First Book Friday: Lynne Thomas

Welcome to First Book Friday.  Today we have Lynne Thomas (rarelylynne on LJ), Head of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University.  That’s right, she’s a librarian, so don’t mess with her.  She’s fears nothing, except possibly desserts as big as her head.

Lynne brings us the story of her first (but definitely not last!) experience as a book editor.  A book which came about, in part, because of a T-shirt…


Jim has asked me to talk about my experiences as a first-time editor on Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy].

I’ve been part of Doctor Who fandom for about a decade, thanks to my husband, Michael. I’m an academic rare book librarian at Northern Illinois University, who happens to archive SF/F literature as part of my current job duties. (Best. Job. EVER. Especially since I get to work with Jim C. Hines’s papers.)

The anthology’s title came from a t-shirt that Tara O’Shea, my co-editor, designed for her first Gallifrey One Doctor Who convention in 2006. There’s a pervasive notion in Doctor Who fandom (particularly in the UK), that the series is primarily pitched to and enjoyed only by male viewers. Tara wanted a book, aimed at both male and female fans, that told the stories of female fans, in a series of personal essays, who had been in the fandom all along, often behind the scenes. The subtitle could have easily been “No, really. Women like this series, too.”

Just after Tara signed the contract, her personal life imploded, and Tara and the Mad Norwegians realized that she needed some help to get the book done on time. This is where I was brought into the project as co-editor. The folks at Mad Norwegian Press had been friends of ours through Who fandom for nearly as long as I’ve been part of it. I had previous academic editing and writing experience (including a co-authored academic book, Special Collections 2.0). Editing creative nonfiction — personal stories — was new to me, even if the organizational skills for editing do translate.

Adding an editor changes a book, because we all bring different contributors to the table (this was an invitation-only anthology). Tara laid out much of the initial groundwork, getting Seanan McGuire into the project, for example. I brought in additional SF/F authors, (many of whom archive their papers with me at NIU) who also happened to be Doctor Who fans (Elizabeth Bear, Catherynne M. Valente, Jody Lynn Nye, K. Tempest Bradford, and Mary Robinette Kowal). Carole Barrowman, Captain Jack Harkness actor John Barrowman’s sister and writing collaborator, agreed to write for us, to my astonishment, when I cold-contacted her through her website. Our publisher also helped us reach contributors who had written Doctor Who tie–in books (Kate Orman and Lloyd Rose) and acted on the series (Lisa Bowerman). Through other friends in fandom, we got interviews with actors like Sophie Aldred, who played Ace in the Seventh Doctor’s era. (Tara had to interview her; I was too nervous. Ace is my favorite companion.)

We then filled out the rest of our roster with other writers who had interesting, positive fandom stories. Many focused on their Doctor Who inspired creative activities such as writing fanfiction, cosplaying, and creating fanvids and fancomics.  We were very lucky to get an original comic from the creators of Torchwood Babiez. Working with writers is great fun, but it is intensive. I see my job as editor as giving writers feedback that will make their own work better, while still retaining their voice and vision. With some of the fan writers, this involved numerous drafts to figure out how to best tell their story. Over the course of two and a half years from pitch to publication, the book came together, and debuted at last year’s Gallifrey One Convention.

I couldn’t be more proud of this little book. The positive reaction from our readers has been completely overwhelming. Reading events have been standing room only. Fans have made fanart, fanvids about the book, and have even cosplayed Verity, our cover chick — named for Verity Lambert, Doctor Who’s first producer — at conventions!

It was such a pleasure to work on this amazing project with Tara, the Mad Norwegians, and all of our fabulous contributors. Doctor Who has had a huge impact on my life, largely because of the community of fans, now friends, whom I have met through the series. Chicks Dig Time Lords is ultimately a love letter to my favorite show, its fandom, and the sense of community that comes out of being part of fandom.

Because fandom, you see, (much like the Doctor’s TARDIS), is truly bigger on the inside.