it up with some classic Doctor Who novelisations — The Dalek Invasion of Earth by Terrance Dicks and The Cave-monsters by Malcolm Hulke.

I read both these books as a teenager and I remember them as being two of my favourite Doctor Who books. They are quite a different kettle of fish from a novel like Moorcock’s, which is based on the series rather than an adaptation of a particular televised story. As novelisations, both these books had to follow the scripted stories. Despite this, the two authors have approached them quite differently.

Terrance Dicks adapted Terry Nation’s script, which featured the second ever appearance of the Daleks on television in 1964. The first Doctor and his companions land in a future London that is under Dalek control. In fact, the ominous metal pepper pots have taken over the entire world. They have enslaved the human race and have them digging a huge tunnel down into the Earth. Their intention is to remove the planet’s core and replaced it with a drive system, allowing them to steal the Earth and use it as a mobile base in their plans for universal domination. Of course, the Doctor throws a spanner into their works and sends them packing.

This novelisation is, to a large extent, a ‘paint-by-numbers’ book, transcribing the televised story, scene by scene. It follows the script quite faithfully most of the time, and yet the Doctor’s famous speech from the conclusion, as he farewells his granddaughter, is reworded. The action of the script, hampered by limited special effects, is given greater scope in the book. And Dicks does fill out a few things, such as the romance between freedom fighter David and the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan.

While the writing style is quite straightforward and often plain, Dicks does show the occasional bit of flair. The opening sentence of this book is particularly memorable, and is on my list of all-time favourite opening sentences.

“Through the ruin of a city stalked the ruin of a man.”

Malcolm Hulke had a huge advantage in that he wrote the original script which he than adapted into Doctor Who and the Cave-monsters. This story features the first appearance of the Silurians, a race of reptilian creatures who used to rule the planet Earth before humans came on the scene. When presented with global catastrophe they hid themselves in underground bases. Now, a new underground atomic research centre has woken them from their long sleep and they want their planet back. This story features the third Doctor during his days as scientific advisor to UNIT (the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce), and was originally broadcast in 1970.

Although giving us the televised story, Hulke presents it quite differently. This is not a scene-by-scene adaptation. We are privy to the inner thoughts of many of the characters and we also get a fair bit of backstory for some of them… which goes a long way to explaining their actions. Hulke also tells us more about the Silurians than the scripted episodes. The Silurians of the novel are much more individual than those of the episodes. Scenes that are only alluded to in the episodes are expanded on in the novelisation, while other scenes are shortened. Hulke obviously knows the different requirements of a script and a novel, and uses that knowledge to good effect.

Where this book falls down is in the odd way Hulke presents the Doctor. Actually referring to the character as “Doctor Who” really doesn’t work, and there are several occasions where he refers to him as human. This is rather odd … having written numerous scripts for the series, I would have assumed that Hulke would know the details of the show well enough to avoid such problematic descriptions.

Doctor Who and the Cave-monsters also contains internal illustrations by Chris Achilleos, and a laughable error on the back cover blurb, referring to the Tyrannosaurus Rex as “the biggest, most savage mammal which ever trod the earth”. LOL!

All up, I rather enjoyed taking the stroll down memory lane to read these books. They are by no means great novels … but they are fun. And I enjoyed them more than I did Moorcock’s novel.

Has anyone else out there in the blogosphere read Moorcock’s novel? Or any of the old novelisations? Opinions? Leave a comment!

And tune in next time as mother/daughter authors Carole and Lili Wilkinson stop by for a chat.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.


Michael Moorcock writes a Doctor Who novel

There’s long been a bit of a relationship between the television series Doctor Who and famous scribes. During his televised time travelling adventures, the good Doctor has met Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, HG Wells and even the great bard, William Shakespeare. And back in the 1970s and 80s, Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) wrote some Doctor Who episodes, as well as having a stint as script editor on the series.

