I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who since I was five years old, sitting too close to the TV every weeknight at 7 on PBS (WGBH in Boston). At that age, it scared the ever-living crap out of me (Sarah Jane’s android clone losing it’s face, anyone?) but I loved it. When I was around eight years old (I think), a friend of the family who knew what a budding young fan I was brought me my first piece of memorabilia from the show — a signed photo of Nicholas Courtney, the Brigadier, personalized to little ol’ me. He was, it turned out, a friend of a friend of a friend, and our friend came home from a trip out west with the treasure in tow. The Brigadier became my favorite character on the show. It didn’t take much to buy my loyalty.
Fast forward three(ish) decades: Doctor Who is set to return to the airwaves after an absence of sixteen years. I say to myself, “Well, if I ever had the chance to write an episode, it’d have to be one for the Brigadier.” Not that the opportunity was every going to come my way, of course, but it was a nice dream.
And then Nicholas Courtney died, and my hopes of ever seeing the Brigadier on Doctor Who disappeared (and don’t tell me he made it onto The Sarah Jane Adventures — that doesn’t count). I thought they did a lovely job of acknowledging his passing towards the end of David Tennant’s run. That should have been the end. And then there came “Death in Heaven” and the whole dead arising as Cybermen and oh my god what are they doing to the Brig?! I know it’s only a TV show, but I was livid. It felt like the producers were pissing on the man’s grave. Awful. And then I started thinking about the imaginary episode I would’ve written, and I decided it was time to give the man a better exit. So, here’s my stab at it. I don’t do fan fiction, well, ever. Probably won’t again after this. But here’s to you, Brigadier. And you, too, Mr. Courtney. Thanks for making an eight-year-old boy happy.
NB: I haven’t done much revision on this.
Old Soldiers (or, Another One Fades Away)
This story takes place somewhere after “Flatline” and before “Dark Water.” It completely mucks up the timeline. I don’t care. Continue reading
I finished the major revisions on Hole in the Coal-Black Sky last week and handed the manuscript off to my trusted editor (aka my wife). The text jumped from 74K to 81K words in the rewrite. My beloved beta-readers will have a new book to review soon.
This morning, I started work on the follow-up volume. It’s working title is The Prince of Elsewhere. My writing session this morning was a textbook illustration of the differences between spoken and written language, not to mention between visual intelligence versus the verbal. In my head, I tend to tell stories visually, with the occasional snippet of verbiage becoming audible amongst the images. Last night, as I drifted off to sleep, I could see the first chapter and even hear snippets of text. But, sitting down this morning, I ran into the ever-present neurosis that is the construction of the first sentence — those first words that set the tone and unbar the gates of the story.
I spent and hour writing and deleting and writing and deleting and growling and writing until I had something that approximated the image in my head and threw the floodgates wide. I was struck by how different the language I hear in my head and the language I read on a page actually are. If you’ve ever tried to learn a new language with Rosetta Stone, that lesson comes home very quickly. But, to watch the same phenomenon play out in your native tongue is a different experience entirely. Bridging that gap somehow will be the key to preventing the eventual insanity that can be induced by the first draft.
This weeks flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig: a story in only one hundred words. Harder than it looks. This one’s a hundred words, exactly, and I wish I had more.
All week, Mikey insisted that Henry Bear needed graham crackers and honey at night. They’d answered that the snack would just keep Henry awake, and teddy bears needed sleep just as much as little boys. Mikey kept insisting, saying the snack helped Henry heal after he’d driven the monsters back under the bed.
That night, they’d caught him sneaking to his bedroom with food wrapped in his blanket, and sent him to bed empty handed. It was only the next morning when they’d discovered their petrified toddler cradling a bear with a talon in its chest that they finally relented.
My entry for this week’s flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig.
She cried happy tears when he said “till death do us part,” and imagined that he was pledging his undying love. Five years on, she learned his love was a passing thing, but a vow was still a vow.
She was surprised by how little effort it took to fit his body into the duffle bag.
So, a while back I wrote this.
Watched the premiere on the DVR last night, and I have to say it really was good.
There’s some they got right.
- Matt Ryan has the character down. He could push it a bit further and be a bit more of a bastard, but I chalk that up to script and not to the actor
- The mythos is there: Trench coat? Check. Newcastle? Check. Nergal? Check. Mother dead in childbirth/resulting daddy issues? Check. (And a lovely little easter egg with the loving, lingering shot on Dr. Fate’s helmet.)
- Manny: new character, but a clever way of handling the big backstory of the battle between heaven and hell while demonstrating that the “good guys” may not be all that pure of motive — an essential piece of the story, to my mind.
There’s some they got not quite right.
- Atlanta? I realize it’s an American series, but there’s a very distinct flavor that comes from the British mysticism that defined Hellblazer that’s hard to convey on this side of the pond. Doesn’t kill the opportunities for storytelling. There’s enough fracturing in the collective American psyche to fuel all sorts of hellish storytelling. But the change in venue will take some getting used to.
- Chas. Love this character. Love this actor. And the limey bastard just isn’t himself without his loyal cabbie. But when was resurrection part of his schtick? I remember him as just another magic dabbler of an even more petty variety. The immortality thing seems an odd choice. Maybe the show runners thought he needed a hook to make him worthy of our care? But what always made Chas a great character was his regular bloke who had enough inner strength to stick by Constantine when he was at his lowest/bastard-est.
- Smoking. I get it. Not something we want to glorify on American TV. But “Dangerous Habits” was a great bit of storytelling, and rumor has it they want to adapt it for the show — which makes it quite possibly a weaker story without John’s vice on full display. The nervous tic with the Zippo lighter is, in general, a nice substitute — but only if they steer clear of the cancer storyline later.
On the whole, what’s right balances out the odd choices. I’m looking forward to watching it find its groove.
Charlie sat down, opened the small velvet bag that held the more delicate of her failsafe’s tools, and withdrew from it a jeweler’s glass which she proceeded to hold up to her left eye, squinting to hold it in place. She then tipped out the tiniest of screwdrivers and picked it up between her thumb and forefinger. Under the unblinking gaze of the jewelers glass, a miniature universe in brass opened itself up before her eyes. She focused her attention on the path of the clockwork from arbor to spring and out through wheels and bars and oscillators, and tried to hear the toy cricket’s song. To her unconscious ear, it sounded out a most delicate and complicated tune, a tiny fugue so delicately orchestrated that she had to strain to keep track of all its parts. After several minutes of staring and listening, she at last heard the song in its entirety, heard where its themes meant to go, heard how it should end, and glared like a manic conductor out over the orchestra of clockwork in search of the instrument that had stopped pulling its weight, thus making the entire symphony grind to a halt.
Charlie frowned, now, as she followed the music again and again until at last her eyes settled on one tiny flywheel in the neighborhood of the cricket’s hind legs that had slipped on its shaft. She closed her eyes for a moment to give them a rest, took a deep breath, and then started her work as she slipped the head of the screwdriver through the cricket’s innards with the greatest of care and gently levered the offending gear back into place. Charlie let out a deep and satisfied sigh as she felt the cricket’s song return to order, then took up the shining cover of the toy’s abdomen with a care that neared reverence and screwed it back into place with graceful, practiced fingers. Continue reading