April Books 33) Deadly Download, by Jason Arnopp

I’m glad to see that despite the sad loss of Elisabeth Sladen there remains a certain amount of Sarah Jane material for me to absorb, even before the BBC decide what to do with the already filmed material for the fifth series. This is a cracking good yarn, told (like all the SJA audios) by Sladen as SJS in the first person, about an alien menace which controls people by persuading them to download it. That basically tells you all you need to know; a neat little parable for our times, with decent character time for both Sarah and Luke (less so for Clyde and Rani), nicely produced and generally satisfactory.

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Taxi conversation

Me: The city’s changed a fair bit in the last thirty years.

Driver: It surely has. (Indicates the junction of Ormeau Road and Donegall Pass.) See them traffic lights? In 1973 I rammed through them lights and slammed on the brakes, because there was two men pointing a gun at my head. They called me up from the depot at [St] George’s Market, cause they knew they’d get a Catholic taxi driver that way, and then they pointed a gun at my head and told me to take them to Sandy Row for my ‘last drink’. But I slammed on the brakes – lucky I had a seat belt, not every car had one back then – and the lad with the gun went through the windscreen, and his mate in the back got out the car and they both legged it, leaving the gun just lying there in the middle of the road. I never heard nothing back from the police, I don’t believe they ever investigated it.

Me (somewhat gobsmacked): And you kept up driving taxis ever since?

Driver: No, after that I couldn’t do it any more; my nerves couldn’t take it. I only started on the taxis again five years ago, I was driving lorries for years. But it’s a lonely life, and I was smoking too many cigarettes cos there’s nothing else to do in the cab of the lorry all day. That’ll be £5.20, sir, enjoy the weather, looks like it’s a smashing day.

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April Books 32) More Short Trips, edited by Stephen Cole

Another of the late 1990s BBC anthologies of short stories about the first eight Doctors. Standouts for me: “64 Carlisle Street”, by Gary Russell, featuring the First Doctor, Steven and Dodo; “Special Weapons”, by Paul Leonard, with Mel and the Seventh Doctor; and “Good Companions” by Peter Anghelides, featuring Tegan and a future Doctor with red hair. Wooden spoon to Gareth Roberts, whose “Return of the Spiders” with the Fourth Doctor, K9 and Romana is really awful; Roberts can do much better than this and usually does.

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April Books 31) Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence

One of those famous books which I had never actually read – I did leaf through Hunt Emerson’s graphic novel adaptation a few years back but wasn’t really engaged, and actually my memory is that he gets one very important part of the story completely wrong, which is that Sir Clifford Chatterley is only a few years older than the young Lady Chatterley.

It is a good book – Constance, stuck in a hasty marriage with a man who has been disabled in the war, finds lust and then love with Mellors, the gamekeeper; she basically grows out of the role that society (embodied in her sister rather then her father, who is somewhat subversive for a knight of the realm) and heads for what is practically a happy ending. The world has moved on from the 1920s, of course, and it’s largely a social parable of its time, but memorable for all that. I was impressed that Constance had had a number of lovers before Mellors came along; I was also struck by Lawrence’s rather negative portrayal of the Irish characters (all Trinity graduates, no doubt).

It seems a bit weird from the viewpoint of 2011 to think that this book was once considered too obscene to publish in the United Kingdom and various other jurisdictions. The jarring use of language for today’s reader is actually not the explicit sex but Mellors’ conscious affectation of Derbyshire dialect; I think attitudes towards speech patterns have now changed to the extent that this would seem patronising both from the author and from the character in a book published today. The obscenities can be found in any bookshop, or many corners of the internet, and are not really shocking at all.

Anyway, glad I finally read this at last.

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Whoniversaries 30 April

i) broadcast anniversaries

30 April 1966: broadcast of “A Holiday for the Doctor”, first episode of the story we now call The Gunfighters. The Doctor, Steven and Dodo arrive in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881 in search of a dentist.

30 April 2005: broadcast of Dalek. The Doctor and Rose encounter a captive Dalek in 2012 America.

30 April 2011: broadcast of Day of the Moon.

ii) date almost specified in canon

30 April, some time in the 1970s: most of the events of The Dæmons (1971).

Two more months to go of this project. I’m very grateful to David Haddock for suggesting a way of making it a permanent installation with Google Calendar; would be glad of any further offers of help in making it happen!

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Whoniversaries 29 April

broadcast anniversaries

29 April 1967: broadcast of fourth episode of The Faceless Ones. Jamie gets on a Chameleon plane, which is duly captured by the aliens.

