July books

Non-fiction: 5 (YTD 37)
EU Lobbying Handbook, by Andreas Geiger
The Complete Secret Army: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to the Classic TV Drama Series by Andy Priestner
George Eliot, by Tim Dolin
Yugoslavia's Implosion: The Fatal Attraction of Serbian Nationalism, by Sonja Biserko
Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, by Mary Trump

Fiction (non-sf): 3 (YTD 18)
The Overstory, by Richard Powers
Guban, by Abdi Latif Ega
Listen to the Moon by Michael Morpurgo

sf (non-Who): 5 (YTD 76)
City of Lies, by Sam Hawke
Tooth & Claw, by Jo Walton
TOR: Assassin Hunter, by Billy Bob Buttons (did not finish)
“Houston, Houston, do you read?” by James Tiptree Jr
The Ruin of Kings, by Jenn Lyons
“The Bicentennial Man” by Isaac Asimov

Comics: 6 (YTD 27)
The Wicked + The Divine vol 6: Imperial Phase Part 2, by Kieron Gillen etc
The Wicked + The Divine vol 7: Mothering Invention, by Kieron Gillen etc
Gaze of the Medusa, by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby and Brian Williamson
The Wicked + The Divine vol 8: Old is the New New, by Kieron Gillen etc
The Wicked + The Divine vol 9: "Okay", by Kieron Gillen etc
The 1945 Retro Hugo finalists for Best Graphic Story or Comic

Doctor Who 2 (YTD 8)
Doctor Who Annual 2020
Doctor Who and the Cybermen, by Gerry Davis

5,700 pages (YTD 44,200)
7/21 (YTD 54/165) by women (Biserko, Trump, Hawke, Walton, Tiptree, Lyons, Beeby)
1/21 (YTD 18/165) by PoC (Ega)
4/21 reread (YTD 21/165) – "Houston, Houson, Do You Read?", "The Bicentennial Man", The Wicked + The Divine vol 9: "Okay", Doctor Who and the Cybermen

Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens
The Secret in Vault 13, by David Solomons
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
Jerusalem, by Alan Moore

Coming soon (perhaps)
The Conqueror's Child, by Suzy McKee Charnas
The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel
Shadow Scale, by Rachel Hartman
East West Street, by Philippe Sands
Chronin Volume 1: The Knife at Your Back, by Alison Wilgus
Beren and Luthien, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Darwin's Island: The Galapagos in the Garden of England, by Steve Jones
Barcelona, Catalonia: A View from the Inside, by Matthew Tree
"Stardance" by Spider Robinson and Jeanne Robinson
Palestine 100: Stories from a century after the Nakba, by Mazen Maarouf
Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos, by M. Mitchell Waldrop
Helen Waddell, by Felicitas Corrigan
Survivants, Tome 3, by Leo
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, by Robert M. Pirsig
SS-GB, by Len Deighton
Tono-Bungay, by H. G. Wells
The Inside of the Cup, by Winston S. Churchill
This Must be the Place, by Maggie O'Farrell

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My tweets

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Whoniversaries 31 July

This is the end of the first month of my new Whoniversary post series. I am going to stick with it – I’m enjoying filling out my own work from ten years ago, and the feedback has not been huge but has been very positive. I normally try and write the week after next’s entries at the weekend – I am behind at the moment, and this was written last Sunday.

i) births and deaths

31 July 1999: death of Ric Felgate, who appeared in three stories all directed by his brother-in-law Michael Ferguson. He was Roy Stone, an American journalist in The War Machines (First Doctor, 1966), Brent, killed by the Ice Warriors in The Seeds of Death (1969) and astronaut Charles Van Lyden, the first person seen on screen in The Ambassadors of Death (Third Doctor, 1970).

31 July 2000: death of Roy Purcell, Chief Prison Officer Powers in The Mind of Evil (Third Doctor, 1971) and President of the Council of the Time Lords in The Three Doctors (Third Doctor, 1972-73)

31 July 2004: death of Robert James, who played gullible scientist Lesterson in The Power of the Daleks (Second Doctor, 1966) and the High Priest in The Masque of Mandragora (Fourth Doctor, 1976)

ii) broadcast anniversaries

31 July 1963: Announcement that the new TV series, Doctor Who, would star William Hartnell with Carole Ann Ford, William Russell and Jacqueline Hill.

iii) date almost specified in canon

31 July 1977: the latter part of episode 3 and all of episode 4 of Image of the Fendahl (1977) are set on a day specified as ‘Lammas Eve’ (the day before 1 August, ie 31 July) by Mrs Tyler. There is no reason to suppose that the year is other than 1977.

31 July 1988: birth of the Eighth Doctor’s audio compainion Lucie Miller, played by Sheridan Smith. Do give her plays a listen – the chemistry with McGann is great.

Thursday reading

Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens
The Secret in Vault 13, by David Solomons
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
Jerusalem, by Alan Moore

Last books finished
Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, by Mary Trump

Next books
The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel
East West Street, by Philippe Sands

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My tweets

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Whoniversaries 30 July

Getting a bit desperate here…

i) births and deaths

30 July 2015: death of Clifford Earl who played the police station sergeant in the original Christmas Day episode, The Feast of Steven, part of the story we now call The Daleks' Master Plan (First Doctor, 1965), and also Major Branwell in The Invasion (Second Doctor, 1968).

ii) dates specified (or almost) in-universe

30 July 1864: The Fifth Doctor rescues Nyssa from the fighting around Petersburg, VA in the U.S. Civil War in the 2007 audio Renaissance of the Daleks.

30 July 1977: Most of episode 1, all of episode 2 and the first part of episode 3 of Image of the Fendahl (1977) appear to be set on this date, for reasons which will be explained tomorrow.

