Monday, 16 January 2017

Twitter Twatter #37

November 2016:

Friday, 13 January 2017

Time Shadows Reviews II

A couple more Time Shadows reviews...

Reviewer: Daniel Tessier
24 September 2016

I believe we're on the cusp of a new golden age of fan fiction, at least in the worlds of Doctor Who. After a few years when professional and semi-pro unofficial fiction all but dried up, there has been a resurgence in this area lately, and some of the projects have been excellent. The latest such project, from Pseudoscope Publishing, is perhaps the best in a recent run of impressive publications.

Time Shadows sees an impressive group of new and established writers come together to raise funds for the Enable Community Foundation; a charity dedicated to providing needy communities with access to the latest technology and techniques to provide replacement limbs and prostheses. It's a remarkable organisation, supported by a remarkable book.

Time Shadows gives us a wide variety of story styles and themes, although a number of them revolve around a concept of time becoming twisted or undone. The stories are of a very high standard. It's a clichΓ© to call these collections a mixed bag, but it's true. Inevitably some stories are better than others, or, at least, better suit a particular reader's taste. However, Time Shadows is the most consistently well-written collection I've read in a long time. There's only one story in the book that I didn't particularly enjoy, and even then, I can see that it would likely suit another reader. In terms of quality, this is a huge achievement.

Going through every story, one by one, would make this a very long spoilerish review, so I'll be content to pick out some of my favourite stories. Time's Shadow, by Simon Blake, not only sets the overall feel of the book with its tale of time out of joint, but provides an unsettling and entertaining story from the very beginning of Doctor Who's history: that dilapidated junkyard back in '63. Also tied in with the earliest elements of the series is David McLain's story, Indigo, a fun diversion for the first Doctor with a fun punchline.

One of my favourite stories of the collection, The Godfather, has nothing to do with Mario Puzo. Rather, it's a quiet, rather beautiful story by John Davies, about the difficulties of growing up, that gives us a glimpse into the later life of two of the Doctor's companions. The Neither, by Ian Howden, is a very effective little adventure for Mike Yates and Sarah Jane Smith. They make such a fine pair in this story that they could have had their own spin-off series together.

There are two Cyberman stories that are particularly noteworthy for their very different approaches to the fifty-year-old monsters. Iron Joe, by Abel Diaz, sees the sixth Doctor and Peri encounter a Cyberman in the old West, an arresting and unlikely combination of images that make for quite an adventure. Andrew Blair's story, Confirmation Bias, is an absolutely devastating story that looks at the Cybermen from the opposite angle, focusing on the unbearable reality of becoming a Cyberman.

Christopher Colley manages to create both the funniest story of the collection, and one of the most affecting. After The Ball Was Over begins as light-hearted, frothy, almost Hitchhikers-esque romp before veering into an tale of guilt, that goes exists to explain the huge change in the fourth Doctor's demeanour between seasons seventeen and eighteen. The Redemption of Vequazon, by Nick Walters, has an outlandish fantasy title but delivers quite a powerful tale of morality and deliverance.

As with many collections of this nature, Time Shadows has a framing story. However, while most such stories are contrived and often quite ineffective, A Torch In The Darkness is one of the best Doctor Who stories I've read in a long time. Dale Smith, David N. Smith, Violet Addison, and Christopher Colley work together on this overarching tale, that brings the twelfth Doctor and Clara on a voyage throughout time, from the days of classical myth to the end of the universe itself. As well as capturing the Twelve/Clara relationship down to a tee, this five-part story sees the Doctor's own history explored. The stories throughout the collection are explicitly referenced as newly created events - intrusions into the Doctor's past. Indeed, isn't that what all these missing adventures are? New elements that we've fashioned to make our favourite character's life even more packed full of incident. A Torch In The Darkness also riffs on the same ideas as Listen, but takes it further and to a more powerful conclusion. In a collection that features all thirteen Doctors (and more besides), it's the crowning achievement. Exceptional.

Regeneration Who
Reviewer: Kara Dennison
17th October 2016

There is a real joy to Doctor Who charity anthologies. Minus a few thematic elements to bind the book together, they are largely free of restrictions of both what can be televised (both conveniently and legally) and what can and can’t be done within the set plot structure. It enables writers to toy with crossovers, returns to characters the series proper might have no desire to revisit, and even bits of canon that the show itself may never want to write. There’s a beautiful freedom there, both as a writer and as a reader who knows that this is just one of many fan imaginings that can be enjoyed for itself without wondering about its influence on the show’s legacy.

Time Shadows is one of the latest additions to the run of Doctor Who fanthologies, written to raise money for the Enable Community Foundation. Edited by Matt Grady and Samuel Gibb with a foreword by Gary Russell, it is a collection of new stories spanning the entirety of the televised series’s run. As is potentially guessable by the cover image, there is an especial focus on our incumbent Doctor, by way of a frame story featuring him and Clara Oswald.

