Ten Things About Who: Nightmare in Silver

This post has been edited, tidied up and expanded to form part of my new ebook, TEN THINGS ABOUT WHO, available on Kindle. Buy it now for £1.99More details

As we rapidly approach the end of this series, I’ve created an index page for all my Ten Things About… posts. And here are this week’s rambling musings about Neil Gaiman’s episode – which, far from being a nightmare, felt more like a bad dream brought on by a surfeit of cheese.

1. The Mechanical Turk

Did the concept of a ‘magical’ chess-playing automaton sound familiar to you? The Mechanical Turk, a life-size dummy built to impress the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. Just like the equivalent on Hedgewick’s World, the Turk was controlled by a human inside, whose presence was hidden away:

…if the back doors of the cabinet were open at the same time one could see through the machine. The other side of the cabinet did not house machinery; instead it contained a red cushion and some removable parts, as well as brass structures. This area was also designed to provide a clear line of vision through the machine.

For a more recent parallel, Big Finish’s 2011 audio drama The Silver Turk by Marc Platt features a similar machine which the Doctor identifies as a Cyberman. Continue reading Ten Things About Who: Nightmare in Silver

Ten Things About Who: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

This post has been edited, tidied up and expanded to form part of my new ebook, TEN THINGS ABOUT WHO, available on Kindle. Buy it now for £1.99More details

1. The Van Baalen Brothers

If Tricky really thought he was an android, how did he explain a need for nutrition (and the resultant excretion)? But if the conceit about having been tricked into believing he’s robotic doesn’t really stand up from that angle, the clues are there: right from the beginning, his attitude to the plight of the Doctor and Clara – and of the TARDIS herself – is the most human of the three brothers’.

2. That’s some heavy polystyrene you’ve got there

Poor Jenna-Louise Coleman. It can’t be easy to have to wake up from a completely unconscious state, free yourself from under what is doubtless supposed to be extremely cumbersome masonry, leap to your feet and then brush yourself down in the space of about three seconds.

You can, apparently, just about manage it in the time allotted if you ensure that not a single step of that process looks genuine.

Continue reading Ten Things About Who: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

Coming soon: Neverwhere

On Saturday March 16, BBC Radio 4 broadcasts the first part of a new adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel Neverwhere. The story tells of Richard Mayhew, a Scot living an ordinary, dull life in London until he helps an injured girl on the street – and finds himself embroiled in London Below, the magical twilight world that exists just out of sight of the capital we all think we know.

Continue reading Coming soon: Neverwhere

Destiny, Death, Delirium and Despair: Drabbles a decade on

The beauty of using my blog to keep track of stuff I’ve written elsewhere is that it allows, when time permits, to reflect on the writer I used to be. As I’ve been explaining on Twitter, I usually think that what I wrote in the past is better than what I write now, whether it’s ten years old or ten days.

Perusing some of the neglected categories in my blog (of which there are many) I came to realise that three very short pieces of fiction are almost exactly a decade old.

They are drabbles – short stories of exactly 100 words in length. These particular ones are ‘fan fiction’ (or fanfic for short), unlicensed exploration of other people’s fictional creations. As you scour the internet, you discover that much fanfic is unremittingly awful – but some is not. And from that minority, an even smaller proportion has spawned writers who have gone on to write professionally for the same characters (yes, this is a hint to buy The Ghosts of Christmas while stocks last. I still savour that review in DWM, even if my story was summed up in three words, one of which was “and”).

In this case, the subject was Doctor Who crossing over with the Endless family from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic books.

Reading them again, they do hold up quite well – although of the three, one relies on a punchline that no longer packs the punch it once did and one just has me a feeling a bit meh. The third, though, includes possibly my favourite sentence in Doctor Who ever. That sounds like egotism, and it may be, but it feels like the line was written by somebody else. Which, I suppose, it was: I am not the same person I was a decade ago. I hope 1990s Scott won’t mind me lifting it should I ever find a circumstance to use it again.