29 April 1972: broadcast of fourth episode of The Mutants. The Marshal plans to bombard Solos with ionising rockets; Varan and his men prevent him but the Skybase is damaged.

29 April 2006: broadcast of School Reunion. The Tenth Doctor unexpectedly meets Sarah Jane Smith, thirty years on. (Sob!)

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April Books 30) Tintin and Alph-Art

Another lesser-known Tintin book, this time from the exact opposite end of Hergé’s career: this is the story he was working on when he died in 1983. It is a strange and convoluted tale – Captain Haddock wakes from a nightmare, goes shopping and almost accidentally buys a giant plastic letter H, a piece of a new sculpture style called ‘Alph-Art’ (hence the title of the book); mysteriously dead art experts and a new age cult which may be led by Rastapopoulos in disguise bring Tintin and Captain Haddock to an island near Naples, where Tintin is captured by the bad guys and told that he will be drowned in liquid plastic and put on display as a sculpture by the (fictional) artist César. He tries to send a message to Captain Haddock via Snowy, but then the guards come for him:

“Come on, it’s time to turn you into a ‘César’.”

And that’s the end of the Adventures of Tintin; he faces the dreadful fate of being transformed into an icon for the ages.

It’s fairly obvious what would have happened if Hergé had lived to finish the story – our hero will escape thanks to his friends, and it’s also clear that the bad guys are planning a reunion of a lot of incidental characters from previous books, some from a very long time ago. The book already features Bianca Castafiore, Professor Calculus, Jolyon Wagg, Thomson and Thompson and the Emir of Khedad and his horrible little son Abdullah. It’s also fairly clear that the book would have needed a good bit of revision – there’s an inconsistency in the plot between whether the art gallery is bugged with a reel-to-reel tape recorder (which would already have been old-fashioned at the time of writing) or via a high-tech microphone hidden in Mrs Vandezande’s jewel. (By coincidence, a Mr Vandezande has been the mayor of our village since the last local government reform in 1976.) but the germ of a good if not great Tintin story is already there.

We also get some of Hergé’s rough drafts for ways the story might have gone: drugs conspiracies based in Amsterdam, Captain Haddock’s change of personality, various options for bringing back some fairly obscure names from the past. Hergé clearly saw this as a final volume, and perhaps it’s better to have it preserved in mid-thought, rather than some slightly synthetic confection of a final product; Edwin Drood and Sunset at Blandings are not bad precedents.

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Doctor Who Experience

If you are in or near London tomorrow and wanting to avoid the television for any reason, I can heartily recommend the Doctor Who Experience at Kensington Olympia, who are offering “a limited number of tickets” at the knockdown rate of £4.29 per person. There’s an excellent multimedia show which lasts for about half an hour, then a decent exhibition covering both Old and New Who (including the authentic Tardis exterior and console from the 1980s). It’s worth the standard £20, just about. (I can’t see how to book the cheap tickets on the website; probably you’d have to phone them.)

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April Books 29) Kuifje in Amerika / Tintin in America

This is one of the three pre-war Tintin books which are not in general circulation in English, and for fairly good reason; it’s not all that good. Tintin goes to America in 1931, briefly captures Al Capone (who was still just about at liberty in real life at that stage), is himself captured by the Blackfoot tribe, and then has a series of unlikely and disjointed adventures ending with him rolling up the entire Chicago Syndicate of Gansters and sent back to Belgium as a hero. The only African-Americans in the book (at least in the current version) are lynched off-screen (apparently even this is omitted in the English translation), and the Blackfoot are kicked off their land because Tintin discovers oil on it; Hergé is at least offering a critique of racism, though not a very elegant one. It’s interesting as a fore-runner of the much better stuff to come. It’s a very long time since I last read Cigars of the Pharaoh, the next album in sequence, but my memory is that it is a massive upshift in quality and coherence compared with this.

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2011 Hugo Award for Best Short Story

This year’s Hugo shortlist for the Best Short Story category is rather easy to digest – there are only four nominees (presumably there was a multiple tie for fifth place among the nominations), all of them are already available online, and one of them is very short indeed; to further simplify matters I had already read one which had been nominated for the BSFA award. Since I’m spending a few days horizontal and unable to concentrate on anything of great length, I have formulated my views as follows:

4) "Amaryllis", by Carrie Vaughn. Nice enough writing style, but the plot is simply that the bloke in charge of weighing the fishing catch is cheating, against the background of a society where fertility has been restricted; I didn’t spot any connection between plot and setting (perhaps there is one and I’m not alert enough to notice it right now) and didn’t think the setting, which is the more interesting bit, was sufficiently developed. Not a bad story per se but three out of four BSFA nominees (and three our of four Hugo nominees) are much better.

