August Books

Not so much this month – several very long books, and my demi-commute is hitting my reading.

Non-fiction: 1 (YTD 38)
From Barrows to Bypass: Excavations at West Cotton, Raunds, Northamptonshire, 1985-1989, by Dave Windell, Andy Chapman and Jo Woodwiss

Fiction (non-sf): 5 (YTD 23)
Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens
Jerusalem: The Boroughs, by Alan Moore
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel

sf (non-Who): 3 (YTD 79)
A Boy and His Dog, by Harlan Ellison
Jerusalem: Mansoul, by Alan Moore
The Conqueror’s Child, by Suzy McKee Charnas

Comics: 1 (YTD 28)
Star Wars IV: A New Hope, by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin

Doctor Who: 2 (YTD 10)
The Secret in Vault 13, by David Solomons
The Maze of Doom, by David Solomons

3,700 pages (YTD 47,900)
4/12 (YTD 58/177) by women (Woodwiss, Mantel x2, McKee Charnas)
None AFAIK (YTD 18/177) by PoC
4/12 reread (YTD 25/177) – One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, A Boy and His Dog

Jerusalem: Vernal’s Inquest, by Alan Moore
Titus Groan, by Mervyn Peake
The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel

Coming soon (perhaps)
The Sky Road, by Ken MacLeod
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, ed. 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
Utopia For Realists, by Rutger Bregman
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Whoniversaries 31 August: Roy Castle, Gerry Davis, Michael Sheard, The Dominators #4

i) births and deaths

31 August 1932: birth of Roy Castle, who played Ian in the Doctor Who and the Daleks movie with Peter Cushing (1965).

31 August 1991: death of Gerry Davis, script editor of Doctor Who from The Celestial Toymaker (First Doctor, 1966) to part 3 of The Evil of the Daleks (Second Doctor, 1967), co-writer of The Tenth Planet (First Doctor, 1966), The Highlanders (Second Doctor, 1967), and Tomb of the Cybermen (Second Doctor, 1966-67), and sole credited writer of Revenge of the Cybermen (Fourth Doctor, 1975).

31 August 2005: death of Michael Sheard, who played Rhos in The Ark (First Doctor, 1966), Dr. Summers in The Mind of Evil (Third Doctor, 1971), Laurence Scarman in Pyramids of Mars (Fourth Doctor, 1975), Lowe in The Invisible Enemy (Fourth Doctor, 1977), the Mergrave in Castrovalva (Fifth Doctor, 1982), and the Headmaster in Remembrance of the Daleks (Seventh Doctor, 1988). I'm not sure if any other actor has played six different Doctor Who parts of that weight.

ii) broadcast and production anniversaries

31 August 1968: broadcast of fourth episode of The Dominators. Jamie and Cully manage to destroy a Quark; the Dominators threaten to take revenge by killing the Doctor.

31 August 1990: John Nathan-Turner resigns as producer after a decade, and the Doctor Who production office is closed by the BBC.

31 August 2012: release of episode 5 of Pond Life.

And that's it for August. I hope you've been enjoying these. It's a bit of a chore sometimes, to be honest, but usually not!

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November 2007 books

I started the month in London, and then went to Cyprus for a work trip via Istanbul on the way out and (very briefly) Malta on the way back. Later in the month there was a science fiction convention in Leuven, where I renewed acquaintance with Ken MacLeod and Al Reynolds, and got to know Christopher Priest. I finished the month with trip to Skopje, including a day excursion to Pristina.

F got his first taste of Doctor Who live when we let him stay up to watch Time Crash. He and I also visited Technopolis in Mechelen, where he had a hair-raising experience:

U delighted us with a little dance.

I read only 11 books in November 2007, still I think decompressing from October. (Also did quite a lot of driving – in Cyprus and between Skopje and Pristina.)

Non-fiction 3 (YTD 72)
William the Silent: William of Nassau, Prince of Orange 1533-1584, by C.V. Wedgwood
Democratisation in Southeast Europe, ed. Dusan Pavlovic, Goran Petrov, Despina Syrri, David A. Stone
The Awful End of William the Silent: The First Assassination of a Head of State with a Handgun, by Lisa Jardine

Non-genre 2 (YTD 32)
The Steep Approach to Garbadale, by Iain Banks
Oscar and Lucinda, by Peter Carey

SF 6 (YTD 73)
A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow, by George RR Martin
A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold, by George RR Martin

The Prestige, by Christopher Priest
Eurotemps, edited by Alec Stewart, devised by Alec Stewart and Neil Gaiman
Mutiny In Space, by Avram Davidson
The Happy Prince and Other Stories, by Oscar Wilde

3,800 pages (YTD 65,800)
3/11 by women (YTD 53/223)
none by PoC (YTD 5/223)

Several of these were very good, and I'm going to single out The Prestige, by Christopher Priest, which you can get here, and The Steep Approach to Garbadale, by Iain Banks, which you can get here. Mutiny in Space, by Avram Davidson, was pretty awful but you can get it here anyway (without the famous cover).

