Friday, 19 March 2010

Digging Your Scene - Chicks Dig Time Lords ed Lynne M Thomas and Tara O'Shea

Frankly Doctor Who publishing's been dominated by the fanboys for far too long. And I say that as one who's (admittedly only of late) been part of that. We grew up with it, stole it back and made our own stories up when the BBC stopped making it, researched it to within a millimetre of its existence (I wouldn't be surprised to find a fanboy had designed a time machine simply to be in on those early meetings), snarked, analysed, debated and, in the end, played a major part in the revival. One of us even got to live the dream and be the Doctor. We've said a hell of a lot down the years. And given the old show had - still has - an overwhelmingly male fandom (in the UK at least) we've said plenty.

And then, to paraphrase a related show, everything changed. Eccleston and Piper played out the first Doctor-companion relationship with an openly emotional charge (there are moments in the old series, most obviously The Green Death Episode 6, but they never get in the way of Exciting Adventures). And then we got the first overtly Sexy Doctor in David Tennant. All of a sudden there were a hell of a lot more women around, particularly at cons and online. It might be a temporary shift, but fandom changed. And naturally some of the old guard weren't happy, abhorring the cosplaying, slashing and squeeing and generally being like Monty Python's Four Yorkshiremen (which they could probably quote verbatim) about it all. They wanted fandom on their terms, the new breed of fans barely even recognised that those terms existed. Me? I love it, new blood and new, different ways of being a fan are essential if your fandom's going to survive. Vive la difference, baby. There is no right way to be a fan, you can love and celebrate the show however you want (well, within legal boundaries...). Chicks Dig Time Lords is a celebration of all that.

There's so much adorable about the book that it's difficult to know where to start. The broadness of subject matter and approach is breathtaking. You've got academic approaches jostling with reminiscences, interviews and even an original comic strip from the creators of Torchwood Babies (the penultimate panel on page 89 has the most sublime Rob Shearman gag). Contributors aren't always singing from the same hymn sheet (the best example being the two essays which largely deal with Martha), so unlike s lot of the Doctor Who literature of the 80s and 90s there's never a sense that these are rigidly proscribed views. And while there might be passionate disagreements, which there will be when you have intelligent people with emotional investiture in topics, you get the impression that these are people you could arrive at a consensus with. It's certainly not the usual entrenched close minded rock-throwing that passes for internet debate. And like Shooty Dog Thing it's broad minded about what constitutes Doctor Who. Quite wonderfully, there's no consideration of the ever anal (and mainly male driven) canon debate and space is devoted to books, audios and spin-offs. You may not be a fan in the way these women (and one man) are, but read with an open mind and you'll understand the way they enjoy the show (and fandom) better, whether it be cosplaying, socialising, slashing, making fan films, fanzine writing, fan fic-ing, squeeing, affectionately mocking or coming up with a genius comic strip that the production crew of the show love. Or any combination of the above.

This is a series of snapshots from the smarter, creative end of Doctor Who fandom. You might not love all of it, given the breadth of subject matter, it's unlikely. But, equally, it hugely unlikely that you won't find a lot here to interest you, and maybe even broaden your mind. Chicks is exuberant, refreshing, stimulating and never dull. There's a good reason for it being so popular at Gallifrey One that the entire stock Mad Norwegian brought sold out quickly. It celebrates all the things I love about fans and being a fan. And yeah, I'll cop to having at least socialised with a fair few of the contributors here (hell, I'm namechecked once), but that's mostly down to their sharing a similar mindset. These chicks are the sort of people who make it great to be a fan. And this book will let you in on the reasons why, which is why it should be on every Who fan's required reading list. Or preferably beamed directly into their brains, thereby bringing miraculous world peace to fandom.

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