Monday, September 29, 2008

I am the law

Typing away to finish Slitheen and listening to lots of radio. The news is full of bail-outs and a bloke called Judd Gregg - and I keep picturing old stony face.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Eat my shorts

I said I'd been busy... Details have been announced for the next two Doctor Who Short Trips books.

Christmas Around the World, edited by Xanna Eve Chown, features my story "Do you smell carrots?" - which had its exclusive world premiere at 11 am last Sunday, in front of as many as three faithful listeners. The book is out later this year.

Indefinable Magic, edited by Neil Corry, features my story "Pass it on". It's also got several efforts by the no-longer first-time authors from How The Doctor Changed My Life. Hooray! It's out in March next year.

Doctor Who & Indefinable Magic

Friday, September 26, 2008


Amazon have the cover of my Primeval novel up now:

Primeval: Fire and Water by Simon Guerrier

It obviously features Andrew Lee Potts as Connor Temple and a cheery-looking Velociraptor. The Velociraptor - meaning "swift hunter" - was about 2 metres or 6.5 feet long from nose to tip of tail, so would stand to about the height of my elbow. As my indispensable textbook says,
"The Velociraptors depicted in the film Jurassic Park were well over twice the size of the real animal."

Tim Haines and Paul Chambers, The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life, p.127.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Drilling in my head

The Dr and the Other Wife have arrived safely in sunny Venice, after quite an Adventure yesterday in getting to Paris by train. The Dr is speaking at a conference on Mary Severn, the artist wife of Doctor Who's friend Charles Newton. I assume the conference will be a lot like FantasyCon, only with more goths and corsets.

I, meanwhile, have a lot of typing to do. Which is not helped by the stereo drilling from my neighbours downstairs and next door. I still possess the note they wrote in the first week of June saying the building work might take "until Friday". Yesterday, the machines began grinding at about eight in the morning and were still going at nine at night.

(Yes, it's now September. And despite odd flourishes of sunshine, nine is now no longer in the evening but very much at night.)

The building works have been going on so long the dim cat has stopped being bothered. I'm finding them knackering.

But on we slog. And, via Cornell, here is something rather splendid:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Standing in the Herald

A feature in today's Herald on writing Doctor Who includes wisdom from Paul Cornell, Terrance Dicks, Stephen Greenhorn and Big Finish competition winner Michael Coen - plus some wittering from me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The long fingers of Doctor Who

Here's what I wrote for the FantasyCon programme, on the subject of writing for Doctor Who:
“His long fingers flashed over the keyboard with amazing speed.”
That’s how Terrance Dicks describes David Tennant’s Doctor on page 29 of his 2007 Doctor Who novel Made of Steel. The Doctor’s in an internet cafe, looking for evidence that the Cybermen weren’t all swallowed by the void he created at Canary Wharf. Cor, I thought when I read that sentence. And also, I’m having that.

At the time I was writing The Pirate Loop, my own tenth Doctor novel (all canapés and badger-faced space pirates) and was struggling to find simple ways to differentiate this Doctor from his predecessors. I’ve written novels, short stories and audio plays featuring eight of the 10 Doctors and one of the trickiest things is getting each incarnation right. How do you make sure that the tenth Doctor sounds like the tenth?

Terrance Dicks was obviously the person to steal from. Dicks has written more Doctor Who than anybody else – he invented the Time Lords, script-edited all of the third Doctor’s era on telly and has written more than 80 Doctor Who novels and novelisations. Dicks also believes that the Doctor is always the Doctor; the same man despite outward appearance and mannerisms. In effect, you write the same character, it’s the actors who make him different.

A good example of this is the 2003 Big Finish audio play Jubilee by Robert Shearman. At the beginning of episode two, Colin Baker’s sixth Doctor is trapped in a room with a disarmed Dalek, played by Nicholas Briggs. It’s almost the same scene as the one in Dalek, Shearman’s 2005 script for the TV series, only with Christopher Eccleston in the role. While Eccleston’s Doctor shouts and drools flem, Baker’s performance is quieter, warier, more curious.

