November 2019 books

Fiction (non-sf): 10 (YTD 41)
(counting the two Dr Strangelove books in this category, even though the punchline depends on a fictional technology)
Normal People, by Sally Rooney
The Camelot Club, by Brian Killick
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding
A Close Run Thing, by Allan Mallinson
Red Alert, by Peter George
Dr Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, by Peter George
Two Brothers, by Ben Elton
One of the 28th: A Tale of Waterloo, by G. A. Henty
My Century, by Günther Grass

Plays 1 (YTD 2)
Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw

sf (non-Who): 6 (YTD 73)
The Calcutta Chromosome, by Amitav Ghosh
"Catch That Zeppelin!", by Fritz Leiber
In Black and White, and Other Stories, by Jan Mark
Halo: The Thursday War, by Karen Traviss
The Invisible Man, by H.G. Wells
Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikowsky

Comics 4 (YTD 31)
The Highgate Horror, by Mark Wright, David A. Roach, Mike Collins, Jacqueline Rayner and Martin Geraghty
Dragon’s Claw, by Steve Moore
Survivants: Anomalies Quantiques, vol 1, by Leo
Survivants: Anomalies Quantiques, vol 2, by Leo

5,600 pages (YTD 60,000)
5/21 (YTD 84/218) by non-male writers (Rooney, Morrison, Mark, Traviss, Rayner)
2/21 (YTD 31/218) by PoC (Morrison, Ghosh)
2/21 (YTD 29/218) rereads (Tom Jones, "Catch That Zeppelin!")

Reading now
The Three Musketeers, by Alexander Dumas
Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo
Hild, by Nicola Griffith

Coming soon (perhaps)
Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Irresolution, by Stephen Zunes
She Was Good-She Was Funny, by David Marusek
Being Human: Bad Blood, by James Goss
Dragonworld, by Byron Preiss
The Cage: The fight for Sri Lanka & the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers, by Gordon Weiss
Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman
Excession, by Iain M. Banks
Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson
"Home is the Hangman" by Roger Zelazny
Babayaga, by Toby Barlow
Prophet of Bones, by Ted Kosmatka
Arc of the Dream, by A. A. Attanasio
As Time Goes By, by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice, by Bill Browder
Auguria, Tome 1: Ecce signum, by Peter Nuyten
The Last Days of New Paris, by China Mieville
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
The Widows of Malabar Hill, by Sujata Massey
Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver

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February 2004 books

The big work news of February 2004 was the tragic death in a plane crash of Boris Trajkovski, the genial President of Macedonia who was very friendly with me and many others. This was the day after we published a report on pan-Albanianism (concluding that there was not much there there). I also went to London to shadow my boss at a Chatham House meeting where the other speaker was the late great Albert Rohan.

The books I read in February 2004 were:

Non-fiction 3 (YTD 6)
How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy, by Orson Scott Card
The Daily Telegraph Book of Military Obituaries, ed. David Twiston Davies
The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, ed. Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn

Non-genre fiction 3 (YTD 3)
The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits, by Emma Donoghue (collection, including one story which has fantasy elements)
Memories of the Irish Israeli War, by Phil O'Brien
Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry, by Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch

SF 6 (YTD 11)
Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson
Ilium, by Dan Simmons
Worlds That Weren't, by Harry Turtledove, S.M. Stirling, Mary Gentle, and Walter Jon Williams
The House on the Borderland and Other Stories, by William Hope Hodgson (could not finish The Night Land)
The Meeting of the Waters, by Caiseal Mór
Paths to Otherwhere, by James Patrick Hogan

4,400 pages (YTD 8,300)
3/21 by women (YTD 6/21); none by PoC

Links above to my reviews, links below to Amazon.

The best of these was probably The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, which won the Hugo the following year; you can get it here. Molvania has some good lines; you can get it here. The one to skip: The Meeting of the Waters.

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Two Waterloo novels: One of the 28th, by G.A. Henty; A Close Run Thing, by Allan Mallinson

Second paragraph of first chapter of One of the 28th:

"Yes, it's just right; neither too light nor too heavy. It's rather thick, and I shouldn't be surprised if we get it thicker; but that again don't matter." For in those days not one ship ploughed the waters of our coast for every fifty that now make their way along it. There were no steamers, and the fear of collision was not ever in the minds of those at sea.

Second paragraph of first chapter of A Close Run Thing:

Hervey’s rose did not remain in his shako beyond the convent’s courtyard, for as his troop formed threes and wheeled into column he saw Sister Maria at an open window near the arched entrance. Breaking ranks and trotting over, he stood at full stretch in the stirrups and presented her with the deep-red bloom whose petals were no longer primly clasped. And she in turn presented him with a smile equally open, and a sign of benediction.

Back in 2015, I reviewed several books featuring the Battle of Waterloo, but didn't get around to either of these, which then bubbled to the top of two of my piles simultaneously this month. They are very different. One of the 28th is a classic boys' adventure published by the prolific G.A. Henty in 1890; the copy I have was a Christmas present to my great-uncle Maurice in 1902 (he would have been thirteen, and grew up to survive getting gassed in the first world war, living until 1956). It comes with some glorious illustrations by William Heysham Overend, which I make no apology for including here. In each case, click to embiggen – particularly recommend the third and fourth, "Mabel is Seized with a Fit of Shyness" and "Ralph has an Undesirable Partner".

The Privateer Captain Hails the Boat
The Boat Went Down from under his Feet
Mabel is Seized with a Fit of Shyness Ralph has an Undesirable Partner
On the Track of the Red Captain Mrs. Conway Discovers the Will
A Target for the Enemy At the Moment of Victory

One of the 28th is a standalone novel, whereas A Close Run Thing, published in in 1999, is the first in a series of thirteen (so far) chronicling the adventures of Matthew Hervey, the latest of which came out last year. I would be astonished if Mallinson had not read Henty before starting to write. There are some clear similarities between the books – both the protagonists are from middle-class family backgrounds (Hervey's father is a vicar, so is Ralph's prospective father-in-law), struggling to rise in the officer caste of the army; both protagonists fall in love and get married at the end of the book (sorry for spoilers); both novels feature questions of inheritance; and in both, the protagonist and his comrades are sent to Ireland – indeed, both to Cork – to keep order during the interval between Napoleon's exile to Elba and the Hundred Days.

