Guest Post – Emilie Collyer

I’m very excited to welcome fellow Clan Destine Press author, Emilie Collyer, to my blog to help celebrate the launch of her latest release, Autopsy of a Comedian!

Crossing Over

It’s a real pleasure to be guest contributor on David’s blog – thanks David for the invitation :-)

I came to spec fiction writing via a somewhat circuitous route and would define myself in that sometimes murky but always exciting realm of crossover.

To begin with, I’m a crossover when it comes to form. I started my writing life mostly as a playwright (having come from an acting background), which then stemmed into poetry and fiction. While I loved to scribble stories as a child (that always ended with the phrase: And that is the end of the story) and was a voracious reader, it took me a while to find my fiction voice.

My plays mostly have an element of magic realism, surrealism or fabulism–which makes a lot of sense to me as theatre is a place of make believe. It really is like getting to play with (human sized!) dolls and have them to act out a story, an adventure, a puzzle, a crime, for an audience to enter and get absorbed in.

As a later-comer to writing fiction I wrote a number of short stories that were fine, but seemed to lack bite, that something special, a unique stamp to make them leap off the page.

A Clean JobI fell into fabulist writing by accident when I saw an exhibition of work by an artist who places tiny models of people around the city where he lives. This inspired a story in me about a woman who wants to join the tiny people and has to figure out how she can do it.

The story came quickly, it was published quickly and I had a huge light bulb moment of: Aha! This is the kind of fiction I want to write.

It all clicked.

The thing that excites me most as a writer and a reader is being able to explore questions I don’t know the answer to.

I have continued to write plays and fiction that are speculative, experimenting with science fiction, the supernatural and dystopic worlds because I also find that these genres allow me to delve best into issues about identity, belonging, power, injustice and ethics.

I was lucky enough to win the Cross Genre category in the Scarlet Stiletto Crime Writing Awards in 2012 with my story A Clean Job and the same award in 2013 for Service with a smile. I was then even luckier that Lindy Cameron of Clan Destine Press offered to publish a small e-collection of my stories. A Clean Job and other stories came out in December 2013 and my new collection Autopsy of a Comedian is being launched on Friday 13th March 2015.

Autopsy of a Comedian resizedHere’s another crossover area I’m fascinated by: online versus real world. We all dwell in both spaces, crossing between one and the other every day. I’m flexing the boundaries of this crossover space by having an e-launch (online only) of my book, which is happening today – Friday 13th March.

I’ll be posting snippets of audio and text throughout the day and inviting others to join online and download the book if they like what they hear and read.

I have made some incredible contacts (dare I call them friends) via social media and the online world, especially in the writing community. In particular, I’ve found spec fiction writers of all genres and outlooks to be so generous with their time, links, offers and connections. Like David.

I suspect that those of us who love this world of speculative ideas and stories come to it with what is still maybe a pretty child like view of things – open to possibility, magic, terror, the unknown, the wonder-full and the things that go bump in the night.

What is it about speculative fiction that makes you excited, as a writer or a reader, and keeps you coming back for more?

If you’d like to check out the virtual launch today, you can join the Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1544971379125101/

Or on my blog here: http://www.betweenthecracks.net/journal/

You can buy Autopsy of a Comedian and other stories here: http://clandestinepress.com.au/ebook/autopsy-comedian

You can buy A Clean Job and other stories here:

http://clandestinepress.com.au/ebook/clean-job

EmilieCollyerEmilie Collyer writes fiction, plays and poetry, much of it award winning. Her short stories have appeared most recently in Allegory (USA), Cosmic Vegetable (USA); Scarlet Stiletto: short stories 2013 (AUS); Thirteen Stories (AUS). Emilie writes extensively for theatre. Her sci-fi play, The Good Girl, won the Best Emerging Writer Award at the 2013 Melbourne Fringe Festival; and Dream Home was shortlisted for the 2013 Patrick White Award and is being produced in May 2015. Emilie lives in Melbourne. You can check out more of her writing here.

Paying for Our Passion – Andrew J McKiernan

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know. Our next guest is the dapper double threat, Andrew J McKiernan.

I’ve worked many different full-time jobs over the past 25 years, and I’ve hated every single one of them. I’ve been a bank clerk and a bank teller, a warehouse storeman, a paper salesman, a purchasing and logistics officer, a production manager, publications officer, network manager, web-developer, graphic designer… and none of them have worked out for me. I just don’t play well with people in an office environment. It’s the repetitiveness and day to day drudgery. It’s the need to be always wearing some kind of homogeneous uniform: be it King Gees and a workshirt and steel-capped boots, or a business suit with the old corporate noose around your neck. It’s the politics and the gossip and everyone’s little grabs for power and nobody really caring about the jobs they’ve actually been hired to do. Arghh! I couldn’t stand it. Some jobs, some days, it made me physically ill…

But I did it. I didn’t see there was much choice. Not for me, not for me family.

I didn’t really see myself as a writer back then. I wrote, but just because it was something I did. I never once considered sending anything off anywhere for publication. Wouldn’t have known where to send them if I did. Mostly, I was just trying to hold my shit together and stay in a job long enough to keep paying for food and rent. My record was probably about 2 years in a single job.

My wife and I have two boys, born two years apart. My wife stayed home and looked after them while I worked. She did an amazing job, looking after a newborn while our first son was rampaging his way through his terrible twos. I couldn’t have done it. I don’t know how mums get through that stage of bringing up children at all. It is a harrowing experience. But, by the time the boys were old enough to be starting school, I could tell my wife was getting very bored. She’s an academic with a passion for getting deep into projects, for working with people to solve problems, but here she was cooking and cleaning and washing clothes all day, alone, just waiting for her family to come home.

So, she was starting to hate her job. I always hated mine. When she suggested we swap roles, it was a fairly simple decision for me to make.

She’s more qualified than me. She gets on better with people than I do. She enjoys working in teams. She has drive and enthusiasm and a passion for work that I could never have.

Within a few weeks, my wife had found herself a job. It paid more than any job I’d had before.

11040102_10152781816833479_1041144317_nThat was just on eight years ago now. Since then, my wife has continued gaining qualifications and risen to the top of her field in this country. She’s a Key Speaker at National and International conferences. She loves her work and she earns enough to have bought us a beautiful house in a bushland setting, away from the bustle of city life. It was her suggestion that I spend the time when I’m not being a house-dad to maybe write something with a view to submitting it for publication. She bought me a kitten–my beautiful Cobweb–a writer’s cat, to keep my company while I write.

