Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Midnight Reviews

One of the best surprises a writer can receive is an unexpected good review. My two vampire novels, 100,000 MIDNIGHTS and ACROSS THE MIDNIGHT SEA, each were recently reviewed by Bradley Krawchuk, who had some great things to say about both books. I thought I'd share those reviews here today.



In the interest of full disclosure, I do know Brad, though not very well. We've never met in person, so I guess we're what you might call friendly internet acquaintances. We first met several years ago on a forum devoted to the work of prolific comic book writer/ artist John Byrne. I later became Facebook friends with a handful of people from that forum, including Brad.
Brad is a voracious reader, going through hundreds of a books a year, many of which he reviews on Facebook. I did not ask Brad to read or review my vampire novels. In fact, I didn't know he'd purchased them until he posted his thoughts on the first one, so these were not solicited reviews.

Here are, in his exact words, Brad's comments:




"100,000 Midnights by Aaron Smith - Now, why didn't Facebook highlight Aaron Smith's name there? Ah! There it is! Hey Aaron, cool book! Dude, the "Miracle" was awesome - and a good name, too! And Perfection? That was just X-Filesy goodness.
So at first I didn't like it. I read a couple chapters and I thought I knew where it was going, and then when I realized I didn't, I assumed I knew where it was going anyway, and then I figured out where it was actually going but not, and then I understood it was just doing whatever it wanted and I held on for the ride. That's when it got really fun!
A young man with an old soul meets a young looking but much older vampire, and then proceeds to go on many crazy and (seemingly) disconnected adventures with her. That's pretty much the gist of it right there. It reads like an old fashioned serial adventure story; if you took out things like cell phone references (and an entire chapter about rock n' roll), substituted carriages for cars and steamers for airplanes, you could almost fool me into thinking this was written back in the early 20th century. John Carter, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes... you put a chapter a week in a pulp 100 years ago this would almost fit in. Almost.
Because while the serialized adventure style of the book hearkens back to a bygone era, the references to classic sci-fi and fantasy literature - both overt and subtle - has a decidedly nostalgic and sentimental undercurrent that makes it seem much more at home in modern literary times. It feels like it's of the past even while it yearns to be part of that past, an interesting and very entertaining line to walk.
The sheer lunacy of the ideas and the many disparate elements that get tossed in and taken out makes it feel like it could go in any direction, and like I said, once I understood I shouldn't anticipate anything, I left myself open to be pleasantly surprised by where it went. By the time I got to who was living in that castle, I was pretty much beaming as I said "of course!" As such, I can hardly wait to see where it goes next in the sequel!"

And, concerning the second book:



"Across the Midnight Sea by Aaron Smith - The follow-up to Smith's 100,000 MIDNIGHTS sees Eric (our human narrator) continue his relationship with the newly Elder vampire Siobahn, and his continued employment by Phillip, an older vampire with a mysterious past that isn't so mysterious after this volume.
The book picks up days after the end of the previous adventure, and while there are some twists and turns the novel overall has a more focussed narrative thread, without the numerous serial adventure side missions. There are certainly still nods to different popular stories, but this second outing delves less into the general supernatural themes of the first and spends time deepening the lives of the main characters. Phillip's aforementioned mysterious past is revealed, Eric's family naturally comes into the picture, and a possible love triangle emerges when Eric befriends an entirely human female closer to his own age than the near 300-year-old (and immortal, and vampiric) Siobahn.
Think of the first book as a rollercoaster, and this one like a Ferris wheel. You hardly catch your breath with the first, with the second you take time to stop and look around, but they're both still fun rides. I have no idea what the third book will be, and that's a good thing."

Those 2 reviews each made my day and I'm glad Brad (and other readers, I hope) looks forward to the next book in the series.

