The Red Lines Page

September 6, 2015

Frontier Worlds interview

Filed under: Uncategorized — Peter A @ 11:05 pm
Tags: , , ,

A big hand for this bookI found another interview that I did. This is from 2000, when Kevin Mahoney of was talking to me about my Doctor Who novels. At this stage, I had written The Ancestor Cell, but it was not due to be published until the following year – so you should be able to detect some not-so-subtle plugging for that.

As further context, it’s worth noting that this interview was conducted five years before the new series of Doctor Who relaunched with Christopher Eccleston in the title role. Note how I say things like “if the series comes back” and talk about the novel of Human Nature, long before it became a TV story.

Q:  There seems to be a whole difference of tone between Kursaal and Frontier Worlds.  In comparison with the latter, Kursaal seems to be quite constrained.  It’s a trend which appears to have affected Kate Orman and Jonathan Blum also – their recent Unnatural History is far more fun than Vampire Science.  Were the tones of these novels affected by contemporaneous editorial decisions?

A: To keep myself interested when writing, I try to make each thing I write a bit different from the other stuff – whether it’s a piece of short fiction or a novel. Both Kursaal and Frontier Worlds were edited by Steve Cole, but at different times in the BBC Books range’s history. When I wrote Kursaal, I had to adapt my original proposal to accommodate the new companion, Sam.

When I was commissioned to do one of the linked series of 1999 books, it was with full knowledge of how the main characters were developing. I’m not sure whether that means Kursaal was less constrained, because it was conceived originally as completely standalone (and then worked in  some of Sam’s development leading in to Longest Day), or whether Frontier Worlds was more constrained because I already knew where the characters had to end up.

Q: You must have fshed around for a lot of the jokes in Frontier Worlds (as in “What do you call a fish with no eyes?”).  Fitz cutting wires in his apartment reminds me greatly of Del Boy’s famous encounter with a chandelier in Only Fools and Horses.  Why did you decide to increase the joke content?

A: I happily stole the fsh joke from the back cover of one of Steve Cole’s books. One of his other things for BBC Worldwide, this was a joke book for a kids’ magazine, and that was my son’s favourite joke in it.

I first heard the chandelier story long before the Only Fools and Horses thing (which I’d forgotten until one of my read-through team commented on it). When I heard the story, it was about a paranoid spy in the British Embassy in Moscow. I suppose I wasn’t consciously increasing the humour  content, but as a lot of Frontier Worlds is seen through Fitz’s eyes, maybe that’s why it turned out that way. I took out a lot in the final draft, mostly scatalogical jokes in very poor taste.

There are probably fewer jokes in The Ancestor Cell (and no fart gags).

Q:  In many ways, Frontier Worlds seems to be quite reminiscent of the classic Who serial The Seeds of Doom.  There’s a huge plant which likes to turn humans into its kind, an evil capitalist or two, and there’s a scene where the Doctor kicks someone in the head, quite like Tom Baker thumping the chauffeur in Seeds.  Was this a deliberate homage?

A: Some people have seen parallels with Seeds of Doom, and I suppose it’s a helpful shorthand for reviewers. That wasn’t my plan. The book started out more like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and as the idea developed the Raab became more  of a background to the humanoid characters’ actions and motivations. Does the  Raab turn them into its own kind? I debated the “kick in the head” with the editors,  who originally felt it was a bit out of character for the Doctor. I persuaded them that it gave him more “edge,” given what he’s been put through. He’s not always fluffy touchy-feely.

Q: The beginning of Frontier Worlds also feels like a Bond movie.  The Doctor and  Fitz are pursued by goons on skis, and there’s even some red fish eyes.  Was that an effect you wanted to achieve?

A: There’s a scene where Fitz is chased through a field, too, but that doesn’t make it North by Northwest :-) I wanted there to be action sequences, certainly, because I see the Eighth Doctor as being physically capable and resourceful.

Most of all, I wanted to start the book in the middle of some big event, rather than “TARDIS lands  and then…” which I’d already done in Kursaal.

I do enjoy Bond movies, but I wasn’t  playing any soundtracks when writing. And I don’t remember the red fish eyes!