These days, Doctor Who is still attracting famous authors. Earlier this year I blogged about Neil Gaiman and his foray into Doctor Who script writing with “The Doctor’s Wife”. He’s not the only one. Well-known science fiction author Michael Moorcock has now written a Doctor Who novel. The Coming of the Terraphiles was published late last year by BBC Books and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it.

I was rather disappointed! Perhaps I was expecting too much? Perhaps Moorcock’s style simply isn’t to my literary taste? Perhaps it just isn’t a very good book? Or maybe I’m being a little too harsh?

The story centres around a series of re-enactment games in the far-flung future, where people who are obsessed with Earth’s past, play a tournament for the fabled Arrow of Law. The games they play have been bizarrely altered by the passage of time and thus bear little resemblance to their original incarnations. The Doctor, with Amy in tow, has joined one of the sporting teams as he needs the Arrow of Law to stop the accelerated collapse of not just our universe, but all the multiverse.

At heart it’s a simple story, but Moorcock tells it in such an unnecessarily convoluted manner. The story would have benefited from being more plainly told, with greater punch and less waffle. It is repetitive in places, slow and lacking in any real excitement. It’s as if Moorcock has gotten so caught up in this universe he has created, that he’s forgotten about the plot.

The characterisation of the Doctor and Amy is rather patchy. At times, their dialogue is spot on… and then, a paragraph or so later, completely out of left field. Moorcock has, however, created some rather engaging original characters.

Moorcock certainly doesn’t take himself seriously. His tongue is firmly in his cheek as he introduces us to characters such as General Force and his Anti-matter Men, milliner Toni Woni and Bingo, Earl of Sherwood. But the humour doesn’t quite work for me — it feels forced and self-conscious, and there are times when he sounds like he desperately wants to be Douglas Adams (without quite making it).

“The Gargantua was a happy ship again. If space liners could smile, whistle and snap cheerful fingers then there was no doubt that the massive ship would soon be doing the hoochie coochie as she slipped magnificently through the star lanes.”

The novel is apparently written in a style that homages PG Wodehouse… but never having read Wodehouse, it’s lost on me. The novel is also apparently riddled with references to Moorcock’s past novels… again, this is all lost on me. I can’t help but wonder if Moorcock has alienated casual readers not familiar with his or Wodehouse’s work… not something you really want to do when your novel is part of an ongoing series.

The novel sits rather awkwardly within the Doctor Who universe. Moorcock’s use of the Judoon (a race of rhinocerid police), for example, seems like a misplaced attempt to tie the book in with series continuity — but the way in which he handles them is completely unconvincing.

The Coming of the Terraphiles is certainly not your average Doctor Who novel, either in style or content. It is a brave attempt to do something a little different. But it doesn’t quite work for me. And it seems to have divided fan opinion.

Having finished The Coming of the Terraphiles I’ve gone straight to another Doctor Who book. I’m now re-reading one of my childhood favourites, Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth by Terrance Dicks. Does it live up to my memories? How does it compare to Moorcock’s novel? To find out, tune in next time.

Catch ya later,  George

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PPS. Look! I’m in the Herald-Sun!


Gaiman and the Doctor

Last night, here in Melbourne, Australia, the ABC treated us to one of the most awesome Doctor Who episodes ever — “The Doctor’s Wife”. What made it so awesome? Well…

Excellent characterisation. Subtlety. Witty dialogue. Great acting and excellent direction.

And most importantly — A BRILLIANT SCRIPT

In a nutshell, it is the story of the TARDIS personified as a woman. How’s that for an amazing premise on which to base an episode? Who could possibly come up with a concept so stunningly simple and complex at the same time?

The answer: Neil Gaiman!

Yes, that’s right, THE Neil Gaiman — the writer who gave us the Sandman comics as well as bestselling novels such as American Gods and The Graveyard Book. Although he has dabbled in script writing before, it’s not something that he’s particularly known for. Pity. Because he is rather good at it. Anyway, since Gaiman is mostly known as a novelist, I thought it was a pretty good excuse for me to pen a Doctor Who post for this bookish blog.

