With a show as broad and as deep, both in its concerns and its appeal, as Doctor Who, there were inevitably going to be people who wanted to express their enthusiasm in any number of different ways. Some dress up as characters from the series in order to attend conventions, some create fan videos (in which they themselves might appear as a Doctor or his companion), and some simply join internet forums in which they can chat with like-minded fans.
Other than these ‘unofficial’ activities, however, a whole cottage industry has grown up around Doctor Who, with licensed products ranging from the BBC’s own spin-off books series to Dalek flannels and the excellent toys of Character Options. And so much more!
Here at Starburst, we like to spread the love for the little guys, the independents (being one ourselves), and so with Doctor Who enjoying some broadcast downtime just now, we’d like to present a guide (in completely random order, chosen by reference to a pack of Doctor Who playing cards) to the independent publishers with links to the show, the kind of publishers who’ve given us The Target Book, About Time and Gallimaufry.
(U.K.) “Miwk Publishing (also on Twitter) was founded in July 2010 and is currently run by myself, Robert Hammond and Phil Ware,” says Matt West. “We had written together before on Auton: Shock & Awe for Hirst Books and were planning a Blake’s 7 book with Hirst as well which we elected to take to a different publisher for various reasons. During the course of discussion it was agreed we’d self-publish it and in doing so realised there were a lot of books we wanted to see made available. Andy Davidson had spoken about his Carry On book around that time and we’d also been planning Turn Left as well, or rather what became Turn Left.
“It’s surprisingly easy to set yourself up as a publisher, but the trick is to be very clear about what you want to publish. For example it seemed clear to us that we just couldn’t support fiction. We may well do one day and are in talks at the moment for a pretty exciting series of sci-fi novels from a prominent Doctor Who writer. But again, that’s the key – the writer already has that established fan base and it’s the fan bases we’ve been targeting. If the internet’s shown us anything then it’s that there are people out there who share some pretty obscure interests. Maybe they wouldn’t sign up to a postal mailing list in the nineties, but they’d gladly visit a webpage once or twice a week to keep up to date on, for example, Mork & Mindy. So many of these fan bases need a bible and that’s where we saw an opportunity. Michael offered us Prophets of Doom (previewed here), in fact we nearly took his arm off when he handed it to us as it was exactly the sort of book we were looking for. We don’t kid ourselves that an intensive and thorough guidebook to Doomwatch is going to be a bestseller and on the shelves of Waterstones, but that doesn’t matter to us. We’re really not in this for the money – I’d be amazed if any of the independents were! It’s all for the love of the book or the series. There are limits however – Matt would love to do a book about After Henry but no-one’s going to buy it.
“Something we were certain of was that we’d really limit the amount of Doctor Who books we’d do, in fact we originally said we wouldn’t do any at all, but then Justyce Served was already in the pipes. We have other Doctor Who related titles in the offing including two rather exciting biographies – but the nuisance with these things is that we’re just not in a position to announce them yet. Books on the way or that we can discuss cover series including The Tomorrow People, Columbo, Timeslip, Only Fools and Horses, and more Doomwatch in the form of script books for the episodes missing from the archives.
“We’re coming up to a year from when we incorporated and so far we’re doing a lot better than we’d predicted. Maximum Power! and Carry On Confidential have sold in terrific quantities and received highly favourable press. People have noticed the little things, the quality of the books, the type of paper selected to suit the subject (took us a while to find a wove suitable for Maximum Power!) and of course our inserts which we really went to town with early but will be toning down for later releases. Probably our best freebie which I can announce here for the first time is a CD which will come free with Justyce Served – I won’t say what’s on it, but it’s not a complete set of Audio Visuals … that much is certain.
“We’re getting three or four submissions a week from people and while the quality is high, the books aren’t always for us. We’ve had so many “100 greatest Zombie films” or “100 greatest films you’ve never seen” books sent to us and it’s not something we’d do. We get a heck of a lot of James Bond submissions too. With episode guides we’re unlikely to take them on unless they have something special about them, a twist or a new way of looking at things. Andy did this with Carry On Confidential which has QR codes which you can scan and be taken to every Carry On filming location on Google maps. It’s an innovative idea which we may include in another book soon.
“From September onwards, following the release of Justyce Served, we’ll no longer be taking pre-orders on books until they’ve gone to the printers. We’re not well suited to deadlines and are too nice to bully people into achieving them. We’re having fun, we’re making books we want to read and we hope we’re giving our authors what they want. We’ve been very lucky to have so many supportive and talented friends to help us on our way. Books will continue to be Miwked from our udders for some time yet.”
