22 August, 2008

Campaign


The Crusade
is not the only 'lost' Doctor Who story featuring the First Doctor that I’ve helped rescue from oblivion. I also had a hand in the restoration of author Jim Mortimore’s self-published novel, Campaign.

Jim’s novel has a fairly turbulent background. Campaign was originally commissioned by BBC Books as a purely historical adventure set in various time periods during the life of Alexander the Great, but the book Jim delivered was late, underlength, and differed radically from the original synopsis, becoming a mind-bending adventure about multiple realities set largely within the confines of the TARDIS and, for the most part, only tangentially dealt with Alexander’s life. The book was cancelled so Jim took it upon himself to self-publish the book for charity in 2000.

The limited-run paperback proved popular with fans, garnering many online rave reviews, and consequently completely sold out of its limited print run.

In late August 2006 I was browsing the Outpost Gallifrey Doctor Who discussion forum, and read a thread about how copies of Campaign, which was by now long out of print, was changing hands for large sums of money on Ebay. My only prior contact with Jim Mortimore was when I had bought copies of Campaign off him years earlier, but I dropped in an email suggesting that he take a look at the TSV website where David Bishop’s Who Killed Kennedy novel had been reissued as an ebook free for all to read and accompanied by new supplementary material including a chapter-by-chapter commentary. I proposed that if he was interested, we could perhaps do something similar for Campaign.

Jim responded positively, writing “THAT is a brilliant idea. What do you need from me?” and started bombarding me via email with some highly creative suggestions including randomised alternative endings, a complete rewrite of the manuscript, an interactive slideshow, and especially composed music (Jim’s also a musician) to accompany the book. None of this eventuated, but it demonstrates just how enthusiastic Jim was initially about the project.

We soon struck a major setback; when I’d worked on the Who Killed Kennedy ebook David Bishop had been able to supply me with an electronic copy of his complete manuscript which made things fairly straightforward. After some time spent searching his files Jim confessed that he couldn’t find a copy of his manuscript; it had apparently been lost forever in a PC crash a couple of years earlier.

I could sympathise with Jim’s predicament; I lost many years worth of TSV files in my own disastrous computer hard drive failure in 1998, and subsequently spent ages painstakingly restoring these by scanning pages of the print master copies. Scanning a copy of the book was the only practical solution that would enable the continuation of the Campaign ebook project. I scanned the first few chapters from my own copy, but as anyone who has ever tried to do this with a paperback book will attest to, this is very tricky and results in both poor quality scans and a book with a wrecked spine.

Jim sent me a defaced copy of the book that I could use instead. The only way in which it was 'defaced' was that Jim had written a dedication on the title page and then scribbled it out. I didn’t allow myself to think about how much the book could still have fetched on ebay, as I took a sharp knife and sliced away the spine. The result was a set of perfectly flat pages that made scanning considerably easier, if still very time-consuming, but on 26 January 2007 I scanned the entire thing from end to end, and tidied up as many of the text recognition errors as I could find to create a Word document of the complete novel.

Jim was delighted to once again have an electronic copy of his novel, and told me he was going to set about restoring it to its original layout and also begin work on the supplementary features. I told him to take as much time as he needed, and in June 2007 he emailed me three documents. The first was an article tracing the history of the book from his initial idea through to its final cancellation; the second a chapter-by-chapter commentary, and the third a collection of reviews of the book harvested from various internet sites. These items were, in total, almost as long as the novel itself.

I had three main concerns about the content of these three articles. Firstly, Jim had included a great deal of the private email correspondence between himself and various individuals at BBC Books, some of which pertained to a dispute over the book’s commissioning and contract. I was naturally worried that if this material was published on the TSV website we could potentially invite legal action from the individuals concerned. Secondly, Jim hadn’t held back in his use of swear words in his commentary and while this was clearly genuine and heartfelt, I was mindful of the broad age range of fans reading at the TSV website, and felt the swearing needed to be toned down. Lastly, I wasn’t comfortable with a wholesale reproduction of all of the reviews from other sources, especially if these could still be found elsewhere online.