But the take of the two books on Ireland is very different. By superior intellect and judgement, Ralph Conway of the 28th manages to capture a Galway ruffian and liberate the locals from the tyranny of untaxed liquor distillation, er, well. Hervey on the other hand gets into trouble for defending the local peasants against eviction, having got himself sensitised to the Irish situation by reading Maria Edgeworth. I don't find either scenario particularly believable, but I do find it interesting that both authors felt they needed to invoke Ireland in some detail to set the scene for the later phases.

One of the 28th also has a glorious parallel plot where Ralph's mother's ex-boyfriend has died, leaving his estate to Ralph and to the local vicar's daughter, but his evil sisters have managed to prevent the will from being found and continue in possession of his property – until Ralph's mother disguises herself as a senior housemaid and successfully locates the missing document. (See picture above.) This is after Ralph has spent the first few chapters a prisoner of the French in the West Indies. It's all quite implausible, but entertaining.

A Close Run Thing is more consciously a Bildungsroman (in fairness, Henty's characters are so two-dimensional that it is unfair to expect character development from them). Hervey is constantly getting into trouble, mainly for doing the right thing and therefore annoying the wrong superior officers, and a lot of the book involves those disentanglements as well as developing his relationship with his girlfriend. (There's also a surprising amount of theology.) Mallinson here is following in the footsteps of Cornwell/Sharpe and O'Brien/Maturin.

When it comes to the actual Battle of Waterloo, both have pretty detailed accounts of the fighting, drawn from the usual sources. Mallinson goes into it in more depth, but wears it a bit better because he has been giving us military detail all through the book (especially about horses). He also puts Hervey, who conveniently speaks German, into a crucial role in liaison between the Prussians and Wellington. Henty's detailed account of the battle is a jarring deviation from the tight-third of most of the book, especially since Ralph himself is more at the worm's eye than bird's eye point of view, rather like Stendhal's protagonist in The Charterhouse of Parma.

However Henty redeems himself a bit by having Ralph's arm shot off during the battle. Hervey gets through unscathed, though dearly beloved comrades are killed in front of him.

I think Vanity Fair remains my favourite Waterloo novel, but these two both round out the literary reception of the battle a bit, from opposite ends of the twentieth century. You can get One of the 28th here (without Overend's illustations, I fear), and A Close Run Thing here.

One of the 28th was my top unread book acquired in 2012, and the non-genre fiction book that had lingered longest on my shelves. Next on those piles respectively are The Cage: The fight for Sri Lanka & the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers, by Gordon Weiss, (if I can find it), and The Ghost of Lily Painter by Caitlin Davies (which will wait until I have finished all unread books acquired in 2012). A Close Run Thing was my top unread book acquired in 2015, and next on that pile is Babayaga, by Toby Barlow.

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In Black and White, and Other Stories, by Jan Mark

Second paragraph of third story (“Nule”):

‘What are they for?’ said Libby one morning, after roving round the house and pushing all the buttons in turn. At that moment Martin pushed the button in the front room and the indicator slid up to Parlour, vibrating there while the bell rang. And rang and rang.

I was moved to search this out by a memory of hearing one of the stories, “Who’s A Pretty Boy Then?”, a chilling tale of haunted budgerigars, on Radio 4 one morning in 1982. It’s a collection of nine short stories for older kids (mostly set around school or family), all of them with elements of horror, most (but not all) with reassuring endings. They are all really good; the other one that particularly stands out for me is “Old Money”, about a cursed shilling coin. I don’t think I had come across Jan Mark otherwise; I see she won the Carnegie Medla twice, for books I haven’t read (Thunder and Lightnings and Handles). One of those authors who if you see one of her books in a second-hand shop, it’s probably worth getting it for a younger friend or relative who you can then borrow it from. Or you can get this one here.

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Tuesday reading

Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikowsky
My Century, by Günther Grass
Dragon’s Claw, by Steve Moore

Last books finished
Halo: The Thursday War, by Karen Traviss
Dr Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, by Peter George
Two Brothers, by Ben Elton
One of the 28th: A Tale of Waterloo, by G. A. Henty
The Invisible Man, by H.G. Wells

Next books
The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
Les Survivants, vol 1, by Leo

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Blake’s 7: the third series

So, the third series of Blake's 7 was originally broadcast from January to March 1980, when we were living abroad; but luckily eight of the episodes were repeated in June and July 1981, and I definitely remember watching three of them and probably saw several others. It was a welcome distraction, as I will explain later. (See also the first series, the first half of the second series, the second half of the second series.)

3.1 Aftermath, by Terry Nation, directed by Vere Lorrimer

This is one of the three episodes I definitely remember seeing in 1981. Which was a bit confusing, because I think I missed the last episode of the second series, so had no particular idea why the Liberator was in trouble and why everyone was leaving it. But once the story is firmly on the planet Sarran, we are cooking on gas, Cy Grant (himself an iconic figure in Black British culture) and Josette Simon (who was only 19!) utterly gripping as father-and-daughter team Hal and Dayna Mellanby. She has gone on to great things.

Avon snogs both Dayna and Servalan, which I think is two more snogs than we've had in the previous 26 episodes (though I admit I was not keeping count). The reboot is off to a good start with Avon firmly in leadership and a cliffhanger ending once they get back to the Liberator.

As before, I'm going to waste time identifying actors who have appeared in the Whoniverse (and this season has one particularly big one). Here there are three. Alan Lake, playing Chel, the leader of the barbarian horde, was Herrick in the Tom Baker story Underworld.

The two Federation troopers are played by Richard Franklin, who of course was Mike Yates for much of the Pertwee era, and Michael Melia who is more famous for other roles but played a Terileptil in the Peter Davison story The Visitation (so no photograph as he is not recognisable).


[Dayna kisses Avon]
Avon: What was that for?
Dayna Mellanby: Curiosity.
Avon: I'm all in favor of healthy curiosity. I hope yours isn't satisfied too easily.

3.2 Powerplay, by Terry Nation, directed by David Moloney

This is the one and only collaboration on Blake's 7 between the writer and director who brought us Genesis of the Daleks. I thought it was brilliant. Blake's 7 at its best balances out two concurrent plots, and here we have two excellent tangled threads: Avon and Dayna dealing with Tarrant and his squad on the Liebrator, and Cally and Vila in danger of having their organs harvested. (We'll skip over the difficult economies of scale with running an organ bank in the middle of nowhere; this has come up in Balkan politics more recently and I am just as sceptical). Steven Pacey as Tarrant is possibly my least favourite of the regular characters, but this is a good intriguing introduction.

