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Interview: Craig Hinton

First Published:
Sonic Screwdriver #88

Publish Date:
January 1995

Comments:
Craig went back on his promise at the end. No taste.

Craig Hinton is no doubt a name known to our readers. With his Missing Adventure The Crystal Bucephalus out last month, his regular reviewing spot in Doctor Who Magazine, and a newly commissioned Missing Adventure for next year, he’s certainly in the spotlight. So we asked for (and got!) an interview with him…

Craig Paul Hinton was born in London in 1964. He went to Warwick University, which should sound familiar to the more attentive Sonic Screwdriver readers out there — fellow Who authors Andy Lane and Justin Richards also attended at the same time. He graduated with a degree in Maths in 1985, and worked as a programmer and then as a technical author for IBM until December 30th 1994, when he was made redundant (to use his description). He describes himself as ‘5’10, tubby, and bearded (I resemble a large teddy bear) and enjoy cooking and reading X-Men comics.’ Whether he likes tap-dancing as he cooks, as Gareth Roberts supposedly does, was not ascertained…

To complete the standard profile: his favourite story is The Curse of Fenric. ‘It’s got the lot. The Doctor’s betrayal of Ace is the most moving moment in the series’ history.’ Companion? ‘Kamelion… no, seriously, Ace or Sarah-Jane. Used to be Tegan until I had the misfortune of meeting Janet Fielding…’ While we were on the topic of comparing characters and their actors, he added ‘Haven’t really got a fave Doctor. All of them have their highs and lows. Don’t like Hartnell very much, though. Homophobic, racist and anti-semitic: wonderfully tolerant qualities for the Doctor, eh?’

Outside of Who, he likes Kate Bush, Nirvana and Blur; Larry Niven, Greg Bear, Dan Simmons and Arthur Conan Doyle; and his hero is ‘Jean-Luc Picard… how sad of me!’

I asked him how’d he got into fandom, and his progress to the stage he was now at. The epic went such: ‘When I started at Warwick Uni, I soon met two other Doctor Who fans… Justin Richards and Andy Lane. Through them I met Gary Russell and the whole pantheon of UK Doctor Who fans. I spent many long nights writing fan-fiction, but nothing ever got published. But a lot of articles were published in fanzines, so I got a reputation as an article-writer. I started reviewing Star Trek books for DWB and also contributing a fair number of articles about Doctor Who. Then I started reviewing the NAs for TV Zone. Then I was asked if I wanted to take over Shelf-Life for DWM, and then TV Zone asked me to take over as Star Trek book reviewer. And then Virgin rejected my NA, Cascade (it had the Valeyard in it). And then they accepted The Crystal Bucket… so that’s how it happened.’

I’d heard The Crystal Bucket was originally a New Adventure — with Benny becoming Turlough (the witty companion) while Ace mutated somehow into Tegan. I asked Craig (Craggles to his friends) about this. ‘Yep — but only for the first five chapters. At home I have 60,000 words of Doctor Who: The New Adventures — The Crystal Bucephalus. And it is very, very different. Telepathic dolphins, carnivorous insects infesting the Time Vortex… Rebecca suggested that I change it so that it would be published quicker (they were full-up with NAs and short of MAs.) As it turned out, it wouldn’t have made much difference. The outline went through three complete rewrites before it was accepted, but I’d already written 50,000 words of it when it was formally commissioned. Rather different from Millennial Rites, which has been commissioned and only 3000 words exist! (Indeed, I handed over the first draft of the first half of Crystal Bucket before it was formally accepted!).’

My favourite bit in the book had been the Cyberman politely asking Turlough to let him pass so as to get to the toilet! (For those who haven’t read the book yet, it’s set way in the future!) I asked how he’d got bits of potentially limiting continuity like this (it seems every race ever mentioned in Who got a mention!) through. ‘Virgin wanted me to cut that scene out, you know. Rebecca gave me a free hand with continuity — it is a story set in the Anniversary Season, so it sort of fitted in. I could have taken every continuity reference out and it wouldn’t actually have made any difference to the plot! The main difficulty with writing it was trying to hold down a full-time job at the same time. Not a problem I’ll have with the next one! But it was an exhausting process, and demanded a hell of a lot of discipline.’

I asked him about his original, rejected Missing Adventure ‘Cascade’ — the Valeyard story. They were impressed by the writing style, and asked me to submit something else. By this time, of course, I was dealing with Virgin as part of writing Shelf-Life (I thoroughly enjoy it, and it’s great reading the books months before they hit the shops. Except when I have to review total drivel! The only drawback is that I don’t get a lot of time to read anything apart from Star Trek and Doctor Who.) Cascade was useful practice, and elements of it will definitely surface again. Some have already surfaced in Millennial Rites…’ He’s also let slip that we should be looking forward to the Great Intelligence returning…

So, given his role at DWM as New Adventure and Missing Adventure reviewer, what does he think of them, overall? ‘The quality of the NAs and MAs is generally quite high. My faves are The Highest Science, Falls the Shadow and Original Sin; and Venusian Lullaby and The Romance of Crime.’ Oh, thanks a lot — talk about putting us all in suspense till Original Sin and The Romance of Crime come out! Unlike Andy Lane, he wouldn’t be that embarrassed to read any of them on the train. ‘Except perhaps Iceberg… (IMHO, the worst of the lot).’

(Andy tells me he’s read his recent Sonic Screwdrivers on the train. Quotes Andy, ‘It depends on the fanzine, but generally, if the cover’s not too embarrassing and there’s nobody looking over your shoulder, fanzines are better.’) But back to Craggles…

’There are some extremely talented writers writing them, and I expect Dan O’Mahoney and Kate Orman to be very, very famous one day.

And what does he expect of himself one day? ‘The future? To be a famous author! In ten years’ time, I’d like to have written five Doctor Whos, a handful of Star Trek books, and have written one of Marvel’s mutant titles. I’d also like to be a full-time author, rather than part time. I’d also like to have a career writing non-SF books. Not a lot to ask, is it?’

And for the more immediate part of his life: having left IBM, Craig is getting himself a PowerMac. I’m jealous, but I appreciate his good taste. Here’s to that future!

(Special thanks to Craig for taking time to give this interview on his very last day at IBM, when no doubt he had far too many things to do!)

End of Interview

Here’s the list of the Doctor Who interviews available here:
Andy Lane
Craig ‘Craggles’ Hinton
Evan Hercules
Kate Orman
Trevor Martin & Christopher Benjamin
→ Or just head back to the Doctor Who Index


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This page last updated by David J Richardson on Wed, 8 Jan 2003.