Saturday 1 December 2018

#CBR10 Book 104: "Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It". Edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O'Shea

Page count: 186 pages
Rating: 4 stars

#CBR10Bingo: Two Heads Are Better Than One

So my final review of #CBR10Bingo requires some assistance, and I will be joined by my husband Mark ("Hello!"), who also gave me the book we're co-reviewing. I figured I should start with some background. I hadn't watched any of the now hugely popular children's television program Doctor Who until I went to University in Scotland in the late 1990s, early 2000s. Of course, this was because at that point, the show wasn't actually on the air, and anyone who wanted to watch it, or get other friends interested in it, probably had to own the show on VHS.

Some of my Scottish friends did their best to introduce me to a bunch of sci-fi. Before going to St. Andrews, I'd really only watched Babylon 5. (They managed a lot better with Doctor Who than with Star Trek. Even being showed a bunch of episodes of both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, I wasn't really all that interested). If memory serves, I was shown Spearhead from Space with Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor and The Curse of Fenric with Sylvester McCoy, the Seventh Doctor (there were probably more, but those are the two I can clearly remember).  Nevertheless, I hadn't really watched all that much of it before it was relaunched in 2005, even though it was one of my then-boyfriend, now-husband's favourite shows. As well as being a huge fan of the modern show, in the 18 years my husband and I have been together, I've now also watched a lot of the classic series (but by no means all, probably not even half). I also really enjoy the Verity! podcast - Lynne M. Thomas, one of the contributors to that show, co-edited Chicks Dig Time Lords, and the anthology also features essays from several of the other "Verities". I should probably let my husband contribute a bit, though, shouldn't I?

(cracks fingers)
(Right. This is on now, right? Is this on? Can you hear me at the back? Yes? Good)
OK. So, my Good Lady Wife asked me how long I have been a fan of the Popular British Children's Television Programme Doctor Who. The answer is...quite a while. Yessirreee. Several of your Earth whiles, plus a few more. Since the mid-1980s, to be specific, then a bit more in the 1990s. I can politely but firmly assure you that being a Doctor Who fan during the '90s, when the show wasn't even on the air, was not a surefire way of winning friends. But I stuck with it, thanks largely to a comprehensive lack of anything better to do, and my patience was rewarded in 2005 when the show finally returned to the airwaves. Only this time around, I had a proper, human female, girlfriend to watch it with. The novelty still hasn't entirely worn off.

Is that why you gave me this book for Christmas last year? You wanted me to share in the geeky experiences of long time fans of the show, many of whom are either people whose voices I've heard on podcasts, or authors whose books I've read and enjoyed?

Well, "share in the geeky experiences" is definitely a nicer way of putting it than my usual choice of "bathe together in the stinky nerd-mud of mutual shame", so thanks for that. But...well, sort of yes, and sort of no. After nearly two of your Earth Decades together, we've bonded over our mutual nerdery in many ways, and our respective fondness for The Popular British Children's Television Programme Doctor Who is only one of them. But it's still a biggie, as witnessed by your earlier reviews of Doctor Who In An Exciting Adventure With The Daleks, Adventures With The Wife In Space, and The Dying Days (which I just went back and verified was my first Cannonball for CBR2!) . And given how much we both enjoy the Verity! podcast, and its still-more-noteworthy-than-it-really-should-be emphasis on a female perspective on this show we both love, I thought this might appeal to you.

Plus, you know, I wanted to read it myself. But not in a Homer-buying-Marge-a-bowling-ball sort of way. Honest. 

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. The book is an anthology containing essays, articles and interviews, and being mostly a fan of the new show, and not super involved in all levels of the fandom (fan fiction, the comics, the fanzines, podcasts, conventions etc.), there were absolutely some bits that didn't really resonate with me, simply because I had very little frame of reference for them. I think the entries that worked the best for me were the ones that talked about sharing the show with family, like those of Carole E. Barrowman (John Barrowman/Jack Harkness' sister), Amy Fritsch (who talks about introducing the show to her daughter, named for actress Elisabeth Sladen, and taking her to conventions). My favourite essay in the whole collection is probably the one by Verity! contributor Lynne M. Thomas, who talks first about how she married a huge fan, and discovered just how warm and accepting the Doctor Who fandom is when they had their disabled daughter). That contribution genuinely had me in tears, I was so moved. Deborah Stanish, another Verity! wrote a good one, and I also enjoyed some from famous fantasy/sci-fi writers Seanan McGuire (who was apparently in love with Adric as a teenager, not to mention thinking the show was a documentary for a while, because it ran on PBS) and Mary Robinette Kowal.