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Whoniversaries 30 August: Terror of the Zygons #1, The Leisure Hive #1, Real Time #5

i) births and deaths

30 August 1988: birth of Ellis George, who played Coal Hill pupil Courtney Woods in four 2014 Twelfth Doctor episodes.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

30th August 1975: broadcast of the first episode of Terror of the Zygons, launching Season 13. The Doctor, Harry and Sarah, responding to the Brigadier's appeal via space-time telegraph, land in the neighbourhood of Loch Ness which looks strangely like Sussex. Oil rigs are being wrecked in the North Sea; while tending to a survivor, Harry is shot and injured by a servant of the enigmatic Duke of Forgill. As Sarah visits him in hospital, she is grabbed by… a Zygon!!!!!

30th August 1980: broadcast of the first episode of The Leisure Hive, launching Season 18. Poor K9 gets short-circuited on the beach at Brighton; the Doctor and Romana head for the famous pleasure planet, Argolis, but the Doctor, investigating a mysterious chamber, apparently gets torn apart. (Perhaps symbolic of new producer John Nathan-Turner's plans for the show.)

30th August 2002: release of fifth episode of webcast Real Time. Cybermen, viruses and the Time Portal; by this stage I'd lost interest in it but I will give it another go some time.

30 August 2012: release of fourth episode of Pond Life.

30 August 2014: first broadcast of Into the Dalek. The Doctor and Clara are shrunk to explore a Dalek's mind and brain.

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Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1976, and won just two others, Best Director and Best Film Editing. All the President’s Men and Network both won four. I don’t think (though will check later) that any other Best Picture winner was beaten by two other films in the total number of statuettes it brought home.

All the President’s Men, Network, Bound for Glory and Taxi Driver were also nominated for Best Picture. I have only seen the first of these. I have seen eleven other films released in 1976, which is (so far) a record for me: Carrie, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Eagle Has Landed, Bugsy Malone, Silver Streak, At the Earth’s Core, The Shaggy D.A., Treasure of Matecumbe and Don’s Party. The last of these is way down the IMDB ratings, which I think is a real shame; it’s a wee jewel of a film, adapted from a play about a group of friends watching the Australian election results coming in on election night in 1969. One of the leads is played by Ray Barrett, who voiced John Tracy in Thunderbirds and was also Bennett/Koquillion in the Doctor Who story we now call The Rescue (he is credited under a false name in the first episode to avoid revealing that the two characters are in fact the same; sorry if that is a spoiler for a Doctor Who story from 55 years ago). Hugo voters, given the choice of Carrie, Logan’s Run, The Man Who Fell to Earth and Futureworld, incomprehensibly voted for No Award, and there was no Nebula for that year. Anyway back to RockyTaxi Driver on both IMDB ratings (here and here) but ahead of the rest; and, with some reluctance, I think I’d rate Rocky as the best of those that I have seen. Here’s a trailer.

Incidentally, the stall owner who throws Rocky an orange at the beginning of the trailer apparently had no idea that a movie was being filmed and that he would be in it.

Rocky is the story of a part-time boxer and occasional hoodlum who gets the unexpected break of fighting the world heavyweight champion in his home town of Philadelphia, written by and starring Sylvester Stallone; rather like the main character, this provided his . (I think this is the first Oscar-winning film we’ve had in Philadelphia, which is incidentally where my grandmother was born. Compare 14 Oscar winners out of 49, so far, set in and around New York, only 160 km away.) There are a vast number of legends about the film, including the story of the orange mentioned above. Other glorious legends include that the poster showing Rocky wearing the wrong shorts, and his robe being too big, were actual mistakes made by the props department that the film then lampshaded; and that the reason he and Adrian have a solo date at the ice rink is that the 300 extras who had been booked failed to show up, so they had to improvise on the spot. I found it a charming character-driven film, but I still don’t like boxing much, so I’m putting it just about halfway down my table, ahead of Marty (which is quite similar in a lot of ways) but behind Laurence of Arabia.

There are a few returnees from previous Oscar-winning films, most notably Talia Shire, who was in both The Godfather and The Godfather II, films made by her real-life brother, playing the on-screen sister of Al Pacino and the daughter of Marlon Brando and Robert de Niro (surely a marriage made in heaven). Here she is Rocky’s girlfriend Adrian, who becomes sexy when she takes her glasses off. (Try it, girls. Or not, as you please.)

The two others I spotted don’t really merit pictures. Bill Baldwin is the fight announcer on the left during the big fight, and is the unseen TV movie announcer in The Apartment. Al Silvani (credited here as Al Salvani) is the cut man who tends (if that is the word) to Rocky during the big fight, and was an extra in From Here to Eternity.

So, to go through my usual list. Rocky is a film about a white man, and there are three named women characters, two of whom are in only one scene each, and the other is played by Talia Shire. (In her first scene she and her boss, both women, talk to Rocky, which I don’t think passes Bechdel Two.) Talia Shire is a versatile actor and does a lot with not much here.

On race, it’s a different matter: the whole setup of the film is for the culminating fight between Rocky and the champion Apollo Creed, played by Carl Weathers (currently to be seen in The Mandalorian). Creed is supported by a vibrant black community in and outside Philadelphia, with Joe Frazier turning up as himself at the start of the fight. Creed literally wraps himself in the American flag as he makes his entrance.

The music is good, but not obtrusive, and the theme song ridiculously catchy. And I think the cinematography is really very effective, telling a simple story simply and effectively.

