The Red Lines Page

May 22, 2016

Frontier Worlds: Reviews

Filed under: drwho,Frontier Worlds,Novels,writing — Peter A @ 4:21 pm

A big hand for this bookThis page is one of several on this site about my novel Frontier Worlds. They are all linked from this main blog post here.

These reviews of my second Doctor Who novel are from newsstand publications, online bookstores, and the web — including various online fan sites. Since I first collated these some years ago, several of these review sites may have gone offline.


Reviews

Newsstand

Doctor Who Magazine

TVZone

DreamWatch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Online bookstores

alphabetstreet

amazon.com

amazon.co.uk

barnesandnoble.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web

Ratings Guide

“Thomas Jefferson”

Robert Thomas

Robert Smith

Jason Miller

Graeme Burk

Dan Perry

Eva Palmerton

Andrew McCaffrey

Mike Morris

GallifreyOne

Edward Funnell

Lea Ann Hays

Brian Copeland

Ultimate Eighth

Happy Guy

Jagaroth

The Cosmic Cafe

 

Newsstand

Doctor Who Magazine

“Exhilarating,” wrote Vanessa Bishop. “Had the Fox network continued to produce Doctor Who movies, fare such as this would have suited them well […] Like the Movie, Frontier Worlds cuts through all of Doctor Who’s pretensions, returning it to being designed to frighten.” She commented on the book’s “slick, cheeky and unbearably tense action, paced with espionage, chase sequences and seductive interludes [… a skilful] fusing of Doctor Who and 007-style exuberance […] The pace is maintained even when dealing with the Doctor’s terminally dysfunctional companions.”

“On the other hand,” she observed, “Frontier Worlds isn’t so fast that it forgets its heart. It soberingly explores both senility and suicide, but—as is the novel’s rule of thumb—also finds action with which to illustrate these ideas.” In sum: “Anghelides writes a roller-coaster.”

Frontier Worlds was voted best Eighth Doctor novel of 1999 by the readers of Doctor Who Magazine. Of 486 people who voted for any book, 336 rated the novel and it achieved an average score of 73%. “Hoorah!” said reader Colin Francis. “This is real TV Movie material. I can easily imagine Paul McGann in this. More importantly, this book was fun!” Paul Laville added: “The best thing I’ve read in ages. The plot was slightly contrived in places, but there was an action-packed storyline that gripped from the first page to the last. No recurring Doctor Who monster or villain, and no cod characterisation.”

“I thought I was done with the Eighth Doctor books for good,” explained DWM reader Tom O’Leary. “But Frontier Worlds saved the day. Can you tell the new books editor that we want more stories like Anghelides’, and less like Miles’, Magrs’and their ilk?”

TVZone

“Traditional Doctor Who, somewhat incongruously placed within a radical story arc [that] adds depth and style to the usual formulas.” John Binns gave Frontier Worlds 8/10 in TV Zone, though “readers who are whole-heartedly enjoying the Arc, I suppose, can add a point or two to the above score”. John wrote that “Anghelides’s take on Fitz is perhaps the best of the range so far and easily the novel’s best asset”. He felt there were echoes of the TV serials “The Caves of Androzani” and “The Seeds of Doom”.

Not an enthusiast for the continuing story arc, John observed that the book contained “plot details the size of France [that] are simply irritating, no matter how skilfully acknowledged they are.” Nevertheless, he thought the book had “a generally high standard of writing and certain passages—such as a blinding ‘Doctor versus villain’ dialogue scene—an absolute joy to read.”

DreamWatch

“The plot […] is well told, and starts with a fabulous ‘pre-credits’ sequence that wouldn’t disgrace an Indiana Jones movie,” wrote Paul Simpson. “Although it becomes a little preachy in places, this is an enjoyable novel.” Paul disliked the “annoying” first-person narration by Fitz: “while Peter captures some of his nuances, he becomes a little too two-dimensional. Compassion, on the other hand […] is starting to become the most intriguing figure of the series.” He rated the book 8/10.

Online bookstores

alphabetstreet

“A fairly traditional story, which is no bad thing when handled this well,” wrote Paul Reeve on the alphabetstreet site (now defunct), rating the book 8/10. He thought the first-person narration “initially a little OTT but quickly settles down into an interesting character examination.” And he thought the book featured “a fantastic robot, which was a lot of fun”.

Paul Holgate rated the book 9/10, describing it as “a heady mix of James Bond style action, laced with the classic Who style of the Hinchcliffe era.” He thought the book could almost be a contemporary version of TV serial “The Seeds of Doom”: “It would be quite easy to imagine this as a glossy TV movie, had the original McGann film been successful, firmly bringing the series into the new millennium with a fast paced, visually stylish production, whilst maintaining the classic shock value and horror that Doctor Who provided so well in the early 70’s.” While acknowledging that it is not “a thinking man’s science fiction story”, he concluded that it was “a fast paced adventure you will find this exhilarating […] Excellent stuff.”

Tim Phipps thought the book more traditional and “far less oppressive and depressive than the last three books in the series”. He preferred it to Kursaal, and it reminded him both of a Justin Richards-style novel and “the days of Ace being frosty in the [Virgin Publishing] New Adventures”. Tim was one of the earliest reviewers to observe that “the arc has less to do with the Time Lords, Faction Paradox, the nature of the universe and everything as it has to do with Compassion.” He rated it 8/10.