Before the new series, when only Real Fans were likely to pick up Doctor Who books, you could even keep the reader guessing, letting them suss out which Doctor you’d chosen by which companions or adventures you mentioned. But there are now people who love new Doctor Who, “fans” who can’t rattle off the names of the actors who played the previous incarnations. Who don’t recite them every night as they brush their teeth.

So Big Finish’s Short Trips anthologies now tell you up front which Doctor features, and there’s a handy guide to the first eight on the inside back-flap of each of our anthologies. But even when you tell the reader which Doctor it is explicitly, you still need to get him right. I once edited a story where I had to ask if the Doctor in it was the fifth or the eighth. It only took a tiny bit of tweaking to get it right, adding in a particular, simple line of description – especially early on in the story.

Terrance Dicks mastered these simple descriptions: the third Doctor’s “shock of white hair”, the fifth Doctor’s “pleasant, open face”; the “skinny geek” tenth Doctor with his long fingers.

It’s not just about pinching the descriptions from Terrance Dicks’ books. There’s also the extremely necessary research of watching lots of Doctor Who on DVD. I rewatched all the existing episodes of the first year of Doctor Who to properly depict William Hartnell’s first Doctor and his companions for my novel The Time Travellers. This vital preparation meant I could steal the first Doctor’s way of starting any statement, “I should say...” and the way he stands tall, gripping the lapels of his frock coat, whenever there’s a problem. Time well spent, I think.

It’s not that you’re parodying each performance. The research often helps you spot something to hook a story on, or at least an angle to show some new facet of the characters. Genre writing of any kind is often a sort of parlour game; you have to reshuffle familiar elements so that the result appears the same but new. How do you make the Doctor just like he is on TV yet also something new?

The first Doctor on screen turns out to be not quite the grouch Fan wisdom sometimes thinks. Yet he’s often single-minded, neglecting his granddaughter and other companions when some mystery or spectacle takes his fancy. He’s also a reluctant hero: fighting monsters and injustice only when he’s made to. Only some 50 episodes into the series, as the Daleks invade Earth, does he, unprompted, dare to stop them. (Though initially he gets involved only because he’s locked out of the TARDIS.)

In practical terms, the production team had realised they needed a more active protagonist, that the Doctor couldn’t keep having adventures by accident. But within the fiction itself, what changes in the Doctor? Why does he become the crusader we have come to know? Or rather, what stops him getting involved before this? That’s the sort of thing with which I padded out my book.

It’s Jon Pertwee’s third Doctor who spends his time being rude and insufferable to his friends. (A fanzine article in the 1990s argued this was his frustration at being stranded on Earth, unable to work his TARDIS.) I pinched that for my first professionally published short story: in The Switching, when the suave Master tries to escape from prison by swapping his mind into the Doctor’s body, the Doctor’s friends don’t just fail to notice, they think it’s an improvement.

The same story wouldn’t work with any other incarnation of the Doctor; or rather it wouldn’t play out in the same way. Likewise The Time Travellers only works with the first Doctor, and at that particular moment in his life before the Daleks invade Earth. The Doctors aren’t just different superficially; their different mannerisms spill out and shape the stories.

So that’s how it’s done, or at least how I do it. I said I’ve written for eight of the 10 Doctors. I’ve not written for the ninth Doctor because he was only around for a year and all the spin-off books and annuals are now on to the tenth. And I’ve not written for the second Doctor because I found him too difficult. His character is all in the performance of actor Patrick Troughton – not what he says but the gravelly-voiced, impish, naughty schoolboy way he says it.

But even “impish” I stole from Terrance Dicks.
“The girl watched him leave [the internet cafe]. ‘Pity,’ she thought. ‘Completely bonkers, of course. But he looked rather interesting for a geek.’

Doctor Who: Made of Steel by Terrance Dicks, page 31.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The lost museum

Back from a fun but exhausting weekend in Nottingham where I made many new friends. "Made" as in met, rather than sculpting from plasticine and animating into life. That's messy.