Q:  Prior to Frontier Worlds, I’d never really liked Fitz.  He just seemed to be a little too lifeless, and prone to being kidnapped and brainwashed.  But your use of the first person for his narrative really made me identify with him for the first time.  Did you feel the need to boost his characterisation?

 A: Thank you. In previous books, there hadn’t been much Fitz-and-Compassion-together stuff, so that was an important part of Frontier Worlds for me, so see how they did (and didn’t) get on together, with Fitz as unreliable narrator.  I wanted to restrict the number of points of view in the book, to focus it on a couple of people’s reactions (mostly Fitz and the Doctor), though occasionally it was difficult or impossible to restrict it to them, so I used Compassion (tricky) and Sempiter sometimes.

The fun parts of Fitz for me were (a) reluctant hero, (b) would-be con man and (c) 1960s  England. And with first-person, one can be a bit more outrageous with the commentary, because it’s the character who’s being a smartarse, and not the author.

A:  One critique I’ve heard of Frontier Worlds was that it was too “political.”  Stephen Cole, in his introduction to Lawrence Miles’ Interference, also referred to that novel as “political.”  How far can politics be brought into Doctor Who books?  A lot of your Doctor Who fiction seems to share an environmental theme.  Kursaal is a planet threatened with the destructive development of a leisure complex and fox hunting is mentioned, whilst Frontier Worlds deals with Frankenstein foods. This seems to be very much on a par with the current concerns about undemocratic multinational companies, witnessed by the recent protests in Seattle.  Is this why the culture on Drebnar had to seem so contemporary? 

 A: The GM foods stuff is a contemporary hook for readers. When I was writing Kursaal, there was a lot of fuss in the UK about a ring road (by-pass) being built through woodland near Newbury, a town which has some resonances for UK and US people because it’s near to the former US nuclear base at Greenham Common.

When I wrote Frontier Worlds, the fuss about GM foods had blown up in the UK and was starting to filter into North America (along with the recent GATT protests). So it was a  motif that people would recognise, which I think works better than (say) introducing  some theory about quantum subparticles and then having to have the plot stop for eight pages while your main character lectures his companion about the science of your story.

The other, much lazier reason is that it’s a great deal easier to use shorthand analogies for the mechanics of “phone,” “car”, “office,” “secretary” than to have to invent a culture, society, hierarchy, technology, physiology, legal and financial system etc. I didn’t have the time, the page-count, or the inclination to do that!

Q:  There’s a great scene in Frontier Worlds where the Doctor palms a gun in Compassion’s possession.  There have been quite a few companions in the books who seem more than ready to fire off a few shots, like Compassion in Parallel 59.  What’s your view about the Doctor and guns?

A: Compassion really tests the Doctor’s patience and ingenuity. Unlike other companions, perhaps, she’s dangerous because she chooses to be, rather than because she’s a danger to herself or recklessly overconfident. In that respect, she’s a great counterpoint to Fitz.

The Doctor doesn’t carry guns or use them, and yet here’s a really dangerous character who he is transporting all round the universe. I think that’s a nice irony – it’s like he’s got a blind spot, as though he is being somehow reckless  and overconfident.

Q: You receive an acknowledgement within the pages of Parallel 59.  The main similarity appears to be the continuation of Fitz’s narration. What was your contribution to this book?

A: I read all the books in the linked series –either the published books or the latest available drafts, right the way through to Shadows of Avalon. That way I could ensure that, where appropriate, I “seeded” ideas for the later two books or I reflected stuff in earlier ones. I’d been able to see Parallel 59 from its outline stage, and had offered some (presumably useful) comments on it then.

So Natalie and Steve got me to read and comment on the whole thing. In the end, I did the structural edit for the BBC, too. Incidentally, I did the same thing for Justin Richards’ novel Grave Matter.

The Fitz first-person narration was a coincidence, though. I did suggest some alternative titles for the book, and I can’t remember if Parallel 59 came from me or  Steve. Probably Steve, as he came up with The Ancestor Cell, which I wanted to call it The Horrid Obsession of Greyjan the Sane and was wisely talked out of.

