Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Shadow of the Gallifreyan - Extended Deadlines

 


Over the last few weeks we have been reserving story slots for our next Doctor Who charity anthology - The Shadow of the Gallifreyan (in aid of Shelter). We have been delighted by the response so far. Some writers have even sent in completed first drafts, and others have come up with some truly outstanding and original pitches for their chosen stories.

Although we will not be editing submissions until early in the new year, anyone who contacted us before the 30th September deadline should have heard back from us by now. Do get in touch if you think we've missed something from you.

There are still a number of slots to fill, so we are extending the deadline for reserving stories to 31st October. Importantly, we'd like to see a brief proposal for each story before we can give the final green light.

The list of stories that have already been taken and are therefore no longer available is here - list of reserved stories

Initially we limited story reservations to three per writer, but we are now giving you the opportunity to write up to four pieces. If you have already reserved your three stories and would like to pitch for another please do!

For more details about the anthology and what we are looking for see our updated announcement here

The most popular Doctors so far have been the seventh and the twelfth Doctors, but although some of the others are lagging behind we've had a fairly balanced mix of pitches from across every era of the series. 

In order to allow more time for pitches to come in, we are also extending the deadline for first drafts from all writers to the 1st March 2022.

Paul and Kara.



Friday, September 10, 2021

Master Switches: Further Misadventures in Space and Time

 


Altrix Books is delighted to announce the release of Master Switches - an unofficial Doctor Who anthology in aid of The Stroke Association.

After a series of adventures without the Doctor (Master Pieces), the many incarnations of the Master are back to doing what they do best; scheming to bring down their greatest adversary. The proverbial thorn in the side has made a hobby out of thwarting the Master's plans for universal domination. But even the Doctor can't always be the hero, the victor, and the star. Sometimes, the Master must take the Doctor's place...

Featuring stories by Jon Arnold, Andrew Blair, Kara Dennison, Paul Driscoll, Kenton Hall, Stephen Hatcher, Paul Hiscock, Matthew Kresal, Gary J Mack, Greg Maughan, Iain McLaughlin, Ellen Montgomery, Nathan Mullins, Gerard Power, Rachel Redhead, Graham Tedesco-Blair and Joshua Wanisko. Cover illustration and design by Ginger Hoesly. 

The book is available to buy now for a limited time in various Amazon regions, including the UK and the USA



Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Shadow of the Gallifreyan - Call for Pitches

 


This flash fiction 2022 charity anthology edited by Kara Dennison and Paul Driscoll considers the after-effects of the Doctor’s presence in a televised adventure. The things they leave behind, physically and emotionally. It’s the ‘what happened next’ as told from the perspective of some of the individuals who encountered them. The title is inspired by the German theologian Gerd Thiessen’s The Shadow of the Galilean (and is not intended as a loaded comment on the Doctor’s origins).

We are looking for flash fiction of between 500 - 1000 words told by a supporting character to cover every televised Doctor Who story. They can be minor or major characters (as long as they have a spoken role and name), human or alien, hero or villain, but no companions or series regulars.

Your character is the narrator of the piece, whether you write it as an action scene or piece of reflective speech. The best contributions will be those that best capture the individual voice of the speaker. We will accept multiple genres, from poetry as consciously written by the character, to letters, journal entries and straightforward story-telling.

We want to know what impact the Doctor had, in terms of their actions, their decisions, their words, and their character. We don’t want a book that becomes a gushing eulogy, so those experiences and judgements might be negative as well as positive, or more likely a little bit of both. Although these are the experiences of those whose lives were altered in some way by the Doctor, the focus must end up on the Doctor, hence the title of the collection.

You can pick a ‘good guy’, a ‘bad guy’, or a neutral character. Their perspective and ‘side’ might have changed from what was seen on screen. No series regulars, including any of the Doctors should be active figures in your story. This is about what happens after they have left – whether that be the immediate aftermath, or sometime in the future, from days to years.

As an unofficial charity anthology, this work is not meant to be considered as canon in the strictest definition of the term, meaning that you do not need to worry about presenting a consistent timeline to that which might be featured in official spin-offs such as BBC novels or Big Finish audios. Be creative and don’t feel limited by existing stories.

There will likely be two volumes to cover 1963-1996 and 2005-present.

You can reserve up to four (UPDATED) stories in total. We just need the name of the story you are planning to cover and the character you would like to use. Slots will usually be reserved on a first come - first served basis, but the final green light will come following receipt of an acceptable synopsis (which can be just a few lines). 

We will be raising money for the UK homelessness charity, Shelter. We hope that some of the stories might show a character who has experienced similar social and economic challenges to those faced by the people the charity support, but it is of course by no means a requirement.

FOR A LIST OF STORIES NO LONGER AVAILABLE PLEASE CLICK HERE

DEADLINE FOR RESERVING STORIES (UPDATED): 31st October 2021.

DEADLINE FOR STORY SYNOPSES (NEW): 31st October 2021.

DEADLINE FOR SUBMITTING YOUR WORK (UPDATED): 1st March 2022.

E-Mail for reservations, pitches and story submissions: altrixbooks@virginmedia.com.


Friday, August 13, 2021

Master Switches - full line up.

We are now in a position to announce the full line-up of stories in Master Switches. Unlike our previous collection, the Doctor is back for this one, only not as you might expect. This is the Master’s chance to shine at their old adversary’s expense. You’ll read some re-imaginings of old adventures, new combinations of Masters and Doctors, and stories where the Master gains the upper hand or perhaps even the moral high ground. Edited by Paul Driscoll and with cover art by Ginger Hoesly, the anthology is in support of The Stroke Association and is due for release this August.

