April Books

Non-fiction 2 (YTD 9)
Chicks Dig Comics, ed. Lynne M. Thomas and Sigrid Ellis
TARDIS Eruditorum, vol 1: William Hartnell, by Phil Sandifer

Fiction (non-sf) 2 (YTD 7)
Bring Up The Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome

sf (non-Who) 9 (YTD 27)
Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed
The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie
San Diego 2014, by “Mira Grant”
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, by Nancy Kress
On a Red Station, Drifting, by Aliette de Bodard
The Emperor’s Soul, by Brandon Sanderson

1632, by Eric Flint
Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
Blackout, by “Mira Grant”

Who 5 (YTD 22)
The Eye of the Giant, by Christopher Bulis
Summer Falls by ‘Amelia Williams’ (James Goss)
Zamper, by Gareth Roberts
Father Time, by Lance Parkin
The Roots of Evil, by Philip Reeve

Comics 2 (YTD 8)
Aldébaran 3: La Photo, by Leo
Tesseract, by Tony Lee

~5,500 pages (YTD 19,000)
6/20 (YTD 20/73) by women (Thomas/Ellis, Mantel, “Grant”x2, Kress, de Bodard)
2/20 (YTD 2/73) by PoC (Ahmed, de Bodard)

Rereads: Swallows and Amazons (1, YTD 4)
Acquired 2011 or before: 4 (YTD 25) – The Eye of the Giant, Zamper, 1632, Father Time
Acquired 2012: 2 (YTD 14) – Swallows and Amazons, Something Wicked This Way Comes
Acquired 2013: 14 (YTD 34) – The Roots of Evil, On A Red Station, Drifting, La Photo, Summer Falls, Blackout, After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Throne of the Crescent Moon, Chicks Dig Comics, The Emperor’s Soul, San Diego 2014, TARDIS Eruditorum 1, Tessaract, The Blade Itself, Bring up the Bodies

Reading now:
Redshirts, by John Scalzi

Coming Next (perhaps):
The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
The Quantum Thief, by Hannu Rajaniemi
A History of the World in 100 Objects, by Neil MacGregor
Doors Open, by Ian Rankin
The Last Mughal, by William Dalrymple
The Peoples of Middle-Earth, by J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien
Toward the End of Time, by John Updike
Daystar and Shadow, by James Weldon Johnson
Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
The Irish Constitutional Revolution of the Sixteenth Century, by Brendan Bradshaw
Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol
Starship Fall, by Eric Brown
The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco
Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson
Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl
The Jagged Orbit, by John Brunner
Desert, by J. M. G. Le Clezio
Confessions of Zeno, by Italo Svevo
The Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens
Fantastic Voyage, by Isaac Asimov
Deadly Reunion, by Terrance Dicks
Toy Soldiers, by Paul Leonard
Escape Velocity, by Colin Brake
Final Sacrifice, by Tony Lee

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Links I found interesting for 30-04-2013

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April Books 18) 1632, by Eric Flint

The only thing that saved Wallenstein’s life was the extreme range.

This is the story of a coal-mining West Virginia community which finds itself transported back in time to 1632 (actually 1631 but it’s the following year before the action starts) in the middle of Germany during the Thirty Years War. Using good old ‘Murrican know-how, the townsfolk develop representative democracy, religious freedom and cheap banking, and use their locally available arsenal to ally with Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden to help him win the war (and avoid death) fifteen years early. There is much loving description of a cute girl who blows people’s heads off (finishing with Wallenstein), and similar battle scenes; the transported Americans make it through almost 600 pages of fighting without suffering a major casualty. As with another time-travel war book co-authored by Flint, his protagonists never lose an argument or a battle. There is only one black guy in town and he happens to be the doctor, so that means that any discussion of racism is largely confined to the Americans bringing enlightenment to the anti-Semites of central Europe. People who like that sort of thing will like this, but I am not really sure that I am one of them.

(Interesting note: Mannington WV, the place on which the town of Grantville is explicitly based, had an African American population of 2.54% in the 2000 census and 0.2% in 2010; a drop from roughly 50 people to roughly 4. I wonder what happened?)

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April Books 17) TARDIS Eruditorum, vol 1: William Hartnell, by Phil Sandifer

So, to recap, we have a pioneering female producer being replaced with a male producer whose first decision is to sack the female lead for being too uppity. Knowing that, it's really hard to watch this story, in which the matriarchal society of the Drahvin is painted as uncritically and completely evil, without wanting to drink heavily and read feminist literary theory. (To be fair, though, I want to do those things most of the time.)