Not every day is easy for my wife. She works in a very high-stress position, dealing with the safety of people’s lives in war-torn and natural disaster areas. So, even though it seemed a win-win solution for us to swap roles, I still can’t see it as an even trade. She sacrifices a lot more, a hell of a lot more, in terms of time, energy and sheer emotional drain than I ever could endure. She says that fine because she gets to come home every afternoon to a house in the bush, and her dinner is cooked for her a cold glass of wine is waiting.

But I get to sit at home all day and make shit up! And, as long as the washing is done and dinner is taken care of, I pretty much get to do whatever I want.

I’ve tried real hard to make the best of those eight years. I’ve written and published sixteen short stories and/or novelettes. Been nominated for numerous awards. Had my short stories collected and published in a single volume, and picked up a contract with a publisher for a crime novel. And yet…it can’t possibly be enough. Not in comparison to what my wife accomplishes on a daily basis. And she’s doing it not only because it fits her better than the lonely madness of staying home, but because she truly wants me to be able to write.

Sometimes, that’s the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around. Jobs I’ve worked have made me physically ill, I hate them, and yet here is someone who is willing to endure that, day after day, just so that I can stay home and do something that I love. She says she knows one day I’ll be a famous writer and I’ll be able to pay it all back…she’s deluded. But I can’t possibly express how much I love her for that delusion. It means a lot to know someone has that much faith in you. That they’ll work so hard for you, to help make your dream possible.

So yeah, I pay for my passion. Every word I type is to pay back my wife for the faith she has in me. Without her, none of it would be possible.

amck_authorphotoAndrew J McKiernan is an author and illustrator living and working on the Central Coast of New South Wales. First published in 2007, his stories have since been short-listed for multiple Aurealis, Ditmar and Australian Shadows awards and reprinted in a number of Year’s Best anthologies. He was Art Director for Aurealis magazine for 8 years and his illustrations have graced the covers and internals of a number of books and magazines. Last Year, When We Were Young, a collection of his short stories was released in 2014 by Satalyte Publishing. You can find out more at http://www.andrewmckiernan.com

Fan Fund Auction Items – Request for Donations

As FFANZ delegate one of my responsibilities is to raise funds to ensure that next year’s delegate is able to make the trip from New Zealand. A traditional way to do this is holding fan fund auctions  at various cons through the year.

I always feel bad about asking people for stuff, but I am looking for donations of items and services from the spec fic community to be auctioned off. I thought rather than contact people directly–and put them in the awkward position of having to say no!–I would start by  sending this out publicly so that people who would like to contribute can do so.

Some ideas for things that would be awesome to offer for sale:

  • signed books
  • “tuckerisations” – offering the chance for someone to be  written into a story or book
  • critiques by established authors

But, I am open to other suggestions. You can contact me via social media, email or via the feedback form here.

If you are able to help, or can signal boost this, it would be greatly appreciated–thank you!

10486960_536860099773960_5080012665658117201_n

Galactic Chat 63 – Pat Cadigan

In this latest episode of Galactic Chat, I get to talk to to the amazing Pat Cadigan. In a wide ranging interview, we cover everything from Heinlein to Cyberpunk, look at “fix up” novels, and find out how Pat is ‘punching cancer in the face’.

It’s a wonderful interview with one of the top writers in her field, and I hope you enjoy listening to Pat as much as I did.

In this weeks chat, our first for the year, David talks with Pat Cadigan about her early influences and her friendship with Heinlein.  There’s some brief talk about the honorable tradition of fix-up novels in Science Fiction and some discussion around the early formation of the Cyberpunk Genre.

Pat also talks openly about her response to cancer and gives us an update on how she is coping.

Finally there is some discussion about projects that have been launched in response to the Requires Hate situation to promote and support POC in the Science Fiction and Fantasy community.

Links referenced: A Report on Damage Done by One Individual Under Several Names

Credits
Interviewer: David McDonald
Guest: Pat Cadigan
Music & Intro: Tansy Rayner Roberts
Post-prod.: Sean Wright
Feedback:
Twitter: @galactichat
Email: galactichat at gmail dot com

 

Paying for Our Passion – Amanda J Spedding

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know. Our next guest is the incredibly hard working Amanda J Spedding.

Paying for my passion; let’s take a look at what that could mean. How do I support myself as a writer? Can I support myself and my family with my passion for writing? What non-monetary price do I ‘pay’ for following my passion to write? What price does my family ‘pay’? What sacrifices must be made so I can follow my passion?

Sounds incredibly self-centred when you break it down, and for me there’s always been an element of guilt associated with what I do, justified or not. I’m an author, editor, mother and partner. I run my own business from home, and the way that all came about has a lot to do with the choices my husband and I made when our children rocked into our world; the decisions we both made as to how we wanted to raise these amazing tiny humans.

I’m a journalist by trade—I worked incredibly long and sometimes stressful hours but loved every minute of it. Once our kids were born, however, well…tiny humans! Our income halved and our expenses increased, but my husband and I went into the decision with our eyes and hearts open and our pockets somewhat lighter.

I still had the hours and deadlines with my adorable little dictator, who was joined three years later by her sergeant at arms. The sacrifices we made during this time were materialistic—we didn’t go out for dinner or to the movies; we rarely holidayed, and leisure activities revolved around anything that was cheap or free. It was hard and it was beautiful.

Writing time was pretty much catch-can—a half hour here, twenty minutes there. But it was sleep I chose to sacrifice. Once the kids were in bed, dogs walked, laundry done…I’d write ‘til midnight or later—it was my time. I treasured it, and if it meant I lost a few hours of sleep, I was more than willing to do so.

But as the kids grew, I began to receive an abundance of “input” as to when I would be returning to work to make a “valuable contribution” to society. When I said I was a writer, it was often met with “no, I mean work-work”. How do you answer that? Identity; I’m not ashamed to admit I lost it for a while. It’s a shitty, shitty feeling, not having a sense of worth. And let me be clear—this was never ever condoned or said by partner, he’s amazing—but it came that I would dread the question: “what do you do?” There was an enormous amount of guilt, too—my “contribution to society” couldn’t be monetarily measured; what did I give back to society?