(U.K.) “Hirst Publishing was set up initially to publish Anneke Wills’ books,” says Tim Hirst, “so it was going to be a one-off project which would have been the two volumes of her biography, it was never meant to take off in a big way. But then we added Colin Baker’s book and I had the opportunity to take a redundancy from work and set up full-time. That was at the beginning of 2010, and it’s grown from there.
“In most cases, with the Doctor Who titles, I’ve approached the author – for example, I got in touch with Michael Troughton because I felt that that book needed to be written, and I also got in touch with Matthew Waterhouse, whose Blue Box Boy was one of our most successful books, although in this instance he had already written it – and with the fiction, they tend to approach me.
“What I always set out to do with the Doctor Who side, was give fans the books that I wanted to read, and the books that I felt fandom needed. It’s filling a much-needed gap; the perfect examples of which are the Troughton book and a perhaps more quirky titles like Single White Who Fan, which is the collected columns of Jackie Jenkins from Doctor Who Magazine. It seemed to me an obvious thing to do, to collate those into a book.”
Among Tim’s other recent successes in the area are Colin Baker’s first short story collection, Gallimaufry, Daphne Ashbrook’s autobiography, and Paul Castle’s Shooty Dog Thing series. Happily, my own first book as editor, You and Who, is also due soon.
“In 2013 we’re going to have a much-reduced output and we’re going to focus on books by Doctor Who fans, it’s the 50th anniversary and we’re going to celebrate the Doctor Who fan rather than the show; all of our books will be ‘fan books’. The first one, which will be out in February and will be launched in LA at Gallifrey, is a definitive guide to the Master. This will include biographies of all the actors who have played him, an episode guide, background on the character and interviews with various actors, writers and directors. It’s currently being compiled by a very talented film historian called Sparrow Morgan, although it is as-yet untitled.
“What we’ve found is that the minute you set up a publishing company, everybody says ‘I’ve got a book,’ and my eyes were bigger than my belly, I took far too much on. That’s the reason we’ll be downsizing during the coming year. So although I’ve been able to showcase some very talented fiction authors, really the market I want to focus on is cult TV and specialist titles – and in 2013 we’ll be doing nothing but Doctor Who. If that means the business becomes part-time rather than full-time, I’d rather do that and get the good quality books out there, because ultimately, I’m a Doctor Who fan, and that’s what I want to do.”
(U.K.) “After co-writing a book on the original 1970s series Survivors for Telos in 2005,” says Andy Priestner, “I decided I’d have a go at publishing my next book myself, primarily to retain complete creative control, but also because I found the idea of keeping all of the profits pretty darn motivating too! Without the constraint of a publisher word count I was free to produce a hugely comprehensive book on the BBC’s wartime series Secret Army (having previously produced the DVDs of this series for DD Home Entertainment). In order to publish it, Classic TV Press was born in 2008, with my brilliant wife Marisa stepping in to take charge of layout, editing and proofing, whilst jogging our new-born on her knee; all jobs – apart from the jogging – which she still performs today. Despite the Secret Army book’s considerable size – a ridiculous 692 pages, weighing in at a kilo – happily, it turned out to be rather profitable.
“We had both enjoyed our first experience of publishing, so I decided to take a break from writing in order to help build our new business by commissioning titles from other authors. Fast forward to 2010, during which we published books on: the BBC’s new series of Survivors written by Rich Cross; the BBC’s Being Human by Joanne Black; and the first Matt Smith series of Doctor Who by Frank Collins: The Pandorica Opens – our second most successful title to date. In early 2011 we secured a UK distributor for our titles, which is essentially the difference between having your books listed as ‘in stock’ on Amazon or not. A necessary evil, given that most customers don’t buy from us direct, despite the fact that if they did we’d fulfil their orders more quickly and keep more of the profits to reinvest in new titles.
“One of the great joys of my involvement in the Secret Army and Kessler DVD releases and my subsequent book was befriending director Michael E. Briant, so I was thrilled when he agreed to write a memoir for us which would pay particularly close attention to his time on Doctor Who. When some time later he apologetically sent me the first three chapters – which take in his memories of working on The Crusade and Power of the Daleks – convinced that his writing was ‘no good’, it didn’t take me long to realise that, on the contrary, Michael has a highly readable and entertaining writing style and, just as importantly, had lots of tales to tell that had never seen the light of day before. I am confident that Doctor Who fans everywhere will devour Who is Michael E. Briant? in just one or two sittings. It is no exaggeration to say that the only difficulty with this title was deciding which of Michael’s many brilliant anecdotes to use on the back cover! We publish his memoir on the 4th of May.
