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?
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