Five Doctor Who actors here, and one other returning in a different role from an earlier episode of Blake's 7.

Michael Sheard, here the thuggish Federation NCO Klegg, was in no less than six Doctor Who stories: The Ark, The Mind of Evil, Pyramids of Mars, Castrovalva and Remembrance of the Daleks. I like his Pyramids of Mars role, Laurence Scarman, best.

John Hollis, here Lom the friendly but doomed native, was Professor Sondergaard in the weirdly preachy Pertwee story The Mutants.

Lom's strong silent buddy Mall is played by Michael Crane, Blor in the Pertwee-era The Monster of Peladon (killed horribly at the end of the first episode).

Beautiful but sinister Zee is played by Primi Townshend, who was Mula in the Tom Baker story The Pirate Planet.

And her colleague, equally beautiful but sinister Barr, is payed by Julia Vidler who we saw as the title character of the Series 1 episode Project Avalon.

They deliver Vila to a receptionist, played by Helen Blatch who went on to be Fabian in Colin Baker's first story, The Twin Dilemma.

Dialogue triumph:

Avon: That one's Cally. I'll introduce her more formally when she wakes up. This one is Vila. I should really introduce him now; he's at his best when he's unconscious.

3.3 Volcano, by Allan Prior, directed by Desmond McCarthy

This was not such a great episode, with the script demanding foolish behaviour from the Liberator crew, teleporting down to the planet one by one to get trapped, and increasingly incomprehensible means and motivation for Servalan (sadly this will be par for the course from now on). There's also a truly crap robot (Blake's 7 never did robots well, there was an even worse on in the first season).

A great but wasted guest star here, Michael Gough, playing the treacherous Hower, who was both The Celestial Toymaker in William Hartnell's day and Hedin, one of the Time Lords in the Peter Davison story Arc of Infinity.

Servalan's sidekick Mori is played by Ben Howard, who was the bad guy's sidekick in Pertwee story The Green Death.

Dialogue triumph:

Dayna: Don't look so warlike.
Tarrant: Coming from you that's almost funny.

3.4 Dawn of the Gods, by James Follett, directed by Desmond McCarthy

Er, wow. Follett was about to go and write the radio series Earthsearch, which I listened to at the time and went back to about eight years ago, and here has written a story with a plot that makes almost no sense, except that there is a black hole and the crew are taken prisoner and Cally is offered (but declines) the role of Queen of the Universe. It's all a bit surreal. It looks good at least.

Just one Who crossover casting this time. The prisoner-in-command Groff is played by Terry Scully, previously Fewsham in the Troughton-era The Seeds of Death.

Dialogue triumph:

Groff: There is a member of your crew we cannot find. Orac. Where is he?
The Caliph: [to Tarrant] The neuronic whip is on an automatic setting. It has only to sense one lie and it will boil your brains in your skull. Where is Orac?
Tarrant: If he's not on the ship, I don't know where he is.
The Caliph: How tall is he?
[Tarrant gestures]
The Caliph: A dwarf?
Tarrant: We never think of him as one.
The Caliph: What is the color of his hair?
Tarrant: He hasn't got any. A bald dwarf shouldn't be too hard to find.

3.5 The Harvest of Kairos, by Ben Steed, directed by Gerald Blake

This is the one where Servalan falls in lust with a bit of rough from the other ranks, and where Tarrant seems to be doing a role originally written for Blake. There is lots of well-done tension, particularly in the few minutes where it looks like Servalan is about to take permanent control of the Liberator. But it's left rather uneasily uncertain whether we are meant to think that Servalan's wish for domination by a Real Man is the natural order of things or a foolish aberration; Jarvik does lose in the end, which may redeem it.

Three Doctor Who crossovers this time. Andrew Burt, here the sultry bad boy Jarvik, would go on to be Valgard in Peter Davison story Terminus.

Frank Gatliff, playing Dastor here, was Chancellor Ortron in The Monster of Peladon (vide supra).

And Anthony Gardner, here playing Captain Shad, was Alvis many years back in the Troughton-era The Macra Terror.

Dialogue disaster:

Servalan: Well? Have you nothing to say to Servalan?
Jarvik: Woman, you are beautiful.
[Jarvik grabs Servalan and kisses her]

3.6 City at the Edge of the World, by Chris Boucher, directed by Vere Lorrimer

Oh. My. God. This is one of the three I remember from 1981. The whole set-up is a great sf plot. It must be one of Vila's best stories, where he and a cute mercenary get to go through a mysterious passage to another planet, and quite explicitly have sex, which I think may be the only time this happens in the whole of Blake's 7. Carole Hawkins is intriguing and lovely as repenting mercenary Kerril.

Carole Hawkins was never in Doctor Who, but all three male guest stars this week were. Bayban the Berserker is played by Colin Baker, who was Commander Maxil in the Davison-era story Arc of Infinity, but rather more importantly went on to play the Sixth Doctor himself. Meanwhile the dignified Norl is played by Valentine Dyall, als the Black Guardian in the Tom Baker and Peter Davison eras.

Meanwhile John J. Kearney, here playing Bayban's sidekick Sherm, was another sidekick, Bloodaxe, in the Pertwee story The Time Warrior.

Dialogue triumph:

Vila: I think I just made the biggest mistake of my life.
Orac: It is unlikely. I would predict there are far greater mistakes waiting to be made by someone with your obvious talent for it.

3.7 Children of Auron, by Roger Parkes, directed by Andrew Morgan

This was a promising episode with back-story for Cally – going back to her home planet, meeting her identical twin sister also played by Jan Chappell – and also for Servalan – who it turns out really wants to reproduce without becoming inconveniently pregnant – and a space plague to boot. But somehow I felt it never quite got going. Maybe I was just tired the day I watched it.

Three Who crossovers. Rio Fanning, here Servalan's sidekick Captain Deral, was the bosun Harker in the Tom Baker story Horror of Fang Rock.

Ronald Leigh-Hunt, here doomed commander C.A. One, was the doomed commander Radnor in the Troughton-era The Seeds of Death and also the doomed commander Stevenson in the Tom Baker story Revenge of the Cybermen.