Q:  With the revelation that Stephen Cole wrote as Tara Samms, there’s been quite a lot of speculation about Natalie Dallaire.  Many fans are guessing that she could be a pseudonym also.  Would they be on the right track?

A: They’d be completely off the track and into the ditch. Natalie is alive and well and real and, shortly after delivering the manuscript for Parallel 59, delivered her beautiful baby.

Q:  Parallel 59 had the revelation of the Doctor being in the nude, as witnessed by Compassion.  Yet she doesn’t blink an eyelid, in much the manner that she reacted to Fitz’s nudity in Frontier Worlds.  So, is the Doctor fully humanoid under that Edwardian frockcoat?

A: Hmm, the Doctor gets his kit off in Kursaal as well, now I think about it. It probably says something about his unselfconsciousness. As to what he conceals beneath his Marks & Spencer underpants… well, all I can say at this stage is that they are dimensionally transcendental, and they weren’t spun on any loom.

Q: Frontier Worlds seems to include quite a few scenes related to the current story arc.  How difficult were these to inject into the plot?  What sort of process is there in the creation of such a linked story? 

A: I knew where things were supposed to be in the linked story because I’d discussed it at some length with Steve Cole and the other authors via e-mail, and a bit in person. One of my earliest and longest contributions to the discussion was a whole series of reasons why Compassion would be an absolute nightmare to use as a companion. We had some robust debate on this point, and my punishment was that I had to write a book with her in it.

So rather than cheat and sideline her, I decided to use these thoughts in her characterisation. And I ended up quite liking her. It’s interesting to pick things up now with The Ancestor Cell.

Q:  What’s the best way to cook tofu (the Doctor seems to be a fan in Kursaal)?

A: Oh dear, don’t ask me! Whenever I’ve tasted tofu it reminded me of eating Plasticine in infant school. My wife is more of a devotee – I think she’d recommend frying it and cooking it in a black-bean sauce. I’d recommend making stick figures out of it for five-year olds.

Q:  Why did you decide to have a werewolf-like race in Kursaal?  Do you think that vampires have been done to living death in Doctor Who?

A: I didn’t think werewolves had been done in Doctor Who before –  Mags in Greatest Show was a one-off, and I’d conveniently forgotten about Sorenson in Planet of Evil and the Primords from Inferno.

So perhaps it was that they hadn’t been central to a story, with the familiar trappings a DW “spin.”  And I thought it would be fun to do a Hammer Horror set in Disneyland, with a big scene where our heroes are stalked through Pirates of the Caribbean.

Actually, I’ve just remembered that there was a Doctor Who Weekly cartoon about werewolves, but all I can now recall is the fourth Doctor slavering over his companion, the implausibly-named Sharon.

Vampires done to living death? Well, I really enjoyed State of Decay, Goth Opera and Vampire Science, which all had distinctive elements and the DW “spin” on the legend.

Others have had them more peripheral: Curse of Fenric has a wider idea about possession, and I think I remember Blood Harvest more for the gangsters!  (Any more? Me and my rotten memory.)

Q:  In a recent article in Doctor Who Magazine, David Darlington wrote that if a new TV series of Doctor Who were to come along, then much development in nine years of original Doctor Who novels would be lost, and that the books had polarised Doctor Who fans. What’s your view on this?

A: Depends on what this “much development” is. If it means “story events” (aka “continuity”) then I can’t get too excited about the prospect of losing it, or at least, forgetting it for 99.9% of the audience.

It’s much more interesting for me when Doctor Who mines the spirit of the series, rather than the facts or characters or plots. Few of the eras of Doctor Who that I’ve really enjoyed have depended on “developing” stories from the past. Even in the recent repeats of Genesis of the Daleks on BBC2, I think most viewers will remember the idea of the Daleks, rather than the fact that it contradicts a story first broadcast in 1964.

If the series comes back, most viewers will still assume that Daleks can’t traverse a staircase (yes, sad fans like us know a couple of episodes that contradict that and which were actually watched by a few million more viewers than saw the Genesis repeats).

