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How I Learned to Love Sci Fi with Doctor Who, a guest post by author Annie Cardi


Warning: The following post contains minor Doctor Who spoilers
Until Doctor Who,I thought I hated sci-fi.
Not to say that I didn’t watch or enjoy sci-fi. It was just that I always found excuses for why the books I read and movies I enjoyed couldn’t possibly be considered true science-fiction. I plowed through The Hunger Games, but claimed that dystopian wasn’t exactly sci-fi. (“It’s only five minutes into the future!”) I bemoaned the fact that there was only one season of the brilliant Firefly. (“But that’s kind of a western.”) I was glued to Battlestar Galactica but even pretended that show, with its spaceships and futuristic robots, wasn’t really sci-fi. (“It’s more of a military show, really.”)
I determined not to like sci-fi. Whenever people brought it up, I claimed I didn’t like that it was all spaceships and aliens, which didn’t appeal to me. “It’s not about real people and real issues.”
Which is exactly what I thought Doctor Who would be—lots of aliens and spaceships, and no real people or issues or emotions.

Source: http://letitflywiththebirds.wordpress.com/tag/the-ninth-doctor/page/2/
The first Doctor Whoepisode I watched was “Rose,” the first appearance of the Ninth Doctor and companion Rose Tyler. My husband had seen a few episodes and thought it would be a fun show to watch together, and I finally agreed to give it a try. With low production values and a gymnastics move that saves the day, I was underwhelmed. It confirmed every stereotype I had of sci-fi, and I insisted that I didn’t want to waste my time on a show that was silly and cheesy and didn’t connect with real people.
My husband insisted it got really good, and suggested we watch a couple of later episodes so I could see Doctor Who wasn’t just about cheesy robots and silly aliens.
We watched two episodes: “Blink” and “Midnight.”

Source: http://memewhore.tumblr.com/
Both were fascinating and creepy and well-crafted. “Blink” barely featured the Doctor, instead following around girl wannabe detective Sally Sparrow. (Who writers, if you’re reading, I want a Sally Sparrow spin-off series.) The alien villains, the Weeping Angels, were far from cheesy and silly—they perfectly expressed that fear of something moving just out of your line of vision. I loved following Sally as she tried to put together the strange disappearances happening around her. At the end, Sally sees the Doctor and realizes that she’s the one responsible for the paper trail that helped save her and her friends. I loved that Sally, a regular girl in London, got to save the day in the present, past, and future.
“Midnight” features more of the Doctor himself, fighting a terrifying, unseen alien villain while trapped in a broken shuttle van. It’s all mental creepiness and expectation. I remember watching that episode for the first time and seeing Skye huddled up in the corner and thinking “Oh my gosh, she’s not going to have a face or something.” But when you see her and she looks normal, somehow it’s even worse. The creepiness lies in that it’s almost real, and in not knowing exactly what was out there. And the only reason the Doctor survives is because someone sacrifices herself—some totally regular person and, as the Doctor says toward the end of the episode, they didn’t even know her name. I love that because it’s a reminder that you don’t need to be the Doctor and cleverer than anyone else to make a difference. We all have the potential to save the day.
“Okay,” I said to my husband, “I guess we can watch the series.”
Even with the promise of episodes like “Blink” and “Midnight” to come, I was still skeptical throughout the first season. There were farting aliens, and I didn’t understand how the Daleks were the most terrifying creatures in the universe. (What’s that plunger doing there?)
Slowly, I started seeing more of the human side to Doctor Who. I loved Rose trying to prevent her father from dying, even as it creates horrible consequences in “Father’s Day.” My heart broke for Nancy and Jamie as they try to find each other in “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances.” In “The Satan Pit,” got chills as the Doctor tells the alien embodiment of evil that, out of all the aliens and creatures and gods and demons he’s seen, he most believes in human Rose Tyler. But even then, I resisted admitting that I liked a sci-fi series.
Then I watched “Doomsday,” the series 2 finale and the last episode featuring Rose Tyler. When Rose and the Doctor say their good-byes, I was deeply touched. I didn’t want these characters to be separated by space and time, and I felt as connected to their relationship as I felt to any others in books or movies or TV shows.
“I think I need a break before we watch series 3,” I told my husband. “I miss Rose too much.”
That’s when I realized that I couldn’t deny it anymore—I loved a sci-fi show. I couldn’t pretend it was a western or a military show. It had aliens and time travel and spaceships, and was solidly sci-fi. But it also had characters I empathized with and relationships I cheered for and challenges that mirrored those I saw in my real life. Even though the Doctor is clever and charming and can save the universe, a lot of time it’s his human companions who make the difference. Robots and aliens are the fun and exciting elements surrounding sci-fi. But real sci-fi is about people and relationships and our places within the universe.
Doctor Who made me an official sci-fi fan. But a girl can’t live on Who alone. My suggestions for other sci-fi fans in waiting:

