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Prime Time, by Mike Tucker

Second paragraph of third chapter:
From his earliest memory he had been interested in music, in sound, without the slightest interest in crops or cereal processing. His father and brothers had tried to pressure him into joining the family business, he remembered that, but his mother had always stood by him, encouraged him, sending him to boretha lessons when he was old enough, buying him Blinnati classical opera for his event-days.
I'm realising that Mike Tucker is one of the unsung talents of Who spinoff fiction. He has specialised in the Seventh Doctor/Ace period immediately between Survival and the New Adventures; here he brings them to a satire on reality television secretly controlled by aliens which is reminiscent of both Vengeance on Varos and Bad Wolf, but frankly hits the target rather better than either, and also brings in a body-horror Master who is still infected with the cheetah virus from Survival. It's true to the spirit of late-1980s Who, and well-paced and characterised. Great stuff.

Next in internal chronolgy is another Past Doctor Adventure, Heritage by Dale Smith.
A serious question. In the last year or so I've contacted four people who I thought of as friends but who had blocked me on Twitter, sending grovelling and apologetic messages apologising for whatever I might have done to offend them - and in each case received a puzzled response saying that they had no idea how it happened and it was entirely unintentional.

There is no obvious pattern - one was a family member, one a science fiction friend, one an Eastern European politician and the last an EU official working on Africa.

I'm not claiming that there is anything more to this than human error, but I'd be interested to know if anyone else reading this discovers that they have blocked me - @nwbrux - or indeed vice versa.

Tags:

A profitable weekend

Oh frabjous day! I discovered yesterday that the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency has released enough information to enable me to map the District Electoral Areas, used for local government elections, onto the existing parliamentary constituencies.

Election results in Ireland and the UK are not released with the granularity you get in other countries, where it's not uncommon to publish how many people voted for each candidate in a given polling precinct or even village (Dixville Notch being the classic case). If, as I do, you're sometimes in the business of aggregating vote statistics from an election at one level to those at another, this is a problem. It's an even bigger problem if, due to non-coinciding schedules of the boundary revision processes, the boundaries for one set of elections are completely out of whack with those for another.

The local government structure of Northern Ireland was overhauled a few years ago, and elections held in 2014 to a whole new set of 11 councils with 80 electoral areas. The electoral map is a bit cluttered. But using the 2011 census figures, I've been able to reconstruct the share of population of each DEA onto parliamentary / Westminster / Assembly constituencies as follows:

long tableCollapse )

It's not going to be a perfect match for the distribution of voters, since not all those in the 2011 census can vote (some are too young, some are not eligible). But it's a good starting point, and I hope to be publishing the projected results from 2014 on the elections website soon.

(So no Double Deckers update this weekend; I've been busy number-crunching.)

Edited to add: Winston Duff challenges me on Twitter:




I disagree:








Winston replies:




This illustrates the limitations of the census approach - when I look at it more closely, there are indeed five Small Areas that are described as being mostly in the new Torrent DEA but partly in the new Dungannon DEA, and I guess five small parts of small areas could well add up to a bit more than nothing. Oh well, a health warning on these figures is always appropriate.

PSA: Stroke awareness

Two friends of mine have suffered strokes this month (and it's only the 10th) - both women of about 40, living in Belgium. I'm glad to hear that cygny is recovering, but Keni has been taken from us far too soon. Everyone, remember FAST:

Facial weakness: Can the person smile? Has their face fallen on one side?

Arm weakness: Can the person raise both arms and keep them there?

Speech problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say? Is their speech slurred?

Time: If you see any one of these three signs, it’s TIME to call emergency services. Stroke is always a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

It can happen to any of us.