The reviewer wawan garenk also rated it 8/10, describing it as “a fairly traditional story, which is no bad thing when handled this well: corporate espionage meets genetic engineering and the traditional men with deadly secrets. Parts of the book are written in the first person, which is initially a little OTT but quickly settles down into an interesting character examination, and there are just enough twists and turns to easily keep the reader’s interest (and a fantastic robot, which was a lot of fun).”

amazon.com

“The universe is not enough!” was Kevin Patrick Mahoney’s punning reference to the contemporary Bond film in his review, which rated the book 4/5. Kevin (one of amazon.com’s Top 500 Reviewers) spotted “daredevil stunts”, “hired grunts on skis” and “even blood-red fisheyes. The only thing missing is the theme music, although the adrenaline of the prose more than makes up for it.” He noted that it was “another very topical Doctor Who novel [though possibly] the author has revealed a great lack of imagination by not bothering to provide much of an alien environment.”

Kevin also notes a previous-story connection, both in the monsters and the Doctor’s violent behaviour, but “to his credit, Anghelides makes no reference to ‘The Seeds of Doom’, and instead concentrates on telling his own story, which is highly compelling and very witty.” He thought the book “a joy to read”, and the characterisation “superb”, particularly Fitz: “What Anghelides has managed to do seems impossible: he has breathed life into Fitz, given him new vibrancy [by] having much of the novel narrated by Fitz in the first person, and in doing so performs miracles. It’s a device that works incredibly well here, and harks back to the very first Doctor Who book, when David Whitaker presented the Doctor’s exciting adventure with the Daleks through the eyes of Ian Chesterton.” All in all, he decided a considerable improvement on Kursaal.

An unnamed British TV Fan from United States also thought the book much better than Kursaal. “The only problem I had was the fact that the TARDIS crew was in the middle of a mêlée at the start of the book, but things did catch up about 40 pages later. After that moment, things did pick up to where the story wrapped up nicely.” He rated it 4/5. (This review seems to have vanished from the site subsequently.)

Andrew McCaffrey lists the novel on amazon.com as one of his Top 12 BBC Doctor Who novels (see also Andrew’s review below), and Jason Miller puts it in his Top 10, commenting “Doctor Who” returns to clever storytelling” (Jason also has a review below). djperry also puts it in his Top 10, and if this is the same as Dan Perry you can read a review of his below too.

amazon.co.uk

“If only the more recent TV outings of Doctor Who were as consistently inventive and exciting as this BBC series of novels!” exclaimed Barry Forshaw in the first of two main reviews for the novel on amazon.co.uk. “With Peter Anghelides’ Frontier Worlds, we have another adventure of the eighth Doctor written with wonderfully created new locales, plotting that fires on all cylinders and a characterisation of the Time Lord that is richer and quirkier than anything we’ve seen in TV Doctors in years.” Barry liked the book’s “rich atmosphere and menace, and the extra attention given to the TARDIS crew pays off in dividends.” He was reminded of Ridley Scott’s movie Alien. “Another winner in an ambitious and arresting series.

David Howe agreed: “A magnificent adventure yarn. Engrossing and very, very enjoyable.” The novel’s “nail-biting start” reminded him of a James Bond film. In addition, “Anghelides has managed to do what none of the previous authors have managed and this is to make Fitz and Compassion come startlingly to life” and the Doctor “is also extremely well-written and defined”. He expressed the view that the regulars’ interactions were “so well drawn that it’s a pity that Anghelides is not writing the next few books.”

A highpoint for David was the emotional aspect to Fitz’s attachment to Alura: “the eventual outcome will leave you reeling with surprise and horror.” He also suggests there are similarities with a previous TV Doctor Who serial though “handled here in a somewhat different manner.” In sum: “A fine return to form for the range.”

In another customer review, an unnamed reader from the UK rated it 5/5 and said the book “should be up there with the Doctor Who classics” as it was “one of the best of the BBC book range. It is gripping throughout.”

Another unnamed London, UK reviewer gave it 3/5, rating it “Disappointing–too slow and uncertain […] All the ingredients were there for an exciting story but somehow they never managed to make up a satisfying whole for me. The characterisations were strong and memorable but the plot less so, a bit too much intrigue and espionage and not enough solid action.”

Reviewer “dirk” thought it was an “entertaining mix of killer vegetables and office politics”, a great book which “reads terribly easily, dragging the reader through a plot that blends genetic experimentation and sinister corporations in a style that owes an awful lot to a Bond movie.” He thought the books greatest success was the portrayal of Compassion, “the Doctor’s superbly amoral new companion. It’s worth reading just for the scenes with her in as she plots, schemes, kills and scowls her way through with all the grumpy charm of a hungover Emma Peel.”   He rated it 4/5.

From Lisbon in Portugal, reviewer “jvalmeida” thought “the strange narrator changes, the atmosphere, the coluors and the sound he shows to the reader are on the verge of a big novel, whatever the genre or time”. He picked out the depth of characterisation in the Doctor, and the “beautiful puzzle” of the story, and gave it 5/5: “decent, professional and creative writing that is offered. Not some lunch-time-writing so often published in this kind of spin-off books. Thanks Mr Anghelides.” (Thank you, jvalmeida.)

barnesandnoble.com

John Montz added: “I really enjoyed reading this fast-paced and exciting book. Fitz and Compassion come alive in this book. A must read.” He rated it four stars out of five on barnesandnoble.

Web

Ratings Guide

As with Kursaal, original reviews at Robert Smith’s Ratings Guide site were less enthusiastic.