Anyway, the three drabbles – to be read in no particular order – are:

If you have no idea who Neil Gaiman’s Endless characters are, a guick google should set you aright. And if you’re a fan of great storytelling, remind me to lend you The Sandman novels some time (or buy your own)…

Why write?

It may be a tough question to answer, but [I love Neil Gaiman’s attempt](http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2007/10/why-write.html):

> The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising (“but of course that’s why he was doing that, and that means that…”) and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.

I wouldn’t dare try and compare myself to Gaiman — I doubt I’ll ever achieve anything like one thousandth of his talents. I’m _really_ looking forward to **Stardust**, my excitement only being tempered by the thought that the film can’t possibly compare to the novel (what film ever does?). That said, I do know what he means. _Tell Me You Love Me_ will be my first published fiction work and a short story, but there were times writing it where I just got swept up and everything came out at speed. It’s happened before with the [fanfic short stories](http://matthewman.net/category/fiction/fanfic/short-stories/) I’ve written before; the pleasure increases slightly when you know you’re being paid for it, though.

Looking back at the proof PDF which I was sent last week, those points in the story still stand out as the best bits for me. It’s the portions where I had to include exposition, to write and rewrite and rewrite again to make sure that there was sufficient explanation, that stutter and falter. In contrast, I really love the opening few pages, which are largely unchanged from the very first draft. And reading it back, months now after I first wrote them, I can really detect the influence of Gaiman’s writing style upon my own. Hopefully, as I carry on writing that will develop into my own writing style, rather than an inferior copy of somebody else’s.

I was so scared, too, that as a first time writer, my work would stick out from that of the experienced writers with whom I’m contributing to _[The Ghosts of Christmas](http://matthewman.net/2007/10/02/coming-soon-the-ghosts-of-christmas/)_. But I’ve read the whole draft of the book several times now, and am beginning to feel less like the fraud I thought I may be when I was first offered the commission.

Next up, I have to decide if I’m going to have time to devote to [NaNoWriMo](http://www.nanowrimo.org/) this year. Other pressures last year meant that I just had no spare time to devote to writing, and I’m hoping that I can spend November 2007 writing 50,000 words of a first draft.

Genesis of Despair

Despair had been trying to ensnare her nemesis for aeons. Now she had hit on the perfect plan. A quick manipulation of a backwards little planet (whose inhabitants were far too up themselves for her liking) and the plan was in place. How ironic — that the bringer of hope would trap himself in her realm by his own hand…

Through the mirror, she watched.

With delight, she saw him raise the two wires, bring them closer together and…

The Doctor stopped. “Do I have that right?”

Blast. She nearly had him in her realm, and now the moment was passed.

Destiny’s Book

Destiny casts no shadow as he walks through his garden. His blind eyes read every page of the book chained to his arms. He knows he should not express opinion on the truths therein, but feels a thrill as the one known as The Doctor appears once more within its pages.

He frowns. Surely not…? How can it be…?

Destiny stumbles, flipping pages back and forth. For the first time in his Endless existence, the book confuses him. Surely even the Doctor’s existence could not be this complex?

Then an inspiration: the frontispiece.

The confusion explained:
Written by Lawrence Miles

So the costume was HER idea…

He sat on the bridge between the Dreaming and her own realm when she found him, thin and blond this time.

“Hello,” he beamed. “I don’t believe we’ve met.” But when she smiled, he remembered and his face fell. “Oh. You. Does that mean I’m… Are you going to…?”

“Maybe one day, but not today.”

From behind her, a brightly coloured head poked, surrounded by kaleidoscopic butterflies.

“i’M DeL. sIs sAYs yoU cHanGE A loT, bUt nOt liKe UNdeRWeAr. CaN i, uM, DeSiGn yOu nEXt tIme?”

The Doctor smiled. “Why not?”

Death giggled. “You’re going to regret saying that, you know.”