And Michael Troughton, here briefly as Pilot Four-Zero, is of course the son of the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, and has written a biography of his father, as well as playing Albert Smythe in the Peter Capaldi story Last Christmas.

Dialogue disaster:

Dayna: What about Cally? Do you think she'll want to go with them?
Avon: Cally will stay with us. We are closer to her than they are. Besides, a nursery of five thousand, would you want to go with them?
[all laugh]

3.8 Rumours of Death, by Chris Boucher, directed by Fiona Cumming

Now, this is a lot more like it. We go back to the storyline of Avon's lost love Anna Grant, and the men who supposedly tortured her to death; and a gripping shifting pattern of loyalties is revealed, with one of the most iconic shots of the entire series rewarding the patient viewer.

Avon: Have you murdered your way to the wall of an underground room?
Servalan: It's an old wall, Avon. It waits. I hope you don't die before you reach it.

I'm also going to shout out for the location, Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire, here portraying Residence One; a brilliant setting brought to life by Fiona Cumming and her team. More on that here.

Chesku: I think it's rather fine.
Sula: You would, Chesku.
Chesku: Her presidential palace.
Sula: A grotesque anachronism, like its owner. We could have built two cities for what it cost to reconstruct that absurdity.


And a shout also for Lorna Heilbron as Sula/Anna, luminously carrying a lot of the burden of the plot.

Sula: You have to make up your minds. Do you want victory, or do you want revenge?


There are four Whovian casting crossovers. As noted previously when he turned up as Senator Bercol in the first two seasons, John Bryans, here the torturer Shrinker, was Torvin in the Tom Baker story The Creature from the Pit.

Donald Douglas, here Major Grenlee, was the much hairier Vural in the much earlier Tom Baker story The Sontaran Experiment.

His subordinate Forres is played by David Haig, who went straight from here to playing Pangol in the Tom Baker story The Leisure Hive.

Phillip Bloomfield also went straight from a bit-part in this story to a bit-part in The Keeper of Traken, but I couldn't be bothered chasing down photographs.

More dialogue triumphs:

Tarrant: Stay awake.
Vila: Of course.
Tarrant: And sober.
[Tarrant breaks communication link]
Vila: [alone at teleport controls] That was uncalled for.
Vila: [pours a drink] I only drink to be sociable.
Vila: [raises glass] Cheers, Orac.

3.9 Sarcophagus, written by Tanith Lee, directed by Fiona Cumming

Er, wow. Woman writer, woman director, extraordinary episode with poor Cally getting possessed yet again but with exceptional visuals which tell a lot of story with very little dialogue – the first lines spoken are fully seven minutes into the episode. And Dayna actually sings a song. There are several psychedelic episodes of Blake's 7 and this is by far the most successful.

No credited guest stars at all, though there are a lot of people doing mime without being annoying.

Dialogue triumph:

Avon: You also talk too much.
Tarrant: Be thankful I'm restricting myself to talk.
Avon: Well now, that's fascinating. You mean you can do something else?
Dayna: [stepping between them] Oh, stop this. What are you doing? Warming up to cutting each other's throats?
Tarrant: Avon. Do you want to forget I said all that?
Avon: It wasn't particularly memorable.
Dayna: We need sleep. All of us. Even you need sleep, Tarrant.
Tarrant: And tomorrow, everything will look different?
Avon: If it does, you can assume you're on the wrong ship.

3.10 Ultraworld, by Trevor Hoyle, directed by Vere Lorrimer

Yeah, this one's a bit silly I'm afraid. Several crew members get put at risk of brainwipe, Tarrant and Dayna snog for Science, and Vila kills the evil computer by telling Orac jokes.

Stephen Jenn, here Ultra 2, had just played Secker in Nightmare of Eden.

Ian Barrett, here Ultra 3, went on much later to play Professor Peach in the David Tennant story The Unicorn and the Wasp.

Dialogue triumphs:

Orac: Another one, please.
Vila: Right. What's the best cure for water on the brain?
Orac: I don't know. What is the best cure for water on the brain?
Vila: A tap on the head.
Orac: "A tap on the head." Yes, I see. In this instance the word "tap" has a double meaning, as in to strike something and as a device for controlling the release of fluid from a tank or pipe. The fluid referred to is water, therefore, "tap on the head" has two ambivalent meanings, one pertaining to the striking of the cranium…

3.11 Moloch, by Ben Steed, directed by Vere Lorrimer

First broadcast 39 years ago this week, on 27 November 1980.

Lots of elements of interest here, but they don't really come together, and it is rather obvious that they were running our of budget – the two brains in boxes look awfully cheap. As with most of Ben Steed's scripts, this one is very dodgy on gender – Servalan once again is deceived by a not obviously smarter man, and the two girls (Debbi Blythe and Sabrina Franklyn) working for the bad guy are passive and forced to submit.

We do get a glorious few minutes of Vila/Servalan.

Only one Doctor Who crossover this time: Vila's new mate Doran is played by Davyd Harries, who was Shapp, the Marshal's aide, in The Armageddon Factor.

Dialogue triumph:

Servalan: Vila; listen. Untie me, and then we can help each other.
Vila: I never imagined you as the sort that would grovel for her life.
Servalan: I am not groveling, you fool. I mean it.
Vila: You are groveling.
Servalan: I am not!

3.12 Death Watch, by Chris Boucher, directed by Gerald Blake

This is one of the episodes that has stood up best to the test of time: a reality televised death match which will decide the fate of two squabbling worlds, with Tarrant's identical twin brother the champion of one of them. Chris Boucher also wrote a Leela novel, Match of the Day, with a similar theme, but it's much less successful. These days it's a cliche, but in 1980 it was pretty fresh. I'm not Steven Pacey's biggest fan but he gets some good material here and uses it well. (The two brothers do not actually meet though.)

Two actors from the Whoniverse here. Max, Tarrant's brother's diplomatic advisor, is played by Stewart Bevan, who like Ben Howard a couple of episodes ago was in The Green Death but in the more prominent role of Clifford Jones, the scientist who falls in love with Jo Grant.

And the announcer is played by David Sibley, who the previous year had been Pralix, Mula's brother, in The Pirate Planet.