Apart from raising two awesome kids that would make up part of society, I wrote. When the kids were napping, when they were at pre-school, when they’d been put down for the night. I’d grab time between washing clothes, playing with the kids, doing dishes, picking up after our ever-growing menagerie. So it was sleep I sacrificed during that time. Instead of going to bed, I’d sit up and write, hone my craft. Learn. Write. Edit. Rewrite. Edit. Rewrite.

Rinse, repeat.

My husband does shift work, so returning to the workforce posed a whole set of different problems for us. Finding a job outside the home and within school hours was so incredibly difficult, and we did the sums—if I went back to journalism, almost 90% of my pay would be spent on childcare and we’d lose time with the kids. It made absolutely no sense to us, and defeated the purpose of our initial decision to always have one of us home when they went to school and when they returned.

So I went back to school. My journalism credentials were…well, they were old. I studied hard, but I loved it, and earned a Diploma of Publishing (Professional Book Editing, Publishing and Proofreading) and a certificate in Editing. I would work from home.

It hasn’t been easy. Getting the business off the ground took a while. During this time, my husband was the ‘breadwinner’, but he had been for the last ten years—that hadn’t changed. Nor had the guilt, mind. What had changed was my desire to contribute financially to our lifestyle, to improve it for our children and to give my husband back some time. Time for himself, more time with the kids, and time for him to sleep.

We’re at that point where my business is doing well and my husband doesn’t have to work the hours he used to. My contribution isn’t to society as most people believed it should be—it was to him. For supporting my desire to be the writer I’ve always wanted to be. You see he never saw his work as ‘paying’ for my passion, he saw it as a way as giving back to me for all I did for him and the kids.

Now? Well now, I have to be far more structured in my time management. I still sacrifice sleep for my writing as my days are filled with editing others’ work between running the kids to and from school, helping with homework and all the other things needed to keep the house somewhat presentable… well, keeping the kids fed, clothed and clean.

There’s still the guilt, only now it’s based around me sometimes having to sacrifice time with the kids to edit another’s work. My kids are 14 and 11, and pretty self-sufficient (both know how to make me coffee—have I told you how amazing they are?), they have their own social lives, things they enjoy doing, but still there’s the guilt. I don’t know whether that will ever go away.

I don’t have as much time to write now as I’d like (goodbye sleep). A lot of my time is spent editing, and don’t get me wrong, I love working with other authors and helping them with their stories—it really is an amazing job. Writing, however, is what drives me. The editing helps me “justify” my writing time—and as weird as some people may think that is, it’s my truth. There are times when I sit down to write and the guilt rises because I haven’t done the dishes or folded the three baskets of laundry, or that I should be gaming with my kids or the like. There really aren’t enough hours in the day to assuage the guilt.

I’d love to be able to write full-time, to earn a living from writing alone. Thing is, I’d find it pretty difficult to give up the editing side of who I am. If it came right down it, storytelling is always going to win out, and maybe, just maybe, one of these days that will happen. Until then, I ‘pay’ for my passion by working hard and giving back to my family as they give back to me.

Amanda J SpeddingAmanda J Spedding is an award-winning author whose stories have been published in local and international markets earning honourable mentions and recommended reads. She won the 2011 Australian Shadows Award (short fiction) for her steampunk-horror, Shovel-Man Joe. Amanda is the owner of Phoenix Editing and Proofreading, and between bouts of editing, she is writing (and rewriting) her first novel. In June, her horror comic, The Road, will be launched at ComicCon in Melbourne. Amanda lives in Sydney with her sarcastically-gifted husband and two very cool kids.

Guest Post: Amanda Pillar on Editing and Writing

I was very excited to hear that Amanda was releasing a novel. As well as being one of the best editors going around, she is a very talented writer and her novel sounds fascinating! Amanda has also been very generous in sharing her editing experience with writers and helping them improve their stories–you can read some excellent advice here and I’d highly recommend following Amanda on Twitter where she often talks about writing–and I am delighted to welcome her here today to share some thoughts on being a writer and an editor.

I’d like to thank the wonderful David McDonald for asking me to guest post. I have been really enjoying the ‘Paying for Our Passion’ blog series lately, so I thought I would post something slightly related to the theme: on the sometimes conflicting goals of being an editor and a writer.

Recently, my debut novel, Graced, was released by Momentum. It’s available as an ebook, and I hope people will love it as much as I do! I guess that is the difficulty of every writer’s life – we dedicate ourselves to creating something we love, only to throw it out into the world and wait to discover if anyone else actually likes it.

But in addition to being a writer, I’m also an editor. Originally, I started as a writer in this crazy industry, trying to find markets and learning my craft (which I am still doing). After publishing one of my first stories (I think it was the third?) I was asked to provide a crit by my then-editor, Mark Deniz. I sent his story back with my thoughts and comments, and he asked if I was interested in co-editing an anthology he was thinking of calling Voices.

And so began my anthology career: Voices was the first, and the eighth, Bloodlines, is currently ‘under construction’. The early days of my career was an interesting time, as I was also completing my undergraduate degree, and one of my majors was English and creative writing. While it didn’t really help my writing at all, it did help me approach stories with a critical eye. I like to think that this tactic has aided me in encouraging authors to bring out the best in their stories.

Graced-Ebook-High-Res1I have to admit, it’s difficult to find time to write and edit simultaneously. I often say I need to wear different ‘hats’ when doing both. Both writing and editing are time-consuming. I will often read a story that I’m to edit twice before I sink my teeth into its contents. Then I will edit a story until both I and the author think it’s perfect. This may take one or 10 rounds of edits; each story is truly unique.

While writing helps my editing, in understanding the processes behind the craft, editing has certainly helped my writing more. Certain traits I notice in the stories I edit—like repetition, strange use of capitalisation, tautologies, whether physical actions make sense, etc—make me review my writing more critically. It is difficult for me to stop reviewing everything I write as I write it, and just get the words on the paper. The first draft for me is the hardest, so I have to constantly push myself to just keep writing, rather than editing as I go.

On the upside, however, I love to be edited. I’ve experienced both sides of the proverbial coin. I know every writer has had that gut-reaction to a strong edit at least once—they think what now?—but I can really recommend the following advice: set it aside and come back to it in a few days. I know when I edit someone’s work, I don’t expect people to take every comment and suggestion on board, but I expect the author to think about them. And so I try and do the same. After all, an editor just wants your work to be the best it can.

Amanda_small-1Saying that, there is a difference in editing and re-writing. If you feel someone wants to rewrite your story to fit their ideal, rather than yours, you don’t have to take those ideas on board. Don’t just agree to a re-write to get your story published for the sake of it; make sure you’re happy with it.

