Archive for 3 June 2012

You and I both know, Rose, that the Doctor is worth the linkspams.

From Think Progress, a handy list of methods for male feminist allies to combat sexism in video game culture. It’s actually pretty useful, and most of the methods would transfer well to science fiction fan culture.

At Kotaku, Katie Williams documents her experience at E3, where game promoters acted as though she couldn’t possibly know how to play shooters because she’s a woman.

A thought-provoking post at Geekalitarian talks about body size, race, and cosplay.

Ever wanted to build your own TARDIS bookshelf? Of course you have!

A bright blue bookshelf with TARDIS panels and windows on the sides and a light on the top.

From STFU Moffat, a distressing quote from Steven Moffat on who can be a companion:

‘It’s just a question of who credibly is going to agree to go in the TARDIS? Who’s going to do it? Is it going to be a mother of 15 children? No. Is it going to be someone in their 60s? No. Is there going to be a particular age range? I mean… who’s going to have a crush on the Doctor? You know, come on! It’s more than a format. It’s evolved from good, dramatic reasons.’

At Medical Daily, psychologists have “discovered” how people identify closely with (or “subconsciously become”) their favorite characters in fiction. Fans worldwide roll their eyes that it took them so long to notice.

Over at Think Progress, Alyssa argues that we need to stop equating gender expression with sexuality, using the newly-released Brave as an example.

If you have a suggestion for our linkspam, please email it to: courtney (at) doctorher (dot) com.

Caroline John

The actress Caroline John, who played Dr Elizabeth Shaw alongside John Pertwee’s Doctor, has died.

Elizabeth Shaw was an inspiration to me when I was young. She showed me that women do not have to fit into traditional roles. Of all the companions, she was one of the few that treated the Doctor as an equal rather than a demi-god.

You can read her obituary in The Guardian.

Daleks are scary: Jubilee

The fact that everybody has pushed the Daleks into the darkness of an erased history is what’s dangerous about them in the first place and where their power comes from.

I am loath to post something saying, basically, “Go read Phil Sandifer’s piece on why the Daleks are scary because of their non-scariness”, but, well. Do it.

Sherlock star says ‘fans aren’t keen’ on a woman Doctor

This guest post was written by Sheena Goodyear, a reporter, blogger and copy editor for Sun Media. She loves cats, coffee and comic books. She used to pretend to slay vampires with a wooden stake, which her father carved out of a chair leg. You can read her thoughts about TV at Rabbit Ears, her video game ramblings at Button Mashers and her Canadian news stories at the Toronto Sun

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British actress Lara Pulver from season two of Sherlock.

Actress Lara Pulver has deflated rumours she could play the next incarnation of The Doctor, the time-and-space travelling hero of BBC’s Doctor Who.

The rumours started swirling when Pulver had a meeting with Who showrunner Steven Moffat. Pulver starred in the second season of Moffat’s other BBC venture, Sherlock.

“Steven and I have both said we thoroughly enjoyed working together, and then there was me being in Wales so the media put two and two together,” she told Digital Spy of the rumours.

But she quickly took the wind out of the sails of those of us who are tired of women being relegated to the role of sidekick in the Whoniverse. When asked if she’d be excited to play The Doctor, she said: “Yes and no. Not if it meant the end of the Doctor Who franchise, because the fans aren’t keen on it.”

The Doctor is the last of an ancient race known as the Time Lords, who regenerate new bodies and new-ish personalities when they die. In the episode “The Doctor’s Wife,” guest writer Neil Gaiman snuck into Doctor Who cannon the idea that Time Lords can change genders when they regenerate. This tid-bid has sparked non-stop speculation that someday, the British icon, who’s spawned 11 incarnations since the ’60s, could be a woman.

It’s an idea that has some viewers — especially us so-called “fangirls” — pretty excited about the idea of a kick-ass space-trekking role model with a time machine and a sidekick to call her very own. The sheer number of women who crossplay as The Doctor rather than stick to companion costumes is evidence enough there’s an appetite for this change.

But it’s also sparked a lot of fan outrage from folks who say the Doctor can’t be a woman because, you know, he just can’t.