Ratings Guide: “Thomas Jefferson”

“Dumb and dumber” was the assessment of pseudonymous reviewer “Thomas Jefferson”, whose abiding memory of the book is one sequence where Fitz breaks into Sempiter’s office: “to accomplish this, Fitz has to do at least 20 utterly, painfully stupid things in the space of about 30 pages […] I never thought we’d see this sort of lazy writing in a Doctor Who book.” He adds: “Peter Anghelides fancies himself as a bit of a humorist [but] he seems to have a problem with transferring this to his novels. His previous book Kursaal was a bog-standard Doctor Who tale with a few jokes here and there. Frontier Worlds is a bog-standard Doctor Who tale with a companion who seems to have had a lobotomy.”

“Thomas” sometimes missed the point (for example, he misreads the American slang “I almost fell off my chair and really bruised my buns” as an “utterly stupid copy mistake”), but anyway he was thoroughly unimpressed with the style: “ambition not matched by capability [and] bad plotting […] There is also a lot of padding”. He disliked the first-person narration (“wanders around all over the place”) and spotted everything in the book before it happened (internal logic, credence and occasionally surprising your reader really is a must if you want to be a good Doctor Who writer”). In sum: “His plotting’s atrocious and he just can’t deliver the wit to compensate.”

Ratings Guide: Robert Thomas

Robert Thomas said he didn’t expect to like it from the moment he looked at the cover. “Then along came a poll in a magazine proclaiming it as the best EDA of the year. I purchased the book out of curiosity, looked up the previous reviews and started reading with optimism.” He was to be sorely disappointed: “I thought it was all a joke nobody had told me about. Be warned the beginning is dreadful, one of the worst starts to a book ever.” And although he thought the book picked up in the middle, “towards the end though things rapidly sink to average bearing on mediocre. Fitz and Compassion take centre stage and nearly [ruin] the Doctor’s plan. Don’t ask how, I’d given up paying attention at this stage.”

Ratings Guide: Robert Smith

“Surprisingly good,” wrote the site’s editor-in-chief Robert Smith, though “it falls apart a bit at the end […] the book peaks at the moment Reddenblak turns up […] the rest of it runs fairly predictably” with one twist at the end “painfully clear”. In addition “the jokes are either very old, very lame or both […] the novel equivalent of everybody’s father with a collection of jokes that were never particularly funny in the first place, recycling them with comfortable regularity every birthday party.”

Robert thought the Doctor had his moments, “especially his interactions with the robot […] but he still doesn’t seem to be able to sustain an interesting character.” All too often the Doctor was “commonplace. I can’t figure out how you can take a truly complex and fascinating literary character like the Doctor and make him average […] It’s tough to see the authors almost visibly struggling to give the Doctor things to do.”

Nevertheless, these gripes aside, Robert concedes that “Frontier Worlds is very good indeed. It’s no world-shaker, true, but at the moment I think that’s very useful.” It was “a novel that’s traditional in all the best ways […] The entire thing feels very much like a Doctor Who book should, which is every bit a compliment”. It had “all the right ingredients for a good Doctor Who story. I should probably include a naff monster in that.”

He particularly picked out the characterisation of the companions: “I honestly can’t remember the last time we got characterisation this good or rewarding.” The Compassion material “works nicely. It’s good to get more of a sense of her, as she’s a bit of an odd character, almost unintentionally complex. I liked all the references to Interference here, which really helped establish a lot of perspectives on the aftermath of that juggernaut.”

As for Fitz: “It’s about six months late, but we’ve finally got the Fitz novel we always knew the line was capable of […] I can’t believe it’s taken this long: honestly, Fitz isn’t a tricky character, he really isn’t.” He bemoaned the absence of a physical description for Fitz, though “this allows for shock tactics like the one seen in this book: we find out that Fitz is ugly.” That said, “The first person narrative is wonderful and I’m really sorry we didn’t get the whole book like this [and] I’m a bit disappointed that we needed to have this explained within the text itself.”

Top marks from Robert for the Fitz/Alura romance, a “heartbreaking love story […] Peter Anghelides cleverly recognised that not only do we not need to see the cheesy pick-up lines and all the getting-to-know-her scenes, but the book becomes far stronger for not seeing them. Alura’s importance was astonishing, since we saw her through Fitz’s eyes.” Thumbs up for the book’s portrayal of Fitz, then: “Frontier Worlds puts a lot of the other EDAs to shame: I’d honestly forgotten about Fitz’s tendencies to imaginative impersonations and the like, since we haven’t seen hide nor hair of it since his second book. It did make for a nice effect here, though, probably far more than the author had any right to expect.”

So “despite some complaints, Frontier Worlds is a very good book. It’s frustrating because you can see how it could very easily have been so much better.” Robert’s conclusion: “A little unfocussed in places and the ending really hurts the book, but it still comes recommended.”

Ratings Guide: Jason Miller

Jason Miller also hadn’t expected to like the book so much. It “really is the surprise hit of the year […] I went into this book with low expectations.” This was because of his suspicion that the book’s cover was a Vervoid hand [from TV story “Trial of a Time Lord”] and the book’s blurb summarised TV story “The Seeds of Doom”, combined with his belief in Kursaal as “poor (if harmless)” and in its author’s “inability to write anything longer than a thirty-word rec.arts.drwho Season 18 continuity pun.”

“So, all over the place, Frontier Worlds defied my every conception […] this a new story, contemporary and fresh, examining an alien race and its invasion of a planet without ever showing that alien!” Jason also liked the handling of the companions: “Compassion has become quite my favourite BBC companion […] Her scenes here are marvellous bits of storytelling—her fight scenes, her seduction scene, her quiet pep talks with Fitz.”