So a series of books that is read by mere tens of thousands of DW devotees (or at least aficionados) can’t expect to have more influence on a TV or movie revival – even when they’re doing such interesting things with the Doctor’s character as (say) Human Nature – unless it’s the current writers who are working on the new show. And even then, they’d be digging a big hole for themselves if they put nine years of development for that small audience ahead of compelling original contemporary Doctor Who for a huge new audience.

As to whether the books have polarised Doctor Who fans, well I think it was Lance Parkin who said that if you show two fans any transmitted episode they’ll come up  with three contradictory opinions! There’s something in any hobby activity which encourages collection, classification, deriving an order. The Eighth Doctor would laugh at the way fans find patterns that aren’t really there.

Polar or binary attitudes are the simplest categories of all, just like the endless “canon” discussions of what’s in and what’s out (no leeway for what’s shake-it-all-about there).

That all said, I think most fans can adopt a pick-and-mix approach. Like me forgetting that there were actually quite a few previous werewolf stories. And it’s why I usually avoid specific dating for my fiction, because I’m too lazy to do the research about the History of the Universe… leave it for others to decide where Frontier Worlds fits in.

The BBC books can be controversial because they’re not on TV, or they’re not faithful to TV, or they’re not as good as the Virgin books, or… well, you see my point. For the moment, they are the most regular and widely-available continuation of the DW franchise, and have a consistently professional standard.

That’s good enough for me.

June 24, 2015

Coming out as an LGBT ally

Filed under: IBM — Peter A @ 10:44 pm
Tags: , ,

I posted a version of this in my work blog, and decided I’d like to share it more widely. The postings here on The Red Lines Page are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Once upon a time…

It’s the early 1990s. We’re three friends, early in our careers, unmarried, in our mid-twenties. On a Monday morning, we talk about our weekends. I’m dating a technical author. Paul has just returned from the Home Counties, where he’s spent time with his fiancée. Craig explains how he’s been out in Coventry with his partner.

Paul’s stories were the common currency of young employees in the office, and colleagues were at ease talking to him. Whereas some people in the office were disdainful or ill-mannered about Craig and his boyfriend. Craig didn’t care — he was an out gay man, and just as happy talking at work about his relationship as he was about programming or project management.

But that wasn’t the point. There were other gay men in the office who did not feel comfortable that people might know anything about their private life, and chose not to be out at work. It wasn’t that anyone was openly hostile; just that the business culture in the early Nineties was not so accepting. Simple things like the office rituals of congratulations on an engagement or marriage were something that applied to Paul, and not to Craig.

It wasn’t the big things that were discriminatory, but a succession of small things. Today, we’d call them “microaggressions” — brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults.

Twenty years later

More than 20 years later, society and the law have changed. Marriage equality and workplace legislation have both reflected and changed attitudes. The company where I work, IBM, continues to be in Stonewall’s Top Global Employers. We have an internal community for employees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or who have family, friends or colleagues who are L, G, B or T.

And I am proud to say that two members of my organisation are the LGBT Location Champions for the major site where I work.

June is recognised around the world as LGBT Pride Month — and IBM is a keen participant. Everyday business activities, such as hiring, training, compensation, promotions, social and recreational activities, should be conducted without discrimination based on race, colour, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability or age.

What about that technical author? Reader, I married her.

Now, although I met my wife through IBM, there is very little overlap today between my work and my home life. Despite blogging this, I’m usually fairly private, but that’s my choice — there’s nothing about my work environment that would make me uncomfortable being open about my non-work life. If I wish, I can talk about my family, and I have photos of them in my office. Whereas LGBT employees may still be uncomfortable being out at work. They may feel unwilling to personalise their work place, or spend energy being ambiguous in conversation about “my partner” and what “they” are doing. It’s important that we can all be our whole selves at work.

Straight Allies

I'm an LGBT allySo it’s not enough for a company just to say it has a policy, or that it follows the law. We all have a part to play in challenging those “microaggressions.” And I’ve personally seen how effective that is when individuals at work do that for my friends and colleagues who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

If you’re not LGBT, you can be a Straight Ally and have a transformative effect on the workplace experience of your colleagues, both gay and straight. Every LGBT person will make a personal and conscious decision about whether they will be open about their sexual orientation at work. And it’s not simply a case of coming out once. Gay people have to decide whether, and how, they come out every time they meet new colleagues, clients, suppliers or stakeholders. That decision is made easier, however, if they believe their managers and colleagues will support them.