I know every author approaches how they write differently; the only advice I can really provide is to do what works best for you. If that is to edit as you go, then do that. If it is to ‘purge’ yourself then come back and edit later, do that. The only really important part is to just write.

Amanda Pillar is an award-winning editor and author who lives in Victoria, Australia, with her husband and two cats, Saxon and Lilith.

Amanda has had numerous short stories published and has co-edited the fiction anthologies Voices (2008), Grants Pass (2009), The Phantom Queen Awakes (2010), Scenes from the Second Storey (2010), Ishtar (2011) and Damnation and Dames (2012). Her first solo anthology, Bloodstones (2012), was published by Ticonderoga Publications. Amanda is currently working on the sequel, Bloodlines, due for publication in 2015.

Amanda’s first novel, Graced, was published by Momentum in 2015.

In her day job, she works as an archaeologist.

Expiration Date Anthology

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while, but I am delighted to reveal that a story of mine, “To Dance, Perchance to Die”, will be appearing in a new anthology from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing–“Expiration Date”.

ExpirationDate-A-270px-100dpi-C12From the press release (follow the link for more information):

(Calgary) EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing is pleased to announce the featured authors of the new anthology “Expiration Date” edited by Nancy Kilpatrick. The new anthology from EDGE focuses on the what-ifs of the “end-dates” that surround us, and how they impact our lives and our world, and ourselves.

“Modern lives seem littered with expiration dates” says anthology editor Nancy Kilpatrick. “Packaging tells us when our food will go bad; when we can expect appliances to cease functioning; when contracts for the internet finish! But as annoying as these small expiration dates are, they fade to nothing compared to the larger events: when a species goes extinct; when a body of water evaporates, or dies because the PH balance alters; when giant icebergs break apart and glaciers melt forever, threatening the ecosystem of this planet.”

Kilpatrick reminds us “From the micro to the macro in terms of expirations, we are faced with the one termination with which we are all too familiar— the up-close-and-personal end of life for each of us and for the ones we love. It’s the personal that terrifies us most because it feels the most real.”

Expiration Date features 25 original pieces of short fiction by some of the world’s top Dark Fiction writers. The anthology includes works by:

Kelley Armstrong, Daniel Sernine (translation by Sheryl Curtis), Elaine Pascale, J. M. Frey, Steve Vernon, Ken Goldman, David McDonald, Lois H. Gresh, R. B. Payne, Mary E. Choo, Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem, Morgan Dambergs, Patricia Flewwelling, Christine Steendam, Ryan McFadden, Tobin Elliott, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, George Wilhite, Paul Kane, Rebecca Bradley, Sèphera Girón, Amy Grech, Kathryn Ptacek, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Nancy Holder and Erin Underwood

Their stories span a range of emotions. Some will make you laugh, other will make you cry. They are grim and hopeful, sad and joyous, horrifying and comforting. Each has its own personality and will touch you in its own way.

It’s wonderful to see my name amongst such a fine list of writers, and I am looking forward to being able to reveal the full TOC very soon.

Paying for Our Passion – Laura E. Goodin

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know. Our next guest is one of my favourite people, Laura E. Goodin.

I’ve run the gamut: living alone and writing while working full time and going to grad school at night; living alone and writing while on the dole; living with my husband and being the one earning more money, less money, no money. I’ve had demanding professional jobs, and demanding menial jobs, and menial jobs that didn’t even begin to interest me. I’ve run my own business while doing my Ph.D. and trying to scavenge writing time. I’ve been at home with a baby; I’ve been a working mom with a working husband and a child with a demanding schedule; I’ve been an empty-nester.

Through all of that, I’ve found that my success (as measured by publications, performances, and participation at cons) correlates almost not at all with my life circumstances. The only time in my life where the writing nearly stalled completely was while I was working in a highly demanding more-than-full-time job where I had to jump to a pager at all hours of the day and night for years. And even then, I held onto my writing dream by my fingernails (one story I wrote during those years eventually got published on the BBC4 web site, which still makes me very happy).

That said, some situations have been easier than others. I had one blissful year where I wrote full-time, supported by my husband, and our kid was old enough not to need 24-hour care, before I had to go back to work. My productivity soared. In contrast, at times when I have a lot of editing work (that’s my small business), I find that it dries up the word juju quite alarmingly. When I was in the throes of my Ph.D., not much else got written. The supply of words may or may not be limited but the supply of my ability to process and produce them is.

At the moment, I’m still running the editing business, and I’m commuting between Melbourne and Sydney two days a week to teach at a tertiary institution. The teaching money helps when the editing isn’t coming in, and – oddly – teaching doesn’t deplete my word juju the way editing does. The editing hasn’t, in fact, been coming in recently, and I’m finding that writing consistently is far less of a problem. Moreover, my husband, who is more steadily employed at the moment, is paying the majority of the bills, which takes a lot of the pressure off.

Several factors have consistently forced their way into my writing equation:

  • Job: the number of hours and amount of word juju, focus, and energy it requires
  • Family: the number of hours and the intensity of interaction required and desired
  • Extracurricular activities (I’m prone to these, and it has probably slowed my writing career down quite a bit, but it’s given me a lot more to write about, and is good for my soul)
  • Degree to which I’m either enthusiastic or discouraged about my writing at any given time

Balancing these – minimizing, maximizing, mitigating – is a moment-to-moment thing. I’ve long since given up on grand announcements (“THIS is the year my writing career really takes off!”), and I’ve begun to recognize that the bouts of black certainty that I completely suck and always will are, in fact, temporary. After eight years of writing seriously, during which all those factors have oscillated wildly, I’m noticing the peaks and troughs are flattening, and my energy is going less into climbing and falling than into just going forward. Some of that is the onset of middle age (which for the most part I’m relishing, by the way), and some is the slow accretion of data that yes, I am a writer. If I haven’t given it over by now, I’m not going to.

11015735_10205190972787882_1039060405_nAmerican-born writer Laura E. Goodin has been writing professionally for over 30 years. Her stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Adbusters, Wet Ink, The Lifted Brow, and Daily Science Fiction, among others, and in several anthologies. Her plays and libretti have been performed on three continents, and her poetry has been performed internationally, both as spoken word and as texts for new musical compositions. She attended the 2007 Clarion South workshop, and has a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Western Australia.

You can find out more by visiting her website.