Tags:

Saturday reading

Current
Watership Down, by Richard Adams (a chapter a week)
Legacy: A Collection of Personal Testimonies from People Affected by the Troubles in Northern Ireland, by BBC Northern Ireland
Whispers Under Ground, by Ben Aaronovitch
Lethbridge-Stewart: The Schizoid Earth, by David McIntee

Last books finished
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers
Short Trips: Life Science, ed John Binns
Bitter Seeds, by Ian Tregillis
Prime Time, by Mike Tucker
The Folding Star, by Alan Hollinghurst 
A Princess of Roumania, by Paul Park    
Beige Planet Mars, by Lance Parkin and Mark Clapham

Next books
Gorgon Child, by Steven Barnes
1491, by Charles C. Mann
Thing Explainer, by Randall Munroe

Books acquired in last week
None!
What you've read:

24 - 1934: Robert Graves, I, Claudius

22 - 1934: Robert Graves, Claudius the God

19 - 1924: E. M. Forster, A Passage to India
       1995: Christopher Priest, The Prestige

15 - 1984: Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus
        2000: Zadie Smith, White Teeth

14 - 1984: J. G. Ballard, Empire of the Sun

12 = 2006: Cormac McCarthy, The Road
        2009: A. S. Byatt, The Children's Book

11 = 1938: C. S. Forester, A Ship of the Line
        1938: C. S. Forester, Flying Colours
        1977: John le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy
        2005: Ian McEwan, Saturday

10 = 1952: Evelyn Waugh, Men at Arms
        1956: Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond

9 = 1936: Winifred Holtby, South Riding
       1981: Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children

8 = 1928: Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man
       1982: Bruce Chatwin, On The Black Hill
       2002: Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections

7 = 1948: Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter
       1996: Graham Swift, Last Orders

6 - 1981: Paul Theroux, The Mosquito Coast

5 = 1947: L. P. Hartley, Eustace and Hilda
       1965: Muriel Spark, The Mandelbaum Gate
       1967: Margaret Drabble, Jerusalem the Golden

4 = 1922: David Garnett, Lady into Fox; 1942: Arthur Waley, Translation of Monkey by Wu Cheng'en; 1990: William Boyd, Brazzaville Beach; 1992: Rose Tremain, Sacred Country; 1994: Alan Hollinghurst, The Folding Star; 1998: Beryl Bainbridge, Master Georgie

3 = 1929: J. B. Priestley, The Good Companions; 1933: A. G. Macdonell, England, Their England; 1939: Aldous Huxley, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan; 1953: Margaret Kennedy, Troy Chimneys; 1957: Anthony Powell, At Lady Molly's; 1959: Morris West, The Devil's Advocate; 1976: John Banville, Doctor Copernicus; 1979: William Golding, Darkness Visible; 1920: D. H. Lawrence, The Lost Girl

2 = 1921: Walter de la Mare, Memoirs of a Midget; 1931: Kate O'Brien, Without My Cloak; 1954: C. P. Snow, The New Men and The Masters; 1973: Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince; 1974: Lawrence Durrell, Monsieur: or, The Prince of Darkness

1 = 1919: Hugh Walpole, The Secret City; 1925: Liam O'Flaherty, The Informer; 1926: Radclyffe Hall, Adam's Breed; 1930: E. H. Young, Miss Mole; 1949: Emma Smith, The Far Cry; 1955: Ivy Compton-Burnett, Mother and Son; 1961: Jennifer Dawson, The Ha-Ha; 1971: Nadine Gordimer, A Guest of Honour; 1972: John Berger, G; 1989: James Kelman, A Disaffection; 1991: Iain Sinclair, Downriver; 2004: David Peace, GB84; 2008: Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture

0 = 1923: Arnold Bennett, Riceyman Steps; 1927: Francis Brett Young, Portrait of Clare; 1932: Helen de Guerry Simpson, Boomerang; 1935: L. H. Myers, The Root and the Flower; 1937: Neil M. Gunn, Highland River; 1940: Charles Morgan, The Voyage; 1941: Joyce Cary, A House of Children; 1943: Mary Lavin, Tales from Bective Bridge; 1944: Forrest Reid, Young Tom; 1945: L. A. G. Strong, Travellers; 1946: Oliver Onions, Poor Man's Tapestry; 1950: Robert Henriques, Through the Valley; 1951: Chapman Mortimer, Father Goose; 1958: Angus Wilson, The Middle Age of Mrs. Eliot; 1960: Rex Warner, Imperial Caesar; 1962: Ronald Hardy, Act of Destruction; 1963: Gerda Charles, A Slanting Light; 1964: Frank Tuohy, The Ice Saints; 1966: Christine Brooke-Rose, Such; 1966: Aidan Higgins, Langrishe, Go Down; 1968: Maggie Ross, The Gasteropod; 1969: Elizabeth Bowen, Eva Trout; 1970: Lily Powell, The Bird of Paradise; 1975: Brian Moore, The Great Victorian Collection; 1978: Maurice Gee, Plumb; 1980: J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians; 1983: Jonathan Keates, Allegro Postillions; 1985: Robert Edric, Winter Garden; 1986: Jenny Joseph, Persephone; 1987: George Mackay Brown, The Golden Bird: Two Orkney Stories; 1988: Piers Paul Read, A Season in the West; 1993: Caryl Phillips, Crossing the River; 1996: Alice Thompson, Justine; 1997: Andrew Miller, Ingenious Pain; 1999: Timothy Mo, Renegade, or Halo2; 2001: Sid Smith, Something Like a House; 2003: Andrew O'Hagan, Personality; 2007: Rosalind Belben, Our Horses in Egypt; 2010: Tatjana Soli, The Lotus Eaters; 2011: Padgett Powell, You and I; 2014: Zia Haider Rahman, In the Light of What We Know

I realise I meant to separate out the two C.P. Snow novels, but failed to do so; however I guess most people who have read one have read the other as well.

Thnaks for filling in the poll, and for excellent recommendations in comments.

Bitter Seeds, by Ian Tregillis

Second para of third chapter:
It had begun soon after Spain, when training regimens across the board went to live-fire exercises twice per week. And the training periods with nonlethal combatants doubled in length. "For endurance," said the doctor.
I got this when offered it as part of a freebie pack a few years ago, when it was getting some buzz; there wasn't enough buzz for me to read it any sooner. It's a story where the outcome of the Second World War is altered by people with psychic powers on each side, the British and German secret services trying to control their respective paranormal resources. I wasn't hugely satisfied by it; despite the existence of psychic powers, it takes until 1940 for history to diverge from our timeline; the Soviet Union barely features and the Holocaust not at all; and as with many such novels, the paranormal extends and then stops rather arbitrarily to suit the plot. The wartime Doctor Who novel that I read last month did it all much better.

This was the most popular book on LibraryThing that I bought in 2011 and had not yet read. Next on that list is Peter and Max (a Fables novel), by Bill Willingham.

Short Trips: Life Science, ed. John Binns

Second paragraph of third story ("The Northern Heights", by Mark Stevens):
As you approach the watchman's gate, you feel your muscles tense.This is one of those moments where they often try to reach out to you, probing at your foremost thoughts, trying to rearrange them into some sort of suggestion to which they hope you'll adhere. Sometimes they'll try to talk you into turning away, hoping you'll forget you were ever an employee of the King and Empire Railway Company. Sometimes they'll beckon you, attempting to lure you away from whatever it is you're doing, trying to guide you into the darker, unfamiliar areas of the engine yards, where accidents can happen.
Seventh in the series of short story collections from Big Finish featuring the first eight Doctors, this time with a theme around the science of life - which normally means biological, but can extend into other areas too. To be honest I felt his was a bit flat, with only two stories that grabbed me, both more about artificial intelligence: "Lant Land", by Jonathan Morris, bringing Five, Tegan and Turlough to a world where the local version of the Sims has become something much more horrible, and "The Reproductive Cycle" by Matthew Griffiths which takes the frankly unpromising concept of positing that Kamelion and the Tardis had a secret love-child, and does it rather well.

