470 days of plague

First and most crucially, I got my second vaccination last Friday, and am therefore clear to travel in the EU from Friday week.


Many people had warned me that the second Pfizer dose can really knock you out the second day after you have had it. I am glad to say that I did not notice anything. I had a big work task over the weekend and was able to complete it comfortably by Sunday afternoon.

I note that in my previous post in this series I referred to “Worldcon hassles”. As those who care about these things will already be aware, the entire 2021 Hugo Awards team, including me, resigned on Tuesday 22nd, rapidly followed by the resignation of the 2021 Worldcon Chair on Friday 25th. I’m not going to say much more about it here, except that I very much appreciated a message from one of the Vice-Presidents of BWAWA, the organisation that “owns” this year’s Worldcon, apologizing for the stress that we had experienced. That does make a difference.

But the big news is that the office is now open all week, and I will be in Brussels on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the time being. Two days ago was the first day of the new regime, and I bought a celebratory Vietnamese lunch for the half dozen colleagues who had showed up.


The Belgian numbers keep going in the right direction. I think that in the next week we will have a day with no recorded COVID deaths, for the first time since September. For other countries – notably the UK – it’s not quite as good, and for parts of the developing world it is disastrous. I’ll cling to what I have.

I am pondering how long I’ll keep up these posts. Last year my benchmark was that the numbers should be below those of 15 March 2020, when there were 266 COVID cases in hospital, of which 54 in intensive care, and 6 deaths. The fatality rate is comfortably below 6 per day at the moment, and the hospital numbers, currently 329, should be below 266 by this time next week. The number in ICU is comparatively much higher – 147 – but also falling rapidly. So I reckon I’ll be doing a 480 days of plague entry, but maybe not 490.

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Whoniversaries 30 June; and envoi

i) births and deaths

30 June 1978: death of David Ellis, who co-wrote The Faceless Ones (1967)

30 June 2015: death of Edward Burnham, who played Professor Watkins in The Invasion (1968) and Professor Kettlewell in Robot (1974-75)

30 June 2019: death of Glyn Houston, who played Professor Watson in The Hand of Fear (Fourth Doctor, 1976) and Colonel Ben Wolsey in The Awakening (Fifth Doctor, 1984).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

30 June 2007: broadcast of Last of the Time Lords, the 200th story and 750th episode (depending how you count) of Doctor Who.

And so I reach the end of this project, again. I am glad that I did it. It was an interesting challenge to hunt down photographs to illustrate each day, particularly when it came to lost episodes.

And as ever, we've lost some people who were involved with Doctor Who during the year. Those who qualified for inclusion here were:

John Rolfe (died 12 August 2020), who played the Captain in The War Machines (First Doctor, 1966), Sam Becket in The Moonbase (Second Doctor, 1967) and Ralph Fell in The Green Death (Third Doctor, 1973).

Frank Windsor (died 30 September 2020), who played Ranulf Fitzwilliam in The King's Demons (Fifth Doctor, 1983) and Inspector Mackenzie, who ends up in the soup in Ghost Light (Seventh Doctor, 1989).

Geoffrey Palmer (died 5 November 2020), who played Masters in Doctor Who and the Silurians (Third Doctor, 1970), the Administrator in The Mutants (Third Doctor, 1972), and Hardaker in Voyage of the Damned (Tenth Doctor, 2007). His son Charles Palmer directed four episodes of Doctor Who in 2007.

Philip Martin (died 13 December 2020), who wrote Vengeance on Varos (Sixth Doctor, 1985) and Mindwarp (Sixth Doctor, 1986).

Jeremy Bulloch (died 17 December 2020), who played Tor in The Space Museum (1965), Hal in The Time Warrior (1973-74), and is best known as Boba Fett in the first two Star Wars films.

Peter Craze (died 30 December 2020), 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).

Mark Eden (died 1 January 2021), who played Marco Polo in the story we now call Marco Polo (First Doctor, 1974) and half a century later played BBC One Controller Donald Baverstock in An Adventure in Space and Time.

Arthur Cox (died 9 April 2021, two days after his 87th birthday), who played Cully in The Dominators (Second Doctor, 1968) and Mr Henderson in The Eleventh Hour (Eleventh Doctor, 2010), one of the longest gaps between first and second appearances on the show.

Frank Cox (died 27 April 2021; unrelated to Arthur Cox, as far as I know), who directed part 2 of the story we now call The Edge of Destruction (First Doctor, 1964) and parts 5 and 6 of the story we now call The Sensorites (also First Doctor, 1964).