Okay… so you may have guessed by now that I am a fan of Gaiman’s writing. And if you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you must know that I am an enormous fan of Doctor Who. So the two of them combining was a big thrill for me. The episode is sitting on my TiVo waiting for a second viewing. And, of course, I’ll get the DVD when it’s released. And if Gaiman happened to write a book about it… I’d buy that too. 🙂 Yes, I’m a sad fanboy.

Television writing often seems to suffer from a lack of attention to detail and plot points being resolved either too neatly or without due logic. The previous week’s episode of Doctor Who, “The Curse of the Black Spot”, is a good case in point. Gaiman’s episode, however, has none of these flaws and is, in many ways, a perfect Doctor Who episode. It is a self-contained episode and yet it adds significantly to the series mythology. It is, at heart, a simple concept, but it is handled with wit, subtlety and a degree of complexity. It is fun, exciting and emotional. Everything you could possibly want.

I think that what this episodes shows, is that a good writer is a good writer no matter the medium he is writing in. Gaiman has proved, over and over again, that he is equally adept at handling comics, short stories, novels and scripts. Long may he write!

I also get the impression that Gaiman must be a fan of the show, as his episode was sprinkled with references to the show’s past — from the sounding of the cloister bell to the junkyard setting which harkens back to the very first episode of the series.

With “The Doctor’s Wife” now over, I am hoping desperately that this will not be Gaiman’s only encounter with the Doctor. I would dearly love to see him write more episodes. I would also very much love to see him take on a Doctor Who novel. Time will tell! And I shall hope.

Catch ya later, George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll write another Doctor Who post.



Paul Cornell and Doctor Who

Being a long-time Doctor Who fan, I am very excited to be interviewing British writer Paul Cornell for Literary Clutter. Paul is well known for his Doctor Who writing, but he’s also written a heap of other stuff, including radio and television scripts, short stories, novels and comics, and has had four Hugo Award nomination.

Paul came to notoriety in the 1990s, writing numerous Doctor Who novels, including Timewyrm: Revelation and Human Nature. He went on to write several scripts for the Doctor Who audio dramas and for the revived television series, including a two-part adaptation of his novel Human Nature. So, I thought I’d begin the interview by focusing on his Doctor Who writing.

The Interview — Part One

Can you tell us a bit about your first Doctor Who writing experience?

That would be the fan fiction I wrote at school. Some of that got published in fanzines, and one of those fanzine stories (Revelation) was made into a Doctor Who book, and one of those books (Human Nature) was turned into a TV story, so I’ve been lucky enough to have a ladder leading from my earliest amateur Who work right to the show itself.

You adapted your Doctor Who novel, Human Nature (featuring the seventh Doctor), into a two-part script for the third season of the new Doctor Who series (featuring the tenth Doctor). How did that come about? And was it difficult changing the story from one medium to another, and from one Doctor to another?

Russell phoned me up and asked me to do it. “How did it come about” stories, at least in TV, are rarely more exciting. And well, yes and no. Doctors, not so much, it’s just one voice to another, but there were a lot of other things to consider, like how long Smith and Joan had known each other, and how much a product of his time Smith is. In the book, he’s still kind of an outsider… in the TV version, an upstanding member of society.

You wrote the animated webcast Doctor Who story “Scream of the Shalka“, which featured Richard E. Grant as the Doctor and Sir Derek Jacobi as the Master. This story played around with Doctor Who mythology and took the Doctor/Master relationship in a new direction. Were you given free reign when writing this story or were you given a direction to follow? And were you happy with the way it all worked out?

I was given free reign, just about, to create the format. And then Richard E. Grant added loads of lines of his own! I was really happy with it. The animation looks primitive now, but won awards at the time. I like the things it tries out, things the TV show would decide against, and some it went in the same direction with.