The Hunger Gamesby Suzanne Collins
Yes, I admit, it’s sci-fi. It’s also about the horrors of war and how we all try to survive and protect those we love.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Another book I refused to admit was sci-fi, and one of my all-time favorite books. I love its examination of how we need to experience all kinds of emotions—even the ones that cause us pain.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
A quieter YA sci-fi novel than most, but compelling. What I liked most about this novel is how it’s about Jenna trying to discover what defines us as human.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card*
A friend gave this to me when I claimed I didn’t like sci-fi. Another powerful look at the horrors of war and how we all have to examine our potential for destruction.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro’s writing is excellent, and this book’s themes of love and what makes us human is heartbreaking. (Plus, it’s a boarding school book and I love those.)
*I have serious issues with Card’s personal views, so I recommend getting this book from the library as opposed to buying it.

Bio: Annie Cardi is a young adult writer whose debut novel, The Chance You Won’t Return, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press in April 2014. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and a BA from the University of Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in The Georgetown Review, Vestal Review, Juked, and other publications. In 2011, PEN New England selected her as a winner of the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award for the manuscript that would become, The Chance You Won’t Return. Annie lives near Boston with her husband and a portrait of a sea captain.
Online at AnnieCardi.com 

Coming April 22, 2014 from Candlewick Press
 This post is part of TWO marvelous blogging events!


Sci-Fi Month is brought to you by Rinn Reads. Check out the full schedule of Sci-Fi Month posts! There are reviews, discussions, giveaways, and more!



Doctor Who Week is a joint venture between  Maria’s Melange and Teen Librarian Toolbox. We have a full week of fun posts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.



Basically Read: YA Books for the Doctor Who Fan

I am new to Doctor Who, I just began watching about 2 weeks ago.  I have fallen in love and have now watched all of Doctor 9 (my fave), Doctor 10 (he grew on me) and Doctor 11 (up until the current season).  There may have been some bad parenting involved, thankfully it is summer and it was totally okay for the Tween and I to stay up until 1 AM watching several episodes in a row.  The whole family is watching the show together; yes, even the 4-year-old (who did not stay up until 1 a.m. because that would make my next day very, very bad).

There are several things I love about the show: The way it teaches about diversity and being accepting of others, the morality of the doctor and his only resorting to violence as a last defense, and, of course, the glorious messiness that comes with traveling through time and space.  I loved all three doctors (I have only watched 9 through 11), and although 9 is my favorite, 10 and 11 each have their charms.  As I watched, I kept thinking of various YA books that I have read and loved that I thought Doctor Who fans would enjoy.  Here is my list.

BZRK by Michael Grant
Everytime I see the Cybermen and their attempts to rid the world of human emotions because they are seen as a disadvantage, I can’t help but think of BZRK.  Here, one of the most demented villians I have read (human, although they would also make a good alien species for Who), use nanotechnology to try and reach the same goal as the Cybermen.  Chilling, adventure packed, and full of important ethical discussions.
 


Shade’s Children by Garth Nix
On every child’s 14th birthday, they are collected by Overlord’s inhabiting the Earth and their parts are harvested to create machinelike creatures who sole purpose is to kill.  Shade and his band of children are trying to stay alive and off the radar.  They are the only hope for humankind.  Basically, run.

Variant by Robison Wells
There are many instances in the Whoverse where people are not what they seem, and the revelation can shock you.  Variant has one of the most jaw dropping revelations I have read in a while that would fit perfectly in the world of Doctor Who.  Benson Fisher gets himself enrolled in a boarding school that has no adults, but once he is there he can’t leave – and he really, really wants to leave because what is happening inside the school is terrifying.

Interstellar Pig by William Sleator
Barney’s boring seaside vacation gets very interesting when the neighbors next door get him involved in a bizarre game called Interstellar Pig.  It is very Whovian fun.  Oh, but don’t lose.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Ender is a child, a genius.  And he is recruited to play a game.  A game that it turns out will have tremendous repercussions for the history of the human race, an alien species, and Ender himself.  If you continue to read the series, there are several titles, you will also get an interesting look at a boy who rejects violence and embraces an ethic similar to the Doctor’s.

Mr. Was by Pete Hautman
One night as Jack’s father attacks and kills his mom, Jack runs through a door that takes him back into the past.  Can he wait there in the past until the moment when he can save him mom?  This is a dark, compelling look at domestic violence and a fascinating take on time travel.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Traveling through time is tricky business, you have to be careful not to mess up the timeline.  In the 6th grade, four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever: I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own. Find out what happens in Stead’s When You Reach Me, one of my very favorite middle grade reads that readers of any age will love.  As Doctor 10 would say, Brilliant!