Back in January, I read and thoroughly enjoyed the second volume of this series of books based on Sandifer's excellent blogThe Ark and The Celestial Toymaker. It's all rather fascinating.

As before I found areas of agreement and disagreement, and some points of irritation. I found his description of the end of Susan's and Dodo's character arcs, as if they had just run out of things to do and therefore had to be written out, rather too deterministic; the show was always perfectly capable of keeping characters around well after their sell-by date. I'm also not aware of any other evidence that Vicki was originally intended to be killed off in The Daleks' Master Plan. But I cheered for his positive interpretation of The Gunfighters. I think it's also a very strong point that the changeover of producers – twice – in Season Three is one of the biggest changes of production style in the history of the programme, though spread out to happen gradually over several stories.

In any case, these books will be as vital a part of the thinking Who fan's library as Wood and Miles' About Time series, to which Sandifer repeatedly pays due homage.

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Links I found interesting for 29-04-2013

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2013 Hugos: Best Novella

Rather than wait for the Hugo voters’ pack this year, I have acquired the written fiction nominees as far as possible, and this has meant getting to the novellas first. Unusually, four of the five works shortlisted in this category were published as standalone volumes, which will boost my book count for this month.

5) San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, by “Mira Grant” (Seanan Maguire).
Sorry about this, but the zombie thing doesn’t really work for me, and the notion of fandom as heroic (and in this case doomed) defenders of all that is good, healthy and not yet undead seems a bit exaggerated. I may even put this below “No Award”; not sure.

4) After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, by Nancy Kress
A lot of this was actually quite good – tale of how ecodisaster hits the world in the very near future, and the interaction between the straggling band of imprisoned survivors who are timescooping their past for supplies (including involuntary recruits) and the present-day scientists tracking them. But I wasn’t sure that the means and motivation of the non-humans quite worked.

3) “The Stars Do Not Lie”, by Jay Lake
The one magazine-published story (Asimov’s, inevitably) on the list. Again, I liked ths a lot, but I was a bit baffled by both the references to Childhood’s End and by the enigma of whether this was meant to be a parallel Earth or a future history of some kind, so was frustrated to feel that I might have missed the point.

2) On a Red Station, Drifting, by Aliette de Bodard
Good solid world-building, non-Western spacegoing culture, lots of interesting women characters; my one disappointment was that I expected a stronger plot payoff.

1) The Emperor’s Soul, by Brandon Sanderson
I did not expect to enjoy this so thoroughly. Totally a fantasy story, though it gets a slightly scientific feel because the heroine is an adept in magical technology, trapped into rendering assistance to a hostile regime. It is possibly not the most literary of the shortlisted works, but for me it was the most entertaining.

I don’t feel terribly strongly about this ranking, except that the zombie story is definitely in last place for me and I shall grumble if it wins.

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Links I found interesting for 27-04-2013

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That Oscars poll from last month

Never let it be said that I ask questions and don’t give the answers. Here are the results, from most-seen to least-seen, of my poll a month ago of Oscar winners for Best Picture.

12003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King113
21965: The Sound of Music100
31943: Casablanca95
42000: Gladiator94
51964: My Fair Lady92
=51998: Shakespeare in Love92
71991: The Silence of the Lambs83
81997: Titanic82
91961: West Side Story80
=91993: Schindler’s List80
111968: Oliver!78
=111994: Forrest Gump78
=111995: Braveheart78
141984: Amadeus77
151988: Rain Man74
161939: Gone with the Wind72
171990: Dances With Wolves70
=172010: The King’s Speech70
191975: One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest69
201981: Chariots of Fire69
=201972: The Godfather68
221999: American Beauty67
231957: The Bridge on the River Kwai66
241959: Ben-Hur66
=241982: Gandhi65
261962: Lawrence of Arabia64
271973: The Sting61
282002: Chicago60
291956: Around the World in 80 Days57
=291992: Unforgiven57
311996: The English Patient53
321987: The Last Emperor52
332001: A Beautiful Mind51
341974: The Godfather Part II50
=341989: Driving Miss Daisy50
361940: Rebecca49
371966: A Man for All Seasons48
=371977: Annie Hall48
=372008: Slumdog Millionaire48
401979: Kramer vs. Kramer45
=401986: Platoon45
421976: Rocky44
=422007: No Country for Old Men44
441971: The French Connection41
451929/1930: All Quiet on the Western Front39
461958: Gigi38
=461978: The Deer Hunter38
481935: Mutiny on the Bounty37
=481985: Out of Africa37
501967: In the Heat of the Night36
=501970: Patton36
521950: All About Eve34
=521951: An American in Paris34
541969: Midnight Cowboy33
551934: It Happened One Night32
=552011: The Artist32
571948: Hamlet30
=571960: The Apartment30
591954: On the Waterfront29
601983: Terms of Endearment26
=602009: The Hurt Locker26
622005: Crash25
=622006: The Departed25
641941: How Green Was My Valley24
651952: The Greatest Show on Earth23
661942: Mrs. Miniver22
=661953: From Here to Eternity22
681963: Tom Jones21
692004: Million Dollar Baby20
702012: Argo18
711980: Ordinary People17
721949: All the Kings Men13
731931/1932: Grand Hotel11
=731945: The Lost Weekend11
=731946: The Best Years of Our Lives11
761938: You Can’t Take It with You10
771944: Going My Way10
=771955: Marty10
791947: Gentleman’s Agreement6
801928/1929: The Broadway Melody5
=801930/1931: Cimarron5
=801932/1933: Cavalcade5
=801936: The Great Ziegfeld5
841927/1928: Wings3
=841937: The Life of Emile Zola3