“Since 2010 I’ve been writing another massive book, this time on classic BBC wartime drama: Tenko. It was important for me to have both the creator’s blessing and input (as I’d had with the late great Gerry Glaister for Secret Army) and I’ve therefore consulted its superlative creator Lavinia Warner throughout. I’ve also received extensive contributions from the series’ talented writers, Jill Hyem and Anne Valery, and cast including Stephanie Beacham, Louise Jameson and Stephanie Cole. My Tenko tome will be published in October. Also in the pipeline are a book on Blake’s 7 by Virgin Doctor Who adventures writer David McIntee and two more autobiographies, about which all I can say at the moment is that they will be written by an actor and an actress respectively. Over the past year we have also ventured into the world of theatre with a new imprint, Upstage, under which we have published a play written by Brass and Return of the Jedi actress Caroline Blakiston, and are working on another title penned by Big Finish actress and writer Helen Goldwyn.
“Also relatively new is offering our new titles on Kindle as well as in print, a plan to extend our reach by selling our range direct from the US as well, and a revised logo (pictured). We plan to attend London Film and Comic Con in the summer and may pop up at some other events too. It’s a busy time at Classic TV Press Towers.”
(U.K.) “I.B.Tauris is an independent, scholarly publishing house that has pioneered a distinctive approach to the publication of new scholarly writing in the humanities and social sciences,” says Philippa Brewster, senior editor of the Visual Culture and Media publishing department. “We aim to publish books that appeal to academics, students and researchers, and with a demand for accessible writing and books that cross over to the wide general readership for thoughtful nonfiction.
“Founded in London in 1983, and publishing internationally through the I.B.Tauris imprint, in partnership with Palgrave/St Martins in the US, Tauris now publishes 400 new books every year for the international market. Tauris keeps approximately 3,000 books available in print either in hardcover or paperback editions. Tauris is currently engaged in a major project in electronic publishing, making all our books available also as Kindle editions.
“I.B.Tauris has long been recognised as one of the leading publishers in Middle East and the Islamic World, and in The Moving Image, Communications and Media, Art and Photography criticism, as well as having a major presence in Classics and Ancient History, History, Geography and Social Sciences, Politics and International Relations, Philosophy, Religion. The Tauris Parke paperback imprint is dedicated to general publishing on travel and biography.”
With regard to Tauris’ publishing project, ‘Who Watching,’ Philippa Brewster asked James Chapman to write a cultural history of Doctor Who for the expanding Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV list at Tauris. “His book, Inside the Tardis: The Worlds of Doctor Who was published in 2006 and has reprinted many times; a new, up-dated edition of Inside the Tardis is due out for the Doctor’s anniversary in 2013. By the time Inside the Tardis appeared, there were three more books on Doctor Who in the pipeline: Tardisbound (published 2011) by Piers D Britton, exploring the Doctor in different media, including audio and novels; Love and Monsters by Miles Booy on the Doctor’s relationship with the fans (2012), and Matt Hills’ Triumph of a Time Lord (2010) on Doctor Who in the 21st Century. (Matt Hills is now writing a book on Torchwood for Tauris). And, don’t blink, the project continues, with a book for the fans by Graham Sleight on The Doctor’s Monsters publishing summer 2012, New Dimensions of Doctor Who, fresh approaches to the Doctor, edited by Matt Hills (2013) and Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour, a critical celebration of the Matt Smith/Steven Moffat era, edited by Andrew O’Day, also for 2013. These books have come about either as commissioned by the Tauris editor or coming from authors/editors approaching her with new projects to propose.
“Why the many books on the Doctor at Tauris? Why the ongoing Who Watching project? Well, the Doctor is central to contemporary media, and remarkably almost spans the history of television itself. They are written for a receptive audience of fans and students. They have on the whole been welcomed by Doctor Who fans who are the best kind of fans, intelligent and loyal, with deep, deep knowledge of their field, provocative in their views, discriminating and critical too – they keep this publisher on its toes, to publish the best writing on and thinking about this extraordinary phenomenon that is Doctor Who. These individual books also form a community, engaged in an argumentative dialogue. Why the many books? The Tauris editor has a timey wimey detector, which goes ding when there’s good stuff to publish on the Doctor. And has, since she was a little girl, loved and faithfully followed the Doctors Who.”
