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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

17 Comments

  1. Wm Keith
    September 26, 2012 @ 1:00 am

    I get the feeling that the existence of the "Tavern" crowd helped create a barrier between metropolitan and provincial fans. Or was a symbol of that barrier. At least for those of us who didn't encounter an internet until the late 1990s.

    Your argument about the relatively small geographic size of the UK meaning that the fans felt they knew each other does, I feel, apply with more accuracy to the major national conventions such as Pan\Manopticon and Dreamwatch.

    Reply

  2. Tommy
    September 26, 2012 @ 1:08 am

    "But another part of it was just that Doctor Who fans weren’t the worshipful cult television fans that other franchises had."

    That seemed to change when the show came back though, in a big way.

    "If nothing else, the infamous Moffat interview that gets casually cited as evidence of Moffat’s views on Doctor Who needs to be taken in light of the nature of 90s fandom and a few drinks."

    I'd also put that down to institutionalised snobbery towards the show in the very BBC that Moffat was then working in.

    As for whether it made him a better showrunner for it, I marvel at how he made such joyous, multilayered and well-crafted stories, when his Doctor Who standard was the Davison years.

    Reply

  3. Matt Michael
    September 26, 2012 @ 1:28 am

    1990s fandom was a bizarre place. I was a fan in the 1980s in the sense I watched the show and bought the books, but it was only in the mid-1990s that I emerged into fandom, which, for me at least, revolved around Rec.Arts, the Galaxy Four shop in Sheffield, Doctor Who Magazine and the Tavern. And it was the new-cover style NAs (Happy Endings on) and the early BBC Books that coincided with this point.

    At this time I was around 16-18 years old, finishing my A-Levels and then heading to university in West Yorkshire. The Tavern became a monthly ritual of cheap train tickets to London, getting progressively drunk, reading Tat Wood and later Lawrence Miles' home-made fanzines and then racing back to King's Cross for the last, 2 1/2 hour train ride home, and a taxi that got me back to my shared house at about 3am.

    Aside from the free fanzines (which I have squirrelled away in my garage somewhere and now have a yearning to dig out), only Doctor Who Magazine gives a sense of how exciting and pluralistic fandom was then, when people genuinely cared about the quality of the next EDA and when you genuinely debated which Season 26 story was the template for the New Adventures (obviously Battlefield, although I always thought Survival was a better bet for a new series model – and was smugly proven right 10 years later).

    Happy times. Strange that the period I feel most nostalgia for is the one moment when it seemed the TV Movie's perceived failure had killed the chance of ever getting the show back on air.

    Reply

  4. Spacewarp
    September 26, 2012 @ 1:39 am

    I've never heard of the Fitzroy Tavern, but I note that fans still informally meet on the first Thursday of the month.

    I'll be in London for a course on the first Thursday of the month. I might just drop in…

    Reply

  5. Henry R. Kujawa
    September 26, 2012 @ 4:59 am

    Tommy:
    "I marvel at how he made such joyous, multilayered and well-crafted stories, when his Doctor Who standard was the Davison years."

    As with other things I've seen, I put it down to the Peter Davison era being– in some way– a "good idea" that was DONE BADLY.

    I suppose one could compare it to "THE MALTESE FALCON". It was filmed badly, twice. Then John Huston, in his directorial debut, did it again. Need I say more?

    Shortly before he passed away, Huston said in an interview, "There's no point in remaking a classic. The thing to do is take something that was done badly, go back to the original source material, and do it right."

    Apparently, Huston never read the novel. He got ahold of a copy, handed it to his secretary, and told her, "Here, type this up into a screenplay." And then he filmed it verbatim.

    While I admit some terrible books have been turned into great films, the opposite is also true. But you also can take a great novel and turn it into a great film. You just have to really want to, and not let ego or outside concerns get in the way. (In the case of the Davison era, that would include JNT, Eric Saward, AND the 2 guys in charge of the BBC who really hated the show. All 4 of them!)

    Reply

  6. daibhid-c
    September 26, 2012 @ 5:16 am

    I dunno about DW fandom being unique for "bitchy humour" and "openly disliking large swaths of the show", at least as far as Usenet fandoms go. Back in '98 I was on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe, and I remember a lot of elaborate bitchiness, and discussions that boiled down to The Stuff That Has Been Published More Recently Isn't As Good As The Stuff From When I Was A Kid vs The Stuff That Has Been Published More Recently Is Better Than The Stuff From Before I Was Born. (As someone who tried to avoid flamewars, I quickly learnt never to mention being a fan of the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern, any more than I'd mention being a McCoy fan in radw.)

    I wasn't as involved in Star Trek groups, but from what I saw they were mostly The Show I Watched When I Was Growing Up Is Better Than The Other Versions Of The Show, Especially The Most Recent One. There may have been bitchy humour as well; I wouldn't be surprised. This has always struck me as just how fandoms work.

    Since I've almost gone a whole comment on a Pop Between Realities post without mentioning Terry Pratchett, which clearly can't happen (especially if we're talking about my Usenet memories) here's a conversation between Sir Terry and the producer of the "Hogfather" TV miniseries, which Terry later related at a con, as best as I remember it:

    Terry:
    Now, you do realise that if you go onto alt.fan.pratchett or something, the fans will be tearing it to peices?

    Producer:
    What do you mean? They won't like it?

    Terry:
    Of course they'll like it. They'll tear it to peices anyway. They're fans. It's what they do.

