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04 March 2010 @ 06:28 pm
Shelf Life  
Craig Hinton was one of the stable of Doctor Who authors nurtured by the Virgin Adventures and who then went on to write for the BBC books. His work was characterised by a love of continuity and an abundance, in some cases over-abundance, of links and connections to the wider Doctor Who universe. He died late in 2006 of a heart attack. Shelf Life (edited by Adrian Middleton, Jay Eales and David McIntee) is a memorial anthology of fan fiction published in aid of the British Heart Foundation.

The Shelf Life editors made a bold decision not to reject any submission they received for the anthology so, it must be said, I approached it with some caution. Fortunately, while the story quality does vary, there are no stinkers in there and I didn't resent spending my time reading any of them. It must be said though that its fairly clear that some of the authors put more effort into proof-reading their own work than others. Each author was given a chance to write a short piece introducing their story and remembering Craig. A very vivid picture of Hinton emerges as a result, of a man who was, it seems, outgoing, entertaining, generous and bitchy in equal measure. Many of the stories celebrate his love of continuity proferring theories on how disparate parts of the Whoniverse unite. What I found interesting, and probably fitting, was that the two stand out stories were Craig's own. The first, an examination of the nature of Kamelion I had read before but the second, a conversation between the Emperor Dalek and a Tardis I had not come across before. The interesting thing was that, while both were heavily continuity laden, they each had an emotional and tragic heart which was lent weight and resonance by the surrounding continuity. Continuity heavy stories are often (and often rightly) derided but I think these demonstrated that in the hands of an expert a continuity heavy story can be just as strong as something stand-alone.

There is far too much in the anthology to reasonably review each story individually. The work ranges from continuity heavy to continuity-light with an unsurprising emphasis (given Craig's own preferences) for the fifth and sixth Doctors. For legal reasons, all of it focuses on the "classic" series rather than NuWho. Some of the stories are definitely accessible to people with only a working knowledge of the Whoniverse but I suspect some of it may be rather impenetrable unless you are a cognoscenti. All that said, I think it succeeds pretty well in what it set out to do, to celebrate Craig's life and works and if you are at all interested in acquiring a Doctor Who fanthology, then this is a good one to get.