Okay… Now for the nerdy fan-boy question: Who’s your favourite Doctor?

Old show, either Davison or McCoy. New show, can’t choose between them. All brilliant.

You created the character Bernice Summerfield for the New Adventures series of Doctor Who books (introduced in the novel, Love and War). Since then, Bernice has spun off into her own books and audio adventures. What it’s like for you, as a writer, to hand over your character to other writers?

It’s a joy to see her continue to grow and flourish without my help. I think it’s a good sign that she was made sturdy in the first place.

George’s bit at the end

Paul’s Doctor Who books include, Timewyrm: RevelationLove and War, No FutureHuman NatureHappy Endings, Goth Opera and The Shadows of Avalon. His Doctor Who television scripts include, “Father’s Day”, “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood”.

My thanks to Paul for dropping by Literary Clutter. For more info about him and his writing, check out his blog. You can also follow him on Twitter.

And tune in next time when Paul returns to chat about some of his other writing, including the new television pilot Pulse and his Hugo Award nominated novella “One of Our Bastards is Missing”.

Catch ya later,  George

PS: Follow me on Twitter!

Travelling in the TARDIS with Stephen Dedman

Doctor Who! Yep, I’m still on that topic. The greatest television show ever made! The best tie-in books in existence! As the fifth season of the current series nears its conclusion on Australian television, I am joined by Aussie author Stephen Dedman.

As well as writing short stories, role-playing games and numerous novels including For a Fistful of Data and Foreign Bodies, Stephen has also dabbled in the world of the good Doctor…

From London to Prague
by Stephen Dedman

In 2005, Steven Savile told me he was editing an anthology of Doctor Who stories, Short Trips: Destination London, and asked if I were interested in writing for it. I’d wanted to write for Doctor Who for decades – I’d tried selling a script for the show in 1985, then an adventure for the role-playing game, and had toyed with the idea of writing a novel for the Missing Adventures series – and so I jumped at the chance.

Rather than have England invaded by yet another race of monsters, I decided to pit the Doctor against human tyranny. I looked up the timeline of Earth history in my copy of What’s What and Who’s Who, found a suitable century, and came up with an outline for a story set largely in the British Museum which featured cameos by William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, Eric Blair (George Orwell), and others.

A few days before the deadline, I was informed that the setting had been changed to Prague, so there went that story. I had never been to Prague, so I looked it up in a Lonely Planet guidebook. Golems. Franz Kafka. Karel Capek. Defenestrations. Torture museum. Interesting architecture, largely unscathed by the world wars. Okay.

I sent off an outline about a paranoid Kafka enthusiast who reprograms the city’s nanotech to enact Kafkaesque revenge on his enemies, starting with a recreation of the Harrow from ‘In the Penal Colony’ inside the torture museum. And crossed my fingers.

Steven liked the idea, and I started writing the story. I had deliberately been non-committal about which Doctor and which companions would best fit into the story, so I was delighted when I was assigned the Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan. This meant I could buy and watch DVDs of some of my favourite episodes and call it research. Better still, the DVDs became a tax deductible work expense.

Coincidentally, a friend of mine who is also an avid Doctor Who fan was honeymooning in Prague, so I would periodically send him questions about the city. So did three other Australian writers. I gather he enjoyed the honeymoon despite this.

So I finished the story, managing to squeeze in references to Rabbi Loew’s golem, Capek, Kafka’s Metamorphosis, four Doctor Who episodes, and The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (as well as an in-joke that made one of my fellow writers exhale Coca-cola in public), and sent it to Steven. It was published, in excellent company, in 2007, more than 23 years after my first attempt to write for the show.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! I had great fun writing the story; besides, how could I turn down a chance to deduct my Doctor Who DVDs?

George’s bit at the end
My thanks to Stephen for stopping by. If you’d like to know more about Stephen Dedman and his writing, check out his website.