    Reply

  7. Matt Michael
    September 26, 2012 @ 6:33 am

    Re: the bitchiness of fandom – in the mid-1990s the biggest bitch fight of all was between Star Trek fans and Babylon 5 fans. Especially when DS9 started to (allegedly) rip off B5…

    Reply

  8. Stephen
    September 26, 2012 @ 6:38 am

    The novels weren’t bringing in substantial numbers of new fans. That’s not to say that there weren’t anecdotal-level exceptions here and there, but for the most part during the so-called wilderness years the only path into the books was from the existing fanbase.

    Maybe I'm just an anecdotal-level exception, but my experience of fandom is that there are lots of people now in their 30s who did become fans through the NAs. At the time, they were widely available in the science fiction section of any library or bookshop – the bookshops in my hometown all had prominent displays of them (I was once told that, at their peak, they accounted for something like 20% of UK Science Fiction book sales). If you were a slightly geeky teenager in the UK at that time then you would almost certainly have read several of them, even if you didn't really remember watching the TV show – and even if you never made the jump to becoming a fan. Yes, the absolute number of people who became fans as a result of the NAs was smaller than the number for, say, the Pertwee era of the TV show. But it wasn't as insignificant as you make it out to be.

    Incidentally, I first encountered radw (and the internet) when I went to university in 1996. Although it was several years after graduating before I eventually managed to get regular internet access at home. Whilst I'd say that the idea of the internet entered the public consciousness about 1994 or so, home internet access only really became a majority thing during the 21st century.

    Reply

  9. Matt Michael
    September 26, 2012 @ 7:16 am

    During The New Adventures and the first 18 months of the BBC Books (up until about the time Fitz turned up – which co-incided with the announcement of the Big Finish audios) it really felt like these novels were Doctor Who, and really mattered. I met people at university in my first year (1997-98) who had come to DW through the books, and it was through the novels that I rekindled an interest that had kind of faded between about 1990 and 1995.

    At the end of the 1990s, the audios kind of became where it was at, and I think definitely after the Paul McGann audios started, the books were always struggling to make an impact and resorted to ever-more complicated story arcs in response.

    The Interference two-part novel was the last I really remember being an event. But the Compassion arc was eclipsed by the excitment of the launch of the audios, and then the even bigger news that Paul McGann was going to play the Doctor for Big Finish. After all, when you've got the actual eighth Doctor making new Doctor Who, the EDAs were always going to struggle to compete. Similarly, once the TV show returned, the audios were challenged – I suppose the benefit being, as "past Doctor plays" they weren't in such head-to-head competition with TV as the audio and print adventures of McGann's Doctor.

    I'm interested to see how Phil tackles this, and which eighth Doctor audios (which, for my money, are still the best BF has done) he chooses.

    Reply

  10. nimonus
    September 26, 2012 @ 7:50 am

    Could you be a bit more specific about the Norms of the Fitzroy Tavern? What was it about these gatherings that got picked up by radw?

    Reply

  11. Janjy Giggins
    September 26, 2012 @ 8:02 am

    I got into the show through the 30th anniversary repeats, but it was the books which really made me a fan. I mention this now because Iceberg and Blood Heat were my first two original Doctor Who novels (though I don't think I got them until after they'd been out a while). I never bought the NAs regularly at the time, but I avidly collected the Missing Adventures from about Lords of the Storm onwards. So even if they weren't actively capturing new people, they were certainly consolidating casual or curious viewers into long-term fans.

    By the time the BBC novels came along I picked up pretty much everything as soon as it came out. Although I'd seen most of the TV series by then, I cared about it a lot less than I did about the books. I still have days when I think I'd rather have the books back instead of the TV series.

    Reply

  12. Iain Coleman
    September 27, 2012 @ 5:54 am

    My abiding memory of radw is the eternal Pertwee vs McCoy flamewar, which seemed to be driven by a few obsessive haters of McCoy and all his works, and fuelled by some enthusiastic McCoy fans who had no strong opinions on Pertwee one way or another.

    Behind all this there was a sense – which I think does have some validity – that these two eras represent opposite poles of what Doctor Who is or can be, and the endless flameage was in part the expression of a real ideological divide, besides being a reflection of the personality problems of some radw regulars.

    Reply

  13. Matthew Celestis
    September 27, 2012 @ 7:37 am

    I do find that a lot of the people I know who like Pertwee really do dislike McCoy. I think you're right that they are polar opposites.

    Reply

  14. elvwood
    September 27, 2012 @ 9:45 am

    I was a Pertwee fan – still am, in fact – and hated the McCoy era. But that was before I actually saw it, so you can tell how rational that was! Not that I slagged it off or anything – Doctor Who didn't register on my radar in the first half of the wilderness years, and not much in the second half. Having finally seen the McCoy era, I've realised that (most of) it is actually rather good. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I prefer seasons 25/26 to seasons 8/9, though 7 beats 24.

    Reply

  15. SpaceSquid
    September 27, 2012 @ 11:12 am

    Gods, yes. That was a tiresome time to just be a guy who liked shows about space stations.

    Reply

  16. AndyRobot800
    September 12, 2013 @ 5:28 pm

    That would put the two of us at, around, the same age (I read Happy Endings the summer I turned 17.) I was in the US, obsessively collecting my NAs (only finishing about a third of them – I think Phil Sandifer had a similar experience), lurking on rec.arts.drwho, and kind of wishing I lived in a place where I could actually run off and have bitchy, snarky arguments about Season 26.

    On the train home this evening, I Googled my old AOL e-mail address and rec.arts.drwho, and read some of the utter crap I posted when I was 16. I think I was desperately hoping someone would quote me in their sig file.

    Reply

  17. AndyRobot800
    September 12, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

    Re-reading my last comment… dear lord. I was basically Christian Bale in Velvet Goldmine, except instead of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, it was Lance Parkin.

    Reply

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