I found it interesting that Brad, being an observant reader, noticed certain differences between the two books, specifically what he calls the serial nature of the first book and the more focused narrative thread of the second. He's right on the money, and there are reasons for the differences (and I'm glad he seemed to enjoy both styles). The first book was indeed originally written as a series of short stories and intended to be a serial. I first created the character of Eric and Siobhan in two short stories, "100,000 Midnights" and "A Study in Shadows," which were published in Pro Se Press's magazine FANTASY AND FEAR. After writing those, I couldn't get enough of them, so I kept writing. I came up with plot after plot and soon had eight stories. It was then that I decided to try to put them all together as one novel. Those 8 stories became the 14 chapters of 100,000 MIDNIGHTS. After that book was accepted by Musa Publishing, I wanted to do a sequel. That story, ACROSS THE MIDNIGHT SEA, was meant from the first page to be a novel, which explains the difference in style from the first book. 



I do plan to write a third novel continuing the story of Eric, Siobhan, Phillip, and the other cast members. I haven't started it yet, but I have a few ideas. 

Those interested in my vampire novels can find them on Amazon for Kindle:



or for Barnes & Nobles' Nook e-reader:



or at the Musa Publishing site.  

Thanks again, Brad, for the great reviews! 











 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

If Your Children are Dreamers, Let Them Dream



My father has become a big fan of my writing, especially my spy novel, Nobody Dies forFree. My grandparents read my books too. My grandfather loves my pulp work, especially my Allan Quatermain and Sherlock Holmes stories. My grandmother is, like Dad, a fan of my espionage agent character, Richard Monroe.  


 Like any writer, I’m always happy to hear that any reader has enjoyed my work. But I have to admit to feeling a special sense of victorious satisfaction when I hear my older relatives talking positively about the fact that I’ve grown up to be a published (and sometimes paid!) author. This is because there was a time when the same personality traits that enable me to pursue this art form made those same relatives of mine suspect that something might be wrong with me. I know there were times when they worried, when they wished I was what they expected me to be, wanted me to be what they defined as a “normal kid.”
            I don’t hold it against them. It’s the job of parents and grandparents to worry about their offspring. But I do find it ironic now that the eccentricities of my boyhood, the things that made them upset (and no, they never treated me cruelly, but I know they wondered), are the same things that led me to write the words they seem very much to enjoy reading now, several decades later.
            In every generation of children, there are those that shun the usual social activities of their peers, or that would rather sit inside and read no matter how sunny the Saturday afternoon is, or would prefer to sit with Grandpa in his basement workshop and listen to his war stories. These are the kids with powerful imaginations, who spend more mental energy wondering what grand adventures the future might hold than they do worrying about the baseball game in the park or their homework or who’s wearing the most fashionable sneakers.
            I know my parents worried that I had my nose stuck in a comic book when I should have been playing football with the rowdy brothers from down the block. I overheard my grandmother complain to my mother after  she babysat us one day, concerned that I sat in the cellar for hours staring into the little black and white TV we kept as a spare. Little did she know that I was busy discovering—with rapt amazement, I might add—how thrilling it was to witness the havoc unleashed on Tokyo when Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan rampaged.

             I’m sure Mom and Dad also heard me sneaking around the house at 3 A.M. some mornings, long before an 8-year old should have been up. I’ll let everybody in on the secret of what I was doing, since it’s safe now that 29 years have gone by. The local public TV station used to show old silent movies in the wee hours. I was sneaking out of bed to get my education in things like the fantastic set designs of Metropolis, the ahead-of-their-time dinosaur effects of The Lost World, and what might still be the single greatest shocker in horror movie history: the unmasking of the Phantom of the Opera! 