Plus I have to salute Stallone’s acting. This project mattered a great deal to him, but he manages to free Rocky of the burdens of producing and writing the film and portray a not very bright guy who is put in a situation where he has to rise to new challenges, and succeeds in meeting his own expectations, while undergoing heavy physical abuse. I thought the ending of the film was well delivered.

IMDB says that the two pet turtles Cuff and Link actually belonged to Stallone (as did the dog) and were still alive and well as recently as last year. That made me smile.

Well, next year is the year of Annie Hall.

1920s: Wings (1927-28) | The Broadway Melody (1928-29)
1930s: All Quiet on the Western Front (1929-30) | Cimarron (1930-31) | Grand Hotel (1931-32) | Cavalcade (1932-33) | It Happened One Night (1934) | Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, and books) | The Great Ziegfeld (1936) | The Life of Emile Zola (1937) | You Can’t Take It with You (1938) | Gone with the Wind (1939, and book)
1940s: Rebecca (1940) | How Green Was My Valley (1941) | Mrs. Miniver (1942) | Casablanca (1943) | Going My Way (1944) | The Lost Weekend (1945) | The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) | Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) | Hamlet (1948) | All the King’s Men (1949)
1950s: All About Eve (1950) | An American in Paris (1951) | The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) | From Here to Eternity (1953) | On The Waterfront (1954, and book) | Marty (1955) | Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) | The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) | Gigi (1958) | Ben-Hur (1959)
1960s: The Apartment (1960) | West Side Story (1961) | Lawrence of Arabia (1962) | Tom Jones (1963) | My Fair Lady (1964) | The Sound of Music (1965) | A Man for All Seasons (1966) | In the Heat of the Night (1967) | Oliver! (1968) | Midnight Cowboy (1969)
1970s: Patton (1970) | The French Connection (1971) | The Godfather (1972) | The Sting (1973) | The Godfather, Part II (1974) | One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) | Rocky (1976) | Annie Hall (1977) | The Deer Hunter (1978) | Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
1980s: Ordinary People (1980) | Chariots of Fire (1981) | Gandhi (1982) | Terms of Endearment (1983) | Amadeus (1984) | Out of Africa (1985) | Platoon (1986) | The Last Emperor (1987) | Rain Man (1988) | Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
1990s: Dances With Wolves (1990) | The Silence of the Lambs (1991) | Unforgiven (1992) | Schindler’s List (1993) | Forrest Gump (1994) | Braveheart (1995) | The English Patient (1996) | Titanic (1997) | Shakespeare in Love (1998) | American Beauty (1999)
21st century: Gladiator (2000) | A Beautiful Mind (2001) | Chicago (2002) | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) | Million Dollar Baby (2004, and book) | Crash (2005) | The Departed (2006) | No Country for Old Men (2007) | Slumdog Millionaire (2008) | The Hurt Locker (2009)

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Whoniversary 29 August: Peter Miles, Lenny Henry, Terrance Dicks, The Reign of Terror #2

i) births and deaths:

29 August 1928: birth of Peter Miles, who played Dr Lawrence, the obstructive director of the Wenley Moor nuclear research facility, in Doctor Who and the Silurians (Third Doctor, 1970); Professor Whittaker, the inventor of time travel, in Invasion of the Dinosaurs (Third Doctor, 1974); and most memorably Davros's sidekick Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks (Fourth Doctor, 1975).

29 August 1933: birth of Clifford Earl, who played the station sergeant in the (lost) Christmas episode of the story we now call The Daleks' Master Plan (First Doctor, 1965), and Major Branwell in The Invasion (Second Doctor, 1968).

29 August 1958: birth of Sir Lenny Henry, who could be said to be the first black actor to play the Doctor in a 1985 comedy sketch, and was also Daniel Barton in Spyfall (Thirteenth Doctor, 2020).

29 August 2019: this one is still raw – death of Terrance Dicks, who began in 1968 as script editor for the last four Second Doctor stories, remained as script editor throughout the Pertwee, wrote or co-wrote six TV stories for five Doctors, and most crucially wrote 82 novelisations and spinoff novels, a total which is unlikely ever to be surpassed (Justin Richards is only on 35 by my count).

I met him only once. One afternoon in 1980 or 1981 (I remember his grimace at mention of the then recent Nightmare of Eden) my brother (aged 12) and I (aged 13 or 14) got wind that he was speaking in, of all places, Suffolk library, a mile or so from where we lived. I am pretty sure that it was the first time I had ever met a celebrity, let alone a Doctor Who celebrity. (Little did I know that my little cousin Brian, then aged two, would grow up to be the producer of the show.)
I don’t remember much about what he said (I asked why Nicholas Courtney wasn’t in The Android Invasion, he said that it was probably due to other acting commitments). But I do remember that he was very pleasant to and patient with a crowd of excited young Belfast fans, and set a standard of behaviour that I still expect from celebrities dealing with the public (or with me); and I deal with a lot more celebrities now than I would have ever expected back then.
A little kindness can go a long way, and Terrance Dicks showed a lot of people a lot of kindness in his life, and not only through his writing. An example to follow.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

29 August 1964: broadcast of 'The Tyrant of France', fourth episode of the story we now call The Reign of Terror. The Doctor, in disguise, confronts Robespierre; Susan and Barbara are recaptured; Ian is trapped by Leon's co-conspirators. It's one of the lost episodes that has been animated.

