Monday, October 14, 2019

Last Call for Unearthed!


Master Pieces is going into its final stages... and that means it's last call for Unearthed!

Our contributors were exceedingly kind in giving of their time and effort to raise funds for the American Research Center in Egypt. To that end, we will not be leaving Unearthed as part of our permanent library. Their stories may appear in other volumes at their discretion, so be sure to keep an eye on your favorite authors from the collection!

Funds so far (plus a little extra on top from us) have already been sent to the ARCE in anticipation of the end of sales. Anything further between now and the end of the run will be sent along as well. So if you've been on the fence, not only is your last chance to grab a copy on the horizon... your purchase will still go toward the charity!

We'll announce the exact date of final sales soon, but for now we can say we'll be closing them out about a week before Master Pieces goes on sale. It'll be announced big on social media so you can't miss it.

For now, get your last orders in!

Monday, September 30, 2019

MASTER PIECES: Cover Reveal!

With our next charity anthology just around the corner, we figured it was about time to reveal the masterpiece that will serve as the cover of our Master Pieces:


The cover was designed by Ginger Hoesly, who previously created covers for Seasons of War: Gallifrey and Unearthed (as well as an interior piece for the latter). She's also the co-creator of the book series Owl's Flower with our own Kara Dennison.

More information on Master Pieces, including ordering, will be forthcoming. In the meantime, keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter feeds for more news. And if you'd like some of Ginger's art for your own (including goods of the Doctor Who variety), check out her shop page!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

THE CHRONOSMITH CHRONICLES: Who Is Kendo?

Image result for anxious hands

It's time to come back around to the upcoming Chronosmith Chronicles and look at another of our returning characters, Kendo. First appearing in Seasons of War: Gallifrey, Kendo will join Savalia, Mordicai, and Tor Fasa in a completely new universe, saving the world their way... though what "their way" constitutes may take some figuring out between them.

Before starting her new life aboard the Hexachron, Kendo was a politician — not a particularly famous or highly regarded one, but one with big ideas and goals. Unfortunately, her eagerness to get her ideas heard was constantly at odds with her anxiety. On occasion this would simply mean she found it hard to speak her mind; at worst, she might make promises or plans beyond her capabilities, thinking it would help bolster her cause.

Kendo's life has been completely different to her cousin Savalia's. Where Savalia grew up in a small town with little to her name except tradition and work ethic, Kendo had a comfortable life in a big city. Nonetheless, she had both an understanding of and connection to Kendo's lifestyle, and much of her work in politics was devoted to tearing down misconceptions about the different classes of their world.

Surprisingly, especially to herself, Kendo often ends up being the diplomat of the Chronosmiths. She has neither the poise nor the exceptional abilities of Tor Fasa, but when in her element she excels at navigating dialogue with new people in new places. She tends to sell herself short on this point, especially when at her most high-strung, but the results show.

Amongst the group, Kendo is naturally most closely tied to Savalia, her one remaining family member. However, she has some degree of respect, and almost friendship, for Tor Fasa. In a different time she looked up to him because of his connections and the results his methods brought. Now that she is more aware of exactly what those methods are, she's slightly more hesitant to let herself be impressed by him. At the end of the day, the two are on a far more equal footing than she's ever likely to realize.

Stay tuned for more news about The Chronosmith Chronicles, its characters, and the writers who will be joining us for its first run!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

State of the Altrix: Our Master Pieces and Upcoming Adventures


It's time for a quick check-in behind the scenes! As ever, we appreciate the support, reviews, and contributions from our readers and writers.

First up, Master Pieces. We're currently getting one or two final pieces in place and edited. The cover has been drafted by Ginger Hoesly and is being finished up as we speak. We're looking forward to a cover reveal once it's done. From the line art alone, we can tell it's going to be a... well, you know.

Additionally, progress is being made behind the scenes on The Chronosmith Chronicles. A first draft of the first book by Paul Driscoll is done and about to enter editing mode, and the second book is well underway itself. The adventures of the Chronosmiths beyond their original dimension are already looking exciting!

Finally, don't forget we're editing one of the four upcoming essay anthologies from Watching Books! You Goes for the Remote will feature personal essays on British television throughout the decades. There are also books on British film, music, and books, if one of those catches your interest.