I put this feedback to Jim and he agreed to try to seek the necessary permissions. I didn’t hear much from Jim for several months. He finally got back to me in November, saying that the permissions would not be forthcoming and conceding that a rewrite was therefore required. Jim asked me to edit out what I thought needed to be removed, but by early February 2008 I still hadn’t found time to do this as I was by now working on a book project of my own and had little time to spare. I suggested to Jim that I pass the project on to Jamas Enright. Jamas is a long time TSV contributor who has done some excellent work proof reading the online reissues of TSV. Jamas admired Campaign, and his online review of the book was among Jim’s collection of critiques from the internet.

Coincidentally, in February 2008, the Doctor Who Forum’s Campaign discussion thread has a comment from a member with the user name ‘fridaydalek’, saying “Anyone know if Mr Mortimore plans / can be persuaded to release an ebook? Who Killed Kennedy is available in this format.” This was uncannily close to the truth of what had been in the planning stages for over a year, but no hint of this had been disclosed to more than a select group of people directly involved with the project. Another user responded saying that this couldn’t happen because Jim had been threatened by the BBC’s legal department. Jim was quick to post a reply himself saying that this wasn’t true, he’d never had any such contact from the BBC over Campaign.

Jamas began working with Jim on editing the Campaign supplementary material in early March, but another setback came in later that month when Jim emailed both Jamas and myself out of the blue to say that he was pulling the ebook project and was instead going to publish the book with all of the controversial emails intact. I was understandably most disappointed at this sudden about face. I challenged Jim on his reasons, and his explanation was that although he was fine with the work Jamas had put in, he was sick of the way he had been treated by BBC Books and wanted the whole unexpurgated truth to come out. The trigger for this was an experience he’d just had with Big Finish over a Doctor Who audio play that he’d been commissioned to write and was then cancelled. Jim said, “The fact is I’m sick of being kicked in the arse for doing what people ask, and having no recourse but to allow them to make it out to be my fault when their lack of professionalism sends the whole sorry mess spiralling down the pan.”

A month later, Jim emailed again to say that he’d reconsidered, and was now happy for the ebook to appear online, with Jamas’s edits intact. Jim wrote: “Why? I hear you mumbling, in weary abandonment. You were right. You guys put a f**kload of work into this and this book would not now exist without you. That means a *lot* to me. Far more than any stupid gripe with a f**kwitted editor.”

Campaign - the ebook version – was published online by TSV website editor Alden Bates on Monday 28 April, the day before I flew out to the UK for a five week holiday. I made a tentative arrangement with Jim to meet up for a beer in London to celebrate the relaunching of Campaign, but circumstances alas prevented me from finding a suitable time to do this.

Jim went ahead and got new editions of his book published in hardback, with all of the supplementary material in the back. Jim promised copies of this new edition for myself, Jamas and Alden as a thank you for the work we’d each put into the project. In August the books were finally posted to us and turned up in the mailbox just a couple of days ago.

The new edition is a heavy substantial hardback printed on good quality paper with a glossy, full colour dustjacket. I’m name-checked in the book’s introduction, and it’s a pleasure to not only be associated with such a good-looking tome, but also to finally have a copy of the book I helped in some small way to make possible, almost two years to the day after I first suggested to the author that it ought to be reissued.

The online version of Campaign can be found here.

3 comments:

xec tilus said...

Bit late (try 7 years) but I was mortified at the lack of comments here. A hearty well done on your brilliant work restoring Campaign; I can confirm people are still checking it out for the first time even today.

Anonymous said...

Odd coincidence that I should stumble across this seven-years-old article just a few days after the commenter before me did. I actually did check out Campaign for the first time today, and found it to be the most mind-blowing book I've ever read. So thank you very much for the restoration, I doubt I would've been able to have had this experience otherwise!

Yogin said...

I’m just about to dive into this book! Have heard bits and pieces about it for rather a while, and figured it was time to go for it. I absolutely love Jim Mortimore’s writing, so thank you for making this book available!