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.’


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