Paying for Our Passion – Tehani Wessely

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know. Our next guest is the wonderful Tehani Wessely.

I’m an editor/publisher rather than an author, but in small press, I guess the same pressures apply. The income is rarely sufficient to support one person (let alone a family) – for me, if each project pays for itself it’s a win, but that’s not always the case. Even if it were, you can’t live on for-the-love, right? Anyway, I happen to love my day job – I’m a full-time teacher librarian (well, Head of Information Services) at an independent boys’ school, working 8am to 5pm most days. It is another facet of who I am, and I’m very lucky that I get to do what I love at work, which helps pay for my other passion!

What’s interesting is that having a day job doesn’t necessarily change my publishing output. I basically had a year off when the youngest was born (I did some online university tutoring and marking, but nothing like full-time) but I think I achieved just as much in the past year with full-time work and an interstate move as I did in that year off. For me, it’s kind of like that story of the jar full of rocks/pebbles/sand – if you put the sand in first, the rocks won’t fit, but when you have the rocks in, the sand fills the gaps. I think publishing is my sand – it’s what I do to fill in the gaps, and while I bemoan the fact I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do to create and market books, I don’t necessarily know if I would achieve much more even with that time. That said, looking back it’s possible a lot of projects got STARTED during that year off which then have taken 12 to 18 months to come to fruition, so maybe that’s the kicker – when you have the time, the creativity has more opportunity to flow freely, even if it’s not an immediate payoff.

In terms of what juggling day job and publishing looks like for me, I have four children from 2 to 12, and a husband who works away half the time and, while he doesn’t always “get” why I publish, fully supports me. This usually means time rather than money, but then, every dollar I’ve put into the press could have been going towards the family holiday or mortgage I suppose. It’s more about the ability to be able to go to things like conventions, to sell books, network with authors and so on though – without his support, I wouldn’t be able to do that as easily.

LogoSometimes I get a bit stressed about whether or not I can actually maintain the financial commitment or time necessary to make the projects happen, but so far, we’ve always managed it. That said, I did make a choice late last year to pull back on some of the projects I’d been considering, due to both financial and time pressure. It was a really tough decision, and they were hard emails to write, because I think if you aren’t trying new things and looking at new opportunities, it’s really hard for a small press to gain traction. But if I can’t make the best effort at the projects I’m doing, they aren’t going to be worth it anyway – publishing has such a long lead time and an even longer follow through, if you don’t want projects to sink without a trace, and I think that’s what I’m trying to find the balance with at the moment. The editing and book production isn’t really the problem. I think I could continue to load or even increase it, if that’s ALL I needed to do. But it’s not. It’s the rest of the publishing process that takes the longest time. And that’s where most of my guilt comes from – taking time away from my family to make these books. I can only hope that my kids see me following a passion and working hard to achieve my goals, and take some of that away for their own lives, not just all the time Mummy spends at the computer rather than playing with them… Yeah, a bit of guilt.

In terms of the sacrifices I make in order to do what I do, although the money is a part of it, I think it’s definitely the time that is the biggest sacrifice. But you know what? If I wasn’t making books, I’d almost certainly be doing something else with that time, and it’s not a guarantee that something would be hanging out with the kids, I’m afraid! It might be something less deadline-specific, I suppose. Maybe it would be exercise…

CLOH cover smallI have been working with small press publishing since 2001 – my first child was born in 2002. I’ve lived in five different states in that time, worked full- and part-time, sometimes with contract work on top. Every time I’ve had a hiatus from a paid job, I’ve upped the ante in publishing – FableCroft was started two months after my third baby was born. The problem is, when I’m not working and have more time to give to publishing, I don’t have an income from my day job. And when I’m working and have perhaps a bit of extra money, naturally I don’t have as much TIME to invest in projects. Maybe I could be a better mother – I’m not sure. If I’m happy and fulfilled, I think I’m a better person which lets me be a better mum, but maybe that’s what I WANT to think because I don’t want to give it up? It’s a balancing act and I don’t think there are any easy answers.

What would be the ideal? I’m not sure there is one. I genuinely love my day job, and at this stage, wouldn’t want to give that up. I am well paid in my role, more so than I would be in most roles even in the mainstream publishing industry, so I can’t see us being in a position for me NOT to have a day job any time soon. However, one day, maybe, I think I would love to be able to either focus entirely on FableCroft or, should an opportunity arise, perhaps take on a position in a large publishing house. You never really know what the future will bring – for now, everything I do is another string in my bow to a potential future prospects. And we’ll see where life takes us!

10847783_10204716753775216_7468526947719541367_n (1)Tehani Wessely was a founding member of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine in 2001. Now firmly entrenched in Australian speculative fiction and independent press, she operates FableCroft Publishing, has edited for Twelfth Planet Press (among other duties), judged for the Aurealis Awards (for which she is the current judging co-ordinator), CBCA Book of the Year and the WA Premier’s Book Awards, reads far more in one genre than is healthy, and writes reviews, non-fiction and interviews. In her spare moments, she works as a Teacher Librarian and enjoys spending time with her husband and four children.

Before FableCroft, Tehani was the editor of ASIM #4, #16, #27, #31 and #37, three Best Of ASIM e-anthologies, co-editor of ASIM #36, the Twelfth Planet Press anthology New Ceres Nights and other projects. In 2014, Tehani received the Aurealis Award for Best Anthology for One Small Step (tie) and The Bone Chime Song and other stories by Joanne Anderton received Best Collection the same year. Many stories and works she has published have been shortlisted for (and won) multiple awards including Ditmars, Aurealis Awards, WSFA Small Press Awards, Tin Ducks, Chronos Awards, Australian Shadows Awards and Sir Julius Vogel Awards, and have been honorably mentioned and collected in multiple Year’s Best and other reprint anthologies.

In 2015, Tehani will publish Cranky Ladies of History (co-edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts and crowdfunded on Pozible), Insert Title Here (an unthemed speculative fiction anthology), Havenstar by Glenda Larke (ebook reprint), Focus 2014: highlights of Australian short fiction (ebook Best Of) and probably other projects. She also has a Doctor Who essay appearing in the collection Companion Piece from Mad Norwegian Press.

A Conversational Journey through New Who – S06E0708 – A Good Man Goes to War/Let’s Kill Hitler

We would like to thank everyone who nominated our “New Who in Conversation” series for the William Atheling Jr Award again this year – it’s a great honour to be on the ballot! Voting for the annual Ditmar Awards (which the Atheling is included in) is open to all members of Continuum X (2014 Natcon – Melbourne) and Swancon 40 (2015 Natcon – Perth), and can be done online.