Fitz too impressed Jason, especially his relationship with Alura, “the best romance DW has seen since Love and War […] The writing of this is restrained, and marvellous.” Indeed, this was a good conclusion to the decade: “We leave 1999 with one of the finest bits of sheer storytelling in the range since Seeing I. Read out of sequence, Frontier Worlds may be more banal than other books. But it is part of a chronology of books, and coming when it did, it’s with great regret that I finally had to set [it] aside.”

Ratings Guide: Graeme Burk

Graeme Burk also saw the novel as “a delightful improvement” on some other 1999 books. In another of the reviews written for this site, Graeme said: “1999 must go down as the worst year ever for Doctor Who prose fiction […] Frontier Worlds is by no means a perfect book. It takes only a few risks, but takes them in a calculated fashion [and] most of the time it plays it safe as an action-thriller.”

Although he thought the Doctor was absent for much of the novel, “those scenes he’s in, he’s unmistakable as a character. We finally, after almost seven months worth of books where the Doctor is completely impotent and incompetent, get a Doctor who is in control of the situation […] The Doctor positively shines in Frontier Worlds. He is everything the Eighth Doctor should be: Quick witted, physical, funny, sweet, caring, whimsical, working a few steps ahead and a few steps behind simultaneously.”

Frontier Worlds restored Graeme’s faith in the companions, too. He liked the view of Fitz’s “outsider and pretender qualities [and] the first person narration is very effective to get into Fitz’s head.” Graeme is one of the few reviewers to comment on the slow change in Fitz’s narration from shallow impersonation to deeper insight. “It works brilliantly.” He also thought the narration “gives us a staggering insight into [Compassion]. It’s shocking what she’s actually capable of doing and being.”

So Graeme enjoyed it as an action-thriller with “clear, crisp prose that, a lot of in-jokes aside (the exchange between the Doctor and the robot on page 228 is very droll), isn’t written to show how much cleverer than the material the author is”. It had “an engaging story which is surprisingly ambitious in its scope”. He rated it 8.5/10: “One hopes that the books for 2000 will take the lead more from Frontier Worlds than from other, perhaps more ambitious but much less satisfying books published this year.”

Ratings Guide: Dan Perry

Dan Perry wrote for the site as yet another person who “had some severe reservations about Frontier Worlds.” But “so much for expectations. I loved this book.” He liked it as “an intelligent ‘trad’ book” with no “bizarre narrative tricks [..] no deep allegories on the human condition, nor are there petty swipes towards the ideas of other authors.” He enjoyed it for its “solid plot, engaging characters, whirlwind action, regrets and repercussions, and some of the coolest genetic mutations this side of the Marvel universe.”

He especially liked Compassion’s character (“she rocks to the extreme”), and was fascinated that Fitz was becoming a doting companion. And “the entire situation with Alura highlights how torn he is between doing what the Doctor wants and forging off to create his own life.” Was the Doctor credible? “He’s the Doctor. What more can I say, really?” Plus the villains were “fantastic, from the hovering menace of the alien to the more-palpable menace of the corporation heads”.

Dan also commented that the novel “should be mandatory reading for all authors who want to work references to past stories into their story. It even sustains the arc story without explicitly referring to the arc!”

Ratings Guide: Eva Palmerton

Eva Palmerton summarised the novel as “temporary relief for insomnia […] I can’t say it was better than average”, and scored it 5/10. “It took me far too long to plod my way through this book […] I was happy with the plot and overall storyline. It just took forever to actually get into the story. All the answers are revealed far too quickly […] nothing exciting happens until Chapter 15! Thankfully, I can say that from that point on it was considerably harder to put the book down.”

Highlights for Eva included the characterisation of the regular cast which “allowed me to really get a much better grasp on their personalities”. She also liked “the present tense dream sequences involving the cosmic dance imagery”.

She was less enthusiastic about the other characters and surroundings, who were either confusing or “throwaway characters”. “Anghelides uses very broad brushstrokes in his writing. All the details go into the personalities of the people, while the physical detail of the people and scenery is a bit like a fuzzy photograph.” She didn’t like the point of view changes either, which was “overly ambitious”, especially the disorienting opening to Chapter 7. And although Eva enjoyed the Sinatra gag, she could have lived without “all the toilet humour” and the use of “the same one-liner […]   as a plot device”.

Ratings Guide: Andrew McCaffrey

Andrew McCaffrey wrote that “Frontier Worlds is one of the most entertaining EDAs that I’ve read.” Despite its “relatively unambitious plot” it was “so well written that we can forgive it that”. He commented favourably on Compassion (“more like a companion than a grumpy, faceless, arc-related plot-device”) and Fitz, saying “Peter Anghelides has really brought to life two companions who had started to slip into blandness in the preceding books.”

He liked the first-person narration, which “raised the book from a fairly standard runaround to an interesting story told with a lot of wit.” As for the Doctor, it was “a refreshing change” to have him know what’s going on, and to see him being “charming, witty, easily distracted, intelligent and resourceful – everything that the Eighth Doctor has the potential to be.”

Ratings Guide: Mike Morris

Mike Morris, reviewing the ‘Compassion Arc’ on the Ratings Guide, had this to say about Frontier Worlds: “A fine book, very Who-ish, that manages to be a rather exhilarating adventure even as it sticks to the themes of the arc itself. Quite an achievement.”