            Yes, that strange little boy who didn’t want to run around and get dirty every summer afternoon, who wanted instead to spend his time falling merrily into the worlds created by JRR Tolkein, Isaac Asimov, Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Ian Fleming, Roger Zelazny, Stan Lee, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and so many other wonderful creators, was doing something much more important than getting skinned knees and hitting doubles past the shortstop’s frustrated reach. He was working, though he didn’t realize it at the time. He was a writer in training, absorbing the wonderful products of the minds of those who came before, the scribes of fantastic worlds who would exert a lifelong influence on him and make him dream and ask the eternally perfect, vitally important question of, “What If?” until one day, years later, the dreams and ideas in his head, the trees of imagination that came from the seeds planted there in childhood, would burst up and out of that mind and become stories in and of themselves.
            I knew I was different when I was a kid, knew the other kids thought I was weird, and realized that even my family found me a little odd and probably wondered why I couldn’t be like the other kids (or maybe more like they’d been when they were my age). But I was who I was and today I am who I am. I like the way the story of my life has gone so far. As that unusual little boy, I loved stories. As an adult who’s still strange, but (I hope) not in a bad way, I still love stories, and I feel lucky that others enjoy the stories I now contribute to the world.
            When I was a toddler and it became apparent that my left hand was the dominant one, my great-grandmother suggested that the hand be tied behind my back to force me to become right-handed, but my mother and grandmother refused. I’m glad that when I grew into a slightly older kid and the eccentricities that came from my imagination and interest in fiction became obvious, nobody did anything similar to try to strangle my developing sense of wonder and love of storytelling. My parents may not have understood why I did the things I did, but they never actively discouraged me.
            And I hope that the parents out there now won’t worry too much if their kids seem to spend a little too much time reading or drawing or watching movies. As long as they don’t have any serious problems, as long as their schoolwork doesn’t suffer and they get some kind of exercise and they seem happy, be proud of them and encourage their interests. They just might grow up to make the books you like to read or the movies you like to watch. Every generation needs its dreamers. If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t have had Ray Bradbury or Alfred Hitchcock or HP Lovecraft or so many other creators of the stories that have shaped the imaginations of millions of human beings.
            If your children are dreamers, please let them dream. 



Friday, May 23, 2014

Dream Casting

Most writers, I suspect, occasionally daydream about one of their stories being made into a movie. I'm no exception. Today I found myself pondering what actors I'd choose if my spy novel, NOBODY DIES FOR FREE ever made it to the silver screen. Here's what I came up with.



First, a bit of perfect casting that can never be due to the limitations time places on reality. When deciding exactly what my main character, Richard Monroe, should look like on the book's cover, the face that came to mind was that of actor Iain Glen, best known for Game of Thrones. I imagined Monroe as a rougher, tougher version of Roger Moore, and Glen fits the profile perfectly. Unfortunately, now in his early fifties, Glen is too old to play Monroe, who is forty for most of the novel. 





So, with Iain Glen out of the running, who would I choose to portray Richard Monroe? That was a tough question, but the answer suddenly came to me today. It's an actor familiar to anyone who watches HBO's True Blood. He's handsome but can radiate toughness when necessary. Alexander Skarsgard.



Every spy novel of this type needs a femme fatale, a beautiful but dangerous woman who challenges the male hero. For my novel's most prominent female character, Winter Willows, I'd choose another star of Game of Thrones, actress Natalie Dormer, who first came to my attention as Anne Boleyn on The Tudors. She'd just have to dye her hair pure white for the part.




Richard Monroe wouldn't have any missions to go on if not for the fact that he works under the supervision of an old master spy, the mysterious Mr. Nine. As Monroe's boss, I'd cast an old favorite of mine, tough guy character actor Michael Ironside.



James Bond has always been able to rely on his American friend Felix Leiter, and Monroe has a similar ally in the heavy drinking, slightly goofy Arnaud LaFleur of the French Secret Service. This was an easy role to cast, with Gerard Depardieu
    

Another good friend of Monroe's, when our hero needs information on those in the Boston underworld, is Spencer Archer, head of a ring of car thieves. For this role, I'd choose an actor from one of my favorite spy TV shows, the British series Spooks (retitled as MI-5 when shown in the United States). He also recently appeared in the Tom Cruise movie, Jack Reacher. This is David Oyewolo.


