INTERVIEW: Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas, Editors of “Queers Dig Time Lords”
Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas are the editors of Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It , the latest in a series of books of essays on genre from Mad Norwegian Press.
I sat down to ask Sigrid and Michael about themselves, and the book.
Paul Weimer: Who are Michael Damian Thomas and Sigrid Ellis? And how did you meet?
Sigrid Ellis: When asked, I tell people I am an air traffic controller, editor, writer, and geeky queer partnered poly homeschooling parent. I really like comics, kale chips, and sleep.
Michael Damian Thomas: People probably know me best from my wife Lynne M. Thomas’s Hugo Award acceptance speeches.
I am the caregiver for our daughter who has a rare congenital disorder called Aicardi syndrome. I’m also a writer and editor who often works with Lynne (I’ve been her not-so-secret assistant for years). I was an associate editor for Mad Norwegian Press on numerous books (including Lynne’s and Tara O’Shea’s Hugo Award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords), and I’m currently nominated for a Best Semiprozine Hugo Award due to my role as the managing editor of Apex Magazine (with Lynne and Jason Sizemore).
As for Sigrid and me, we met in high school at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. (We were there at the same time as author Ramez Naam.) Many years later, I reconnected with Sigrid at different Midwestern SF conventions. Sigrid hit it off with my wife, and they ended up co-editing the Hugo-nominated Chicks Dig Comics (I was the associate editor).
PW: How did you get interested in Doctor Who? Who was your first Doctor?
SE:I got into Doctor Who with the return — with Eccleston, Piper, and the Ninth Doctor. Doctor Who is something I’d been hearing about for all my geek life, but I’d never figured out where or how people got into such a dense canon. (I’m an X-Men fan from way back, I know about dense canon!)
When I heard that they were continuing the show, but making it easy for new viewers, I leaped at the chance. Eccleston completely won me over, and I’ve been watching ever since.
MDT: I started watching Doctor Who on June 16, 1985, on WTTW Chicago (the BroaDWcast website is handy for such pedantic details). I was 10 and completely sucked in by the first episode of Tom Baker’s “Genesis of the Daleks”. The grit, humor, adventure, and general weirdness fascinated me.
I became a fan on July 4th, 1987. I had just moved to a new suburb and didn’t have many friends. Some acquaintances of my mother were fans, and brought me to see the Doctor Who USA Tour at Navy Pier in Chicago. This was a traveling trailer filled with Doctor Who props and costumes that went from city to city in the USA for a couple of years during the 80s heyday. It had a Dalek! A Cyberman! Bessie! K9! An..um..Ergon… Did I mention the Cyberman?
I bought a laminated Tom Baker poster and a badge there (the first pieces of my collection). From that point on, I watched every story I could on PBS.
In the 90s, I wandered off and did the things people do in their 20s. I didn’t come back until the Paul McGann movie on May 14, 1996. It reinvigorated that fannish part of my brain to the point that I started going to conventions. I also struck a deal with my then fiance. If I quit smoking, I was allowed to use that money to buy Doctor Who videos and memorabilia. 17 years and one full “dining room” of collectibles later…
PW: Queers Dig Time Lords is the fifth in the “Dig” series, following Chicks Dig Time Lords, Chicks Unravel Time, Whedonistas and Chicks Dig Comics. How did you two get involved with this iteration of the series?
SE:Well, Lynne Thomas asked me to be a part of Chicks Dig Comics. That was a great experience for me — I learned a lot, and I am very pleased with the result. Chicks Dig Comics is, in fact, nominated for a Hugo Award this year!
It seems that Lars Pearson, the publisher of Mad Norwegian Press, agreed that I did good work on Chicks Dig Comics. At — I think it was C2E2 last year? — at C2E2, he asked if I was interested in another project. A few possible titles were bandied about, but later that summer he invited me to edit Queers Dig Time Lords.
I said yes, on the condition that Michael be my co-editor.
MDT:I was the associate editor of Chicks Dig Time Lords, Whedonistas, and Chicks Dig Comics and played a part in developing the format with Tara O’Shea, Lynne, Deborah Stanish, Sigrid, and publisher Lars Pearson.
After Chicks Dig Time Lords launched at the Gallifrey One convention, podcaster Erik Stadnik started to advocate for a version that represented the LGBTQ community. He pitched Queers Dig Time Lords to Lars, but Erik didn’t want to edit it. Lars put it on the pile of possibilities until he later asked Sigrid if she was interested.
I was honored and a little nervous when Sigrid asked me to be her co-editor. I thought the book needed to exist, and I loved working with Sigrid on Chicks Dig Comics. Though I knew I could do it, I wasn’t publicly out at the time. I have some majorly homophobic family members who had been occasionally helping with my daughter’s care. (Caitlin eats through a feeding tube and isn’t ambulatory, so it’s hard for us to find help and respite.)
After some thought and discussions with Lynne, I decided that I wanted to do the project due to its importance. I was also tired of hiding my identity as a genderqueer pansexual. We lost the help anyway, but I am so happy to have my name on this book.
