Interview with Una McCormack

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Interview with Una McCormack
Interviewer: Jackie Emery and Diane Gies, with additional questions from Jude Constable
Interviewee: Una McCormack
Date(s): 2013
Medium: online
Fandom(s): Blake's 7 (mostly), Doctor Who and Star Trek: DS9 (touched upon)
External Links: online here; Archive
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
Una McCormack was interviewed in 2013 by Jackie Emery and Diane Gies, with additional questions from Jude Constable. The interview is posted at the Horizon website.

Also see The Best of Trek Fanfic Interview with Una McCormack.

Introduction

"Una McCormack is a life-long Blake's 7 fan and former Horizon member. Having started out in fan fiction, her first paid writing was a short story that was printed in Doctor Who Magazine in 1992. She writes Doctor Who and Star Trek DS9 novels, and for Gary Russell's Gallifrey series for Big Finish. She has a PhD in sociology from the University of Surrey and is a lecturer in creative writing at Anglia Ruskin University.

We spoke to Una at the 9 Worlds Convention in August 2013, a few days before the release of Liberator Chronicles Volume 5, which features her story Risk Management."

Topics Discussed

  • how Una became a fan
  • going from fan to pro writer
  • the differences between female and male writing
  • the female characters on Blake's 7
  • zines and fan clubs
  • Doctor Who and Deep Space Nine

Excerpts

Oh my goodness! Oh wow, when did I get into Blake's 7? Well, the shaming thing is that I didn't get into it for Seasons 1 and 2. I'm from a family of six and inevitably there was much quarrelling over who got to watch what on television. Blake's 7 clashed with Coronation Street, and I shamefully backed one sibling in her desire to watch that, and it was decided "fair" as you could still see the beginning and end of B7. I've never been allowed to forget this treachery by the other sibling! My dad solved the whole problem in 1980 by getting a VCR. I think we were the earliest family to have one, and it was an unusual splurge by my parsimonious father, but he was basically purchasing peace and quiet! So I started watching Blake's 7 in 1980, when I was 8 years old. I saw the whole of Season 3, and then Season 4 – we got that twice, didn't we? And I was absolutely besotted. It helped that my sister – the one who wanted to watch B7 - was 10 years older than me and going to conventions at the time. She went to events like the Teal Vandor Convention and passed her newsletters and zines on to me. I've got her zine collection, things like Standard by Seven, two or three of Horizon's really early zines, and a couple of issues of Alternative Seven as well – you know, the A4 ones, stapled together. I was reading these and making up stories in my head.
My first fan fiction was a Blake's 7 stick-man cartoon, drawn at the age of about 9! And me and my best friend Jan used to play Blake's 7 in the playground, so those were my first stories. It's been there the whole time. It should have been there from when I was six years old, but it was definitely there from when I was about eight. And then of course, life's first trauma was watching Blake and I don't think I've ever quite recovered from that! You're just coming up for ten years old, it's the week before Christmas and everybody dies... and so you spend your life kind of working through this! Then Paul Darrow's novel came out and I bought that and some Horizon newsletters from the Sheffield Space Centre. I remember that parcel arriving – analogue fandom, you know – before the internet! The parcel arrived, I joined Horizon and got involved and that was how it started.... Those stick men cartoons! I should see whether I still have them somewhere. I never gave up the habit of making up stories about my favourite childhood characters. In my late teens, I started writing a few very short pieces about the Blake's 7 characters, and I wrote some poetry, which Horizon kindly published. But the big fillip for my writing was when I went online, in the mid-90s, and found a couple of B7 mailing lists devoted to fan fiction. The quality of the fiction that was coming out of those mailing lists was pretty amazing: a friend has referred to it as a kind of ‘New Wave’. So that was a big boost for my ambitions as a writer. It was the first time I worked with a professional editor (putting together a zine in her spare time). I learned a great deal.
Vila made me laugh as a kid, and then as soon as puberty kicked in I angsted dreadfully over Avon, who does, after all, suffer so beautifully! I think that in the playground, though, my best friend Jan and I used to compete to play Avon, as we both wanted to be the hero (of sorts). But I read a long fan story called The Quibell Abduction by Lillian Shepherd, when I was quite young. That story has the single best Cally I’ve ever encountered – a kickass, resourceful guerilla fighter. As a result, I’ve always thought that Cally was incredibly cool, and I’ve always loved writing her. I also really enjoy exploring the lives and times of other female characters; I’ve written some short stories about Anna Grant and Arlen, for example.

Horizon: Remembering the Horizon zines, submissions from male and female writers were very different. The girls wrote angst and emotion, while the blokes were all about space ships and battles. When we spoke to David Richardson, we asked whether he found a difference between a script by a woman writer as opposed to all the blokes' stories. But he told us that he didn't find a difference in that respect between your stories and the blokes'. He said that yours had action, while a lot of the emotional stuff has come from Simon Guerrier!

Una: That's very interesting. Well, I was always into spaceships, lasers and emotions, so what I liked about Blake's 7 was the whole package. There's angst, but there's also things exploding! If I was just about the angst and emotions, maybe I'd be more of a soap viewer. But I want a space ship AND a robot AND an explosion as well as people emoting. I like writing action, I've always enjoyed that. I'm conscious that B7 is an action-adventure series, so I guess when you're stuck for plot you have something blow up and make people run around. I'm glad I'm defying category!

References