3) "Ponies", by Kij Johnson. A brilliant, but horrible, very short story about little girls mutilating their familiar spirits as a rite of passage. On a literary level it may well be the best of the nominees (edited to add: and won the Nebula), but I somehow wasn’t in the frame of mind to appreciate tales of bits being cut off defenceless creatures.

2) "The Things", by Peter Watts. I put this top of my BSFA ballot, but forgot about it when it came to Hugo nominations. It’s a re-telling of John Carpenter’s film The Thing from the point of view of the Thing itself, and convincingly conveys the alien entity’s disgust with humanity, and its own efforts to work out what is actually going on make an effective counterpoint to the efforts of the humans to defeat it.

1) "For Want of a Nail", by Mary Robinette Kowal. A memorable story about a rogue AI which goes rogue for the best of motives, protecting its closest human friend from the ruthless euthanasia laws of his society, told from the point of view of the young relative who exposes them. I normally hate cute robots – and the fact that this one is called Cordelia did not help – but I found this a strong contrast with, say, "Amaryllis" in that plot and setting are intertwined and explored in the best sfnal tradition.

I’ll be happy enough as long as "Amaryllis" doesn’t win, but my vote goes to Kowal.

(Previous Hugo category write-up: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.)

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I’ve had a rather horizontal and painful week so far. I referred a bit cryptically the other day to a minor but inconvenient medical complaint: this was a swollen haemorrhoid, which I’ve suffered from a couple of times before, so I knew the drill: take the pills, slather on the ointment, and it gets better in a week or so.

However, this time it didn’t work like that; though things improved as I had expected over the course of last week, it suddenly seemed to get worse over Easter weekend, and when I went to see the doctor on Tuesday morning, her sharp intake of breath as she inspected the affected area told me that I wasn’t malingering. She scheduled me for surgery as quickly as possible, which turned out to be yesterday afternoon.

Well, any procedure that starts with sharp needles filled with anaesthetic being stuck into a bit of you that is already swollen and sore is an unpleasant experience. That was bad enough; what was worse was that after I got home, I realised I was still bleeding very badly from the wound (no stitches, given where it is), and had to go back to the hospital again for further treatment (yet more sharp needles in sensitive places).

Anyway, I’m staying firmly horizontal today and working my way through the Hugo-nominated films – I don’t even have the concentration to read much, which is a bit alarming. But I do already feel better than I did this time yesterday, let alone last night. Still, ow ow ow.

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Whoniversaries 28 April

i) births and deaths

28 April 1977: death of Anthony Coburn, who wrote An Unearthly Child (1963) and the never-produced story The Masters of Luxor.

i) broadcast anniversaries

28 April 1973: broadcast of fourth episode of Planet of the Daleks. The Doctor and Jo are reunited, and the Thals disagree about how to tackle the Daleks.

28 April 2007: broadcast of Evolution of the Daleks. The Daleks’ experiments are destroyed by the Doctor and Dalek Caan escapes.

ii) date specified in canon

28 April 2008: Martha Jones and Sarah Jane Smith are killed on the Moon, in the negated timeline in Turn Left (2008)

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The Case of the Virgin Birth

I usually spend about ten seconds every morning looking at Wikipedia’s death notices, on the basis that roughly once a year I find out from there that someone I knew, or knew of, has passed away. This morning, however, I discovered the story of the 4th Baron Ampthill, who owed his seat in the House of Lords to his mother successfully arguing (the House of Lords overruling a jury verdict against her on a technicality) that she had had a ten-month pregnancy while still a virgin. (The Daily Telegraph, inevitably, has even more juicy details.)

On the one hand, one has to feel sorry for the young Geoffrey Russell, who was best known for most of his life – particularly his childhood – because of the very public dispute between his supposed parents about the circumstances of his conception. This was quite literally the kind of case for which privacy laws were written. Whatever one may think of the current fuss about superinjunctions (and to be honest, I can’t really maintain a lot of excitement about Andrew Marr’s private life, or see how the public interest is in any way served by reporting it), it’s surely fairly obvious that it is right to restrict reporting of the gory details of divorce cases where there are young children involved. My impression, though I don’t know for sure, is that in Belgium things are a bit calmer because of the right to privacy enshrined in article 22 of the Constitution. (Though we still get ludicrously obsessive coverage of murder trials and the like.)