Next in sequence is Short Trips: Repercussions, which I read in 2009 (and also wasn't too impressed by). So next month I'll be reading Short Trips: Monsters, edited by Ian Farrington.

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Rosemary imagined the lengthy letter of complaint her mother might write after such a trip. She tried to imagine the circumstances in which her mother would travel by deepod at all. She couldn't even picture her mother setting foot within a public spaceport. Rosemary had been surprised to find herself in such a place. The dingy waiting area, the twitching pixel posters, the stale smells of algae gunk and cleaning fluid. Despite the exoskeletons and tentacles milling around her, she had felt like the alien there.
A great new style space opera, with our heroine carrying a dreadful secret yet bonding with her multi-species crew, who I think owe at least as much to Traveller as to Larry Niven or David Brin, while undertaking what at first seems a tricky but plausible engineering mission that turns out to have major political consequences. What's particularly interesting is Chambers' portrayal of interspecies sex and love - not without problems or consequences, but that's equally true of relationships between humans as well. And there are plenty of pleasing nods to the history of the space opera sub genre going back to Heinlein. I'm surprised to say I missed the inaccuracies spotted by autopope.

As I noted before, this was the only book submitted for the Clarke Award that a) finished in the top 20% of all four Goodreads/LibraryThing measures and b) was not a later volume in a series. It's been getting a decent amount of buzz (including from Martin Wisse at Eastercon), so I bought it and read it - too late for Hugo nominations, alas; I don't think it would have got into my Best Novel list (and I'll be surprised if others vote it in), but Chambers would certainly have got my nomination for the Campbell Award, as she is getting many others', and would surely stand a good chance of winning it - if Andy Weir were not already certain to do so this year.

The James Tait Black Memorial Prize

Having hugely enjoyed The Folding Star, it occurred to me that I didn't know much about the one major award that it won, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Looking at the list of winners (there have been 100 awards, to 102 books), I realised I had read more than I knew. How many have you read? (You can sign into the poll using Facebook or Twitter IDs, maybe even Google for all I know.)

Poll #2041557 The James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction

Which of the winners have you read?