Christopher Coll (died 29 May 2021), who played lunar technician Phipps in The Seeds of Death (Second Doctor, 1969) and the Marshal's aide Stubbs in The Mutants (Third Doctor, 1972).

And last but very definitely not least, Jackie Lane (died 24 June 2021), who played companion Dodo Chaplet in early 1966.

Of all the former companions who lived into this century, Jackie Lane had by far the lowest profile, but here she is in Paris in 2010:

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January 2012 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, 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.

The biggest professional development of the month was that I got entangled with the politics of Georgia (the real one, not the U.S. state of the same name) which took me to Strasbourg on my one trip of the month (just a few weeks after my last time there). I also got involved with a couple of online slapfights, one on Liz Bourke's infamous review, the other on replacing a British MEP who had resigned. The former is still a relevant debate, I think.

We also entertained the deputy foreign minister of Moldova for dinner. But dear god, my camera back then was pretty awful.

I read 30 books that month.

Non-fiction 11
The History of Christianity, ed. Tim Dowley
Dealing with a post-BRIC Russia, by Ben Judah, Jana Kobzova and Nicu Popescu
Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka, 1997-2009, by Gunnar Sørbø, Jonathan Goodhand, Bart Klem, Ada Elisabeth Nissen and Hilde Selbervik
One Planet, by Nicholas Hulot
How The States Got Their Shapes, by Mark Stein
Making Ireland British 1580-1650, by Nicholas Canny
The Treason and Trial of Sir John Perrot, by Roger Turvey
Why Can't Elephants Jump?, ed. Mick O'Hare
Packing for Mars, by Mary Roach
Proust and the Squid, by Maryanne Wolf
Indian Summer, by Alex von Tunzelmann

Fiction (non-sf) 2
Scotch on the Rocks, by Douglas Hurd and Andrew Osmond
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë

SF (non-Who) 7
The Sharing Knife: Horizon, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Tales from Ancient Egypt, by Joyce Tildesley
Out of Nowhere, by Gerald Whelan
The Other City, by Michal Ajvaz
Only You Can Save Mankind, by Terry Pratchett
Slow River, by Nicola Griffith
Conrad's Fate, by Diana Wynne Jones

Doctor Who etc 8
[1st Doctor] Doctor Who: The Daleks (script), by Terry Nation
[11th Doctor] Doctor Who: The Brilliant Book 2012, ed. Clayton Hickman
[7th Doctor] All-Consuming Fire, by Andy Lane
[SJA] [audiobook] Children of Steel, by Martin Day
[8th Doctor] The Blue Angel, by Paul Magrs and Jeremy Hoad
[SJA] [audiobook] Judgement Day, by Scott Gray
[Torchwood] Skypoint, by Phil Ford
[11th Doctor] [audiobook] The Art of Death, by James Goss

Comics 2
At The Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft, adapted by I.N.J. Culbard
The Unwritten vol 3: Dead Man's Knock, by Mike Carey

~8,500 pages
10/30 by women (Kobzova, Nissen/Seibervik, Roach, Wolf, von Tunzelmann, Brontë, Bujold, Tildesley, Griffith, Jones)
0/30 by PoC (as far as I know)

Some very good books this month. The best, rather to my surprise, was The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë, which I had not read before. You can get it here. Honorable mentions also to the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation analysis of the failure of the Sri Lanka peacekeeping mission, which you can get here, and on a different note Andy Lane's great Doctor Who novel All-Consuming Fire, which you can get here. Wooden spoon to The Other City, by Michal Ajvaz, which you can get here.

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Whoniversaries 29 June

births and deaths

29 June 1943: birth of Maureen O'Brien, who played Vicki in 1964-65.

29 June 1980: birth of Katherine Jenkins, who played Abigail Pettigrew in A Christmas Carol (2010).

29 June 1999: death of Declan Mulholland, one of the few Northern Irish actors to appear in Who, as Clark in The Sea Devils (1972) and Till in The Androids of Tara (1978).

29 June 2000: death of John Abineri, who played van Lutyens in Fury from the Deep (Second Doctor, 1967), Carrington in The Ambassadors of Death (Third Doctor, 1970), Railton in Death to the Daleks (Third Doctor, 1974) and Ranquin in The Power of Kroll (Fourth Doctor, 1978-79)

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All Among The Barley, by Melissa Harrison

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Yet even this I found that I failed at; for instead of sparkling aphorisms, fascinating conversation and news of current affairs, all the pages revealed each week was that I saw to the hens twice daily and grudgingly fulfilled my other tasks, was pleased when Mother made jam roly-poly and petulant when it was liver, read greedily, said my prayers dutifully, was chided frequently for mooning about and once a month suffered the Curse.