On the other hand, it’s completely indefensible and utterly absurd that, purely because his supposed father was unable to disprove his mother’s story of a virgin ten-month pregnancy, Mr Russell was able to sit in the parliament of the United Kingdom as the legislator Lord Ampthill from 1973 until he died a few days ago. I’m sure he was a terribly nice chap and all that, but there are a lot of terribly nice chaps and chapesses out there who would have done at least as good a job. I’m a sceptic on some of the current ideas for House of Lords reform, but cannot see any argument for retaining any hereditary element at all.

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Whoniversaries 27 April

i) births and deaths

27 April 1963 (incorrectly recorded here earlier this month as 17 April): birth of Russell T. Davies, head writer and executive producer of the first five years of New Who (2005-10) and author of Virgin New Adventure Damaged Goods (1996).

ii) broadcast anniversary

27 April 1968: broadcast of first episode of The Wheel in Space. The Tardis lands on a deserted spaceship; the controller of the nearby Wheel prepares to destroy it.

27 April 1974: broadcast of sixth episode of The Monster of Peldon. The Ice Warriors are defeated and the miners are reconciled with the Queen.

iii) date specified in canon

27 April 1986 or 1987: birth of Rose Tyler.

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Bill Craig, 1924-2011

The former Unionist politician, Bill Craig, has died at the age of 86; see standard and surprisingly brief obituaries, no doubt written twenty years ago, by the BBC (with bonus video), the News Letter, the Belfast Telegraph, and the Guardian. Craig last won an election in 1975, wound up his political party in 1978 and fought his last election in 1982, and from the brevity of the obituaries so far (we may get more from the right-wing London papers) has clearly been written out of the standard summary of Northern Irish history.

But he was, for good or ill (let’s be clear – mostly for ill), a more important figure than that. We remember the DUP as having been historically the junior of the two Unionist parties until they overtook the UUP a few years ago; but from the mid-1970s perspective, the DUP were level pegging not with the UUP but with Craig’s Vanguard movement/party. In the 1973 Assembly election, Craig won seven seats to Paisley’s eight; in both of the 1974 Westminster elections, he won his own seat in East Belfat, Robert Bradford’s in South Belfast and John Dunlop’s in Mid Ulster, three to Paisley’s one; and in the Convention election of 1975, though Vanguard polled slightly less than the DUP, they won 14 seats to the DUP’s 12. Perhaps significantly, it’s difficult to rate the party’s performance at the 1973 local council elections, as many councillors elected as ‘Loyalists’ or ‘Unionists’ seem to have drifted in and out of Vanguard; other parties were more disciplined about who was in and who was out.

Craig was, however, clearly better at the tactics than the strategy. Having played a key role in provoking confrontation with Nationalists in the 1960s and in rousing the Loyalist masses to bring down both the original Stormont in 1972 and the power-sharing executive in 1974, he allowed himself to be trapped by Paisley as an apparent compromiser at the Convention in 1976, and Vanguard split, Craig carrying a minority with him (his deputy leader being one David Trimble) while the more hardline majority group, naming itself (with no apparent irony) the United Ulster Unionist Party, was led by the former Vanguard deputy leader Ernest Baird (with Reg Empey as its own deputy leader). Neither faction did well in the 1977 council elections, the UUUP winning a mere 12 seats out of 526 and Vanguard only 5; Craig and Trimble wound up Vanguard and rejoined the UUP at that point, while the UUUP staggered on until 1984. Both Trimble and Empey went on to lead the UUP; Baird died back in 2003, and Craig last weekend. 

For all its rather unpleasantly uniformed thuggish glamour, Vanguard was in some ways a broad church, and Craig himself was a bit of an internationalist. His wife was German, and taught her native language to adults at QUB (her students including both my father and James O’Fee, whose mother had served as a Vanguard councillor). Craig campaigned in favour of the UK staying in the European Economic Community (as it then was) in the 1975 referendum, and was nominated as one of the UK delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from 1977 until he lost his East Belfast seat (to Peter Robinson, by 64 votes) in the 1979 election. Back in the 1970s, neither Ulster Unionists nor Westminster Tories had yet become hypnotised by the sterile nationalism and Euro-phobia that both are obsessed with today, and there was a Unionist worldview that quite sincerely saw no inconsistency between fighting off Rome Rule at home and collaboration with European allies abroad. In fairness, Irish nationalism was a very different thing back then as well.

