Thursday, 20 October 2016

A Time Lord For Change

An exciting adventure with drabbles
All the anticipation for "A Time Lord For Change" is getting terribly exciting! It must be about two years now since I heard that actor, writer and all-round good egg Cliff Chapman​ was putting together a book with one drabble (100-word short story) for every single televised episode of Doctor Who.

In 2014, Cliff and I both spent a fair amount of time posting drabbles on, a flash-fiction site, so I was keen to be involved. I got in early, bagged Caves of Androzani and Survival (as the two stories I'd seen most recently), and retired to the pub with my pen and a notebook.

It goes without saying that 100 words is not a lot. By the time I'd had two pints, I'd written what I thought were two extremely short scenes, only to find out when I typed them up later that they were both almost double the required length. Editing drabbles is an exercise in wild ruthlessness, where you find yourself having to prune away not just the fluff, but genuinely good stuff, in an attempt to reach the bare bones of your story.

When I first read over my two edited drabbles, I wept for lost gags and description. Then the second time, I chuckled at both of them. So I submitted them to Cliff, along with a bio, and waited.

And waited.

I 'm used to small press books taking a while to come out. Three years is my record, for a FW book, and not one I'm particularly happy about. It's almost always the cover that's to blame. But in this case the delay was down to... mission creep. The list of authors grew ever more world-class. As if condensing 50 years of TV into 100 word chunks wasn't ambitious enough, Cliff expanded the brief to take in many of the spin-off media. He found the perfect publisher, Chinbeard Books. And then the celebs began to show up.

Andrew Cartmel, Sylvester McCoy's script editor. Terry Molloy, aka 80s Davros. I approached my friend Jane Sherwin, who memorably played Lady Jennifer Buckingham in The War Games in 1969. Finally, Colin Baker, the 6th Doctor himself, was announced as participating. I don't know how Cliff pulled off some of these contributions. I don't know how many drabbles there are in the finished book. Really, I don't know much at all, except that Cliff masterminded an insane logistical exercise, pulling together many dozens of writers, and hundreds of stories, in what must surely be the most ambitious Doctor Who short story collection of all time.

It's been a long road to publication, and there have even been surprises this year, such as Jo Grant / Iris Wildthyme actress Katy Manning joining the fold. In a year when we've had no televised Doctor Who to keep us out of mischief, I think A Time Lord For Change is going to raise an awful lot of money for charity, and I'm incredibly proud to have played my own small part in it.

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