GallifreyOne

GallifreyOne: Edward Funnell

Edward Funnell enjoyed Frontier Worlds more than he’d enjoyed Kursaal. It was “very traditional Who”, and he also seems to have read reviews that I haven’t which refer to Hitchcock, Alistair McLean, and Frederick Forsyth. “But what it also has more than any other book this year is a feel for a good Who story.”

Writing on GallifreyOne, Edward noted the topical issues of genetically-modified food and a link to the Krynoid of “The Seeds of Doom”. “ The concepts are dealt with efficiently, and the broader implications of the exploitation are rendered intelligently. However, a degree of sophistication might have been useful in truly examining the ethics of characters directly involved in exploitation.” As for the people involved in the book, “morally they are redundant”, though he likes the dilemma faced by Fitz and Compassion: “Can you destroy what should never have existed is an interesting point for confrontation.”

Edward thought that the author created “a real world,” recognisable in the everyday aspects of the Frontier Worlds Corporation. There is a “good plot” with a number of intriguing mysteries, but “the prosaic prose takes a little while to define them” Like a couple of other reviewers, Edward is also disappointed that the reason for the TARDIS arriving on the planet is not made clear (it’s in the book but obviously not clear enough!). At least he enjoys the action scenes, where the book “succeeds in not alienating the reader by making each incident intelligent”.

As to the regular characters, Edward ilkes the fact that “the Eighth Doctor is not a superhero [and] Anghelides is the first to get this across convincingly.” He also note the Doctor’s reliance on his companions to be “part of a team to effect whatever result he has in mind”. And in particular, “Fitz has never been better than he is in this book. Anghelides provides emotional depth which elevates him from cheeky chappy.” (Edward particularly praised the Alura story.) And the scenes with Compassion were “the most sensible portrayal of the character thus far.”

“In the end,” he concludes. “Frontier Worlds is a surprise. There is no doubt about it. […] Anghelides has matured and has produced one of the best traditional books in the range.”

GallifreyOne: Lea Ann Hays

Frontier Worlds fleshes out the characters of Compassion and of Fitz especially with considerable skill, while being a classically-themed science fiction tale,” wrote Lea Ann Hays. She thought Fitz’s masquerading as “Frank Sinatra” was “ a wonderful delusion of grandeur “. She recognised his “wounded pride” and was “a character to empathize with in first-person narration.” And she recognised that Compassion “wants to be that same cold and unfeeling person.”

Lea Ann comments on the environmental aspects of the story, as well as a “seeming soapbox about personal responsibility for that corporation’s hypocrisy in professing to produce more food while destroying the environment.” She mentions similarities between the story and TV’s “The Seeds of Doom”, picking out Sempiter’s character as “ever-so-closely resembling that of Harrison Chase”.

For Lea Ann, the book succeeds “in focusing on genetic experiments and their implications.” She noticed a walk-on role called Rhadoon Haroon, whose name was inspired by the Venusian lullaby lyrics in the TV story “The Curse of Peladon” (in the absence of anything better coming to mind when   wrote I that character). And she is the only reviewer I’ve read who noticed that the chapter titles are all “named after Sinatra songs, but still tried to capture the essence of the chapter, which I found entertaining.”

GallifreyOne: Brian Copeland

“I can’t honestly rave enough about this book,” said Brian Copeland, “from front to back, it’s a treasure.” Fitz and Compassion’s disguise was “absolutely hilarious”, with scenes of them together “really wonderful”. He liked the Doctor’s arguments with the robot. Indeed he seemed to particularly enjoy the regular cast: “It is humorous, has some great dialogue, we finally get to see into Fitz’s thoughts again, and get to understand Compassion a little more. The Doctor is very Doctor-ish.”

The way the TARDIS crew are discovered already in action was a bonus: “very reminiscent of the Seventh Doctor stories from the Virgin line […] quite refreshing and a nice change of pace.” Brian was definitely a satisfied customer, and enjoyed the whole book: “From its amazing front cover to the epilogue.”

Ultimate Eighth

Frontier Worlds didn’t strike me as significantly unlike Kursaal,” wrote Finn Clark on the Ultimate Eighth site, “for the most part they’re similar stories told in similar ways. Both have unscrupulous corporations, all-threatening monsters, good wallopings of gore and a straightforward approach to storytelling. There’s nothing self-consciously radical about Frontier Worlds.”

He thought the companions “rather take over the book” and sideline the Doctor so that he is confined to impersonating “James Bond in big action set pieces that actually drive most of the plot but feel like asides”. Finn would have preferred a more rounded characterisation of the Eighth Doctor, and was confused by some of writing in the action scenes which he thought should have been smoother. He was, however, intrigued by Compassion, at whose antics he would “gawp in alarm […] She may be travelling with the Doctor and working on the side of the angels, but she feels more like an ongoing villain than a companion. […] It’s hard to call her likeable, but she certainly holds your attention.”

Finn really liked Fitz’s romance, even if the ending was “a little convenient;   but it’s still the standout no-contest best bit of the book.” He also enjoyed the humour: “Fitz also unleashes the famous Anghelides wit, sadly missed in Kursaal. The flippancies initially struck me as forced, as if the author was trying too hard, but eventually I laughed.”

The absence of overt links to other parts of the story arc was noted, with the exception of Fitz’s introspective moments that were “terrific stuff.” In summary: “I thought it was okay. It didn’t really grip me […] but it passed the time pleasantly enough.”

Happy Guy

“This book doesn’t start off slow and build to an electric climax” wrote Sean Gaffney on his Happy Guy review page, “it starts with the electric climax and then gives you about eleven more.”