  • THE MANY FACES OF WENG-CHIANG Joshua Wanisko
  • TIME SIGNATURE Andrew Blair
  • YOUR NEW WEBMASTER Paul Driscoll
  • THE ONE PLACE Kara Dennison
  • MERLIN’S DRAGON Stephen Hatcher
  • A MOST PECULIAR INFECTION Graham Tedesco-Blair
  • THE EMPRESS OF KOLKATA Rachel Redhead
  • THE THIRD KNOCK Kenton Hall
  • MASTER BRIGHTSIDE Gerard Power
  • THE BATTLEMENTS Jon Arnold
  • RE-GENESIS OF THE DALEKS Iain McLaughlin
  • THE GENOAI TANGO Ellen Montgomery
  • THE DEADLY ALLIANCE Nathan Mullins
  • THE SLAVES OF MISSY Gary Mack
  • PEACEMAKER Paul Hiscock
  • A DIPLOMATIC SOLUTION Matthew Kresal
  • NIGHT OF THE GLARING Greg Maughan

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Paul Driscoll


The editor of Master Switches, Paul Driscoll, takes us behind the scenes on the making of the collection and gives the inside track on his own story 'Your New Webmaster'.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Based in Leigh, Greater Manchester, I’m the editor of Master Pieces and Master Switches. Alongside running Altrix Books with Kara, I am one of the editors of Obverse Books’ Black Archive range. I’ve written several fiction and non-fiction works for various publishers, many of them set in the Doctor Who universe or one of its spin-off worlds.

Why did you want to organise a follow-up to Master Pieces?

To raise even more funds for The Stroke Association and to give our writers the chance to include the Doctor in a new Master focused story. One of the stipulations of the first collection was that the Doctor was mostly absent. I wanted to read and write stories where the old sparring partners were back in action together, but ones in which the usual rules of engagement were shaken up. I was also conscience that many gifted writers missed out on the chance to pitch for the first book.

How did you decide with Master/Doctor combo to run with?

I waited to see what was left after all the pitches had come in and been selected. While the Masters were well covered, we were short of ideas for Ninth Doctor stories – the one that we had accepted was superb, but sadly the writer had to pull out. I think, continuity-wise, this was one of the least obvious Doctors to pick since his whole persona is largely based on his identity as the last of the Time-Lords. For the Master, the idea of the suave and sophisticated Roger Delgado walking onto the Powell Estate was a hard one to resist.

Can you describe your story in a nutshell?

Jackie Tyler’s search for Rose leads her to the doorstep of Caroline Finch and an unlikely partnership with the grieving widow’s enigmatic therapist, Doctor Magister.

How did you find the writing process?

The story originally centred around Mickey Smith (the clue’s in the title which I haven’t changed), but after recent revelations concerning Noel Clarke, I felt that it would be unwise and insensitive to publish it at this time, which is not meant as a comment on the actor’s guilt or otherwise. The theme of the story just made it impossible to keep in the anthology. So it required a substantial rewrite or a replacement with another story. I didn’t want to lose the story and, hopefully, found a way of making it better than the original by switching Mickey’s role in the story with Jackie. It was a bit of a headache and a moral dilemma, but I think I made the right call. The worst part was losing some good jokes about bins and some social commentary on racism, but writing for Jackie instead was a lovely thing.

What aspect of your story are you most proud of?

Capturing the voices of the key players and the spirit of Doctor Who in 2005. Writing with someone else’s toys always feels like a huge responsibility, and I like to think I’ve done justice to Russell T Davies’ marvellous characters.

Do you have a favourite line from your story?

Not one involving the Master, surprisingly. I think it has to be this little exchange after a scene set in Mickey’s abandoned yellow beetle:

‘You were joking before, weren’t you?’ said Rose, following the Doctor down an alleyway back to the TARDIS.

‘Joking?’

‘About the yellow car?’

‘Bessie? Of course, not.’

‘You had a yellow car and you named it Bessie? Yeah – sure you did, Doctor. Blue is much more your colour.’


Monday, August 9, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Kara Dennison

 


In our penultimate Master Switches interview, Altrix co-founder Kara Dennison takes us to "The One Place" both the Doctor and the Master are trying not to go...


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

I've got one foot in journalism and the other in fiction, and it's a bit weird. There's one half of my life's Venn Diagram that knows me for my work at Crunchyroll, Otaku USA, and Sci-Fi Magazine. There's another half that's familiar with my fiction and essays. So I ride this line of way too much anime knowledge and very odd choices in story themes.

Oh, and I'm co-owner of Altrix. I feel like that might be important.


What made you want to write a story for Master Switches?

I'm always a fan of examining the dichotomy of the Doctor and the Master, for one. For two, Master Pieces was a lot of fun to work on, and the brief for this one was even cooler — the Doctor inadvertently helping the Master. Of course, I'll always work with Paul whenever he asks.


How would you describe your story in a nutshell?

The Master spent a lot of time on the hunt for more lives, and "The One Place" sees him encountering the Doctor right at a time when the two of them have that looming mortality in common. The TVM Master (the "Bruce" Master?) lures the Eleventh Doctor to an experimental spaceship where there was a serum in development that could potentially refresh their regeneration cycles.


What made you decide which Master and Doctor combo to go with?

I've always been interested in the Doctor and Master's common ground. At their best, they both complement and conflict with each other. So I wanted to find another of those links. The Eleventh Doctor is, as far as he knows, at the end of his rope life-wise. Putting him opposite the TVM Master was an interesting prospect, since they're both in a similar position but approaching it differently. I also wanted to see what I could do with this Master and if I could make him sufficiently threatening — I'll leave that to the readers to decide.


How did you find the writing process?

