Thursday, May 07, 2020


Why I Want to Publish Fragmentary Ideas, and Asking For Your Help #Fragments

TL;DR – I’ve published something. It’s hard. I’d like to do it again. I’m scared. You can help by suggesting what next. If you’re occasionally interested in my writing, please consider it.

Today’s the fifteenth anniversary of the Doctor Who story The Long Game, and I’ve said something about it.

Two other anniversaries of sorts have just flown by. I noticed today that it’s now just over a year since I set up a Patreon, which up until now I have been too ashamed even to mention in public, and it’s more than a month since I tried to prod myself into activity by posting a Twitter thread asking whether anyone might be interested in reading peculiar side-fragments when I’m not up to proper reviews.

For all too many reasons I don’t publish much. In my head I love writing huge, sprawling, fabulously comprehensive and toweringly ambitious articles. In actuality the very prospect of them fills me with terror of failure, while writing anything less fills me with acute actual failure (this is a very abbreviated precis and I have to fight the urge to commit to a deep-dive comprehensive article examining all my self-defeating instincts and behaviours that I will reassuringly never finish rather than publishing this). But I can’t stop myself writing. And sometimes, just occasionally, I accidentally manage to finish something by fooling my brain into thinking that it will never see the light of day and then, horror! Stealing itself from my echoing vaults of notes and publishing before I can stop it. But my brain gets wise to this, and even things I write just for myself are rarely quite finished… Just in case.

Last month I had an idea and plunged it into Twitter, shivering and splashing and trying not to drown. My ambition is to write fantastic long articles again. My practical possibility is that I do actually write peculiar side-fragments when I spot something in, say, a Doctor Who episode and examine it far more closely than sensible. These are extraordinarily unlikely ever to become proper articles, still less coherent parts of the reviews that might justify their existence, but, I thought – and then, intimidatingly, asked – should I blog some of them as fragmentary asides? To which a dozen people encouragingly replied, yes! I should (and as many again pressed ‘Like’). Which was lovely. And utterly terrifying, and I hid, and came up with all sorts of things I should just do first. Though, to give myself an excuse that stands up better than most, right now I am coping rather less well with life in general even than usual.

Today it’s the anniversary of The Long Game, and I found myself reading through some of my notes on it over the years, and I thought, you know, it’s really rather good, and some of my notes aren’t bad, and perhaps rather than my usual single cheering On This Day Tweet I might turn them into a thread?

And after I published it, I realised to my surprise that I’d accidentally done what I’d suggested doing a month ago. Not quite, obviously – my thought was to just grab something slightly interesting and publish it without adding context or polishing it up (laudable ideals that would make it more readable in theory while making it never happen in practice). I couldn’t make myself do that this time (gestures helplessly upwards). But – astoundingly – despite all these delaying ‘improvements’, I still wrote the thread, then published here too.

What Next?

I know! The usual answer is: panicked by the idea of having actually published something, I will curl into a ball gibbering while my brain works out new strategies to prevent this happening again.

But it might just be something different this time.

If you’d like me to share more of these – I’m tempted to call them ‘Lost Toast’, but I’m tagging them ‘Fragments’ for now – there is a way you can help.

I’ve written a lot of this stuff, in countless files. No, really. You have no idea. And one of the most paralysing things for me is just choosing which to go next. What’s any good? What’s almost nearly potentially oh no not really very ready to publish? What might people like to read? What is least likely to make me feeling exposed and stupid when none of it’s any good? And so on. When people say, ‘Don’t second-guess yourself’, I think, second? Who are the lucky people whose reasons for outvoting themselves are only in single (or double, or quintuple) figures?

So, look. I know that you don’t actually know what I’ve written sort-of interesting things about. But take it from me, that makes it much easier for you to choose, not less.

Please – Suggest the Next One

Ask me. Do I have anything worth saying about—? And I just might.

To prompt you in prompting me, I’ve written an awful lot of observations from an awful lot of angles about an awful lot of Doctor Who.

Pick a story. Could be anything from 1963 to 2020. Definitely won’t be everything from 1963 to 2020. The newer it is the more unlikely I’ll have something thought-provoking written down. This is not for lack of enthusiasm (though my deteriorating mental health doesn’t help there) but because the more I’ve watched, read or listened to a story, the more I’ve read other reviews and bounced off them in completely contrary directions, and simply the more decades I’ve had for an idea to simmer, the more likely it is that I’ll have something insightful or entertaining to say. But like all generalisations, that’s only roughly true. So test your luck.

You’re also quite likely to find I’ve gone into depth on aspects of – off the top of my head (and by ha ha ha no means comprehensive) – other TV, films and books I know I’ve written observations about, from only a couple to very many, including:

And far, more than I can mention right now. Even, occasionally, Miss Marple, Shakespeare and other greats of which, frankly, I know very little but which won’t stop me. Oh. Help. I’ve suddenly fallen into masculinity.

Seriously, I am petrified and I know that it will be hard for me to push myself, but this is the most likely way to get myself to publish anything. Suggestions, requests and a bit of hand-holding really might help. Please comment, email or tweet and I will try to appreciate it.

And if you’re wondering how I managed to write this? I was turning the Twitter thread on The Long Game into an article, and this is the couple of paragraphs of brief explanatory notes. No, it is.

The Next Ones – Published #Fragments

I carried on writing more of them, after all. Here they are (so far):

Doctor Who – The Long Game and Why It’s Better Than You Remember
In the future, fascists and media hostility to immigrants have turned society on itself, crushed asking questions and made life crap. Imagine. It’s funny, scary, clever, political. And yet no-one loves it very much. How ‘the best’ gets in the way.