For some reason I apparently put this on my wishlist, and my kind wife duly got it for my birthday in April. It's a very interesting novel set in the 1930s, in a rural England where there is still a shortage of labour due to the first word war, and 14-year-old Edie is coming to terms with the world outside her farm and her village. Glamorous Constance arrives from London to write sketches of country life; but she brings much more dangerous ideas with her as well, and Edie's life ends up completely disrupted (it's made clear at the start of the first chapter that there has been a major disruption, and we spend the rest of the book finding out what happened). I thought this was a great book, if not necessarily a cheerful one, and I will look out for more by this writer. It won the European Union Prize for Literature in 2019. You can get it here.

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Whoniversaries 28 June

i) births and deaths

28 June 1951: birth of Sarah Ward, better known as Lalla Ward, who played Princess Astra in The Armageddon Factor (1979) and then the second Romana from 1979 to 1981. Happy 70th birthday!

28 June 2020: death of Louis Mahoney who played a newscaster in Frontier in Space (Third Doctor, 1973), Ponti in Planet of Evil (Fourth Doctor, 1975), and the older Billy Shipton in Blink (Ninth Doctor, 2007).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

28 June 2008: broadcast of The Stolen Earth, featuring the Tenth Doctor, Martha, Donna, Jack, Ianto and Gwen from Torchwood and Sarah Jane and her adopted son Luke from the SJA. The Earth is moved to the Medusa Cascade by the Daleks and Davros; the Doctor is caught by a Dalek extermination beam.

28 June 2010: broadcast of Hound of the Korven, twenty-fifth and secon-last of the episodes of the Austarlian K9 series. Thorne entices K9 to hand over his regeneration unit in exchange for his missing memory chip. It is a double cross. The fake chip contains a code turning K9 into a bomb. Starkey is taken by an old enemy who has a few surprises for K9 and his friends too.

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The baby in the park: an update

I wrote back in March about the mystery of the baby found in a Philadelphia park in 1917, how her children and I had got in touch through ancestry.com and how I had definitely identified the baby's mother, and also tentatively identified the baby's father as a distant cousin of my grandmother's.

As often happens when you work on these things, a niggle of doubt continued in my mind about the baby's paternity. The mother's identity was clear enough; but I worried that my candidate for the father, who I referred to as "Bill" in my previous post, was really too distantly related me to be a plausible candidate for grandfather to "Patricia", "Derek" and "Bella". Their DNA links to me were of the order of third cousins; if Bill was their grandfather, they would be my fifth cousins, and one would expect the DNA connections to be much more diluted than they are.

I worried away at this, and went back to look at the list of my grandmother's first cousins, rather than anyone more distant; all descended from a couple who I will call Bill and Sally, born 1810s, who lived all of their lives near Boston. (A different Bill to the previous one.) I realised that I had missed one interesting candidate, who I will call "Edward", son of Bill and Sally's older daughter. Edward's older brother "Chris" had moved to California in 1909, so I had ruled him out, but I had somehow failed to notice that Edward and the middle brother "David" had stayed in the East. David spent most of his life in his home town in Massachusetts, but Edward had moved around a fair bit. He actually died in Philadelphia during the second world war; and, digging a bit further into the records, I discovered that he had also spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania from 1907 to 1917, including, crucially, that he lived in Philadelphia in 1916, exactly when the baby in the park was conceived.

To say that I was excited was an understatement. I realised also that although Edward was not himself known to have had other children, I had identified two of Chris’s great-grandchildren, Edward’s great-great-nephews, on another genetics site, myheritage.com – identified as "Henry" and "Ian" on this diagram.

Patricia needed little persuading to let me upload her DNA sample to myheritage.com. If I was right about Edward being her grandfather, then the link between her and Edward's great-great-nephews should be twice as strong as the link between her and me; second cousins once removed, as opposed to third cousins.

On a Saturday morning, my email pinged with a message from myheritage.com. I clicked excitedly to their site to see the analysis. Would it prove my theory that Edward was the father of the baby in the park?

Er, no. Patricia's link with Henry was actually weaker than her link with me. And her link with Ian was so weak that it was off the scale of measurability. My Edward theory looked to have been completely blown out of the water.