I've only written for the Eleventh Doctor once before, in Ginger Hoesly's fanzine A Pile of Good Things, so I'm not as used to him as others. And I'd never written for Eric Roberts's Master before. It was a challenge, but they're both characters you can get a rhythm down for eventually — especially the Doctor. Once you can imagine Matt Smith going off on a verbal marathon, you just follow along as best you can.


Which aspects of your story are you most proud of?

I think I achieved what I was going for: this examination of the similarities between the Doctor and the Master, which they alternately do and don't want to acknowledge. I've also managed to wedge a Die Hard reference in, which seems right and proper for this Master.


What’s your favourite line from your story?

My actual favorite line is too wrapped up in the ending to isolate. An alternate one I like is the Master having had about enough of the Doctor bragging about his TARDIS: “Yeah, yeah, I know. Your girlfriend’s SO great.”

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Gerard Power


Gerard Power, author of the Master Switches story 'Master Brightside' talks to Altrix Books about the roots behind his killer idea... 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My tendency is to write macabrely surreal sci-fi, from what I must grudgingly describe as an Irish Catholic perspective. Someone I briefly spoke to at a house party circa 2012 recommended I watch something called ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, unwittingly derailing my life from whatever God intended it to be. Since then I've been trapped in Doctor Who's gravity-well, and more recently gotten sucked into the redoubtable fan-to-writer pipeline: my first professionally published short story can be found in last year's Cwej: Down the Middle, and I've since written a novella for the hopefully forthcoming Cwej: Hidden Truths. Both involve cannibalism, strange skies, and the vexations of waking up in a human body on a planet you don't quite understand.

What made you want to write for Master Switches?

What clinched it for me was the guideline that the Doctor must somehow contribute, through action or inaction, to the Master's evil. This seemed like the kind of sweeping, overarching context that would give the collection a heft and scope which you might not get when, say, publishing a story as a stand-alone fanfic. A great deal of Doctor Who's appeal for me lies in those lucky half-accidents where different stories synchronise and resonate as they touch upon similar concepts, so I'm very much looking forward to seeing what the other writers have done with the same brief.

How did you decide which Master/Doctor combo to run with?

The kernel of the idea, which I'd had at the back of my mind for some years, came from watching the video of ‘Mr Brightside’ (The Killers), in which Eric Roberts plays a fabulously oleaginous arch-villain draped in Edenic imagery, a manipulative master of his own little self-contained universe, and thinking ‘hang on, this is a Doctor Who minisode’. It was only after I read the Master Switches guidelines that this tongue-in-cheek counter-reading began to crystallise into something resembling a plot. The guidelines encouraged mixing eras, so the Eighth Doctor was out, and the War Doctor seemed the most rational way into the Master's harmonious predicament. It also struck me that Roberts's life-lusting performance would make for an interesting contrast with Hurt's dutiful weariness.

Can you describe your story in a nutshell?

It's a take on an implied but untold event: just how did the Time Lords retrieve the Master from the Eye of Harmony? How might he have entertained himself during the long years he spent trapped in there? And might it, perhaps, have looked a bit like a music video from 2004?

How did you find the writing process?

My main memory is of poring endlessly over the ‘Mr Brightside’ video for research, squinting at freeze-frames as I attempted to catalogue the somewhat abstract geography and populace of its Moulin Rouge purgatory. I like that song, but it will be a very long time before I can listen to it again. Because of my slightly amorphous grasp on deadlines, however, I ended up doing most of the actual writing over one caffeinated weekend. As someone who's more comfortable writing glacially and revising forever, I hope this has given the story a chaotic, freewheeling energy appropriate to the subject-matter.

Which aspect(s) of your story are you most proud of?

I'd have to say the tone. The stories I enjoy best are often those that anchor outlandish, even baffling scenarios with solid, down-to-earth character work: stories that initially seem like pranks, that make you think “how does this even exist?”, but which somehow have you riveted by the second page. The more ridiculous the concept, the bigger the reward when it makes you care. This kind of earnest absurdism is a delicate balance, but hopefully I've managed to pull it off.

What is your favourite line from the story?

‘Paramedic, treat thyself.’

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Jon Arnold

In the latest in our series of Master Switches author interviews, Jon Arnold gives us the lowdown on his poignant two-hander Time War story 'The Battlements'.,,

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

By day a humble civil servant, by night a masked vigilante author, mainly for the Black Archive range but frankly also for anyone who'll take me. I was fried by a dragon once, but got better.

What made you want to write a story for Master Switches?

The chance to remix Doctor Who’s rich history – why should the same Doctors and Masters always be paired off bar the limiting factor of availability of actors? That’s the beauty of prose and comics – your playground becomes limited only by your imagination. It’s not rewriting history, but it’s a chance to at least have fun remixing it and see the chemistry

How would you describe your story in a nutshell?

It’s loosely inspired by the Game of Thrones episode A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms - a character piece with the Doctor meeting the Master on the eve of the Time War – well, as much as Time Wars could be said to have an eve!

What made you decide which Master and Doctor combo to go with?

At the time I pitched it, it was a little odd that this combination of Doctor and Master hadn’t met, so I wanted to see how they sparked off each other. Big Finish have announced a box set with them since, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they’ve imagined it.

How did you find the writing process?

Given this was written with the pandemic as backdrop, slower and stranger than usual – I could relate to Steven Moffat’s guilt at having all the time in the world but little headspace with what’s going on around us. The real key was working out why such a relatively quiet story might matter, and hopefully I’ve come up with a satisfying reason.

What aspect of your story are you most proud of?

I like to think it’s capturing the voices of this particular Master and Doctor, finding why they’re still friends and where they’re similar despite some profound philosophical differences.