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 6 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all.

We are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points. Just for fun!

“A Good Man Goes to War/Let’s Kill Hitler”
Season six, episodes seven and eight
The Doctor – Matt SmithAmy Pond – Karen Gillan
Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill 
River Song – Alex Kingston
Mels – Nina Toussaint-White

DAVID:
I really enjoyed the introduction to “A Good Man Goes to War”. I do think that there are times when Amy puts the Doctor in roles that by rights are Rory’s, and it was great that he was the subject of her speech and, unless, I am way off, the “good man” of the title and the prophecy. The scene where they confront the Cybermen is quite effective, though you do have to ask about the ethics of blowing up so many of them just to get information – it’s even more casual slaughter than we are used to. I actually had already seen this scene when it was played during the Hugo ceremony, but I had managed to blank it out and it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this.

Super RoryTEHANI:
Rewatching the beginning I’m just all “RORY ROCKS”! Which is, almost certainly, the idea.

TANSY:
I love that Rory uses his Roman Legionary costume and identity when he needs to kick ass, and I do like this scene very much – of course, as soon as you start thinking about the ethics of exploding the whole army it’s a bit icky. Looking back to 2011, when this episode aired – this was the point very much at which fandom accepted Rory as officially awesome instead of complaining about him being a doormat or another Mickey. I’ve always given a bit of a side-eye to this group reaction, as it seems to me that Rory became a lot more popular as a character as soon as he became more traditionally macho – waving swords and uttering threatening lines. Which is a shame, because I love squooshy, sensitive Rory too.

I am very glad that they seem to now have dropped the whole thing with Rory feeling jealous of the Doctor – it feels like discovering Amy’s abduction has led him to finally drop that very boring narrative thread, so he can concentrate on what’s important.

PS: the ‘A good man’ of the title is the Doctor I think, but it also refers to Rory, and takes on different meanings for each of them.

DAVID:
Interesting. To me it is far better fit for Rory. But, that’s the joy of prophecies, right? Discussion fodder!

So, were these Mondasian Cybermen? I get confused by all these alternate timelines etc!

rory-el-c3baltimo-centuric3b3n-800x450TEHANI:
That’s quite clearly a question Tansy needs to answer, because I don’t even know what you’re talking about!

TANSY:
I don’t know that it’s clear at this point – there’s one school of thought that the Mondas Cybermen have still not been officially brought back in New Who (apart from the head in Dalek), but it’s clear there are plenty of them surfing around ‘our’ universe at this point, and they have ditched the Cybus industries logo as of The Next Doctor, so… NO ONE KNOWS, GUYS. Peter Capaldi recently stated that bringing back the Mondasian Cybermen was a priority for him.

TEHANI:
On that note, Tansy, do the opening scenes make any sense at all in terms of continuity? I mean, there are characters who are familiar but not as themselves I think, and the events we see them in seem like they come from Doctor Who past, but I don’t think they all are? I think it’s all fabulous, but I don’t know it makes any sense?

19754203.jpg-r_640_600-b_1_D6D6D6-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxTANSY:
Ah, that’s the clever part. All of these characters feel like they belong solidly to the Doctor’s past – they obviously all have a past with him, but certainly in the case of Madam Vastra, Strax and Jenny, we’ve never seen them in the show before. I love this opening, it’s like a proper heist film, with characters who have a murky past with each other.

Something Moffat has done very well, which RTD only started allowing for in his later seasons, is allowing lots of gaps and spaces between stories, including long periods in which the Doctor lives a life we don’t get to witness. In this case he’s had these friends whose lives he has completely changed, who owe him favours, and we get to walk in on the middle of the friendship.

TEHANI:
Which is super smart for the fandom side of things, because it allows lots of (authorised and non-authorised) opportunities to play in the history. Big Finish is going to have an absolute ball fiddling around in this era in ten years or so!

DAVID:
One of the things that has concerned me with New Who, especially the later seasons, is that it sometimes crosses the line with portraying the Doctor as a darker, more powerful figure into something that is far too potent. I kind of liked the Doctor when he was a mysterious wanderer, and where people did not know who they were messing with, rather than someone whose name so well known as to cause armies to panic and flee. There have been times this has been done well (such as “The Eleventh Hour” and “The Pandorica Opens”), but it can also get a bit too self congratulatory and back slappy. This episode walked that line, and came close times to stepping over.

TEHANI:
By gosh Matt Smith was marvellous in this though. I came back to rewatch after way too long and fell in love with him all over again in this. He’s pitch perfect as the madcap showman in the start of the battle, but that underlying anger, fear and sadness coming through at points (and the gorgeous “I speak baby” stuff too!), oh, so good.

1318214550478769TANSY:
I think this is the Eleventh Doctor at his darkest, and his most morally compromised – as is telegraphed quite heavily in the story! The theme of the Doctor as warrior is carried through, and we finally see the potential for him to be a war leader but also his deep dislike of the very idea that he might do such a thing. Now that we know (CLOSE YOUR EARS DAVID) so much more about what happened to him during the Time War, this story has extra resonance, because this is what he promised himself he would never do again.

DAVID:
I quite liked River Song’s speech at the end where she lectures the Doctor on the dangers of the legend he has created, and just like in Pandorica Opens, we can understand why races might decide the Universe would be safer without the Doctor in it – though of course their methods are inexcusable and completely reprehensible. I think that the modern incarnations of the Doctor have sometimes lost sight of his moral core, and act as if the measure of whether things are right or wrong are whether it is the Doctor doing them.

TEHANI:
It’s all about River Song though, really. Both these episodes are about solving the mystery of River, and I love the way that starts, with her lovestruck and whimsical then thrust into events that she clearly knows the outcome of. Paradoxes, they break my brain.

TANSY:
I was spoiled the morning that the episode aired (still bitter) but yes I think this is a great River Song story – if anything, the revelation is only a small part of the episode (though a huge part of the season). Some of my favourite River scenes are in this episode, particularly the one at the beginning when Rory comes to her and asks for help, and she turns him down. You can see in her face, watching this in retrospect, that she’s searching for the person she knows is her father, and that this is the last time she’ll see him before he knows who she is.