I went back to the drawing board. Specifically, I went back to 23andMe, the website where I had first signed up for this kind of thing. After a bit more digging around, I realised that no less than three other known descendants of Bill and Sally, my great-great-grandparents, were on the site. And we knew that the father of the baby in the park must have been a mature man in 1916. If he was also a descendant of Bill and Sally, there were only seven possibilities:

  • Bill and Sally's sons, Albert and Brian;
  • Bill and Sally's daughter's sons, Chris, David and Edward
  • Albert's son Frank
  • Brian's son George.
Luckily four of these had descendants on 23andMe. Chris's great-great-granddaughter by his eldest daughter, who I'll call Jo; Frank's great-granddaughter Kate, also Albert's great-great-granddaughter; a great-grandson of Albert by his second marriage, who I'll call Lenny; and me, great-grandson of Brian and great-nephew of George.
There is no need to go into complexity here. It's pretty simple.
  • If Chris, David or Edward was the grandfather of Patricia, Bella and Derek, then their DNA should be closer to Jo's than to Kate's, Lenny's or mine. (Already pretty much excluded as a possibility, by the myheritage.com results.)
  • If Frank was the grandfather of Patricia, Bella and Derek, then their DNA should be closer to Kate's than to Jo's, Lenny's or mine.
  • If Albert was the grandfather of Patricia, Bella and Derek, then their DNA should be closer to Lenny's than to Jo's, Kate's or mine.
  • If Brian or George was the grandfather of Patricia, Bella and Derek, then their DNA should be closer to mine than to Jo's Kate's or Lenny's. (Already pretty much excluded, because their links to me should be a lot closer than they are, if this was the case.)
At this point I needed to persuade Patricia, Bella and Derek to all submit samples to 23andMe. Again, they needed little persuading. It took a while to get everything organised, but the results came back in the end, and for all three of them, the link with Kate was much closer than their links with Jo, Lenny or me. It looked very much like Frank must be their grandfather.

Another factor elevates this from probability to certainty. As I have noted before, 23andMe allows you to do chromosome-by-chromosome comparison. Very interestingly, Kate shares X chromosome DNA with all three of Patricia, Bella and Derek. We people, generally AMAB, who have Y chromosomes can only inherit X chromosome DNA from our mothers and not our fathers. (You folks with two X chromosomes, generally AFAB, have inherited that DNA from both of your parents.) That means that if you share X chromosome DNA with anyone, there cannot be a father-son link in your genealogical connection, because sons inherit X chomosome DNA only from their mothers.

But Kate's link with six of the seven potential fathers of the baby in the park does include a father-son connection. Five of them are related to her through the father-son link between Albert and Frank, and the sixth is Albert himself. The only one of the seven with whom Kate could share X chromosome DNA is her own great-grandfather, Frank. (I myself do not share X-chromosome DNA with any of the other people in the chart, because my link to them all is through my father.)

So, I think I have solved a 104-year-old mystery. We still don't know how Frank and Peggy got together, to set in motion the course of events that resulted in the birth of the baby abandoned in the park in Philadelphia. Frank was working in Buffalo that year, and also had to visit Washington DC now and then for business; we also know that his cousin Edward was living in Philadelphia. Perhaps Frank stopped off in Philly to visit Edward, and met with Peggy then? Then again, she was a musician; perhaps she was performing in DC or in Buffalo, and met Frank there? I doubt that we will ever find out.

But we do know for sure who the biological parents of the baby in the park were.

This sort of research is really difficult and not cheap. We needed Patricia, Bella and Derek to supply DNA samples to two different testing sites, and I think if I were not related to them myself, it would have taken a lot longer to get to the bottom of the mystery. It also frankly took a couple of nights of insomnia to clear my own concentration to the right point.

But I would love to do more of this. It's immensely gratifying. I've already been asked to help out with one of the Philippines cases mentioned here. In the end, everyone has a right to know where they come from. I have a real job, so I doubt that I will ever make a living out of this kind of work, but it would be really interesting to do it again.

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Whoniversaries 27 June

i) births and deaths

27 June 1991: death of Milton Subotsky, who produced and wrote Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966), the two cinema films starring Peter Cushing as Doctor Who.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

27 June 1964: broadcast of "The Unwilling Warriors", second episode of the story we now call The Sensorites. The Sensorites threaten to take Susan to their own planet as a hostage.