What’s your favourite line from the story?

‘All that power over time and you still couldn’t stop night falling.’ As a summary of the impotence of even the Time Lords. And the last line, which might indicate the Master scores a kind of small victory…

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Ellen Montgomery

Image (c) 2021 BBC.

Altrix Books talks to Ellen Montgomery, whose Master Switches story 'The Genoai Tango' introduces us to a whole new incarnation of the Master...

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Ellen Montgomery and I'm a Dutch/Scottish American from Detroit, Michigan, USA. I write a lot of fan fiction for varying age groups and plan on releasing my own original fiction series in the future. I'm a trained screenwriter and have been writing short/long-form fiction stories for longer than I care to admit. After a couple of aborted attempts to get into the show, I first got into Doctor Who in 2010, as I didn't have reruns of the Classic seasons on television growing up and my interest didn't fully catch until series five. Since then I've done a lot of backlog bingeing, timeline sussing, and fic concocting.

What made you want to write for Master Switches?

Not only is the book for a good cause, I'm a bit self-conscious (or self-aware? Both? Neither? Who knows) that the only way I'll likely get to write for Doctor Who as an American is via fan projects including, but not limited to, ones such as this. An international cluster of fans pooling their talents to raise money for charity just checks solidly. As an added bonus, it was a very fun and interesting exercise, thinking about the Doctor needing to team up with the Master on something, and it's one of those sorts of things that when executed correctly, it works really, reallyreally well.

How did you decide which Doctor and Master combination to go with?

It was natural for me to write the Twelfth Doctor - I tend to write him a lot in other works. Peter Capaldi's acting chops are heavy-duty and he brings so much depth to the character that he essentially is the Doctor. The Master in question is a little more complicated: born of my like of alternate universe interpretations and the desire to see how an alternate Master – who has none of the history with our Doctor that we've seen from Delgado to Dhawan – would react to someone like Twelve who is not having any of the haughty-god-like disregard for life. A decent Master is the opposite of the Doctor they play against, but a great Master-Doctor combo is one being the antithesis of the other, and sometimes that involves some disturbing similarities. It's the "how did you and I have the same upbringing but we're so different" idea, though showing that these differences are often just on the surface. Deep down, these characters are brothers to the end, no matter what they look like or how they present themselves or what's happened in the meantime. Plus, this Master is a bit more hard-nosed and practical than we're used to seeing, and how interesting a flip is that for a character who is increasingly unhinged with each consecutive casting? Very, to me at least.

In a nutshell, what is your story about?

An alternate-universe version of the Master running into a mainline Doctor, finding that the universe doesn't always churn the same person out… well... the same.

How did you find the writing process?

In this particular story? A little more difficult than normal. I signed on just before the COVID-19 pandemic kicked into high gear and let me tell you that I'm pretty envious of people who were able to start a ton of pandemic projects and finish them all. There was a lot of staring and typing two words and trying to distract myself from overthinking and brain-stalling. Most of the time I sit down and just write until it's done if it's a short story (not a method I generally recommend), but not this time. I never stopped working my job(s) in-person, so it's safe to say that the stress was taking its toll. I'm so glad I put in with this project though--it served as a good distraction in of itself.

What aspect of your story are you most proud of?

That I finished. Ha! But in all seriousness, I am proud of the fact I was able to get in an original Master and still have a Master-y feel. I'm used to the Master being absolutely bonkers and wacky and positively mental that getting to pare the character down to some form of semi-calm only possible pre-Delgado is kind of neat. It also suggests that in many instances, the roles of the Master and the Doctor can be reversed, with the latter being the loose cannon of ambiguous morality instead while still not making it to Valeyard stage; the fact the Doctor is always roughly two shades from Master and five shades from Valeyard at all times is something that can never be reiterated enough.

What's your favourite line from your story?

‘He is sickly,’ the Master interrupted. ‘My brother’s pallor has long been an issue since we were small.’

‘Koschei,’ the Doctor hissed. His ire made the Master smirk thinly.

These two lines right here radiate such strong Sibling Energy that... well... I can see this exchange happening between almost any Doctor-Master team. Plus it gives nothing about the story away.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Graham Tedesco-Blair


In the latest in our series of interviews with the authors of Master Switches, we talk to Graham Tedesco-Blair about his epic story 'A Most Peculiar Infection.'

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Graham Tedesco-Blair, and I've been a student of economics, philosophy, and literature for many years now. I've published stories with Altrix and Obverse, and I blog very occasionally at LiteralMachines.com.

What made you want to write a story for Master Switches?

It was a lovely concept, mashing up the ‘wrong’ Masters with the ‘wrong’ Doctors. There are so many wonderful and awful possibilities that simply could not happen due to the limitations of the real world, but which, on the page, we are free to explore.

How would you describe your story in a nutshell?

It's my favourite kind of horror story, the sort where the end is inevitable due to the nature of the heroes, but they haven't recognised that yet. Stopping the oncoming doom would require them to do precisely what they don't want to, admit what they don't want to admit, and come to terms with the full implications of what they are and what it means.

I realise, of course, that this tells you exactly zero about what's in the story, but I hope it's tempting enough that you'll give it a try anyways.

How did you decide which Master and Doctor combo to go with?

Delgado's Master and Tennant's tenth Doctor are two of the most theatrical and dramatic versions of those characters. Both are prone to very ‘big’ gestures, with all the drama and tears that come alongside those types of things. There's a sort of amused cruelty that Delgado embodied that I think plays very well off of Tennant's confidence and enthusiasm.

How did you find the writing process?