As much as I side with the pro-Time Lady contingent, I understand the show’s hesitancy to go ahead with the gender-bender. From a writing perspective, swapping the Doctor’s sex would be more complicated that it seems. There’s a lot to consider.

Foremost is continuity. Moffat himself touched on this when asked if he’d considered casting a woman as the 11th Doctor before hiring Matt Smith.

A woman can play the part. You have to remember the single most important thing about regeneration is you must convince the audience and the children that’s it’s not a new man, it’s not a different man, it’s the same one. It’s a bigger ask if you turn him into a woman.

Each incarnation of The Doctor a bit different than the last. But deep down, he’s always the same man. His previous experiences still inform his worldview. Certainly, a millennium of maleness has an effect on one’s identity.

Then there’s the complex smorgasbord that is gender identity. After 900 or so years of manhood, would a newly-female Doctor identify as a woman? If so, would the change affect her sexual orientation? Would she retain her attraction to women? Would she take on a young man as her companion? As Doctor Her writer Ritch Ludlow notes, we could end up with a transgender or genderqueer hero.

Can I count the ways in which my Doctor will be queer?
1)   A male who transitioned (very quickly and inexpensively) to female (transgender?)
2)  A woman who would be happy to call herself male again someday (genderqueer?)
3)  A woman who was once in love with other women but perhaps willing to fall in love with men (bisexual/lesbian/pansexual/fluid?)”

Then there’s the matter of how a woman Doctor would be perceived by others. Depending on when and where she’s adventuring, would people still rally behind her without question? Would she be able to exert authority as effortlessly as she did when she had that convenient male privilege? Would she find herself subject to sexism or harassment? The show would have to deal with these issues, especially in stories that take place on Earth, in the present day or in the past.

That’s not to say a queer or trans Doctor wouldn’t be fantastic, or a character navigating the waters of new womanhood wouldn’t be interesting. It would just be a delicate and complicated story to tell, even by Moffat’s timey-wimey standards.

What do you think?

This blog was cross-posted at Rabbit Ears

If you’re a linkspam, how come you sound like you’re from the north?

From A Broad Abroad, an essay on how transformative works (like fanfic and other fan productions) are not, as commonly believed, void of creativity and harmful to the original source. Rather, it is a re-reading and a re-interpretation, on top of being “awesome.”

An article at Feminist Whoniverse discusses the homosexuality of Canton Everett Delaware III and how it compares to the ways in which Russell T. Davies normalized queerness:

Well, if we compare this to the reveals of queer characters from RTD’s era there is a very clear difference. Whilst RTD’s queer characters really normalised non-normative sexualities, Moffat sensationalises Canton’s identity. This is harmful because, although it’s not outwardly hostile, it serves to other queer folk. What this means is the marginalised group, in this case GSM [gay and sexual minorities], is seen as separate. This, in turn, reinforces the attitude that members of the GSM community are not normal and it is this kind of attitude which is frequently used to justify oppressive behavior.

 

Speaking of cute Dalek fan art, The Organization for Transformative Works posted this picture of a Dalek from a coffee shop.

Happy Hour, May 4-13. 1/2 price frapps!”"]

A chalkboard at a coffee shop depicts a drawing of an Army-green Dalek holding a frappuccino. He also has a green frappuccino on his head. Above him reads "Caffeinate!" Next to him reads, "3-5 pm, Frappucino [sic

Perhaps you’ve heard of the New York Times article claiming that men invented the internet? Xeni Jardin has a great response to it:

You guys, ladies suck at technology and the New York Times is ON IT.

Radia “Mother of the Internet” Perlman and the ghosts of RADM Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace and every woman who worked in technology for the past 150 years frown upon you, sir. Women may have been invisible, but the work we did laid the groundwork for more visible advancements now credited to more famous men.

“Men are credited with inventing the internet.” There. Fixed it for you.

At The Border House, Cuppycake calls out E3 for continuing to allow booth babes. The Escapist chimes in with “let’s just stop pretending E3 is a professional event,” since they refuse to stop this practice.

Via the Doctor Who Information Network, the first production picture of Matt Smith and the new companion:

The Doctor and his newest companion stand close together in front some trees and the stone corner of a building. The Doctor is wearing a darker brown jacket than normal, a dark checked bowtie, and a brown waistcoat. His companion is smiling with her hand close to her mouth, and is wearing a grey jacket over navy sweater and dress, with a red purse slung over her chest.