Nobody by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
There are people in this world that no one can see.  They are nobodies.  And they are the perfect assassin. What would happen if Doctor Who looked inside the Silence and tried to determine what they were here for?  Nobody takes the point of view of two unseen characters and examines a life of those who remain hidden, unseen, on the fringes of society. Sometimes, if you look just right out of the corner of your eye, you can almost see them.

 
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Jacob’s grandfather has always told him stories, stories about peculiar children in black and white photographs.  About an island.  About an orphanage.  But what if the stories are true?  When Jacob witnesses his grandfather being killed by what can only be described as a monster, he sets out to a mysterious island to find the home and learn a truth that will challenge everything he knows about the world he lives in – and his grandfather.  I also can’t help but thinking of titles like Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman and Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury for those haunting episodes where things are just not quite right or exactly what they seem, a kind of mindbending read.

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Clare Legrand
No one knows exactly what goes on inside the Cavendish Home, but Victoria is about to find out when her best friend Lawrence goes missing and she knows he must be there.  But no one ever comes out of the home.  As I watched Amy and Rory get sucked into the doll house in the episode Night Terrors, I couldn’t help but think of this title.  And if you are looking for creepy alternate worlds, don’t forget Coraline by Neil Gaiman, who has written an episode of Doctor Who, and The Thief of Always by Clive Barker.  In fact, Gaiman is a great readalike for Who fans.

The Hourglass series by Myra McEntire
You can’t really have a YA Doctor Who reading list without the Hourglass series, an excellent time travel adventure.  Emerson Cole has grown up thinking she sees ghosts, but the truth is she can travel through time and the walls between the here and now are breaking down.  She meets and begins to fall in love with Michael, but their love is dangerous. I can’t tell you how the Doctor and River’s relationship is similar to Michael and Em’s because, well, “spoilers sweetie”.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger
Okay this is not technically a YA book, but teen readers love it.  And this title captures all the pathos of trying to love someone who travels through time.  For more time travelling romance, you might also want to try the time travelling series by Caroline B. Cooney that begins with Both Sides of Time.

The Transall Saga by Gary Paulsen
Mark is camping solo when a mysterious beam of light transfers him to what appears to be another time, and perhaps even another planet.  Trapped in another time and place, Mark encounters amazing creatures and experiences as he tries to make his way back home to his time on Earth.

 
Paradise Trap by Catherine Jinks is remarkably similar in concept to the episode The God Complex with the play on everyone having their own room designed to lure them in. The why is different, but if you liked the how you should like this story.

You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beuadoin
Not science fiction at all, but a noir mystery with a hip happening beat to it that reminds me so much of the manic character of the 11th Doctor.  Goodeads describes it thusly: “You Killed Wesley Payne is a truly original and darkly hilarious update of classic pulp-noir, in which hard-boiled seventeen year-old Dalton Rev transfers to the mean hallways of Salt River High to take on the toughest case of his life. The question isn’t whether Dalton’s going to get paid. He always gets paid. Or whether he’s gonna get the girl. He always (sometimes) gets the girl. The real question is whether Dalton Rev can outwit crooked cops and killer cliques in time to solve the mystery of “The Body” before it solves him.”  Dalton swaggers like the Doctor with a unique voice that many Doctor Who fans will love.

 
Anything by Douglas Adams
If you are a fan of the Matt Smith years, Doctor 11, you should love the slapstick humor and just out of this world zaniness that Adams puts on the page.  Whether it be the innapropriately named Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (there are 5 books) or Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency, Adams is so much in the same campy spirit of Doctor Who.  I mean, there is space travel with towels and the immortal words “Don’t Panic” – what more could you ask for?  If you are looking for the humor and just awesome camp of Doctor Who you might also really enjoy The Princess Bride by William Goldman.

Edited 6/24/2013 to add:
The Diviners by Libba Bray: For that spooky, retro New York feel.  Think Angels Take Manhattan.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, for using science to recreate dinosaurs with a little Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.
172 Hours on the Moon by John Harstad because these teens go to the moon and very creepy stuff happens.
Erebros by Ursula Poznanski, where teens start playing an online game and can’t stop. Reminiscent of The Bells of Saint John episode.
The Catastrophic History of You & Me by Jess Rothenberg.  The relationship and being trapped in limbo reminds me of  both Amy’s Choice and The Girl Who Waited.

Basically, these books are Fantastic! (And so am I LOL – Doctor 9 fans totally get that)

Now it’s your turn, what YA books do you have on your Doctor Who list and why?