Oh, goodness. So much research! The problem when you're writing a ‘big’ story that happens over so long a time period is that you have to check every little thing. You don't want to be wrong or say something embarrassingly inaccurate. At the same time, the temptation to dig deeper and deeper, to haul out ever greater details and Easter eggs that don't really contribute to the story but might add to the atmosphere… you could theoretically go on forever. There's so much you have to leave out when trying to just get a brief snapshot of an idea this big. It's such a tricky balance alongside making sure that the central plot and idea don't get lost in the mix.

Which aspect(s) of your story are you most proud of?

I quite liked tracing the thread of an historical idea and following it through to its logical conclusion. There's a quote from John Maynard Keynes that I think about a lot. It's the conclusion of The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1935): “[T]he ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. [...] But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.”

Ideas are bizarre things. I recall speaking with a very rational friend about minimum wages. He was convinced that there was no way they could be helpful, and they merely upset the balance of economies. Unfortunately for him, the minimum wage is one of the most studied and analysed subjects in all of economics, and basically all of them conclude that a minimum wage is better for society. And you'd think, given that he's such a rational guy, he would accept the results of study after study after study. But he wouldn't. He kept insisting that they must be bad. And he was exactly the sort of guy to tell you that he only likes science, isn't influenced by any ideology, and bases his ideas on facts, not opinions. It's been eighty-six years since Keynes wrote that, and we're still on it. It'd be nice if more folks would do a genealogy of their ideas, not necessarily to condemn or find fault with them, but simply to understand why they think the way they do.

There's another quote from Keynes that has stuck with me, from A Tract of Monetary Reform: “But this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.”

Between those two quotes, you have the genesis of my story.

What’s your favourite line from your story?

“The entity knew Number needed to go up.”

It's probably meaningless without context, but I think it accurately describes a particular situation in the world today that's at the root of most of our problems.


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Andrew Blair


We talk to Master Switches writer Andrew Blair, whose story 'Time Signature' takes us inside the twisted workings of the Simm Master's mind...

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I‘m a writer and performer based in Edinburgh, mainly writing poetry, and I’ve also contributed Doctor Who articles to Den of Geek. I’ve had some fan fiction published in the first Time Shadows anthology, and last year I had a pamphlet of poems out with Speculative Books where every poem is about a version of Robert Pattinson.

What made you want to write a story for Master Switches?

I was starting to get back into writing after my son was born, and this was an anthology where I formed an idea for a story pretty quickly, so I made a pitch knowing that a deadline would help me.

How would you describe your story in a nutshell?

I wanted to explore how the Master comes up with his evil schemes, and bring together the epic and ridiculous aspects of that.

What made you decide which Master and Doctor combo to go with?

My initial pitch involved the Sacha Dhawan incarnation and we couldn’t use that, so I talked to Paul about which incarnations had fewer stories in the anthology and who I’d like to write for.

How did you find the writing process?.

Fun. The Simm Master especially is big and sassy and gleeful so you can lean into that and be bold. It gets you into the headspace of ‘I might never write another Doctor Who story so I might as well act as if I own the entire franchise’.

The brief did present some challenges which I overcame by saying ‘Sorry, this doesn’t really fit the brief, is that okay?’

What aspect of your story are you most proud of?

I think it treads a good line between interrogating the character and how they work and massive great dollops of fanwank.

What’s your favourite line from your story? 

One that came from a note from Paul:

“But you are hitting me with my own hands”.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Iain McLaughlin


Iain McLaughlin, prolific writer and creator of the popular Big Finish/Thebes Publishing character Erimem, talks to Altrix about his continuity-bending Master Switches story 'Re-Genesis of the Daleks'... 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I've been a writer since 1985, and writing Doctor Who related stuff since about 2000 when Gary Russell at Big Finish gave me a chance. Since then I've written a pile of stuff in the Who universe - for the Doctor themselves and for various spin-offs. It’s a lovely big universe with lots of scope and potential.

What made you want to write for Master Switches?

Roger Delgado. My favourite Master, the best Master. I wanted to write for his Master.

How did you decide which Master/Doctor combo to go with?

Once I had decided on Roger Delgado it had to be a pre-Deadly Assassin Tom Baker. I loved Delgado’s interaction with Jon Pertwee but we'd seen that, and we never saw him with the mighty Tom... and we never heard what he thought of the Fourth Doctor.

Can you describe your story in a nutshell?

Why is the Master on Skaro during Genesis of the Daleks?

How did you find the writing process?

I was incredibly busy with a pile of work and kept putting this off. I wound up writing it in a couple of hours on a Sunday, while listening to football on the radio. I had a limited amount of time, so it had to be done in that time. The story was worked out for the pitch months earlier, and was thankfully one that had come very quickly and arrived fully formed. So, it was a case of sitting down to turn that pitch into a story. It was a case of sitting down and not getting up till it was finished.

What aspect of your story are you most proud of?

I really liked the chance to follow the story from the Master's point of view, to get into his head a bit. He's charming but he's convinced he's utterly superior and he has disdain for almost everyone. That can be very funny without dragging the Master into the territory of being mad or a comedy figure. I like the Master to be, well… not mad.

What's your favourite line from the story?

There's a bit about Gallifrey I really like but a single line from that would be nonsense. I do like Ossian's first line in the story. It means nothing out of context, but in place in the story… I do like it.

‘Pretty sure it would ruin mine more than yours,’ a young female voice replied.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Stephen Hatcher


 We talk to Stephen Hatcher, author of the Master Switches story ‘Merlin’s Dragon’. No spoilers, but don’t be fooled by the title of this clever and evocative tale set in 5th century Britain.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am Stephen Hatcher. I am a sixty-two-year-old retired teacher of Modern Languages, living in the Derbyshire Dales (without a ‘k’) in England.

