I got sick, realised that I had this to read thanks to the Hugo voters’ pack, and read it in a day. Well, there were a couple of entries that I skipped over a bit because they weren’t that engaging for me and my experiences, but I swear I read almost all of it.
I love Doctor Who, but I do not LOVE it. I am a fan, but I am not a FAN. I don’t think I ever realised the difference between the two before meeting people like Tansy and other serious, mad FANS (in much the same way that I didn’t really know about or understand about SF fandom before attending conventions). That is, I will watch Doctor Who anytime it is on TV, and go out of my way to do so, but I don’t own any DVDs, and I’ve never read the books; I’ve not watched the entire history, although I watched a fair chunk of the First Doctor when the ABC put him on a few years ago. So… love, but not obsession, perhaps?
This book was written largely by women who are closer to the obsessed end of the spectrum. I don’t imagine that I would ever attend a Doctor Who convention, but it seems most of the women here have done so. That’s ok, though; I certainly don’t think any less of them for it! In fact it was really fascinating to see what it would be like to be fully in a fandom on which I am at best on the periphery. What many of the writers were writing about, at heart, was the sense of community that being in Who fandom allowed them to experience: the cosplay, the acceptance of a child with special needs, people who shared a wider range of interests than Who but which converged on that central point. The fact that frequently, the cast and crew of Doctor Who featured in these reminiscences adds to their overall appeal, too. (The fact that I too have been on the receiving end of the warmth of Rob Shearman’s generosity and boundless nuttiness made it all the more amusing.)
When they weren’t writing about that community aspect, writers tended to be dissecting aspects of the Who universe and their own love of it, despite its flaws: the role of companions was a particular topic. I remember one of my university tutors remarking once that there are some loves that can withstand ruthless and relentless examination, and that others just can’t (her example for the latter, I recall, was Home and Away…). Who clearly falls into the former category for these authors, and it was with great joy that I read critical (in the best sense) examinations of Donna, Martha, and Rose – often different from person to person.
The thing that I haven’t mentioned yet about this anthology, of course, is that it was entirely written by women. Not being a part of Who fandom either during the Wilderness Years or even with New Who, it had never really occurred to me to consider whether it was a boy thing or not; I guess I’ve always just read and watched whatever and not been fussed by it – and been lucky enough not to be told not to by anyone I met. So it was also very interesting to read a little about how female fans have been treated, and also about how people (especially women) coming to Who lately have been treated by old-school fans (badly, often). I am led to wonder just how different this book would be were it written by men. I think it probably exists, but honestly I have little interest in seeking it out. I may be wrong, but I harbour a suspicion that it would be more hung up on internal consistency (or lack thereof), and lavishing attention on gizmos. This is probably a dreadful generalisation, and I apologise to male fans to whom this is insulting, but….