3.13 Terminal, by Terry Nation, directed by Mary Ridge

This is the third episode from this series that I remember seeing on repeat in 1981. Apparently it is the longest Blake's 7 episode, at 54 minutes. I couldn't make a lot of sense of it in 1981, and it didn't make an awful lot of sense this time, but there are two absolutely crucial narrative moments: the (faked) return of Blake, and the death of the Liberator and Zen (with gratifying come-uppance for Servalan). The moment when Zen admits failure is surprisingly heart-rending.

Apparently the cast only found out that there was going to be a fourth series via the continuity announcement after this was broadcast on 31 March 1980.

None of the guest actors has appeared in the Whoniverse, unless you count Gareth Thomas in Torchwood.

Dialogue triumphs:

Zen: I have failed you.
Vila: He never referred to himself before. He never once used the word "I".
Zen: I have failed you. I am sorry.

I set out on this project thinking that it would be an exercise in nostalgia, but in fact ten of these thirteen episodes were pretty new to me, and I liked most of them. It's been also instructive to think back to the year of 1981, when I turned 14 and perhaps became more aware of the Northern Ireland situation than I had been. (111 people died in the Troubles that year, including ten Republican hunger-strikers and our local MP, shot dead at his constituency surgery half a mile from our house.) Blake's 7 was a valuable valve of escapism. Let's see how that ended up…

Vere Lorrimer will be at the Gallifrey One convention in Los Angeles this coming February, and so will I; he's not the only draw but I'm looking forward to seeing him there. He wrote lyrics for the theme tune – give it a try:

There's a distant star
in a distant sky
past the edge of time
way past Gemini.
Peace is there,
only beauty meets the eye.
Oh my love,
that's where we must fly,
and let the world go by,
Just you and I.

Come, hit the Stardust Trail,
we'll throw our cap at Mars;
we'll catch a comet's tail,
and we'll sail
to the stars!

Though the years go by
like a silver stream,
if our love is true,
we will find our dream.
Travellin' on,
suddenly that's where we are;
That distant star,
that distant star,
that shining distant star!

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The Highgate Horror, by Mark Wright, David Roach, Mike Collins, Jacqueline Rayner, Martin Geraghty

Second frame of third story (the title story, "The Highgate Horror", by Mark Wright with art by David A. Roach – NB the character here is not Bill as portrayed by Pearl Mackie, though there are obvious similarities):

The comics from Doctor Who Monthly covering more or less the second Capaldi season, with Clara as the companion in all but the last ("The Stockbridge Showdown", by Scott Gray and a host of artists, which takes the Twelfth Doctor back to Stockbridge for a huge amount of comics continuity which I found gratifying despite not seeing myself as deeply into the comics side of Who fandom).

The best of these is the second last, "The Witch Hunt", story by Jacqueline Rayner and art by David A. Roach, Martin Geraghty and Paul Offredi, which starts off at the Coal Hill School Halloween party, and turns into a time-travelling battle in the 17th century with a malevolent jester figure. Rayner scores again, and did a better job of it than when the Thirteenth Doctor had a similar adventure last year.

You can get it here.

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January 2004 books

The most crucial event of January 2004 was that little U took her first steps, at 13 months.

My first work outing of the year was to the Liberals' New Year reception in Brussels, after which I note that I had an awful lot of whisky with Graham Watson (then an MEP, now a work colleague, who by curious coincidence I was out drinking with last night as well). I was on a panel with the Bosnian and Croatian foreign ministers as well. (Fraser Cameron sitting between them. The Croatian minister was newly appointed after the election.) This was shortly after returning from a conference on Moldova in Munich.

We also did a report for the new Independent Monitoring Commission in Northern Ireland, comparing its mission with Balkan equivalents. This was also the month that I started to seriously strategise about getting a job with the new European Commission due to take office at the end of the year. (Spoiler: I didn't get a job there in the end.)

The books I read in January 2004 were:

Non-fiction 3
Home Rule: An Irish History 1800-2000, by Alvin Jackson
Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, by Claire Tomalin
The Procrastinator's Handbook: Mastering the Art of Doing It Now. by Rita Emmett

SF 5
1610: A Sundial in a Grave, by Mary Gentle
Looking Backward: from 2000 to 1887, by Edward Bellamy
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
From the Dust Returned, by Ray Bradbury
The Best of Lester Del Rey

Comics 1
Death: The High Cost of Living, by Neil Gaiman.

3,900 pages
3/9 by women; none by PoC.

Links above are to my reviews; links below are to Amazon.

The Lord of the Rings is of course one of my favourite books ever, but that was a re-read (you can get it here if you still need to). My best new book this month was Claire Tomalin's Samuel Pepys, which is superb and made me a real Pepys fanboy. You can get it here.

The one to skip: disappointed by 1610.

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  • Fri, 12:56: RT @andymcsmith: 1/3 My favourite story about the late Chris Moncrieff – possibly apocryphal – is that he was sent to Aylesbury one morning…
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  • Fri, 18:35: “Catch That Zeppelin!”, by Fritz Leiber
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“Catch That Zeppelin!”, by Fritz Leiber

This won the 1976 Hugo and 1975 Nebula Awards for Best Short Story. Third paragraph of the main section of the story (there is also a short introduction):

And then my gaze clambered higher still, up the 222-foot sturdy tower, to the top of which was moored the nose of the vast, breathtakingly beautiful, streamlined, silvery shape which was making the shadow.

When I wrote this up in July 2001 – alas, much more innocent times to be writing about tall structures in New York – I said this:

The story is a real jeu d'esprit from Leiber. He warms us up in the first paragraph:

This year on a trip to New York City to visit my son, who is a social historian at a leading municipal university there, I had a very unsettling experience. At black moments, of which at my age I have quite a few, it still makes me distrust profoundly those absolute boundaries in Space and Time which are our sole protection against Chaos, and fear that my mind – no, my entire individual existence – may at any moment at all and without any warning whatsoever be blown by a sudden gust of Cosmic Wind to an entirely different spot in a Universe of Infinite Possibilities. Or, rather, into another Universe altogether. And that my mind and individuality will be changed to fit.

