In an interview I saw ages ago Tom Baker said this wonderful thing. He said that he could understand the fan mentality. He knew why people were fans. It was all to do with loving something – a TV show, a book, a pop star, anything – and it was something that reminded you of being young. You were put back into your youth by enjoying that thing all over again.
This really strikes a chord with me and I thought about it again when I saw on Facebook the other day that the novelist A C Crispin had died. Instantly I thought about her books and what they meant to me. I’ve only read a few. Nothing like the whole lot of them. But enough to feel fond of what she did while she was here.
I was thinking about being fifteen at Woodham Comp and becoming a school prefect in our house block, Brancepeth. All this really meant was that you got to stay indoors when it rained and wear a burgundy enameled badge. A whole bunch of us used to play table tennis through grey lunchtimes. We had the most broken-down table that hardly fit into the room, and we’d play twenty people all at once, with most of us using textbooks for bats. We’d run round the table like the creatures in the Caucus Race in Alice in Wonderland, and then someone would shout out and we’d all go counter-clockwise.
It rained and rained that school term and when we weren’t playing ridiculous games I got a lot of reading done. It was when I read all of the first three Dune novels and Heinlein’s ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’, and huge swathes of Ray Bradbury stories. And I also read the novelizations of ‘V’, that great sf alien-invasion TV series – written by A C Crispin. Whereas the ‘classic’ sf I was reading was mostly set on exotic worlds, in bizarre circumstances, the V books were about ordinary people in suburbia dealing with the idea that earth was being taken over by the monsters. ‘V’ and ‘V: East Coast Crisis’ were thick, generous novels – more detailed and quite a bit racier than the TV show they were based on.
Only a few years later I read Star Trek novels by Ann Crispin – ones in which she humanized and fleshed out more TV characters, making even the stiffest of them human. It seems like such a long time ago, reading these. The terrible news this week has made me want to reread her wonderful novel, ‘Yesterday’s Son’ – (the one about Spock and the paternity suit from the land that time forgot.)
I love the fact that she was a writer who gave world-famous characters such as Spock, Han Solo and Jack Sparrow backstories that their fans could take to their hearts. And I love the fact that she also had her own universe…! The world of StarBridge is a star-spanning space opera in seven volumes and it’s every bit as grand and colourful as the tie-in worlds she moonlighted in. They’re all currently available on Kindle (that amazing twilight space in which book series can return to perpetual orbit.) I’m looking forward to reading and rereading her books.
Imagine – leaving galaxies behind you when you’ve gone!
I love her (almost) final words on Facebook, too –
“I wish all aspiring writers the will to finish and a good contract.”