And finally, we come to the main villain of NOBODY DIES FOR FREE, international crime lord Garrett Khan. Once again, I'm going to Game of Thrones for my casting choice (can you tell it's my favorite current TV series?) and choosing actor Pedro Pascal.


Those aren't the only characters I'd need to cast for a NOBODY DIES FOR FREE movie, but they're the most prominent and I'd be one thrilled writer if those talented actors ever portrayed the citizens of my imagination. 






Tuesday, May 20, 2014

More Blood!

It's no secret that I'm a fan of vampires. I've written 2 vampire novels, 100,000 MIDNIGHTS and ACROSS THE MIDNIGHT SEA. I've mentioned vampires on this blog quite often too, reviewing other writers' vampire books, listing my favorite Dracula films, and praising the horror artwork of Gene Colan, who drew Marvel Comics' great series Tomb of Dracula in the 1970s.

It occurred to me today that I've viewed 3 vampire films in recent months, and that all 3 are very different types of movies, so I thought I'd share my opinions of those today.

Let the Right One In is a Swedish film from 2008 and just might be the most beautiful vampire movie ever made. It's the story of a young, lonely, bullied boy named Oskar who meets a young girl who's moved into a nearby apartment. She appears to be about the same age as Oskar and the two slowly develop a friendship. In reality, she's much older, and a vampire. I don't want to give away the rest of the plot, as this is a movie that should be experienced rather than read about. It's that good! It alternates between being emotionally moving and breathtakingly horrific. The cinematography is superb, the direction excellent. It's a beautiful film from start to finish and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's absolutely mesmerizing. There's also an American remake, Let Me In, which was released in 2010. This version is also very, very good, but I'd rank the original as being the better of the two.


Fright Night (1985) is a mix of horror and comedy that also shares stylistic similarities with 80s teenage movies. Like Let the Right One In, the plot revolves around a teenager who discovers that his new neighbor is a vampire, but in this case it's an adult vampire of the truly evil variety. To deal with this threat, the young man enlists the help of horror movie actor "vampire killer" Peter Vincent (played by Roddy McDowall), who has to find away to summon the courage that was previously just part of an act. This is a fun film, worth watching once. It's entertaining enough, and the look and tone of it will make anyone who was a kid in the 80s a little sentimental, but of course not nearly the same sort of masterpiece as the first movie I talked about today.    


The third movie is one I've seen before, though it had been, I'd guess, at least fifteen years between viewings. Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) is a film about which I have very mixed feelings.
This movie features wonderful visual designs, an excellent cast including some of the best actors working today, including Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman, and, unlike many Dracula movies, manages to keep all the novel's main characters without cutting any big roles or combining characters to save room. It also has most of the novel's key scenes. Taking all that into consideration, this should have been one of the best Dracula movies of all time.
So what went wrong? For some reason, it was decided that making a faithful adaptation of the world's most famous horror novel, which is about a group of people whose mission is to put a stop to a creature who is perhaps horror fiction's greatest villain, just wasn't good enough.
Instead, the decision was made to insert a love story into the movie, and, even worse, make it the core of the film, turning the evil Dracula into a sympathetic, tragic, misunderstood semi-hero, thus staining the whole plot, turning what could have been a great horror movie into a sort of grandfather to Twilight.
All the ingredients were there: beautiful sets, brilliant use of colors, excellent special effects, Tom Waits' maniacal performance as Renfield, Anthony Hopkins' interesting, eccentric portrayal of Van Helsing, and most of the elements that made Stoker's novel so great. But that extra, unneeded thing just had to be thrown into the pot to ruin the recipe and make the story into something it was never meant to be.
Is the movie worth seeing? Yes, it is. It's visually glorious and has much to enjoy. Yet it could have been so much more. In there are the bones of a faithful version of one of the classic horror stories, but, much like Peter Jackson did with his Tolkein adaptations, the makers of this film couldn't just go with what the author intended. They added themes and events that shouldn't have been there and ruined what came so close to being right.   