(U.S.A.) Mad Norwegian Press, historically the only American publisher on this list, operates from Des Moines, the capital city of Iowa. The company was founded by Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Lars Pearson, a former newspaper editor and staffer at Wizard, ToyFare and InQuest magazines, who was “indoctrinated” (as he puts it) into Doctor Who through its weekly broadcasts on Iowa Public Television.
“My parents didn’t like science-fiction, and didn’t like my interest in it,” says Pearson, “but I lucked out in that they convinced themselves that Doctor Who was a veterinarian show. After all, the main character was named ‘the Doctor’, and the show starred Peter Davison, who they remembered from All Creatures Great and Small. The first story I tried to watch was Snakedance, which they switched off as being too scary… but it involved snakes, which I suppose just reinforced the whole veterinarian thing. It was fortunate that they were out of the house the next Friday, when I watched all of Mawdryn Undead, because the mutants with their brains hanging out would have been harder to explain.
“Not long after, I was horrified when my mother found my copy of the novelisation of The Visitation – it had a stock photo of Davison on the cover, which was safe enough – and she started reading the first few pages. The opening scene peacefully read, ‘A fox ran through the woods, a woman writing with a quill saw lights in the sky, yadda, yadda, yadda’ – and I felt a great swell of relief when Mother stopped there, and didn’t get as far as the Terileptil android wandering into the house and slaughtering everyone.”
Pearson cut his teeth in book publishing with guidebooks to the Doctor Who novels (“Nobody else was doing them, so there was a gap in the market for it,” he says), but Mad Norwegian in recent years has become renowned for a string of seminal Doctor Who non-fiction projects… Ahistory (places every Doctor Who story on a timeline from the beginning of time to the end of the universe, the Third Edition of which is forthcoming), the multi-volume About Time series (examines the social and political real-world context, and the state of television production, in which each Doctor Who story was made), Running Through Corridors (Robert Shearman and Toby Hadoke re-watch every Doctor Who story and try to accentuate the positive) and Chicks Dig Time Lords (a collection of essays on women and Doctor Who, which won a 2011 Hugo Award).
With regards the scheduling on future projects, Pearson plays things very close to his vest. “I’ve learned the harm that’s done when you formally solicit the release of a book that’s not as far along as it should be, then wind up frustrating everyone by delaying it a year or so, or dash it out without proper quality control.
“That said, it’s no secret that we’re working on About Time 7, which will cover Series 1 and 2 of New Who; Running Through Corridors 2, in which Rob and Toby comment upon the 70s episodes; Ahistory Third Edition, which will cover every Doctor Who story through the end of 2011 and include all of the spin-offs such as Bernice Summerfield, etc; and another essay collection on women and Doctor Who. We hope to formally announce the release dates for some of these sooner rather than later... but only when they’re in my computer, ready to go, and more edited than not.”
(U.K.) Telos Publishing are perhaps the UK's best-known independent publishers of Doctor Who books. “Telos Publishing was set up by myself and fellow Doctor Who historian Stephen James Walker in 2000, primarily as a vehicle to publish a range of Doctor Who Novellas, which went on to receive great critical acclaim,” says David J Howe. “We also then started to publish non-fiction titles on a variety of shows, including Doctor Who, Stargate, Blake's 7 and many others. We are enthusiastic and passionate about books and publishing and take great care to ensure that all aspects of Telos’ titles are as good as we can possibly get them.
“We’re a friendly small press with bags of enthusiasm and love of publishing and books. We won the 2006 World Fantasy Award in the best Non-Professional category for our publishing work, the British Fantasy Award for Best Small Press in 2010 and 2011, and several of our titles have won literary and design awards over the years.”
In fact, all modesty notwithstanding, Telos are the company behind The Target Book, the Talkback series of collected interviews, Wiped! – Richard Molesworth’s guide to Doctor Who’s missing episodes, and Stephen James Walker’s series-by-series guides to the new series (of which the first two Matt Smith volumes are due later in 2012), as well as any number of other Doctor Who-related books, and indeed a large and increasing amount of cult TV and film volumes, on subjects ranging from horror movies to the ThunderCats, Space: 1999 and even Till Death Us Do Part. 2012 sees publication of Hunted, a guide to the Supernatural series, as well as a Blake’s 7 merchandise guide, books on Battlestar Galactica and Ang Lee’s Hulk (the first Movie Classics title) and the first of a series of guides to the Eurovision Song Contest! Telos also produce fiction, including reprints of Mike Ripley’s comic crime novels in the Angels series, a considerable number of horror and fantasy titles, and the Time Hunter series of novellas, a spin-off from Doctor Who.