1919: Hugh Walpole, The Secret City
1(0.3%)
1920: D. H. Lawrence, The Lost Girl
2(0.5%)
1921: Walter de la Mare, Memoirs of a Midget
2(0.5%)
1922: David Garnett, Lady into Fox
4(1.0%)
1923: Arnold Bennett, Riceyman Steps
0(0.0%)
1924: E. M. Forster, A Passage to India
20(5.1%)
1925: Liam O'Flaherty, The Informer
1(0.3%)
1926: Radclyffe Hall, Adam's Breed
1(0.3%)
1927: Francis Brett Young, Portrait of Clare
0(0.0%)
1928: Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man
8(2.0%)
1929: J. B. Priestley, The Good Companions
3(0.8%)
1930: E. H. Young, Miss Mole
1(0.3%)
1931: Kate O'Brien, Without My Cloak
2(0.5%)
1932: Helen de Guerry Simpson, Boomerang
0(0.0%)
1933: A. G. Macdonell, England, Their England
4(1.0%)
1934: Robert Graves, I, Claudius
25(6.4%)
1934: Robert Graves, Claudius the God
23(5.9%)
1935: L. H. Myers, The Root and the Flower
0(0.0%)
1936: Winifred Holtby, South Riding
9(2.3%)
1937: Neil M. Gunn, Highland River
0(0.0%)
1938: C. S. Forester, A Ship of the Line
11(2.8%)
1938: C. S. Forester, Flying Colours
11(2.8%)
1939: Aldous Huxley, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan
3(0.8%)
1940: Charles Morgan, The Voyage
0(0.0%)
1941: Joyce Cary, A House of Children
0(0.0%)
1942: Arthur Waley, Translation of Monkey by Wu Cheng'en
4(1.0%)
1943: Mary Lavin, Tales from Bective Bridge
0(0.0%)
1944: Forrest Reid, Young Tom
0(0.0%)
1945: L. A. G. Strong, Travellers
0(0.0%)
1946: Oliver Onions, Poor Man's Tapestry
0(0.0%)
1947: L. P. Hartley, Eustace and Hilda
5(1.3%)
1948: Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter
9(2.3%)
1949: Emma Smith, The Far Cry
1(0.3%)
1950: Robert Henriques, Through the Valley
0(0.0%)
1951: Chapman Mortimer, Father Goose
0(0.0%)
1952: Evelyn Waugh, Men at Arms
11(2.8%)
1953: Margaret Kennedy, Troy Chimneys
3(0.8%)
1954: C. P. Snow, The New Men and The Masters
3(0.8%)
1955: Ivy Compton-Burnett, Mother and Son
1(0.3%)
1956: Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond
10(2.6%)
1957: Anthony Powell, At Lady Molly's
3(0.8%)
1958: Angus Wilson, The Middle Age of Mrs. Eliot
0(0.0%)
1959: Morris West, The Devil's Advocate
4(1.0%)
1960: Rex Warner, Imperial Caesar
0(0.0%)
1961: Jennifer Dawson, The Ha-Ha
1(0.3%)
1962: Ronald Hardy, Act of Destruction
0(0.0%)
1963: Gerda Charles, A Slanting Light
0(0.0%)
1964: Frank Tuohy, The Ice Saints
0(0.0%)
1965: Muriel Spark, The Mandelbaum Gate
5(1.3%)
1966: Christine Brooke-Rose, Such
0(0.0%)
1966: Aidan Higgins, Langrishe, Go Down
0(0.0%)
1967: Margaret Drabble, Jerusalem the Golden
6(1.5%)
1968: Maggie Ross, The Gasteropod
0(0.0%)
1969: Elizabeth Bowen, Eva Trout
0(0.0%)
1970: Lily Powell, The Bird of Paradise
0(0.0%)
1971: Nadine Gordimer, A Guest of Honour
1(0.3%)
1972: John Berger, G
1(0.3%)
1973: Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince
2(0.5%)
1974: Lawrence Durrell, Monsieur: or, The Prince of Darkness
2(0.5%)
1975: Brian Moore, The Great Victorian Collection
0(0.0%)
1976: John Banville, Doctor Copernicus
3(0.8%)
1977: John le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy
13(3.3%)
1978: Maurice Gee, Plumb
0(0.0%)
1979: William Golding, Darkness Visible
3(0.8%)
1980: J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians
0(0.0%)
1981: Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children
9(2.3%)
1981: Paul Theroux, The Mosquito Coast
7(1.8%)
1982: Bruce Chatwin, On The Black Hill
9(2.3%)
1983: Jonathan Keates, Allegro Postillions
0(0.0%)
1984: J. G. Ballard, Empire of the Sun
15(3.8%)
1984: Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus
16(4.1%)
1985: Robert Edric, Winter Garden
0(0.0%)
1986: Jenny Joseph, Persephone
0(0.0%)
1987: George Mackay Brown, The Golden Bird: Two Orkney Stories
0(0.0%)
1988: Piers Paul Read, A Season in the West
0(0.0%)
1989: James Kelman, A Disaffection
1(0.3%)
1990: William Boyd, Brazzaville Beach
4(1.0%)
1991: Iain Sinclair, Downriver
1(0.3%)
1992: Rose Tremain, Sacred Country
4(1.0%)
1993: Caryl Phillips, Crossing the River
0(0.0%)
1994: Alan Hollinghurst, The Folding Star
4(1.0%)
1995: Christopher Priest, The Prestige
21(5.4%)
1996: Graham Swift, Last Orders
7(1.8%)
1996: Alice Thompson, Justine
0(0.0%)
1997: Andrew Miller, Ingenious Pain
0(0.0%)
1998: Beryl Bainbridge, Master Georgie
4(1.0%)
1999: Timothy Mo, Renegade, or Halo2
0(0.0%)
2000: Zadie Smith, White Teeth
17(4.3%)
2001: Sid Smith, Something Like a House
0(0.0%)
2002: Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
10(2.6%)
2003: Andrew O'Hagan, Personality
0(0.0%)
2004: David Peace, GB84
1(0.3%)
2005: Ian McEwan, Saturday
11(2.8%)
2006: Cormac McCarthy, The Road
14(3.6%)
2007: Rosalind Belben, Our Horses in Egypt
0(0.0%)
2008: Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture
1(0.3%)
2009: A. S. Byatt, The Children's Book
12(3.1%)
2010: Tatjana Soli, The Lotus Eaters
0(0.0%)
2011: Padgett Powell, You and I
0(0.0%)
2012: Alan Warner, The Deadman's Pedal
0(0.0%)
2013: Jim Crace, Harvest
1(0.3%)
2014: Zia Haider Rahman, In the Light of What We Know
0(0.0%)