I started writing for political publications in the early 80s and much later contributed reviews and articles to a number of Doctor Who fanzines; but my first published fiction was for Big Finish, for the Short Trips book range, for which I wrote five stories in the noughties. At around the same time, I started contributing to the Canadian Doctor Who fiction fanzine Myth Makers and to a number of charity fiction anthologies and essay collections, including work for the two Time Shadows books for Pseudoscope Publishing (the second of which I edited); Watching Books; the Outside In books for ATB publishing; Obverse Books; Miwk; and Hidden Tiger. I’ve written about Star Cops, Catweazle, Star Trek, Buffy and Angel, Kolchak the Night Stalker, Millennium, The Tomorrow People and The Goon Show as well as Doctor Who; and wrote a Jonathan Creek/Jason King crossover story for Obverse Books’ The Curse of Fanfic. Recently, I have been thrilled to contribute twice to the official Doctor Who Magazine.

What made you want to write for Master Switches?

My story One Night in Wartime was in the previous Master anthology, Master Pieces and working with our editor Paul on that was a very positive experience; (we had previously worked together on Time Shadows: Second Nature, when the roles were reversed), so I was very keen to contribute once more, when this sequel volume, Master Switches, was announced.

How would you describe your story in a nutshell?

Merlin’s Dragon sees the Seventh Doctor in a guise that was foreshadowed in the TV story Battlefield. The setting is the days immediately following the final withdrawal of the Roman Legions from Britain, where our hero encounters a member of a familiar species of intelligent reptile, and has to deal with the Master, as played on TV by Anthony Ainley.

How did you decide which Doctor and Master combination to go with?

Once I had decided on a setting of the early 5th Century C.E., then the Seventh Doctor followed from that. We know that he was around at the court of King Arthur, around eighty years later, so I just had to find a way to get him into place a little early. The brief included the option to mix and match Doctors and Masters, so I had initially avoided the Ainley incarnation in my pitch, but with a shortage of Ainley pitches in, Paul felt it would be good to use him here and I was very happy to go along with that. The pairing of this Doctor and Master sets the story much more naturally into the Doctor Who continuity, somewhere between Survival and the TV Movie.

How did you find the writing process?

Like many of us who write, I have found getting down to work quite difficult during the 2020-21 Lockdowns. On the face of it, there should have been so much more time to think and write. However, in practice, with my daughter not at school and my wife not at work, there have been so many unavoidable demands on that time. I’m not complaining, many have been far worse off than I have, but it has been a challenge to keep focussed. Then in the autumn, the creativity dam burst and I ended up writing three stories in a fortnight, which is unusually productive for me, at the best of times.

What aspect of your story are you most proud of?

I loved writing for Draco, our Dragon, and I hope I’ve made him a fun character. It was quite difficult capturing the Ainley Master – making him not just a generic Delgado clone (which he was a bit on TV, if the truth be told). I think I’ve managed to do that - I’m told it’s worked; so I’m happy with that. I’ve called him Arlodh – anyone with a Cornish dictionary might try looking that up.

What’s your favourite line from the story?

My favourite line? Well, it’s a whole scene, actually. It’s the one between Draco and Arlodh that I stole shamelessly from my favourite film, almost word for word. I think it fits rather nicely – it made me chuckle anyway.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Matthew Kresal

 


Altrix talks to Matthew Kresal who revisits an old classic in his Master Switches story 'A Diplomatic Solution'...

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Well, I was born, raised, and live in North Alabama, though I never quite developed the stereotypical southern accent. Most of my output is writing reviews, mainly over at Warped Factor these days, where I've written about everything from Doctor Who to James Bond and the Apple TV+ series For All Mankind. That said, I've written a book about the 1990s conspiracy thriller/alternate history TV series Dark Skies published by Obverse Books as part of their Silver Archive range. Fiction wise, I've had a slew of short fiction ranging from horror to historical fiction published. Most recently, my first novel, a Cold War thriller called Our Man on the Hill, premised on infamous red hunter Joe McCarthy working for the Soviets, was published in May by Sea Lion Press. 

What made you want to write a story for Master Switches?

I read Master Pieces in early 2020 (how long ago that seems now!) and thoroughly enjoyed it. As a Doctor Who fan and as a fiction writer, I was kind of jealous, as petty as that may sound! Discovering a second volume was in the works, and that I was right on the deadline to pitch was a "carpe diem" sort of moment. Thankfully, I had an idea that had been around in my head for years that could be adapted to fit the brief. To my surprise and delight, it got picked up.

How would you describe your story in a nutshell?

Remember the strange bits from Day of the Daleks like, say, the Doctor shooting an Ogron and a supporting character just vanishing out of the story? That was the Master's doing, but probably not the one you were expecting.

What made you decide which Master and Doctor combo to go with?

Because of Day of the Daleks, I knew it was going to be the Third Doctor from the get-go. The choice of Master was done for plot reasons, to an extent, but also being a big fan of Sir Derek Jacobi's War Master. I'd enjoyed those few minutes of him toward the end of Utopia on-screen and have been thrilled with his work over at Big Finish - to the point that I would seriously rank him as my favourite Master these days. So it was one of those happy accidents that I got to feature a favourite Doctor alongside my favourite Master.

How did you find the writing process?

I must confess that pitching the story and writing the first half or so of it was fairly easy. Then, about midway through writing it, there was a scene where I discovered that I had slightly misremembered the events on-screen. I got genuinely stuck for a long time, so I wandered off and worked on a couple of other projects before circling back around to it. Once I did, I figured out a solution and picked up work on the story again. It's incredible how something so small can become such a roadblock and how distance can offer up some much-needed perspective at times. 