Talked shop, traded gossip, spent a lot of money on beer and books, neglected little things like sleep. Got to talk to Dave McKean and caught up with a whole bunch of old friends. Hooray!

The train home didn't have plug sockets (!) so I did my writing by hand, filling pages and pages of notebook with stuff I'm now not sure I'm going to use. There is a lot to be done in the next week so posting here will be a bit scanty. But I notice my writing this summer has a bit of a leonine theme.

H. and J. have returned returned from the States with a present for me. Jeff Hoke's The Museum of Lost Wonder is a fancy hardback crammed with makes and madness. It's really horribly distracting from this work I have to do. And will make quite a few clever, dexterous friends of mine puce with envy. Hooray!

Friday, September 19, 2008

All said and done

Issue #400 of Doctor Who's Magazine out today includes, along with its other loveliness, news of yet another audio play thingie by me. Time travelling old rat bag Iris Wildthyme returns in February for four new adventures, starring Katy Manning as Iris and David Benson as Panda. My one, “The Two Irises”, is an “affectionate pastiche” (it says here) of 1980s Doctor Who, and ought to be out in April.

I've also been interviewed by Ashley Mcloughlin for issue 16 of his fanzine Mad Doctor Who Magazine. I used to produce my own handwritten, hand-drawn fanzines and am a bit envious of Ashley's DTP genius. In my day it was all scissors and Pritt Stick.

Off to FantasyCon as soon as my passport arrives. You don't technically need a passport to get into Nottingham, it's just I have to sign for the passport so I need to wait around. But in the last few days there's been some exciting additions to my schedule:

Friday (tonight)
9 pm – How to Break into the Young Adult Market (Main room)
With me, DJ MacHale, Mark Robson and Sarah Singlton

11 am - Trends in Young Adult Fiction (Gallery suite)
3 pm - Writing for Doctor Who Panel (Main room)
10.30 pm – Reading: I'll be reading something from Morrigan Books' Voices anthology (Trent Suite, 10th floor)

10 am - Writing for the Franchise Market (Main room)
11 am – Reading: “Do you smell Carrots?”, an exclusive sneak peek at my story from the forthcoming Doctor Who – Short Trips: Christmas Round the World (Trent Suite, 10th floor)

If you're coming along, do say “hello”. Or even, “What would you like to drink, Simon?”

I'm also provisionally booked for two more Doctor Who conventions in the US next year – Gallifrey in Los Angeles in February and HurricaneWho in Orlando in October/November. Both are subject to work commitments and pesky things like cash. But woo!

Oh, and incidentally, this is my 700th post.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ice to see you

Big Finish have posted the covers to next year's "Doctor Who - Key 2 Time" series, including my own The Judgement of Isskar.

Doctor Who and the Judgement of Isskar

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Amazon have posted details of my new novel Primeval: Fire and Water.
When strange anomalies in time start to appear Professor Cutter and his team have to help track down and capture a multitude of dangerous prehistoric creatures from Earth's distant past and terrifying future...

At a safari park in South Africa, rangers are disappearing and strange creatures have been seen battling with lions and rhinos. As the team investigates they are drawn into a dark conspiracy which could have terrible consequences...

Back at home as torrential rain pours down over the city, an enormous anomaly opens up in East London...

In this brand new original never-seen-on-TV Primeval adventure the team confront anomaly crises both in rain-swept London and on the hot South African plains...
Also, I seem to have made it to the second round of the Kaos Films' British Short Screenplay Competition. Since the judging gets done anonymously, I won't say yet what my one is called.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Class act

Spent the weekend with some chums, and drank and laughed a great deal. Paul Cornell, Nimbos and I also performed the following hilarity at a party on Saturday night, based of course of the Frost Report's class sketch.
I look down on him (Indicates Merchandise) because I write for the new series and get top-billing at conventions.