Indeed, Telos also welcome submissions: “We’re always interested in ideas for Guides, especially where the author has some unique selling point – specialist research in the show, access to interviewees, photographic access and so on. Fiction is commissioned rather than us accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Familiarity with what we do would be very helpful. Please contact us by email before sending anything. We can then discuss your ideas and see if they might fit our profile. We would then discuss with the author what we’d like to see in terms of copy and manuscript. The average time it takes to respond to a submission can vary greatly depending on workloads. If we’re not interested, then we usually respond within days; but if there’s something of interest then we may take longer to consider before responding. However, please remember – we ask that you don’t send anything without having spoken to us first.”
(U.K.) “Obverse Books was founded in 2008 by myself and Paul Magrs,” says Stuart Douglas. “We’d been friends online for years and been looking for something we could do together, creatively, but none of our various ideas were ever quite right. Then we were discussing the fact that there was virtually no outlet for short story writing from the plethora of excellent genre writers we knew (especially with the end of the Short Trips books from Big Finish) and it was a pretty small leap from that to deciding to publish a book of our own. That was the only intention at first – a single book featuring stories by our friends (and us!).
“Obviously, we didn’t want to actually lose money, so a Doctor Who-related subject for the book was essential – and Iris Wildthyme was perfect! So we made up a list of all our favourite Doctor Who authors and mailed, texted and phoned them up, then sat back and waited! Luckily, almost everyone responded positively – including June Hudson, who agreed to do the cover art for nothing, and Katy Manning, who was equally happy to do us an introduction.
“And it was so much fun to do that first book (Iris Wildthyme and the Celestial Omnibus), that when Paul and I met up in Manchester later that year, we decided straight away to do another – and we haven’t stopped since!
“Now – three years later – Obverse have published five Iris Wildthyme collections (the latest previewed here), plus books of ghost stories, single author collections and even our first novel . We also have the rights to all Faction Paradox prose and, following a very successful first collection last year, will be releasing a second collection, plus Faction novels and novellas in the future.
“Of everything we do, I most enjoy the Obverse Quarterly, though. That’s four short story paperbacks a year, each on a different genre topic, with the latest edition sent out every quarter. We’re just about to start the second year of subs for the Quarterly and, after managing to attract writers of the quality of George Mann and Mike Moorcock last year, this year we’re offering collections featuring Iris and the City of the Saved, amongst others.
“As with every book we publish, we will be featuring brand new authors in every book, alongside more established ones – an active and frequently used slush pile is essential both in terms of keeping the books fresh and in fulfilling one of the goals of Obverse – to tap into the massive potential of the genre reader. There are so many good writers out there who struggle to get into print that it’s a particular pleasure to be involved in giving such writers an outlet. Without the slush pile, I’d never have met Cody Quijano-Schell, for instance, who is now a vital Obverse cog and has written for us, edited his own collection of short stories and designs most of our covers.
“Coming up, we will be releasing a new YA novel by Paul Magrs, The Ninnies, in the late spring, plus Paul has edited a collection of gay genre fiction entitled Shenanigans which should be out in the first half of 2012. The final book in the first year’s Obverse Quarterly, Zenith Lives! is also out in the next month. And then there’s various Faction Paradox books, a collection of Christmas short stories by George Mann and a new range of eBook-only releases to come by the end of the year!
“Lots of stuff in the offing, really.”
(U.S.A.) ATB Publishing are about to become the new kids on the trans-continental block.
“I grew up a Star Wars and Star Trek fan,” says Arnold T Blumberg, “and apart from catching the last ten minutes of The Armageddon Factor once and then seeing the entirety of The Leisure Hive thinking I was watching a stand-alone British sci-fi movie, it didn’t entice me to come back for more. Then, one summer night in 1987 (and I only know this specifically thanks to the good folks at the BroaDWcast project), I saw Attack of the Cybermen and believe it or not, that story drew me in. Now we all know the general fan consensus about Attack, but for a newcomer I think it grabbed me for exactly the reasons some fans found it – and still find it – uncomfortable. It was so steeped in continuity, so obviously linked to a vast history of storytelling I could only guess at, that it made me want to know more. And there was Peri of course, let’s not discount that.