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Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

It’s a little startling to discover that I have actually got through an entire category of this year’s Hugo nominations already. For the last few years, the Doctor Who episodes which made the shortlist shared their billing with episodes from other TV shows which I had not seen; this year, the two extras are a 15 minute animated film and a YouTube video, so I can jump right in and allocate my votes.

5) Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury. This is a joyous celebration of fandom and of the life of one of the great survivors of sf. I loved it and am glad it has been nominated, but I will give it only my fifth preference. I am enough of a diehard Who fan to rank the Who episodes higher, and much though I enjoyed this, I don’t think it represents the best of short form dramatic sf in the year 2010.

I was also at first a bit confused as to whether it was really eligible. The Hugo Awards site states that "While the World Science Fiction Society sponsors the Hugos, they are not limited to sf. Works of fantasy or horror are eligible if the members of the Worldcon think they are eligible." This is all very well, but it’s really difficult to see how Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury qualifies as a work of fantasy or horror, let alone sf, at least as those terms are usually understood by fandom.

However all is made clear by the WSFS constitution itself, which expands eligibility for the shorter BDP category to "Any television program or other production, with a complete running time of 90 minutes or less, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects" – and lust for Ray Bradbury is very definitely a related subject; the possibility that people might someday want to nominate a dramatic presentation on a subject related to sf or fantasy, rather than one which is sfnal in itself, perhaps did not occur to the writers of the Hugo Awards site, and I can’t really blame them – I would have thought it vanishingly unlikely myself before this came out last August.

4) Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol. Don’t get me wrong – this was a lovely episode of Doctor Who and just right for Christmas evening. But as a work of SF, I think the other nominees are better.

3) Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang. This will probably win, but I’m ranking it third. I hugely enjoyed it, especially Amy’s "Something borrowed – something blue" line at the end, and it was far better disciplined than most of the Russell T. Davies season finales, but that is not setting the bar very high.

2) The Lost Thing. I hadn’t read Shaun Tan’s book, and saw this only after the hype about it winning the Oscar for best Animated Film had died down, but I thought it was beautiful and heartily recommend it – a story of a boy who finds a Thing, half hermit crab and half giant coffee pot, on an Australian beach and then tries to find a home for it. Really rather special.

1) Doctor Who: Vincent and the Doctor. Yes, I do plan to give my first preference to the writer of The Tall Guy, Blackadder, Mr. Bean, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and The Vicar of Dibley. (Not forgetting his first great work with The Heebeegeebees.) I thought this was the outstanding Who episode of last year, the best since Blink, and my biggest difficulty in deciding which others to nominate for the Hugos was a fear that if I nominated any of them, Vincent might be crowded out. But luckily we got through that stage OK; hopefully the Alternative Vote will see the award go where it ought.

So, am I mad? Or just deluded?

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Whoniversaries 26 April

i) births and deaths

26 April 1928: birth of Donald Cotton, who wrote The Myth Makers (1965) and The Gunfighters (1966) as well as the novelisations of both stories and of The Romans (1965), three of the best Who novelisations in the range.

26 April 1975: death of Kevin Lindsay, who played Linx in The Time Warrior (1973-74), Cho Je in Planet of the Spiders (1974), and Styre/The Marshal in The Sontaran Experiment (1975).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

26 April 1969: broadcast of second episode of The War Games. The Doctor and friends, including Carstairs and Lady Jennifer, escape in an ambulance but are confronted by Roman soldiers.

26 April 1975: broadcast of second episode of Revenge of the Cybermen. Harry and Sarah are on Voga; the Doctor tries to repair the transmat; and the Cybermen arrive.

26 April 2002: webcast of “Death Comes to Time Part 2”, twelfth episode of Death Comes to Time.

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Delicious LiveJournal Links for 4-26-2011

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Game of Thrones, Part 2

I think this will prove to be the gateway moment. There will be a certain number of people who watched the first part last week and gave up, finding it all too confusing; but I think anyone who stuck it out to this week’s episode will now be hooked for the rest of the series. (I noticed that we go straight into the opening titles this week, no concession for anyone who didn’t catch it last time.)

I thought this was a better piece of television than last week’s first episode. We have Daenerys taking the first steps to becoming more sexually and politically confident; we have Catelyn setting off down the Kingsroad herself to warn her family of the danger that awaits them; and we have the crucial moment of the beheading of Sansa’a wolf, the result of a childish squabble which escalates to a political crisis, and also echoe the beheading at the very start of the story.