Aren’t tax deductions wonderful? They are a writer’s best friend. I too started tax deducting Doctor Who DVDs the moment I was asked to write a Doctor Who story. And I too would jump at the chance of delving back into the Doctor Who universe. Perhaps, one day, I’ll write a post about all my failed endeavours to do so. 🙂

In the meantime, we will be leaving the topic of Doctor Who for a while, in favour of some other literary pursuits. But fear not, for Doctor Who will return to Literary Clutter in the not too distant future.

Tune in next time as we find out about David McLean’s first YA novel Finding Coaby.

Catch ya later,  George

Travelling in the TARDIS with Robert Hood

Today has certainly been a day of political interest here on Australia’s fair shores. But have no fear, there will be no talk of Prime Ministers, political parties or mining taxes here at Literary Clutter. Instead, I’m sticking with the topic I introduced last time — Doctor Who. My last post was about the literally hundreds of books dealing with this television series. Now it’s time to meet some authors who have played in the Doctor Who universe.

Between 2002 and 2009, Big Finish Productions in the UK published 29 Short Trips books. These were short story anthologies featuring the first eight incarnations of the Doctor. I myself was lucky enough to be published within the pages of one of these books — Short Trips: Defining Patterns. If you want to find out about my experience of writing Doctor Who, check out my guest post over at the Great (book) Expectations blog — “My little fan-boy moment”.

In the meantime, let me introduce Aussie author Robert Hood. As well as having written several novels, including Backstreets and The Shades series, and a plethora of short stories, Robert has had the chance to delve into the universe of Doctor Who. Take it away, Robert…

Me and the Doctor: “Gold and Black Ooze” from Doctor Who Short Trips: Destination Prague
by Robert Hood

As a longtime stalker of the Doctor (since the show was first aired in Australia in 1965 – when I was 12), I was naturally overcome with nerdish glee when Steve Savile suggested I should submit to a Doctor Who: Short Trips anthology he was editing for Big Finish.

The competitive process involved choosing a Doctor (from Hartnell to McGann) along with an appropriate companion and a storyline, then waiting for a response. I chose the unpopular Sixth Doctor. I liked Colin Baker’s quirky interpretation, even if the scripts he was saddled with were mostly rather dire.

The theme – Prague – was designed to take the Doctor away from the more familiar environs of London into a European city rich in turbulent history. While researching that history, I came across the fact that in 1648 in Prague the alchemist Richthausen had supposedly transmuted mercury into gold in the presence of Ferdinand III – so I decided I’d use that. My Prague, however, was haunted by a “bizarre metallic creature” – and besides, the Doctor had been headed for Prague in 4240 AD, so why was it looking exactly the way it had in 1648 – and why was it surrounded by a sea of nanotech tar?

The story fit nicely into the Doctor’s established “history”, coming after the events of “Revelation of the Daleks”. In that story Peri accidently breaks the Doctor’s favourite watch. So I decided that the Doc would naturally want to get the watch fixed. And as everyone knows, the watchmakers of Prague in 4240 AD are the best in the galaxy.

For research I re-watched Baker’s episodes, used the terrific website The Whoniverse to check continuity and, when the outline was accepted, scoured Google to become more familiar with Prague in the 15th century, not just in terms of its history and politics but also at a ground level. With Peri and the Doctor doing their usual running through the streets, I needed to know where everything was located, relatively speaking. Writing the story – and in particular making sure the Doctor and Peri sounded and acted right – was an exciting challenge and a lot of fun. The BBC not only approved the story but also used it in their pre-publicity.

It seems to me that, unlike other franchises, Doctor Who offers much more artistic freedom to writers – within limits. Don’t kill the Doctor. Don’t kill his established companions. The only change that was required to my story was to something I knew was a bit cheeky. The Sixth Doctor didn’t have his sonic screwdriver during that period, but I put it in anyway – a version knocked-up by the Doctor and subsequently cannibalized to defeat the monster from the nano-tar. I destroyed it at the end so everything reverted back to the official timeline. No good, however. It had to go. So I re-made it into a different gadget and all was well.

