Doctor Who and Egil and Nix

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fezDoctor Who Eve got me to thinking about the series, the way it tells stories, and most importantly, the mood it sets in telling them.  It also got me to thinking what it did for my own storytelling.

In the past, when it came to the kind of stories I liked, it’s safe to say I preferred dark (very dark) dramas and the like to anything else.  I detested comedies (I still dislike most comedies, Monty Python excepted).   In particular, I enjoyed tragedy in storytelling, ambiguous resolutions, and a more or less Sissyphean (even nihilistic) approach to hope — stories that had only small moments of grace or respite shown against a tableau of dark hopelessness.  So I loved television shows like Deadwood, The Wire, Homicide, even (to a lesser degree) NYPD Blue — shows where the protagonists were fighting upstream against some hard currents and where you knew they’d never get to dry land but you appreciated the nobility of the struggle.  In books it would be things like Winter’s Bone, Lush Life, or The Lovely Bones.  Lots of feels in all of them; lots of oppressiveness too, lots of brooding.  Shows and books that lacked that tone usually failed to ring my bell.  I was King Lear and Hamlet, mein freunds.  You could take As You Like It and stuff it.  🙂

That same kind of sentiment is a regular tone in most of my writing.  Almost all of my Erevis Cale stories are in that vein (The Godborn finds a bit more balance in its tone, I think, though it’s a very dark story ultimately).  Lots of reviews of The Twilight War in particular talk about how oddly compelling and believable is Rivalen’s faith-based nihilism.  But that’s not surprising because that’s the pool I was swimming in back in the day!  But there’s a pessimism in those kind of stories, a bleak strain of cynicism (nothing wrong with that, btw).

Now, to be clear, I wasn’t personally dark and brooding and whatnot.  I was happy as a clam, same as I am LO, UNTO THIS VERY DAY! It’s just that a dark tone appealed to me mightily when writing and telling stories. That’s the headspace where my inner storyteller resided.  I didn’t feel a lot of emotional resonance with other kinds of storytelling.  I simply hadn’t encountered stories told in different tones that appealed to me all that much.

And then, while Jen was pregnant with Delaney, I started watching the new Doctor Who run on a lark.  And it spoke to me right away.  It has its dark moments, of course, but they’re mostly just brief moments, juxtaposed against many more moments of humor, and friendship, and love, and (this is the key) optimism.  Eventually we watched the whole run and I loved it.  Lots of feels — in fact, just as many feels as I’d had from the dark stories I’d always loved. And so did the Paulman’s heart grow five sizes that day!  Thus were my storytelling horizons expanded.

Now, some of this was probably just serendipity — maybe having a daughter on the way lightened my mood, maybe I was just getting older and wiser, maybe the friends I hang around with were rubbing happy dust on me, and maybe I watched the series at just the right moment.  Who knows?  But the long and short of it is that my Egil and Nix stories are the result (in fact, when writing, I like to think Nix has a bit of the Doctor in him).  They’re dark, true (I can’t get away from that entirely and don’t want to), but they have many moments of humor, some moments of charm, and they are, ultimately, optimistic in tone.  That was a bit of a departure for me, but a welcome one.  When I mentioned the other day that I was most proud of my Egil and Nix stories at the moment because they best reflected my state of mind these days, that’s what I meant — that optimism.

So, anyway, thanks, Doctor.


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