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).

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Paul Hiscock


For our latest interview, we talk to writer Paul Hiscock about his Master Switches story 'Peacemaker' which revisits an old classic with new characters...

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m an author, dad, and website designer, living in Kent (England). A lot of my stories are Sherlock Holmes pastiches, which have appeared in anthologies from MX Publishing and Belanger Books. However, I also write horror stories for Burdizzo Books, and fantasy stories, including a clockpunk version of Sleeping Beauty. Finally, in the extended universes of Doctor Who, I have written a couple of stories for the City of the Saved series from Obverse Books. You can find out more about all of my stories at www.detectivesanddragons.uk.

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

It is always fun to write for iconic characters, but one of the interesting things about the Doctor and the Master is the subtle differences that make their various incarnations unique. I liked the idea of pitting different versions of them against each other and seeing how it changed their relationship.

How would you describe your story in a nutshell?

What if it had been the Seventh Doctor dealing with the Draconians and the Master in The Frontier in Space?

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

I love the smooth and sophisticated original Master played by Roger Delgado, so I wanted to include him. As for the Doctor, while I started watching during Peter Davison’s tenure, I really became a fan during the New Adventures era. The Machiavellian Seventh Doctor and Delgado’s  equally manipulative Master have a lot in common, and I decided it would be fun to pit them against one another.

How did you find the writing process?

The voices of my two main characters were already clear in my head, and they both seemed easy to write for. However, since this is a reimagining of The Frontier in Space, I wanted the tone of the story to feel as close to that as possible. Rewatching it helped, but the most useful thing was Malcolm Hulke’s novelisation of his story, particularly when it came to capturing the ritualised behaviours in the Draconian court.

What aspect of your story are you most proud of?

I was particularly pleased to write a story including the Draconians. I have always been surprised they haven’t returned on television. There is so much untapped potential in this race that is not only visually striking, but also not just another evil alien invader. 

What’s your favourite line from your story?

As a Doctor Who fan, there are certain things it will always be exciting to write. One of the highlights was describing how ‘the Master’s TARDIS landed with a vworp, vworp sound’. However, the best thing was including the classic line, ‘I am the Master, and you will obey me.’

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Joshua Wanisko


Writer and the first ever Big Finish short-trips winner, Joshua Wanisko talks to Altrix about his Master Piece's story 'The Many Faces of Weng Chiang'. Don't be fooled by the title though, this intoxicating blend of high drama and black humour isn't the story you might be expecting...

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I first encountered Doctor Who more than thirty years ago. It was in the middle of the episode in Full Circle where Romana is infected with the Marshman DNA. I thought ‘This is weird and I don't understand it, but I guess I'll watch it, because it's science fiction.’ I still love Doctor Who, obviously, and I’m an especially big fan of the audio stories by Big Finish.

I live in rural New Jersey, USA with my wife and daughter and a whole bunch of cats.  I have written for Big Finish Productions and Geek Speak and my work has appeared in Time Shadows: Second Nature, Defending Earth, Sockhops & Seances, Pizza Parties and Poltergeists, Unbound Imaginings and the Lovecraft eZine.  If I can ever get past my lockdown malaise, I hope to complete an idiosyncratic time travel trilogy by the end of the year.

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

Because I like the Master and I thought I could tell a story people would enjoy reading. It’s as simple as that. The Classic era Master, and the Geoffrey Beevers Master in particular, though I also have a soft spot for the self-foiling Ainley and Delgado Masters.

How would you describe your story in a nutshell? 

One piece of trivia about The Talons of Weng-Chiang that I find fascinating is that it was originally written with the Master as the villain, but the baddie was revised to be the original creation of Magnus Greel when Philip Hinchcliffe didn’t want to have the Master revealed as the secret villain so soon after The Deadly Assassin. (If only they had exercised this kind of restraint during the Fifth Doctor’s era…)

Once you know this fact, the parallels are very obvious (the time cabinet is a TARDIS, Greel says that Leela will be ‘the first morsel to feed my regeneration’), but I don’t know if I would have ever connected the dots if it hadn’t been pointed out to me.

That’s the aspect of the story that stuck with me. The core of much science fiction is the question of ‘What if?’ and Doctor Who even more so. This story asks the metatextual question, ‘What if the Master arrived to implement his plan and found that someone else has already started it?’