The Avengers – The Lost Episodes: The Springers
Steed has such an appalling cover name I laughed like a hyena, how early Avengers can seem like an optical illusion, and the biggest difference between TV and Big Finish Dr Keels (it’s not the beard).

Doctor Who – The Savages: SJW Since 1966
Doctor Who has always been political, yet media and some fans explode it’s now ‘ruined’ by ‘suddenly’ turning Social Justice Warrior. Back in 1966, the Doctor upset a bunch of fans who just didn’t get it, condemned an unequal society, and gave the villain a piece of his mind.

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I loved your Long Game thread, and I'd welcome any more Who writing from you. If it helps, I'd be especially interested in anything Hartnell, especially The Romans, The Time Meddler and The Gunfighters.
Who-wise, if you have unpublished thoughts on Troughton-era Who, I would love to read it. Anything would be welcome, but especially The Faceless Ones, The Ice Warriors or The Wheel in Space.

Outside Who, I would welcome any excuse to rewatch Sapphire and Steel.

I love reading your writing, and will welcome anything you have.
Thank you both! You’re very encouraging, and it does help. Though I may not necessarily have anything much for either of your story picks (I’ll probably end up looking for anything that pops up on Hartnell or Troughton, but that’ll take longer).

So… I have a 900-page file where I type up things that strike me about any fiction at all, and individual files for most Doctor Who stories with more detail. The individual ones will take longer to read through, but this morning I’ve read through what I have to say about your choices in the big one and I’ve not got much that’s insightful there (the longer ones may not either). But a few lines struck me, so here you go…

The Romans
I’ve pasted in a link and an appreciative note about an awesome article I read about the Asch Conformity Experiments and The Emperor’s New Clothes. But you wrote that, Iain, so it’s probably not what you’re looking for. Other readers might like it:
I also have a small note, I assume from a night going down rabbit holes on Wikipedia, that “This Tigellinus is apparently way nicer than the real one, which is even harder to believe than Nero way older.”

The Time Meddler
By a curious twist of time, this was entirely shot and shown within the much longer period it took for The Avengers – The Town of No Return to be filmed and broadcast, so the neither can have been an influence on the other, yet each has the same record player tic as a sign of an alien presence subverting the show.
For this one, though, I did publish a review of The Time Meddler when the DVD came out:

The Gunfighters
I have a few mildly interesting paragraphs on how this, Star Trek and The Prisoner each do a Western within a couple of years, but each more in the style of the other shows rather than what you’d expect. I’m not sure it quite stands up. Might post if I find something else to go with it.
Despite Hartnell and Purves’ marvellous comic timing, last time I watched this I was mainly taken with the direction: high shots, low shots and a camera pan to imply the TARDIS landing that reminded me of The Leisure Hive. Which brings me to…

The Ice Warriors
The camera pans round the outside of the base, stopping at a raised snow drift like a little hillock that we’re supposed to expect the TARDIS to materialise atop, as usual. Then it’s on its side instead, right in our faces, almost filling the screen, and sliding down further, so the visual grammar of the series tells us it’s gone wrong even before we hear our heroes screaming and groaning.
Penley and Storr have such a bickering married couple relationship – then, for all that his words slag him off, Penley tenderly touches the unconscious Clent’s cheek. The script probably says he’s just checking for a pulse. But finding the bear as the rebound is what it looks like.
When Miss Garrett visits, museum, the lines about MEN not MACHINES start to get so declaratory it’s a surprise Penley doesn’t start striking heroic realist poses and walking into the audience.

The Wheel In Space
The Cyber-planner’s an interesting shape, a sort of dome with Cyber-ears framing it, as if a Cyberman’s shed its human form. Unfortunately, the impression that the Cybermen have passed the Planner all their higher functions and given up thinking is underlined by their own redesign. Perhaps the idea was to make the mouth a ‘three’ like the eyes and fingers, but the ‘dangling tooth’ on the slit makes them look like Cyber-yokels. I suppose the concept was vampiric? But unlike their coffins and Murnau-Nosferatu sending a plague of rats from their ship, this doesn’t come off.

Yes, all right, that’s rather a long comment and probably should just have been a compilation blog post by request. I’m learning…

Only just saw this (I'm behind on my RSS feeds) but I'd be interested in your thoughts on Dracula, especially, as that's slightly further from the stuff you normally write about. Not that there's anything wrong with "stuff you normally write about", of course, but it might help you not compare yourself to the idealised version of you in your head. Instead of thinking "Well, I wrote thirty thousand words on The Talons of Weng-Chiang a decade ago, why can't I write that much about The Space Pirates?" or whatever, it might be easier to think "Yeah, that's actually all I have to say about that."
Thank you, and sorry for not replying before. I’m rather more run down than usual (surprise).
Thanks both for the encouragement and for making me smile – I’m afraid I was immediately able to answer why it’s possible to write at great length about The Talons of Weng-Chiang but not that much about The Space Pirates (though I like the drawing pins).
I like the sense of "Yeah, that's actually all I have to say about that."

Happy 123rd anniversary of the publication of Dracula!
So… I’d re-read the original Dracula a few months ago and thought I’d made notes of interesting things as I went along. If I did, I’ve no idea where. Which was one slight hitch to publishing something about it today, as had been my aim. The other is that I’m quite a bit less well than usual.
But I do have something when I can get it together: Bram Stoker it isn’t, mostly, but last year I watched two of the more obscure Hammer Draculas and those I *did* find my notes for. Will they do?

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