If you're looking for things to tide you over as you wait for Master Pieces:


  • Make sure to pick up your copy of Unearthed! And if you already have, we'd appreciate a review on GoodReads, Amazon, or your book review platform of choice. It helps get the word out!
  • Be sure to put in your pre-order for the Obverse Anniversary Sextet! The book series comes out next month and features new adventures from Iris Wildthyme, SeƱor 105, Faction Hollywood, and more, finished off with a new City of the Saved book by Kara Dennison!
  • Have a poke around Ginger's shop to pick up some of her work!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Remembering Terrance Dicks


As of this writing, we at Altrix Books received the news of the passing of Terrance Dicks literally moments ago. It's hard to say good-bye to any member of the Doctor Who family, but even more so for someone who has been so influential for so long.

Rather than issue a "statement" from Altrix, we'd each like to take a moment to give our own thoughts individually:

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It’s no exaggeration to say that Altrix books would not be here today if it wasn’t for Terrance Dicks, whose death today, for all of the many writers he has inspired, leaves a huge void in the Doctor Who universe. Together with Barry Letts, Dicks masterminded an incredible period of success for the show at a time when there had been talk of cancellation. This was the Doctor Who I grew up with in the seventies and Terrance Dicks was at the heart and soul of it.

My earliest memory of Doctor Who is being taken to see the stage show The Seven Keys to Doomsday, scripted by Dicks. I was enthralled by the spectacle of it all, mesmerised by the Daleks and the Clawrantulars, but above all gripped by an adventure story that I could understand and believe. I decided when we left the theatre that day to go home and make adventures of my own. I started drawing little comic books and making plasticine models, I fantasised about the off-limit areas in my town and beyond, such as the local dump or the boarded-up windmill, and I turned all kinds of household objects – from toothbrushes to an upturned rug – into props or even characters.

I wasn’t escaping, I was making sense of the world around me through story and imaginative play. I have Terrance Dicks to thank for that. His work on the show stood out more than most because it spoke my language. Robot is still to this day, one of my favourite episodes, complete with that immortal line “there’s no point being grown up, if you can’t be childish sometimes’.

But back then, I didn’t read the on-screen credits or theatre program. I only knew of Terrance’s name because of the Doctor Who section in my local library. There was an almost mystical quality about the early Targets, especially the ones with those strange old men on the cover, the Doctor with another face (something I was getting used to after Trevor Martin, on stage, and then Tom Baker, on screen, replaced my first Doctor, Jon Pertwee). I would flick through the lovely smelling books, trying to make of a story through the occasional illustrations and wishing I could read better.

Even before my first day at school, when I still couldn’t tie up my shoelaces and had no idea what a urinal was, I’d learnt to read. My Mother’s musty Enid Blyton and Richard Crompton books were among my first ‘by torchlight’ sleep (and nightmare) avoiding therapies, but it was those Doctor Who novels that I really wanted to bring home and read under the pillow. Thanks to the library card, I very quickly learnt that I would probably enjoy a Doctor Who book that little bit more if it was written by Terrance Dicks. It was also a bonus that I could get through his ones so much quicker. I looked forward to each new adaptation, but none more so than a Terrance Dicks. It didn’t matter whether or not I liked the adventure he was novelising. Dicks could bring to life the most dismal of stories.

My love of reading and of writing is in large part down to Terrance. His written voice was so distinctive, that even though I’d never heard him speak, it was almost as if he was part of the family – Uncle Terrance, as he became affectionately known. In my teenage years, I finally got to hear and see Terrance speak about Doctor Who and his work and I wasn’t disappointed. His unbounded enthusiasm, that childlike glint in his eye as he told all kinds of engaging tales, real and invented, and that absolute commitment to the Doctor as a hero for our times, all turned the legend maker into something of a legend himself.

One of the many characters Terrance had a hand in creating was the Doctor’s nemesis, the Master, and I’m sure I echo all the authors involved in our next anthology, Master Pieces, in saying that I hope our book will be seen as a fitting tribute. Indeed, one of Terrance’s brilliant lines lies at the heart of the book: “the cosmos without the Doctor scarcely bears thinking about (The Five Doctors).” The mortality of our real-world heroes, especially those we grew up with is, similarly, a hard thing to contemplate. Terrance Dicks will be sorely missed, but he will never be forgotten.

Paul.

