High-end author AL Kennedy dives into sci-fi with Dr Who

25 Aug, 2015 10:40 pm

LONDON – AL Kennedy, the feted British writer of high-end literary fiction, knew she was reaching a different audience when websites such as Nerdist.com started praising her depiction of Dr. Who.

The Scottish author, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Costa Book Award winner, has just switched dimensions into sci-fi by publishing “The Drosten’s Curse”, her first novel starring the face-changing time lord first made famous on BBC TV.

“I’ve always loved the Who world, although not obsessively, and it seemed a fun thing to do. I’d been asking for ages and they finally let me,” she told Reuters in an interview.

The novel makes her a fully fledged member of the Dr. Who universe – a phenomenon that started as a British children’s TV series in the 1960s and, boosted by a revamp 10 years ago and a dedicated fan base, has spread to win audiences on BBC America and beyond.

Kennedy’s past grown-up novels such as “Day” – which delves into the psyche of a World War Two veteran – are all page-turners but are not scared of challenging readers with their narrative complexity.

“The Drosten’s Curse” kicks off with the sentence: “Paul Harris was dying” and charges on with the Doctor and his helpers confronting a carnivorous golf bunker which turns out to be a mind-bending monster “at the edge of reality’s nightmares”.


“In literary fiction you’re ideally going through a process that produces prose that’s as crafted as poetry, but also pushing ahead a plot and characters – that’s the toughest gig you can have as a writer,” Kennedy said.

“In genre fiction, you’re serving a kind of brand, certainly in this case, and you’re reining in some of the prose because it would get in the way of the forward motion. It’s a different kind of story and you’re using a different part of your voice.”

Her Dr. Who is clearly based on actor Tom Baker’s TV portrayal of the time-travelling alien through the 1970s, complete with scarf, jelly babies and manic, toothy grin.

“The invention of sci-fi is exhilarating because that isn’t a part of literary fiction so much,” said Kennedy, now based in London. “You can’t usually alter the real world that much, unless you’re writing magic realism, which I don’t generally.”

The book has drawn praise from both the Who-verse – “10/10” Blogtor Who – and her usual reviewers, with The Independent newspaper calling it “giddying and adventurous”.

It remains to be seen whether space-travelling tales prove more lucrative or popular than literary novels.

“I’d doubt that and that’s not really why I did it,” she said. “There will be other excursions in other directions. It’s best to keep changing and learning and exploring, I think.” –Reuters

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