“The next day I discovered another local PBS station was running a completely different era of the show, because I turned it on only to see a black and white story called Ambassadors of Death. A chance to immerse myself in a new universe on two fronts every weekend! I was hooked after that. Doctor Who Monthly (when my comic shop got them), Targets, and of course the stunning texts first by Peter Haining and then David J. Howe. His books were my references, and I never imagined one day I’d be working with him.
“Flash forward to me working as an editor on The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide and other collectibles guides. I pitched the idea of a Who merchandise guide, and I knew the only man that could help was David. I contacted him cold, he was very gracious and had been wanting to do such a book for years. When my company decided not to pursue it, David and I decided to join forces to make it happen ourselves. And here we are two full editions and three updates later and the Howe’s Transcendental Toybox series has been very successful. It brought me into the fan community when I began attending Chicago TARDIS and Gallifrey One to promote the books, it led to my first charity fan fiction and professional licensed fiction being published, and numerous other books with David’s Telos Publishing as his designer/layout artist, including The Target Book. I’ve also contributed to the Time, Unincorporated series from Mad Norwegian.
“I’ve been working in publishing for twenty years as a writer, editor, designer, production manager, and so on. For a long time now I’ve wanted to take the reins, so to speak. Through conversations with J. Shaun Lyon , we discovered that at one time or another all of us had the same idea for a book. Doctor Who is one of the most documented television shows in the history of the medium, but one missing piece is the story of American fandom itself – the clubs, the conventions, the PBS pledge drives, the online activity – the community and culture that grew over decades around a show from across the ocean and how that community even affected the very series it loved. Today we have same-day airing on BBC America, premiere screenings in New York, and episodes shot on location in Utah and soon NY.
“When we all talked about what we wanted this book to be, I decided this would be the perfect project to launch my own press. This is a huge undertaking with a lot of research and planning. Our catch-phrase for the book is, ‘Every American Doctor Who fan has a story to tell.’ We’re asking fans online and at conventions to contribute their feedback, talk about their experiences, provide ephemera like old con flyers and fanzines and TV ads, and so it’s a book that needs a lot of time to get right. Red White and Who: The Story of Doctor Who in America has a temporary web page at my site and a Facebook page too.
“In the meantime, I was approached by Dr. Robert Smith?, with whom I share an unhealthy personal and professional passion for zombies. He had an idea for an essay collection called Outside In: 160 New Perspectives on 160 Classic Doctor Who Stories by 160 Writers. That may be a very long title – that seems to be a trend already here – but it’s an exciting approach that turns the whole idea of a Doctor Who review book on its head.
“There’s not much else I can say right now as aspects of the business planning for ATB are still in the works, but hopefully you’ll hear – and see – a lot more soon, including release dates and other details. Like many of the other publishers featured here, my main concern is to publish the best quality books I can, books I would want to read myself as a fan. And no, I don’t plan to just focus on Doctor Who non-fiction. It’s an obvious launching point for many of us in this community, but it’s only the beginning. There are other ideas already in the pipeline, and I have a lot of things I want to accomplish; it’s a big pop culture universe out there. And yes, I am open to hearing pitches for projects, so folks can feel free to get in touch with me. My website is www.atbpublishing.com and while it’s devoted to a lot of my personal work right now, the site will soon switch over to being a dedicated base for the publishing company and its projects.”
(U.K.) “Fantom started approximately six years ago, when I studied Theatre at Warwick University,” says Dexter O’Neill. “I would spend all my spare time, and to be truthful, time I was meant to be studying, working at the University television station WTV where I was the head of Drama. It dawned on me that I could be spending this time working for myself on my own production company rather than slaving away on student films. Therefore Fantom Films was born. Our primary aim was to produce drama and documentary film – we did a couple of rather dodgy sci-fi dramas and cult television documentaries including Beyond Tomorrow.
“Over the next couple of years, we have also produced a number of audio books and plays, together with corporate films and DVDs. Then I met Paul Ballard, and the face of the company completely changed, with the addition of events management and book publishing, which as it happens dovetail nicely!
“The first author we signed up was Deborah Watling, through a suggestion from Paul, who wanted to assist in the writing. We then approached Barry Letts, who we’d meet at conventions, and then Mary Tamm mentioned during a recording session for Time Hunter that she had started to write her autobiography – and we pounced! Even though Mary’s book was the third to be signed up, it was our first to be published.
“There is a great satisfaction from holding a printed book published by my company in my hands – it was a great and excited feeling, one I still get today when a book is delivered for the first time. I am very pleased to report that we had a universally positive response to our first three titles and we have gone on to develop the range ever since.
