Monday, August 31, 2015

Electric Gypsy Excerpt

Given the sheer dearth of any internet evidence that Electric Gypsy (an unauthorised biography of Doctor Who) - ISBN 9781-894959-89-6 - actually exists, it would not be unknown for people to think I've made the bloody book up. As if I'd ever go for a cover like that.

So, to prove the point - and convey the arse-destroying ghastliness of the actual work - I reprint the preface by Mr. Dave Thompson (c) (you're welcome to it) - which will surely prove I'm not making this up. I trust anyone who knows my writing style would know I am physically incapable of writing in this manner, and should equally be horrified that this is probably the best part of the book.

Editor's note: The following manuscript was discovered amongst documents abandoned on the Planet Miasimia Goria by the Rani, following her marriage to Davros and subsequent departure from the planet she had dominated for millennia. It is unclear whether the events documented here had already occured, or were still to come. Neither can it be ascertained whether or not the manuscript is complete, while recent research has also revealed that the Rani enjoyed an hitherto unknown career as a mildly succesful romance novelist, suggesting that the following is a fragment of a previously unpublished potboiler.
The lights that flickered through the trees were growing closer now, and he paused for a moment, clutching at the wrought iron fencing that blocked his pathway. Behind him, his machine, his TARDIS, had gone into lockdown mode; it, at least, would be safe should his pursuers break through the barriers he had constructed across his trail. But would he? He doubted it very much.
He was worried. Not for himself; he had lived so many lifetimes now, had passed through so many regenerations, that he might almost welcome the sanctuary of death; of not having to run any more, or think, or fight, or do any of the things that came so naturally to him. No, he worried for the future, a future that would have to survive by its own guile, should he no longer be there to protect it.
And he worried, too, for the past, because that was his enemies' intention, to drive him so deep into the past, beyond the reach of recorded history, beyond that of unrecorded history as well, back and back until the very universe was merely a tiny speck in the void. Because there, when there was nowhere else for him to retreat to, that was where they would stage the final battle. Back before the dawn of creation, so that when it did dawn, there would be no Doctor to stand in their way.
He shook his head, clearing his mind of such thoughts. It wouldn't happen that way. It couldn't. Time was - well, it was time. Endless, unchanging, immutable. He knew, because he had seen it all, from the "big bang" at the beginning, to the little whimper with which it all ended, and he had woven himself througout its fabric, endless, unchanging, immutable. Yes, he could be destroyed. But he could not be undone. The worlds he had saved, the lives he had changed, the deeds he had done, they had happened, they would happen.
Wouldn't they?
He glanced again at the chronometere he wore on his arm - so much lesss cumberson that the fob watch he once carried around, and it required a lot less winding as well. 21st century. Planet Earth. England. London. West London. Shepherds Bush. He smiled grimly to himself. The tradesman who bartered him the chronometere told him that, so long as he wore it, he would never be lost, that it could detect to within a matter of yards the precise area of whichever cosmic body he had landed on. And that was true. Unfortunately, he had been so taken with that particular quality that he completely forgoet to ask about its other function. It's great to know where you are. But when? That, he had only discovered after the deal was struck, was another matter entirely.
Still, 21st century? That's not so bad. He'd spent enough time there in the past... his past... and, while the age had certainly experienced more than its fair share of crises, it had muddled through alright in the end. And it certainly appeared peaceful enough now.
Feeling his way along the fencing, he felt the tell-tale swing of a gate; pushed it open and stepped through. The trees that had lined his vision earlier gave way now to open ground and, off to one side, the stark black rocket-shaped solidity that, all these thousands of years later, still paid silent, imitative tribute to the alien race that first stocked the planet, and then flew back to their own galaxy once the task was complete.