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

The Master was preordained, because Greel was originally written as the decaying Master and it made sense to use him. Now that I had the Master, I went through each Doctor trying to determine which incarnation would be the most fun to bounce off of the Master. I went with the Eighth, in part as a nod to the McGann recording of Shada, where he fills in for the Fourth Doctor to correct the timeline.

How did you find the writing process?

The brief did present some considerable challenges, but it was entirely my fault. I was extremely proud of the original pitch I had written for the collection. Before I sent it out, I reviewed the guidelines to make sure that I was doing everything properly, and to my horror, I discovered that I had been reading the submission guidelines for Master Pieces, the previous collection of stories about the Master, and my submission was completely at odds with the request. 

I was even happy with the title. Titles always give me trouble.  

‘We're all stories, in the end. Just make MINE a good one.’

Pitch: Our universe holds infinite possibilities. The Land of Fiction encompasses an infinity of universes. The Master has a plan to make it his own.

By writing his memoirs as a work of fiction, but changing some minor details, the Master intends to show that his most humiliating defeats were deliberate misdirection, mere distractions to camouflage the pursuit of his actual goal.

The plan cannot fail. With these words, he will sculpt the clay of creation in his likeness.

He just needs to find a ghost writer.

Summary: The Master has discovered the Land of Fiction. He wants to rewrite his encounters with the Doctor so that what were apparently defeats were actually victories. He'll then take the manuscript to the Land of Fiction, where will become reality. Problem is he can't write worth a damn (‘He’s only good at making anagrams of his name’), so he needs someone to do it for him. He eventually finds a freelancer to ghost write the manuscript, but true to form, he betrays the ghostwriter needlessly. The ghostwriter dies, but not before submitting an earlier version of the manuscript where the Master fails.

Once I was actually working on it, the biggest difficulty was getting it done during lockdown. 2020 took a toll on everyone and finding the focus to see the story through to its conclusion took a great deal of effort.

What aspect of your story are you most proud of? 

The story was informed by Kate Orman’s essay ‘One of us is Yellow’: Doctor Fu Manchu and The Talons of Weng-Chiang from the collection Doctor Who and Racein particular her observations about Li H’Sen Chang:

‘Of the two chief villains, ‘the crafty Chang’ (as the novelization’s blurb calls him) is by far the more interesting character. While Greel lurches around his lair, bellowing, Chang the illusionist negotiates the surrounding hostile alien culture – brilliantly, by turning its own assumptions against it. Chang, who speaks immaculate English, drops into his stage patter whenever he needs to convince someone he is a harmless and comical ‘Chinee’. At the police station in episode 1, he is debonair: ‘Not at all, Sergeant. I’m always happy to be of service to the police. What can I do for you this time? […] You seem remarkably well-informed, Doctor. Alas, I know nothing of these matters.’ But on stage, Chang plays to his audience’s assumptions and prejudices, speaking stilted English, exaggerating his accent (‘First tlick velly simple!’), and, when the Doctor strolls out of the ‘cabinet of death’, quipping, ‘The bird has flown. One of us is yellow.’ There is sometimes an edge of satire to Chang’s remarks: when the Doctor asks ‘Don’t I know you?’, Chang smilingly answers, ‘I understand we all look the same’.’

My favourite kind of story is a tale of redemption, and as flawed as Talons is on matters of race, it is not without empathy in its portrayal of Li H’Sen Chang. It was that aspect that I chose to emphasise here, that of a man who had been brought to this point by his own decisions, but who was not so far gone that he could not imagine returning to the light.

What’s your favourite line from your story?

‘Wei recoiled. This was not the face of a man. It was the death mask of a living corpse, a monstrosity from Nai Nai's tales of the old country. It was an abomination that should have died in the inferno that scarred it, but lived so that the fact of its existence might blaspheme the natural world. It was a charred skeleton, animated by a vast hatred and a monstrous force of will. It was a walking nightmare. It was fear made flesh. It was…

‘I am the Master,’ it said. ‘And you will obey me.’’

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Master Switches - An Interview with Kenton Hall


In the first in our series of author interviews, we talk to Canadian writer Kenton Hall. His Master Switches story is intriguingly called The Third Knock and includes a truly jaw-dropping twist...