Sean liked the style of the book: “There’s a reason so many people suggest this book should be the Doctor Who movie […] the most compelling, of course, being the dialogue. This book has so many great lines that it needs an appendix to list them all.”

There were some bits that Sean disliked: the “angsty bits” where Fitz recalls the events of Interference, and Alura “who comes across as rather flat, so her fate and Fitz’s reaction don’t resonate as they should.” But the other characters made up for this. Compassion: “Wonderfully droll, dry, angry, irritable.” Ellis and Sempiter: “Wonderfully done.” And “the robot is someone I’d like to see more of.”

Another highlight for him was the Doctor. In previous books, Sean couldn’t determine whether the Doctor was Paul McGann or not. “This is not a problem here. Besides the callbacks to the TV-movie helping, the entire attitude is so 8th Doctor it sings.”

In summary: “This is a fun book, hilarious, yet still gripping […] Audio, video, big-budget blockbuster, anything would do, I just want this dialogue converted to sound so it can melt in my ears.” So he gave it 10/10.

Jagaroth

Don’t be put off by the “pulpy” blurb on the back cover, was the message on the (now defunct) Jagaroth site’s review. “It is, in fact, a great horror/thriller, breathing fresh air into the series of books with its breakneck storytelling and impressive twists […] The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.”

Like the Doctor Who Magazine assessment, this review said: “Think Bond done by Cronenburg, and you’ve basically got it.” However, the reviewer suggested it was more The Thing than “The Seeds of Doom”, because it had “some quite horrific imagery”.

The Fitz and Compassion stuff was praised (“it is nice to actually see some character development”), but the Doctor’s violence was not. And the conclusion was “rather low-key”.

The Cosmic Café

“A wealth of interesting ideas and characterizations [yet] something seems missing,” was Dominick Cericola’s view on the (now defunct) Cosmic Café site. “Perhaps after I have read Paul Cornell’s Shadows of Avalon, it will all come together.” Dominick recognises environmental issues from Kursaal, but “ here, it seems to work better […] the story is far more interesting, and better executed.”

He felt that the eighth Doctor was closer here to Virgin Publishing’s seventh Doctor. Fitz, on the other hand, was “one of the book’s strongest suits, and one of the main reasons I hung on until the end. Anghelides does an extraordinary job of peeling back the layers of Fitz’s sub-conscious in an effort to show how he is dealing with his post-Interference life […] A lot of Inner Doubts, which I am hoping the other writers will pick up and use.” Compassion struck Dominick as being “bland”, and the villains “weren’t much more memorable.”

Frontier Worlds: Interview

Filed under: drwho,Frontier Worlds,Novels,writing — Peter A @ 4:21 pm

A big hand for this bookThis page is one of several on this site about my novel Frontier Worlds. They are all linked from this main blog post here.

This is a contemporary interview with Doctor Who Magazine to accompany the publication of my second novel.

There is another interview on this site here.


Talking Books

Conducted by Vanessa Bishop

Vanessa Bishop: Are you obsessed with body horror?

Peter Anghelides: The inexorable personal mutation into decay, madness and despair—critic Pete Boss calls it “the intimate apocalypse”.  But I’ve cheered up enormously since I stopped looking in the bathroom mirror.

As a writer, what is, for you, the most influential period of Doctor Who?

It’s what Philip Hinchcliffe told me: Bob Holmes’ scare-the-buggers devilment plus Barry Letts’ popular ecological seriousness. (Did I mention that Nelson Mandela told me never to drop names?)

How did you chance upon the idea of the new mechanical companion?

 My joke on an internet group has spawned a canary-sized monster I cannot control. With luck, subsequent writers will forget all about it. That worked for Kamelion, didn’t it?

How do you find writing for Compassion, a companion who’s completely emotionless?

Compassion’s emotions aren’t expressed conventionally. I disliked her initially, but decided against reinventing her. Eventually I warmed to her—though she’s not a warm person.

Your creation of Temm Sempiter indicates a love of the larger-than-life villain. What were your inspirations?

Big villains make the Doctor more impressive when he defeats them. I imagine commissioning editor Steve Cole glaring at me and demanding my overdue manuscript. My nightmare is being trapped in a lift with him and former Doctor Who Magazine columnist Jackie Jenkins.

Do you prefer ‘stand alone’ stories rather than developing old ideas from the series’ past? If so, why?

Writing a genre novel isn’t terribly original of me, so I try to innovate within the constraints of the existing franchise. I prefer Eighth Doctor stuff—developing him, his companions, and other new elements. Frontier Worlds is part of a developing story, but you can read it as a one-off.

April 10, 2016

Logopolis novelisation

Filed under: drwho,Novels,writing — Peter A @ 5:51 pm

 

Title sequenceTom Baker’s final series of Doctor Who episodes stories were first broadcast from August 1981. Much as I loved the traditional opening, I was greatly impressed with the novelty of the new “starfield” titles that new producer John Nathan-Turner introduced for Season 18. I got to watch it on my parents’ colour TV, and from the comfort of their  cosy sofa, in a warm living room in which all other family members had been ruthlessly drilled not to interrupt during first transmission.

This was so I could enjoy the show and also make an audio recording from the TV speaker. Yes, speaker, singular. None of your fancy stereo telly back them. I had it tough. Although, on reflection, my mute family probably had it tougher.

