The Red Lines Page

July 30, 2010

Four Doctors

Filed under: Another Life,Audios,drwho,Pack Animals,Pest Control,Torchwood,writing — Peter A @ 8:53 pm

The Four DoctorsThe Big Finish news pages have revealed that I have written the Christmas release for their main Doctor Who audios range. I wrote it some time ago, but they’ve only just made the info public.

It features the four main Doctors in the Big Finish range — Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann. I’ve written audios for two of them in the past: I wrote “Bounty” for the  BBC audio book Earth & Beyond, which was Paul McGann’s first new story after the TV Movie; and The Chaos Pool was my conclusion of the Big Finish Key 2 Time trilogy, starring Peter Davison.

It was great fun to script this special set of episodes, which also (hurrah!) gave me a chance to do something exciting with the Daleks, too. The episodes are available exclusively to people who take out a subscription to Big Finish’s splendid monthly series of audio adventures.

I suppose I have now created adventures for eight of the eleven Doctors to date, if you count short story collections (second and third Doctors) and audio (tenth Doctor). If you’re counting on your fingers, you’ll realise that tots up to seven… I haven’t mentioned one of the remaining Doctors, because I only just signed the contract for that, and so an official announcement is still to come.

Another LifeIn other news, my two Torchwood novels are now available for the Kindle. This is very prompt, because I only signed the contract for that very recently.

Check out Another Life and Pack Animals at Amazon’s Kindle Store, from where you can get them “auto delivered wirelessly”. How can you resist?

As Random House (the latest owners of the BBC Books imprint) still have the rights to publish my previous Doctor Who novels, perhaps they will also recognise that they have a back catalogue of material that they could release as eBooks — and not just my novels, either, but lots of others that are either out of print or hard to obtain these days.

I suppose that will depend on whether they not only have the publishing rights but also the original text or print files.

But I think know someone who can help them with that if they really need it.

July 22, 2010

I’m free

Filed under: Audios,drwho,Pest Control,press,writing — Peter A @ 3:21 pm

The Guardian reports that the ASA admonished the Sunday Telegraph for its giveaway of my audio CD Pest Control. The adjudication is here. Thank you to m’colleague Oli Smith who drew my attention to this, and warned me that BBC Watchdog were going to camp on my doorstep and demand an explanation.

I waited until Anne Robinson shouted through my letterbox and then poked her with a sharpened pencil through the open flap. When you next see her on TV, you may notice she has an awkward tic in one eye.

Alas, one complainant felt misled that the audiobook was in two parts and only one was attached to the paper. Another complainant didn’t think the redeemable vouchers made the audiobook “free” from WH Smith because they didn’t live near a store, and therefore had to stump up nearly thirteen quid for all the CDs.

Product DetailsIf it’s any consolation, I spent a quid to get my free Pest Control Part 1 CD in the Sunday Telegraph, and then forgot to get the Monday Daily Telegraph paper altogether. Oli Smith’s audio (free the previous day) was good, though. BBC Audio (or possibly AudioGo) plan to issue it officially at a later date with music and sound effects.  That cover mount was the first time Oli had heard the final version — he got up at 7 a.m. on the Saturday to buy the paper and listen to his CD.

Actually, you can still get both Pest Control CDs in a nice box with a booklet for a mere six quid from Amazon. Or for listeners in the US, for less than $20 here.

Random facts

Filed under: writing — Peter A @ 8:21 am

What better way to test WordPress on my iPhone than to do something random? So here are 25 random things about me.

(Yes, I am this vain. I will even interview myself.)

1: My first published work was a competition-winning story composed from book titles. I won a book voucher with a photo of a Concorde jet on it. This was the 1970s.

2: When I was a teenager, I had the temerity to cold-call Terry Nation at home. He was very nice, considering, and did not exterminate me.

3: I had a reputation for getting lost on school trips. One teacher proudly announced in assembly that the highlight of her class trip was that I did not go missing at any stage.

4: Curry was an unknown treat until I was 21 years old. This was an availability thing, not some weird religious requirement.

5: My office at work had a view of the women’s toilets. (The toilet door, I mean, not the inside, that would be ghastly). When the door opens, it’s a movement in my peripheral vision, and I had to resist the temptation to look up. Or use a stopwatch.

6: The union flag is such a splendid design that I have decided is worth displaying (e.g. at work, on my Twitter page) without worrying that people might think I am a right-wing nutcase. The thing needs reclaiming for the broader population.

