Monday, March 2, 2009

On The Nighstand

by Eric Pringle

When I was a little kid, my parents used to take us to a local mall in Maryland as a treat. We'd go to Roy Rogers for a hamburger and a milkshake before heading over to the toy store. As I remember it, my little sister would make a beeline for the dolls and I'd go straight to a little spinner rack in the back of the store, which held the holy grail of reading material -- rack upon rack of Doctor Who novelizations.

Back before anyone was putting old TV shows out on DVD (or even VHS), Target Books would take the scripts from old episodes of Doctor Who and turn them into short little novels. It was the only way to "see" those stories in those days, and for a young Doctor Who fan who also loved to read, it was just about the coolest thing ever.

I had a pretty good collection going (all lined up in episode order on my bookshelf) until I got older and decided I was too mature to read stuff like that. To my everlasting shame, I threw them out.

(Yeah, that was just about the stupidist thing I've ever done, and that's saying something.)

A few years ago, my friend Dan Waters and I were digging through boxes of books in the dealers room at a convention in Rhode Island. Buried between old editions of Horror and Sci-Fi novels were a couple of Target Doctor Who books. As Dan can probably attest, I nearly wet myself. I bought everything that dealer had and asked him to check to see if he had anymore. Sadly, he didn't.

Cut to a year or so ago, when I went to a little used Sci-Fi/Fantasy bookstore in Albany called FLIGHTS OF FANTASY, where my friend Jackie Kessler was doing a signing. When it was over, I wandered around the store to see what they had, and what should I find... shelves upon shelves of Target Doctor Who novelizations. I bought a stack of them, my hands sweaty with excitement, but I've been too scared to go back since then. I'd probably bankrupt myself buying them all.

And then, lo and behold, Claire went and bought me a stack of them for my birthday, which involved a stealth invasion of my office to write down all the titles I already had and dropping them into a spreadsheet for easy reference. I've been grinning like a little kid ever since I opened them. She wrapped each one individually, so there was a lot of unwrapping and grinning involved.

I started in on the first one last night, THE AWAKENING. Even though it's from a period of Doctor Who that I saw a lot of, for some reason I've never seen this particular episode. It's filled with the kind of fun, pulpy prose that I grew up with, and I'm loving every minute of it.

But the tough part will be deciding which one to read next. Just wish I had a Roy Rogers strawberry milkshake to drink while I make up my mind.


John Hornor said...

I'm ashamed to admit, I'm a recent convert to Doctor Who. Netflix has the 2005 BBC version that you can stream to your desktop, so I've started with that.

I remember it being on PBS as a kid, the Doctor Who with the scarf, and I can't believe I didn't get into it. I remember thinking it wasn't as good as Star Trek - lower production quality, if that was possible.

My daughter, strangely, is really into the Doctor, and she's just 8. I realize, as we watch it together, that lots of folks die whenever the Doctor comes calling.

matthew dow smith said...

Yeah... never a good idea to be around when the blue box shows up. Something bad is pretty much bound to happen.

I never minded the lower production values on Doctor Who. I doubt I even noticed them until I was older. I just really responded to the ideas they were playing with. And I'm not ashamed to admit that they influenced a lot of the work I'm doing now.

As one of the few people who's read the opening to the Fade novel, you might have seen some echoes of Who in there.

There is, after all, a reason I wanted his father to wear an overcoat.

kkogrady said...

Happy Belated Birthday! The Roy ROgers is still there, but the toy store has turned into a video store (and I worked there briefly after you moved to Michigan...) You were talking about Cabin John Mall, right?

matthew dow smith said...

Yep. That's the one. Thanks, Kathy. Couldn't remember the name of it for the life of me.

Kind of sad the toy store isn't there, anymore. As you can tell, I have some fond memories of the place.

And I remember visiting a Roy Rogers while I was on a road trip a few years back and getting my traditional childhood meal only to find it tasted nowhere near as good as I remembered it.