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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Media tie-in books

Tied InMedia tie-in books are those that are in some way associated with a film, television series or game. I’m interested in these types of books both as a reader and a writer. I recently read a book about tie-in writing — Tied In: The Business, History and Craft of Media Tie-in Writing. So tie-in writing is the subject of today’s post.

Official tie-in writing, licensed by the owners of the property, can be divided into three areas — novelisations, original fiction and non-fiction. Novelisations are straight adaptations of existing films or television episodes. Many major films will have these and so will some tv shows. Original fiction tie-ins are, as the name suggests, new stories about the characters and world of a television series, film or game. And non-fiction is… well… stuff written about a tv show, film or game. Of course, there’s also the unofficial tie-in writing. In terms of fiction, this means fan fic, published on the Internet or in fanzines at no profit. In terms of non-fiction, this means professional books and magazines of critique/reviews, as well as fan commentary.

My first encounter with tie-in writing, as a reader, was with the Doctor Who novelisations. Target Books published well over a hundred of these back in the 1970s and 80s. Next, there was the novelisation of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial and the sequel novel E.T.: The Book of the Green Planet, both by William Kotzwinkle. Since then I’ve gone on to read lots of novelisations, original fiction and non-fiction based on things like Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica.

As you can see from the above, my tie-in leanings are towards science fiction. But there’s tie-in fiction for all sorts of films and tv shows. The novelisations of the Dance Academy series have been particularly popular in recent times. And I’m sure I’ve seen Home and Away books in many a discount bin. 🙂

My experience as a reader has shown me there is a great deal of variation in quality. There are some pretty awful tie-in books out there… but there’s also some real gold. For many years there was a great deal of stigma attached to writing tie-in material. It was seem by many as the domain of hacks and writers incapable of getting original material published. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just take a look at the Doctor Who and Star Wars books of recent years. Names such as Michael Moorcock, Sean Williams and Stephen Baxter jump out. So don’t be too quick to judge a tie-in book!

 

I’m particularly excited that my friend Trudi Canavan, author of The Black Magician Trilogy and many other great books, is writing a Doctor Who novella for a series of BBC eBooks (see her blog post “Time Tripping with Doctor Who”). Her experience has been fun for me, as I’ve gotten to wade through my DVD collection, choosing appropriate episodes to lend her for research; and I’ve been a pseudo-consultant, answering some nerdy fanboy Doctor Who questions for her. Now, I can’t wait to read her story.

As a writer, tie-in material holds a great deal of fascination for me, particularly as I’m a bit of a pop culture junkie. So I’ve actively pursued it. I wrote for the Behind the News magazine and I wrote one of the tie-in books. I was also lucky enough to write a Doctor Who story for the anthology Short Trips: Defining Patterns. And I’ve done a few essays for some unlicensed books about Doctor Who. It’s something that I’ve enjoyed a great deal and would love to do more of. (See my blog posts: “I Love Doctor Who” and “Writing about Doctor Who“)

Which brings me back to Tied In: The Business, History and Craft of Media Tie-in Writing, edited by Lee Goldberg and published by The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. Aside from a few  typos, this book is a great read. To any writers out there who are keen on getting into the tie-in market, this book is an excellent resource. It gives you the facts of working in the industry and a run down of what you can expect from working in that area. To readers of tie-in material, this book is a wonderful history of and insight into the industry. Highly recommended!

Catch ya later,  George

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