29 August 2012: release of third episode of Pond Life.

iii) date specified in-universe:

29 August 2010: close of a Vincent Van Gogh exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay, as seen in The Lodger (Eleventh Doctor, 2011).

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Whoniversaries 28 August: Tutte Lemkow, Pond Life #2

i) births and deaths

28th August 1918: birth of Tutte Lemkow, who played Kuiju in Marco Polo (First Doctor, 1964), Ibrahim in The Crusade (First Doctor, 1965), and Cyclops in The Myth Makers (also First Doctor, 1965). The first of these is lost but the other two survive. He also choreographed the dancing scenes in The Celestial Toymaker (1966).

ii) webcast anniversary

28 August 2012: release of part 2 of Pond Life.

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Thursday reading

Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
The Conqueror’s Child, by Suzy McKee Charnas
Jerusalem: Vernal’s Inquest, by Alan Moore
Titus Groan, by Mervyn Peake

Last books finished
None – these are all long books!

Next books
The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel
Shadow Scale, by Rachel Hartman

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Whoniversaries 27 August: Peter Craze, Suranne Jones, Paradise of Death #1, Let’s Kill Hitler

i) births and deaths

27 August 1946: birth of Peter Craze, brother of Michael 'Ben Jackson' Craze, who played Dako in The Space Museum (First Doctor, 1965), Du Pont in The War Games (Second Doctor, 1969), and Costa in Nightmare of Eden (Fourth Doctor, 1979).

27 August 1978: birth of Suranne Jones, who played the Mona Lisa in Mona Lisa's Revenge (Sarah Jane Adventures, 2009) and Idris/the Doctor's TARDIS in The Doctor's Wife (Eleventh Doctor, 2011).

27 August 2018: death of Michael Pickwoad, BBC Wales production designer who created the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor Tardis sets and also designed Class.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

27 August 1991: radio broadcast of episode 1 of The Paradise of Death, starring Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen and Nicholas Courtney as the Third Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith and the Brigadier. Sarah and her dimwitted assistant Jeremy Fitzoliver investigate the new Space World tourist attraction on Hampstead Heath; The Doctor and Brigadier are looking into it as well, and the Doctor apparently falls to his doom from a very high tower…

27 August 2011: broadcast of Let's Kill Hitler, opening the second half of the second Eleventh Doctor season. The Doctor visits 1930s Berlin and locks Hitler in a cupboard, but more importantly we find out the true background of Melanie / River Song. I don't often excerpt epsides here, but what the heck.

27 August 2012: release of the first episode of Pond Life.

iii) historical date referenced in canon

27 August 1883: eruption of Krakatoa: the Third Doctor says he witnessed it in Inferno (1970), there is evidence in Rose (2005) that the Ninth Doctor was there too, the Tenth Doctor and Rose narrowly escape the explosion in the Doctor Who Adventures story Under the Volcano (2006) and the eruption releases the alien Xylok which becomes Sarah Jane's computer, Mr Smith, as we discover in The Lost Boy (SJA 2007). August is a good month for volcanic eruptions (cf Pompeii on the 24th).

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Whoniversaries 26 August: Phil Collinson, Pilot Episode, The End of the Road

i) births and deaths

26 August 1970: birth of Phil Collinson, producer of New Who for most of the first four series (Ninth and Tenth Doctors).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

26 August 1991: first broadcast of the so-called 'Pilot Episode', the first mounting of 'An Unearthly Child' which was not shown in November 1963.

26 August 2011: first broadcast of Torchwood series 4 episode The End of the Road. Jack is rescued but injured; Gwen is deported.

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Whoniversaries 25 August: John J. Carney, Keegan Joyce, Disney Time

i) births and deaths

25 August 1940: birth of John J. Carney who plays Bloodaxe in The Time Warrior (Third Doctor, 1974) and also one of the policemen who beats Alex up in Hugo-winning A Clockwork Orange.

25 August 1989: birth of Keegan Joyce, who played the main human protagonist Starkey in the 2009-10 Australian K9 series.

25 August 2013: death of Christopher Burgess, who played the underground exile leader Swann in The Enemy of the World (Second Doctor, 1968), radio astronomer George Philips in Spearhead from Space (Third Doctor, 1970) and chief meditator Barnes in Planet of the Spiders (Third Doctor, 1974).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

25 August 1975: Tom Baker presents Disney Time as the Fourth Doctor. I remember catching this at the time and being a bit confused but also happy.

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October 2007 books

This was the month that B finally moved out, initially to a centre up near the Dutch border for a few months. It was of course for the best that she should be with people professionally trained to look after people with her needs. But we found it a pretty difficult transition. She was generally pretty doped up for her last few weeks with us, but I did get a nice picture of her on the final day.

Despite all this, I managed two trips that month, to the frankly disappointing Octocon in Maynooth, and to London at the very end of the month. I had one really funny moment at a seminar in the European Parliament, where the chair, somehow confusing me with Sarah Ludford (who was also participating in the meeting, but not sitting beside me), addressed me as "Baroness Nicholas Whyte". In a surprise development, Menȝies Campell resigned as Lib Dem leader after only 19 months.

I did read 19 books in October 2007.

