by our roving reporter Ann Clifford
I can remember the exact moment I became a Whovian. It was a Wednesday night in October 1988, I was eight years old and I walked into our living room to find my dad watching Sylvester McCoy run away from everyone’s favourite exterminating pepperpots. “Oh look, a garlic,” I remarked, dropped into a seat and that was it. Hooked. Stereotypical eight year old girls are supposed to play ponies or princesses or other similarly boring things; I played Doctor Who (or more accurately Ace as she got to hit things with baseball bats and blow them up), recruiting my younger sister to amble around yelling ‘exterminate’.
The popularity of the relaunched show means the eight year old Doctor Who fans of today have it much better than eighties kids like me. There is a magazine aimed at younger readers, a huge range of Who merchandise and events such as The Science of Doctor Who (Saturday 12.30pm, Library Gallery). This is precisely the sort of thing I would have loved as a child – it sets the programme within a real world context. It allows you to imagine that the Doctor and his adventures could actually be real! What could be better to a young devotee?
Travel forward through time a good twenty or so years. My sister, now an adult and not noticeably damaged by a childhood spent impersonating the most evil beings in the universe, handed me a copy of Rivers of London with the recommendation ‘I thought this seemed like your sort of thing’. Of course the first thing I noticed was that the author was Ben Aaronovitch, the writer of ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’, the very same Doctor Who story which caught my attention all those years ago.
Rivers of London is a fantasy police procedural set firmly in modern London. Peter Grant is a junior officer who finds himself working for a branch of Met responsible for dealing the supernatural – eyewitnesses who happen to be ghosts, river gods and goddesses, that sort of thing. It’s a similar concept to that of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, but magic in Grant’s world is a science to be studied, analysed and use to solve crime. Ahead of the release of Broken Homes, the fourth title in the series, Aaronovitch will be appearing at the festival along with George Mann (Sunday 3pm, Library Gallery). I’m not familiar with Mann’s Newbury and Hobbes series but of course, one of the main aims of a literary festival is to introduce new writers to new readers. I’m looking forward to discovering another fictional avenue to keep me occupied until a certain Gallifreyan turns up in Stokey.
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