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Rejuvenation

I don't know if anyone's noticed, but it's been nearly six months since I've posted anything on this blog. It's also been almost half a year since I've written any new fiction. Today, I thought I'd explain why.

Writing fiction has been my primary focus for the past six years. I've done all right with it. Readers seem to like my books, I've had the honor of working with many fine editors, other writers, illustrators, and publishers, and I've made many friends while pursuing a writing career. I've even made some money writing, though not nearly enough to live on without a day job. All in all, it's been great. I've had more than thirty stories published, including several novels, and even had a chance to write about a few of my favorite fictional characters created by other writers, most notably Sherlock Holmes.

But I stopped. In part, I think I was just tired. Writing quickly and prolifically for six years straight was bound to wear me out eventually (and it wasn't just the published stuff; there are dozens of stories, some finished and some only begun that haven't yet been seen by as single editor or reader. That was part of it. But there's also the fact that maybe I got a little too caught up in the storytelling. It's fun, so much fun that it can be a sort of addiction. Writing fiction became my sole passion in life for a while, and that wasn't the best course to take.

Looking back on my life, I've had many interests. Not only creative activities like writing, acting, music, and art, but what you might call academic interests too. I've always been an avid reader and that extends far beyond novels and short stories. I've read about many branches of science (I love physics and anything to do with the exploration of space), various parts of history, psychology, religion and mythology and the effects they've had on human society, and the workings of the human mind in general. For most of my life, I've been a person with many interests. I've always enjoyed learning and finding new ways to think about things, investigating the truth, and even sometimes helping others to see things in new ways (I might have enjoyed being a teacher if things had worked out differently). Studying all those things, seeking knowledge and understanding, and having a broad range of interests is a major part of how I became who I am, and how I came to develop the skills essential to a writer.

But somewhere in the course of getting my writing career going, I fell asleep, as if I'd dropped into a snug, comfortable cocoon. My life was happy, calm, and I had plenty of time to write. But it had a strong negative side too. I lost track of what was going on in the aspects of the world I used to be so interested in. My knowledge of science got rusty, the bad things that go on in the world stopped bothering me the way they used to (and a man who isn't bothered by those things isn't going to do any good, is he?), and I isolated myself from the world a little too much.   

But things have changed now. Over the past six months or so, I've found myself again, reactivated my mind. What happened to cause this? I'd rather not get into that now, but I assure you I'm feeling great. I have two people to thank for it, I suppose. One is an old, dear friend of mine, a man who taught me, years ago, that I had a good mind, a mind that, as he once said, I needed to share with the world. The other is a much more recent friend, a woman who somehow, when we met, saw what I used to be and could be again, and encouraged me, whether she meant to or not, to wake up and start thinking again the way I used to think.

Now, having been asleep and having come back to what feels like life again, I think I've merged two separate parts of my personality and life into one Aaron Smith. I'm a writer and always will be, and (if you like my work, don't worry!) certainly haven't permanently quit writing fiction, but I now also intend to turn my pen to other work as well. Maybe those last six years of writing fiction have honed my ability to use words to the point where I'll now be able to use that skill for other purposes too. As I said before, I'm interested in just about every aspect of the world and I have strong opinions about certain subjects. I intend to make myself heard about those things too. Some of that will show up on this blog from time to time. I'll talk about things that bother me, things that make me hopeful, maybe things I fear and things I want to see happen in the future (not just my future, but everyone's). I may write more about science or history or the human condition in general. I feel obligated to speak my mind about certain things. I may very well offend some people in the process. I may also help some people to think differently about things or examine subjects from new points of view. I hope I can.