“I would say the general ethos is to have fun. Which I hope is apparent, particularly in our events – there is no point in publishing a title you don’t enjoy or indeed working with that particular person. We also like to try and do something a little different or niche too. If we can’t do a particular book justice there is no point in doing it.”
“Publishing Doctor Who related titles was a by-product of doing the Cult TV/Doctor Who events – we’d got to know the actors and people behind the series and the contacts were there to utilise. And there is no denying it that Paul and I myself are fans of the series. It was also a solid platform on which to build a publishing company as there is a fan base to sell to.”
I asked Dexter about his approach to choosing authors, and whether he sought them out or they came to him.
“It is always a mixture to be honest; at first we did all the approaching but now more and more actors and their agents are approaching us. I suppose it is a little like Chinese whispers – one person writes a book and their friends see it, like the content and quality and they get in touch. We only choose titles we want to publish and see an audience in.
“We will continue to publish autobiographies and Doctor Who related titles, but we are continuing to expand our titles, and looking at going into other areas particularly after the success of our fiction releases this year. We will also be re-launching the film side of the business. It’s a very exciting time for Fantom.
“We have just published Jacqueline Pearce’s autobiography From Byfleet to the Bush, (reviewed here) which again is a very different title as even though it is an autobiography from an actress, it is a very deep and emotional book about her personal journey through life rather than anecdotes about Blake’s 7. It’s a book with lots of honesty and integrity – very proud to have published it.
“We are also about to publish Titanic ... And the Strange Case of Great Uncle Bertie written by Valentine Palmer (from Day of the Daleks!) about his Great Uncle, Charles Lightroller who was the highest ranking surviving officer from the disaster. It is a very revealing book, discussing his memories of the man and looking back at the tragedy, the inquests that followed and Charles’ involvement in a possible cover up! Very exciting.
“The audiobooks will continue throughout the year – including Kate O’Mara’s play called Shadow in the Sun about the relationship between Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I… And Emilia Fox has just started in the thriller Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton for us.
“The second half of this year is going to be very busy with (hopefully) more than eight titles – authors include Richard Franklin, Angela Douglas, Sheila Steafel and Mary Tamm. All of which will be revealed in the next few weeks. We are currently securing titles for February 2013 and onwards.”
(U.K.) “Big Finish has been around since 1998, when it released its first Bernice Summerfield audio adventure, licensed from the Virgin Doctor Who New Adventures book series,” says Paul Spragg. “Using the Benny audios as a calling card, executive producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Gary Russell pitched the idea of doing brand new Doctor Who audios to the BBC, and were granted the licence.
“Big Finish is now releasing a new full cast Doctor Who story each month featuring one of the surviving classic series Doctors: Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann. The range has expanded into spin-offs starring the Daleks, the Cybermen, UNIT and BBC Books character Iris Wildthyme – amongst others – and branched out to include the Companion Chronicles, using the fellow travellers of the first three Doctors to tell stories from those eras. In 2011, after over a decade of trying (on and off) to secure his services, Tom Baker signed up to reprise the role of the Fourth Doctor in his own range of full cast dramas.
“Alongside its audio plays, Big Finish has also made many forays into books. Early on, it was decided that the Bernice Summerfield audios could be enhanced by books – sometimes full-length novels, sometimes short story collections – which built and expanded upon the ongoing narrative of the audios. The tradition continues today, with a book released to tie in with each box set release.
“Big Finish also picked up the licence to produce Doctor Who Short Trips books, the range of short story collections having been started by BBC Books. After twenty-eight releases, however, the licence was lost and copies of the books now change hands online for astonishing amounts of money. A new licence has recently been acquired to produce all-new fiction based on Blake’s 7, and the first book in that range, The Forgotten (preview here), is due for release in May.
“More recently, Big Finish has expanded into original fiction. Having worked with Rob Shearman on several Doctor Who audios (one of which, Jubilee, became the loose basis for the revived TV show’s Dalek), Big Finish agreed to publish his second collection of short stories, Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical. Extremely well-received, and indeed award-winning, Love Songs was followed by last year’s Everyone’s Just So So Special, a bigger collection of stories and one that also saw Rob offer to write an individual short story for the 100 people who bought the limited edition leather-bound version of the book. The results of his epic writing quest can be found here.