I've read CLAVDIVS, Men at Arms, The New Men, The Masters, Doctor Copernicus, Midnight's Children, Empire of the Sun, The Folding Star, The Prestige, The Corrections and The Road, and liked them all except The Corrections. Further recommendations welcome in comments.

Interesting Links for 06-04-2016

The Doctor's visits to Earth

So, I got wondering the other night, what is the longest run of episodes in which the Doctor a) doesn't visit Earth and b) doesn't leave?

Possible answers to the first question:
  • The biggest gap between two episodes set mainly on Earth is 36 - the nine four-part stories between City of Death and Logopolis. Even if we break that run for the Tardis's brief visit to Brighton in The Leisure Hive, that's still 23 consecutive Earth-free episodes.
  • Close behind is the 22-episode, five-story interval between Image of the Fendahl and The Stones of Blood.
  • There are 18 episodes between The Stones of Blood and City of Death.
  • There are also 18 episodes between the second episode of The Three Doctors and The Green Death, if we don't count the Doctors' brief return to Earth after Omega is defeated.
  • There are 16 episodes between Fury from the Deep and The Invasion (The Wheel In Space, The Dominators, The Mind Robber), and also between The Seeds of Death and Spearhead from Space (The Space Pirates, The War Games).
If we are stricter, and look only at episodes set on near-contemporary Earth, there is a gap of 41 between the very first episode, "An Unearthly Child", and the first story of the scone season, Planet of Giants, and, if we don't count a fleeting visit to the Empire State Building, there are another 51 episodes between Planet of Giants and the TARDIS crew encountering the English police on Christmas Day, 1965.

Possible answers to the second question:
  • The first 39 episodes of the Pertwee era are basically set on contemporary Earth, though some of them on an alternate Earth and with some near-Earth space flight.
  • The middle stories of Season 5, five six-parters with 30 episodes, are all set on our Earth with some hopping around in time (The Abominable Snowmen, The Ice Warriors, The Enemy of the World, The Web of Fear, Fury from the Deep).
If we allow settings in space near Earth as well as those on our planet, the 29-episode run starting with the last season of Old Who, including the TV Movie and the entire Ecclestone era, and ending with the first Tennant episode, The Christmas Invasion, is also a close runner.

There, aren't you glad you know that?

