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Fantales No.1 (August 1988)

Edited by Paul Kennedy

Fanzine reviewed by Paul Scoones

It would be fair to say that my main interest in Doctor Who these days lies in the fiction aspect: both writing and reading it. I am forever trying to track down copies of Doctor Who fan fiction zines, and it was for this reason that I ordered a copy of Paul Kennedy's Fantales, a first issue of this specialist Doctor Who fan fiction zine.

Paul has resisted discrimination with his publication; unless I am mistaken I believe he has published anything he has been sent in the way of fiction. If nothing else, it has certainly produced a very mixed bag of material, ranging all the way from the very good to the very bad. Unfortunately, the range is somewhat uneven, and most of the six stories within this issue are clustered somewhere near the bottom of the scale.

Gail Neville's The Captive Queen is the best of the bunch by far. It is an amusing and extraordinarily well-written tale featuring the fourth Doctor and Leela. Both are well drawn, although I must say that Leela is better than she was in Season 15. Neville has concentrated on the instinctual huntress image of Season 14, before Leela mellowed out and started to act out of character (the fault of the script writers, not Louise Jameson). The tale itself is realistic, to the point of being grimly so. It is set in the Amazon, with the duo encountering the legendary female warriors of the region. It is really Leela's piece, as the Doctor spends most of his time in captivity, although this isn't a bad thing, as Leela comes into her own, and we are rewarded with a revealing insight into her character. It is a pity the writers never gave Leela a tale like this on screen.

Aftershock by Kate Orman isn't up to the calibre of the Neville story but isn't all that bad either. Set three days after Earthshock, it does rather contradict the opening scenes of Time-Flight but if you can overlook that, it makes good reading. What really lets Orman's tale down is its indulgence in over-sentimentality, specifically the reactions of the TARDIS crew to Adric's death. Like Neville's story, the (leading) female companion is given the upper hand, but this is a plus, as the situations are engineered to suit them better than the Doctor: Leela was obviously better suited to the lifestyle of the Amazonian warriors than the fourth Doctor (or any Doctor!), and Tegan is better able to express grief and sadness than the fifth Doctor. It is Tegan who tells the Doctor he must let Adric go and not attempt to rescue him. Perhaps it is coincidence that both Neville and Orman are female and give the female the lead role, or that theirs are by far the best stories in the collection - all the rest are by males. Do females generally write better Doctor Who fan fiction than males? Only much more extensive reading of works on my part will indicate whether there is any truth in this or not. Certainly it is the case here.

Of the four remaining stories David Kenyon's Death Dream is probably the best, although that isn't saying much. It is a rather violent and graphic tale of sadistic revenge on the sixth Doctor and Peri by the Master in a Matrix world (as in The Deadly Assassin), although to my mind Kenyon seems to utilize the Matrix in order to indulge in writing gory death scenes for the TARDIS crew without actually killing them as such. The concept of the dreamscape would have been good in itself if only the Daleks and Cybermen hadn't been quite so heavily involved - unfortunately, they are used to excess as both executioners and executed.

Worse still, but for a totally different reason, is Jason O'Shea's Dr Who and the Mars Invasion of Earth which is every bit as bad as the title suggests. Perhaps I dislike the story because it uncomfortably reminds me of my own first attempts at Doctor Who fiction years ago, in that it is very much an exercise in seeing how many past companions you can fit into one story - O'Shea manages seven: Sarah, K9, the Brig, Mike, Susan, Jo and Cliff. All meet Mel and the sixth Doctor against the rather rushed and badly explained backdrop of Earth invaded by decidedly Wellsian Martians, complete with tripods! Things are rather hastily resolved, and O'Shea then makes a valiant attempt to link the tale into Time and the Rani, but fails miserably as he obviously has yet to see or read the McCoy debut tale when he wrote his own story. The seventh Doctor appears early on in the story when the sixth Doctor regenerates after having being zapped by a Martian - and the story ends with the Tardis being invaded by the Rani and not one, but hundreds of bats!

This is nothing compared to the last two stories, both by Tony Sandy. Sandy has a peculiar style of writing stories and they both seem almost like scripts without names assigned to the dialogue. There is precious little description, so as to be virtually non-existent on some pages. One is called The 57 Doctors and defies adequate explanation, although from what I can make of it, timestreams temporarily cross and the past (and future?) Doctors and Masters meet themselves and argue about nothing at all, it would seem.

Sandy's other tale is less confusing, but written in the same script-like style that remains so hard to read, simply because you don't know who's saying what half the time. Double Trouble is a Dalek story with the fifth Doctor encountering Imperial and Humanized Daleks (as in The Evil of the Daleks).

At $6.00 Fantales isn't particularly expensive; to my mind it was worth getting for the Orman and Neville stories alone. Although I'm not interested in fan art myself, the illustrations by John Allen and the obviously talented Donna Argus are rather good. All in all, a very mixed publication. One criticism I would like to make is that the writers' ages aren't included; that is to say that if Jason O'Shea, for instance, is about 12 or 13, then his story is an impressive effort, but if he's older than that, then he deserves all the criticism I gave it. Wherever possible Paul should include the writer's age as it can significantly aid the readers' appreciation of the writers' talent. Perhaps the same should apply to fiction in TSV, I wonder? Fantales, providing there are future issues, may yet shine - each issue's quality will depend on the quality of the contributors' work.

This item appeared in TSV 10 (December 1988).