Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hello - my name’s Joe and I’ve written the first and last stories in The Centenarian.

The Prologue and Forgotten are separated by one hundred years but both feature a woman entering the mysterious White Rabbit pub to meet a man. Two women whose lives couldn’t be more different - their stories book-ending a life that features time-travelling film-makers, UNIT soldiers, possessed record players, Wallis Simpson, world wars, Deal or No Deal, undead assassins, Charley Pollard’s family, political intrigue, sexy girls in bikinis, romance… yay for Doctor Who!

I first heard about the collection one night in the pub with Ian Farrington. He told me he had this idea about a man who lives for a hundred years and who keeps bumping into the Doctor. I thought this was great as it would mean, running alongside your usual selection of funny/dramatic/scary Doctor Who short stories, you could tell a bigger story - the story of one man’s life. As pints were sunk, I suggested a few ideas to Ian about the man’s birth and, eventually, he said I could write the first and last stories. See, beer is good!

What I soon realised, as I started the Prologue was that this would be the first really historical thing I’d written. Normally, I tend to go for a modern-day setting but this time I’d actually have to do some research. And I’m one of the few Doctor Who fans who has never seen Upstairs, Downstairs. Ian was really helpful with this - he told me all about maid etiquette, how the servants would address each other, 1906 pub culture etc. Once I’d got past this, the story was quite fun to write. As usual with my stuff, I chose a specific character to be the identification figure for the reader - in this case, Violet the ever-so-’umble maid. The reason I do this, especially with Doctor Who short stories, is that it means you can get a bit more into the character and also, you can often skip the technobabble. Violet the ever-so-’umble maid doesn’t know what attacks Mary Grainger so I don’t have to make up a load of boring nonsense about wavelength indicator transmitter things… Perhaps it’s just me being lazy!

It was also fun populating the party with other characters such as my
UNIT play’s villain’s father, a character from one of Gary’s previous short stories and, of course, various Pollards. It’s not important if you don’t know who they are but it adds an extra level. That’s actually how I see a lot of the book. You’ve got a bunch of great stories which work by themselves but, if you follow the background of Edward’s life, you get a lot more out of it. This was also the element of the book that was, for me, the most fun - exchanging ideas with the other writers about who Edward marries, his children and so on. Does he smoke? When does he go grey? Does he like Deal Or No Deal?

I can’t say too much about the final story, Forgotten, without giving away the plot but it features the Eighth Doctor and the long-awaited return (long-awaited by me, anyway) of Linda Grainger from my story in
The History of Christmas. It looks at how people are affected by the Doctor. He swans in and has his adventures but for the people he meets, life carries on. We can’t go back into our own past - it’s a one-way journey for us. The story looks at that and also, as with the rest of the collection, at how so much changes over the years but how some stuff stays the same. In 1905, shortly before Edward is born, the Aliens Act was introduced because of fears over immigration - similar fears, which of course, have reappeared over the last couple of years.

What else did I enjoy about The Centenarian? In no particular order…

Getting John Davies on board - I first got chatting to John on
Outpost Gallifrey. We found we both shared a love of Doctor Who, writing and pints (not necessarily in that order). He sent me some stuff he’d written and I thought it was brilliant. It made me laugh out loud, which not much does, so, without telling John, I forwarded it onto Ian. When Ian said he liked it and would try and use John in a future Short Trips, I was pretty damn chuffed.

The return of Samson and Gemma - They’re the brother and sister companions I created for
Terror Firma. They came back in Philip Purser-Hallard’s story in The History Of Christmas and return again in this collection. Which is nice!

The return of Emily Chaudhry and Will Hoffman - two characters from the UNIT audio series who I then paired off with the Sixth Doctor in
A Day In The Life. And here they are again!

Making my Granddad happy - because that’s him on the front cover. He’s very pleased about being Edward Grainger.

Meeting the other writers - some of us have met up in real life but we’ve all become good mates online.

And I can’t really think of anything else to say other than I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as we’ve enjoyed writing it.

cheers
Joe

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