Search SFE    Search EoF

  Omit cross-reference entries  

Cornell, Paul

Entry updated 11 September 2023. Tagged: Author.

Icon made by Freepik from


(1967-    ) UK author, who initially became known for his association with Doctor Who. His first professionally published work was Timewyrm: Revelation (1991), the fourth in the New Adventures sequence continuing the Doctor Who mythos after the cancellation of its television incarnation in 1989. In this and subsequent books – especially Love and War (1992) and Human Nature (1995) – Cornell presented that mythos in terms both sharply revisionist and very much more emotionally sophisticated than the television programme had allowed. Love and War also introduced the character Bernice Summerfield, subsequently used by Cornell and others in a range of spin-off adventures.

From the mid-1990s, Cornell also wrote for British television, though mainly for shows outside the sf field. He was one of the authors asked to contribute to Doctor Who when it was revived in 2005, and has so far scripted two stories ("Father's Day", broadcast 2005, and "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood", broadcast 2007 and adapted from Human Nature). He has also written nonfiction guides to sf television series [see Checklist] and scripted comics, most prominently Marvel's Captain Britain and Ml-13 from 2007.

Cornell's first two singleton novels, Something More (2001) and British Summertime (2002), both demonstrate a close familiarity with the tropes of modern sf, and the same audacity that marked his earlier Ties. The second, for instance, conflates Time-Travel, Parallel Worlds and a reimagining of the story of Judas Iscariot. Both also share with his earlier work certain significant motifs: strong female protagonists in the mould of Bernice Summerfield; England's landscape; churches. A similar ingenuity shapes the Shadow Police sequence comprising London Falling (2012), The Severed Streets (2014) and Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? (2016), which is Urban Fantasy [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. Its portrayal of London, within the frame of a mildly noirish police procedural, is deftly dark; the second volume sees London menaced by a razor-wielding though supernatural Jack the Ripper figure; the presence in this volume of a subsidiary villain named and clearly identified with Neil Gaiman (see Recursive SF) shifts the whole towards the metafictional. The crew of the eponymous Starship featured in Rosebud (2022) encounters a sphere in space only penetrable by Avatars, who discover within a complex world with revelations.

Cornell's work is not conventionally religious, though he is one of the most strongly moral writers active in the field today. If none of these narratives in the end solves the structural problems created by their ambition – problems perhaps intensified by a too-frequent quotation of prior models out of the sf and fantasy megatext (see SF Megatext) – they all remain of interest as demonstrations of the range of uses to which the devices of Fantastika can be put. It is to be hoped that he will find new venues that bear the weight of his ethical imagination; the ongoing Lychford sequence beginning with Witches of Lychford (2015) crosshatches between something like Fairyland and something like a disheartened post-Brexit-vote Britain [for Crosshatch again see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below].

Cornell's short story "The Copenhagen Interpretation" (July 2011 Asimov's) won a BSFA Award. He is one of several editors of the Audiozine SF Squeecast, which in 2012 was the first winner of the newly introduced Hugo category Best Fancast. [GS]

Paul Douglas Cornell

born Chippenham, Wiltshire: 18 July 1967



Doctor Who New Adventures

Doctor Who

Saucer Country

Shadow Police


individual titles

collections and stories

nonfiction (selected)

works as editor

Doctor Who

Doctor Who: Bernice Summerfield


previous versions of this entry

This website uses cookies.  More information here. Accept Cookies