The 1990s are the best-performing decade, with four films in the top ten (Shakespeare in Love, The Silence of the Lambs, Titanic and Schindler’s List) and another three in the top twenty (Forrest Gump, Braveheart and Dances With Wolves). This possibly says more about the ages of those answering rather than the timeless qualities of movies from the nineties.

The decade that seems to have real staying power (or possibly the power of being shown a lot on TV when the controllers were the age that most of my readers are now) is the 1960s, with three in the top ten (The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady and West Side Story) and another at 11th place (Oliver!). The noughties contribute the poll-topping Return of the King and fourth-placed Gladiator. And rounding out the top ten is the 1940s with Casablanca, though the only other film from that decade in the top half of the table is Rebecca, at #36.

I am interested to learn if Wings (the first ever winner of the Oscar for Best Picture) and The Life of Emile Zola from ten years later deserve their comparative obscurity!

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26 April



Broadcast of The Sontaran Stratagem, bringing back Martha Jones, UNIT and the Sontarans to meet the Tenth Doctor and Donna.



Webcast of part 2 of "Death Comes To Time", confusingly the twelfth of thirteen episodes, in which a peculiarly depicted Seventh Doctor and Ace prepare for their final confrontation…



Broadcast of episode 2 of Revenge of the Cybermen, in which Harry takes the poisoned Sarah to Voga and the Fourth Doctor tries to sort things out on Nerva.



Broadcast of episode 2 of The War Games, in which the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe begin to realise that this may not be the real First World War after all…


I was born!

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April Books 12) The Roots of Evil, by Philip Reeve

‘Aggie?’ said the Doctor thoughtfully. ‘I wonder what that’s short for?’
The girl’s nostrils flared proudly. ‘My full name is Agony-Without-End-Shall-Be-The-Doctor’s-Punishment.’

The Penguin series of short Who books for younger readers keeps getting better. This month (published two days ago) we have the Fourth Doctor and Leela in an adventure on a giant spaceborne tree. The plot combines quite a lot of elements of Leela’s first televised adventure with nods to New Who, and also a decent moral twist to the tale in the end. If this is typical of Reeve’s writing, I may well seek out more.

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And the correct pronunciation of “Kiribati” is…

… to rhyme with “glass”, “ti” being pronounced /s/ in Gilbertese. It is said that the Rev Hiram Bingham jr, when he brought “civilisation” to the islands in the 1860s, neglected to ensure that he had enough “s” blocks in his printing set; but this seems to me too good to be true.

As pointed out, one of the islands of Kiribati is Kiritimati Island, also known, with nearly the same pronunciation, as Christmas Island.

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Links I found interesting for 25-04-2013

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Wednesday reading

1632 by Eric Flint (nearly finished)
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (just started)
TARDIS Eruditorum – A Unauthorized Critical History of Doctor Who Volume 1: William Hartnell by Philip Sandifer (half way through)
Blackout by Mira Grant (Hugo nominee, half way through)
On A Red Station, Drifting by Aliette De Bodard (Hugo nominee, half way through)

Last books finished:
The Roots of Evil by Philip Reeve (new Fourth Doctor book)
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercombie

Next books:
After 1632, The Quantum Thief, by Hannu Rajaniemi
After Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
After Blackout, Redshirts by John Scalzi

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Links I found interesting for 24-04-2013

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April Books 11) The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie

This was death? Then why did it hurt so much?

It’s not Joe Abercrombie’s fault, but epic fantasy rarely ticks my boxes – I thoroughly bounced off Brust’s Vlad Taltos books as well. I didn’t find characters or setting attractive or interesting, and struggled through to the end to confirm my feelings. I have Best Served Cold waiting on the shelves as well but I may not give it the same amount of time.