It’s a great disappointment to me that the River-Rory relationship was given so little exploration in stories afterwards, because while I think the awkward-loving vibe between her and Amy is so interesting, I think the most interesting scenes between River and Rory were basically in this episode, and back in The Impossible Astronaut.

DAVID:
I was more than a little confused about who the bad guys were in this episode. I thought at first it was the Church Militant from the last Angels episode (which would have bothered me as I thought that was a great concept). Then there was a mention of a Papal directive, as well as Anglican soldiers and the Headless Monks confusing things. The Silence’s doctrine has nothing in common with Christianity, so I will be interested to see where the threads all come together. New Who has had interesting relationship with religion, so I will await with great interest to discover the logic behind all these connections.

TANSY:
Oh, sweetie.

TEHANI:
I think I gave up entirely trying to sort out the continuity, if there is any! Without spoiling, some of this is (somewhat) explained over the next seasons, but here, nah, not so much.

TANSY:
Yes, the church militant and the Papal mainframe are heaven neutral (I love this term though no idea what it means) and I think that’s important – they are neutral, they just happen to be under orders currently from characters who are working against the Doctor.

550w_cult_doctor_who_0607_b_04TEHANI: That said, for my mind the only villain is Madame Kovarian – the scene where the baby turns out to be Flesh absolutely shocked me the first time, and it upsets me every single time I watch it.

DAVID:
Yes, I actually shuddered when that happened.

TANSY:
I found the baby plot incredibly stressful the first time around – this screened in 2011 when my youngest was still toddler, so the whole thing with Amy and Rory losing baby Melody was genuinely devastating – though it was actually the stress of not knowing what was going to happen that made it worse for me. In retrospect, now that tension is gone, I can watch the episode without my heart in my throat.

TEHANI:
It’s still completely awful. Too many babies in my life for this ever not to be ridiculously sad.

The_Doctor's_cot.jpgTANSY:
A lot of people hated the Amy abducted subplot, and there was something really horrible about the idea of her being pregnant in a box for so many months, while her mind was still cheerfully travelling around with the Doctor and Rory. I do like the strength of how Amy is portrayed here as a mother – a role that by no means comes naturally to her, and which she has had no preparation for. I like that she’s not softened by having a baby in her arms – she’s harder than ever, like when she’s so sharp to Lorna Bucket because the idea of sentiment in this situation makes her want to stab things.

DAVID:
I really enjoyed the three characters introduced here, Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax (though I assumed he was the Sontaran from a much earlier episode at first). I’ve heard that they pop up again a few times, and I will look forward to that. Strax especially appealed to me, and I thought both hilarious and believable that the Sontaran idea of penance might involve being forced to “help the weak”. His conversation with the boy was comedy gold. And, I so want to know more about that war and that time zone, it looked like a steampunk fan’s dream come true.The idea of a Sontaran breast feeding was pretty amusing too, I would love to see a cafe owner tell him to cover up!

Vastra

TANSY:
I love these characters so much. Always and forever. It’s rare for a single Doctor Who story to launch so many memorable, worth-bringing-back characters – this one has four and I won’t tell you who the fourth is, yet. Spoilers!

TEHANI:
The arch looks Vastra and Jenny exchange in that scene in the control room! *dies of love* They are so awesome, and I’m still waiting for that Vastra and Jenny spin off please and thank you! They are all brilliant in this. And though I maybe felt, particularly on rewatching again, that there are perhaps a few too many characters that were really somewhat extraneous, I really genuinely loved this episode. It makes me laugh and cry and ache for them. So much good.

TANSY:
It’s amazing how epic this story feels considering that it is a one-parter – I know we’re here to talk about both stories, but you both did not have to WAIT TWO FREAKING MONTHS between episodes like those of us who were watching it live! (Or wait, Tehani, were you watching it live by this point? I lose track).

TEHANI:
I was TOTALLY watching it live by then! The pain…

TANSY:
The big cast of characters makes it feel like a big, sprawling space opera and I love that – also how well the various characters are set up, even with only a few lines.

1140327_1352389226868_fullDAVID:
I know I am a conservative fuddy duddy, and I don’t think that New Who should be completely constrained by the continuity of the old show, but I am not sure that I approve of throwing out established canon for a one liner and a minor plot point. I am sure that temporal grace has been an important part of the show and a wonderful concept that deserved better.

TANSY:
To be fair, David, the idea of temporal grace has been contradicted in Classic Who at least as often as it has been relevant to the plot! Let us not forget Susan and the scissors in Edge of Destruction. :D I personally think that the temporal grace idea is something a bit like the Randomiser from the Fourth Doctor’s era, or the isometric controls – something that has occasionally been active in the TARDIS, but is not a permanent, always-taken-for-granted feature.

TEHANI:
So we’re kind of cheating with this one, because it’s not really a double episode. However, the program originally aired with a two and a half month gap between the episodes, so technically, as well as “A Good Man Goes to War” being Hugo nominated, we could call them a season closer and a season opener, yes? I just think we really REALLY need to talk about “Let’s Kill Hitler”, so we’ll justify it!

Let's Kille HitlerDAVID:
It’s probably long overdue that a TV show about time travel needed to address the elephant in the room. If you had a time machine and a gun, why wouldn’t you travel back in time and try and kill Hitler? Of course, all know it is never going to go to plan!

TANSY:
I don’t know that it is overdue in that it’s a trope that has been referenced and discussed almost as often as the JFK shooting or the grandfather paradox. But then it is supposed to be ridiculous in this context – the whole idea is that it’s what an adrenalin junkie teenager would come up with, given a gun and a time machine.

The actual elephant in the room is that the Doctor gets hugely judgmental about all kinds of atrocities when he’s faced with them – he even brought Harriet Jones down for shooting one spaceship out of the sky. So why doesn’t he kill Hitler? Why didn’t he save Adric? How can we actually put our faith in a hero with near-unlimited power to change time, who allows himself to choose his battles?

DAVID:
Well, and a hero who has done far worse things than shoot one spaceship out of the sky!

The problem with Nazi references in a lot of movies (and in political discourse) is that there is a danger of minimising evil and of weird moral equivalences. The idea that River’s crime of killing the Doctor is somehow comparable to Hitler’s crimes made me uncomfortable and I think that they should have made it clear that there were levels of punishment/crime that they were enforcing.

TANSY:
It is uncomfortable – again I think it’s supposed to be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay. The British have a long history of turning Hitler and the Nazis into a joke, from World War II propaganda onwards, as a way of coping with what they represented and what the potential invasion of Britain signified, but I think we’re at a point in history where a lot of that humour is pretty misguided.