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When I was younger, whether or not you could grow up with Doctor Who in America was solely a function of whether your local PBS station cared to run it. If you didn't discover it as a child, you discovered it as an adult from existing fans with episodes taped off PBS. If you wanted to learn more about the people who worked on the show, there was no Google or Wikipedia or DVD extras; you went to Myth Makers videos with soft-edged cases, or to your friends who brought you the taped episodes.

Terrance Dicks was always a name floating in the background of all the Doctor Who I encountered. The names of all of the writers and editors — Terry Nation, Pip and Jane Baker, even people as recent and accessible as Andrew Cartmel — were passed around among older fans at sci-fi conventions as I scrambled to discover who was who and why each got talked about as much as they did.

For others discovering Doctor Who stateside, he was a much more constant companion. At least one friend has noted that he discovered the series solely through the Target novelisations, as there was a time when it was easier to find those in the U.S. than a PBS station running episodes. I received a stack of those books myself when a friend was cleaning house, marking the first time I was hyper-aware of Terrance's name.

Not having had the opportunity to grow up with Doctor Who, a lot of Terrance's effect on my life, career, and fandom is in retrospect. He was responsible, in whole or in part, for concepts so deeply woven into the series as to become inextricable: Time Lords, the planet that would eventually become known as Gallifrey, the Sisterhood of Karn, and — of course — the Master. Hundreds of us are realizing today just how much of a hand he had in the series we love, even those of us who already knew him as a towering influence within it. As Paul mentioned, Altrix would not exist if it weren't for his creations... not only because he kept the show alive, but also because so much of what he injected into the series became the keystone for the show's 50th anniversary (and, by default, our flagship book).

It's very telling when, while outlining someone's work, it's quicker to say what they didn't contribute to than what they did. There's a reason Terrance's name has always floated in the background of Doctor Who: it's literally always been there. From his work on Patrick Troughton's season to his non-fiction and Big Finish contributions, he's one of a very few threads that extends almost entirely from one end of the Whoniverse tapestry to the current raw edge.

In my various lines of work, I've gotten to hear industry people talk openly about other industry people. Terrance was one of the golden few who never got a "Yeah, but" from anyone who spoke about him. Even jokes about him were knowing and affectionate. Everyone either knew him or knew of him, and mention of his name evolved into story time.

Today's social media is sad, but also enlightening. Fans are going through their bookshelves to find their favorite bits of writing from Terrance, be it a book in general or a specific line. I've seen more than one photo of a family warming up their copy of "The Five Doctors" for the evening. It's a beautiful things to see, and truly the best way to remember just how much of an impact he had on Doctor Who. It's a show that's an ever-growing network of contributions, but the stories he built will always be a strong through-line.

My thoughts tonight are with those who knew him. Thank you for sharing your stories and for helping the world remember him fondly.

Kara.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Master Pieces - Building the Jigsaw



Over the last few months I’ve been putting together a collection of short stories starring the various incarnations of Doctor Who’s arch-enemy, the Master. This is the first fiction anthology I’ve edited and I’ve enjoyed the new challenge immensely. It’s been a big learning curve, made easier by having a wonderfully talented and generous bunch of authors on board, who have been a pleasure to work with.


Some of you will know that the project began in 2016, under the excellent stewardship of Scott Claringbold of Red Ted Books. When the baton was passed on to me, I already had around twelve accepted stories, approved but waiting to be edited. There were very few restrictions in place, with the collection pitched as being open and diverse. The story must star the Master, either an existing incarnation or one of the author’s own making, and to make Master Pieces stand out from other Doctor Who collections, writers were told that the Doctor was not to feature as an active character. That was as far as it got at that stage – no overriding arc, no continuity links between stories, and no methodology on how the collection would be structured. This wasn’t an act of laziness – the idea was to allow for as much freedom as possible and see what came out of it.


The first job was to put out a new call for stories to fill in the gaps. I wanted to make sure that all the televised Masters had equal billing, and so individual authors were approached with specific Masters in mind. The response was fantastic, humbling and heart-warming given that authors were writing for free, with all proceeds going to The Stroke Association. We were able to increase the roster of writers to 20.


There had been some early talk about a connecting group of flash-fiction stories, scattered between the more substantial ones, all supplied by one of our fine writers, and these would have been fantastic. I decided, however, against this approach because it allowed us to include many more authors than originally envisaged. Pleasingly, that work has not gone to waste and will be appearing in other forms. A couple of unused pitches were also revisited and the writers in question rose to the challenge and turned their initial ideas into terrific stories.