Tags:

Naamah's Curse, by Jacqueline Carey

Second paragraph of third chapter of the second book of the third trilogy:
For the most part, it was a lonely time. I though I was accustomed to solitude. I'd grown up in the Alban wilderness with only my mother's companionship. But she had been a constant in my life; and later, there had been Cillian, my lost first love, killed in a foolish cattle-raid.
I generally enjoy Carey's big huge fantasy bonkbusters, but this one left me with a slightly sour taste in my mouth. Like the previous seven books of the series, it is set in an alternate version of our world, in this case in "Central Asia", "Russia", and "India". Our heroine is seeking her True Love, and is sundered from him by treachery and violence; first she must escape a dismal hardline religious sect, the equivalent of evangelical Orthodox Christians; then she must rescue her lover and defeat the evil sorcerers who have enslaved him. That's all fine; but at the very end, the "Indian" queen who she has befriended (well, more than just befriended) decides to abolish the caste system in her society as a result of our heroine's strong advice. There's something very unfortunate about a character who is, when all's said and done, "British", making "India" change so that it can come closer to "European" norms of civilisation. I felt this was a rare slip from Carey; unless I have missed earlier lapses, I think she is normally more sensitive.

This was the most popular book on LibraryThing that I bought in 2012 and had not yet read. Next on that list is Quantico, by Greg Bear.
Second paragraph of third chapter:
Contemporary accounts speak of the squalid conditions in which the human and humanoid miners lived and worked; of the perpetual grey clouds that blocked out the light of the sun. Eurogen Butler‘s activities were unregulated: their only objective was profit through round-the-clock mineral extraction. In 2147, when a pit shaft at the third site on the southern continent collapsed, killing between a hundred and two hundred and fifty miners (reports vary), the entire area was made safe with polyslene. The dead were left where they fell; work carried on unhindered around the site of the tragedy.
Next in the series of Bernice Summerfield Novels, and one that I'm afraid left me rather cold; the girl of the title is another archaeologist, caught up in espionage and ancient history, but it just wasn't terribly interesting apart from Benny herself, who is always fun. Even there, I was annoyed by the use of her diary entries purely to shift from tight-third to first-person narrative rather gratuitously, without really adding much to the plot or our understanding of the characters' perceptions of it.

Next in this series: Beige Planet Mars, by Lance Parkin and Mark Clapham.

Saturday reading

Current
Watership Down, by Richard Adams (a chapter a week)
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers
Short Trips: Life Science, ed John Binns
Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

Last books finished
Easter 1916: selected archive pieces from the New Statesman
Illegal Alien by Mike Tucker and Robert Perry
Glorious Angels, by Justina Robson - did not finish
Another Girl, Another Planet by Martin Day and Len Beech
Naamah's Curse by Jacqueline Carey

Next books
A Princess of Roumania, by Paul Park
Whispers Under Ground, by Ben Aaronovitch
Prime Time, by Mike Tucker

Books acquired in last week
Diary of a Witchcraft Shop 2, by Trevor Jones and Liz Williams
World's Fair 1992, by Robert Silverberg
Merchanter's Luck, by C.J. Cherryh
The Fall of Arthur, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Episode 12: Invaders from Space
First shown: 28 November 1970 (US), 26 March 1971 (UK)
Director: Jeremy Summers
Writer: Glyn Jones
Appearing apart from the Double Deckers:
John Horsley (Mr Leming)
Sam Kydd, Dervis Ward, Michael Brennan (Spaceman)
Ivor Salter (Policeman)

Plot

Brains is converting a black and white TV to colour. The gang pick up what appears to be a warning about aliens invading Earth, and find themselves menaced by the invaders. But in fact it is a publicity stunt for a new candy (sic) product, as the kids eventually find out after being transported to the headquarters of the "spacemen" and causing havoc. Their attempt to save the world itself becomes a publicity stunt.



Glorious Moments

Two high-speed chases in the junkyard; a couple of excellent moments of acting from poor Doughnut, terrified in the warehouse and then sick as a dog at the end; excellent buildup of menace from the spacemen, who get a leitmotif ripped from Holst via Quatermass, before we viewers are let into the secret halfway through.



And some more lovely visuals: Billie's hair standing on end with fright; the kids in camouflage; the spacemen prosaically drinking tea; the maze of cardboard boxes in the warehouse, every child's dream; and ἀγάπη wins again.