Any reader who knows Leiber's classic "The Big Time", published almost twenty years before, is already alerted to the fact that fun with alternate history lies ahead. As he walks along Broadway, he looks up and sees a Zeppelin moored to the top of the Empire State Building; and his first person narrative shifts to the persona of a patriotic German airship engineer, in a New York where the traffic is driven by electricity rather than the internal combustion engine, where the "blackamoors" are clearly emancipated, and he himself has a military bearing, a black moustache and a lock of hair that tends to fall across his forehead. His son is still a social historian, but now they are meeting for lunch in the Zeppelin departure lounge, and the date is no longer 1973 but 1937.

The narrator, whose name is no longer Fritz but Dolf or Dolfy, and his son discuss how their world could have developed differently. What if the great scientists Thomas Edison and Marie Sklodowska had not married? She was being courted also by a French physicist called Pierre Curie in the 1890s. If she had become Madame Curie, she and Edison would never have had a son whose invention of a new type of electric battery was used by Henry Ford for his automobiles. Also, if Germany and the United States had not been on such good terms, the Americans might not have been willing to sell helium – and the airship industry would then have used hydrogen, and might well have literally crashed and burned.

Also, what if the US's post-Civil War reconstruction had failed under the threat of Ku Klux Klan violence? The consequences for the "American character" could have been very bad, and the freed slaves would effectively have been re-enslaved. Most sensitive of all, what if the Allies had not gone for an unconditional surrender of Germany in 1918, but instead settled for an armistice? Germany might not have accepted its defeat but instead have nursed a grievance which could have led to a militarist regime and a new war.

And our narrator's time runs out, and as he runs to catch that Zeppelin, he finds the door is shut, the departure lounge disappears, and there is no Zeppelin. A sinister fellow diner, Jewish by appearance, tells him that the Hindenburg, filled with hydrogen, burned up completely earlier that day in New Jersey, and warns him that he looks a bit too much like Adolf Hitler – "If I were you, sir, I'd shave my moustache." After another hiccup, he finds himself back in the world he knows best, "transiting from 1937 (where I had been born in 1889 and was forty-eight) to 1973 (where I had been born in 1910 and was sixty-three). My name changed back to my truly own (but what is that?)" He meets his son and goes for a coffee in Greenwich Village.

To turn oneself into Adolf Hitler takes a certain amount of chutzpah. To turn Adolf Hitler into an enlightened Zeppelin engineer and good guy takes even more. The holes in the story, taken as a reasoned cartography of how things might have been different, are huge – Hitler could hardly have had a son who was a cutting-edge social historian by 1937 no matter what timeline you use; the Edison electric battery sounds a bit unlikely; the historical reasons for the failure of Reconstruction in the 1870s and the Allies agreeing to the armistice in 1918 were pretty compelling.

But if you want a totally serious treatment of this theme, you should read Virtual History, a collection of essays by noted historians edited by Niall Ferguson. This story is meant to be fun. It's not one of the classic, ground-breaking stories of the sub-genre, like L Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall or the author's own The Big Time. It doesn't take itself as seriously as the recent series of heavy volumes by Harry Turtledove and Harry Harrison, but is none the less far, far better. This story is classic Leiber. I like it.

It has to be said that this is not obvious Hugo or Nebula winning material though. The story of that year with most staying power appears to be "Child of All Ages" by P.J. Plauger, most recently republished in the Jack Dann collection Immortals in 1998, which was runner-up for the Nebula award and came third in both Hugo and Locus polls.

On rereading, I do not like this story anything like as much. The humour of the piece is in particularly good taste. The lines about Jews particularly grate. It also grates that the world would have been saved if Marie Sklodowska had married an American instead of a Frenchman. Hitler is not funny (Doctor Who tried to make him funny by putting him in a cupboard, but it didn’t work). I know more about Reconstruction and the end of the first world war now than I did in 2001, and Leiber's presentation of those topics is facile and misleading. The style is good, as ever with Leiber, but the ideas are not as interesting as he perhaps thought they were, and the fact that it won both Hugo and Nebula says something about the limited perceptions of voters as well.

For some reason there were 12 other stories on the Nebula shortlist, and six on the Hugo final ballot, so I am not going to list all of them (I can't remember having read any of the others anyway). The other three on both final ballots were:

"Child of All Ages" by P.J. Plauger, which as noted above has had at least as much staying power
"Sail the Tide of Mourning" by Richard J. Lupoff
"Doing Lennon" by Gragory Benford

This was one of the rare years when there were three joint winners of the Hugo and Nebula awards across the written fiction categories. Next up is the joint winner of Best Novella that year, an old favourite of mine, "Home is the Hangman" by Roger Zelazny. I hope it wears a bit better.

The easiest place to get "Catch That Zeppelin!" is in the Leiber collection Ship of Shadows, available here.

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The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Sunk in the grass of an empty lot on a spring Saturday, I split the stems of milkweed and thought about ants and peach pits and death and where the world went when I closed my eyes. I must have lain long in the grass, for the shadow that was in front of me when I left the house had disappeared when I went back. I entered the house, as the house was bursting with an uneasy quiet. Then I heard my mother singing something about trains and Arkansas. She came in the back door with some folded yellow curtains which she piled on the kitchen table. I sat down on the floor to listen to the song’s story, and noticed how strangely she was behaving. She still had her hat on, and her shoes were dusty, as though she had been walking in deep dirt. She put on some water to boil and then swept the porch; then she hauled out the curtain stretcher, but instead of putting the damp curtains on it, she swept the porch again. All the time singing about trains and Arkansas.

This was Morrison’s first novel, a gritty tale of rape, incest and racism, told in an intense mosaic style, with life for black girls in her home town in the 1960s contrasted with Dick-and-Jane fantasies; and narrative layers and personal histories gradually being unpeeled so that you can pretty much understand everyone by the end. In her foreword to my edition, the author says:

One problem was centering the weight of the novel’s inquiry on so delicate and vulnerable a character could smash her and lead readers into the comfort of pitying her rather than into an interrogation of themselves for the smashing. My solution—break the narrative into parts that had to be reassembled by the reader—seemed to me a good idea, the execution of which does not satisfy me now. Besides, it didn’t work: many readers remain touched but not moved.

I was moved; so it worked for me. You can get it here.

This was my top unread book by a non-white writer, my top unread book by a woman, and my top unread non-genre fiction. Next up on the first of those three piles is Bernardine Evaristo’s Man Booker Prize-winning Girl, Woman, OtherHild by Nicola Griffith.

