An interview done for something in 2011... though I cannot recall what!
The staff at Comfy Chair is grateful and thanks you for accepting to conduct this Q&A with us, plus we are excited to be able to launch our Interviews section with you as our first Interview.
Knowing your career and contribution to Doctor Who research and writing for 30 plus years we must ask about your first experience with Doctor Who.
How early in your life, what age were you, can you recall your first moments experiencing Doctor Who? What Doctor and story?
Why has Doctor Who left a lasting impression and inspiration as a fan and in your career?
This chair really is comfy isn’t it … thanks for the hospitality.
Doctor Who has been part of my life for so long, it’s hard to think of it not being there. I was born in 1961, so for the first 2 and a bit years it was not!
Strangely, pretty much all of my young memories are of Doctor Who, either of watching it, not being allowed to watch it, or missing it because of holidays and the like. My earliest memory of the show is from ‘The Evil of the Daleks’ where I can recall flashes of the scenes when the Daleks ‘Dalekize’ Maxtible and the others, also of the Dalek Emperor at the end and the destruction of the Dalek city, with the Doctor’s ‘The final end …’ comment. I can then remember bits of ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ and then bits and flashes of lots of stories up to the end of the sixties. I remember my brother (3 years younger) watching ‘The Ice Warriors’ but that I was too scared to watch it. I have vivid memories of ‘The Invasion’ – one of my favourite stories – and the Cyberman in the sewers. The music to that story haunts me as well … I can’t hear it without coming over all nostalgic and happy …
I then remember the Pertwee era, and by then I was watching pretty much constantly. I started to buy the books and merchandise … and that then was my childhood. In 1973 I got the Radio Times Special, and looked forward to the final Pertwee series while building my own Dalek from the plans in the magazine over the summer of 74.
I can’t answer the question as to why this show has left such a lasting impression. I’ve always put it down to the monsters – I love monsters – and Doctor Who always had the neatest and the best of them.
As a young fan, were you actively creative with Doctor Who or otherwise?
At this point in your life did you actively know you would like to pursue a career somehow within the Doctor Who community?
How, if at all, do you believe this experience helped develop your creativity and writing?
Doctor Who most certainly did help with the creativity side. I joined the DWAS in 1977 mainly because I was fed up of not getting any letters at home, and figured that if I joined a club or something then I would get post! So I joined the DWAS and immediately got involved with their Reference Department as I loved the old stories and the behind the scenes making of aspect of them. I seem to recall that one of the first synopsis I ordered was for ‘The Invasion’ and it was amazing to read a complete synopsis of the story that even then I only half remembered.
But I then did my own fanzine in 1977 – it started as the Surbiton Doctor Who Society Magazine (or something) and then became Oracle from issue 4 (Jeremy Bentham, a friend from the DWAS had told me about the forthcoming story ‘Underworld’ and so I nicked the name of the computer in that for my magazine before it was transmitted …). So I was writing pieces for the fanzine, fiction and articles on the Target Books. With another friend, Paul Simpson, we went and visited Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks and interviewed them … generally had a good time writing, editing, designing, printing and selling the fanzine … and learning all the skills you need to do all those things.
Pursuing a career in some way connected with the show was shot down in flames though. I always loved the behind the scenes stuff as I mentioned, and would have loved to have worked in the visual effects department at the BBC. But when I learned that you needed an art degree to even apply – and I had gone a science route as I could not do art to save my life! – I had to give up on that.
So my career ended up being in IT – and I am still an IT Consultant – but Doctor Who has been my constant friend and companion as my hobby … whether writing or publishing or editing.
So many people who were doing the same things that I was have gone on to be more involved in the series and it’s spin offs. Gary Russell was creating fanzines alongside me, and he’s working on the show, Rob Shearman came to some of my local Who meetings, Doctor Who Magazine has been edited by a succession of fellow fans, books have been written by fans … people hone their skills and creativity editing and writing for fanzines and this gives a good grounding to going on to do more professional endeavours as one thing leads to another.
I doubt I would be running Telos Publishing today if it hadn’t been for my love of Doctor Who, and running an independent publishing house is an extension of all that time and effort spent writing and publishing fanzines … so it all follows a similar path really.
Can you recall for us your first time writing? What age? Genre?
When did you publish your first story? What was it and is it available now for readers?
I have a copy of the first book I ever wrote. It’s called something like ‘Murders at the Grange’ and is an illustrated murder mystery that I penned while at junior school. LOL. After that, the first real writing was for my fanzine Oracle – I wrote a few short stories for that. And then when I started writing stuff for the DWAS Reference Department around 1978, I was penning detailed story synopses and things like that.
My first ever story was, as I mentioned, the one for junior school, and it’s not in print. The stories for Oracle are also not in print, but my partner, the horror writer Sam Stone, keeps telling me that I should collect all my fiction in a book and publish it …
In reviewing your writing/publishing career, you’ve been involved with the British Fantasy Society, and the World Fantasy Award, plus the Horror and Science Fiction genres aside from Doctor Who. Could you discuss for us what has inspired you as a writer, and fan of these genres?
What is it about these genres that most inspires you and why?
Well Doctor Who for me has always been horror. It’s certainly not Fantasy, and science fiction … well a bit. But it’s the monsters and the horror aspect that I like. And I like that generally as a genre as well. I love horror fiction and films … always have done. Alongside Who, I lapped up the old horror films on television, and everyone of an age recalls when BBC2 was showing the Horror double bills late night, with an old Universal black and white classic was shown with a more modern horror in colour – maybe a Hammer or something. That was the first time I got to see many of those films.
So taking that further, the British Fantasy Society – of which I am currently Chair – caters for the horror fan in me. There are lots of writers I have met through the BFS, and lots of people I have worked with on anthologies and have interviewed over the years … it’s a great community of the fantastique!
I love writing horror myself and have had a few stories published over the years, though I don’t get to write as often as I would like.
It’s the way you can play with the characters, and the lack of any limitations on what you can and cannot write which appeals to me. I have written a great deal over the years … from horror fiction to factual books, screenplays (both produced and unproduced), to novel proposals (part-written, and never completed or published) … I’ve never had the real breaks with my fiction that some other writers have had, and so many projects I’ve been involved with have crashed and burned before they happen … or people just haven’t been interested in talking to me or working with me … I keep trying though from time to time. For the last couple of years my IT work has kept me very busy and so time to do anything else has been impossible to find, but who knows what the next few years will bring.