Fresh from the August 20 Hugo Awards Ceremony, Chicks Dig Time Lords contributors K. Tempest Bradford and Mary Robinette Kowal were still glowing in the reflected light of that hallowed shining rocketship when they sat down with the Daily Dragon to chat about their lives with the Doctor. Chicks, an anthology of loving essays from female fans of Doctor Who (plus two interviews with former companions and a “Torchwood Babiez” comic!), won the 2011 Hugo Award for Best Related Work; Kowal also claimed the prize for Best Short Story.
Daily Dragon (DD): So, Tempest, you were not at Worldcon [where the Hugo Awards were announced], but Mary was.
Mary Robinette Kowal (MRK): Yeah.
DD: Where were you precisely when you found out?
K. Tempest Bradford (KTB): I was sitting in my living room in front of my computer, and around 1AM I was like, “Right, are the Hugos tonight?” Then I check Twitter and Lynne [M. Thomas, Chicks co-editor] is like “Oh my God! oh my God!” and I’m like, “Did we win? Did we win? Somebody tell me we won! WE WON!” and then I did the dance around the living room and my roommate was like, “You are so strange.” [laughs]
DD: Besides winning a Hugo, what for you is the most rewarding thing about getting to contribute to this?
KTB: Getting to contribute to it!
MRK: Yeah, yeah! Anytime I get paid for getting to just squee all over something…
MRK: Basically this is stuff that I would have written or talked about anyway. One of the things for me with the companions, particularly with older Doctor Who, is that these are just people and that you can just go and do things. That possibility is so exciting. So just getting to talk about that was fantastic.
KTB: It was really awesome.
MRK: And getting to read them, too!
KTB: Reading the book, I was like, “everybody contributed such really awesome things!” That’s always a bonus, when you’re in a book with other really fabulous things that you love and you respect. There’s nothing worse than being like, “I’m in this? Jesus!” But that’s totally not the way I felt when I was reading through Chicks for the first time. When Lynne first asked me, she specifically asked if I would contribute an essay on Martha because she had seen a panel that I was on at WisCon that I had suggested, about Martha as a companion. Which was really cool because I have a lot to say about Martha, obviously, so I was just really excited not only to be asked to contribute something like this—it was my first time—but also just to be asked to talk about something that I was very passionate about. I got a really nice note from her after the Hugos; she was saying that a lot of people had commented specifically about my essay and how much they loved it. I saw some of that online too, which was so awesome because being able to say something that other fans connect with about Doctor Who, it’s such an awesome thing. I love connecting with Doctor Who fans, and just knowing that what I had to say and how I saw the show either matched with what they thought or made them think about the show in a different way—that’s really rewarding to me, so I loved that.
DD: So Mary, with you, did you know what you were going to write about right away, or did you have to think about it for a little while?
MRK: I had to think about it for a little while. There are so many different aspects to my interaction with the show. What I wound up talking about is how I now have a relationship with the Doctor—[laughs] “I have a relationship with the Doctor!”—not only as a fan, but I got to write a short story for the Big Finish short stories. Being able to cross from fan into writing something that is now in the canon is freakin’ amazing! But the reason it’s freaking amazing to me is because I am a fan first. Just getting to play in that universe…
KTB: Very cool. Yeah.
DD: Besides yours, whose essays or contributions did you really love the most?
MRK: This is going to sound really ridiculous and nepotistic but Tempest’s [“Martha Jones: Fangirl Blues”] was the one in there that made me think most and moved me to tears. So I would say Tempest’s!
KTB: [tiny voice] Why thank you, so much!
MRK: Now, you don’t have to—
KTB: [laughs] It’s Mary’s [“Traveling with the Doctor”]!
MRK: No, no, that would be wrong. Because there are others!
KTB: You know what, the thing that I really loved the most about the book was the comic in the middle. Because I have been a huge fan of “Torchwood Babiez.”