You can find a super guide here about coming out as a Straight Ally. And there’s an interesting workplace guide from Stonewall that I’ve referred to when writing this blog. I’ll quote some more of it in the comments below.

So here I am, coming out as a Straight Ally. And not just for June. I expect I’ll need to come out again in the future when I meet new colleagues, clients, suppliers, and stakeholders. I hope you will, too.

January 15, 2015


Filed under: IBM — Peter A @ 10:43 pm

There’s a website where you can “ship glitter to your enemies.” Apparently it’s the socially acceptable alternative to putting a brown bag full of dog poo in someone’s porch and setting light to it. It’s funny at someone else’s expense. Though the personal expense is about ten Australian dollars. I’m not recommending it.glitter

In contrast, earlier this week, I received a Thank You card from a colleague who left the company. She had thoughtfully written this by hand, included some specific things rather than “thanks for everything”, and ensured it got to me after she had gone. We’d talked before she went, of course. But this was a most welcome and personal thought, and one I greatly appreciate.

The card isn’t very glittery. But it has some glitter on the lettering. I took it home in my work bag, and now there’s a slightly sparkly patina on the cover of my laptop computer. At my desk in the office, earlier today, I noted the cuff of my suit jacket had a faint flicker of silver. And each time I saw that, it made me smile.

Because it reminded me of the card. And then that recalled how I felt when I first opened the envelope. It’s really nice when someone catches you doing things right, and takes the time to tell you. Buying a card. Writing something specific. Ensuring it got delivered.

There wasn’t a lot of glitter on the card. It was just enough. And it’s made me think that there are times when, instead of taking positive things for granted — people, actions, comments — it’s worth making the effort to say thanks. This is me saying thanks for that to my colleague, and passing it on. You know who you are. You may have left the company, but your influence continues to be felt.

August 19, 2014

Continuity error

Filed under: Uncategorized — Peter A @ 7:43 am

Fresh outrage at continuity error in Downton Abbey publicity photo.


July 12, 2014

Hursley FM competition

Filed under: Audios,Technology,Warship,writing — Peter A @ 9:24 pm

Peter A:

We have a winner! I will contact them shortly.

Originally posted on The Red Lines Page:

Script for WarshipAfter months of negotiation with my agent, I agreed terms with http://hursleyfm.comfor a podcast interview. Oh, all right then, they e-mailed me at work last Wednesday, and I said yes straight away.

On Friday, I made my way to their studio (spoilers: an office in Hursley D Block) and had a lovely chat with Dr Adrian, Jonny Mac, and Mr Jezzalinko. We discussed technology, my work at IBM, and my various bits of genre writing over the years. And, yes, they really are called that.

Hursley FM microphoneHursley FM is a podcast and community about technology, inspired by the people at the biggest software development laboratory in Europe. By a happy coincidence, it’s somewhere I’ve worked for nearly twenty years.

As you can see from my photo, the studio looks exactly like the podcast illustration.

It’s rare that my various worlds coincide like this. So to acknowledge that, and also encourage people to…

View original 139 more words

It’s just a machine

Filed under: writing,Audios,Mirror,Blake's 7 — Peter A @ 7:45 pm

Orac and crew on the Liberator flight deckInterviewed by Big Finish about the scripts for their Blake’s 7 audios, Paul Darrow commented that sometimes we have Avon describing the computers as “he” rather than “it.” And because that wasn’t typical of the character, he asked for it to be changed. Which is true. A bit.

At the end of my story Mirror, Avon and Blake both refer to Orac as “he.”

Blake: Orac teleported me back to Liberator.

Avon: I know. He teleported me first remember?

I think that  having any character refer to Orac or Zen as “it” rather than “he” is much more emphatic, and therefore “making a point.”  Dialogue drives an audio script. When I’m writing mine, I try to avoid anything that sounds unnatural or awkward or contrived. But I also know that people (including Paul Darrow) think that Avon doesn’t tend to refer to Orac as “he.”

