Doctor How and the Illegal Aliens by Mark Speed

Title: Doctor How and the Illegal Aliens
Author: Mark Speed
Series: Doctor How, #1
Genre: Sci-Fi, Comedy
Purchase: Amazon

Doctor How’s famous megalomaniac brother Doctor Who sold his fictional life story to the BBC half a century ago, painting himself as a lone hero. Disillusioned, their four cousins dropped out. For fifty years, Doctor How has held the line against the forces of darkness and stupidity. And he’s not that happy, since you ask.

Illegal aliens try to hack How’s Spectrel (TARDIS is a very rude word where he comes from), just as he suspects his estranged cousin Where has been compromised. When reports come in of mysterious attacks by alien creatures, Doctor How has to rely on his new companion Kevin, a petty criminal from south London, and Trinity, a morphing super-predator, as he counters this threat to humanity’s existence. Bungling agents from MI16, long desperate to capture the Time Keeper’s technology, hamper How’s efforts to combat the alien menace. Can Doctor How keep ahead of MI16, save Where and combat the alien threat?

How To Handle Negative Criticism

You’re always going to get criticism, and sometimes it’s going to be purely negative. In professional, or well-organised feedback sessions the accepted syntax is to tell the writer first what you liked, and what you thought worked, before couching your criticism carefully.

Unfortunately, life outside of the writing world isn’t like that. Broadly, I think it splits into two different kinds of criticism; what I would describe as thoughtful and unthoughtful. I can see a few eyebrows being raised here. Why am I not splitting it into positive and negative?

I don’t want to be too pedantic (but you’ll never cure me of it!), but isn’t all criticism by its nature designed to ‘negate’ something about the original work? Stick with me on this.

Unthoughtful criticism is when someone has taken a glance at a work and given their gut reaction. Examples of this would be the likes of rabble-rousers and the dogmatically inclined. Your work might not come to the attention of those sorts of people, but you might encounter smaller versions of them – people who have a visceral reaction to a story of a particular type and just lash out. I think in those circumstances you are right to ignore the criticism. Yes, you should be mindful that there are those who might be offended in some way by your work – but the real problem is a lack of willingness to tolerate or understand your work. There is no point wasting your breath – you can argue facts, but you can’t argue emotions.

Thoughtful criticism is when someone has clearly understood – or at least thought they understood – your work. They have – at least for a few seconds – digested their thoughts and come back with their ‘take’ on it. Rejoice! Someone has expended effort on your work! Even just as a matter of courtesy you should hear them out. Don’t let your emotions get in the way. Of course, it’s worth a quick sanity to check to see if there’s some emotional baggage in the way of their criticism. Even if there is, then that gives you a terrific insight into perceiving your work in a different way. How could you make use of that in a sequel, or in an article about your work?

Remarkably – perhaps uncomfortably – often, you’ll find that what appears to be negative criticism is wholly legitimate. The human mind is the most powerful thinking device we know about, and if someone’s mind has found a gap then the chances are that there is, at the very least, some level of unacceptable ambiguity in your story. As a writer, empathy is your stock-in-trade – so listening to thoughtful but apparently negative criticism will help you grow.

There was a red telephone box on the pavement outside. The light inside was bright – so bright that Kevin couldn’t see in – and yet the light didn’t illuminate the area immediately around it. Even the black letters of the backlit TELEPHONE sign were indistinct due to the brightness of the light behind them. The obtrusiveness of the light made it difficult to see what was beyond it. As he walked slowly past Where’s black cab, he noticed that the telephone box was not reflected in its windows or polished paintwork. Thoughts of vampires crept through his imagination.

“Doctor?” he called.

“What now? Can’t you see I’m busy?”

“Well, no.”

Once he’d skirted around the phone box, Kevin could see that the Doctor was somewhat stretched. He was standing on the bonnet of the cab, with the tip of one finger on its badge and the other touching the crown symbol above the TELEPHONE sign, which was at the very limit of his reach.

“It’d be a lot easier and faster if I could put my whole hand on both of them,” he said.

“What are you doing?”

“What does it look like I’m doing, lad?”

“Um. Is it kinda like when you have to jump-start a car with another one?”

“Yes, it’s kinda like that,” the Doctor panted. “And before you point it out in your own wonderfully literal way, yes: I’m kinda like a time-travelling breakdown recovery service.” He paused to catch his breath again, and winced. “And I can tell you it’s not particularly pleasant being the wiring. Thankfully, Where’s Spectrel should shortly recover enough to be able to take a transdimensional feed off mine. Ouch!”

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Mark Speed has been writing novels since he was fifteen. His comedy writing has appeared in newspapers as diverse as the London Evening Standard and The Sun, and been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra. He performed his solo comedy, The End of the World Show, at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 and 2012. He is currently working on the five-volume Doctor How series.

Amongst other postgraduate and professional qualifications, he has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from City University, London. In 1995 a chiropractor told him he’d never run again. Sensibly, he gave up chiropractors, runs every day and has completed several marathons and a couple of Olympic-length triathlons.

NLP founder Dr Richard Bandler called him a ‘polarity responder’.

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  1. Hi Everyone, thanks to Aine for hosting me today, and to Goddess Fish for arranging everything.

  2. Thanks for hosting!

  3. Excellent guest post Mark~ this is why I rearely review books because I do have a gut reactionto most things I read, see and hear. I’m an emotional person. I am, however, interested in feedback others leave and use it as a tool for future purchases. I must admit hough, that I am sometimes astounded that many people don’t understand the difference between criticism and critique. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    ilookfamous at yahoo dot com

    1. Thanks, Elise-Maria. I only give very broad reviews, and stay off doing them for friends. Even if you have nothing emotional to attach, they can attach emotions to your critique.

    • Trix on March 26th, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Very useful advice!


    • momjane on March 26th, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    I wouldn’t mind helpful advice, but never nasty criticism. That is never helpful. I enjoyed your comments about it.

    • Rita Wray on March 26th, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Great advice.

  4. Aine, thanks for having hosted me. Thanks also to Goddess Fish for having arranged everything.

  5. This book sounds like great fun to read.

    kareninnc at gmail dot com

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