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Links I found interesting for 23-04-2013

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Books of 1963, 1913, 1863 and 1813

For several Januaries past, I did a poll of books celebrating their 50th, 100th, 150th etc birthdays in that particlar year. I realised that I had forgotten to do it this year, but there is time to put that right. The books below are ranked by the number of people who have rated them on Goodreads, which has flagged up some interesting cultural points which I would not otherwise have been aware of. However I expect that the top book from 1813 will pwn the rest.

I’d be very interested to hear recommendations in comments. (I’ll start with my own.)

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Links I found interesting for 22-04-2013

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April Books 10) Tesseract, by Tony Lee

Next in the sequence of Tenth Doctor comics that started with Fugitive. As with the previous volume, I wasn’t wild about the first two issues collected here, where I felt that Al Davison’s art didn’t quite match Lee’s script of aliens invading the Tardis. But then things really take a turn for the better, with a four-issue story gorgeously illustrated by Blair D. Shedd, which has Martha Jones, walking trees, Greenwich Observatory and John Dee, and another joke about Belgium.

There’s a reference to Martha having married Mickey, and I thought at first that this might have been anticipating The End of Time as they go off to chase Sontarans at the end. But in fact the comic was published in mid-2010, after The End of Time was broadcast, so no surprise for the reader who had been paying attention.

I hope Shedd does more Who work; I was really impressed.

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April Books 9) Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed

The Doctor loaded his plate with thick slices of meat stuffed with a rich green dressing. “Pale wine and pistachio lamb! Thanks to All-Providing God that not everything He sends my way is a maddening trial!”

The least-owned on Librarything of this year’s Hugo nominees, Throne of the Crescent Moon is a sword-and-sorcery adventure set in an Arabian Nights-style environment, with an undercurrent of social revolution. It’s not really my subgenre to be honest, and I felt that in the early chapters before the author found his pace it was occasionally reminiscent of reading someone’s account of their D&D campaign , but I enjoyed it a lot more than The Blade Itself which I was reading at about the same time.

As with A Tale of Two Cities, I did consider mischievously posting judiciously chosen extracts to Doctor Who forums and asking people what novel they thought they might be from. (The central character is often referred to as “the Doctor”.)

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This won’t do – all-male conferences

I chaired a session at a conference yesterday, and unfortunately had to add these remarks to the traditional thanks and compliments to the organisers with which I opened the discussion:

There are 22 panellists and moderators for today's conference, and we are all men. I see only one woman in this room out of more than thirty people. This isn't good enough; in fact it is unacceptable. We are all here because we are experts on today's topic; we all know women who are engaged as deeply as we are with this particular issue; as it is, we are now supposed to have an in-depth discussion in which half of the population will not be represented adequately. I hope that the organisers and the funders will ensure that this never happens again. I will not participate in any future event where this is allowed to happen, and I hope that the rest of you here will commit to do the same.

The only detail I want to give about the event is that, ironically, one of the funders was the government of an EU member country which has a female head of state. (There are four of them – can you name them all?)

The organisers did say that they had originally had two women panellists scheduled (and I think that they must have been on the draft programme for the event that I was originally sent) but that they both pulled out for family reasons. They also said that they accepted my point (which is why my remarks were directed at least as much to the other men in the room).

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Links I found interesting for 20-04-2013

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Discussing half the population

Looking down the agenda of today’s conference, at which I am chairing a session, I realise that all 22 panellists and moderators appear to be male.

Maybe it’s 21, though; some of the names are unfamiliar. I ask the bloke beside me if Kamil is a male or female name in Polish. He replies that he himself is the Kamil in question. OK, so it’s 22 out of 22 then.

I think I will use my authority as chair to make some pertinent remarks.

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Links I found interesting for 19-04-2013

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Links I found interesting for 18-04-2013

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Wednesday reading

The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie – about two-thirds of the way through
1632, by Eric Flint – about half way through
Tesseract, by Tony Lee (Tenth Doctor comic) – about half way through
Throne of the Crescent Moon (Hugo nominee), by Saladin Ahmed – nearly finished but fell asleep in the train on the way home

Last books finished:
Father Time, by Lance Parkin (Eighth Doctor Adventure)
The Emperor's Soul, by Brandon Sanderson (Hugo nominee)

Next books:
After The Blade Itself, Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
After 1632, The Quantum Thief, by Hannu Rajaniemi
After Throne of the Crescent Moon, Blackout, by "Mira Grant".

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Links I found interesting for 17-04-2013

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