1315029141-vlcsnap-00987

DAVID:
Because I am so far behind, I don’t know whether we get the story of where the Doctor went looking, and what happened in the time between the start of his search, and meeting in the cornfield, but I am a big fan of these gaps as these can be filled with all sorts of wonders from new companions to homicidal super computers and leather clad savages.

TEHANI:
The first time I watched this, it was really weird to see newly regenerated River suddenly being a psychopath – it didn’t make sense that Rory and Amy could have known Mels so well and yet she turns into this lunatic so quickly. But rewatching, it was more palatable. The idea that the brainwashing imperative to kill him didn’t actually kick in until she encountered the Doctor makes sense, if you squint at it, so I can hand wave other stuff to make it work.

TANSY:
I like many parts of this episode – particularly Alex Kingston’s portrayal of the very young River Song/Melody coming into her new body for the first time – but I think the search part of the story is disappointing mostly because the Doctor promises he will get their baby back, and he fails. He fails terribly, and we don’t see him fail – we don’t even see him try. Instead, time travel catches up with them – but while I normally support gaps in the story, this one is pretty massive and means that all the emotional punch of “A Good Man Goes To War” is allowed to fizzle. It feels like maybe he just put his feet up in the TARDIS and had a cup of tea then came to collect them at the end of the summer.

DAVID:
River Song being Rory and Amy’s daughter certainly introduces some weird family dynamics, especially if her and the Doctor end up together. One wonders how Amy would feel about that, and the Doctor is continuing his run of entirely inappropriate relationships. Fortunately, the power dynamic between River and the Doctor is much more balanced than some of the other ones we have seen.

I wasn’t sure about the shoe-horning of Mel’s character into Rory and Amy’s past, but that conversation where Amy tells Rory he is gay made it worthwhile. I wonder if there are any expanded universe adventures of the incarnation of Mel’s floating around, whether books or Big Finish? If not, maybe there should be. They didn’t really explain why she was simultaneously wanting to kill the Doctor, and had grown up idolising him. Did the brainwashing only kick in at a certain point? Was there a trigger word? Did she come and find Amy and Rory because they were her parents or because they were a way of getting to her target. I am sure all will be revealed.

TANSY:
Oh, sweetie.

TEHANI:
I’m so ambivalent about Mels. On one hand, I think she’s awesome, and I could watch an entire spin off called The Amy, Rory and Mels Adventures played by their younger selves (with a few cameos from the “teenage” selves just for giggles). On the other, without that background, without ever seeing or hearing a single thing about Mels for the entire season and a half we’ve known Amy and Rory, unfortunately it just falls flat for me. I get why we HAVE Mels, but it’s so obviously a plot device and it’s one of the few times I’ve been disappointed by a random add-in.

I think part of the problem I have with it is the way Rory and Amy have basically got over the loss of their baby, and it’s so unfair that they basically just give up on getting baby Melody back again. Just because River was Mels and they kind of grew up together, and they know how things work out (basically), it’s not at ALL the same as being parents to a baby who they were clearly so invested in THE LAST EPISODE.

618_cult_doctor_who_0608_7TANSY:
Yeah, I think a single line earlier in the season to say that Amy named the baby after her best friend Mels (which would make sense and actually would have distracted from the melody – song connection) would have signposted Mels a little better. But then this whole second half of the season is characterised by episodes which needed one or two lines of dialogue to FIX THEM.

By the way there was a great comic in Doctor Who Magazine – I think the December issue in the same year? Which showed a hidden adventure of Rory, Amy and Mels at Christmas. I think the three of them and their odd childhood together is absolutely a goldmine of missed storytelling opportunities.

TEHANI:
Look, in all, I think this episode is a bit over-the-top and melodramatic, but Alex Kingston is as always fabulous, there are some very good parts interspersed with the bits that don’t make complete sense, and there are some really nice callbacks to past episodes and tidbits that are picked up in later episodes.

TANSY:
Alex Kingson and Matt Smith together are amazing in this. And while I know very much that feminist Doctor Who fans all over the world were infuriated by the “I’m looking for a good man” line at the end of this episode, and the reframing of young River as someone obsessively shaping her life around the Doctor…

I actually really like this piece of their story, because the power imbalance between them with him knowing more about her and their relationship is an important bookend to the early episodes where she was all-knowing and he was innocent. Their relationship is much more fun to watch in stories when they’re both somewhere in the middle, but this piece of the puzzle is important. The fact that she is vulnerable, erratic and less confident here, in her youth, does not take away from how awesome and extraordinary she becomes, just because we’ve seen it in the wrong order so it feels like regression. If that makes sense?

DAVID:
Definitely. To me, all this is doing is showing how she became the River Song we meet when she first appears in the show, not retconning her character or diminishing it. If we went from the River Song we first met to Mels, yes that could be seen as a step backward for a great character. But that River Song hasn’t changed or gone anywhere–we are just getting an extended flashback showing us her backstory! It’s actually a pretty clever idea.

TEHANI:
Definitely! Like, you know, people (even fictional ones) can grow and change – nicely done I reckon.

Previous Episodes
“Rose”, S01E01
“Dalek”, S01E06
“Father’s Day”, S01E08
“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10
“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13
Season One Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
“The Christmas Invasion”, 2005 Christmas Special
“New Earth”, S02E01
“School Reunion”, S02E03
“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04
“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06
“Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”, S02E12/13
Season Two Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
“Smith and Jones”, S03E01
“The Shakespeare Code/Gridlock”, S03E02/03″
“Human Nature/Family of Blood”. S03E08/09″
“Blink”. S03E10″
“Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords”, S03E12/13/14
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Spearhead from Space (1970)
Season Three Report CardDavid, Tansy, Tehani
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Genesis of the Daleks (1975)
“Partners in Crime”, S04E01
The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, S04E0708
“Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, S04E0910
Turn Left, S0411
The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End,S04E1213
Season Four Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars
End of Time
The Eleventh Hour. S0501
The Beast Below/Victory of the Daleks,S050203
The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone,S05E0405
The Vampires of Venice/Amy’s Choice,S050607
The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood,S050809
Vincent and the Doctor/The Lodger,S05E10/11
The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang,S05E12/13
2010 Christmas Special – A Christmas Carol
Season Five Report Card – DavidTansyTehani
The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon,S06E01/02
The Doctor’s Wife,S06E04