What aspect of your story are you most proud of?

The way I was able to weave in and around events from Day of the Daleks. Writing this was a good excuse to revisit an underrated TV story a couple of times, figuring out how to get the Master involved in events, while also admiring how well crafted Louis Marks' original scripts were. I hope that's something that readers appreciate and maybe make them pull their DVDs off the shelf or look the story up on Britbox.

What’s your favourite line from your story?

'I am the Master. And you are going to die for me.' It felt like a classic Master line to write.

 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Nathan Mullins

 


We talk to returning author Nathan Mullins about his page-turning, action-packed Master Switches story 'The Deadly Alliance'. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m 28 years old, and I live in London. I’ve previously written for Doctor Who Charity Anthologies and Fanzines including Nine Lives, Inferno Fiction, The Terrible Zodin, Unbound: Adventures in Time and Space, The Tides of Time, Cosmic Masque, Whoblique Strategies, Twice upon a Time Scope, and Master Pieces.

What made you want to write a story for Master Switches?

I had such a great time writing for ‘Master Pieces’ that I really wanted to come up with a story for Altrix Books’ next project. I read the guidelines and thought hard about the story I wanted to tell. I’d hoped to do something on a much bigger scale compared to my last contribution. Hopefully, it’ll have you flicking through the pages to find out what happens next! 

How would you describe your story in a nutshell?

A whirlwind that whips you up in a flurry of adventure! Fast paced, exciting, with additional behind-the-sofa moments thrown in for good measure!

What made you decide which Master and Doctor combo to go with?

I went with Peter Pratt’s version of the Master who’s basically a rotting corpse, intent on causing trouble wherever he goes. With that image in mind, it’s not difficult to imagine what his bloodcurdling motivations might be. He was fun to write for, both as himself and as Joyce. When he reveals himself (his true self), all the pretence is over. This is the Master, seizing his opportunities!

Writing for the Second Doctor and his companions was a gift, as Patrick Troughton is one of my favourite actors to play the Doctor, and both Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling portray such likeable on-screen personalities. Their friendship with the Doctor is plain to see.

The Doctor in this incarnation never encountered the Master in his on-screen adventures, so doesn’t recognise him. And for much of the story, the Master is incognito, hiding in plain sight, committing atrocities. But the Master knows who the Doctor is, and won’t let him interfere in his schemes.     

How did you find the writing process?

I enjoyed the writing process a great deal! I set to work soon after we went into the first national lockdown, which was a pretty scary time, I think, for everyone! Having something to focus on was a tremendous help, and regardless of the awful situation we found ourselves in, wished to produce something EPIC nonetheless! By this point, I’d already had the pitch approved, and it was just a case of working out how the story would unravel, bit by bit. It was challenging, there’s no getting away from it, but that made it all the more exhilarating! It had to go through lots (and lots) of rewrites, from the way I’d structured it to begin with to the characters I’d written for. But once I’d got to the stage where all the necessary alterations had been made, I was really happy with it. And I hope that readers enjoy it as much as I did writing it! 

What aspect of your story are you most proud of?

The way in which we’re introduced to the characters. I really like the opening to the whole story and what’s led to the war between the Grigrosh and the colonists. I like that whereas the Doctor would turn up and save a civilisation from catastrophe, the Master is the opposite, leaving devastation in his wake! There’s a few surprises along the way, which I hope make this an extremely satisfying story.

What’s your favourite line from your story?

The Master encounters some old friends/ enemies. Taken aback by their presence aboard the space station, he blurts ‘What in the name of Rassilon are you doing here?’ With the stakes raised, and his true identity now revealed, the Master has every right to be bewildered by the arrival of his frenemies, whoever they may be.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Gary Mack


In the latest in our series of interviews with Master Switches authors, writer Gary Mack talks about his story 'The Slaves of Missy'. This time she is facing off against a Doctor who is much more of a kindred spirit than his predecessor... 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi, my name is Gary and I live in the beautiful cathedral city of Lichfield. I work for both the NHS and Local Government as a senior manager. I'm married and I've got three teenage boys - and I wonder how I ever get to write.

I have been telling stories seriously for just over two years, and I have been lucky to have been published in international speculative fiction journals in that time.  My most recent publication was fan-fiction; Avon's Ruse in the Blake's 7  Forever Avon  anthology My first ever published work appeared in the Second Lethbridge Stewart Short Story Collection in 2019 and was called The Eye of the Beholder. I have just embarked on my third novel and I have a collection of short horror and sci-fi fiction out soon, called Impossible Fruit.

What made you want to write a story for Master Switches? 

I liked the premise of the Master winning - hence submitting an outline to Paul.

How would you describe your story in a nutshell? 

In a nutshell The Slaves of Missy is about the horrors of oppression, and how the good guy often makes mistakes - just trying to champion the oppressed. 

What made you decide which Master and Doctor combo to go with? 

I chose the combination of Missy and Doctor No 6 because of their flamboyance - counterbalanced by their darker sides. 

How did you find the writing process?

The deadline for the story came at a particular low time for me, like many the COVID lockdown hit me hard personally and professionally - so the story is probably a little dark on reflection. 

What aspect of your story are you most proud of? 

I thoroughly enjoyed writing Missy however, and my proudest moment was when a friend told me I had got her voice quite early on in the drafting process. Fan fiction for me is about capturing the characters thousands of people love.

What’s your favourite line from your story?