This blog post is the most I've written in quite some time and it feels good to hear the sound of the keys being tapped and see the flow of words onto the screen. There are a lot more words where these came from and some of them are going to be very important to me. I hope some of them will mean something to you too. 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Discovering the Doctor




I thought I had run out of universes, but I was wrong!
            I’ve always been fond of discovering new fictional universes, vast spans of space and time filled with strange assortments of characters and seemingly infinite numbers of places to explore. I don’t mean worlds described in single books or movies, but universes that expand over time, guided by the imaginations of many creators, and become almost living entities of fiction, capturing the attention of generations of fans.
            I suppose Star Wars was the first thing to make me feel that way, as that galaxy far, far away and a long, long time ago caught my eye when I was just a small boy in the middle of the great Star Wars craze of the early 80s. Although I’m not impressed by the direction it took years later, and I’ve only seen the prequels once each, I still go back and revisit the original three movies once a year or so and the Star Wars universe is still a place that made my imagination grow by leaps and bounds in those early years of falling in love with science fiction and fantasy.
            Star Trek came next and I wanted to be part of that universe, wanted to board the Enterprise and sail the galaxies with Captain Kirk and crew. And not so long after I found Star Trek, that universe expanded quickly and joyfully, and I had a great time with the spin-offs, the novels, comic books, and all the other offspring of Gene Roddenberry’s glorious vision of humanity’s future.
            And I got much the same feeling of wonder when I fell into the world of comic books, finding the Marvel universe first and then the even older world of DC. It didn’t bother me that I was jumping into both worlds many decades after their genesis’ and I was fine with the fact that I’d probably never, in a million years, be able to read all the stories that had taken place in those universes. I loved that they were so vast, so full of possibilities, and bigger than my imagination could handle in one bite!
            Those were the big ones, the discoveries that blew my mind at the age when a mind is in the best condition to be blown, when I was still a child and still able to frequently get swept away in wonder. It happened several more times over the years, but rarely as dramatically. As I got older, read more books, saw more films, and began to write my own stories and eventually see them published, it became harder and harder to get lost in a fictional universe. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy many stories over those years, but it wasn’t so easy to put myself at the mercy of the magic that comes with setting foot in a big, awe-inspiring universe that’s been there for so long and accumulated so much history that it seems you might never learn all there is to know about it.
            So yes, I thought I had run out of universes to explore. I never again expected to feel the way I did when I was eight and realized just how big the Marvel Universe or the world of Star Trek are. But then a wonderful thing happened. I decided to visit The Doctor.  
            I’d been aware of the existence of DOCTOR WHO for most of my life. Reading comics and science fiction magazines as I grew up, I would often see ads for the show and its related merchandise, yet I never got farther than a quick glance at those images. I knew DOCTOR WHO was a long-running series on British TV, that it had something to do with time travel, and that the part had been played by a series of eccentric-looking English actors, with the one I saw most often in those ads being a long-nosed man with a wide-brimmed hat and a ridiculously long scarf. That was all I knew for years. Later, I was aware that the series had been revived sometime after the year 2000 and had gained more popularity than it had ever had before, but I still didn’t bother to investigate further. I don’t know why I hesitated for so long. Maybe it just seemed like too much work. When I was younger, I dove headfirst into those previously mentioned fictional universes, not caring how much had gone on before my arrival. But now, being in my mid-thirties, with less free time than ever before, perhaps the Doctor’s long history intimidated me. Sure, I could have given myself a quick crash course via the internet and caught up with several visits to various websites and Wikipedia entries, but I hate doing things that way. I want to experience stories, not research them!  
            So what changed my mind after all those years and made me finally decide to check out DOCTOR WHO? I think it was a combination of three things. First, the months of buzz about the upcoming 50th anniversary of DOCTOR WHO put the show on my radar. Second, Netflix put up some of the show for streaming, including a sampler of 18 stories from the original series stretching from the nineteen sixties to the eighties. And third, and probably most importantly, I began to notice that a great many of my fellow writers and other friends are fans of DOCTOR WHO. These are people whose opinions I trust and who share many of my interests in movies, books, TV, and other media. If their good taste in fiction had led them to the Doctor, I began to strongly suspect that the universe traveled by the TARDIS might be a place I’d enjoy exploring too. 