Less glorious moments

Doughnut's good moments are compensation for the ongoing fat-shaming. In fact he is the first to work out what is going on, and is then pushed by the others into changing his mind.

Although the spacemen drink tea, it looks like Mr Leming is finding more potent solace from the bottles on his windowsill.

What's all this then?

The source material here is obviously the famous (if not completely verified) panic caused by the broadcast of Orson Welles' radio adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds in 1938, combined with the following thirty years' accrual of alien invasion lore. A 1965 film with the same title as this episode, Invaders From Space, featured the hero Starman defending the Earth from aliens. The spacesuits (and indeed one of the spacemen) are recycled from the 1969 film Moon Zero Two, starring James Olson, Catherine Schell, Warren Mitchell and Adrienne Corri in a lunar crisis set in 2021 - I hadn't heard of this before but it sounds rather fun. You can see the suits in this trailer:



Glyn Jones had written a Doctor Who story, The Space Museum, five years earlier which similarly depends on a shift of perception - he doesn't seem to have realised it himself, but this was a trick he did rather well. In case you want to compare and contrast, here's the first (and much the best) episode of the story:



Where's that?

The spacemen walk along, and later drive along, Shenley Road in Borehamwood.

Who's that?



John Horsley (Mr Leming) was born in 1920 and played a variety of minor authority figures. The peak of his career came a few years later as Doc Morrissey in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1973-76, revised 1996). He died in 2014.



Sam Kydd (Spaceman) was born in Belfast in 1915 (to English parents who soon moved back to England). He had hit the big time as smuggler Orlando O'Connor in the 1963 TV series Crane and its 1965 successor Orlando. He also had small parts in The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and Moon Zero Two (1969). His last big role was as Frankie Baldwin in Coronation Street (1980-82). He died in 1982. His son, Jonathan Kydd, is an actor and voiceover artist.

Dervis Ward (Spaceman), born in 1923, was another actor who appeared in a lot of minor parts. He was in an episode of the Double Deckers predecessor, The Magnificent Six ½, and in its successor film, Go For A Take, so presumably was a friend of the house. He died in 1996.

Michael Brennan (Spaceman), born in 1912, played minor tough guy parts for most of his career, the most visible being Janni in the James Bond film Thunderball (1965). In 1972 he had a regular role as the sergeant major in The Regiment, a TV series starring Christopher Cazeneuve. He died in 1982.

The fourth Spaceman is uncredited; likewise the handsome chap in the TV advert.

See you next week...

...for Barney.
Hugo nominations closed a little over 24 hours ago, and Mike Glyer invited readers of his File 770 blog to post their choices, if they felt so inclined. About twenty did so, and my summary of the aggregate preferences is as follows.

1941 Retro HugosCollapse )

2016 HugosCollapse )

Of course, this represents nothing more than the views of (some) File 770 readers, which explains why File 770 itself scores so highly in the fanzine category. In particular, there is no input from the Puppy side of things, so depending on their relative level of participation, there could well be names on the final ballot that do not appear above.

But it already looks like a good year for Andy Weir and Becky Chambers (JWC Award), Alexandra Erin (Fan Writer), Tea and Jeopardy (Fancast), Uncanny Magazine (Semipro), Julie Dillon (Pro Artist), Sheila Gilbert (Editor Long Form), Ellen Datlow (Editor Short Form), Mad Max: Fury Road (BDP Long), Scott McCloud (Graphic), Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein (Related), Ursula Vernon (Short Story, twice), Naomi Kritzer (Short Story and Novelette), Lois McMaster Bujold (Novella) and Ann Leckie (Novel).

The final ballot is to be announced on 26 April, incidentally my birthday.
Published 50 years ago, in the April 1966 edition of Argosy, reprinted from September 1964

This one has stayed with me since I read it as a teenagerCollapse )

March books

A slow month again - I really got a bit burnt out by Hugo reading frenzy, and will pace myself better another year.

15Collapse )

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