7: Primary school treats: reading Dickens, trips to the Isle of Man, milk in 1/3rd-pint bottles.

8: None of my immediate family are left-handed, except my younger son. He does not look like our milkman.

9: I was the only Manchester City supporter I knew at my all-boys secondary school. One day, the coach company that took us to school ran out of coaches, and so we were delivered in the Manchester United team coach.

10: The carpet in my first house smelled of dog. Doing the Shake’n’Vac did not put the freshness back. I got a carpet shampoo machine, but that only made the house smell of boiled dog.

11: My name in Greek is Пέτρος Аγγελíδες but I cannot speak Greek.

12: I wrote an article for “The Listener”. Some years later, a journalist friend told me that they’d liked it and wondered why I hadn’t pitched them more stuff. I was foolishly waiting for them to ask. It doesn’t work like that.

13: Why don’t I play badminton twice a week like I used to? Indolence, lack of time, and the fear of putting my back out again.

14: I do not have any aliases in online news groups where I participate. I think it’s a bit odd to have an ID like “The Ergon” or “Matt Smith’s Hair”, but perhaps I’m an Old Fuddy Duddy. (That could be a future alias, I suppose.)

15: TV shows I think I’d like but can’t be bothered to hunt out: the new “Battlestar Galactica”, “The Wire”, “Mad Men”. The first television programme I saw in colour was “Play School”. Humpty turned out to be purple and green — who knew? Hamble looked like we should call Social Services.

16. My favourite car colour was a citrine yellow Ford Orion. I loved it. Everyone else said it was horrible. One writer I interviewed said it was the colour of baby diarrhea. He went on to win an Oscar. I went on to sell the car to my parents.

17: I did a radio interview about my “Doctor Who” books in Winchester, and the badly-briefed presenter said: “So, your favourite monsters are the Cybermen, aren’t they?” For the sake of politeness, and to avoid embarrassment, I agreed, and explained why I loved those silver giants. Lucky that he didn’t say: “So, you once killed a man with your bare hands, didn’t you?” because I’d probably have agreed and been arrested on my way out of the studio.

18: Barry Took once sent me a bottle of champagne on my birthday, because he liked the contents of my matchbox.

19: Two friends and I were invited to watch the final episode of “Blake’s 7″ being recorded in the studio. I can’t imagine what made the BBC decide it was a good idea to let us do this. After they recorded the final scene, director Mary Ridge declared loudly from the gallery: “Thank God, they’re all dead!”

20: I wanted to make a donation to the British Heart Foundation in memory of my late friend Craig Hinton. And http://www.bhf.org.uk/ is the place to go to help them beat off heart disease. But I discovered that the “uk” part is really important, otherwise you end up visiting a porn site, where it’s not heart disease they are beating off.

21: Just at the point when I might have contemplated laser eye correction, and be in a position to afford it, I am going long-sighted and so there’s really no point any more.

22: I asked John Barrowman to sign a copy of my first “Torchwood” novel so that I could auction it for charity. Instead of just signing it, he personalised it with such a lovely comment that I decided I could not part with it.

23: I used to worry that I’d go bald. There’s still time, but I’m more phlegmatic.

24: I enjoy driving, and I prefer automatics. But I waited nearly 30 years after passing my test to get an automatic.

25. One of these random facts is a lie.

Update: to add a photo,  I had to use the web-based client. I couldn’t manage that from the bath, where I was using my iPhone. And that’s what the photo illustrates. I also fixed a few t7pos.

July 15, 2010

Big fat geek wedding

Filed under: Technology — Peter A @ 9:48 pm

Modern geek love appears to be a USB wedding ring. Mashable reports that the fiancée of Microsoft Game Studios Software Development Engineer Ray Arifiant has bought him a custom-made ring to celebrate their pending nuptuals and “for a lifetime of memories”.

How times change. I got married quite a while ago, and all I could offer my fiancée was a 5¼-inch floppy.

July 11, 2010

Now and again

Filed under: Articles,drwho,writing — Peter A @ 4:27 pm

Charles Norton interviewed me as part of an article he wrote for Sci Fi Now Magazine. Inevitably, there’s always more to the interview than gets published. The article itself appeared in the magazine earlier this month, and I commend it to you — it features other interviews with Doctor Who people. For a flavour of how these things get constructed, here is the original Q&A for my bit.

