17 octubre 2013

37 to 50 - A talk with Mags L. Halliday (and II)

We keep talking with Mags L. Halliday about her 2002 Doctor Who novel History 101.

The way the novel is presented is clearly original. I think only yours and David Bishop's Who killed Kennedy (1996) have been "dressed" as non-fictional works. It does help in rooting it to the real facts the fiction contains, don't you think?
 I sort of wish I'd done the whole thing as someone's war biography, now. But Lawrence was writing Adventuress at the same time, which used that non-fictional fictional technique. [Note: Mags is talking about Lawrence Miles' novel The Adventuress of Henrietta Street (2001)]

Mags in Paris, on her way to Barcelona
How did The Clash enter the mix... specially with their song titles translated into a mix of Spanish and Catalan?
Ah, The Clash... I don't listen to anything while writing any more, but back in the early 2000s I did. One of the tracks on my H101 playlist was "Spanish Bombs (in Andalucia)" by the Clash. I wanted to get a reference in, but I wasn't going anywhere near Andalucia. So at some insane 3am, I thought of doing chapter titles (perhaps in homage to [Paul] Cornell) and worked out which song would fit each chapter. The translation was a bit daft, if I'm honest.

I walked into a tiny bar in Fitzrovia this summer, which serves Estrella and other Spanish beers, and the Clash was on the jukebox. So I'm not the only one to link the Clash and Spain!

You use the concept of "perceptual filters" when dealing with the Absolute and Enrique's rejected points of view of facts. "Perception filters" are now a common thing in the tv show, and although they usually relate to disregarding some sensory input, you may well have been the person who introduced the concept in Doctor Who.
I hadn't really considered the link between the filters in History 101 and the use of them in current Who. I suspect it's a fan generational thing: sticking with Who during the long hiatus meant we saw perceptions of it change. And we analysed the stories so much, and had crazy internal wars. I named Enrique, the character taken over by the Absolute, after one of the "Fitzroy Tavern" and "Jade Pagoda" regulars who I had the longest argument with about perception. The "Tavern" crowd when I was a regular were people like [Paul] Cornell, [Daniel] O'Mahony, [Lawrence] Miles and [Steven] Moffat. So, whilst I doubt it's a deliberate link from History 101 to the series, it all comes out of the same long-hiatus' fan culture.

Stemming from that long-hiatus, what are your thoughts and feelings on the modern series?
I've reached the point with the modern series where I love it overall, but can struggle with some stories or elements. That's actually a great feeling to have. If you go to some of the crazier corns of online fandom, it feels factionalised. You have to love or hate RTD/Moffat/Tennant/Smith. But I like combining criticism with love. In some ways, it's not "my" Who. By which I mean it's not Cartmel and "New Adventures" and Fitz Kreiner. It's not the Who I adored as a teenager. But that Who -the 1987-2004 version- is there in current Who. It's there in Van Gogh and human TARDISes and time-traveller's wives. Just as there's bits of Hartnell's grouch, Hinchcliffe's horror and Davison's emotional vulnerability.

I struggle with some bits. I did debate not watching for a while as the whole Amy's child plot left me very upset. But we watch as a family now: my daughter loves The Next Doctor. Quite how a pre-schooler parses that story I don't know.

Would you like to write for it (either the tv series or the novels)?
I've learnt enough about myself as a writer to realise I'm a world-builder rather than a natural with dialogue, which makes prose a better fit. So if I knew where I could carve the time, I'd like to write for the current books range. Or Sherlock tie-ins: I've written Conan Doyle Holmes, and I'd love a crack at a modern one.

There's still not enough women writing Who. Twenty years after Kate Orman became the first female Who novelist, we shouldn't still be going "ooh, a woman writing Who!" as The Guardian did a few weeks ago. Women, and girls, are a huge part of Who and we're not just consumers of the eye-candy. Women produce, they write, they analyse. I'd like that to become a matter of fact, not a continual surprise.

If you wish to know more about History 101, Mags L. Halliday has collected very interesting data at her blog, about the cover, the influences, the research and the publicity paperwork of the novel.