Non-fiction 4 (YTD 69)
MMR: Science & Fiction: Exploring the Vaccine Crisis, by Richard Horton
A Time of Gifts, by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Between the Woods and the Water, by Patrick Leigh Fermor

The Uncrowned King of Ireland: Charles Stewart Parnell – His Love Story and Political Life, by Katherine O' Shea (Mrs Charles Stewart Parnell)

Non-genre 4 (YTD 30)
The Kalahari Typing School for Men, by Alexander McCall Smith
Vineland, by Thomas Pynchon
Steppenwolf, by Herman Hesse
The Full Cupboard of Life, by Alexander McCall Smith

SF 9 (YTD 67)
The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
Lord of Emperors, by Guy Gavriel Kay
Wintersmith, by Terry Pratchett
A Load of Old BoSh: serious scientific talks by Bob Shaw
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future volume XIX, ed. Algis Budrys
Blind Voices, by Tom Reamy
Alternate Worldcons, ed. Mike Resnick
The Shore of Women, by Pamela Sargent

Comics 2 (YTD 20)
Halo and Sprocket: Welcome to Humanity, by Kerry Callen
Pile: Petals from St. Klaed's computer, by Brian Aldiss, illustrated by Mike Wilks (putting it in this category)

5,100 pages (YTD 62,000)
3/19 by women (YTD 50/212)
1/19 by PoC (YTD 5/212)

Some really good books this month. I'm going to single out Patrick Leigh Fermor's two classics, which you can get here and here, and Guy Gavriel Kay's Lord of Emperors, which you can get here. On the other hand, I totally bounced off Vineland, which you can get here.

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  • Sun, 20:37: RT @terrajobst: Learned a Belarusian joke from @oliagavrysh today: A guy driving in Minsk is stopped by the police who immediately start b…
  • Sun, 20:48: RT @DavidGauke: I don’t think the UK govt is bluffing when it says it’s prepared to walk away without a deal. But I don’t think the EU posi…
  • Sun, 22:04: RT @tconnellyRTE: A spokesperson for Phil Hogan has confirmed Ireland’s EU Commissioner was stopped by Gardai for using his mobile phone wh…
  • Mon, 09:30: Whoniversaries 24 August: William Morgan Sheppard, Stephen Fry, The Dominators #3, Volcano Day
  • Mon, 10:45: RT @EddSteve74: If you’re feeling jaded and a bit depressed at the state of the world right now, just remember in the 1970s humanity genuin…

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Whoniversaries 24 August: William Morgan Sheppard, Stephen Fry, The Dominators #3, Volcano Day

i) births and deaths

24 August 1932: birth of William Morgan Sheppard, who played the older Canton Everett Delaware III in The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon (Eleventh Doctor, 2011)

24 August 1957: birth of Stephen Fry, who played C in Spyfall (Thirteenth Doctor, 2020) and also wrote an untelevised script for the Tenth Doctor.

ii) broadcast anniversary

24 August 1968: Broadcast of episode 3 of The Dominators (1968). Zoe, Cully and the other Dulcians are being used by the Dominators as slave labour. Cully escapes, but the Doctor is captured, and yet another episode ends with falling masonry. Those costumes though!

iii) date specified in canon

24 August 79: Vesuvius erupts, seen most notably in The Fires of Pompeii (Tenth Doctor, 2008).

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The Man Who Loved Trains: Paul Delvaux at Train World

I plucked up courage yesterday to visit the exhibition of Paul Delvaux works, "The Man Who Loved Trains", at Train World in Schaarbeek (which I had previously visited three years ago for a Tintin exhibition). I brought little U with me – she is usually up for an expedition somewhere new ("Would you like to come with Daddy in the car?"). Of course, in the times we are in, we both had to wear masks, and U will submit to this indignity even though she has no idea why. I should add that the two of us got in for the price of one, because I counted as her assistant.

Delvaux was not much more than a name to me before yesterday, but the exhibition grabbed me immediately with his early studies of the Gare du Luxembourg in Brussels from 1922, the year he turned 25. Most days when I go to the office by train, I arrive there, and some days I leave from there as well. The streetscape has changed very much in the last 98 years, but the contours of the old structures are still discernible if you look for them with the eye of faith. I found it fascinating. Delvaux was given access to parts of the station that were and are normally closed to non-railway workers, so it's a vantage point in both time and space that is inaccessible to me.

On reflection, I guess I am not the only potential visitor who knows that part of town well, so it's a good strategic hook to get people like me interested. If that doesn't work for you, the next picture, "The Three Lamps", has the first of many topless or nude women hanging around near trains or railway stations, and the first of many mysterious children with their backs turned to us.

As you proceed through the exhibition you become aware of the tension between the solid and more or less realistic trains, and the idealised and somewhat enigmatic and sometimes erotic humans. U took it all in her stride; there are interesting but not too obstructive sounds and lighting effects that ket her engaged apart from when her annoying father asked her (and the cuddly green Android who is her best friend) to pose. As I write this she has been looking over my shoulder. Here she is more or less appreciating "Shadows", from 1965,

One piece that jumped out at me for its sfnal connection is "Homage to Jules Verne", also unusual in that one of the nudes is male.

Delvaux got some major commissions including from the Belgian state railway company SNCB/NMBS. These four panels, the first two called "Day Train" and the second two "Night Train", were painted to adorn the new international sleeper trains introduced in the early 1960s. I found them striking.

One of these was later used for a Belgian postage stamp.