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

My name is actually Kenton Hall, despite that sounding like somewhere you might once have visited on a wet Bank Holiday weekend. I’m a Canadian author, actor, director and musician as I reckoned it was lazy on my part to be unknown and broke in a single medium. And, to fulfil the comedy rule of threes, I am a father of twins. Scribe-wise, I wrote and directed the feature film A Dozen Summers (featuring Colin Baker as the Narrator), authored the book Bisection (a comic memoir of living and parenting with bipolar disorder) and was the editor of Regenerations, a Time War Anthology released by Chinbeard Books in 2020. I have several plates in the air at the moment, which saves on the washing up.

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

As a Who collector, I have spent a lot of time hunting down anthologies. The opportunity to tell a story, in good company and for charity was not to be missed. Also, I’d only just finished Seasons of War: Gallifrey when the call for submissions went out, so finding a way of working with Altrix Books was on my mind.

How would you describe your story in a nutshell?

The Doctor, believing himself to be at the end of his long journey, decides to do an old frenemy one final good turn. Needless to say, it goes… awry.

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

I’m fascinated by the relationship between the Doctor and the Master and their history. And also by how similar they are in many ways. The chance to have one of them at the beginning of that journey and one at, he believes, the end, felt like a potent area to explore. I like stories that dig into characters we know well, looking for new little wrinkles.

How did you find the writing process?

I think I faced the usual pitfall inherent in an idea that has fired you up – I wanted to turn it into a novel. So finding the core of the story and boiling it down to its essentials was the greatest challenge.

That and all writing, for me, is equal parts glory and kill it with fire.

Which aspects of your story are you most proud of?

If I’m working in a universe I love, especially Doctor Who, I’m very aware that the story lives and dies on how well you capture the character’s voices. By the final draft, I felt like I’d – to the best of my abilities – paid tribute to the actors and writers who’d brought them to life on TV. Obviously, however, that’s for the readers to judge.

What’s your favourite line from your story?

This will make no sense out of context, but ‘The Retiring Seers of Archon IX, for instance, or Canadians.’  It’s a very me line, not least because I think Canada should appear more frequently in science fiction. (It’s a much weirder place than most people realise.) 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Book Announcement: Master Switches

 


Coming Soon: Master Switches: More Misadventures in Space and Time.

Altrix Books is delighted to announce that the follow up to 2019's Master Pieces will soon be available for a limited time. As we lead up to publication, we will be running a series of interviews with the writers who have all given up their time for free in order to raise money for The Stroke Association.

But in the meantime, here is the blurb and a sneak peek at Ginger Hoesly's stunning cover art:

After a series of adventures without the Doctor, 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…

Master Switches is an unofficial charity anthology in aid of The Stroke Association. 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.


Monday, February 15, 2021

Happy Valentine's Week! Are you caught up on our books?

 


We hope you all had a great Valentine's Day weekend, no matter where you spent it or who with. Which reminds us... are you caught up to our own time-travelling romantic couple?

We've got a new release coming this spring (more on that to come!), but for now we're looking back at Savalia and Mordicai, two of the four leads in The Chronosmith Chronicles. They've been on two adventures so far — Paul Driscoll's After Vincent and Kara Dennison's Eleanor's Tears, but they've already been through a lot. In the former, they spend years together outside the Hexachron, meeting certain historical figures and becoming closer to each other. In the latter, their relationship is both strengthened and strained as they butt heads over how to handle a certain paranormal threat.


More books are on the way in the Chronosmith Chronicles series, the third coming from Black Archive writer Jon Arnold.

In the meantime, be sure to check out our first scholarly anthology, Army of Ghosts. In this collection, we address some of the less-talked-about stories of Doctor Who. From recent stories that simply get passed over, to literal lost stories and games, we give them their due in a series of critical essays.

All of these books — both entries in The Chronosmith Chronicles so far, and Army of Ghosts — are always available from us. While our charity anthologies are only available for a limited time, these aren't going anywhere. So be sure to grab copies and enjoy!

And if you do enjoy, make sure to leave us reviews on Amazon, GoodReads, or wherever you post books reviews!