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How the 2010s have been for me: the decade meme

I see a lot of people writing blog posts etc about how the second decade of the century has changed their lives, so thought I would join in. (I saw a lot of people writing in similar vein about the first decade of the century ten years ago, but did not feel like it then.)

(And I am not interested in hearing that the second decade of the century is "really" 2011-2020. These things are social constructs. If lots of people say it's 2010-2019, then it's 2010-2019.)

This is the first picture I have found of me from the decade, from a January 2010 visit to what was then Southern Sudan (now South Sudan). I'm with the renowned Africa commentator Gérard Prunier, who is shaking hands with Riek Machar, then the Vice-President of the not-yet-independent Government of Southern Sudan, whose office in Juba we were visiting. Riek Machar's career subsequently took a downturn, to put it euphemistically. I look uncomfortable; I probably had an upset stomach, which happened most of the time when I was in Juba.

NW, GP and RM

This is the most recent picture of me that I have. I am with a friend from Cambridge days who I had not seen since graduation day in 1989. His name, amusingly and confusingly, is Nicholas White. He is a much better musician than I am, despite spelling his surname weirdly. We are in America's so-called Stonehenge, a rather baffling set of ruins which are possibly not as old as some people like to think. The picture was taken by my brother ten days ago. My hair is a bit thinner and greyer than it was in January 2010. But I look a lot more comfortable.

NW and NW

I guess there are four big things that have changed for me since January 2010.

Ten years ago, I had been to a few science fiction conventions, but had never been involved with organising any of them. In the last decade, I have been involved with three World Science Fiction Conventions: I was a member of the Committee for Loncon 3 in 2014; I was the administrator of the Hugo Awards for Worldcon 75 in Helsinki in 2017; and I was both a Committee member and the Hugo administrator for Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon. It's been an extraordinary new thing in my life, which has given pleasure to a lot of people and given me a strong sense of ethical validation.

Hugo 2017 ceremony

Early in 2010, the BBC invited me to be part of the TV commentary team in Belfast for the General Election on 6 May, a frenetic experience of live broadcast which I wrote up here. I've since helped cover the 2011 Assembly election, the 2014 local and European elections, the 2015 Westminster election, the 2016 Assembly election, the 2017 Assembly election, the 2017 Westminster election, the 2019 local elections and the 2019 European parliament election. And I will do it again, for the tenth time in ten years (and the third time this year) for the British general election on 12 December. It gives me a certain visibility which I confess I enjoy, including my present status as a Visiting Professor at Ulster University. In this picture from the most recent election count in Magherafelt, you can see me and co-presenter Mark Devenport being beamed to a screen at the lower left, while at the top right you can see our backs as we are filmed on the upstairs level.

Professionally, I took a new step in September 2014 when after 18 years of work in the non-profit sector, I joined APCO Worldwide as head of the geopolitical team in their Brussels office. I have enjoyed the transition to the private sector. I find the KPIs are clearer – nobody makes me feel guilty for not having saved the world today, not even me – and I also find it easier to leave the work in the office. The team is large, diverse and fun to work with, and we do cool stuff, not all of which I can talk about. One thing I can say, today of all days, is that I've been very proud to work with Rotary on the global eradication of polio. They also let me throw axes sometimes.

On 1 January 2010, my children were 12, 10 and 7. Now they are 22, 20 and almost 17 – so two out of three have passed completely through teenagerhood. Our family is a bit different, of course, but with F's independence and U spending more time in the same residential centre as B, there is more time now for Anne and me to be with each other (though ironically as I write this she is spending a week away from the family for the first time ever). While I was on one of my trips last month, the others all got together for a ride on a wagon pulled by a tractor. I was sorry to miss it.

So that's how the decade has been for me. Many new friendships and experiences, but this is what I choose to write about.

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Tuesday reading

Two Brothers, by Ben Elton
Halo: The Thursday War, by Karen Traviss
One of the 28th: A tale of Waterloo, by G. A. Henty

Last books finished
A Close Run Thing, by Allan Mallinson
Red Alert, by Peter George

Next books
Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikowsky
My Century, by Günther Grass

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Northern Ireland local election votes from May 2019 projected onto #GE2019 boundaries

I've been going belatedly through the May 2019 local government election results for Northern Ireland, and projecting them onto the Westminster / Assembly constituency boundaries.

Westminster projection

In three cases, the party with most votes in May does not hold the Westminster seat.

The first, obviously, is North Down where Independent MP Sylvia Hermon is retiring. DUP are ahead here on May local govt figures – but Alliance can surely expect tactical boost from Greens not standing. (Other candidates are UUP and Conservatives.)

DUP UUP Cons Oth U Alliance Green Oth SDLP SF
2019lg 29.5% 19.8% 2.1% 0.9% 25.6% 14.4% 7.3% 0.1% 0.3%
2017w 38.1% 2.4% 41.2% 9.3% 6.5% 0.1% 1.0% 1.4%
2017a 37.5%** 21.5%* 1.7% 18.6%* 13.7%* 3.6% 1.8% 1.6%
2016a 41.7%*** 15.5%* 2.1% 4.0% 16.8%* 12.7%* 4.9% 1.3% 1.0%
2015w 23.6% 4.4% 55.2% 8.6% 5.4% 0.9% 1.0% 0.8%
2014lg 31.9% 17.3% 3.4% 7.5% 15.1% 7.9% 14.6% 2.3% 0.0%

In Foyle, Sinn Féin, who gained the Westminster seat in 2017, slipped back behind the SDLP in May local govt votes. Independent candidates got a lot of voters who had drifted away from SF – will they drift back? (Also standing: DUP, UUP, Alliance, PBPA, Aontú)