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Retro Hugos in detail


  • Full statistics here.
  • 521 votes cast.
  • Tie in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form! The first ever tie in the Retro Hugos.
  • Close results also in Best Novelette (6 votes) and Best Fanzine (9 votes)
  • Crushing first round victories for John W. Campbell and Margaret Brundage
  • "City" wins Best Novelette despite fewer first preference votes than "No Woman Born"
  • Disqualifications:
    • "Old Man in New World", by Olaf Stapledon (Novella),
    • The Book of Thoth, by Aleister Crowley (Related Work)
    • Foundation by Isaac Asimov and Venus Equilateral by George O. Smith (Best Series)
    • The Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form category
  • Won the award despite being last to qualify at nominations stage:
    • "I, Rocket" (Short Story)
    • "The Science-Fiction Field" by Leigh Brackett (Related Work)
    • The Canterville Ghost (Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form – tie)
    • Fritz Leiber (Best Fan Writer).


Best Novel

"Shadow Over Mars" was 13 votes ahead on the first count and finished 43 votes ahead of Sirius, winning by 165 to 122. "The Winged Man" came third, The Golden Fleece came from behind Land of Terror to take fourth place by only 4 votes, Land of Terror fifth and The Wind on the Moon sixth.

Sirius was well ahead at nominations stage, with the winner, "Shadow over Mars", a strong second. The Wind on the Moon and "The Winged Man" were the last to qualify with 11 votes and 4.33 points each; Land of Terror had only 10 votes but 4.75 points. The nearest miss was Renaissance, by Raymond F. Jones, which needed another 4 votes or in excess of 2 more points to qualify.

Best Novella

"Killdozer!" was far ahead on the first count and won on the fifth, with 172 votes to 93 for "The Jewel of Bas" and 68 for "The Changeling". "The Jewel of Bas" came a strong second, "The Changeling" third, "Trog" fourth (by 19 votes), "A God Named Kroo" fifth and "Intruders from the Stars" sixth. No Award actually had the fourth highest number of first preferences, but "A God Named Kroo" and "Intruders from the Stars" gained enough transfers to beat it.

"Old Man in New World", by Olaf Stapledon, got enough votes to qualify for the final ballot, but it is only 8,200 words in length, which is far too short for this category (and it received no votes in the more appropriate categories), so it was disqualified, and "A God Named Kroo" took the place on the ballot. "Killdozer!" was far ahead of the crowd, "The Jewel of Bas" far ahead in second place and "The Changeling" very clear of the others. "Wanderers of the Wolf Moon", by Nelson S. Bond, would have qualified with 2 mote votes or in excess of 0.67 more points.

Best Novelette

"City" started 11 votes behind "No Woman Born", but picked up transfers especially from "The Big and the Little" and "Arena" to squeak a win by 6 votes, 176 to 162. "No Woman Born" won second place substantially; "Arena" (which I must admit I had assumed would win before the votes came in) took third by 20 points. "When the Bough Breaks" took a strong fourth. "The Children's Hour" and "The Big and the Little" tied for fifth; not the only tie in the Retros, as we shall see.

"No Woman Born" topped the nominations poll, "Arena" a close second, and the eventual winner, "City" clear third. The last to qualify was "The Children's Hour"; "The Veil of Astellar", by Leigh Brackett, needed 5 more votes or 1.2 more points to qualify.

Best Short Story

"I, Rocket" was well ahead from the start and eventually beat "Desertion" by 177 to 138. "Desertion" took a strong second place, "Huddling Place" (which was 5th on first preferences) took third by 20 votes ahead of "The Wedge", "The Wedge" took fourth place by 5 votes ahead of "And the Gods Laughed", and "And the Gods Laughed" took fifth place by 5 votes ahead of "Far Centaurus", which came sixth. There was a strong bloc of Simak voters.

The two Simak stories topped the poll at nominations stage, "Desertion" first and "Huddling Place" second. "I, Rocket", the eventual winner, was the last to qualify, and one more vote for "The Lake", also by Ray Bradbury, would have kept it off the ballot; one more vote for "Catch that Rabbit" by Isaac Asimov would have displaced "The Wedge" from the ballot, and "Kindness" by Lester Del Rey would likely also have made it with one more vote..

Best Series

Cthulhu was far ahead at the first stage and won by 173 to 84 for Pellucidar and 74 for Doc Savage. Pellucidar took second place by 13 votes ahead of Doc SavageDoc Savage won third very clearly; The Shadow took fourth even more clearly; Captain Future came fifth and Jules de Grandin sixth. No Award got 24 first preferences here, its highest score.

The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov (which topped the poll) and the Venus Equilateral stories by George O. Smith both got enough votes to qualify but neither is eligible – both were some way short of the qualifying length (250,000 words) by the end of 1944. That enabled Jules de Grandin and The Shadow to take their places on the final ballot. The City series, by Clifford D Simak, was the last to be eliminated, but would surely also have been well short of the qualifying length. Both Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon would have qualified with 1 more vote.

Best Related Work

"The Science-Fiction Field" started only one vote ahead of Fancyclopedia, but picked up enough transfers to win by 124 to 104. Fancyclopedia beat "The Works of H.P. Lovecraft" by 9 votes for second place, and "The Works of H.P. Lovecraft" beat Rockets: The Future of Travel Beyond the Stratosphere for third place, also by 9 votes. Rockets beat '42 to '44 handsomely for fourth place, and Mr. Tompkins Explores the Atom beat '42 to '44 by 1 vote for fifth place; '42 to '44 came sixth.