There were quite a few entries I was mostly indifferent about, or that didn't interest me all that much because I've never, for instance, read fan fiction of any kind (so essays covering that were unlikely to thrill me). There are several interviews, which seemed a bit like filler to me, but my least favourite essays were probably the one by Jackie Jenkins about a Bridget Jones type character included in Doctor Who Magazine and Kathryn Sullivan's essay about fanzines (soo dull). What about you, husband o' mine?

Well, I'm grudgingly forced to publicly acknowledge our mutual compatibility - and we both know how much I hate doing that - by admitting that Lynne Thomas' essay was probably my favourite thing in the book too, for reasons relating largely to its obviously heartrending loveliness. I also shared your disinterest in the "Jackie Jenkins" piece (although when it comes to that one I may have to play the "NO GREATER NERD" card and point out that I was failing to be amused by JJ's "what if Bridget Jones But a Doctor Who Fan" gimmick long before you even met me). But yes, Lynne's piece was absolutely lovely - now that the two of us are BONDED FOREVER by our parental duties to a child who will, with any luck, grow into a formidable Doctor Who fan in his own right, it resonated with me in ways that may not have been quite so powerful a couple of years ago.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Verity! host Liz Myles' essay on the experience of being a Doctor Who fan both pre- and post- the 2005 revival, which resonated with me in ways that I suspect largely passed you by. Although Liz and I obviously differ on many specifics - why would anybody, however tentatively, even try to ship the 5th Doctor and Tegan, for example, when the manifestly superior pairing of Tegan/Nyssa is right there, leaping out of the screen and begging to be noticed? - I nonetheless recognise a great many of my own experiences in her story, in much the same frustrating-but-familiar way I experience whenever I'm shouting at the radio in furious agreement with her contributions to the Verity! podcast (Oh, Liz. How dare you be so obviously right, in such an ever-so-slightly wrong way/so obviously wrong, in such an ever-so-nearly-right way! It makes me SO MAD).

So in conclusion, while the husband may in fact have bought me the book as a Christmas present at least 50% because HE wanted to read it (and considering when he went out for the last presents last year, something like 10-15% desperation, just needing to find something appropriate for my last present), I was actually happy to receive it, interested in reading it and ended up very much enjoying most of it. Sadly, the essays only cover the modern series up to the announcement of Matt Smith as the newest Doctor, there's nothing about his era on the show, Peter Capaldi, or obviously the current Doctor, Jodie Whitaker (whom I love, even if the quality of the show in general right now is...questionable). If Mad Norwegian Press were to publish another anthology with similar essays for the Steven Moffat years, I would love to read it.

Hey, does this mean I get the last word? Awesome. I want it to be "bogeys".

Also, while I obviously wholeheartedly deny any implication of desperation attached my purchase of this present, I'm very glad you enjoyed it as much as you apparently did. Given that this book ends on a note of what I would politely suggest may be termed "unwarranted optimism" regarding the potential feminism of the then-impending Steven Moffat era (while I think there are more credible feminist arguments to be made in defence of Moffat's writing than are sometimes acknowledged, I also think it's worth admitting that...well, there are also some good reasons why "defensiveness" might be considered the default stance on that front), I'd also be interested in reading the sister book Chicks Unravel Time, in which several of the same contributors (and a few others of considerable interest to you, not least Diana "those books about that sexy Highlander and his marginally-less-sexy time-travelling wife you love so much" Gabaldon) continue to get their collective Who geek on, alongside you at some point. But don't worry, I'll buy that one for myself. Or let you buy it for yourself. Whichever happens first.

Oh, and "bogeys". Always, and forever, "bogeys".

Judging a book by its cover: The cover is very cute, with a ton of geeky Doctor Who references, obviously. I really like the art style. The title is on the psychic paper, the girl is wearing the old fashioned 3D-glasses used by the Tenth Doctor, and obviously she's got one of the long knitted wool scarves made so famous by the Fourth Doctor. Finally, she has a TARDIS key on a string around her neck.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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