            So I took the plunge, beginning with the Netflix sampler, and started to watch DOCTOR WHO. I was hooked from the start! The first serial I watched was “The Aztecs,” from 1964, starring William Hartnell, the very first Doctor. The early science fiction TV charm of the show caught my attention immediately. I liked the eerie, pre-psychedelic opening credits, the storytelling that reminded me of things like the original Star Trek, and the Doctor’s stern, intellectual attitude. I breezed through that story and quickly moved on to the next one. There was only one Hartnell story streaming, so I was soon introduced to the second Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton, and his companions. Troughton’s Doctor, to be honest, irritated me at first with his panicked, jumpy personality and absent-minded professor style, but by the end of the serial I realized that it was all an act to hide his sly intellect, much the way my favorite TV detective, Columbo, exaggerates his sloppy eccentricity to annoy his suspects and throw them off guard.
            I soon moved on to the Third Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee, who was quite different from his two predecessors, getting in and out of trouble as a flamboyantly dressed, somewhat action-oriented character. I was treated to four stories with him, starting with his first, “The Spearhead from Space,” and ending with “The Green Death,” which remains one of my favorites.

            Next I watched a long stretch of nine stories featuring the Fourth Doctor, the extremely popular Tom Baker. He’s become my favorite and I can see why he’s so popular. I enjoyed the first two Baker stories, “The Ark in Space” and “Pyramids of Mars” (that second one was based around a theme I always enjoy, the merging of ancient Egyptian mythology and science fiction, similar to one of my favorite books, Roger Zelazny’s “Creatures of Light and Darkness”). 
            But it was the third Baker story I saw that made him my favorite. In “The Horror of Fang Rock,” a lighthouse crew is menaced by an alien monster. In one scene, the Doctor sits on the lighthouse steps and calmly chats with the creature, so casual and so confident, despite the deadly danger he’s in. I kept going through all the Baker stories that were available for streaming and came to appreciate his performance more and more. Baker was masterful at tossing out absurd lines casually and even politely in the face of dangerous situations or uncomfortable circumstances. “Would you mind not standing on my chest? My hat’s on fire.” 