As some people on Tumblr have pointed out, this shot is nearly identical to a production shot of the first Doctor and his first companion, his granddaughter Susan Foreman.

Have you ever wished you could own a feminist science fiction/fantasy t-shirt? Now you can! (Via Infotropism.)

A dark muted green t-shirt with bold white text reading, "Russ & Butler & Tiptree & Le Guin."

Via The Mary Sue and Geek Feminism, Feminist Frequency has a Kickstarter project to analyze sexism in gaming and the gaming community. Said gaming community has started a harassment campaign against her, engaging in threats and vandalism of her Wikipedia page with racial slurs and pornography. Way to prove her project necessary, assholes!

From Alex Dally MacFarlane, “SF anthologies: The (almost) unrelenting sausagefest“:

And, you know, I wouldn’t be so fucking angry about this if it wasn’t that almost every damn time I open a Mammoth Book of SF Stuff or an anthology edited by these two or Mike Ashley or any other big editor over here, I find this kind of ratio. (The one that’s just a Mammoth version of the Dozois Year’s Best does better. If we’re counting Sean Wallace’s Mammoth Book of Steampunk as SF, then that’s got a great ToC. But this should not be fucking exceptional.) Mike Ashley even managed to get an anthology of SF Stuff that’s 0% women, because apparently no woman has ever written a mindblowing SF story or something.

Protest this state of affairs by supporting anthologies that are committed to publishing science fiction by women, people of color, and GSMs, like Dark Matter, Beyond Binary, and Fat Girl in a Strange Land.

On the same subject, Kate Elliott at A Dribble of Ink writes about how calls for more diversity in science fiction and fantasy assume a default of Whiteness, heteronormativity, and the West:

Attempts to add “diversity” into such a scenario then remain trapped in the same box, regardless of the axis of diversity: The “diversity” becomes an ornamental or utilitarian element being forced onto the “real” underpinnings of the world (which remain in such a case as the default male, white, Western, straight, whatever), rather than being an intrinsic part of the creation.

If you have a suggestion for our linkspam, please email it to: courtney (at) doctorher (dot) com.

The Daleks Have a Face for Radio

 

While growing up in Columbia, Missouri my parents became deeply involved with community radio.  KOPN was one of those rare stations in America producing radio theatre in the early eighties.  When they couldn’t get a sitter on recording days I would sit silently on a threadbare sofa whose cushions emitted that intoxicating cocktail of so many performance spaces: spilt coffee and stale cigarettes.  Sometimes I would play the odd role if a child was required, but most of my memories are of listening to the magic happen around me.

My early love of Radio Theatre followed me into adult life.  I wrote, directed and performed in many audio programs.  As an actor the challenge of Radio Theatre is that you must use only your voice to communicate with your audience.  One of the actor’s most expressive tools is removed.  No body means no facial expressions, gesture or movement.  I consider this challenge a gift.  In the auditory world I am not bound by the culturally encoded restrictions of my appearance.  I can be anyone—ANYONE in a radio theatre performance.  It’s better than masked Cosplay or auditioning for The Voice.   Age and size mean nothing—only my ability to manipulate my vocal instrument matters.

As an audience member I feel similarly liberated from another’s vision of the story and its characters.  Nothing intrudes on my imagination when listening to an auditory performance.   It is a truly emancipating art form, a feminist performer’s dream and an important contribution to the world of Doctor Who.

Dalek Empire is an ambitious undertaking by Big Finish.  The story is massive, the cast of characters in the hundreds and I haven’t even listened to half of it.  What drew me right away to this audio performance is the idea of a Whoniverse Dalek story minus The Doctor.  The Daleks with no Doctor?  How could it work?  Wouldn’t it be rather short?  Exterminate.  Exterminate.  End of.  What sort of hero might step up to thwart them?

In Invasion of the Daleks, the first instalment of Dalek Empire, it turns out it takes three heroes to fill the Time Lord void.  This trio has no particular genius, no Tardis, no real clue what they are doing and few tools with which to carry out their plans.  They are wonderfully flawed and completely out of their depth.  The galaxy is utterly screwed.  It’s brilliant!