Fancyclopedia topped the poll at nominations stage, with The Future of Travel Beyond the Stratosphere a strong second. "The Science-Fiction Field" only qualified because the administrators disqualified The Book of Thoth, by Aleister Crowley, as it is not sufficiently related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom to be eligible in this category. H.P. Lovecraft's Marginalia would have taken the last place if it had received 1 more vote.

Best Graphic Story or Comic

Superman: "The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk" won with 141 votes to 87 for Donald Duck: "The Mad Chemist" and 51 for The Spirit: "For the Love of Clara Defoe". Donald Duck: "The Mad Chemist" came second, The Spirit: "For the Love of Clara Defoe" came third, and Buck Rogers: "Hollow Planetoid" crushed the two Flash Gordon stories for fourth place. Flash Gordon: "Battle for Tropica" came fifth and Flash Gordon: "Triumph in Tropica" sixth.

Donald Duck topped the (very low) poll at nominations stage, with Superman not far behind. Flash Gordon: "Battle for Tropica" was the last to qualify, with Plastic Man: "The Gay Nineties Nightmare" one vote off the final ballot.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

The administrators determined that there were not enough votes for a ballot in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form category and transferred those nominations that were transferable to Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. However, voters determined that there should be two Best Dramatic Presentation awards anyway, as The Canterville Ghost and Curse of the Cat People tied for first place, on 129 votes each. Curse of the Cat People had started 9 votes behind, but made up the difference on transfers. Donovan's Brain beat It Happened Tomorrow by 14 votes for third place, It Happened Tomorrow beat House of Frankenstein by 13 votes for fourth place, House of Frankenstein came fifth and The Invisible Man Returns came sixth.

At nominations stage (once transfers had been made) Curse of the Cat People topped the poll and the other winner, The Canterville Ghost, was the last to qualify. Beware of Tomorrow would have qualified with only 1 more vote, and several others were very close as well.

Best Editor, Short Form

John W. Campbell secured one of two first-round victories in this category, with 151 votes to 52 for Dorothy McIlwraith, 39 for Mary Gnaedinger, 18 for No Award, 12 for Raymond A. Palmer, 2 for Oscar J. Friend and 1 for W. Scott Peacock. The other placings were all pretty convincing if not quite so overwhelming, Dorothy McIlwraith coming second, Mary Gnaedinger third, Raymond A. Palmer fourth, Oscar J. Friend fifth and W. Scott Peacock sixth. No Award got the third highest number of first preferences in the counts for first and second place, and the second highest in all the other rounds. This was also No Award's best performance in the runoff, in both numerical and relative terms.

John W. Campbell was also far ahead at nominations stage. W. Scott Peacock was the last to qualify (though Mary Gnaedinger had fewer votes). The next in line, Babette Rosmond, was a long way behind (by Retro Hugo standards anyway).

Best Professional Artist

Margaret Brundage achieved a crushing victory on the first count, with 151 votes to 22 for Earle K. Bergey, 21 for No Award, 18 for Boris Dolgov, 11 for William Timmins, 10 for Paul Orban and 5 for Matt Fox. Earle K. Bergey beat Boris Dolgov by 13 votes for second place, Boris Dolgov beat Paul Orban by 2 votes for third place, Paul Orban won fourth, William Timmins fifth and Matt Fox sixth.

Nominations stage was a bit different, with William Timmins top and Margaret Brundage close behind. Matt Fox was the last to qualify; Laurence Stevens would have made the ballot with 1 more vote, and Chesley Bonestell, Virgil Finlay and Harry Lemon Pankhurst were all close behind.

Best Fanzine

Voice of the Imagi-Nation was ahead at all stages, winning by 88 votes to 79 for Le Zombie. Le Zombie crushed the opposition to take second place; Futurian War Digest was six votes ahead of The Acolyte for third place; The Acolyte was 18 votes alead of Shangri L'Affaires for fourth place, Shangri L'Affaires took fifth place and Diablerie sixth. No Award got the highest proportion of first preferences in any category here.

At nominations stage, The Acolyte had the most votes but Futurian War Digest the most points, with Voice of the Imagi-Nation very close on both. Diablerie was the last to qualify, with Sam Moskowitz's Fantasy Times one vote off the ballot (and a couple of others in the zone).

Best Fan Writer

Fritz Leiber crushed the opposition, with 140 votes to 59 for Bob Tucker, 51 for Morojo/Myrtle R. Douglas and 17 for Harry Warner. Bob Tucker came a clear second, and Morojo/Myrtle R. Douglas a clear third. Jack Speer beat Harry Warned for fourth place by 9 votes, Harry Warner beat J. Michael Rosenblum for fifth place by 15 votes, and J. Michael Rosenblum came sixth.

It was a very different story at nominations phase, where Jack Speer and Bob Tucker topped the (very low) poll, and Fritz Leiber was the last to qualify. Last eliminated were Russell Chauvenet and, rather oddly, David Langford – who would have needed to be rather precocious to qualify in this category for work published a number of years before he was born!

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June 2007 books

This is the latest post in a series I started last November, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging which will fall in 2023. Every six-ish days I've been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I've found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

June 2007 was the month in which B's behaviour took a serious downward step, and she had to be kept at home from mid-month (just before her 10th birthday) until other arrangements were made later in the year. I had to fly back early from a trip to Greece to help with the situation. On the positive side, F participated in a school production rather loosely based on the stories of Pippi Longstocking. (He's the one in the light green poncho.)

Apart from my curtailed trip to Greece, I also visited Kosovo, reflecting that on the day Tony Blair came to office, 2 May 1997, I returned home from a business trip by way of Slovenia; and on the day he left office, 27 June 2007, I also returned home from a business trip by way of Slovenia. My intern J left (as mentioned before, she is now a British diplomat) and was repalced by Italian V.