So my preference is to avoid having Avon use either “he” or “it” when referring to Orac, and thus just write around the decision about which to use. Sometimes it’s going to be awkward to have Avon repeatedly referring to Orac as “Orac” in a conversation with another character. And having him call Orac “it” is a bit emphatic, unless Avon’s making a point about the computer. And on those occasions, I don’t shy away from letting Avon say “he” — especially if it is cued by another character saying “he.”  In the example above, “Orac teleported me first, remember?” would sound odd after Blake’s line. And “It teleported me first, remember?” would be an unusual emphasis for the scene.

But is it true to the original TV series? We pride ourselves in the Big Finish writing team that we’re all huge fans of the show, and getting the characters and story continuity right is important to us. I read through all the original scripts of the audio series to review continuity references. So, does Avon really never call Orac “he” on the telly?

Well, here’s a scene from the story that first introduces the computer, the eponymous episode Orac.Orac title caption

Orac: Demonstrate as a command is insufficient.

Gan: What does he mean?

Avon: He means, like Zen, that he requires specific instructions.

Twice in one sentence! What is more, it’s not something that Avon subsequently “grows out of” because here he is doing it again as late as in Games in Season D:Games title caption

Avon: If Orac is going to get any information out of that machine, this is the way he’s going to do it.

Soolin: Who’s winning?

Orac: We’ve both made sacrifices.

Avon: He means that Gambit is.

Orac: A temporary advantage.

Avon: To an inferior computer?

Orac: Which merely disguises my long-term strategy.

Avon: Let’s forget your ego for the moment.

Throughout the TV series, Avon is more likely to engage in banter with Orac than with Zen, or to ponder his/its motivations. He even acknowledges, as we see in that scene from Games, that Orac has an ego. That makes Avon’s very first use of “he” in the episode Orac  even more interesting, because he says it in the phrase “like Zen, he…” which draws a comparison between the two of them, despite using “he” rather than “it.” And yet elsewhere in Season A, specifically in Cygnus Alpha and Duel, Avon is much more emphatic about Zen being an “it”, not a “he.” He states explicitly: “It’s just a machine.”

Conversely, we know characters like Gan and Vila refer to computers as “he” — whether Orac or Zen or Slave. And yet there is this interesting dialogue exchange in Shadow (Season B).Shadow title caption

Hanna: This is silly. It’s just a machine.

Vila: Of course it is. If it wasn’t so expensive I’d kick it to pieces.

Bek: Yes. If it didn’t bite.

Gan: Avon’ll fix it when he gets back.

The context is that they are discussing Orac in front of visitors, Hanna and Bek, who refer to Orac as “it” rather than “he” from the outset. The dialogue flows naturally, and logically, when Vila and Gan use “it.” And it works thematically, too,  distancing Orac from us and the crew in the context of his/its behaviour during the episode.

There we are, then. I think that there should be occasions in the audios when Avon chooses to call Orac “he” rather than “it.” That is the case for my scene in Mirror. And it also fits in consciously with a theme of the audio series. But to find out more about that, you should buy the CDs and listen to them.

Blake's 7: Mirror

June 14, 2014

Rainy Days in Cardiff

Filed under: Torchwood,Novels,Grumbling,Another Life — Peter A @ 11:03 am

Torchwood - Esős napok CardiffbanMy Torchwood novel Another Life was translated into Hungarian, and apparently published in 2010. I was pondering why I hadn’t seen a copy. I asked my publisher,  and they’re now puzzling about it, too.

I decided the best way to get a copy (and prove it exists) was to order it. From Hungary, obviously. The price looks a bit steep, until you see that it’s in Hungarian forints, and work out that 2,490 ft converts to about £6.50.