At the heart of Invasion lurks a weird but very sweet love story, while in its head churns a thought-provoking exploration of the methods and morality of political resistance.  Susan “you can call me Suz” Mendes is a human geologist working on Vega 6 for the Rhinesberg Institute, a faceless corporation, when an army of Daleks attack.  She is quickly separated from her “taxi driver” and almost lover Alby Brook as he escapes the war torn Vega System.  The Daleks imprison Suz, along with the remaining Vega 6 survivors, in a slave labour mining camp.  There she befriends fellow prisoner Kalendorf.

While Alby drowns his guilt over abandoning the woman he might have loved if given half a chance, Suz becomes the Dalek’s poster girl.  Her role begins benignly enough.  She co-ordinates with the Daleks to create work schedules for the human slave miners which include breaks for rest and food.  So far so Labour Union.  But Suz finds herself trapped in a vicious cycle of helping the war machine become so efficient the Daleks soon occupy almost the entire galaxy.  Suz struggles with her conscience for most of the story—torn between her desire to survive and preserve humanity whilst realising she has betrayed her race and made it possible for the Daleks to subjugate billions. 

Kaledorf assists Suz as much as the Daleks allow.  To her he reveals he is a key member of the ancient order of noble warriors known as the Knights of Velyshaa.  Kalendorf’s training in telepathy allows him to plot with Suz against the Daleks and nurture a very slow burning resistance movement.  Just as Suz struggles with her conscience, Kalendorf’s position as her right-hand man tortures him.  From birth he is trained to fight and die for the honour of Velyshaa, but his current situation makes this impossible.

Meanwhile, Alby wanders almost aimlessly in an effort to avoid the Daleks and his spy mission for the Earth Alliance.  Once he discovers Suz is not dead and is, in fact, a valued ambassador for the Daleks, his only real goal is to find her and tell her he loves her.  This alone is not enough to sustain a four-part epic narrative of course.  There are many other characters, conflicts and sub-plots shaping the destiny of these three people.  At the end of their road lies the mysterious Project Infinity which provides the mother of all plot twists in the cliff hanger ending to the first chapter.

But the story does not draw me in nearly as much as the philosophical questions posed by the characters.  What is the most effective way to over-throw a repressive regime?  Is it possible to bring a system down from the inside?  How far would you go and how much would it change you?  These are questions I have asked myself many times during my activist life.

Anyone who has ever worked as part of a grass roots political group can identify with Susan Mendes.  Anyone who has ever found themselves in a position of facing down a tyrant (or group of tyrants) can sympathise with her difficult situation.  Few of us will face an enemy as powerful as a Dalek army but as feminists we are all resistance fighters against patriarchy.  I know in my own life I have had to forge uneasy alliances and have often felt like a traitor to my own values and the people to whom I owe loyalty for the sake of political survival.

Good science fiction should always strike a balance between adventurous storytelling and insightful social commentary.  Dalek Empire: Invasion of the Daleks does both.  The characters stay with you and the complex philosophical questions haunt you.

Best of all: the Daleks are freaking terrifying!  These monsters truly have a face for radio.  In this dramatic format, the most frightening thing about them—their voices—reigns supreme.

 

Crafty Doctor Who: Subversion through Patchwork

One of the great joys I have taken from modern Doctor Who fandom (post 2005) is the crafty goodness that has exploded across the internet. This was still around in the old days, of course – my mother used to take me along to her Doctor Who fan club in the 80′s and I remember a beautiful oil painting one of the women in the group had made based on a still image of The Abominable Snowman, with Jamie and the Doctor (in his fuzzy coat) in the foreground and the TARDIS resting on a Tibetan mountain.

The same fan club used to distribute homemade badges, and my Mum still wears some of the: a silver K9, or a flock of Daleks on the lapel of her tweed jacket. I wonder if she’s still got the TARDIS badge that changes colours like a mood ring…

Then there was the Doctor Who Pattern Book, released in the flush of early Fifth Doctor merch, which included patterns to make your own cybermat (my mum did this!), TARDIS console cushion, Tegan’s boob tube, the Doctor’s celery brooch, and the piece de resistance, Classic Doctor Who costumes to fit a Ken doll collection.