Apart from the paintings there are the usual exhibits of historical train stuff, to which access is limited at present.

The exhibition is open until 10 October, so if you’re in this part of the world, it’s well worth a look.

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Whoniversaries 23 August: Innes Lloyd, Real Time #4, Deep Breath

i) births and deaths

23 August 1991: death of Innes Lloyd, producer of Doctor Who from The Celestial Toymaker to The Enemy of the World, who overhauled the show by getting rid of all the regular cast including the star, thus ensuring its long-term survival.

ii) broadcast anniversary

23 August 2002: Webcast of episode 4 of Real Time. Evelyn is faced with becoming a Cyberman; the Doctor confronts the bloke played by Yee Jee Tso and discovers why his acting is so bad why he is not completely human.

23 August 2014: broadcast of Deep Breath, the Twelfth Doctor's first full story. The new Doctor arrives in Victorian London. There are dinosaurs, spntaneous combustions, clockwork men and the Paternoster Gang. And Clara gets a phone call from the old Doctor. (This is the earliest autumn opening of a season in New Who, and the second earliest autumn opening ever.)

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The 1945 Retros that weren’t

We didn't publish the full stats for the 1945 Retro Hugo categories that weren't put to the final ballot this year, mainly because voting ended only seven days before the Retro ceremony and we had to prioritise fairly ruthlessly.

But after internal discussion, we are publishing them here. There is only one category that is remotely controversial (and there of course the voters delivered karma to us anyway by delivering a tie in the other category closely related to that one).

There were two categories where we allowed the final ballot to proceed with one finalist who had received only three nominating votes (and in one case, that finalist actually won); in cases where the final ballot would have had to include more than one eligible finalist with three or fewer nominating votes, we determined that the category was not sufficiently supported by voters to proceed.

Going in order of increasing complexity:

1945 Retro Hugo nominations for Best Semiprozine:
There were none.

1945 Retro Hugo nominations for Best Fancast:

Nominee Votes
Radio Society of Great Britain 1

1945 Retro Hugo nominations for Best Editor, Long Form:

Nominee Votes
John W Campbell 2
Donald Wollheim 1
Roger Senhouse 1

1945 Retro Hugo nominations for Best Fan Artist:

Nominee Votes
Alva Rogers 6
Bill Watson 6

4 nominees with 3 votes
2 nominees with 2 votes
12 nominees with 1 vote

Impossible to have a full final ballot without including several nominees who received only 3 nominating votes.

1945 Retro Hugo nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Nominee Votes Length (min)
The Uninvited 17 99
The Canterville Ghost 16 95
Captain America 13 240
Between Two Worlds 13 112
It Happened Tomorrow 6 85
The Curse of the Cat People 6 70
The Lady and The Monster 5 86
The Invisible Man's Revenge 4 78

4 nominees with 3 votes, of which at least 2 were less than 90 minutes in length
3 nominees with 2 votes, of which 1 was less than 90 minutes in length.
13 nominees with 1 vote, of which 4 were not released in 1944 and so were not eligible; 6 of the other 9 were less than 90 minutes in length.

It was impossible to have a full final ballot without including several nominees who either received only 3 nominating votes or were of the wrong length for the category, ie below 90 minutes.

Where possible we transferred nominating votes from this category to Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form; but if voters already had a full ballot in Short Form, their votes could not be transferred.

This hit some nominees particularly hard, and speaking personally I must say I regret that we weren't able to get The Uninvited as a finalist; I enjoyed it more than any of the others. But there you go – I just count the votes, I don't get to choose who wins.

(As a matter of fact just one of my first preferences for the 2020 Hugos won. If you are wondering if it was you, well, yes of course it was.)

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A Boy and His Dog

A Boy and His Dog won the 1976 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, beating Dark Star, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Rollerball and The Capture (a fannish slide show about aliens capturing a cruise ship). I must say I can't quite believe this; I have seen the first two of these and they are way better, and my skimming of Rollerball a couple of years back looked more promising also. I guess Harlan Ellison was being rewarded for his popularity in the fannish community of the day. (Other Hugos that year went to The Forever War, "Home is the Hangman" and "Catch that Zeppelin!". And why was Dark Star on the ballot? It was released in the wrong year, surely?) A Boy and His Dog had also been on that year's Nebula ballot, along with Rollerball and Dark Star, but was (rightly) beaten by Young Frankenstein. IMDB users rate A Boy and His Dog 35th and 26th on the two systems.

We have one returnee from a previous Hugo winner: Alvy Moore, who plays Dr Moore on screen here and was also the producer of the film, had an uncredited part as Zippy in the 1953 War of the Worlds.

The film is based on a Nebula-winning story by Harlan Ellison, and has almost exactly the same plot. In a post-apocalyptic dystopia, Vic and his faithful telepathic dog Blood wander the desert fighting people. They meet Quilla June, who tempts Vic down to the underground refuge where her people have preserved the pre-apocalypse spirit of middle-class America. It turns out that Quilla June's people only want to use him for his sperm, which is more virile than they can provide, so they escape back to the surface only to find poor Blood on the verge of death due to inadequate protein consumption in Vic's absence. Vic fixes this by killing Quilla June and feeding her to Blood, so everyone lives happily ever after except for her. (This last bit is not shown, but heavily implied, in both story and film.) Here's a trailer, claiming without irony that it is the best science fiction film ever made.