“Following a foray into self-help real life publishing with After the Break-Up, the story of what happened after Carrie Sutton split from her husband and re-entered the dating game, Big Finish took on The Mervyn Stone Mysteries, the first books from TV, radio and Private Eye writer Nev Fountain, best known for his work on Dead Ringers. Mervyn Stone is the scriptwriter of the now-defunct sci-fi series Vixens from the Void, an eighties spectacle famed for its over-the-top nature. While plying his trade at conventions and events remembering Vixens, Mervyn always seems to find himself caught up in murder mysteries that he uses his script editing insight to solve. Three books have so far been published, namely Geek Tragedy, DVD Extras Include: Murder and Cursed Among Sequels.”
Nev Fountain (recently interviewed in Starburst) has the following to say on the subject: “I was delighted when Big Finish picked up The Mervyn Stone Mysteries, because they ‘got’ the concept of the books – and not just in the whole ‘Script Editor of Dead Sci-Fi TV series Featuring Sexy Ladies Solves Murders’ sense. They also got what I wanted to do commercially.
“They got it when I said I wanted to release three books simultaneously, to create an instant range, when I said I thought people consume their entertainment in different ways these days. They watch DVD box sets rather than episodes and they buy up all books by one author and read them right through; I said I wanted readers to have enough products so they could do the same with Mervyn Stone. They got it, because they have bags of experience in the marketplace and what sells to fans. And I’m glad the strategy paid off. Part of me wishes they hadn’t got it, because then I wouldn’t have had to write three books in six months, but hey ho. I’m sure my fingers will grow back eventually.
“Of course Big Finish has a lot of talent at its disposal in all media, sound and vision. It’s the reason why we could do a podcast adventure to sell the books. It’s the reason why the books look so good. It’s the reason why we can keep plugging them via the web so they keep on selling. I don’t think they’d have turned out nearly as well if they’d been picked up by another publisher.”
Of course, there are also any number of other independent publishers who just have the one, or perhaps two, Doctor Who books on their lists. Will Brooks and Nick Mellish’s voyage through the entire eighth Doctor audio canon, for example, is recorded in Memoirs of an Edwardian Adventurer, from Pageturner Publishing. ECW Press, meanwhile, have recently issued Graeme Burk and Robert Smith?’s Who Is The Doctor, a guide to the six series broadcast since 2005. There are a number of other guides looking into recent Who also out there, including Steven Cooper and Kevin Mahoney’s Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who 2010, from Punked Books.
Doctor Who has also seen something of a groundswell amongst academic publishers, with the likes of Ruminations, Peregrinations, and Regenerations: A Critical Approach to Doctor Who (Chris Hansen, Cambridge Scholars Publishing), Courtland Lewis and Paula Smithka’s Doctor Who and Philosophy (Bigger on the Inside) (Open Court Publishing) and The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who from Kitsune Books (edited by Anthony Burdge, Jessica Burke and Kristine Larsen).
In 2009, Kamera Books published Brian J. Robb’s guide to the first 45 years of Doctor Who, Timeless Adventures: How Doctor Who Conquered TV, and from the Science Fiction Foundation there is a volume of essays on the Russell T Davies era, The Unsilent Library: Adventures in New Doctor Who, the same period as covered in Kasterborous’ first foray into publishing, Ultimate Regeneration: The Incredible Resurrection of Doctor Who, assembled by Christian Cawley. Blue Eyes Books have collected together any number of quotes about the show, in The Quotable Doctor Who: Volume One.
Finally, John Blake Publishing, who tend to specialise in “airport” books, have released several Doctor Who related titles, including The Doctor Who’s Who by Craig Cabell and biographies of Matt Smith, David Tennant and Billie Piper; these are soon to be joined by Doctor Who Illustrated, Ally Molloy’s guide to the recent series.
And it would be remiss of me not to mention Lulu, the self-publishing site that have been responsible for any number of unofficial and unlicensed titles in recent times. If you’re looking for something a little different, a little out of leftfield (or a little rubbish!), you can do worse than scroll through the reams of Doctor Who titles available – you never know, you might strike lucky and discover one of the decent ones; The Prison in Space (an unproduced Patrick Troughton story) is one such, and a personal find that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed has been Richard Kirby’s delightfully-written quest to obtain the autographs of all the Doctor’s female companions, Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman.
Important Note: All of the hyperlinks used in this article have been designed to send you to the publisher’s websites in their country of origin, or as noted next to each section header. Before ordering, please check and ensure they’re happy to deliver books to you in your country of residence, otherwise an alternative bookseller closer to home should be sought.