Culturally, this was the month both of Blink , the best Doctor Who story ever, and of the revelation at the end of Utopia, one of the best Who twists ever.

And I read 15 books.

Non-fiction 4 (YTD 35)
The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
Science, Culture and Modern State Formation, by Patrick Carroll
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, by Jung Chang
Reflections on the Cyprus Problem: A Compilation of Recent Academic Contributions, published by the Cyprus Policy Center

Non-genre 2 (YTD 18)
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, by Alexander McCall Smith
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

SF 4 (YTD 39)
No Present Like Time, by Steph Swainston
The Mabinogion
McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, edited by Michael Chabon
Seeker, by Jack McDevitt

Doctor Who 4 (YTD 17)
Doctor Who – The Aztecs, by John Lucarotti
Doctor Who – Galaxy Four, by William Emms
Decalog 3: Consequences, edited by Justin Richards and Andy Lane
Doctor Who: The Scripts: The Masters of Luxor, by Anthony Coburn, edited by John McElroy

Comics 1 (YTD 12)
Alias vol 3: The Underneath, by Brian Michael Bendis

4,300 pages (YTD 38,000)
3/15 by women (YTD 30/121)
1/15 by PoC (YTD 4/121)

The best of these was Jung Chang's history of her own family, Wild Swans. You can get it here. I was disappointed with both John Lucarotti's novelization of the story we now call The Aztecs, which you can get here, and with Kate Chopin's 1899 feminist novel The Awakening, which you can get here.

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Whoniversaries 29 July: David Warner, Escape to L.A., Image of the Fendahl, Vincent van Gogh

i) births and deaths

29 July 1941: birth of David Warner, who played Professor Grisenko in Cold War (Eleventh Doctor, 2013) and voiced Lord Azlok in Dreamland (Tenth Doctor animated, 2009) as well as an alternative Doctor (and other parts) for Big Finish.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

29 July 2011: broadcast of Escape to L.A., fourth episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day. Team Torchwood arrive at the Pacific coast, and the plot thickens.

iii) date almost specified in canon

29 July 1977: first scenes of Image of the Fendahl (1977) as the hiker meets his doom and the scientists play with their pet skull. (Will give reasons for this dating on Friday.)

iii a) date of real event, almost but not quite specified in canon

29 July 1890: death of Vincent van Gogh

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The weekend before last, I was lucky enough to see Comet NEOWISE from my sister's in darkest Burgundy – F and I waited for it to become visible on Saturday night, and once we had located it in Ursa Major, everyone came out and saw it on the Sunday. It was clearly visible with the naked eye; young S's small binoculars really enhanced it, though not enough to see the split in its tail. If you haven't seen it yet, but you have clear skies and you're in the northern hemisphere, you still have a chance of catching it this evening or tomorrow, though you will need binoculars or a telescope to get the full effect. My astronomy apps helped me locate it; the best was Night Sky.

I remember seeing Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997 – I was with a group of political activists on my way back from a day-trip to Sarajevo, and our bus pulled over on a mountainside road to let us all have a good look. And back in the winter of 1985, when I was working at Armagh Observatory, I showed people Halley's Comet through one of the larger telescopes there. But that's only thee comets that I can definitely remember seeing in my lifetime, and I am 53.

(I also remember, in the very early days of the internet, waiting for images of Jupiter after it was hit by Comet Shoemaker-Levy to come down the line. Wow, those were pioneering times.)

One can see why they were a cause of dismay in ancient times. Unlike meteors, which are there for a moment and then gone, a comet hangs menacingly in the sky, a disruptor of the natural order, changing its place rapidly from night to night. And because the tail always points away from the sun, it's always upwards form our point of view, looking like the comet is threatening to fall but not quite doing so.

Comets have been less inspiring than other solar system bodies for writers, but the SF Encyclopedia still has a decent entry. I remember reading Brin and Benford's In the Heart of the Comet many years ago. Will look out for more.

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Whoniversaries 28 July: Colin Douglas, David Weston

Births and Deaths

28 July 1912: birth of Colin Douglas, who played security chief Donald Bruce in The Enemy of the World (Second Doctor, 1967) and lighthouse keeper Reuben in Horror of Fang Rock (Fourth Doctor, 1977).

28 July 1938: birth of David Weston, who played the valiant Nicholas Muss in the story we now call The Massacre (First Doctor, 1966) and Tharil leader Biroc in Warrior's Gate (1981). No pictures of The Massacre survive.

Not much else, I'm afraid. More tomorrow.

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Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, by Mary Trump

Second paragraph of third chapter:

But it was one thing for Donald to stay out of his father’s crosshairs and another to get into his good graces. Toward that end, Donald all but eradicated any qualities he might have shared with his older brother. Except for the occasional fishing trip with Freddy and his friends, Donald would become a creature of country clubs and offices, golf being the only thing on which he and his father differed. He would also double down on the behaviors he had thus far gotten away with: bullying, pointing the finger, refusing to take responsibility, and disregarding authority. He says that he “pushed back” against his father and Fred “respected” that. The truth is, he was able to push back against his father because Fred let him. When he was very young, Fred’s attention was not trained on him; his focus was elsewhere—on his business and his oldest son, that’s it. Eventually, when Donald went away to military school at thirteen, Fred began to admire Donald’s disregard of authority. Although a strict parent in general, Fred accepted Donald’s arrogance and bullying—after he actually started to notice them—because he identified with the impulses.