I look up to him (Telly) because he writes for the new series; but I look down on him (Punter) because he is just a punter. I write books and get middle billing at conventions.

I know my place. I look up to them both. But I don't look up to him (Merchandise) as much as I look up to him (Telly), because he has got innate canonical status.

I have got innate canonical status, but I have not got any money. So sometimes I look up (bends knees, does so) to him (Merchandise).

I still look up to him (Telly) because although I have money, I am vulgar and commercial. But I am not as vulgar as his (Punter) posts to the internet so I still look down on him (Punter).

I know my place. I look up to them both; but while I am no one, I am honest in my opinions and passionate about the show. I fund everything they do. Had I the inclination, I could look down on them. But I don't.

We all know our place, but what do we get out of it?

I get my name on the telly and a feeling of superiority over them. I get quite angry when they don’t accord me the appropriate respect.

I get my name on a lot of knock-off tat. I get a feeling of inferiority from him, (Telly), but a feeling of superiority over him (Punter). I get quite angry when they don’t accord me the appropriate respect.

I get quite angry.
Back to the grindstone today, and the first trip to the gym in 10 days. It hurt. But plenty of exciting emails to work through, and there'll be all kinds of thrilling announcements in the next few days.

Oh, and the Dr recommends something she's been working on: a BBC archive collection of Francis Bacon clips and stuff.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

First past the post

Home from sunny Spain to grey and cold London, though we're told we should be thankful that it is not raining. Shall endeavour to write up where and which we got up to, but am a little pressed for time...

Plenty of post awaited us, including additional presents for the Dr's birthday. The cat seems to have found her a Sony PRS-505 e-book reader which is loading up plenty of dead people now.

The book has arrived!I've got my copies of Doctor Who & How the Doctor Changed My Life, plus a glut of emails from the authors who are all justifiably packed with squee. You can also see the latest Benny play there, too. Hoorah!

Scott forwarded me this interesting article on "real" writing as opposed to that wretched, TV tie-in stuff. And a few people have sent sample chapters and scripts and stuff they want me looking over. But the sizeable amount of work I got done in Spain needs writing up more pressingly...

Got lots to do tomorrow then to Cardiff on Friday for the weekend. Will endeavour, where time allows, to wave a tentacle from here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Solid gold shit, maestro

The Dr and K strong-armed me last night to the Take That musical, Never Forget, together with a coven of beautiful ladies, P. (the DJ from our wedding what likes his nonsense pop) and Unloveable.

The wheeze is that two best mates audition for a Take That tribute band 'cos they need the cash. But the ersatz Gary Barlow is clearly the one with the talent, and the temptation is to pursue his own career at the expense of his friends and fiancée. Along the way there's a lot of singing, jokes and dance routines.

Jason Haigh-Ellery
is one of the show's producers and also my boss on other stuff, so I am of contractually obliged to have enjoyed myself. But that was fun. Bouncy, silly, fluffy fun with lots of ladies in the audience shrieking with enjoyment. Some of it is gobsmacking: a special effect at the end of act one, the extra chorus for the song at the end...

The encore got the house on its feet. I didn't know the words or the movements so stood, at least a foot taller than anyone else in the building, like a lemon/ourang-outan hybrid. Our coven of girls squeeed their way out of the theatre assuring each other they'd go back with various friends and hen nights. So a palpable hit, I think.

Have spent today rushing about trying to get things done as we're off on holiday to Spain tomorrow. Spent an age looking for the plug adaptor for my laptop, before thinking to look in the laptop bag. Have written author notes for Doctor Who and the Judgement of Isskar which reveal our initial plan, and those nice fellows at Big Finish have also posted up details of The Prisoners' Dilemma – a companion piece also out in January.
A new adventure with the Seventh Doctor as told by his companion, Ace.

Two prisoners meet in a prison cell. Zara is searching for the segments of the Key to Time; she was only born yesterday but already she’s killed hundreds of people. Ace is more ambitious: she was going to kill everyone on the planet.