I was not hugely impressed. As so often, everyone is white. Women are there to use for sex (above ground) and reproduction (below). The first and longer part of the film is set in the desert dystopia which we now regard as a Mad Max cliche, though in fairness Mad Max must have been at least partly inspired by A Boy and His Dog. There is lots of shooting, and Quilla June is pursued.

I actually thought the underground sequence was much more interesting. I've been trying to think of sources – the Morlocks of course are the original, and I wonder if any of the production team had seen the 1967-8 Doctor Who story, The Enemy of the World, in which a community of scientists are deceived into staying underground and causing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. But the level of creepiness of the preserved Topeka – with everyon in white-face, no less – is extraordinary. (IMDB has a story that when fans at the 1974 Worldcon were given a preview, they found this sequence much more bring than the desert scenes. Not sure if I believe that, but the next year they voted for this instead of the better alternatives, so who knows?)

The gender politics of the story are not exactly in tune with today's sensibilities, but it should be recorded that Quilla June in the film is much more assertive than in the original story. She is absolutely on for sex with Vic (the original story's explicitness about her lack of consent was probably too much even for the 1970s), she thwacks him and others as well as being a good shot, and most crucially she actually busts him out of Topeka and back to the surface, where in the original story he breaks out by himself and drags her along with him.

And look, the dog is absolutely fantastic. Blood is played by Tiger, who had been a replacement for the original dog in The Brady Bunch. I'm really impressed by his cool demeanour and ability to look intelligently in the right direction. There's a lovely moment near the end where Don Johnson, playing Vic, mistakenly addresses Tiger by his real name; for whatever reason, they kept that in. He gets a lot of good lines too, spoken by Tim McEntire (who also wrote the music).

Not a film for the ages, but I've ticked it off my list at least. The following year there was no Hugo or Nebula award for films. Then I think some obscure flick came out in 1977 that got some attention at the time.

Oh yeah, I re-read the story as well, though there's not much to add to the above. The second paragraph of the third chapter is:

There was one building standing all alone at the end of the smashflat block, like it had been missed and chance let it stay. She ducked inside and a minute later I saw a bobbing light. Flashlight? Maybe.

Edited to add: The day before I wrote this, Bright Lights Film journal published a much better examination of both film and novella (and of the original film script, which differed substantially from both) by Stephen Harris: "A World Like This Deserves Contempt: Adapting Harlan Ellison’s A Boy and His Dog". Go read it instead.

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My tweets

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Whoniversaries 22 August: Ivor Salter, Mark Williams, Reign of Terror #3, Slipback #5 + #6, massacre

i) births and deaths

22 August 1925: birth of Ivor Salter, who had three roles in Old Who – the Morok Commander in the story we now call The Space Museum (First Doctor, 1965), Odysseus in the story we now call The Myth Makers (also First Doctor, 1965) and Sergeant Markham in Black Orchid (Fifth Doctor, 1982). But for my selfish purposes, he was also the semi-regular policeman in Here Come the Double Deckers!

22 August 1959: birth of Mark Williams, who played Rory's father Brian Williams in two 2012 Eleventh Doctor stories.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

22 August 1964: broadcast of 'A Change of Identity', third episode of the story we now call The Reign of Terror. Susan and Barbara are rescued; Ian escapes; the Doctor disguises himself as a Regional Officer (magnificent uniform), but the jailer has rumbled him…

22 August 1985: broadcast of episodes 5 and 6 of Slipback on radio. Eric Saward still thinks he is Douglas Adams and the Doctor manages not to prevent the Big Bang.

iii) dates specified in canon

22 August 1572: The Doctor reappears, and he and Steven make it back to the Tardis, leaving poor Anne Chaplet to face the awful events of the following day. (as shown in The Massacre, 1966)

22 August 1941: climax of the earlier timeline of Gary Russell's 2008 Torchwood novel, The Twilight Streets.

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What will happen to the 1945 Retro Hugos

I'm glad to say that after some effort we have managed to find homes for all of the 1945 Retro Hugos. The trophies themselves are currently in New Zealand and will be shipped en bloc to the USA, where our dedicated (and unpaid) team will ship them to the recipients (all of whom are in the lower 48).

As with last year (which I wrote up here), some of these were easier than others, and we've made some judgement calls.

The easiest were the three winners who also won last year – John W. Campbell, Ray Bradbury and Fritz Leiber. Campbell's grandson and Jason Aukerman of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University accepted their trophies, for Best Editor, Short Form and Best Short Story respectively; Leiber's, for Best Fan Writer, will go to the Special Collections of the University of Houston Libraries, on the instructions of the agent for his estate.

The Best Fanzine trophy for Voice of the Imagi-Nation, edited by Forrest J. Ackerman and Myrtle R. Douglas, will go to Ackerman's trustee Kevin Burns of Prometheus Entertainment., who accepted Ackerman's trophy last year. We were unable to identify any competing claimant from Douglas's side.

The award for Best Novelette will go to Clifford D. Simak's literary executor in Minnesota, who we tracked down through mutual contacts.

The award for Best Novella will go to another university library, the Special Collections of the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas, after liaison with Theodore Sturgeon's daughter.

We discovered that a correction was needed for the citation for Best Graphic Story or Comic – although the publication of “The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk”, is credited to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, it seems that the art was actually by Ira Yarbrough. We tracked down Siegel's daughter, and the trophy will go to her in Nevada.