Would that these vast complexes still operated to the specifications that they were built to, the Doctor thought grimply. What a surprise that would be for anyone bent on pursuing him; they could track the TARDIS and believe that he would never stray too far from its protection. But these "churches" had their own capabilities, too, once upon a time - why else would they have been erected to such similar specifications? It was centuries of ignorance and disuses that had rendered them hollow and Planet Earthbound, and the Doctor reminded himself of the ambition he'd nurtured for as long as he had known of their existence and purpose. "If I ever get out of this, I'm going to learn how they work." Well, this time, he meant it. "If I ever... ouch!"
He looked down as he jerked his left leg up, clutching at it with both hands while his eyes inspected the darkness in front of him. He'd barked his shin on something cold, solid, stone...
He was in a graveyard. He'd bumped into a rave. He knelt and, by the light of his sonic screwdriver, he illuminated the fallen headstone; initially, simply so he could step around it without causing himself any further damage. But then curiosity stepped in, the curiosity that all creatures, of all races, feel when they come across a memorial to one of their own dead, and he leaned in for a closer look.
The lettering was obscured by moss and lichen. The Doctor brushed it away, gently so as not to flake any further patina from the old, old stone, but impatienly as well, as though he knew that the more time he wasted on idle wonderings, the less time he would have before - what? What was he running away from? Death? Well, he'd be in good company if it caught up with him here, just as it had caught up with everybody else who lay in this field, just as it had caught up with... his mouth silently formed the name that his fingertips had revealed. "Steven Taylor."
Steven Taylor. Now there, the Doctor smiled, was a blast from the past and, because he could resist the inevitable pun, a rave from the grave. He'd traveled with a Steven Taylor once, many years ago. A tall, good looking boy, he was an astronaut with Red Flight Fifty. Needed a haircut, but not as much as he needed rescuing from the planet Mechanus - he'd been there two years when the Doctor came across him, half-prisoner, half-castaway, with only his lukcy panda bear for company.
Whatever happened to him? Nothing bad, the Doctor was sure of that. They'd parted company on the other side of the galaxy, several thousand years into the future. He certainly wouldn't now be lying in an unkempt grave in Shephers Bush. It was just one of life's little coincidences, and that made the Doctor smile. He like life's little coincidences, because they stopped him worrying about its big ones.
Crouching down, he shuffled along the ground to the stone that lay beside Mr Taylor's. More recent, from the look of it, but just as neglected. A finger nail scraped at the mossy film that clung to the stone and it slipped away in long satsifying slice, like peeling an apple all in one.
Sara Kingdom.
the Doctor stared at the name. Now that was a coincidence. Sara was an agent with the Special Security Service, a ruthless woman, handy with a gun and efficient. When one of her colleagues (and her own brother), Brett Vyon, stepped out of line, she had no hesitation in shooting him down; then perished in turn on the planet Kembel, aging to death in a matter of moments after a ghastly weapon, the Time Destructor, was detonated against the invading Daleks. All of which took some 4,000 years into the future. Poor Sara had no grave whatsoever, just a heap of dust that the windows would blow where they would.
He moved onto the next stone. Tegan Jovanka.
And the next. Donna Noble.
And the next. Elizabeth Shaw.
And the next. River Song. Which is where the Doctor stood up, brushed the rave dirt from his knees and hands, pocketed his sonic screwdriver and stepped away. Those other names? Coincidence, coincidence, coincidence. But River Song? Nobody named their daughter "River Song." not even the parents of a 51st century archaeologist with a voice like molten plums cascading onto a cold stone floor. He'd always puzzled over that, whether "River Song" was some sort of private joke, and her real name was something untenably archaic, like Alexandra, or Miles. But she survived the attentions of the Vashta Nerada, and a lot of other perils as well, so it didn't matter what she called herself. And now she was here?
Hands in pockets, he strode towards the church. He did not expect it to be open at this hour - if there was one thing he'd long ago discovered about 21st century London, it was that the first place people were most likely to head in sanctuary was the last one they were likely to be allowed into.
