Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Craig Hinton (TM)

Prefect Slog
Craig Hinton passed away last weekend. I had to come to terms with a very personal loss this year, when my Mum died back in May and, truth to tell, I've probably not finished doing that yet. But it apparently hasn't toughened me up any and it hasn't remotely diluted the shock of first reading news of Craig in an email last Sunday night.
Craig was a friend, even though I can't claim to have known him that well. Mostly we knew each other through online contact, emails and mailing lists, or the likes of Outpost Gallifrey's Doctor Who forum. And that's one medium where you can gain impressions of people that could prove completely wrong - without all the 'extras' like facial expression and tone, you can communicate, but the chances of misunderstanding or misreading someone are pretty high. That said, it's true to say that Craig's emails and posts to mailing lists always conveyed a great deal of personality. A guy with that much character can't help having a colourful online presence.
And I'm glad to be able to say I did have the pleasure of meeting the man in person. Just the once, but it was in special circumstances and, quite beside that, it was pretty obvious from the start that this was a special sort of guy.
We were both due to attend the Gallifrey convention in LA and it turned out we were taking the same flight. So we chose our seats accordingly. I was nervous about flying, as well as - being a complete newbie to the whole convention experience - nervous about the adventure ahead. Craig was just concerned about getting through the umpteen-hour flight without a cigarette. I guess it's fair to say the both of us were expecting the flight to be hell.
We had such a laugh. Lengthy animated chats, fits of laughter and my first proper introduction (ah, I was so naive) to the soap-opera style behind the scenes world of Doctor Who. Craig was a consummate gossip, with a wickedly sparkling sense of humour and a brilliant line in bitchiness. Brilliant company all the way, and we both agreed it was a damn good flight that went pretty smoothly. Quite the opposite of what we expected.
The convention too was a dream, and I met a lot of great people there, had a lot of special times - not least of which was meeting my wife! And Craig was there throughout, shepherding me through the whole 'big n scary' convention experience. He was incredibly popular, that wit and charm firing on all cylinders, and always in demand with this group of fans or that group of authors, but he always had time for me and was always inclusive and making sure I was part of said groups and not an outsider, complete newbie though I was. It was like hanging around with a real celebrity, but one that happened to be your friend.
He also sought to shatter all my childhood illusions about the world of Doctor Who, armed with a host of horrifying tales that could traumatise a sensitive soul like me and change my perspective on a given celeb or element of the show forever. I'll never forget the saga of the Captain Yates/Queen Spider dioramas. The less said in public the better, I suppose, but it left an image emblazoned on my mind that still gives rise to fits of laughter.
And as if that wasn't enough, then there was the journey home. Another long flight ahead, but this time I was looking forward to it. As luck would have it, we ended up travelling with Nev Fountain - another witty charmer! - and the hours flew by with even more thoroughly entertaining chat. And more fits of laughter.
The whole experience was a blast and one I will never forget. And Craig was a constant presence, and a bright constant throughout. I remember it was shortly after his Sixth Doctor book, Synthespians(TM), had come out and it had met with a popular response and I know Craig was - rightly - chuffed about that. He was getting a lot of praise for it from admiring fans at the convention. Of course, it's not much of a spoiler by now to say that it featured the dreaded Autons, but one thing we discovered between us was that we had both submitted Auton proposals at around the same time. We traded synopses and had a read, and I was appropriately miffed that his had won out - it's only natural :) - but we had a good laugh about it and he was entirely gracious. And when it came to writing the novel, he went to the trouble of working in some background stuff for the character of Peri that I had explored in Shell Shock. And I know that he was, according to the T-shirt he wore with pride at the convention, the Fanwank God (resplendently styled after the Doctor Who TVM logo), but it was still flattering that he bothered with my little contribution to continuity.
It reminds me now, as I write this, that he was one of the first to welcome me when I first ventured tentatively onto the Outpost Gallifrey forum, and very soon after he was emailing me in private to say how much he had enjoyed Drift. He was also the one to invite me onto mailing lists where I was introduced to a community of authors and fans I'd never have otherwise met. As I say we stayed in touch via emails and those mailing lists. It was infrequent and irregular, and he'd go quiet for sometimes lengthy periods, but you'd just know he'd pop up sooner or later with an update on what he'd been up to, what had been happening in his life - unfortunately, too often they'd be difficulties and hard times life was happening to throw at him - but, as with the convention, he was a constant. Even if an irregular one. ;)
The last time he emailed me, he was sending words of support and encouragement through my own difficult times, and that despite going through some of his own. There was some of his wonderful bitchiness, and there were laughs too. A little bit, I guess, of everything that I knew characterised him. I never knew it was his last email to me of course, but I easily recognised it for what it was: a message from a friend. A friend who would always insist, when writing of Synthespians, on including the (TM). And a friend who definitely warrants the same honour. So here's to you, Craig Hinton (TM). One of a kind. Thanks, mate.


Askinstoo said...
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Askinstoo said...
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