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2021 Hugos: Best Graphic Story or Comic

A couple of people have asked me if I will return to the staff of DisCon III now that the Chair has resigned. Whoever the new Chair is, I will decline any such invitation. My former position as WSFS Division Head was filled within twenty-four hours of my own resignation, by someone who (unlike me) has actually done that job before, and who does not need me looking over their shoulder. I have no information about the rest of the vacancies, and frankly it's none of my business whether others of the former team decide to return if invited to do so. Whoever does pick up the reins, I wish them well; I think that we left the Hugo Administration side of things in pretty good shape, and there is of course continuity in Site Selection and the Business Meeting. (One of my few regrets about the way things ended is that we had not yet set up systematic monitoring of the votes coming in, so I have absolutely no idea who is winning.)

Having been liberated earlier than I expected from my responsibilities for this year's Hugos, I can start blogging my views on the finalists for those who are interested. I think the Best Graphic Story or Comic category has really improved over the years that it has been run; as my regular reader knows, I am worried about category inflation for the Hugos, but this one certainly brings more than it takes.

6) Invisible Kingdom, vol 2: Edge of Everything, by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward

Second frame of Part 03:

One of the problems of this Hugo category is that when later volumes in a series are nominated by people who have grown to love the series as a whole, those of us who have not read the preceding volumes are rather at a loss to understand what is going on. This is gorgeously drawn, intense space opera, but I have not read the first volume so was missing the background, and on top of that not much seemed to actually happen despite a lot of running about. You can get it here.

5) DIE, Volume 2: Split the Party, by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans and Clayton Cowles

Second frame of Part 8:

And here's another second volume on the final ballot, with the important difference that the first volume was on last year's ballot, so I had at least read it. It's about a group of role-playing friends who are swept into a fantasy world and must try and reunite to get back. Again, quite a lot of middle-book running around, and I do not really care for any of the characters. You can get it here.

4) Monstress, vol. 5: Warchild, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Second frame of Chapter 27:

Not a second volume, but a fifth, where all four previous volumes were Hugo finalists and indeed three of them won, two of them in years when I was the Hugo Administrator. The art is gorgeous and the world-building fascinating; however I have slightly lost track of the plot and, as with previous volumes, the violence is a bit too squicky for my taste.

Though there was one moment that gave me a big laugh.

You can get it here.

3) Ghost-Spider vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over, by Seanan McGuire, Takeshi Miyazawa and Rosie Kämpe

Second frame of third part:

I have not always got on with McGuire's work before, but I did enjoy this, a Buffy-esque story of teen superhero Spider-Gwen trying to keep a handle on both her crime-fighting life and her college education – in a parallel Earth, of course – which being hunted by a Baddie. Laugh-out-loud funny in places. You can get it here.

2) Once & Future vol. 1: The King Is Undead, by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, Tamra Bonvillain, and Ed Dukeshire

Second frame of Chapter 3:

Another one that I really liked – an audacious reinvention of the Matter of Britain, where King Arthur returns as an undead horror in league with present-day fascists, and our hero, together with his tough-as-nails granny, must thwart them. Moves at a cracking pace with some good set-pieces in south-west England. You can get it here.

1) Parable of the Sower, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings

Second frame of 2026 section:

I was sure I had read the original version of Parable of the Sower, but I can't actually find a record anywhere of having done so, and don't seem to have it on my shelves. So I was coming to the story as a whole fresh, a grim tale of a young woman's experience of the catastrophic breakdown of society in near-future California (much nearer now than it was when the book first came out) and her building for a better world. I think Duffy and Jennings have done a tremendous job of bringing Butler's prose respectfully to graphic life, not going overboard on the horror but not underselling it either, and making each character distinct on the page. So it gets my top vote this year. You can get it here.

2021 Hugos: Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Series | Best Related Work | Best Graphic Story or Comic | Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form | Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form | Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist | Lodestar | Astounding

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Whoniversaries 26 June

i) births and deaths

26 June 1914: birth of John Bailey, who played the Commander in The Sensorites (First Doctor, 1964), Edward Waterfield in The Evil of the Daleks (Second Doctor, 1967) and Sezom in The Horns of Nimon (Fourth Doctor, 1980).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

26 June 1965: broadcast of "The Planet of Decision", sixth episode of the story we now call The Chase

26 June 2010: broadcast of The Big Bang, ending Season Five of New Who. How to summarise it? Multiple time lines, the Tardis explodes ending the Universe, and Amy and Rory leave their wedding reception too travel with the Doctor.

iii) dates specified in canon

26 June 1284: an alien energy entity posing as the Pied Piper kidnaps 130 children from Hamelin in Germany, as mentioned in the 2009 SJA story, The Day of the Clown.

26 June 2010: Rory Williams starts to travel with the Doctor and Amy, returning to Earth for their wedding, despite the end of the universe; after which they start to travel again.