Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Big Finnish

I’d just entered a piece here this morning when Blogger went down. There was a moment of fear and swearing; was it just my blog? Was it just my PC? Then the mingled relief and “Well, I hope Blogger isn’t completely f****d,” when 8am passed and Lib Dem Blogs showed the last two days’ posts suddenly down from thirty-odd to nine, with the number of functioning blogs cut by two-thirds. It made me think of the pleasure and the precariousness of this ‘self-publishing’ phenomenon, and of how pleased I was a couple of months ago by a request from Finland.

Being a large and complex website, Blogger sometimes has problems. It’s very efficient at fixing them quickly, but while it’s malfunctioning there’s panic out of all proportion to the problem. In part, it’s because we’re used to the 24-hour news cycle and are outraged when we have to wait minutes, perhaps even an hour or so, before we can get our fix or supply one to others. But I think it goes deeper, and I can remember other Lib Dem bloggers making a similar song and dance of how annoying it was that Blogger was down when it happened a few months ago.

One of the unsung advantages of blogging is that it entirely bypasses the rejection letter. That’s probably why people make such a big do in their writing when their Blogspot isn’t working properly. It’s not really irritation at a technical problem, but atavistic fear that even your self-published scribblings won’t publish you.

In the world of Doctor Who fandom, there used to be a huge self-published (usually self-photocopied) industry of small magazines known as fanzines, a term once identified by Joanna Lumley on Call My Bluff as a small wicker basket. They’ve become less common since everyone’s had their own website, but a few are still going, and they fulfilled a similar need to the Lib Dem FOCUS leaflet: ‘nobody’s printing me, so I’ll put it out myself’.

I’ve never been terribly good with deadlines, and when given the chance of submitting anything, almost always failed (the discipline of the Time Team in later years is a rare exception). Still, I’d always rather liked the idea of seeing my name and, more importantly, my ideas – preferably at great length – in print. I remember making one big attempt at getting into a fanzine, and I was delighted when I had what I considered an intelligent and different article accepted by the fanzine I reckoned to be the best of the lot, about ten years ago. Obviously, since that acceptance letter they’ve never produced another issue. A chap could take it personally.

Imagine my delight, then, when I got an e-mail a couple of months ago from a terribly nice chap in Finland called Tero Ykspetäjä. Doctor Who begins transmission in Finland in September with last year’s stories starring Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, and he’d become fascinated with the series. He’d read about it in the press and in blogs he frequented, as well as really liking The Second Coming, another drama written by Russell T Davies and starring Mr Eccleston. Tero had then come across my blog, and it turned out he was just the sort of reader I’d written So Who is This Doctor Bloke Anyway? for.

He runs off a sci-fi newsletter for his local group, and wanted to include my introduction to Doctor Who to give them an idea about this new series. Would I mind if he translated it into Finnish and published it? No, of course not. I was flattered; however often I publish articles online, somehow knowing one of them’s being passed round a pub in a fanzine made up of some photocopied sheets makes it seem more real, and while they can have drinks spilt on them, they can’t crash. He also asked me for some recommendations about other good Doctor Who adventures that would be suitable for a newcomer, if they are available on DVD, and I’ve belatedly given some suggestions.

In the meantime, here’s Tero’s favourite bit of Kuka onkaan tämä Tohtori?, describing the essence of the Doctor and what the series is all about in its core:

Tohtori uskoo vapauteen ja vihaa tietämättömyyttä, yhdenmukaisuutta ja eristäytyneisyyttä. Hän ei ole kenenkään työntekijä eikä käytä univormua tai kanna asetta. Sarja on sekä hyvin brittiläinen että valtaapitäviä vastustava. Se kannustaa itsenäiseen ajatteluun, hauskanpitoon ja moraalisesti hyvien asioiden puolustamiseen, ja välttää ongelmien ratkaisua niitä ampumalla. Sarjan mukaan kenenkään ei tarvitse uskoa, mitä heille kerrotaan, ja vielä vähemmän tehdä niin kuin käsketään. Ja se on jo vuosikymmenten ajan pelotellut lapsia ilkeillä hirviöillä ja musiikillakin, ja siitähän hyvässä perheviihteessä on kysymys: ohjelmasta jossa on tarpeeksi sisältöä kaikenikäisille katsojille.

Paging Erlend Watson...
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