My favourite line is one concerning Missy. Upon hearing the distant noise of the trumpeting TARDIS she thinks: 

‘Is it him? Has he come to foil my little scheme? She hoped he was one of the Scottish ones this time. They both liked a scheme.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Greg Maughan


We talk to writer Greg Maughan about his era-crossing Master Switches story 'Night of the Glaring'. There is nothing glaringly obvious about this one... 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself ?

I live in the North East of England and have been thinking up stories for most of my life. Over the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to start getting them published by the lovely people at Obverse Books, Arcbeatle Press and Pencil Tip Publishing, amongst others. I’ve even got a website now, which took me much longer to design than looking at it would suggest! You can find that at noonereadthis.wordpress.com and I’m always up for talking to people about writing projects, collaborations or anything else you might want to ask.

What made you want to write a story for Master Switches?

I really enjoyed the first volume – Master Pieces – and was gutted I hadn’t spotted the submission call when it was produced. So, when I heard about Master Switches I knew I had to put something forward for it. Doctor Who has been a fairly major personal obsession for all of my conscious life and its always great fun writing for characters that feel like old friends – or enemies. To be asked to write something for those characters and to get to share it with other people who have a similar relationship with them always feels like a real privilege.

How would you describe your story in a nutshell?

Sometimes the best laid plans can be thrown out of sync with the smallest of miscalculations. What if the Doctor we meet isn’t ready for the trap the Master has laid?

What made you decide which Master and Doctor combo to go with?

I think the most interesting pairings should reveal something about each character that you wouldn’t necessarily see when they interact with each other ‘in order’. It also gives you a chance to compare and contrast different eras of the show and draw out points about the respective ideals, preoccupations and priorities of them. Honestly, I think my pairing is probably the most obvious one to go for in a lot of ways, but I felt like there was something worth exploring there. Also, there was a natural intersection in the timeline of the show where I felt the story could fit. Canon is definitely secondary to story and character in my book, but it’s always an added bonus when everything seems to line up neatly for you.

How did you find the writing process?

I think, probably like all the other contributors to the book, I got the commission in early 2020 and had an idea that I’d be able to get on top of it and get a first draft written as soon as possible as I was really excited about the project. Then, the first lockdown happened and priorities sort of... changed. I’m classed as an ‘essential worker’ and have a pre-school age daughter, so life just became a kind of vague blur for quite a few months. Life’s still nowhere near back to normal and a lot of my other hobbies and interests are still out of reach for a while yet. But, being able to get back on top of my writing was an important part of adapting to what we’ve all been through over the last year. Once that started to happen for me, the story all came quite quickly and it was a pleasure to write.

What aspect of your story are you most proud of?

Definitely thinking up a use for the Tissue Compression Eliminator, as a device it’s the perfect combination of being very silly and utterly horrifying to me. So, I was pleased for it to find an effective place in my story.

What’s your favourite line from your story?

Won’t everyone just answer this with ‘You will obey me!’? I’m pretty sure a big part of the appeal of writing for a character like the Master is being able to lean into that slightly schlocky dialogue. So, yeah, like the first time I wrote a story where I was able to have something appear with a ‘wheezing groaning sound’, getting to unironically type the line ‘You will obey me!’ was a great pleasure. Sometimes, the old ones are the best.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Rachel Redhead


In the latest in our series of Master Switches author interviews, Rachel Redhead talks about her Missy and Fifth Doctor story 'The Empress of Kolkata'. Written in the first person, Missy's reactions to meeting the Doctor with the 'feckless charm' are delightful... 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I'm an award-avoiding author, I normally write in a style that's a mix of urban fantasy, comedy sci-fi and horror.  I've written some self-published books which I put out via the Twisted Books brand.  I've got a few ideas for fiction books, but nothing has really gelled atm, and I have pitched an idea for a non-fiction book about one of my favourite bands to a publisher.

What made you want to write a story for Master Switches?

I wasn't going to pitch anything at first, but then I had this great idea for a Missy and 5th Doctor story, but one without a companion really involved, as Missy has a habit of killing the Doctor's friends, and 5thy and Turlough occupies a rather narrow gap in 5thy's timeline, which has been overlooked a little by some. 5thy at this point is very settled as a character and makes the perfect foil for the mercurial Missy.

How would you describe your story in a nutshell?

Deranged sociopath seeks celery enthusiast for co-dependant mayhem.

What made you decide which Master and Doctor combo to go with?

They're about as opposite as any iteration of these can be – the fifth Doctor is brave, confident and nice, while Missy is like a pendulum constantly but randomly swinging between hysterical gloating and maniacal murder spree.

How did you find the writing process?

I wanted to do something of a historical setting, as I think 5thy has this Edwardian feel not seen since 2ndy really, so he has this English gentleman abroad quality to his attire, and I love research, especially if it's sciency, so reading up on the geography of the region and the monsoon weather patterns was very rewarding, I knew there was a monsoon season for instance but I had no idea that there were actually several monsoon events within that season in different parts of the whole subcontinent area. I got the initial draft of my story written rather quickly as a result of being so inspired by these ideas, though I found it hard to get Missy right at first. I had to rewatch a few of her telly episodes (not going to complain about that) and find a way to bring her voice to my story, as she's got quite a lot of advantage over such a younger Doctor.

What aspect of your story are you most proud of?

Getting a lot of the research put into the story, I wanted to set the background as correct as I could in the exposition, as the show does have a certain educational element in its make-up and I wanted to put this information into the story but not have it get in the way of the story.

What’s your favourite line from your story?

‘The Rain also brings floods, death and disease but those wonderful things are hardly worth mentioning right now.  The suffocating heat is of course weeding out the weak.  Those tiny people outside my palace weep their little tears, and do go on ever so much.  Why can't they just go somewhere else and die quietly, like they're supposed to?’

(Missy at her sociopathic worst).