Saturday, May 20, 2006


They’ve Just Incinerated Jennie Bond!

Happy John Stuart Mill’s* 200th birthday (hat-tip: Richard Huzzey), and if you want to celebrate by seeing just the authoritarian dystopia the world could be without him, tune in to BBC1 tonight at 6.35 to watch Doctor Who: The Age of Steel, as the Cybermen take over. Yes, it’s on nearly an hour earlier than last week. For another frightening dystopia, tune in to News 24 at any time and listen to Mr Blair.

Alert readers will notice I’ve just updated my sidebar; it’s now a mix of recent entries and the older ones I thought were any good. I’ve still got several blogging ideas rattling round in my head, but after the past few days I’ve at least caught up a bit. I notice I’ve actually pounded in fourteen entries since Sunday, most of them not short, so it seemed an opportune moment to end the session. Besides, my sidebar was still suggesting my most recent posts were in April; when I set this blog up, I decided to put in lists of recent entries manually, and it had come back to bite me on the bum. So why did I bother making more work for myself? Two reasons, really – I thought the way the ‘automatic’ list came up looked ugly, and I decided I’d like to split them into political and other (usually TV-based) posts. I kept the numbers down (ish) to twenty of each, and what you have now is an index of most of the recent posts, plus those older posts I thought were the best (Richard guffaws at this and suggests I invite you to take notes and return for a test later). They’re based entirely on what I feel about them; at some stage I mean to set up a hit counter, but not just now, eh?

I won’t be doing much blogging this weekend, partly because I have other things to do and partly because my eyes are going a bit blurry from being at the screen so much during the week. Richard and I have been scurrying around doing the Saturday housework this morning, and – watching out for Doctor Who trailers the BBC still aren’t showing, hiss – I’ve found myself drawn into Great British Menu on TV in the background. I feel slightly guilty watching the Queen’s posh food porn, but it all looks so tempting (well, not the beetroot). Still, at least one of the chefs has just done his best to set light to the BBC’s oleaginous royal correspondent. My appetite has been so whetted that I’ve finally broken my caring-for-my-shattered-teeth embargo and opened that Thorntons Easter Egg with the Special Toffee friends gave us over a month ago. Mmmm. Number of fillings lost this morning: 0 and counting.

Hurrah! It’s just finished, and they’ve finally remembered to plug Doctor Who. Appropriately for a thrilling concluding episode, the clip used for the teaser is of the Doctor lunging toward the camera to declaim, “This ends tonight.”

Meanwhile, I’ve managed to do a little reading that’s been neither Doctor Who nor politics. Years and years back, I picked up a second-hand copy of Cordwainer Smith’s Norstrilia and was bowled over by it; more recently, I saw a collection of his short stories as The Rediscovery of Man, and have just made a start. The opening story Scanners Live in Vain was written about sixty years ago, yet rather scarily it’s impossible to tell (not least because the main characters are, in effect, Cybermen who communicate using txt spk). I’ve also just read the first of Robin Jarvis’ Wyrd Museum stories, The Woven Path, which was given to me for my birthday by a dear friend. “But surely,” you might ask, “your birthday was last October?” In this case, sadly not. I’m not actually sure when he gave it to me, but though I’m relatively confident the year began with ‘20…’ I’m quite certain that it didn’t conclude in ‘…05’. Anyway, it’s an entertaining slice of fantasy involving a boy whisked back in time to the Blitz and a terrible demon recovering its old strength, with a feel very reminiscent of Doctor Who. In part it’s that much of it seems to pre-empt Steven Moffat’s The Empty Child of last year, and that the scariest death echoes Mark Gatiss’ Nightshade, each fine and terrifying stories. But largely it’s just those three essentials, time travel, whimsy and lots of death.

Just as my long-awaited copy of Andy Murray’s Nigel Kneale biography Into the Unknown - about which I’ve heard great things - finally arrives in the post, I see from Nyder’s blog that Val Guest has died. He was writer and director of some terrible and some marvellous films, and though Mr Kneale might put them in the former category I’m enormously fond of his two Quatermass adaptations, The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass 2. I understand Andy’s next project is about another writer, one almost as spellbinding but with a better-humoured screen persona…

*Nice to see Harriet Taylor Mill getting co-credit for On Liberty in the first comment in the blog Richard Huzzey hat-tips, incidentally. I seem to be the only Lib Dem who ever does that, despite Mill always saying it was hers; my suspicion is that Victorian publishers refused to credit her because she was, ugh, a flibbertigibbet girlie, and therefore couldn’t possibly have any views in her fluffy little head, and that view has lasted ever since. What a shame everyone still parrots it.

Glad you're enjoying Cordwainer Smith. I can lend you Robert Lindner's "The Fifty-Minute Hour", plus the New York Review of SF's theory that Smith is the bloke in Lindner's book. (See here for more).

That sounds cool.

Oh, and happy birthday to your blog, you fine, strapping one-year-old ;-)
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