This is the other must-read Trump book of the summer, after John Bolton's expose, but I confess I didn't find it quite as grimly fascinating. The Trump family is obviously pretty dysfunctional; Trump's niece, herself a psychologist, goes through the history of her grandfather and his two older sons, her father Fred and her uncle Donald. Poor Fred was not up to the mark of his father's expectations, was kicked out of the family business and died at 42 of alcoholism. Donald became the public face of the family empire, with everyone from top to bottom scrambling to cover his deficiencies, and to cover themselves in the conflicts among advisers that he deliberately generated. The best quote for me is at the end of Chapter Nine, where she describes her unsuccessful attempt to ghost-write a book for her uncle:

 Finally Donald told me his editor wanted to meet with me. A lunch was set up, and I arrived at the restaurant thinking he and I were going to be discussing next steps. It was an expensive “in” place in Midtown, and we were seated at a small, cramped table near the kitchen.
   With very little preliminary conversation, the editor told me that Random House wanted Donald to hire someone with more experience.
   “I’ve been working on this for a while,” I said, “and I think I’ve made some progress. The problem is, I can’t get Donald to sit down with me for an interview.”
   “You can’t expect to play a Mozart concerto the first time you sit down at a piano,” the editor said, as if I’d just learned the alphabet the day before.
   “Donald told me he likes what I’ve done so far,” I said.
   The editor looked at me as if I’d just proved his point for him. “Donald hasn’t read any of it,” he said.
   I stopped at the office the next day to clear out my desk and hand over anything that might be useful to my eventual replacement. I wasn’t upset. I didn’t even mind that Donald had had somebody else fire me. The project had hit a wall. Besides, after all of the time I had spent in his office, I still had no idea what he actually did.

Fundamentally it is a readable enough book about some pretty unpleasant people, one of whom unfortunately ended up as the most powerful man in the world. It's a pretty quick read at least. You can get it here.

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My tweets

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Whoniversaries 27 July: Harry Towb again, Alan Bennion again, Music of the Spheres, Olympic Games 2

i) births and deaths

27 July 1925: birth of Harry Towb, Osgood in The Seeds of Death (Second Doctor, 1969) McDermott in Terror of the Autons (Third Doctor, 1971), whose death I commemorated a few days ago.

27 July 1944: birth of Matthew Robinson, who directed Resurrection of the Daleks (Fifth Doctor, 1984) and Attack of the Cybermen (Sixth Doctor, 1985).

27 July 2018: death of Alan Bennion, who appeared as Ice Lord Slaar in The Seeds of Death (Second Doctor, 1969), Ice Lord Izlyr in The Curse of Peladon (Third Doctor, 1972) and Ice Lord Azaxyr in The Monster of Peladon (Third Doctor, 1974).

ii) broadcast / performance anniversary

27 July 2008: broadcast (and performance) of Music of the Spheres in conjunction with the first Doctor Who Proms concert.

iii) date of real events, implicitly specified in canon

27 July 1794: Robespierre is arrested and shot, and the Tardis crew escape revolutionary France.

27 July 2012: launch of the Olympic Games, as seen in Fear Her (Tenth Doctor, 2006). Dale Hicks goes missing, but (like everyone else) is found again.

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The Moonbase / Doctor Who and the Cybermen

Little U has developed a habit of watching my Doctor Who DVDs – I have no idea what she makes of them, but I am glad to share an interest with her. The other day she picked up my copy of The Moonbase, and I realised that I had not actually watched it myself, as it was still in the plastic wrapping. Oddly enough I had been looking at the story anyway in a slightly random quest for references to Glasgow in Doctor Who:

When I first watched The Moonbase in 2006, I wrote:

The Moonbase was a four-part series broadcast just before I was born in 1967. It is set entirely on the Moon, at a base from which the world's weather is controlled; the Doctor and his three companions (Ben and Polly from 1966 and eighteenth-century Jamie) arrive in time to avert the conquest of Earth by the Cybermen their second appearance after The Tenth Planet. It's not easy to watch, because episodes 1 and 3 are lost; in the end I played the soundtrack off my Lost In Time DVD while flicking through the BBC photonovel, and then watched episodes 2 and 4 directly.

I have to differ with the fannish consensus that this is better than the Cybermen's previous outing. I found the Cybermen more difficult to understand, the plot implausible even making allowances for scientific hand-waving – the base commander ought to have been shot for his attitude to security – and the direction seems to consit of lots of actors standing around waiting to say their next line.

On the other hand, the look of the sets is pretty good; two years before Armstrong and Aldrin, they do a decent lunar landscape and setting. The incidental music is great. And Troughton is brilliant, though Ben is annoying, Jamie comatose for much of the story, and Polly is repeatedly patronised – noticeably the only female character, told to go and make the coffee, told she can't take part in the final attack as it is "men's work". I don't find myself especially mourning the two missing episodes.

When I rewatched it in 2010 (probably using the Loose Cannon recons of Episode 1 and Episode 3wrote:

Well, it's The Moonbase and the Cybermen are back. Only four stories on from The Tenth Planet, but we have essentially the same plot, with no women at all bar Polly (who saves the day by thinking of nail varnish remover) and only one non-white character who gets killed off in his first scene. We also lose the Cybermen's own motivation, which was incoherent but at least sincere in The Tenth Planetnot pretend to be someone else; identity settling down at last?)

The one thing I will say in favour is that the Radiophonic workshop music is very good – when I heard the lunar surface theme, I checked to see if the BBC had ripped off the Ligeti Kyrie from 2001: A Space Odyssey (and they hadn't; the film came out a year after this story was shown). The dénouement of the Cybermen being levitated off the Moon is also better than I had remembered, and the whole realisation of the lunar surface is rather effective. But it's rather a poor relation of The Tenth Planet.

