Where are all the women writing Doctor Who?


There has been a lot of talk recently about women in Doctor Who. With the recent announcement that Matt Smith will be bowing out (*sniff* He was the reason I become a New Who fangirl!), the blogosphere is alive with speculation about his replacement, with many fans putting forward suggestions for a female Doctor. But more importantly (to me), there was a big discussion a couple of months ago about the dearth of female writers in Doctor Who. It’s a situation not just confined to the television series, where there have been just two episodes  written by a woman since the new series began in 2005 (and not a single one since 2008), but also visible in the Big Finish audio productions and the related novels for the show.

Are women not fans of Doctor Who? Are women not capable of writing quality Doctor Who stories? Do women not WANT to write for Doctor Who? I’m pretty sure the answer to all those questions is well, no, of course not. When the issue was raised a couple of months ago, fingers were pointed and hands were raised all over the place by well-known and respected female authors saying they’d love to have a go at it. The very excellent non-fiction books Chicks Dig Time Lords (Mad Norwegian Press, 2010) and Chicks Unravel Time (Mad Norwegian Press, 2012) showcase a plethora of smart, well-versed women from a huge variety of media and writing backgrounds demonstrating a clear knowledge of Doctor Who and how it works. But how do we get these women, and other more than capable writers like them, noticed by the people producing the show (on TV, in audio and in book form)?

I reckon we need an anthology of Doctor Who short fiction, written by established and emerging female writers, that would clearly establish that yes, women want to write Doctor Who and yes, they are pretty darn good at it. I’d totally put my hand up for editing that! It could include writers (who are also fans) such as:

  • imagesKate Orman
  • Diane Duane
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Foz Meadows
  • Aliette de Bodard
  • Shona Husk
  • Glenda Larke
  • Jody Lynn Nye
  • Valerie Parv
  • Rachel Swirsky
  • Karen Miller
  • Catherynne M Valente
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • K Tempest Bradford
  • Emma Newman
  • Gayle Ramage
  • Jennifer Crusie

You may have heard of one or two of them… And that’s just as a starting point. There are dozens of quality writers I can think of after just cursory consideration (and a quick Twitter quiz!), and most likely dozens more who would jump at the opportunity, should it exist. What do you think? Which female authors would you like to see write for Doctor Who?

Tehani Wessely is an editor, publisher, teacher librarian and mum, not always in that order. You can find her on Twitter at @editormum75 or at fablecroft.com.au


4 Comments
  • David Golding

    1. Kate Orman (this can’t be emphasised enough: go read her seventh Doctor novels!)
    2. Catherine Tregenna (who wrote some spiffy episodes of Torchwood)
    3. Melissa Scott (sf/f novelist, e.g. Shadow Man)
    4. Jane Espenson (Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, Torchwood)
    5. Nalo Hopkinson (sf/f novelist, e.g. Salt Roads)

    • Kate Orman definitely rocks. Great suggestions!

  • greenspace01

    I would love to see tv eps and/or audio scripts written by Jane Espenson, Cath Staincliffe, Sally Wainwright, and Debra Oswald.

    and my wish-list for Doctor Who novels or short stories includes Nancy Kress, Jane Espenson, Justina Robson, Holly Black, Margo Lanagan, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Nalo Hopkinson, Charlaine Harris, Kate Forsyth, Cath Staincliffe, Melina Marchetta, Audrey Niffenegger, Kelly Link, Robin McKinley, Kate Atkinson… (and lots of the people you listed, Tehani)

    so far one out of the six short stories published monthly for the 50th anniversary has been by a woman (the sixth, to be by Richelle Mead). I hope that proportion improves.

  • Tehani, that’s a great list – and I’m glad to see Emma Newman’s name on there! You should run a kickstarter (or chat up a rich aunt) to get this thing off the ground. The imagination runs wild. Can you imagine what Ursula le Guin or Sherri Tepper would make of an assignment like this? [pauses to boggle] Anyway, it’s a terrific idea. Maybe, to start women writers hammering at the BBC’s door, what we really need is a female Doctor.



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