What have they got against the people of Erratoon? They go peaceably about their simple assignments, beneath their artificial sky. They share their meals and leisure time and they never ask questions. Are they even real?

Ace and Zara will only survive if they can trust each other. Or perhaps if they sell each other out... If not their awful punishment is to become just like everyone else.
Since I'm in Spain, I sadly won't be attending the Blake's 7 convention this weekend, though many of my colleagues on the new audio series will be. Ben Aaronovitch, James Swallow, Marc Platt and Alistair Lock will be appearing alongside a great wealth of the original TV show to celebrate its 30th birthday.

It's apparently 30° in Malaga at the moment. Bliss. I will endeavour to post from the pool.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Free - yes free!

UNIT: The Coup NOW FREEYou can now download for free UNIT: The Coup (26.7 Mb) – my very first audio drama for Big Finish. The story, which stars Nicholas Courtney as Doctor Who's best friend General Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (the KBE formerly known as “Brigadier”) and old baddies the Silurians.
London, the near future; UNIT is finished. The UK division of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce prepares to cede its authority to a new organisation... But who is attempting to sabotage the hand-over?
Originally given away on the front of Doctor Who Magazine #351 at the end of 2004, it's a prologue to the four-part UNIT series (available this month for a mere £20). UNIT of course first featured in old-skool Doctor Who in 1968, and played a major part in this year's series. The other authors and I were briefed by producer Ian Farrington to update UNIT, and we did so by pinching bits of 24 and The West Wing. Emily Chaudhry is a really quite blatant steal of CJ Cregg.

It's funny listening to it now; there's all sorts of things I'd do differently. But hear my desperate efforts to make it big and epic, and handwaving with stupid jokes to distract from the mountain of exposition. The characters Winnington, French and Ledger were named after people I knew in my teens who shared my love of Doctor Who – back when sniffing glue was more sociably acceptable.

One original plan was to have the Prime Minister turn up at the end, accompanied by the new head of UNIT, Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood – as played by a bloke called David Tennant. He turns up later in the the series.

(If this sort of thing appeals, as well as checking out the UNIT series you might also enjoy Sympathy for the Devil, in which Nicholas Courtney and David Tennant spar with David Warner's Doctor Who. Lethbridge-Stewart is also due to appear in an episode of the Sarah-Jane Adventures later this year.)

Also up on the Big Finish site are details of my latest audio adventure for Big Finish: Doctor Who & the Judgement of Isskar, out in January.
A new adventure in time and space for the Fifth Doctor and his new companion, Amy as they search for the Key to Time.

On a planet where Time stands still, the Doctor meets a woman who is just a few minutes old. She is a Tracer, sent into our Universe by her makers to locate the six segments of the Key to Time. This being without a name wants the Doctor to be her assistant, but she doesn’t tell him the whole truth. Not at first.

Their first port of call is Mars, where a society that one day will become Ice Warriors lives in peace and civility. But the Doctor’s arrival will change all that. The universe is dying, a choice must be made, and the Judgement of Isskar will be declared. The price must be paid - even if it takes centuries…
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Ciara Janson (Amy), Laura Doddington (Zara), Nicholas Briggs (Isskar), Andrew Jones (Harmonious 14 Zink), Raquel Cassidy (Mesca), Jeremy James (Thetris), Heather Wright (Wembik)

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Visitation

Doctor Who is stalking me. You can see where he's parked his TARDIS right outside my house.
Luckily, I've been primed to spot this sort of evidence.
"She stood by the nothing at the end of the lane and tried to make herself see it.

It was in an empty yard where a house once stood. There were still blackened remains, an exposed foundation. No one had built anything else on that lot, not ever. Evan had lived there once, but that wasn’t why they were there.

He paced round the square of flattened grass, one hand raised, running fingers over invisible walls.

‘You can’t see it, can you?’ Evan said, smiling a little sadly.

Rebecca reached out a hand, felt nothing..."

Michael Montoure, "Relativity" in Doctor Who & How The Doctor Changed My Life, p. 43.