I should also cite my brother's take:

I have to accommodate myself now to the fact that the new-ish DVD with animated versions of the missing episodes 1 and 3 is going to be the canonical version of the story for the foreseeable future. Which is fine – it's a good effort, and we have half of the original story surviving to give us a sense of what the rest should have looked like. It's a lot better than nothing, and I think that the animators have done a very good job here of evoking the original sets, but I still find the Loose Cannon versions more evocative of the original viewing experience. In particular we lose out on the dynamics of group scenes; there is more expression in this still from towards the end of Episode 3 than in the animation's attempt to reconstruct half of the crowd.

I must admit that there are one or two brilliant moments, in particular the Cybermen's march on the base in the third episode:

I must also admit that the previous two times I had watched the story, it was not very long since I had also seen The Tenth Planet. Outside that context, it comes over rather better. And it's interesting to hear Anneke Wills insisiting that her role was actually intended to be somewhat feminist – I can see what she means, though I don't think the writers really got there.

As is my wont, I went back and reread the novelisation of the story, Doctor Who and the Cybermen, by Gerry Davis. When I first reviewed it in 2008, I wrote:

A relatively early novelisation here, but not an especially good one. Davis' characterisation is poor (Jamie is thick; Polly is a girlie; the head of the Moonbase is from Yorkshire) and the science of the story still makes no sense. Davis' style must have improved over the years – this and Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet are markedly inferior to Doctor Who – The Highlanders.

The second paragraph of the third chapter is:

The first half of the large room was dominated by a flat, illuminated projection of the world. As in a conventional atlas, the continents were picked out in green and the oceans in blue. Over the top of this projection a grid of ruled red lines and figures had been traced. A number of flat, transparent indicators or cursors were in constant motion across it. They were directed by operators who sat by a console underneath the screen.

It was in fact only the second Second Doctor novelisation to be published, after Terrance Dicks' Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen (which is better) but crucially before Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet (which is not). Having only just watched the story, I twitched at a couple of differences. One of them is in the conversation about Lister from the first clip above:

‘Just a minute.’ Polly was beside him, her face looking a little anxious. ‘Are you really a medical doctor?’
The Doctor stopped, thought for a moment, and then brought out his inevitable diary. ‘Yes. I think I did take a medical degree once.’ He opened an early page in the diary and looked. ‘There it is; Edinburgh, 1870! What’s this…’ He looked closely at the entry. ‘… Lister… Mmm…’ He closed the diary, thrust it back into his pocket and turned to the patient.

Lister left Glasgow for Edinburgh in 1869, and remained there for the rest of his career. Between the 1967 broadcast and the 1975 novelisation, someone must have pointed out to Gerry Davis that it would have been impossible for the Doctor to study under Lister in Glasgow in 1888.

Another difference is in the account of the origin of the Cybermen, a desperate attempt to restore continuity with The Tenth Planet (though it's puzzling that Davis thought readers of 1975 would care more about this than viewers in 1967):

Benoit sat down on the edge of the console, his cool self again. ‘But the history books say you were all killed when your planet, MONDAS, exploded in 1986.’
The first Cyberman had moved to a position where he could watch the activity in the Gravitron room. He now turned round to answer Benoit. ‘We were the first space travellers from MONDAS. We left before it was destroyed. We have come from the other Cyberman planet, TELOS.’
The Doctor broke in, ‘Then you know how MONDAS was destroyed?’
The first Cyberman looked at him. ‘Yes, and we know what part you played in that. We have returned to take the power you used to destroy MONDAS.’

This represents one line of the TV script where Benoit says "But you were all killed!"

One of the great Doctor Who lines comes in Episode 2, so fortunately the video survives. Here it is:

In Davis' novelisation, this becomes:

The Doctor had, as Polly put it afterwards, a ‘far horizons’ look in his blue-green eyes. ‘There are some corners of the universe,’ the Doctor went on, ‘which have bred the most terrible things. Things which are against everything we have ever believed in. They…’ he shivered in spite of himself, ‘… must be fought. To the death.’

Do those extra three words at the end add, or take away?

Anyway, this is not my favourite Second Doctor story, but I will go back to it and watch with the commentary next time. And the book is easily digestible.

You can get the DVD here and the book here.

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Whoniversaries 26 July: Bob Baker, Eve Myles, John Normington, Mary Tamm, Daleks Invasion Earth 2150

This was another day that I skipped first time round, probably because I was feeling ill and short in Uganda. But there is plenty to say.

i) births and deaths

26 July 1934: birth of Neil McCarthy, who played prisoner Barnham in The Mind of Evil (Third Doctor, 1971) and methane refinery controller Thawn in The Power of Kroll (Fourth Doctor, 1978).

26 July 1939: birth of Bob Baker, who wrote eight classic Old Who stories with Dave Martin and one (Nightmare of Eden) without him, as well as two episodes of the Australian K9 series. (He's still alive. Happy 81st birthday, Bob!)

26 July 1978: It seems I made a mistake a couple of weeks ago, and today is the real birthday of Eve Myles, who plays Gwen Cooper in Torchwood (and also appeared in The Unquiet Dead with the Ninth Doctor in 2005). I'm sorry, that means I will have to post this picture again..

26 July 2007: death of John Normington, who most notably played Morgus in The Caves of Androzani (Fifth Doctor, 1984) but also Trevor Sigma, the Galactic Censor in The Happiness Patrol (Seventh Doctor, 1988) and Tom Flanagan, evacuated from London to Cardiff as a child and interviewed by Gwen Cooper in Ghost Machine (Torchwood, 2008)

26 July 2012: death of Mary Tamm, who played the first Romana to the Fourth Doctor in 1978-79.

ii) broadcast / performance anniversary

26 July 1966: release of Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., the second Peter Cushing film, based on the First Doctor story we now call The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Co-starring Bernard Cribbins who went on to do the TV programme four decades later.

iii) date of real event, implicitly specified in canon

26 July 1794: setting of the later part of "The Tyrant of France", all of "A Bargain of Necessity" and the first part of "Prisoners of Conciergerie", the fourth, fifth and sixth episodes of the story we now call The Reign of Terror (First Doctor, 1964). I'm sorry, I just love Hartnell in that costume.