            As I write this, I’ve just recently watched the ninth of those Baker stories, “The City of Death,” and I’m sad to have reached the end of what I have access to from the Fourth Doctor’s run. His stories were all entertaining and he was joined on his adventures by some of my favorites of his companions, characters like Sarah Jane Smith, Romana, and the robotic dog K-9.
            I still have three serials left on the Netflix sampler. When I next sit down to see the Doctor, I’ll be watching Peter Davidson in the role for the first time. When I’m done with that selection of episodes from the long-running original series, I intend to watch the newer series all the way through, beginning with Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor. I also plan to slowly find the time to track down and watch as many of the Doctor’s earlier adventures as I can, either by getting the DVDs from Netflix or maybe even buying some of them to own. I love the fact that I have literally hundreds of episodes left with which I can go back and see those earlier Doctors: Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Baker, etc.
            So, yes, I seem to have become a Whovian! Now that I’ve described how I came to happily embark on my TARDIS-driven adventures, I’m wondering exactly what it is about DOCTOR WHO that appeals to me so much. I’m going to try to explain that.  
            The first reason is the most obvious. I’ve been a science fiction fan since I found Star Wars and Star Trek, both by the age of six or so. It makes sense that the time and space travel themes of DOCTOR WHO would appeal to me. I’d like to have the TARDIS almost as much as I’d like to soar through the stars aboard the Enterprise or Millennium Falcon.
            Second, the Doctor is the type of character I’ve grown fonder of as I’ve gotten older. He is what one might call the Eccentric Hero. As fans of fiction, I suppose we all often dream of being the most dashing or handsomest or strongest type of hero, the James Bond or Superman or Captain Kirk, but we don’t all grow up to fit that mold. I’ll never be 007 or that sort of man, the kind who can walk into a room and intimidate enemies and make women swoon and cause everyone to wish they were him. But I have my intelligence and my imagination and some people might even see me as a man with certain eccentricities. I can be a curmudgeon one minute and come up with a smart quip the next and sometimes be sneaky or sly or strategic in trying to get what I want. I’ve come to appreciate that sort of fictional character to a greater extent as I experience more of life. Sherlock Holmes has always been a favorite of mine, as have Hercule Poirot and Lt. Columbo and Gandalf. I think I have more of Obi-Wan than Luke Skywalker or Han Solo in me and I’m certainly more a Leonard McCoy than a James T. Kirk. The Doctor, in all his incarnations, is that sort of hero, a character who uses wit and knowledge and humor and unpredictability more than brute strength or irresistible charm to solve a problem or survive a sticky situation. So, on that level, I very much identify with the Doctor.            
            The third reason for my fascination with the universe of DOCTOR WHO is perhaps the most unexpected, and is something I realized somewhere in the middle of the Tom Baker episodes when I was really getting addicted. DOCTOR WHO is perhaps the most accidentally profound fictional concept I’ve ever encountered. I say “accidental” because I don’t think the creators of the show were trying to be philosophical. I assume they were just trying to make a decent science fiction show that people would want to watch. But I see more there than just fun tales of a traveler through space and time. The character and his experiences speak to me on a deeper level and maybe even become an analogy for some of the core concepts of being human (funny how we can often see more humanity in the alien characters than the Earth-born ones! I find myself thinking of Admiral Kirk’s words at Spock’s funeral in Star Trek II, “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most … human.”).
            Here are the connections I see between the Doctor’s exaggerated, fictional circumstances and the reality we all live with every day of our lives:
            We are all travelers through time and space. The time part is obvious. I will not be at the same point in time when I finish this essay as I was when I began it. It’s not as dramatic as leaping across centuries in a blue police box, but we do take our trips. And the space aspect of our lives might not seem as exciting as journeying to alien worlds, but the places we experience in our lives can be as different from each other as Mars and Neptune and Vulcan and Gallifrey. Different homes, towns, nations, schools, workplaces, etc. all impact who we are in one way or another. And we rarely end up exactly where we were trying to go, or at least rarely find the circumstances there to be precisely what we expected.
            And just like the Doctor, we regenerate often, probably more often than we know. I’ve been through many incarnations. All have had my name and my body, but I’ve been through many changes. I am not exactly who I was a year ago, or ten years before that. I change, as we all do, perhaps more than I realize at any particular point in time. And just as in episodes like “The Three Doctors,” when the Third Doctor teamed up with his First and Second versions, there do come times when more than one aspect of our lives collide and we feel as though more than one of us is sharing the same experience. I’ve been going through something a bit like that lately, as a new friend has reawakened some old interests of mine. Although I’ve changed since I last dealt with those subjects, it feels as if a past version of me is now working in cooperation with the incarnation of me that exists in 2013. There are many different variations of me stretched out across the 36 years I’ve lived so far in my life, just as the Doctor has worn many faces and personalities over the span of his TV series.
            And lastly, we come to the fact that although we will encounter many characters in our lives, we will, at different points in our existence, see different sets of people as our closest companions, as those who matter most to us at any given time.
            It seems as though the Doctor’s characteristics, the time and space travel, the regenerations, the changing cast of companions, are all fictionalized exaggerations of what real life is like. Maybe that’s the core of what makes DOCTOR WHO so popular, maybe that’s why generation after generation sticks with it and follows the TARDIS and its occupants on such a fascinating, unpredictable journey. At least that’s how I see it right now.
            So here I am, having discovered yet another fictional universe to explore, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m still catching up on the Doctor’s first fifty years, and I look forward to seeing what surprises await us in the next fifty!