Saturday, 17 August 2013

Dark Horizons author talks about the trials and joys of being a female Doctor Who writer.

Jenny T. Colgan, author of Doctor Who: Dark Horizons, the third full-length eleventh Doctor novel, has posted a blog entry over on EverydayEBook, about what it is like writing about the Doctor, and being a Doctor Who fan, when you just happen to be a woman.  It's not a very long piece, but it is both disheartening and encouraging in equal measure, as Colgan describes some of the sexism she has faced since starting out to write the novel whilst at the same time demonstrating her own enthusiasm for the project and making it clear through nothing more than her writing (which is what this all ought to be about anyway) that the attitudes and responses she has received are just nonsense.

Talking about her experiences at a recent panel event she says,
I was sitting beside three very famous male Doctor Who writers ... Guess who was the only one of us who was asked what they thought of 50 Shades of Grey? I suggested we rename it 50 Shades of Gallifrey and everyone crossed their legs and looked a little anxious.
Similarly she talks about one of the reviews she received 'from a famous sci-fi mag' which thought it was appropriate to make jokes about the novel's tagline for no other reason than that it was written by a woman.

These days Doctor Who seems to be becoming an increasingly fraught battleground for gender politics, especially since it was revealed that Matt Smith was leaving and someone else would be stepping into the TARDIS come Christmas.  The debate over just what kind of person the twelfth Doctor should be, in terms of gender and race, revealed sharp divisions in the fandom, and whilst not all of those who argued against a female Doctor did so because they didn't want to see strong female characters on the show, that doesn't mean that those fans didn't exist.

Jenny's article seems to highlight the same problems.  There is a belief in the world of science fiction, indeed in genre fiction in general, that this is a man's world.  The fans are male, the writers are male, the characters are male.  This has been demonstrably untrue for almost as long as genre fiction has been in existence and whilst there have been times when female fans/writers/characters have been in the minority, since when has that ever been a valid argument that they don't belong?  It seems to me that it is high time that everyone was given the respect they're due.

Colgan points out that the sexism she experienced went as far as for her to be questioned countless times whether she was even a fan of Doctor Who in the first place, but if there's one positive thing that comes from her article it's that it's clear she is a big fan and that she loves writing about the Doctor:
Between you and me, though, I am having such a blast. It is just so very much fun to write about the Doctor and his adventures.
And that's the point we should finish on.  We're all fans together, after all, regardless of our gender.  Don't just take my word for it either.  I'm just a man after all.  You can read Jenny's complete article here.

Doctor Who: Dark Horizons was released last year and is available in hardback and ebook form from all the usual retailers.


Crispiann said...

It's not all sexism. Her first example is a questioning of whether there would be sex...since she apparently has lots of sex in her other books. Reminds me of Capaldi being asked in his interview about his swearing and he had his prepared answer about how different (obviously) the characters are. There are gender biases that men will like 'men stuff' and women will like 'women stuff.'

Sexism works both ways, we're just less concerned when directed at a man. I'm wary of building some narrative about sexism in Who-fandom.

It's at a point where if one thinks Doctor Who should always be a man...that makes a person inescapably sexist.

Chris George said...

I quite agree on that point, which is why I made a point of saying that not everyone who was against a female doctor had necessarily sexist reasons for being so. And I guess I wasn't commenting on Who fandom on its own so much as attitudes prevalent within geek culture in general, with our particular corner as an example.

And you are quite right: sexism does work both ways, and, unfortunately, the more we improve on one side the more likely we are to infringe on the other, but there has to be a good balance we can achieve here, right? It's a discussion that needs to be ongoing, I think.

Crispiann said...

Absolutely, and just for the record, my response was not meant to be
an accusation of bias here and I did appreciate your defense of those
who advocate continued male-identity of the Doctor. I do nonetheless
feel that any reference to consistency or narrative or anything else
(as reason for perpetuation of the male Doctor) will be viewed as weak
excuse in light of important social value of a woman Doctor. Add in the
background that Doctor Who hardly epitomizes internal logic or
consistency, and I do think advocates of a male-only Doctor are pushed
to a point of remaining silent or just not caring (which is just as good
to those who see the social value of a woman Doctor). Anyways, that is a
separate discussion, but needless to say those who agree with me are
typically on the less popular side.

As you rightly wrote: "These days Doctor Who seems to be becoming an increasingly fraught battleground for gender politics..."

I'd be curious to know if she actually had read 50 Shades of Galli - er Grey, and whether the males on the panel had.

I like that the author didn't seem to take it all that seriously.

wish I knew more girls with a genuine interest in science fiction. I'm
sure I run in all the wrong circles but I don't know why the vast
majority of us wouldn't find such women amazing!