SF

Dear Doctor,


In two of the four episodes this far, I’m getting what I’d call a “less-goofy Eccleston” feel. This is not a bad thing.

In the other two episodes, I’m getting a “half-assed crap” feel, but hopefully we’re past that.

However, and I’m just asking as a friend, what made you sure that they were all in range of Ryan’s music? I mean, we saw at least two dog-sized ones around town, and nothing to suggest that there weren’t a few dozen more.

Doctor Who premiere


The “pre-show” was full of cringing awfulness that I had to keep muted, and I honestly felt sorry for BBC America, because they clearly have nothing else going for them right now. Seriously, after 13 days of showing nothing but Doctor Who reruns, they’re going into a two-day Star Trek maration, followed by a day of Planet Earth, two days of X-Files, and another day of Star Trek, and next week more of the same; do they even have any programming?

As for the episode itself, the publicity robbed all drama from the spoiler of Spoiler. It does at least suggest that they’re going for a more classic full-time-companions season, which is nice. I liked the performances, and I’ll tentatively give the story a B, even if they had to cheat a bit to give her a real “Doctor trick”. Whittaker carried the role, which is what really matters.

I recorded it, so whatever “extra footage” they show in the after-show special, I’ll see later; I can’t handle more cringe. What really struck me was that BBC is going all-in, but not all-out. I’m not sure I can really explain what I mean by that; it just feels off.

Okay

Let’s see if I can explain it. The BBC is betting everything on revitalizing their brand as pro-women. Witness the tag lines for this Doctor Who season: “Galaxy of Women”, “The Past, Present, and Future is Female”, “It’s About Time”. It’s a conspicuous theme across their programming: they’re Getting Woke.

But the DW promotion feels low-budget and low-effort compared to previous seasons, like they’re not sure this is going to revive the franchise (and more importantly, the merch sales). The pre-show special was full of unknown actors and girl power, telling not showing. Bonus middle finger for having a half-dozen fangirls help fix the host’s remote control with their sonic screwdrivers.

I didn’t see any theaters putting the first episode on the big screen. I didn’t see a bunch of teaser mini-episodes. I didn’t see a special with previous Who actors brought out to celebrate the changing of the guard. It looks to me like the promoters are concentrating on “rah! rah! teh wymmins!“, not “this will be the best damn Who we can make”. The BBC wants us to believe, but do they believe?

I did see the announcement of a limited-edition Barbie (which is actually a decent likeness, unlike the other figures I’ve seen announced of her).

Now, admittedly, too much teaser-ing can backfire. Remember this line from Capaldi’s teaser:

“I’m the Doctor. I’ve lived for over 2,000 years. I’ve made many mistakes, and it’s about time that I did something about that.”

They never even tried to live up to this promise. Hell, last season was a chronicle of suicide attempts, and his best moments were playing off of River Song.

The actual episode, unlike the way it was marketed, was made by people who believe. The Doctor gets a solid foundation for a new personality and style. Each companion gets more character development than Bill Potts got all season. The Monster Of The Week was just deadly enough to take seriously, but not enough to take seriously, if you know what I mean; Whittaker nicely carries off the attitude of “even in my current state, I can spot a loser and mock him for it”.

As long as they don’t immediately follow this up with something written and directed by junior interns, I’m cautiously optimistic.

Honest Dictionary Entries…


Literary Science Fiction: “No academic publisher would take it, so I threw in five lines about time travel and sold it to Asimov’s.”
See also Atwood, Margaret.

[related]

The Penguin is a Harsh Ebook


Apparently the rights have finally been sorted out, and last week Penguin released Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress for Kindle. TANSTAAFL applies, but they kept it under $10.

Please Don’t Tell My Parents…


…that Penny’s story is over. Richard Roberts’ fifth tale of Penny Akk, Junior Supervillain, has finally been released, and it was worth putting up with his publisher’s three months of ominous silence.

In order:

Everything but the anthology containing Summer Of Lob is on Kindle Unlimited.

Steaming pile of saga?


Raymond E. Feist is starting a brand-new epic fantasy saga, and I couldn’t care less. Back in the day, I really liked the Riftwar books, but the more of them he wrote, the less I liked them, and every time I’ve tried to re-read one of the early ones, it just didn’t grab me. I’m not even sure I bothered finishing the Serpentwar books; I found one of them on my shelves, but I remember nothing about it, and I was surprised to discover that wasn’t even the halfway point (30+ books now?).

In any case, my eyes were glazed over before I was halfway through the blurb for King Of Ashes, “Book One of The Firemane Saga”. It reads like a trope salad topped with boggle-dice names, and is the exact opposite of a compelling hook.

Stone Unturned


If you like Lawrence Watt-Evans’ Ethshar novels, Stone Unturned is a good one. The only quibble I have with it is that I wish he had put just the year at the top of every change of PoV, not a full date, to make it obvious that the characters are separated by time. It rapidly becomes obvious, but why bother obfuscating?

Recent reads


Foreigner, C.J. Cherryh

I got interested in the characters and situation, then it skipped forward a hundred years. I got interested in the new characters and situations, then it skipped forward two hundred years. At this point, I decided not to get too invested in the third protagonist, and of course that was the one who lasted the rest of the book. Unfortunately, his story was less interesting than the other two, and so was he. When it petered out, I took a look at reviews of the second one, and decided that I didn’t care enough about a thinly-disguised story of high-tech white colonialism backfiring because they just can’t understand the native black culture.

Od Magic, Harrowing The Dragon, Alphabet of Thorn, The Book of Atrix Wolfe, Patricia A. McKillip

Always reliably entertaining, McKillip’s backlist is getting more reasonably priced on Amazon. None of these really jumped out at me as exceptional, but they’re all good. I have a few more on my ‘overpriced’ Kindle list, and if they ever drop below $10, I’ll buy them.

Shadows & Reflections: A Roger Zelazny Tribute Anthology

A bunch of good authors either writing their own stories in one of Zelazny’s worlds, or earnestly attempting to emulate his prose style in their own worlds. Honestly, it made me wish they’d just written their own worlds in their own styles. Especially Brust.

A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction, Terry Pratchett

An oddball mix of material from across his career. For some of the early stuff, the commentary is better than the story.

Times Three, Robert Silverberg

Three time-travel novels. Not his best, but well worth the cover price.

A Dirty Job, Christopher Moore

The last truly fresh Moore novel I read was Bloodsucking Fiends. Several years ago, I gave up on this one in the first chapter. This time I was more in the mood for it, but not enough that I’d pay $11+ for the sequel. Maybe $7 on a good day.

Northwest Smith, C.L. Moore

Classic SF short stories that I’d only ever seen a few of. Good stuff, but it made me wish she’d written at least one story where Smith didn’t run into some sort of Lovecraftian horror, and just dealt with the SFnal side of his universe.

The Planetary Adventures of Eric John Stark, Leigh Brackett

More classic shorts from another of the legendary women of SF that the current gatekeepers like to pretend never existed. Maybe because she wrote about strong men and feminine women…

Norstrilia, Cordwainer Smith

I’d only ever read The Ballad of Lost C’Mell, not realizing that she’s a major player in this novel. Good stuff, of the sort you just can’t get outside of indie any more.

I’m still waiting on the final Pennyverse novel, currently in small-press limbo. Meanwhile, I’ve got Poul Anderson’s The Corridors of Time and C.L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry downloaded and ready to go. In the queue to buy are Gordon R. Dickson’s Dorsai! and Theodore Sturgeon’s Selected Stories.

Change of plans!

New Ethshar novel released three weeks ago.