Writing for Doctor Who was a unique experience and I love the fact that my story of the Doctor is now part of his official canon.

Would I do it again? In a (double) heartbeat!

George’s bit at the end

My thanks to Robert for stopping by. If you’d like to know more about Robert Hood and his writing, check out his website.

And tune in next time for another trip in the TARDIS, this time with author Stephen Dedman.

Catch ya later,  George

Doctor Who books

Here it is! At long last! The post I have been threatening you all with since I began writing Literary Clutter. The post you have all been waiting for with bated breath… The first Doctor Who post.

Now, for those of you who do not know what Doctor Who is (because, clearly you’ve been living under rock for the last 47 years), I should explain that it is the longest running science fiction series, ever. First going to air in the UK in 1963, it lasted for 26 seasons, finally being cancelled in 1989. But, just like its main character, it would not die. It came back for a tele-movie in 1996 and then a revived series starting in 2005, and is still going strong. The principal character, known only as the Doctor, is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He travels in a time/space machine called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space). The TARDIS is dimensionally transcendental, which means that it is bigger on the inside than the outside. It is also able to change its external appearance to blend in with its surroundings — at least, it’s meant to. It’s actually broken and is stuck in the shape of a 1960s police call box.

One of the most remarkable things about this series is its ability to change lead actors. You see, the Doctor, like all Time Lords, has the ability to regenerate. When his body wears out, or if it is damaged, instead of dying, he changes — becomes a new person. So over the years, he has been played by 11 different actors — William Hartnell (1963-1966), Patrick Troughton (1966-1969 ), Jon Pertwee (1970-1974), Tom Baker (1974-1981), Peter Davison (1982-1984), Colin Baker (1984-1986) Sylvester McCoy (1987-1996), Paul McGann (1996), Christopher Eccleston (2005), David Tennant (2005-2010), and Matt Smith (2010-??).

Doctor Who has gone way beyond its humble television origins. Aside from the numerous television spin offs (K9 and Co, Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood and the new K9 series), Doctor Who has resulted in feature films, radio plays, CD audio adventures, computer games, toys, comics, magazines and, of course, books. Lots and lots and lots of books. Hundreds of them, in fact.

It all started with the novelisations published by Target Books (later taken over by Virgin Publishing). There were 156 books published in this series, with only 5 of the original series stories left un-novelised. I used to love these books as a kid. I would read and re-read them. Hardly a week would go by without me reading at least one of them. I have particularly fond memories of Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth by Terrance Dicks, which was my most often re-read Doctor Who book.

Things didn’t end with this series of novelistations. After the series was cancelled in 1989, Virgin Publishing began a range of New Adventures books, original novels set after the series, continuing the adventures of the seventh incarnation of the Doctor. Then there was the Missing Adventures books, original novels featuring earlier incarnations of the Doctor, set during the events of the series, but between televised stories. And so it went on and on. After the tele-movie in 1996, which featured a new eighth Doctor, there were more books. And now with the new series, we have another range of original novels featuring Doctors #9 through #11.

Sadly, with the recent demise of the Short Trips anthologies, a series of short story books from Big Finish Productions (the company that also produces the Doctor Who audio adventures), there are no longer any new books featuring the older set of Doctors. I keep hoping that the BBC will one day again licence a publisher to do more novels with the earlier Doctors. In the meantime, there are the current series books and the books based on the Doctor Who spinoff series Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures.

Doctor Who books had a huge influence on me as a kid. They fuelled my interest in the television series between seasons, and in science fiction in general. Although I no longer religiously read all the books, I do still occasionally dip into the Doctor Who literary ocean. The last one I read was Doctor Who: The Story of Martha, and as I look over my shoulder to my to-be-read pile, I can see three other Doctor Who books as well as a Torchwood novel. I’m also rather looking forward to the upcoming Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles, by the well-known science fiction author Michael Moorcock.

