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Quantico, by Greg Bear

Second paragraph of third chapter:
"Gerber's a good fellow," Botnik said. "But he hates being kept in the dar. So tell me - why are we keeping him in the dark?" Botnik was a big man with a deep voice, a tight stomach, farmer's hands, and sandy hair - attractive, had she the energy to think about such things. Ten years younger than her, she guessed, but neither inexperienced nor a dummy.
This is quite a long way down the list of well-known works by Greg Bear, fifteenth on LibraryThing and twentieth on Goodreads. Published in 2006, set around now, it features the FBI trying to get to grips with a domestic terrorism conspiracy that plans to carry out biological warfare attacks against both American targets and Mecca, to take revenge on Islam; the FBI agents use all kinds of technical stuff to try and prevent them. It's competently enough written from the technical side, and the characters of some of the FBI agents were interesting, but the plot as such barely hangs together.

This was top of my list of unread books acquired in 2012. Next is another Greg Bear novel, the Star Trek tie-in Corona.

Interesting Links for 17-06-2016

Second frames of the third pages of part I and part II:

(First frame: Sofie's mother says, "AHA! Madam is home!")
I'm always on the lookout for good Flemish graphic novels, given that Belgium's tradition is generally strong and not entirely Francophone, and I think this counts as a decent find. De maagd en de neger comes in two parts, the first telling the story from the point of view of the father of Flemish student Sofie of his unhappy accommodation to her relationship with Togolese refugee Abou, and the second with Sofie, years later, telling her side of the same story to Leentje, her daughter by a later relationship. Of course, it's a white-people-talking-about-black-people story, but it's tenderly observed for all that. Sofie's father's personal journey is particularly affecting, and I always like stories where the same events are viewed from two different perspectives, getting two very different answers.

This came to the top of my list of unread graphic novels in a language other than English. Next on that list is De Mexicaan met twee hoofden, by Joann Sfarr, which I should really have got in the original French.
Maagd en Neger
My nominations for Best Novelette for the 1941 Retro Hugos were:

"It!", by Theodore Sturgeon (finalist)
"Farewell to the Master", by Harry Bates (finalist)
"New York Fights the Termanites", by Bertrand L. Shurtleff
"Into the Darkness", by Ross Rocklynne
"The Sea Thing", by A.E. van Vogt

I admit that I deliberately avoided Heinlein in my pre-nomination reading; I knew he would need little help from me, and indeed he got two stories on the final ballot in this category as well as three in Best Novella.

My own vote is as follows:

Best Novelette for 1941 Retro Hugos: Farewell to the MasterCollapse )

My nominations for Best Novelette for the 2016 Hugos were:

"Red Legacy", by Eneasz Brodski
"Utrechtenaar", by Paul Evanby
"So Much Cooking", by Naomi Kritzer
"Our Lady of the Open Road", by Sarah Pinsker
“English Wildlife”, by Alan Smale

None of these were finalists.

Two of the finalists - “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead”, by Brooke Bolander, and “Folding Beijing”, by Hao Jingfang - did moderately well in the File 770 straw poll, whose top nominated stories were:

“So Much Cooking”, by Naomi Kritzer (18)
“Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan”, by Ian McDonald (14)
“Another Word for World”, by Ann Leckie (13)
“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead”, by Brooke Bolander (11)
“Entanglements”, by David Gerrold (8)
“Our Lady of the Open Road”, by Sarah Pinsker (8)
“Folding Beijing”, by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu (7)
“The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild”, by Catherynne M. Valente (7)

Two other finalists, “What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke and "Obits" by Stephen King, were each nominated by one of File 770's respondents; “Flashpoint: Titan” by Cheah Kai Wai was nominated by nonoe of them. It is reasonable to suppose that these three owe their position on the final ballot entirely to the slate - despite King's prominence as a writer, the nominated story is horror rather than sf or fantasy,. (NB that the one non-Rabid Puppy nominee on the ballot was supported by the Sad Puppies.)

Best Novelette for 2016 Hugos: Folding BeijingCollapse )

One of the categories where even a relatively weak 1941 ballot is markedly better than the 2016 one.