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May 2007 books

In May 2007, I had an extended work trip to Cyprus via Istanbul, then Kosovo and then (North) Macedonia. I had the incredible experience of tracking down the very same Macedonian hill from which my grandfather had led an Allied retreat in December 1915., having also taken in Skopje, Stobi and Štip. I then had anothe extended work trip to Berne, Switzerland, and the Portuguese mid-Atlantic island of Madeira for a conference. Meanwhile devolution was restored in Northern Ireland, with Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness in coalition, and the Republic had an election in which Fianna Fail (for the last time) crushed all other parties.

Young F was gratifying us with Doctor Who fan art again:

With all the travel (mostly in daytime), I read 26 books in May 2007.

Non-fiction 7 (YTD 31)
The Life of W.T. Stead, by Frederic Whyte
Reclaiming Democracy: Civil Society and Electoral Change in Central and Eastern Europe, edited by Joerg Forbrig and Pavol Demeš
Military Operations Macedonia: From the Outbreak of War to Spring 1917, by Captain Cyril Falls
The Age of Kali, by William Dalrymple
Islam in Azerbaijan, by Arif Yunusov
Troubled Images: Posters and Images of the Northern Ireland Conflict from the Linen Hall Library, Belfast, ed. Yvonne Murphy, Allan Leonard, Gordon Gillespie and Kris Brown
The True Knowledge of Ken MacLeod, ed. Andrew M Butler and Farah Mendlesohn

Non-genre 8 (YTD 16)
Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope
Kaddish for a Child Unborn, by Imre Kertész
Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis
The Druid King, by Norman Spinrad
In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, by Marcel Proust
Dead Air, by Iain Banks
Gilead, by Marilynn Robinson
Palace Walk, by Naguib Mahfouz

SF 9 (YTD 35)
Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the year 2660, by Hugo Gernsback
Backdrop of Stars, edited by Harry Harrison
Singing the Dogstar Blues, by Alison Goodman
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Sailing to Sarantium, by Guy Gavriel Kay
George's Marvelous Medicine, by Roald Dahl
Fragile Things, by Neil Gaiman
Urban Shaman, by C.E. Murphy
Northern Storm, by Juliet E. McKenna

Comics 2 (YTD 11)
Fun Home: a family tragicomedy, by Alison Bechdel
Diary of a Teenage Girl, by Phoebe Gloeckner

9,000 pages (YTD 33,700)
8/26 by women (YTD 27/106)
1/26 by PoC (YTD 3/106)

The best book of the month for me – indeed, the best book of the year – was Alison Bechdel's family chronicle, Fun Home, which you can get here. I also hugely enjoyed Sailing to Sarantium, whoch you can get here. However I thoroughly bounced off Nobel laureate Kertész' Kaddish for a Child Unbornyou can get it here anyway.

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Whoniversaries 25 July: Cyril Luckham, Kevin Stoney, The Sensorites #5, Slipback #1 and #2

i) births and deaths

25 July 1907: birth of Cyril Luckham, who played the White Guardian in The Ribos Operation (Fourth Doctor, 1978) and Enlightenment (Fifth Doctor, 1983).

25 July 1921: birth of Kevin Stoney, who played Mavic Chen in the story we now call The Daleks' Master Plan (First Doctor, 1965-66), Tobias Vaughn in The Invasion (Second Doctor, 1968), and Tyrum in Revenge of the Cybermen (Fourth Doctor, 1975).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

25 July 1964: broadcast of 'Kidnap', the fifth episode of the story we now call The Sensorites. The Doctor, Ian and Susan start to get to the bottom of the mysterious poisonings, but the internal political machinations of the Sensorites are reaching a conclusion as well…

25 July 1985: broadcast of first and second episodes of Slipback on radio. The Doctor has a hangover and Eric Saward thinks he is Douglas Adams. Episode two ends with Peri falling down a ventilation shaft, poor girl.

iii) dates specified in-universe

25 July 1794: setting of the end of "Guests of Madame Guillotine", all of "A Change of Identity" and the first part of "The Tyrant of France", the second, third and fourth episodes of the story we now know as The Reign of Terror.

A dance night was planned in Camden on Friday 25 July 2009, as seen in The Stolen Earth (Tenth Doctor, 2009).

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Getting out of the country – travel in pandemic times

We managed a three-country trip this week, my first time out of Belgium since 1 March.

We had already been planning to visit my sister in Burgundy, but then some work stuff came up in Geneva, which is not too far away and which Anne had always wanted to visit. So, for this first time in pandemic times, we got out. I chronicled in a blurry photo the exact moment when we left Belgium at 12:17 on Saturday 18 July.

In Luxembourg we stopped for lunch with my cousin J, her husband D and their children L, N and S; tremendous to spend time with relatives in person for the first time since this all started.
I also recorded the exact moment that we crossed into France, at 3:20 pm.
My sister C and her husband T and daughter S live in the former home of a quarry-master overlooking a disused quarry near Cluny in Burgundy.

I was very happy to relax at the bottom of the quarry, now a lovely natural haven, for a couple of days.

I found that I had a companion from the order Erinaceinae:

I took young S on an expedition to the nearby Gallo-Roman quarry at Saint-Boil, used as a source of gravestones in the 2nd and 7th centuries AD, and lost until 1971. Another quiet spot, with lizards.