2019lg 11.4% 5.3% 5.2% 9.0% 12.3% 30.8% 26.0%
2017w 16.1% 1.8% 3.0% 39.3% 39.7%
2017a 13.4%* 3.7% 0.2% 2.5% 10.7% 1.1% 31.8%** 36.6%**
2016a 11.9%* 3.6% 3.0% 0.6% 10.5%* 10.9% 30.0%** 28.5%**
2015w 12.4% 3.3% 2.6% 2.3% 47.9% 31.6%
2014lg 11.9% 5.7% 2.7% 1.5% 11.4% 32.3% 34.4%
In South Belfast, the Alliance Party got the most votes in the May local govt elections, just ahead of the DUP. Sinn Féin not standing will help the SDLP; who will Green votes help more, SDLP or Alliance? How many votes will divert to Aontú? How many to the UUP?
DUP UUP Oth U Alliance Green Oth SDLP SF
2019lg 22.9% 6.1% 2.7% 24.5% 9.5% 5.2% 15.3% 13.2%
2017w 30.4% 3.5% 0.6% 18.2% 5.1% 25.9% 16.3%
2017a 20.8%* 9.0% 2.1% 17.8%* 9.9%* 3.4% 19.4%* 17.7%*
2016a 22.0%** 6.7% 7.4% 16.4%* 9.6%* 3.4% 20.0%* 14.2%*
2015w 22.2% 9.1% 6.4% 17.2% 5.7% 0.9% 24.5% 13.9%
2014lg 20.4% 10.1% 8.0% 19.4% 4.0% 6.1% 18.9% 13.5%

In two other Belfast seats held by DUP MPs, the party was just ahead on May local govt votes. In East Belfast, the lead over Alliance was less than 150 votes. Both Alliance and the DUP have tactical reserves, but the DUP will aim to squeeze the UUP candidate's vote.

DUP UUP PUP Oth U Alliance Oth SDLP SF
2019lg 33.4% 13.4% 4.8% 3.3% 33.0% 8.6% 0.4% 3.3%
2017w 55.8% 3.3% 1.0% 36.0% 1.4% 0.4% 2.1%
2017a 37.6%** 13.1%* 6.6% 3.0% 31.4%** 4.9% 0.6% 2.9%
2016a 36.7%*** 11.1%* 4.8% 4.1% 28.7%** 11.7% 0.4% 2.5%
2015w 49.3% 2.8% 42.8% 2.7% 0.3% 2.1%
2014lg 32.7% 16.4% 7.8% 8.5% 20.9% 9.3% 0.9% 3.4%

In North Belfast, the DUP numbers from May local govt votes are better, but my gut says it's a tougher defence. No SDLP candidate boosts SF considerably; absence of other Unionists boosts the DUP a bit less; Alliance are standing here as well.

DUP UUP Oth U Alliance Oth SDLP SF
2019lg 29.3% 8.0% 3.8% 11.2% 9.2% 13.4% 25.2%
2017w 46.2% 5.4% 2.2% 4.5% 41.7%
2017a 32.1%** 5.8% 5.1% 8.4% 6.1% 13.1%* 29.4%**
2016a 35.0%*** 5.4% 7.3% 7.0% 7.7% 10.6%* 26.5%**
2015w 47.0% 7.2% 3.6% 8.2% 33.9%
2014lg 29.4% 8.4% 12.3% 8.9% 6.4% 9.3% 25.4%

One other seat to note is Fermanagh and South Tyrone. On May local govt figures, the total Unionist vote is more than the SDLP and SF combined. But what about those independents? The DUP are not standing, UUP, SF, SDLP, Alliance and Ind Lab are.

DUP UUP Oth U Alliance Oth SDLP SF
2019lg 22.8% 18.6% 2.1% 2.5% 11.6% 11.9% 30.8%
2017w 45.5% 1.7% 0.8% 4.8% 47.2%
2017a 29.8%* 11.6%* 1.6% 2.7% 2.3% 9.8% 42.1%***
2016a 32.6%** 12.8%* 2.5% 1.1% 2.5% 8.5%* 39.9%**
2015w 46.4% 1.3% 1.5% 5.4% 45.4%
2014lg 18.1% 24.4% 4.6% 0.6% 8.1% 12.4% 31.8%
The other seven DUP seats look safe enough on May 2019 local govt figures. The UUP are in second place in North Antrim, South Antrim and Lagan ValleyEast Antrim and StrangfordEast Londonderry and Upper Bann.

Apart from Foyle and FST, Sinn Féin's other five seats also look safe on May 2019 local govt figures: West Belfast, South Down, Mid Ulster, Newry and Armagh and West Tyrone.

Assembly projection

This is not a cheerful set of Westminster projections for the UUP, but at Assembly level it's a different story – on May 2019 local govt figures they have prospects in South Down, Lagan Valley, East Londonderry, Mid Ulster, Newry and Armagh, and West Tyrone, though they are vulnerable in East Antrim.

Also on May local govt figures:

  • Alliance have Assembly prospects in North Belfast, South Belfast and East Antrim.
  • The SDLP are vulnerable in North Belfast and Lagan Valley, but have prospects in FST.
  • The DUP are vulnerable in South Down and Newry and Armagh, but have prospects in South Belfast.
  • The Greens are vulnerable S Belfast.
  • So is Claire Sugden in East Londonderry (though it's not a fair comparison as she was not represented in the local elections).
  • And SF are vulnerable in North Belfast, South Belfast, FST, Mid Ulster, Newry and Armagh and West Tyrone.

Of course, all elections are different; but best predictor of future voting behaviour remains past voting behaviour!

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December 2003 books

In December 2003 we celebrated little U's first birthday, and at work I was dealing with the fallout from the previous month's events, rushing out a report on Georgia on the first of the month (actually most of it had been writen before the revolution on 25 November, but obviously needed updating) followed by one on the Preševo Valley in Southern Serbia. At the end of the month Serbia had an election.

The books I read in December 2003 were:

Non-fiction 3
The Myth of Greater Albania, by Paulin Kola
The Music of the Primes: Searching to Solve the Greatest Mystery in Mathematics, by Marcus du Sautoy
Eats Shoots and Leaves, by Lynne Truss

SF 4
Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold
After London, by Richard Jeffries
Carolan's Concerto, by Caiseal Mór
Gateway, by Frederik Pohl

Comics 6
Sandman V: A Game Of You, by Neil Gaiman
Sandman VI: Fables & Reflections, by Neil Gaiman
Sandman VII: Brief Lives, by Neil Gaiman

Sandman VIII: World's End, by Neil Gaiman
Sandman IX: The Kindly Ones, by Neil Gaiman
Sandman X: The Wake, by Neil Gaiman

3,500 pages
2/13 by women, none by PoC.

I think Brief Lives is the best of the Sandman volumes, and probably ahead of Paladin of Souls as my favourite book of the month. You can get it here. I will get back to Paladin of Souls in due course as I do my Hugo/Nebula joint winners reread.

The one I would not recommend: Carolan's Concerto.

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