Best Novel (1941/2016) / Best Novella (1941/2016) / Best Novelette (1941/2016) / Best Short Story (1941/2016) / Best Related Work (2016) / Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (1941/2016) / Art categories (1941/2016) / John W. Campbell Award

The Ragged Astronauts, by Bob Shaw

Second paragraph of third chapter:
From the window of his study he had a panoramic view of the city's various districts - residential, commercial, industrial, administrative - as they sifted down to the Borann river and on the far bank gave way to the parklands surrounding the five palaces. The families headed by the Lord Philosopher had been granted a cluster of dwellings and other buildings on this choice site many centuries earlier, during the reign of Bytran IV, when their work was held in much higher regard.
This is one of Shaw's best known books, second in LibraryThing and Goodreads ownership only to Orbitsville. I don't think it has aged particularly well. Shaw's protagonist, Toller Maraquine, is chief engineer of a culture under pressure from its human(ish) neighbours on the planet of Land and also facing extinction at the hands of the non-human Ptertha. Toller's rulers therefore order a mass emigration through space to the neighbouring twin planet of Overland, conveniently linked with Land by a common atmosphere. I thought that the book's attitude to women (never a strong point of Shaw's) was pretty appalling. The female characters are either invisible or two-dimensional, and there is some nasty sexual violence as a defining moment for the most important woman character. It doesn't even do a terribly good job as engineering fiction; because the Land/Overland universe is very different from ours (we learn at one stage that π=3 exactly) we can't really thrill to the solution of engineering problems which are designed to pad out the thin plot. That leaves us with Toller Maraquine's inner journey, and he's just not a very interesting chap. I must say I'm fully on board with Robin McKinley's devastating contemporary review in the L.A. Times. Where I love Shaw's work, it's when he takes people in a contemporary or near-contemporary setting to somewhere unexpected - A Wreath of Stars, Other Days, Other Eyes. His more space-y books haven't usually worked for me.

The Ragged Astronauts came to the top of my reading list as the winner of the BSFA Award for Best Novel of 1986. The other shortlisted works were Blood Music, by Greg Bear; Count Zero, by William Gibson; Queen of the States, by Josephine Saxton; and Schismatrix, Bruce Sterling. I've read the first two of these, and to be honest The Ragged Astronauts looks like a pretty undaring choice - perhaps the ecological crisis message seemed more exciting then than now, and the misogyny was less of an issue among voters? It was also runner-up for the first Arthur C. Clarke Award (which went to The Handmaid's Tale) and was shortlisted for the Hugo (but not the Nebula), both of which went to Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead.

Next on this particular list is the 1987 BSFA winner, Gráinne, by Keith Roberts. (In principle I'm alternating BSFA winners with Clarke and Tiptree winners, but I wrote up The Handmaid's Tale not all that long ago and the Tiptree hadn't got going yet in 1987.)
Ragged Astronauts
My nominations for Best Novel for the 1941 Retro Hugos were:

Kallocain, Karin Boye (finalist)
The Ill-Made Knight, T.H. White (finalist)
Twice in Time, Manly Wade Wellman
The Last Man, aka No Other Man, Alfred Noyes
Captain Future and the Space Emperor, Edmond Hamilton

I was under no illusions that two slots at least would go to novels I didn't care for, Slan and Gray Lensman, but hoped that I would at least boost the signal for T.H. White and for at least one of the other four. I'm glad that Kallocain was the one that made the cut, though I do not expect it to win. My votes will be:

Best Novel for 1941 Retro Hugos: The Ill-Made KnightCollapse )

For the 2016 Hugos, I turn again to the File 770 straw poll in order to make an educated guess at the effect of the slate on the final ballot. The novels reportedly nominated by the most contributors to that thread were:

Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie (33)
Uprooted, by Naomi Novik (20)
The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin (18)
Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente (9)
Bryony and Roses, by T. Kingfisher [Ursula Vernon] (8)
Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear (8)
The Just City, by Jo Walton (7)
Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson (7)

The top three of these are finalists, and Seveneves was probably in the zone as well even without slate intervention. The Aeronaut’s Windlass, however, was nominated by only one person on the File 770 thread.

My own nominations were:

Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie (finalist)
Europe at Midnight, by Dave Hutchinson
Mother of Eden, by Chris Beckett
Touch, by Claire North
The Just City, by Jo Walton

So I got one out of five here, which is around my average.

My votes are:

Best Novel for 2016 Hugos: Ancillary MercyCollapse )

The 1941 ballot has three acknowledged classics of sf and fantasy, and a great work of Swedish literature. I wonder what the critics of 2091 will make of the 2016 ballot? I certainly won't be around to ask them.

Best Novel (1941/2016) / Best Novella (1941/2016) / Best Novelette (1941/2016) / Best Short Story (1941/2016) / Best Related Work (2016) / Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (1941/2016) / Art categories (1941/2016) / John W. Campbell Award

Adolf: An Exile In Japan, by Osamu Tezuka

Second frame of chapter three:
At the not terribly impressive Brussels Comic Con, I thought I might try classic manga again, having bounced off the first volume of Tezuka's Buddha when I tried it ten years ago. Mistakenly, I thought that this was the first of Tezuka's Adolf series; in fact it's the second, which may explain why the plot goes around in circles without really getting anywhere. At the beginning of the book, the central character, journalist Sohei Toge has returned from the 1936 Olympics with evidence that Adolf Hitler is in fact of Jewish descent. On this not terribly substantial and somewhat offensive idea is hung a run-around plot of getting beaten up and escaping certain death while attempting to retain the precious documents. I'm not sufficiently attracted to want to get any more in the series, or indeed, anything else by Tezuka.