The Hungarian title is Torchwood – Esős napok Cardiffban. That translates back into English as Torchwood – Rainy Days in Cardiff. I hope that will prove to have been such an appealing title that the book has simply flown off the shelves in Csongrád and Bács-Kiskun. And I will not discover that my recent order has merely doubled sales in Eastern Europe.

audioTWnewIn related news: John Barrowman, who read the audio version of my novel, has become an MBE. This is splendid news. I’m not suggesting that my audio had any particular effect on his eligibility. Nor that it will unduly influence sales of the novel in Hungary – though anyone analysing the stats this week in Budapest may notice an unexpected uptick in overseas sales to the UK.


June 1, 2014

Hursley FM competition

Filed under: drwho,writing,Torchwood,Audios,Blake's 7,Warship — Peter A @ 8:41 pm

Script for WarshipAfter months of negotiation with my agent, I agreed terms with for a podcast interview. Oh, all right then, they e-mailed me at work last Wednesday, and I said yes straight away.

On Friday, I made my way to their studio (spoilers: an office in Hursley D Block) and had a lovely chat with Dr Adrian, Jonny Mac, and Mr Jezzalinko. We discussed technology, my work at IBM, and my various bits of genre writing over the years. And, yes, they really are called that.

Hursley FM microphoneHursley FM is a podcast and community about technology, inspired by the people at the biggest software development laboratory in Europe. By a happy coincidence, it’s somewhere I’ve worked for nearly twenty years.

As you can see from my photo, the studio looks exactly like the podcast illustration.

It’s rare that my various worlds coincide like this. So to acknowledge that, and also encourage people to tune in to the Hursley FM podcasts, here’s a competition. With a modest prize.

The prize is: a copy of the studio script for my audio drama Blake’s 7: Warship, signed by me. And maybe also signed by Dr Adrian, Jonny Mac, and Mr Jezzalinko, too.

The question is: in the podcast, we talk about the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, about how Tom Baker is one of my favourite Doctors, and also about the future of technical writing. What word (that I use in the podcast) connects those three things?

How to enter: e-mail me at the contact address on this website. At the end of this month, I’ll pick a winner from all correct entries. Tie-breaker, in the event I decide one’s needed, is that you complete the following sentence: Mr Jezzalinko could be a Doctor Who villain because…”

April 9, 2014

Reflections on Mirror

Filed under: Audios,Blake's 7,Mirror — Peter A @ 9:22 pm

My Blake’s 7 audio “Mirror” is published today. It’s the latest exciting episode in a full-cast audio series. You can hear a preview clip of it here.

I loved being part of a team of writers putting together this “Season B+” for Big Finish and B7 Media. I hope listeners are starting to spot the threads as each new episode comes out. I’ve particularly enjoyed the advance fan speculation about what’s in each story, based on titles, covers, cast lists, or the “blurbs” for each new instalment. But, just as with the original TV series, you can enjoy them as individual stories.

mirrorAs a bonus, each release also contains interviews with the cast and crew – and the interviews for “Mirror” features almost all of the regular cast. I was interviewed in the studio for this one, but my comments were left on the cutting room floor. At the time, I felt a bit coy or constrained about what to say because I wasn’t quite sure what I could reveal in advance.

There was one particular aspect of… let’s call it “nomenclature” that I did talk about, somewhat haltingly. Fortunately, there’s a Paul Darrow out-take in the interview track that sums it up in a delightful and much more succinct way than I did.

You can order “Mirror” from Big Finish here. I’d love to hear what you think of it. On reflection, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

March 9, 2014

I feel like a Newman

Filed under: Audios,drwho,Torchwood,writing — Peter A @ 2:02 pm

Big Finish has a customer survey running at the moment. It solicits opinions about all sorts of things, including which other spinoff series they could make. Participants get the chance to win a prize worth £250.

I like the idea of Torchwood audios, obviously. As I have prior history with that franchise, I would hope to be early in the queue for writing those – alphabetically speaking. Unless Dan Abnett isn’t busy at the time.

Mind you, it’s an outrage that Big Finish aren’t considering a spinoff series for An Adventure in Space and Time. I demand to hear further thrilling stories featuring Verity and Sydney (pictured here from their recent personal appearance at GallifreyOne). Steve Cole even photographed me discussing things with Sydney by the hotel pool.

Everyone should write in to Big Finish! Pop pop pop over to their website immediately.

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