Deciding on an opening story was straightforward and allowed for a logical and simple ‘in order of the incarnation’s appearance’ structure, notwithstanding the fact that some of our Masters are either from alternative dimensions or new creations who could, in theory, be slotted in anywhere. Chris McKeon’s opener also sets up rather neatly the conceit of the Doctor’s absence throughout the book. That absence provided the basis for the final story in the collection, which serves as both a bookend and a way into any potential sequel. 


What is fascinating is how hard it is to write about the Master without the Doctor. This should be of no surprise, given that the character was rooted in the idea of the Doctor having an arch-enemy from his own race. He is, as if often cited, the Moriarty of Doctor Who. But if Sherlock’s nemesis can gain his own billing, thanks to the genius of Anthony Horowitz, then why not the Master, too?


When I was researching the character for Obverse Books’ Black Archive on the 1992 TV Movie, Doctor Who, I came across an excellent piece in an old Doctor Who Magazine by Lance Parkin. He notes how the character became a generic evil guy – the go-to of Doctor Who villains. Making sure that our collection added light and shade to the Master was an important consideration when it came to selecting and editing the stories. The very concept of Master Pieces was an excellent opportunity to explore the character beyond the lazy stereotypes. 

You’ll find in the book stories that explore the nature of good and evil and question the reasons for the Master’s villainy and indeed the Doctor’s, perhaps unwitting, role in all of that. At the same time, I’ve avoided overly retconning the facts as we know them, and hopefully the unmistakable voices of all the TV incarnations all leap from the page. He and she is the same character we love to hate, or hate to love. The collection reflects the variety of its parent show. There’s black humour, the surreal, alternative universes, bases under siege, swashbuckling adventures, heists, horror, space opera, political intrigue, even a touch of romance.


One night, when I was waiting for a couple of new entries, I did a very rudimentary statistical analysis of the stories we had in, partly out of curiosity, but also to ensure we had the balance right. Here’s what I found:


  • 9 stories discuss or feature the Master’s use of hypnosis.
  • 8 stories discuss or feature the Tissue Compression Eliminator.
  • 13 stories include the phrase “I am the Master” and 7 of these use the catchphrase “I am the Master, and you will obey me,” or a variation thereof.
  • In 11 stories the Master assumes a false identity, but only in one of these does he wear a disguise (in another 2 he discusses his love for dressing-up).
  • 9 stories mention or feature Gallifrey.
  • 1 story features the Daleks and 6 others name-check them.
  • 1 story features the Cybermen and 3 others name-check them.
  • 1 story features the Rani, who gets a name-check in one other.
  • 7 stories do not mention the Doctor by name. In total there are 203 uses of the word Doctor (a couple of these in reference to another doctor).
  • 2 stories do not mention the Master by name (one of which is a Missy story). The word Master as a title is used 678 times in total.

We are planning to publish this Autumn, so keep checking the Altrix Books social media accounts for news, including the cover reveal, the full roster of writers, and ordering information. In the meantime, we have been releasing teasers for each of the stories on our Facebook and Twitter pages.


I hope you enjoy reading these misadventures as much as I have editing them.

Paul.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Beyond the Altrix: Digital Monsters and Scary Stories!

Have you been enjoying our look behind the scenes at the stories of Master Pieces? There are a few more to come so keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter accounts! In the meantime, we'd like to bring your attention to a couple of things you may enjoy from our contributors:


Firstly, if there's an anime fan in your family (and there probably is!), don't forget that this is your last day to order Gokigen na Chou! The Digimon anniversary zine features art by 44 artists, including our cover artist Ginger Hoesly. There's also an art piece by her in the zine itself.

You can select from a variety of bundles that include prints and other goodies along with the zine. It's a great gift for a family member or friend who grew up with the show; but after today, it will not be available for sale!



Secondly, our friends over at 18th Wall have released their latest anthology, Sockhopes & Seances. The book features a collection of spooky stories set in the 1950s, including works by our co-founder Kara Dennison, Unearthed artist Sophie Iles, and Spragg Memorial Competition winner Joshua Wanisko. Books are available in print or digital formats.


You can still pick up a copy of Unearthed in our shop, too — and keep an eye out for more this year!