Listen up

Beach snoozeMy pal Tony, a fellow fanzine editor, somehow contrived to miss episode one of “The Leisure Hive,” and so the audio recording was my invaluable soundtrack for explaining to him what he’d missed. Tony hadn’t enjoyed Season 17 of Doctor Who much, and listened patiently to me extolling of the virtues of the opening episode. Those of you who remember “The Leisure Hive” story will recall that almost the first two thirds of episode one seem to be a tracking shot on Brighton Beach to the sound of Tom Baker snoring, so Tony’s patience was sorely tested.

My other fanzine pal, Peter, agreed with me that this series of Doctor Who stories was terrific. Peter was also a dedicated off-air audio recorder of the show. In the days before TV scripts were available to fans, he would painstaking transcribe the dialogue from audio recordings and type it up. This meant we had a written record of a story even before the Target novelisation was published. There is a generation of Doctor Who fans for whom the Target books were the primary way to relive stories post-transmission.

By October 1981, however, I was hundreds of miles away at university, where I lived on the eighth floor of a student hall of residence. Although in the 1980s student facilities had advanced  beyond the chalk slates and quill pens that younger readers of this blog may be imagining, it wasn’t anywhere near the always-connected multi-device environment that my own children take for granted these days. Eighth floor roomMy choices for television at university, for example, were: (a) watch a portable black and white device in the room or (b) get a seat in the hall’s communal TV lounge and hope the majority wanted to watch what I wanted to watch. I suppose there was also (c) the TV lounge in the Students’ Union, though that was an impossibly long distance to get to from my accommodation at short notice.

Because, needless to say, making sure I didn’t miss an episode of Doctor Who was a Saturday ritual. Sometimes there wasn’t a student consensus to watch BBC 1 that week; irrationally, there were people who preferred to watch Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, scheduled by ITV directly opposite Doctor Who.

In which case, I had to make a dash for the lift and go up eight floors back to my room in the hope I didn’t miss anything. Obviously, I would have left my black and white TV switched on in anticipation of such a calamity – no faffing around getting it tuned in and warmed up, plus I could have the audio recording happening in my room if and when I was in the communal lounge. Well, I could hardly do an audio recording in the student TV lounge and expect my fellow students to be as amenable as my family, could I? No, of course I didn’t ask them. And on mature reflection, this tells you volumes about my wonderfully tolerant family back at home.

Speaking of whom… in the middle of Season 18, my parents bought a VHS video recorder.

Get it taped

E180 tapeMy parents patiently agreed to record Doctor Who for me each week. Occasionally, this was delegated to my younger brother, so some element of risk was involved every Saturday. Crucially, they agreed to keep the episodes and not record Match of the Day over them, on condition that I furnished a sufficient number of E120 or E180 video cassette tapes. This was no minor concession, because in the early 1980s an E180 blank tape cost £9.99 (including VAT at 15%).

The availability of videos started to transform the experience for fans. Some other DW enthusiasts had been recording the show on tape since about 1977 (or Season 15, as DW fans know it). So it was possible to relive the stories in exactly the way they had been transmitted, rather than through the medium of a novelisation. Many of the books were published shortly after the TV transmission, and tended towards a perfunctory recollection of the programme – or even, a literal translation of the original scripts (rather than what was recorded and broadcast) because they were written so close to transmission.

Subsequent novelisations were a bit more imaginative, expanding on the original stories in a way that anticipated the brand new, original novels that Virgin Books would publish after the BBC put the original Doctor Who series on ice. And indeed that BBC Books would publish, and where I launched my own professional novel writing career.

Godel-Escher-BachDoctor Who fans are collectors and completists, and so obviously we kept buying the novelisations. Peter and I were very enthusiastic about the concluding story in Season 18 (and Tom Baker’s finale) “Logopolis.” This was also the time of Douglas Hofstadter’s 1979 “metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll” called Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which particularly captured Peter’s interest.

A novel idea

Peter and I thus concluded that “Logopolis” might not be well-served by the kind of Target novelisation then being written. Because we were publishing our fanzine Frontier Worlds around this time, we ambitiously decided that we’d do our own novelisation. Peter had written up a dialogue transcript from the TV. And I had my video recording. So I used those to write a novelisation under our Frontier Worlds imprint as a not-for-profit fanzine.

This was before we knew that Christopher H Bidmead was writing the Target novelisation. He is the author of “Logopolis,” and the Season 18 script editor to boot. He very graciously agreed we could publish our version. Through a contact in the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, we also wangled to talk with John Nathan-Turner backstage at a London convention, and he said he was OK with us publishing our version as long as it did not appear before the official Target version.

So that’s what we did. Tony Clark drew the cover. In those days, desktop publishing and typesetting would have been ruinously expensive for students, so I typed up the text and did all the wonky letter transfers (the back cover features some especially wobbly Letraset).

I notice, now that I look at my copy of it, that we conspicuously didn’t thank either CHB or JNT in the published version – for which, 34 years later, I apologise, as they were both very accommodating with their permission at the time. And with the benefit of over three decades’ hindsight, my po-faced “Authors’ Note” (page 8) makes a somewhat implausible claim that the novel isn’t just a transcription of the TV show – an unsubtle comment that we thought it was better than the contemporary Target books.

Target novelisation of "Logopolis"As it is, the Target novelisation by Christopher H Bidmead is far superior to ours. We knew that, because we kept our promise to JNT, and had therefore read his excellent Target version shortly before we printed and published ours. Christopher’s book is a much better written expansion of his very enjoyable TV story.

