CNCC professor sees fiction as social history in new book |

CNCC professor sees fiction as social history in new book

Downtown Books hosts book signing for David Johnson's book about 'Doctor Who'

Sasha Nelson
David Johnson is surrounded by his family at the signing of his book at Downtown Book in Craig. From left, Jessica, David, Talia and William Johnson.
Sasha Nelson

— A deep love of Britain’s Victorian era is at the heart of David Johnson’s passion for modern 19th and 20th century European history.

It’s one of many classes he has taught for 5 years at Colorado Northwestern Community Collage.

“When I was very young I read Sherlock Holmes and fell in love with the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his Victorian London,” Johnson said. “My University history mentors convinced me that I could do more than just be passive. I could get out and actively write history.”

The idea of traveling through time to experience the day-to-day lives of the average person drew him to the British Broadcasting Network’s Doctor Who, a science fiction television series. The series follows the doctor as he travels across time using the tardis, a time machine disguised as a red telephone box.

Johnson’s book, “Madman in a Box: the Social History of Doctor Who” was published earlier this year. The book examines the BCC television series in an effort to understand the evolution of culture over the course of the 53 years that the program has aired.

“It’s the same program over that entire length of time so it is possible to study how social attitudes have shifted,” Johnson said.

Changing attitudes towards women and technology are particularly fascinating to Johnson. “I was watching Netflix re-runs and noticed the shift and thought what a neat way to consider social history, not from kings and wars, but from our history. It’s become it’s own time machine,” he said.

Readers such as Melanie McHuge Barclay of Browns Park are also captivated with the notion of using the TV show to better understand the past.

“I love science history and putting things in cultural context in powerful ways to better understand history,” she said.

Johnson started the book at the end of 2012, finished writing it in 2014 and sold it last spring to Telos, a publisher based in the United Kingdom.

His family has not always shared his love of Doctor Who; however, they support his work and were present at the book signing.

Johnson’s wife Talia hadn’t watched the show before marrying him, but he brought her up to speed.

Dressing the part of a Victorian gentleman, Johnson fancies himself a time traveler of sorts as he applies Victorian values to his modern life. Much like the fictional character Doctor Who, he’s got a small electronics laboratory where he tinkers with circuits. Who knows where it might take him.

Learn how to enroll in one of Johnson’s history classes by contacting CNCC. Copies his book are available at Downtown Books in Craig.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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