Archive for September 2012

Chicks Unravel Time announced

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

I’m delighted to say I have an essay in Chicks Unravel Time, the follow-up from the Hugo-winning* Chicks Dig Time Lords team.

The editors set themselves the challenging task of finding female fans to write an essay on every season. And then juggling the logistics of who would do what and editing it all.  But look at all the women they got!

In Chicks Unravel Time, Deborah Stanish (Whedonistas) and L.M. Myles bring together a host of award-winning female writers, media professionals and scientists to examine each season of new and classic Doctor Who from their unique perspectives.

Diana Gabaldon discusses how Jamie McCrimmon inspired her best-selling Outlander series, and Barbara Hambly (Benjamin January Mysteries) examines the delicate balance of rebooting a TV show. Seanan McGuire (Toby Daye series) reveals the power and pain of waiting in Series 5, and Una McCormack (The King’s Dragon) argues that Sylvester McCoy’s final year of Doctor Who is the show’s best season ever.

I’ve written about season 7, which might come as a surprise to people who know my opinion of Pertwee. It will surprise those of you all the more to know I pitched for that season.  I wanted to critically examine a period I’m not fond of: would my ingrained views hold up when I rewatched it. My essay is called ‘Seven to Doomsday: the Non-Domestication of Doctor Who’.

The hardest bit was finding the time to watch 25 episodes. I couldn’t do it with GJ running about as she’d distract me.  Or scrawl over my notes. So I’d get through a couple of episodes per nap at weekends, or one whilst Mark was on bedtime duties. 

One of the ironies of it is I couldn’t have written the essay – which touches on the politics of the time, including gender politics – without Mark’s DVD stash and Jim Smith for bouncing ideas around with and production note nerdism. These guys know their stuff. 

While I was editing the essay Caroline John, the actor who played Liz Shaw, died. Miss Shaw had been the reason I asked for season 7 over, say, season 11. Like Barbara Wright and Tegan Jovanka, she is a woman rather than a girl. And she’s a career woman too: like Babs, Liz works because she loves it. She’s not in a dead-end job, like Rose or Donna. And she’s not floating about with mysterious independent means like Polly, Nyssa or Romana. Or a schoolgirl. 

I think this matters. This essay on The Jetsons puts forward the idea that the visions of the future we absorb as children has an impact on the world we accept/build as adults. Doctor Who needs to show futures, even nominal futures as season 7 was, where women have independent lives. Where intelligence and drive are lauded, and being a woman with a career is accepted. 

To read how well that opinion fits with season 7, you’ll need to buy the book. ;)

*might be my only chance to write that


Sunday, 16 September 2012

I may have broken my ‘on sabbatical until GJ graduates or I get some free time’ rule. That is my response to most invites to pitch/contribute to things: I have very limited time, and priorities that mean I’ve decided writing is a luxury for a while yet. Then I got asked to contribute to two things:

  • a non-fiction Doctor Who collection
  • a Victoriana short story collection

My work on them is now done, pending last minute notes from the editors, but my name hasn’t been announced for either yet. When it is, you can be sure I’ll be providing some background and pimping here.

What I did discover, with the fiction piece, was the Pomodoro technique. My word count per day isn’t the best. I’m not entirely convinced word counts per day are the best indicator of progress anyway, given half of them might be dreadful. Or all of them. But…faced with a 5000 word story and a week off the day job to write it in, I needed to work fast. The husband finds the pomodoro works for him* so I gave it a go.


My typical nightly word count on History 101 and Warring States was 700-800 words, dripped out over several hours. On this short story, I was producing 500 words in each 25 minute session. I did between 1 and 3 sessions a day, so got the first draft down in that week. A couple more sessions dealt with revisions.

Would it work if I was crazy enough to be writing a novel in my spare time? Maybe, but that time is still a long way off. Will I use it if any more short commissions come in that I can’t refuse? Probably. I’ve tried it at work too, but there’s not enough control in my work environs for it to be truly applied.

All the same, my new top tip to anyone wanting to write? Buy a timer.

*our timer is actually a pear, so it’s the Pyrus technique.

Switch to our mobile site