Want to know more about Doctor Who books? Check out the TARDIS library, a very comprehensive listing.

So… any other Doctor Who fans out there? What are your favourite Doctor Who books? Leave a comment below.

And stay tuned for more Doctor Who, as over the next couple of posts, Literary Clutter will be visited by a few authors who have had the good fortune to play in the Doctor Who universe.

Catch ya later,  George

Hello world!

I have been um-ing and ah-ing about blogging for some time now. You know, the usual sort of self-doubting questions most writers indulge in every now and then. Should I do it? Will I have enough things to blog about? Will I have enough time to do it? Will anyone out there actually read it? The part of me that wanted to blog was beginning to win out when this Boomerang Blog opportunity presented itself. I took it as a sign from … um … someone. And so here I am, inflicting my thoughts upon the unsuspecting denizens of cyberspace.

I have a cluttered mind and a cluttered bookshelf, so there’s a high probability of randomness on this blog. But I’ll start off by stating some of my literary likes so that you’ll have at least some idea of what may show up in my posts.

I love picture books. I have two young daughters, so I read a LOT of picture books. And guess what? Picture books aren’t just for kids.

I love science fiction and fantasy and horror (although not the blood and guts, splattery type horror). I quite like vampire fiction… but I feel the need to say that Twilight is not my cup of tea. Edward who?

I write books for kids and teens. I read lots of books aimed at kids and teens. Man, there’s some amazing stuff out there aimed at this market. So I’ll probably write about these sorts of books a fair bit. And I’ll probably write about the process of writing as well.

My favourite Aussie authors include Richard Harland, Carole Wilkinson and Terry Dowling. My favourite o/s authors include Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite and John Christopher. I’ll most likely write about these people and their books at some point.

And now for a list (I like lists). My favourite books from 2009:

Oh, one more thing… I’m a Doctor Who fan. Yes, I know — it’s a tv show, but there are Doctor Who books as well, so you can be guaranteed of at least one Doctor Who post at some stage. So just deal with it!

Right! I think that’s enough for my first post. Tune in next time, when I’ll tell you all about my clutter.

Catch ya later,  George


I love the lack of pretentiousness in YA books. When you write for adults, no-one pays attention unless you’re addressing issues like sex, racism, mental illness, drug use and so on. When writing for teens, the only requirement is that you entertain, as much as humanly possible. This gives me the freedom to fill a book with explosions and car chases and gadgetry without worrying that it won’t be taken seriously. It won’t, and it’s not supposed to be – that’s very liberating.

Both as a kid and as an adult, I love the work of Catherine Jinks, Emily Rodda, and the incomparable duo of Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, who give me the giggles in person and on the page. It’s not very grown-up of me to list my favourite short story as “Pinky Ponky the Donkey”, but I don’t much care what everyone else thinks counts as literature.

As a child I used to read a lot of novelisations – sometimes because Mum and Dad wouldn’t let me watch the screen versions until the Office of Film and Literature Classification said I could, but mostly just because the special effects were better in my head. I must have read every Doctor Who book, several Terminators and Red Dwarfs, and, of course, the Indiana Jones trilogy. I devoured Alien and all its sequels once a year for six years.

Third Transmission by Jack Heath

Six of Hearts is sealed inside a torpedo, blasting his way at 300 kilometres an hour towards a warship. His mission: to steal canisters containing a weaponised strain of the SARS virus. If he fails, ChaoSonic will use the virus to wipe out an uprising that is tearing the City apart.

And that is the least of Six’s problems. Vanish is still on the loose. So is Retuni Lerke. And a scientist has designed a new weapon – one more dangerous than anything Six has ever seen before. One that could destroy him, the Deck, and anyone else who dares to oppose ChaoSonic.

Six has to find the weapon and eliminate the threat it poses because ChaoSonic can’t always control their creations.

He is living proof of that.