What makes Time Shadows truly unique is the way it plays with the anthology format. We have a variety of writers pitching in a variety of stories — a young boy befriending an uncased Dalek, the Sixth Doctor and Peri encountering a Wild West Cyberman, and the Eighth Doctor’s run-in with Daleks and the Meddling Monk all at once, for example — which, in and of itself, is par for the course. But it’s the frame story, the overarching adventure of the Twelfth Doctor and Clara hunting down a mysterious time machine known as the Alpha TARDIS, that brings the threads together. How? Why? Where does it lead? That’s best discovered on its own. But it’s an ingenious use of the anthology format, and a brilliant way of tying together the works of a variety of authors that makes the patchwork of eras not only cohesive, but actually necessary to the plot.

As happens with a fanthology, the quality of the stories is all over the map. None of the stories truly fails as a Doctor Who story, but the writing quality itself varies person to person. Overall, there are far more hits than misses, and many of my misses may well be other people’s hits. It is important to bear in mind, though, that when picking up a fanthology, you’re not picking up a squeaky-clean, picked-over, BBC-polished product. You’re picking up a labour of love — and even if a particular writer’s voice may not be as strong as the ones around it, their passion for the show and characters still shines through in the inventiveness they bring to the concept.

So far, Time Shadows has raised more than $700 for the ECF, but there’s still a ways to go. Even leaving aside that it’s for a good cause, this anthology is definitely worth your money. It brings a degree of cleverness to the collaborative anthology format that, while present in other books, is exercised in a truly ingenious way here. There’s also a great deal of love shown for both 20th and 21st century Who, so no matter what your era, you will find something to enjoy.
Time Shadows is available to buy from the Pseudoscope Website, where you can also make donations to the ECF.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Twitter Twatter #36

October 2016:

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Time Shadows Reviews

Here's a couple of reviews of Time Shadows, the Doctor Who short story anthology, that I contributed a story too. Neither mentions my story explicitly, but it's for a good cause so here they are anyway...

Cosmic Masque
Reviewer: Jolyon Drake
December 31st, 2016

Fans of a certain age will have a shelf holding a Decalog or a Short Trips anthology, left over from the time that the short story was the perfect format for the established writers and the newcomers to share a platform for expanding the narrative of Who. Somewhere along the way, fans began producing unauthorised anthologies to raise money for a good cause, and in Time Shadows we are offered twenty short stories and one longer tale that raise money for the Enable Community Foundation.

Credit to the editorial work of Matt Grady with Samuel Gibb, that the stories feature the full range of Doctors and whilst the tone of the collection offers something for everyone, the standard is high throughout. There is a nice mixture of Earth-based adventures and alien world-building. There are villains and monsters and ghosts and time travellers. There is a wealth of well-drawn original characters, but most importantly, each Doctor and companion has a recognisable voice that makes the anthology trot along without any misfires in characterisation. What you like and dislike will marry up with how you feel about the show, because every era is represented by an author who clearly cares about and knows how to capture the feeling of the TARDIS team they have taken on.

We are given a chance to enjoy another outing for the Doctors under-represented in the written word. In Someone Took The Words Away Roger McCoy brings the ninth Doctor and Rose to a place where not a word can be wasted. The War Doctor appears in Visitor from Space! by J.R. Loflin, being grumpy and compassionate in equal measure. Meanwhile, Inertia by Pete Kempshall and The People In The Wood by Steve Hatcher are a reminder of the season seven cast and just how glorious the stories of that period can be.

Some of the contributions contain more kisses to the past, filling in gaps or offering ‘what if’ scenarios that only fans could devise. If expanding the mythology of the series is your thing, look no further than Indigo by David McLain, where the Doctor and Ian find that aliens trying to mess with the past are tampering with something surprisingly personal, or The Godfather by John Davies, where the Doctor and Jamie, fresh from The Two Doctors, show what they are capable of when they have expert control of the TARDIS. If you want to know how Mike Yates got from Invasion Of The Dinosaurs to Planet Of The Spiders, The Neither by Ian Howden will help you to fill the gap and make even more sense of our old Captain’s interest in the mystical.

My era of Who is perfectly captured in Straight On Till Morning by Chris Heffernan, with a story you could believe JNT would have commissioned on the spot – the Doctor and Mel visit a theme park where all is not right. Their investigation leads them into a world of animatronic characters from the Wizard of Oz to Peter Pan. I was taken straight back to 1987 and loved the experience.

It is good to see that a book raising money for prosthetics doesn’t shy away from using the Cybermen, and one of the stand-out stories of the collection is Confirmation Bias by Andrew Blair, where the reader is given a devastating insight into what the Doctor doesn’t know about his opponent.