KTB: I love “Torchwood Babiez.” When we did the reading in New York, it was me, Cat Valente, Francesca Coppa, Deborah Standish, and Katy Shuttleworth, who is the artist for “Torchwood Babiez,” and she told some really great stories about meeting people from the show who look at “Torchwood Babiez” on the Internet and she’s like, “Oh God! What?! What is this?! How do you know me?” [laughs] and it was so cool. I’ve become really good friends with Tammy Garrison who writes “Torchwood Babiez,” and I love their fan squee so much, so I loved their contribution to the book. But I will say that Cat Valente’s essay [“Regeneration X”] made me cry at the end, particularly when she was talking about how, like the TARDIS, because of Doctor Who she is bigger on the inside than she is on the outside…
MRK: Oh, I know!
KTB: As I was reading that, I was like, “Oh, God! It’s so beautiful!”
DD: When and how did your personal relationship with Doctor Who start?
MRK: My relationship started with Doctor Who before I knew what Doctor Who was. I was very small. The table, in this memory, is eye-level. I wanted to watch Mister Rogers so I went down to turn on the television…and there was this strange tunnel and this weird music and this guy’s head floating down the tunnel…
KTB: That dude’s head is scary.
MRK: And he had this fantastic scarf! And then it went away and there was this monster saying “Exterminate! Exterminate!” and I ran screaming up to my mom. Doctor Who taught me to tell time because I thought that anytime you turned on the television Mister Rogers would be on. My mother had to explain that “No, this is Saturday; Mister Rogers doesn’t come on now.” Years later, I was flipping through the channels looking for something, and there was that tunnel again! I was like, “What is this? I want to see what that thing was that terrified me as a child.” This time I could read: “Doctor Who” and when the man’s head vanished, there was not the monster, it was some other thing…but I got completely hooked on the show, and I started getting my friends to watch it, and we were just hooked in high school. Tom Baker was my first Doctor.
KTB: I think that my local PBS channel was deficient in some way. I never saw Doctor Who as a young person.
KTB: I know, right? So my first inkling of Doctor Who came when I started going to conventions and I would hear about this thing called Doctor Who but I didn’t really understand it, and then there would be references to Doctor Who on other TV shows that I didn’t understand. For a long time I thought the Daleks were like Doctor Who’s little robot friends, I don’t know why…I know, it was a sad time! But I was living with a guy who was much older than me and he had been a huge fan of Doctor Who when it was on, watching it on PBS and getting the tapes flown to him across the ocean and whatnot, so when he heard that Doctor Who was coming back and that they were going to show it on the Sci-Fi Channel he was all excited and he was like, “you have to watch this with me!” And we watched it and I really loved it—my first episode was “Rose.”
DD: In terms of fandom, what’s your best story of meeting someone from Doctor Who that you always wanted to fangirl, or if you haven’t gotten to do that yet, who do you have left from Doctor Who that you’re like “I must meet them”? Even if you have to wait until the afterlife?
MRK: I really want to meet David Tennant because I think he’s a fantastic actor and it seems like he’s a really interesting smart person and I would love to be able to have a conversation with him. I don’t know that I want to meet people just to meet them. When I was in high school, we went to England, and I saw my first blue English police box, and it was just like, “Aaaah! Want it want it want it!”
KTB: You know what? I want to meet Freema [Agyeman], and I want to take Freema in a room that has no sound penetration, and have an off-the-record talk with her about race and Doctor Who. Because I feel that she would have a lot to say to me if it was off-the-record in a soundproof room that she might not say otherwise—and that’s just fine with me, ’cause I just want to ask her about some stuff. I have some suspicions about how she might feel about some things based on some of the interviews she gave for Doctor Who Confidential and some of the interviews I’ve seen subsequently. But I realize that it can be hard for an actor to be overly critical of the people that they work with, especially if they like the people that they work with, and also being an actor in the BBC, you work with everybody over and over again. You can’t just be trashing anybody because then you see them next week on whatever show it is you’re on! So I do understand that, but I would love to meet her to be able to just talk to her about that aspect, because I feel that she would have really good and interesting things to say about that experience.
DD: If you were a Doctor regeneration, what would you be like? Or if you were a companion, what would you be like?
