Thursday, 20 May 2010

Shooty Blog Thing 2: This Time It's Personal

I'm shamelessly stealing an idea from Graeme Burk's excellent and insightful gem, geek or rare bug blog regarding his new book Time Unincorporated 2, and doing a kind of Making Of... with regards to my articles for the first Shooty book. Because a) it's a very nice idea, b) it's here to remind me c) it's the only way to talk about my articles and d) to get me thinking about my own writing.

Before I start, I'd push any readers of this blog toward Graeme's book. He's been responsible for ten very fine years of DWIN's own fanzine Enlightenment, and I know from experience and reading said zine that he's an exceptionally high quality editor. Buy it. Now.

Right... one by one, the blogging equivalent of a DVD commentary.

"Bernice Summerfield: The Inside Story" (2009) was the first of three pieces commissioned for the book. One thing Paul's always been very keen on is that Shooty covers all forms of Doctor Who; novels, novelisations, comics, cigarette cards and so forth. Part of that was that he wanted a small piece on Benny to accompany two other articles he'd already selected to go in the book. We'd already talked about this, but Paul's original plan of a year's break in between issues of his fanzine put paid to that. In preparing for it I read DWM's review, which is a good, straightforward overview of the contents - I'd expect no less from Matt Michael. But it didn't necessarily sell me on it. And then I sat there looking at a blank Word document for ages, to find the right angle. One of the things I love about fanzines is that they can go where official magazines fear to tread, so I wanted to convey exactly why I adored both the character of Benny and the book - I might not have the chance again! If you like, I wanted it to balance head and heart in a way that I didn't think the DWM review quite did, balancing fannish love with some analysis. Simon Guerrier and Lisa Bowerman both adored it, which was a rather lovely ego boost.

"Craggles Rocked!"(2007) I'll get to the story of how Paul and I met in a moment or two, but the origins of this lie in a splendid afternoon spent in a bar in Swansea. The December 2007 issue of Shooty was due to come out around a year after Craig Hinton's death and Paul wanted a tribute to him for that issue. Since we'd both know Craig a little and first known each other from the infamous Jade Pagoda mailing list I was his natural choice to write this one. It was originally going to be around a thousand words shorter but it sprawled a bit and, as is ever the way with fanzines, there was enough space to turn it into the issue's centrepiece. Paul's little epilogue to the piece is probably my favourite piece of his, a lovely personal counterpoint to the review of Craig's professional work.

Licence Denied (2007) Paul and I were acquaintances rather than friends prior to a Sunday afternoon bonding session at Regenerations over a few Guinnesses - we'd been on mailing lists and met briefly at Battlefield in Coventry in 2002. But I asked a mutual acquaintance to reintroduce us that afternoon, and we spent the entire afternoon in the bar whilst friends came and went around us simply talking about what we loved about Doctor Who. We grew up adoring the Target novels, encountered the New Adventures at precisely the right time and didn't care about which stories counted and which didn't, we just loved a good story. And one of the things we bonded over was Paul Cornell's Licence Denied, a fanzine collection from 1997 - it was the inspiration for Shooty. Paul was initially reluctant as Shooty already had a significant review section, but I persuaded him in that it wouldn't quite be a review but more of a ten years on tribute. I smile when I reread the last line about a second volume being the only thing that's lacking now - there's two volumes of fanzine writings published since with three more that I know of on the way.

'And Cut It... Now!' (2008)Prompted by what I'd heard about new series fans not being particularly interested in the old series. One of Paul's ideas with Shooty was to introduce new series fans to the wider Doctor Who universe, so that got me musing on how we might be able to get new fans to watch the old episodes. For me it falls victim to my usual thing of not giving myself room to explore the topic fully and I think it could do with a rewrite or two, but I stand by the sentiment.

Teach Yourself Ballroom Dancing (2009) The second of three original commissions. This was commissioned as part of a review section to tie in with Hirst Books' other title being launched around the same time as Shooty, Colin Baker's 'Look Who's Talking'. I'd written an eulogy for the end of the Short Trips range a few months earlier, so Paul asked me to pick my favourite Sixth Doctor story from the range and talk about it for about 1,500 words. This is one of my favourite Doctor Who short stories, the Doctor touching the life of an ordinary person and how he doesn't quite understand human emotions and domesticity so it was a fairly simple choice.

It's All About Unfinished Business (2009) The final one of my new pieces for the book. I originally pitched it to Paul as a companion piece to the review section, dealing exclusively on the rehabilitation of the Sixth Doctor in novels, short stories and audios, but when I'd barely got to dealing with The Twin Dilemma 2,000 words in it was clear it was going to be broader than that. To set the context it needed to detail exactly why the character needed rehabilitating. Writing this also helped me crystallise a few ideas about Colin's era in my own head. Probably my favourite piece.

'Alien Bodies: The End Was Nigh' (2008) If you're at all familiar with the Eighth DOctor Adventures you'll know of the reverence Alien Bodies is held in. This is my shot at slaughtering a sacred cow, almost playing devil's advocate.

'Tennant's Hamlet' (2008) What it says on the tin - a review of the production of Hamlet David Tennant did between the end of Season Four and the Specials. I thought it might be too New Series foor Paul to include given Tennant's involvement, but as he rightly pointed out, 400 year old material falls within Shooty's remit of widening cultural boundaries.

'Iris? Iris? Who The Heck Is Iris?'(2009) One of the rare occasions Paul commissioned me to write a specific piece for the fanzine itself, intended as a lead for the large section he was devoting to Iris and Obverse Books launching their range of books based around the exploits of the character. Always fun to try to introduce and sell your passions.

'Missing Pieces' (2009) I've always been fascinated by the way Doctor Who fans in particular fill in gaps - if there's no new Who on the telly, we (collectively) write our own. I like to think having to reconstruct the missing stories in our own head is one of the reasons for the creative fecundity of Who fans, part of the inspiration for this was to explore that. It's also my tribute to the Target range that I devoured so avidly when young.

'Short Trips: The End of the Road?' (2009) There's nothing so tragic in art as audience indifference. The Short Trips range had always seemed a distant third to the novels and audios but ended up the last original fiction range still standing, and the last that had (at times) an open submission policy. It seemed the end of an era to my mind, and it's an attempt to make people care.

'Iris Wildthyme and the Celestial Omnibus' (2009) Review of Obverse Books' launch title. Deliberately avoided mentioning every story since I think that's almost trying to curry favour with all the authors and (to use a technical term) a bit wanky.

Stay Tuned...