Linking the collection together is A Torch In The Darkness five episodes that weave through the anthology from Dale Smith, David N. Smith & Violet Addison and Christopher Colley. Each part raises the stakes and pulls the collection together as it goes, referencing events from along the journey. In the centre, the Medusa chapter gives an appearance of the Weeping Angels crying out to be realised on television; it is worth the cover price alone. The story builds to a brave, bonkers and unlikely conclusion that reminds you how much fun the worlds of Doctor Who can be.

This anthology has left me wanting more extracts of Romana’s diary and persuaded me that the ever-growing number of stories that take place in the middle of The Daleks’ Master Plan should not be stopped. As long as the editors carry this much respect for every era of the show, nobody is shortchanged by the results, and knowing that the sale proceeds are contributing to a good cause is a welcome bonus. 
Time Shadows is available from

Trap One
Reviewer: Mark
September 12th, 2016

This collection of stories opens with the Twelfth Doctor at the end of the universe. It’s become one of this incarnation’s regular hangouts, somewhere he has visited in both series so far, in Listen and Hell Bent. On this visit an encounter with the powerful Alpha TARDIS is the catalyst for the other tales here, which are told as new memories created for the Doctor. It’s an effective framing device, as the ongoing story of the hunt for the stolen Alpha intersperses a series of adventures which span all of the character’s previous lives. These chapters, A Torch In The Darkness I -V (written by Dale Smith, David N. Smith and Violet Addison, and Christopher Colley) bind the individual stories together.

Someone has inserted the new events have been inserted into the Doctor’s timeline, much as he did to Kazran in A Christmas Carol. Some of the stories attempt to smooth out inconsistencies from the television stories, in the way that a lot of expanded universe material will, from the Missing Adventures to Big Finish. In Simon Blake’s thoughtful Time’s Shadow, we learn why Susan claimed to have named TARDISes, when every story from The War Games onwards makes this seem increasingly unlikely. But we also find the origin of the felt-tipped ‘Fast Return’ above the switch on the console from Inside The Spaceship, so there’s the suggestion that these stories did always happen in the timeline we know.

In a similar vein is After The Ball Was Over by Christopher Colley. A highlight of the collection, it seeks to explain the change from season seventeen’s carefree, witty raconteur of a Fourth Doctor to the sombre, serious season eighteen version. Most fans know that this was the result in a change of producer from Graham Williams to John Nathan-Turner, but I think this is the first in-universe explanation for this I’ve seen. Colley very effectively evokes both eras. It feels relevant by echoing the idea of the Doctor ‘going too far’ from the Hybrid arc in the recent series ten; the idea that the Doctor is just too powerful to do whatever he wants without thinking about the consequences for the rest of the universe.

Confirmation Bias by Andrew Blair is another excellent entry which explores the consequences of the Doctor’s actions. It’s a story which uses the written form to delve into the horror of the Cybermen, and cyber-conversion, in a way the TV series has not. A Doctor-lite tale, which uses the frequently infantilised persona of the Eleventh Doctor to juxtapose what a dark universe he inhabits.

The First Doctor is well-represented in this book. Kingdom Of The Blind by David Mason gives the short-lived TARDIS team of the Doctor, Steven and Sarah Kingdom a run out; while David McLain’s Indigo is fun, but it doesn’t feel quite right for the Doctor of this period to be investigating anomalies the Ship’s sensors have picked up. But it is the First Doctor’s appearance in A Torch In Yhe Darkness II: A Legendary Hero by David N. Smith and Violet Addison, that gives the reader a first clue as to the significance of this incarnation in the overall arc. The differences between his earliest and most recent incarnation provide another story beat which again chimes with a key point from series ten, in The Girl Who Died.

This is a great collection of short stories, with a really epic story running through the individual entries. This in particular feels very much of the Moffat-era: clever story-telling and resolution, the use of avatars and an end-of-the-universe setting. In a year where the BBC are not even publishing much Doctor Who fiction to make up for the lack of a broadcast series, this is an entertaining option for a very good cause.

Order now from:

Monday, 2 January 2017

Twitter Twatter #35

September 2016's twittering:

Sunday, 1 January 2017

My Predictions For 2017

As with last year, I have once again made predictions concerning the events of the forthcoming year.

Here are my predictions for 2017:

  • Mexico will build the wall and they will pay for it, but not until substantial parts of Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and, in move that confounds cartography, Rhode Island secede from the union and become Mexican.

  • Time travel is will have going to be invented for the first time. Again.

  • Hundreds of thousands of people will be embarrassed to discover that LOL, the acronym that they have been innocently using for years, actually stands for Lusting Over Lenin.

  • Due to the critical acclaim afforded to 2016's extra second, 2017 will be awarded a second second.