It’s enough to make you want to collect Ken dolls, isn’t it?

These days, however, Doctor Who craft is a booming industry. You can see marvels and wonders displayed across Etsy, Spoonflower and Pinterest. All manner of Doctor Who fans are expressing their creativity by knitting Adipose, screen printing t-shirts, moulding jewellery and of course (one of my favourites) decorating the most extraordinary cakes.

Meanwhile, the BBC and their merchandise don’t seem to be able to keep up. They briefly flirted with the idea early on, but you’ve only recently been able to buy Doctor Who cookie cutters – I’ve been serving gingerbread daleks to my family for years because my honey made me a cutter by reshaping one that used to be a teddy bear, not because I bought the cutter in a shop. But surely they’re missing out on a trick here. Where is our TARDIS yarn, our make-your-own-pyjamas Dalek flannel, and our TARDIS console cake tins?

Look at the number of Doctor Who non-fiction or tie-in books that concentrate on the monsters, the machines, the aliens and, okay, the characters. Look at how many books there are about the show. Now look at how many books have been released which look at, say, the costumes of the show? The crafts you can make that tie into the show?

WHERE IS OUR DOCTOR WHO PATTERN BOOK FOR THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY?

I’m more than happy with the creativity shown by the fans who love the show, and it’s particularly exciting to me because so much of this craft is in areas that are traditionally seen as female or feminine. Knitting, dollmaking, cake decorating, jewellery making and quilting (my own craft of choice) are firmly coded female regardless of who practises them, and much though I’d like to claim otherwise, there is something deeply subversive about combining those underrated “feminine” artistic skills with the kind of hardcore science fiction geekery that many fans still think is (or should be, grrr) largely a male domain.

Quilting has always been a subversive act. Sure, the story is that women of pioneer America and pre-industrial England had to piece together patchwork to save every scrap, but COME ON. Patchwork isn’t remotely efficient, and it tends to create almost as many scraps as it uses. What patchwork and quilting have always provided is an excuse for women to gather together and make art, to appear industrious and frugal because their lives weren’t supposed to be about anything else. The beauty of the quilts found through history are there because women wanted to take time to make something beautiful, and yet the same practical function that allowed them guilt-free time to play with colours and fabrics has meant that their work has not traditionally been considered an ‘art’ akin to the expensive oil paintings and marble statues traditionally made by male artists.

As a quilter, I’m well aware that there are few men who have any interest in that particular craft. All my quilting friends are female, the quilt shows we go to are maybe 90% attended by women, and many guys who will happily listen to me talking about Doctor Who or urban fantasy or pdocasting or even feminism may glaze over with boredom if I start talking about patchwork templates or seam allowances. Including my own partner – whose lack of interest in my sewing activities meant I was able to work on his birthday present completely under his nose. As it turns out, he thinks quilts are AWESOME when they are finished, especially robot quilts.

Quilts don’t have to be about floral patterns and applique bows – not that there’s anything wrong with that, if it’s your cup of tea. But I’ve never been the kind of quilter who, well, follows rules. I’m far more excited with taking the boundaries of the craft in question, and then seeing how far I can push them. I’m pretty excited that I can get hold of, say, TARDIS fabric now, thanks to the creativity of fandom. Or, using the print-your-own-fabric technology, I can even design my own… and that’s what I’m planning to do!

I’ve been collecting a bunch of sparkly silver roundel fabric for a while now, because it reminded me of Daleks, and as it turns out I have a lot of 60′s ish black and white and grey fabric, which works out well, because THIS WEEKEND I am totally piecing together a Black and White 1960′s Doctor Who Hexagon Quilt.

The theme of this year’s Australian National Science Fiction Convention is ‘Craftonomicon’ so where better to piece my silvers and blacks and mod stripes with photographic fabric depicting Daleks, Ben and Polly, the First and Second Doctors, Jamie and Zoe, Victoria Waterfield, Cybermen, Sara Kingdom, Katarina, Steven, Dodo and of course Barbara, Ian and Susan. And Quarks. I’ve tacked down nearly a hundred pieces and I plan to start sewing the quilt together at the convention, and to see how much I get done over the course of the weekend, while having some fabulous conversations.

Wish me luck!