MRK: If I were a companion, I’d be like me, and I’d just be like, “Let’s go!” One of the things I talk about in my essay is that there was this day in New York where someone was listening to television really loud, but I wasn’t paying any attention to it, and then they must have flicked over to Doctor Who because the TARDIS sound materialized in the air shaft and there was just this moment of: “Oh please!” I set my phone alarm for the TARDIS materializing, and it is, I have to say—in the dark, in the middle of the night, when you are not expecting it—the most terrifying sound! ‘Cause it sounds much more like monsters.
KTB: I think I wouldn’t mind being a Doctor regeneration.
DD: You have to talk about your fashion, too.
KTB: Oh, oh my God! If I was a Doctor regeneration, I think that I would have to bring back leather, because that was a good look.
MRK: That was a good look, yeah.
KTB: But I’d have to make it goofy in some kind of way, so it would have to be like…purple leather.
MRK: See, I really like the trenchcoats because they move so well.
KTB: That’s true.
MRK: Ooh, I would want a greatcoat! That’s what I would want. Oh, except they’re heavy.
KTB: Whatevs. Oh, you know what? If I’m going to be the first female Doctor, I’m going to be a Doctor in a corset, because that would just be funny as hell.
MRK: It would be funny as hell.
KTB: They’re not that practical for when you have to run.
MRK: They’re not that practical, and why do you really want to wear your underwear on the outside?
KTB: ‘Cause it’s funny. ‘Cause I’m the Doctor. [laughs]
MRK: A sonic corset!
KTB: I would be the Doctor that would just rant at people all the time. They would be like: “The Doctor didn’t actually blow up anything or save anybody, but she sure had a good rant goin’ there!”
MRK: This is the thing that I actually like about old Doctor Who, because Tom Baker would sometimes go on a rant, and there was much less blowing up of stuff.
KTB: He had a lot to say.
DD: Are you planning to do more pop culture or critical theory projects soon? What would you most like to do next if you got to do another book like this?
KTB: Right now, I’m in the midst of putting together a book proposal with Tara O’Shea, who was the co-editor on Chicks Dig Time Lords, for a book on Jem and the Holograms because now that Jem is back on The Hub we’re like “We have to have an essay book about Jem.” And I’m working with Mikki Kendall on a Doctor Who essay book where we’re basically going to ask fans of color to write about Doctor Who. We haven’t decided whether we want them to write about race and Doctor Who, or whether we just want to write about Doctor Who.
DD: Favorite episodes/books/spinoffs/etc.?
MRK: “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances.” And “Blink.” Creepiest thing I’ve ever seen on television. That was definitely a behind-the-couch episode.
KTB: “Turn Left” is one of my favorite episodes. It was such a beautiful episode. And other people say no, but: “The Shakespeare Code.” I really loved that when I watched it, and I return to it again and again, and really like it. It was the second Martha episode. The episode had a really great flow to it, so that you had to watch it a couple times before you realized that the plot was really flawed. It just kept rolling along in a nice way, so that’s one of the things I liked about it. It was just, you know, careening down a hill, but very entertaining. And I will say—I loved “Journey’s End” until the last ten minutes of it, and then I wanted to shoot “Journey’s End.” That was the last Donna episode, and everything that led up to that was so wonderful—them all flying the TARDIS together, them all working together, it was so beautiful—and then that last ten minutes came, and it was like “Why do we exist in the world?”
DD: So if the Doctor did come up and invite you along, where would you tell him you want to go first?
MRK: There’s a puppet show I want to see. There’s a puppet theatre in France, 1784. I would go to Séraphin’s puppet theater, see a puppet show… And then after that, take me to another planet! I mean, if you’ve got a time machine, let’s do some time travel first. But I want to meet aliens!
KTB: In terms of Earth’s past, I want to go back to ancient Egypt and find out when they actually built the Pyramids, because I know it’s not when the archaeologists say they did! Archaeologists are wrong.
DD: And then off into the nowhere.
KTB: Yes. Aliens!