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May 11, 2010

  • It’s real. It’s mine.
  • image

    The Doctor Who essay collection I co-edited with Robert Smith?, Time Unincorporated is now out. Today I received a box of them. It’s here. It’s real. It’s mine. Miiiiiinnnnneee…

    Not counting the introductory essays (which I wrote with Robert), there are 75 essays in the book, taken from various Doctor Who fanzines over the decades and also commissioned specially for the book. I wrote five of them. I thought it would be fun to talk about the them, not so much in terms of content but the circumstances under, and process by, which they were written:

    “Half Canadian on His Father’s Side” (2000) was an article on Doctor Who creator Sydney Newman and how his work at the CBC in the ‘50s influenced the creation of Who. I wrote this in 2000, just after I took over editing the Doctor Who fanzine Enlightenment. At the time Enlightenment had fallen into a rut of printing bland, factual articles that simply regurgitated stuff from Howe/Stammers/Walker, DWM and the Peter Haining books. I wanted to show how this could be done differently, and sought to write something better researched and with an actual thesis. It was fortunate that I’m already something of a CBC history buff. All the same, I remember writing it—as I wrote so many Enlightenment articles over the next seven years—in the local laundromat while doing my laundry.

    “The Talons of Stereotyping” (2002) is an essay on race and racism in the Doctor Who story The Talons of Weng-Chiang. The willful blindness of Doctor Who fans on the dodgy racial politics of this story has always bothered me and it was probably the one article I most wanted to write for Enlightenment. It probably went through the most number of drafts of anything I wrote for Enlightenment as I sent it to a number of friends including Lance Parkin and Richard Salter for feedback as I went along. There was a lot of healthy debate after it came out, and I hope there’s a similar resonance this time.

    “A Year in the Life” (2007) is my paean to the year 1977 in Doctor Who. Enlightenment was doing an issue devoted to 1977 and, as happened so often while editing this zine, a gap emerged, namely that it really needed an introductory essay. Here’s the thing: the issue needed to go to the printer on Wednesday morning so it could get picked up Thursday morning to a convention in Chicago. That same Wednesday I was helping to manage a major fundraiser for work. My schedule was so crazy I wasn’t able to perform layout on the issue until Tuesday night. And as of Tuesday afternoon I still had to write this introductory essay—and I really had to write it because the issue was about 3 pages short otherwise. At 4:00 pm on Tuesday afternoon I sat down at a Second Cup near Yonge and St. Clair in Toronto, got out my notepad and just started writing. And dammit… it’s probably my favourite thing I’ve ever written about Doctor Who. (I pulled an all-nighter and designed the issue in less than 8 hours too!)

    “Miss Wright” (2009) was an original commission. Originally we were going to go with an expanded version of an article I wrote about Peri Brown, but we felt the section it was in had enough tributes to 1980s companions. When I started editing Enlightenment I had three articles I wanted to write: a piece about race and racism in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, a piece about Sydney Newman, and a piece about 1960s companion Barbara Wright. I decided it was time to write the third piece. I started writing it on a day-long visit to Montreal, and while in the Ottawa train station I suddenly had a thought on how to make it work. It was a total spur-of-the-moment inspiration that suddenly made writing it effortless. I wrote most of it, in longhand, outside a Starbucks in Montreal on a nice sunny day.

    “The Rise, Fall and Decline of John Nathan-Turner” (2002) was another article borne of necessity. John Nathan-Turner, the producer of Doctor Who during the 1980s, had died and I needed an article for the cover feature which would be about him. We were running late, as usual, so I wrote it. I don’t remember much about writing this one—I had the idea of using individual episodes that were broadcast at the start, middle and end of his career as a framing device and I remember watching those episodes (The Leisure Hive 1, The Two Doctors 2 and Ghost Light 3 if you’re wondering), but that’s about it. Re-reading it for the book—it was a late addition to the line-up—I realized I said something about Colin Baker’s casting that I thought was really cool. I hope you think so too!

    You can order Time Unincorporated 2 from the Mad Norwegian website or from amazon.com  and amazon.ca

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