Peter and I had also really liked “Castrovalva” (Christopher Bidmead’s script to follow “Logopolis” and the debut for the Fifth Doctor). On this occasion, we’d somehow got hold of the actual camera scripts for the episodes, and were laying plans for a novelisation of that, too. We got as far as having a cover drawn up by Andrew Martin. But we recognised, based on “Logopolis,”  that we couldn’t do as good a job as the Bidmead book for “Castrovalva” would be, so we shelved our plans.

Indeed, there was something of a renaissance for the Target novelisations – especially those adapted by the original script writers themselves, such as Andrew Smith (“Full Circle”) and Stephen Gallagher (“Warriors’ Gate” under the pseudonym John Lydecker). And I really enjoyed David Fisher’s adaptation of his script for “The Leisure Hive,” which did not cause any snoring.

Free novelisation 

I’ve seen a few copies of my Logopolis novelisation turning up on eBay, and even Amazon sold a few at some point. Back in the 1980s, the only money I took off readers was to cover printing, postage and packing, so I can’t really approve of people making money from it. You can download a completely free copy of the Logopolis novelisation here.

If you enjoy it, feel free to add a review at that Amazon site. And perhaps consider purchasing one of my officially licensed books.

Frontier Worlds

March 23, 2016

Shadow novelisation

Filed under: Blake's 7 — Peter A @ 8:26 pm
Tags:

img005 - CopyThe success of my 1985 Blake novelisation prompted me and my pals to consider publishing further Blake’s 7 TV adaptations. Chris Boucher had been very helpful by allowing us to adapt his script for the series finale, and kindly agreed we could publish a similar not-for-profit version of his Season B story Shadow.

David Tulley (pictured here in 1985) was a contributor to the Frontier Worlds fanzine. And like me, Peter, and Tony, he was a student when the TV series aired. We were pleased when David said it was one of his favourite stories, and that he’d like to write the novel.

img005Andrew Martin provided a splendid cover featuring Cally and Orac, and we once again used Tony Clark’s new logo.

Three decades later, the publication is long out of print. Thanks to the wonders of eBay and a half-decent scanner, I can now make Shadow available here for free, with David’s permission.

I was amused to see that there’s also an Amazon page for the fanzine. So if you enjoy reading David’s book, you can add a review there!

There was a third novelisation planned… I may blog about that another time.

March 17, 2016

Blake novelisation

Filed under: Blake's 7,Novels,writing — Peter A @ 9:12 pm
Tags:

BlakeCoverIn 1981 I went with my pals Peter and Tony to BBC Television Centre London, where we saw the final episode of Blake’s 7 being recorded. I’ve blogged about that elsewhere on this blog. Subsequently, I documented the visit in our fanzine Frontier Worlds.

Alongside the set report, I also included snippets from the scenes we had seen recorded in studio or  film excerpts that we spotted on the production gallery monitors. Our fanzine readers seemed to like them, and so a few years later in 1985  I wrote up the rest of the story as a novelisation.

We published it as a not-for-profit Frontier Worlds special edition – with the kind permission of the story’s original script writer, Chris Boucher. Andrew Martin drew a cover, and Tony Clark created a new Blake’s 7 logo for us.

WarshipIt’s been out of print for decades, though it occasionally turns up on eBay. I thought it was a shame not to make it available, as a sort of historical curiosity. So you can now read it for free here.

Almost thirty years later, I was able to novelise my own Blake’s 7 script. You can still get that as an e-book for the bargain price of £2.99 If you like the idea of getting my Blake novel for free, why not spend a few quid buying my officially-licensed book, Warship, from Big Finish Productions? You can do that here.

 

December 13, 2015

Yahoo! BooHoo!

Filed under: Grumbling,usability — Peter A @ 4:25 pm

Aabandon hopeThe successor to Yahoo! has failed to fix my problem or respond in a timely manner, and I have therefore decided to aabandon Aabaco completely. What a shame they seem so uninterested.

They are not to be confused with Aabaco Environmental, who are apparently “well known for being a leader in providing bio-remediation products for hydro carbon spills.” I am led to believe they are also very popular with carpet care professionals. Who knew?

Anyway, you should find that anghelides.org and contact e-mails now work again, because my new domain services company was able to (a) handle the transfer promptly and without fuss and (b) respond to two phone call inquiries immediately.

So I commend GoDaddy to you instead.GoDaddy

November 28, 2015

Disappointing! Customer! Service!

Filed under: Grumbling,Uncategorized — Peter A @ 7:04 pm

YahooTurnoverThe transfer of the Yahoo! small business… er… business to Luminate, no, hang on, I mean Aabaco has been a bit of a fiasco.

People who have been with Yahoo! for over a decade have found the transfer has been fumbled. They can’t transfer open problem tickets to the new company; you have to close it and open a new one with Luminate. Or is it Aabaco? I don’t know, because I’m losing the will to live.

This tweet seems typical of the reaction from existing customers:

If Yahoo! can’t handle this transition effectively, why would you trust them with any of your current business? Search me. (DYSWIDT?)

I’ve already set up anghelides.com as an alternative for my domain and e-mail. I’m giving whatever-they’re-called-now one last chance to sort out a current problem, or I’m just going to bail on them.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll find that anghelides.org and anghelides.com will both route you here. Please let me know, via the usual channels, if that’s not working for you.

September 6, 2015

Frontier Worlds interview (additional)

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

Edited to add: the rest of the Frontier Worlds information on this site is now here.


A big hand for this bookI found another interview that I did. This is from 2000, when Kevin Mahoney of authortrek.com 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.https://www.flickr.com/photos/23912576@N05/2942525739

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

Sparkle

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.

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