Once again, Peter Dinklage as Tyrion is barely in it but is brilliant. Michelle Fairley and Sean Bean are much better apart than together. The one weak link seemed to me Kit Harington as Jon Snow; hopefully he’ll grow into it. (And I can’t lay my hands on my copy of the book now to see if Eddard promises to tell him about his mother in the original as well; please enlighten me in comments.)

Anyway, look forward to the next episodes, with more confidence than I felt last week.

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Whoniversaries 25 April

i) births and deaths

25 April 1923: birth of Paul Whitsun-Jones, who played the Squire in The Smugglers (1966) and the Marshal in The Mutants (1972).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

25 April 1964: broadcast of "The Screaming Jungle", third episode of the story we now call The Keys of Marinus. The second Key is hidden in a jungle full of mobile carnivorous plants.

25 April 1970: broadcast of sixth episode of The Ambassadors of Death. The Doctor finds that the aliens are keeping the original astronauts hostage, but is kidnapped by Carrington on his return.

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April Books 28) A Song for Arbonne, by Guy Gavriel Kay

A Song for Arbonne is set in a vaguely parallel world, a story of conflict between the free loving Provençal-ish people of Arbonne and the nassty Norman-type bigots of Gorhaut, with pseudo-Celts, pseudo-Italians, pseudo-Spaniards and pseudo-Germans as well. The exiled northern aristocrat who appreciates southern music is the central character, and you know from quite early on how it’s likely to end (and it duly does end that way), yet I found it totally gripping (with only one significant flaw – the central character’s father is an eeevil high priest who is really a bit too eeevil). Excellent stuff.

I’ve been trying to work out why epic fantasy doesn’t usually work for me, with the exception of a few writers, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, and Guy Gavriel Kay. (For example, I recently bounced off Wolfe’s The Wizard Knight and Steven Brust’s Taltos books.) Haven’t yet come to any conclusions, though.

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Gibbon Chapter L: Mahomet

This is one of the classic chapters of Decline and Fall, and also one of the classic accounts of the life of Mahomet (sic) and the early years of Islam. It is very readable – for once, Gibbon is not assuming much prior knowledge from the reader, and so he shows off his own reading in the best possible way. Although it’s obviously a geographical jump away from the main narrative, I think I would heartily recommend it to anyone wondering if Gibbon is for them – as long as they are prepared to go through 81 pages, including 187 footnotes.

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April Books 27) The Face Eater, by Simon Messingham

I’ve consistently enjoyed Simon Messingham’s other Doctor Who books, and this one was no exception: essentially a rewriting of Colony in Space to make it much much better, with the Master out of it entirely and a single bloc of colonists and management faced with indigenous aliens who have acquired strange powers. Messingham succeeds in drawing convincing characters inhabiting his newly constructed colonial settlement, with the Doctor and Sam appearing among them just as the situation starts to get bad. Rather a good sf novel on its own merits.

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April Books 26) The Time Dissolver, by Jerry Sohl

I bought this I think on a recommendation from Ken MacLeod, and I am very glad he suggested it to me. It’s a low-key, subtle, short novel about a man and woman who wake up in a motel together one day in 1957 with no memory of each other, or of anything that has happened since 1946; and they have to explain 1950s America to themselves, and themselves to each other, before discovering what has actually happened to them. The alert reader will work out what the answer probably is by about halfway through the book, but the atmospherics are fantastic. I see that Sohl was more successful as a TV scriptwriter for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone and even Star Trek, so will look out for his stuff in future.

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Whoniversaries 24 April

i) births and deaths

24 April 2008: death of Tristram Cary, who wrote incidental music for six First Doctor stories and two later ones.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

24 April 1965: broadcast of “The Space Museum”, first episode of the story we now call The Space Museum. The Tardis jumps a time-track and the crew find themselves in a museum where they cannot interact with the locals and they themselves appear on display.

24 April 1971: broadcast of third episode of Colony in Space. The Doctor and the colonists take control of the IMC ship, but Jo is in the hands of the primitives.

24 April 2010: broadcast of The Time Of Angels. The Doctor, Amy, and River Song find themselves trapped on the Byzantium with armed Clerics and the Weeping Angels.

iii) date specified in canon

24 April 2010: marriage of Bernice Summerfield and Jason Kane, as described in Paul Cornell’s 1996 novel Happy Endings. (I don’t think it’s a huge spoiler to reveal that things didn’t really work out between them.)

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