PW: I am stunned and amazed by the diversity of names and voices that you two managed to wrangle for Queers Dig Time Lords. How did you get such enthusiastic (and in many cases, very personal) participation?
SE: Well, personal participation is a hallmark of the series, as it were. We’re up front with people – we want a personal essay. The fact that they choose to do so, choose to participate with these stories of love, loss, bullying, acceptance — that’s pretty much a gift.
As for how we got them — Michael, do you want to tell him that part?
The short answer is we asked.
When we started the project, we made a list of potential writers. Some we’d worked with in the past, others we knew of, and still others were recommended to us by different colleagues. We wanted contributors with diverse viewpoints and backgrounds plus a certain amount of balance in genders, ages, and nationalities. It was also extremely important to us to make sure that as many aspects of the LGBTQ community as possible were represented.
Thanks to the success of the Geek Girl Guide books series, we had no trouble finding amazing contributors who wanted to be a part of the project. We couldn’t be happier with the phenomenal group who said yes.
PW: Previous success and interest in the series, opening doors. Indeed. In reading this anthology, I was constantly surprised and found new perspectives and modes of thought of thinking about Doctor Who, episodes and characters. As the editors, are there particular perspectives, or points of view, that were surprising to you?
SE: I can’t say I was surprised by any particular view, in large part because we were hoping for diversity. Every time something came into my email, I was hoping that it would be new and different! And, I’ve been in fandom a long time. Not Doctor Who fandom specifically, but fandom. If there is any point that can be raised, fans will disagree about it!
On the other hand, certain essays were completely new to me. I didn’t know much about DW fandom during the Wilderness Years, and I learned a great deal about it from our contributors.
MDT: As a person who has some experiences with many different aspects of Doctor Who fandom, I wasn’t necessarily surprised by the points of view. I was giddy, however, that we achieved such a wonderfully contradictory book. For every essay extolling the RTD era for its queerness, there’s another lamenting how it’s more heteronormative than the original series. For every person who claims they didn’t feel that the original series was a particularly queer show, there’s somebody else who talks about all of the subtexts they found when they first viewed it. We often put those essays next to each other in order to highlight the contrasts. For instance, Paul F. Cockburn’s claims of Pertwee being the most heterosexual Doctor are followed by Amal El-Mohtar’s analysis of the sexual tension between Pertwee’s Doctor and Delgado’s Master.
I love that this book demonstrates that there isn’t one true way to watch Doctor Who as an LGBTQ viewer.
PW: How did you two divide the editing duties?
SE:A lot of collaboration, a lot of checking in and communicating — a lot of working together!
MDT:What Sigrid said.
We developed the list of authors together. Once we had our writers, we split the list in half for communication purposes (it works better if a writer has a go-to editor), and for developmental purposes. One of us would do the initial edit on an essay, and then the other one would give the essay a secondary pass. We talked about every decision, and usually edited each other’s emails before they were sent out. Sigrid handled most of the communication with the publisher, and I developed the order of the essays. We really had a great working relationship with each other. We were almost always on the same page and had no major disagreements. Sigrid is a pleasure to work with.
PW: You’re sitting at home, or at work, when you hear the sound of the Tardis engines. The Doctor is here to give you a trip of a lifetime. Which of the eleven Doctors comes out of the Tardis to make you that offer? And where would you have him take you?
SE: I have the most depressing answer to that! If I ever hear the Tardis, I don’t much care which Doctor it is. I run to the doors, and I beg The Doctor, or whoever answers it, to take my kids and hide them inside the Tardis until whatever awful thing that is about to happen is over.
The Tardis noise means that something terrible, something dangerous and possibly planet-threatening is coming. Inside the Tardis is the only place I can think of where my kids would be safe.
And if I am one of the countless dead by collateral damage, dropped off a roof or suffocated or buried in lava or upgraded, then I hope that the Doctor and his Companions take my kids to a few nice places before finding them a good home.
I never, ever want to hear the Tardis.
MDT: My Doctor is the seventh Doctor. Since I’m a pathetic fanboy, I would probably ask him to help me recover all of the missing Doctor Who episodes from the 60s. After that, I guess we should save a planet or something.
PW: With Queers Dig Time Lords coming out imminently, what’s next for you? And where can our readers find out more about you and your other work?
SE: As for my next venture, I’m editing a project entirely new to me — the comic Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios, from Image Comics next year.
MDT: My next project is an anthology called Glitter & Mayhem that I co-edited with John Klima and Lynne M. Thomas. It’s a phenomenal nightclub/roller derby/nightlife/debauchery anthology from Apex Publications. We’re launching it at Worldcon in San Antonio. I’m also still the Managing Editor of Apex Magazine, the wonderful Hugo-nominated SF/F/H online magazine.
I am just so pleased to have been involved with Queers Dig Time Lords. I had the opportunity to work with amazing writers like Tanya Huff, Melissa Scott, Paul Magrs, Gary Russell, and so many others, There are essays by authors like Hal Duncan and Rachel Swirsky that I think will just blow people away. And we have an introduction by John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman! Captain Jack wrote something for a book I co-edited! I still can’t wrap my head around that.
PW: Thank you, Michael and Sigrid!
Filed under: Interviews
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