And you can get "boilogical" wine at the farmer's market. (Not "biological". That's something different.)
And so, on to Switzerland, crossing our third border at 3.20 pm on Tuesday.
The major landmark in Geneva is the Reformation Wall, commemorating heroes of Protestantism, some of whom I confess were new to me. It dates from 1909 – somehow I thought it looked more recent.

My work meetings were all in buildings filled with embassies:

It was really interesting to see real people, in a foreign city, in person. One ambassador took me to a cafe across the road because they are not doing meetings in their own mission at the moment. Another insisted that the squirt and scrub with hand sanitizer before shaking hands. And a junior diplomat simply met at our hotel for breakfast.

On the way home, we took a detour to Lausanne for a site of personal pilgrimage:

"It was on the day, or rather night, of the 27th of June 1787, between the hours of 11 and 12, that I wrote the last line of the last page in a summerhouse in my garden. After laying down my pen, I took several turns in a berceau, or covered walk of acacias, which commands a prospect of the country, the lake and the mountains. The air was temperate, the sky was serene, the silver orb of the moon was reflected from the waters, and all nature was silent. I will not dissemble the first emotions of joy on the recovery of my freedom, and, perhaps, the establishment of my fame. But my pride was soon humbled, and a sober melancholy was spread over my mind by the idea that I had taken an everlasting leave of an old and agreeable companion, and that whatsoever might be the future fate of my history, the life of the historian must be short and precarious."

Our route home from Lausanne took us along the back routes of Eastern France, Pontarlier, Baume-les-Dames (where we stopped for lunch) and Épinal before we joined the main road as usual at Nancy. An unexpected adventure!

I must say that it was incredibly refreshing to get out of the country for the first time in months. I will work from home again next week to minimise risk of infecting my colleagus with Luxemburgish, French or Swiss germs; but am very glad to have seen somewhere else for a change.

Just to recommend the restaurants where we ate:
Le Saint-Martine, Chapaize
La Potiniere, Geneva
La Romana, Geneva
Little India, Geneva
Super U cafeteria, Baume-les-Dames

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Whoniversaries 24 July: Harry Towb, The Time Meddler #4, The Sixth Doctor meets Mel

i) births and deaths

24 July 2009: death of Harry Towb, who gets killed off by the Ice Warriors as Osgood in The Seeds of Death (Second Doctor, 1969) and by the Master as McDermott in Terror of the Autons (Third Doctor, 1971). As McDermott he uses the best Ulster accent ever heard on Old Who (there have been a couple in New Who who were at the same level). Here he is, dying twice.

The Seeds of Death Terror of the Autons
Osgood bids his farewell as he heads up to the moon… McDermott is puzzled by the plastics factory…
…disappearing in the T-Mat booth… …and the new advisor with the natty beard…
…to find that his management problems… …who wants to show him a new invention…
…have been made worse by… …the chair you can just sink into…
…the unseen intruders (the Ice Warriors)… …this is the forerunner of the bin that eats Mickey in "Rose"…
…who shoot him. And he dies. …and so McDermott dies.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

24 July 1965 – broadcast of 'Checkmate', the fourth episode of the story we now call The Time Meddler, ending the original second season. The Monk reveals his plans to equip Harold Godwinsson's army with atomic bazookas to change history. The Doctor outwits him and sabotages his Tardis. Closing titles play over arty shots of Steven, Vicki and the Doctor against a starry background.

24 July 2010: First perfomance of that year's Doctor Who at the Proms.

iii) date specified in-universe

24 July 1794: Setting of much of "Guests of Madame Guillotine", the second episode of the 1964 First Doctor story we now call The Reign of Terror.

24 July 1989: the Sixth Doctor meets Mel Bush for the first time, in Gary Russell's 1997 novel Business Unusual.

24 July 6012: Setting of The Doctor's Daughter (Tenth Doctor, 2008).

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Thursday reading

Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens
The Secret in Vault 13, by David Solomons
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

Last books finished
The Overstory, by Richard Powers
Guban, by Abdi Latif Ega
Listen to the Moon by Michael Morpurgo
George Eliot, by Tim Dolin
Yugoslavia's Implosion: The Fatal Attraction of Serbian Nationalism, by Sonja Biserko

Next books
Jerusalem, by Alan Moore
The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel

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Whoniversaries 23 July: Tosin Cole, the First Doctor lands in France, Jane McKillen disappears

When I first did these posts ten years ago, I skipped today for some reason. (Probably because I was enduring my first visit to South Sudan.)

i) births and deaths

23 July 1992: birth of Tosin Cole, who plays the Thirteenth Doctor's companion Ryan Sinclair (2018-present).

ii) broadcast anniversaries


iii) dates specified in-universe

23 July 1790: setting of the first two episodes of the story we now call The Reign of Terror (First Doctor, 1964)

23 July 2012: Jane McKillen disappears from Dame Kelly Holmes Close, as seen in Fear Her (Tenth Doctor, 2006).

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The Ruin of Kings, by Jenn Lyons

Second paragraph of third chapter:

The figure on the right was female; tall for a western Quuros, but average for most Doltari, or eastern Quuros. The figure on the left was tall—very tall. He or she towered above the others, at least a half-foot taller than the next tallest person (which was me). The center figure, the one who seemed hunched and old, hobbled forward toward my escort, a Kishna- Farrigan eunuch slave master named Dethic. The stooped figure held out its hand, gloved in black silk.

Another novel by an Astounding Award finalist included in the Hugo packet, but I'm afraid I enjoyed this much less. A very long book about eldritch sorcery and elite conflict; by the end of it I was thoroughly confused about who was really related to who, and exactly how sorcery was supposed to work n this universe. I think it shows promise, but didn't really work for me. You can get it here.

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