But the lock on the old oaken entranceway was no match for the sonic screwdriver, and neither were those on the doors he found inside, the flimsy modern plywood barriers with which some overenthusiastic Do-It-Yourself-er had seen fit to screen off great swathes of the original fabric, all the better to pile in offices, kitchens, bathrooms and a souvenir shop. The Doctor paused at the entrance to the latter. He liked souvenir shops. But he liked puzzles more, so he continued his exploration, searching for the room where the burial records might be stored.
Which is when a telephone started ringing.
He ignored it. It wasn't for him, he had no reason to answer it. Except it kept on ringing and that did give him an excuse.
Answer it, or suffer a headache for a week.
Answer it, or somebody else might ride up on a bicycle (or whatever else it is that clergymen get around on these days) and catch him in the act of breaking-and-entering. Or, being as he was already inside, broken-and-entered.
Answer it, or it might turn out to have been for him after all.
"Doctor?" The voice on the other end of the line sounded... Welsh? Either Welsh or Pakistani, anyway. It was never easy telling the two apart on the telephone. Digital technology, you see. It scrambles the... oh, never mind. "Who is this?"
"It's me. Ray."
Ray? Ramond, Raynor, Ray-of Sunshine. No, definitely not that. Not if she was Welsh. Death Ray, Stingray, Man-Ray. "You don't sound like a Ray."
"You don't sound like the Doctor." The voice paused. "You're not Scots enough.
Scots? What was the woman talking about? He'd not had an accent that could even remotely pass for Scots since... he licked his lips, then rolled his tongue violently. "Rrrrr-ay?"
"That's right, Doctor. You were staying at the holiday camp with us, remember? When... when..."
"Yes, Ray, the Bannermen." He didn't mean to sound testy, but it was hard not to. "But how did you know i was here... where to find me?"
"I saw you going into the church... I mean, I heard you land, watched you crossing the cemetery, saw you..." Her voice broke off, and the Doctor thought he heard the girl stifle a sob. Girl? She would be a woman now. A very ancient woman. "I saw you looking at the graves. Is that why you came here?"
"For the graves?" He allowed his natural voice to drop back into place, but Ray didn't seem to have noticed.
"For Mel?" She sounded desperate, almost pleading.
Mel. An irritating redhead with a ready laugh and a piercing shriek, Mel had been his companion he met Ray, and how he wished she hadn't been. Still there was an affection between them, and she had saved his life on at least one occasion. "Mel's here as well?" His tone was just as astonished as he felt, and he hoped that Ray hadn't noticed. "I suppose she would be. There appears to be a lot of my old friends buried here. Mel might as well be among them. In fact, I'm rather surprised that you're not."
"Well, that's what I want to talk to you about," Ray said slowly. "That's why i've been waiting for you all these years."
"So you can tell me that you're not dead?" The shock was wearing off now, his rational mind was reassuming control. "Everybody dies, Ray. Everybody. They don't all then get buried in a long line in the same Shepherds Bush cemetery, I'll grant you that. But imagine how much more convenient it would be if they did. You could visit all your late relatives in one afternoon, and never worry about forgetting the Aunt you didn't like."
Ray waited until he'd finished.
"No. I know why I'm not dead. Because I never traveled with you in that box. I could have. I know you were going to ask me, I could see it in your eyes. Mel was growing restless, she wouldn't be around for much longer, and you didn't want to travel alone. But you didn't ask me, so I didn't go and, well, I'm still here and she isn't. None of them are." And the names of the dearly departed tripped off her tongue, twisted around the sweet cadence of her native accent, until she could have been reciting poetry, instead of a butcher's list. Susan Foreman, Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright, Vicki, Dodo Chaplet, Ben Jackson, pretty Polly, Jamie McCrimmon, Victoria Waterfield, Zoe Heriot, Josephine Grant, Sarah Jane Smith (dear God, Sarah Jane as well?), Harry Sullivan, Leela, the Princess Romana, the other Romana, Adric, Tegan, Nyssa, Turlough, Peri, Ace, Rose Tyler, Martha Jones...
"You're the one that got away," the Doctor said with what he hoped was an audible smile.
"I know," Ray replied softly, sadly. "The question is, what did I get away from?"
Reprinted by kind courtesy of the Trustees of the Museum of Tragic Yesterdays, Miasimia Goria.

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