For Leigh Brackett, who won both Best Novel and Best Related Work, it took some time to track down the agents for her estate (who firmly and accurately declare on their website that they will not reply to emails), but we got there in the end and will send the trophies to Brackett's heir in California.

Margaret Brundage, the winner of the Best Professional Artist award, outlived her only child and appears to have no heirs. We were contacted by possibly her biggest living fan, who has promoted her work vigorously, and since he asked nicely and there was no competing claim, we are sending the trophy to him in Texas.

As usual, the two Dramatic Presentation awards presented a challenge. (We had thought we would at least halve the hassle when the low turnout at nominations phase meant that we had to cut the two categories down to one, but the voters had other ideas and provided us with a tied result in the Short Form category that we did run.)

For The Curse of the Cat People, writer DeWitt Bodeen left no family that we could trace. Movie lore suggests however that the producer, Val Lewton, also did a fair bit of the writing, and we were able to trace his daughter-in-law to Washington DC; so she will get that trophy.

For The Canterville Ghost, the trail at first seemed equally cold, and we were seriously thinking of contacting the estate of Oscar Wilde, whose story the film was based on. But it turns out that the daughter of screenwriter Edwin Harvey Blum, herself the author of Coming of Age: The Sexual Awakening of Margaret Mead, still lives in her father's house in California, so the trophy will go there.

Somewhat surprisingly, the most difficult trophy to bestow was that for Best Series, which went to the Cthulhu Mythos, by H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth and others. We were contacted by an ambitious individual who felt that they had a claim to the trophy because they had recently translated a Cthulhu mythos story into English from the language it had first been written in. Er, no. The award is for work done to the end of 1944, and no later.

Our first stop was Arkham House, who were frankly very slow to respond to messages. (In fairness to Robert Weinberg, who is still described as the person in charge on the H.P. Lovecraft Wiki, he can be excused for not replying quickly because he died in 2016.) We therefore turned out attention to the Special Collections of Brown University, who hold Lovecraft's papers, but they too did not respond. (It's August.)

Earlier today we finally heard back from one of August Derleth's grandchildren at Arkham House, and that has closed the loop. Given that the Cthulhu Mythos would not have been eligible for a 1945 Retro Hugo without Derleth's work, and considering the massive efforts made by Derleth and Arkham House over the years to promote Lovecraft's work, it feels appropriate that the rocket should end up in Wisconsin, even if it is a fair step from Providence.

Edited to add: The library at Brown did eventually respond, declining the trophy.

In the meantime, the Memphis bid for the 2023 Worldcon has created a bit of a stir by declaring that they will not run the Retro Hugos if they win. (Next year's Worldcon, DisCon III in Washington DC, cannot run the awards because they have already been done for 1946. Chicon 8, the 2022 Worldcon, have yet to make a statement.) This year's Retros were not without controversy – Cora Buhlert has a very good roundup of commentary.

The diversion of resources for the Retro Hugos is significant. Eligibility checking and attempts to locate the finalists’ heirs are inevitably more time-consuming than the same processes for the current year, as I hope is clear from the above (and my previous post). They need trophies and separate bases, which cost money. They need time carved out of the convention for a ceremony to announce the awards, which no winner will actually be present to receive. Efforts need to be made to educate voters about what there is to vote for. A lot of people put effort into such education this year, and some of them feel that those efforts are not really reflected in voter choices.

In my own view, the results are also disappointing numerically.
In 2014 there were 233 nominating votes and 1307 on the final ballot for the 1939 Retros. (Regular 2014 Hugos: 1923 and 3587.)
In 2016 there were 481 nominating votes and 869 votes cast on the final ballot for the 1941 Retros. (Regular 2016 Hugos: 4032 and 3130, but this was the second Puppy year.)
In 2018 there were 204 nominating votes and 703 votes cast for the final ballot for the 1943 Retros. (Regular 2018 Hugos: 1813 and 2828.)
In 2019 there were 217 nominating ballots and 834 final ballot votes for the 1944 Retros. (Regular 2019 Hugos: 1800 and 3097.)
In 2020 there were 120 nominating ballots and 521 on the final ballot for the 1945 Retros. (Regular 2020 Hugos: 1584 and 2221.)

I find the low level of participation at nominations stage particularly significant. A lot of people will happily cast a vote if you give them a choice of options; the number actually willing to do the research and make some nominations of their own is really quite small, and not growing.

Some winners are being awarded trophies with a very low number of votes. It’s legitimate to ask if the results are actually meaningful enough to deserve the recognition that we are giving them.

Almost everything that Worldcon does is optional and needs to be subjected to a cost-benefit analysis (the exceptions are administering the Hugo Awards, running the Business Meeting and Site Selection – even the regular Hugo ceremony is optional). Any Worldcon must look at its available resources and say, well, if we do this thing, we will make a certain number of people happy at a cost; is the cost worth it? And the cost includes, but is far from limited to, the number of other people who will be made unhappy by doing that thing.

I really cannot blame the Memphis bid for making the decision that they have, as early as they have. As a matter of fact, the 2020 Hugo Admin team advised against running the Retro Hugos this year, but the chairs of CoNZealand decided otherwise. But that's another matter.

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My tweets

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