Charles Norton: Gary Russell told me that he felt that Doctor Who was the kind of programme that encourages its fans to work in the media. Star Trek fans tend to become scientists and astronauts. However, Doctor Who fans tend to become writers, directors and producers. Doctor Who seems to get people interested in the mechanics of TV and story-telling. Has it been like that for you? To put it another way, do you think that Doctor Who made you want to write?

Peter A: I enjoyed writing as a child, whether for my school essays in English or History, or for my own interest. Doctor Who was an early childhood enthusiasm, so it certainly featured in my writing then, or the games I acted out,or the films I made on Super 8. Followed by fan magazines. Followed by the chance to get published professionally.

CM: How do you feel that that the past five years has seen Doctor Who change? Is it still the same show? Does it matter if it isn’t?

PA: Television has changed since the “classic” series was last on the the late 1980s, its entire context — multichannel broadcast, acting styles, editing and cutting conventions, and the whole panoply of alternative media that surrounds contemporary TV programmes. Doctor Who plays into that really well.

Classic Who was a very splendid product of its time. The new series is a fabulous modern version. It’s all the same show. A whole generation never knew Classic Who and, for the most part, that won’t bother them in the slightest, any more than today’s Coronation Street fans would worry that they’ve never heard of Ena Sharples and Minnie Caldwell.

CM: What different disciplines does writing a Doctor Who story now demand, as opposed to five years ago?

PA: Depends on the story. The media is more varied, so with audios you have to work with the expectation that families listening to it on the car CD player have it as a shared experience like watching the telly, and aren’t going to skip back a few tracks to work out what happened, whereas with a novel it’s a solitary experience that you can scan back over if you wish. You can see a greater variety of styles and tone (yet paradoxically all still “true” to the TV series) in things like the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip and the Doctor Who Adventures one, or the tie-in novels and the “Darksmith” stories, or the short stories in the annuals.

CM: The return of the TV series has brought Doctor Who much greater public attention, but do you think that there’s been any down sides? Do you feel that giving the series a new future has come at the expense of remembering its past? Has the old become sidelined by the new? I’m thinking particularly about the BBC’s decision to axe the ‘Past Doctor Novels’.

PA: I think that’s a bit parochial. There is hugely more tie-in merchandise than ever before in the show’s history, and the Beeb are very conscious that it’s a huge hit and so needs to meet the needs of a mass market, and quite right too. There are some niche things (do they still do those wildly expensive Doctor Who chess sets?) You only have to look at the “Monsters and Aliens” type books that include Classic Series monsters, or the BBC website that meticulously lists information and reviews of the old stories, or William “Yikes! He’s old” Hartnell pictures in Doctor Who Adventures, or listen to the Big Finish CDs or the Eighth Doctor on BBC Radio 7, or the Fifth Doctor on Children in Need, or all the Doctors appearing on screen in Matt Smith’s debut, to spot that the Classic Series undeniably isn’t forgotten. So I am entirely phlegmatic that they haven’t got round to publishing some more Past Doctor Books. I notice that they haven’t done any new Weetabix cards since the 1970s, either, but that doesn’t mean Nabisco are snubbing the show.

CM: Through people like yourself, Doctor Who kept on going throughout the wilderness years, even without a TV series to support it. If the BBC were to axe Doctor Who again and take the TV series off the air, do you think that it would still somehow manage to stay alive? Would it come back again? Will Doctor Who ever truly end?

PA: I can’t see it ever stopping completely, in one form or another. It’s the show that comes back. But I don’t really stop to think about that. Why worry about it? Be in the moment. Enjoy it wholeheartedly for what it is while we’ve got it, right now. The glass isn’t half empty. It isn’t half-full either, it’s spilling right over the edges.

CM: One last, really obvious cliché of a question, but do you have a favourite period of the show? Is there an era or set of stories that never fails to enthuse you? Perhaps you’re an Andrew Cartmel fan or a big follower of William Hartnell.

PA: I love it all. For example, the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker years were really important parts of my childhood, and I’ve loved that the Eccleston and Tennant years have been important to my children. But I loved being part of the group of writers working on the Eighth Doctor novels, too. And now I’m relishing the chance to write for Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy, because that reminds me of when they were the Doctors. Plus, we’ve got all new Who with Matt Smith! What’s not to love? You can’t ask someone which of his kids is the best looking!

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