  • The Carmarthenshire village of Bancyfelin will inexplicably win Miss Universe.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

"Get ready, kiddos. It's 2016: Year of the Monkey"

The year the apocalypse was due to begin in 12 Monkeys has been a trying one for many. 2016 was the year of the Brexit referendum, the election of Donald Trump, the entirely undemocratic accession  of Theresa May and as many people have pointed out celebrity deaths seem anecdotally to have been at an all time high.

So it seems strange to say that 2016 has been a pretty good year for me. We bought a house, I've had some work published in two books, my work situation has changed in a way that allows for more writing, and in a move that benefits us all, none of my predictions came true.

These are a few of my favourite things from 2016:

The X-Men films get a much-needed kick up the arse. Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccharin and TJ Miller are wonderful. You haven't seen a superhero movie like it.

10 Cloverfield Lane
John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher, Jr. are excellent in this tense thriller semi-sequel. This is a phenomenal examination of claustrophobia and paranoia that expertly takes a tour around the genres.

Captain America: Civil War
Once you get past the notion that the Avengers disassemble over a contract dispute, this is a great team-up movie and the welcome appearance by Ant-Man and Spider-Man make this movie sing.

Louis Theroux's My Scientology Movie
Louis attempts to peek behind the veil of this bizarre religion and despite not getting an interview with anyone in Scientology still manages to expose the temperament, the entitlement and the sheer bonkers nature of the cult of Hollywood.

Star Trek Beyond
The thirteenth Star Trek film is fantastic. John Cho, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin and Sofia Boutella are all wonderful in film that manages to pay tribute to fifty years of Star Trek whilst forging ahead.

War And Peace
A brilliant adaptation of Tolstoy's epic. Beautifully shot, wonderfully adapted. This is how you make television. Why this famously long novel was six episodes, but Dickensian was permitted to limp on for twenty shows what a bizarre TV landscape we have.

The X-Files
Mulder and Scully return for an excellent tenth season, which ends on a cliffhanger which demands an eleventh. I demand an eleventh. I demand it now.

12 Monkeys
The second season of the series based on the Terry Gilliam's 1995 film time travel builds on the story of the first and exudes confidence as it rewrites it.

It's a relief to have the world's greatest secret agent back on our screens.

Better Call Saul
Jimmy McGill's life before Breaking Bad is expertly explored in a way that always leaves you wanting more. Prequels are never normally this good.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge's semi-autobiographical one-woman play become a six part sitcom with ease. Scathing and witty, this is Miranda with balls.

Red Dwarf XI
The cast slip effortlessly back into their roles as the boys from the Dwarf return for six more episodes that see them tangle with a society that outlawed technology and undercover speakeasy scientists, a ship upon which morality is punished, a time travelling organ thief, a 3D printed Rimmer monster, a mid-life Krysis, a mid-life crisis and that rarest of creatures: a female cat.

Planet Earth II
Phenomenal wildlife photography that kept the nation glued to its screens week after week.

This Is Us
Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz and Chris Sullivan are wonderful in this brilliant series about people who share the same birthday. The storytelling is inventive, the dialogue sparkles and within seconds you know these people, despite this a few seconds later these people surprise you. A rare commodity in TV at the moment.

Patrick Ness' Doctor Who spinoff set at Coal Hill School successfully bridges the age gap between The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood. The first five episodes In particular are excellent. Greg Austin, Katherine Kelly, Jordan Renzo and Aaron Neill are wonderful, but it is Vivian Oparah that gives the standout performance and needs far more to do.

Doctor Who: The Return Of Doctor Mysterio
With only one Doctor Who episode on television all year, it had better be a good one and thankfully The Return Of Doctor Mysterio didn't disappoint. Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Justin Chatwin and Charity Wakefield are all fantastic as Doctor Who takes on the Superhero genre and the results are wonderful. It was a long overdue return to fun. Doctor Who hasn't been fun for about six years, it's been clever, witty, dramatic but it hasn't been fun.

Inside No. 9
Once again Pemberton and Shearsmith have outdone themselves, The Demon Of Christmas is a fantastic fourth wall rattling replication of seventies television which exposes the depths of their obsession, and if you laugh, yours as well.

Cunk On Christmas
Just brilliant. Hopefully this will be on every Christmas.

Ultrasound: Real Britannia
The band's third album boasts another shift in tone, but once again they pull it off.

Doctor Who: Demon's Quest
The sequel to Hornet's Nest is a wonderful meandering journey through time taking in some brilliant historical highlights and doing it with aplomb. Tom Baker, Susan Jameson are fantastic.

2000AD & Judge Dredd Megazine
Far too many highlights to list, but the thirty-ninth year of the galaxy's greatest comic is another belter and sees the prog reach its 2000th edition.

Noiseless Chatter
As always, Phil Reed provides the best, most in-depth and thought-provoking site on the internet. Also, the only one that claims to have been online for thirty-five years.

Here's to a happy 2017...