Peter Clines is the author of Ex-Heroes, a science fiction novel about super humans trying to save what remains of Los Angeles in a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland. Above, the cover for the Clines' upcoming follow-up novel: Ex-Patriots. Below, an interview with Clines about his love of Dr. Who. (Keep your eye out for 3 Doctor Who Novels coming out April 2: Plague of the Cybermen, Shroud of Sorrow, and The Dalek Generation.)
Originally published by a small, print-on-demand press without any publicity or marketing support and almost no physical distribution, Peter Clines’s brilliant novels, Ex-Heroes and the forthcoming Ex-Patriots -- which combine the best of the sci-fi, thriller, horror, and adventure fiction genres -- still managed to draw an incredible cult following. Now, Broadway is thrilled to introduce Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots to a whole new slew of fans with the release of these paperback originals. With two more novels to follow in the series, including Ex-Communication (July 9, 2013), Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots are sure to appeal to fans of such hits as Watchmen, World War Z, and Ready Player One.
How big of a role did Doctor Who play in your decision to become a writer?
It was a huge influence. I watched the show religiously as a kid, and even then I was aware that a good story could really help make up for cheap sets and rubber monsters (pay attention, SyFy!). I got chills from cliffhanger endings in “The Face of Evil” and “The Horror of Fang Rock.” Davros in “Genesis of the Daleks” was the first time I ever realized a character was evil. I always knew they were the bad guys out there, but Michael Wisher as Davros was just pure evil. And I loved the brilliant plot-twists that could be either scary or kind of sad and dramatic. Not to mention the fact that the whole show is about someone who gave up their life so they could try to make a difference.
It was just fantastic storytelling, and it made me want to tell stories that would get the same reactions from people.
Of all of the actors who played Doctor Who, which was your favorite?
I’d have to say Tom Baker. The scarf, the hat, a dozen layers of clothing... that’s always going to be the Doctor to me. I think Doctor Who is a lot like James Bond—the first one you’re ever exposed to is the “real” one and then other actors get brought in to play the part as time goes by.
Why do you think the character and story continues to thrill fans, old and new alike?
The TARDIS and time travel are fun, the monsters are exciting, but at the end of the day I think it’s the honest sense that the Doctor just wants to help people. He doesn’t care about politics or procedure or social classes (he’s really the antithesis of the Prime Directive). He just wants people everywhere to have good, happy lives, and he gave up his whole life on Gallifrey because he thought he should try to make that happen. That sort of selflessness is something everyone can admire.
I mean, what’s one of the running gags in the series? When the Doctor needs someone out of the way, do they vanish mysteriously? Do they have an accident? Do they get fired? No, when he needs someone out of the way, they win the lottery. A recurring plot point in the show is that the Doctor gives people the life they’ve always dreamed of just so that he can get on with what he’s focused on doing.
What do you think is the Doctor’s real name? Go ahead, guess.
I would have no idea. I feel confident it isn’t Steve, Brett, or Cliff. I like that they’re pushing an idea from the Sylvester McCoy years, that the Doctor might be something bigger and greater than “just” a Time Lord. Because there’s something fantastic and kind of scary about the idea that being the nigh-immortal last survivor of the oldest race in the universe is your cover story...
I could prove my geekiness by pointing out that his school nickname was Theta Sigma. And I didn’t even have to look that up. I could even name the episode.
If you could cast anyone as the next incarnation of the Doctor, who would it be?
I don’t know. Lots of people want to see female Doctors and other-ethnicity Doctors, and while I don’t see any story-logic problem with that I do think it’d probably alienate a lot of fans. I always thought Richard Grant would make a fantastic Doctor, except now he’s sort of been the Doctor, so that probably wouldn’t go over well. Then again, Lalla Ward played a princess and later became the second Romana, with the logic being she was using the princess as sort of a regeneration template.
Y’know who’d be a great Doctor? Martin Freeman, from Sherlock and The Hobbit. He’s got an ability to seem completely harmless and extremely dangerous. That’s a fantastic quality for a Doctor.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.