Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Black Archive 2018 ~ "Heaven Sent" is Coming

Monday morning on my way back from Raleigh post-MystiCon, I couldn't for the life of me figure out why my phone was pinging off its charger. A stop-in at a rest stop gave me a chance to see: Obverse had announced that I was doing the Black Archive installment for Heaven Sent.

I'd told a handful of people (mostly my sounding boards) what I was up to, but hadn't gone public with the announcement -- obviously, as my installment isn't coming out 'til 2018, a lot of it depended on if the Black Archive series did well enough for them to even get to me. Fortunately, the reviews are largely positive, which means there's absolutely room for me at the table... and with books coming out monthly rather than every two or three, it means my time is just over a year out.

Initially I'd had no intention of submitting to the Black Archive. I don't consider myself a critical writer by what the Internet seems to deem critical. But when I learned how they were going about it -- that these were going to be studies first and foremost -- I sent them my take on the 12th Doctor single-hander. Apparently it was the sort of thing they wanted, because I'm now on board as one of three women covering the Series 9 triple-play -- with Sarah Groenewegen before me on Face the Raven, and Alyssa Franke (WhovianFeminism) after me on Hell Bent.

It's an exciting and daunting notion... and one of the reasons that many of my We Are Cult reviews are of Black Archive volumes. Reading my predecessors gives me a chance to expose myself regularly to the writing style, method of footnoting, and general tone so it's hammered into my brain; and looking at them with a critical eye encourages me to go back and look at mine in progress with just as critical an eye.

A stopover on their Twelfth Doctor landing page gives you a look at what I'm plotting, and it shouldn't be surprising to anyone who knows me. Heaven Sent is a deeply Jungian, aggressively character-building piece. Its central mechanic has been used in everything from Stephen King to Japanese light novels to evoke a sense of purgatorial suffering and self-examination. But the Doctor-ly spin on it is what fascinates me the most, and the final chapter is going to explore what I think is the most interesting, fourth-wall-breaking aspect that really defines -- especially for this Doctor -- just how far the character will go.

I've been extremely fortunate in my opportunity to chat with Rachel Talalay, the director of the episode. At Intervention 7, she offered a master class (a phrase that's not even remotely an exaggeration) on the episode, that gave me new insight into a lot of my theories, as well as causing me to utterly upend my chapter on the Veil and dig into the Nightmare on Elm Street series for some heavy research. Rachel was a joy to have at the event, an inexhaustible font of knowledge, and answered questions that I didn't even know I had.

There are days when working on the book is my primary joy; there are others when I look back at previous volumes and wonder if I'm quite up to snuff. But it's such a magnificent episode, with such a lot to think about and work from, that simply tackling one angle within the allotted word count is more than challenge enough without setting myself other hurdled.

The Black Archive #21: Heaven Sent comes out July 2018 from Obverse Books. And now... I really ought to head off and work at it some more.