The format of the book has been flipped left-to-right rather than the original Japanese right-to-left, and I wondered if that might apply to the pictures as well. But in fact the sign in the frame excerpted above is pretty clearly an unreversed 協合通信社, the last three characters meaning "News Agency" and the first two could be pronounced Kyogo, though I see the more usual pronunication fo the second character is "Ai" (as in "Aikido", 合気道).

This came to the top of my list as the most popular book (on LibraryThing) by a non-white author. Next on that list is Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, which I think I will enjoy more.
Episode 16: Up To Scratch
First shown: 19 December 1970 (US), 30 April 1971 (UK)
Director: Harry Booth
Writer: Glyn Jones
Appearing apart from the Double Deckers:
Timothy Bateson as Mr. Furber
Ann Lancaster as the Landlady


Billie is looking after a dog called Scratch. Brains is trying to communicate with Mars. Mr Furber arrives with his flea circus, and the gang manage to reinstate him into his previous lodgings after finding his landlady's dog..


While setting up their pet sanctuary, the gang (except Brains) sing "Old MacDonald Had A Farm":

Glorious Moments

This is quite a charming episode, with the pets and the flea circus. As often with Glyn Jones, he took a single idea, which had already been done twice (in Episode 7: The Pop Singer and Episode 13: Barney) - the kids take mercy on a passing performer - and did something rather good with it.

There is a very cute sequence at the end where Tiger takes some performing dogs through their paces.

Less glorious moments

Transatlantic interpretation: Sticks excitedly cries, on being informed that Billie is getting two pounds a week for dog-sitting, "Why, that's over five dollars!"

What's all this then?

The flea circus with non-existent fleas has been around for a while, but was popularised on British TV by former Goon Michael Bentine, best remembered by my generation for Michael Bentine's Potty Time (1973-74), though the flea circus apparently was first shown on It's A Square World (1960-64). I have a dim memory of seeing huim demonstrate it to Michael Aspel on Crackerjack! in the very early 1970s. I can't find any clips of it online, unfortunately.

This is the fourth (and last) of the 17 episodes whose plot revolves around a dog. (The others were Episode 3: Starstruck, Episode 11: A Helping Hound, and Episode 14: Man's Best Friend - the latter admittedly a bit of a stretch in that the dog is a hypothetical dog until the very last scene.)

Who's That?

Timothy Bateson (Mr Furber) was born in 1926, and had many supporting roles on film and TV without ever quite hitting the big time (he had the lead role in a sitcom about lighthousemen in 1970). I did not recognise him at all, but he played Binro the Heretic in the 1978 Doctor Who story The Ribos Operation, and was also the voice of Kreacher in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), his last role before his death in 2009.

Ann Lancaster (the Landlady) was born in 1920. She too played a lot of supporting roles, mostly in comedy, ending with Ruth the parlourmaid in the classic 1970 film of The Railway Children and with this episode, both of which were shown only after her death in 1970.

J.C. Penney, born in 1975 so aged 95 when the show was made, owned the stores that provided the wardrobe for the kids in the show. Several of the actors have reminisced in interviews about how much better dressed they felt they were for the show than English children were in real life at that stage. Obviously for J.C. Penney, the advertising potential was pretty important - and entirely US-based; there were no Penney's shops this side of the Atlantic. (The Irish chain originally called Penneys, now Primark, was only in Dublin in 1970 and anyway is a completely different company.)

Where's that?

Mr Furber is kicked out of, and later restored to, 16 Essex Road in Borehamwood, which is still there though the bow windows have been renovated.

See you next week...

...for A Hit for a Miss.

Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones

Second paragraph of third chapter:
‘Class, we are very lucky today,’ began Mr Watts. ‘Mrs Kabui has agreed to share with us the remarkable life and times of the heart seed.’
A short but very powerful book, about the power of literature to transcend the horrors of humanity. Mr Watts brings education to a remote part of Bougainville in the middle of the war there (probably the most horrible conflict in the Pacific since WW2, with 15-20,000 killed of a population of less than a quarter million). Pip from Great Expectations becomes a focal cultural reference point for Matilda and her neighbours, before war comes and destroys their world. After the dust has settled, Matilda finds out where Mr Watts actually came from; and her memories of him are not tarnished but enhanced as a result. It's a grim read in places, but ultimately encouraging.

This came to the top of my list as the most popular of my unread non-sf/fantasy books on LibraryThing. Next on that list is Selected Stories by Alice Munro.
Mister Pip

Saturday reading

Watership Down, by Richard Adams (a chapter a week)
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
The Unicorn Hunt, by Dorothy Dunnett
Short Trips: 2040, ed. John Binns

Last books finished
Space Raptor Butt Invasion, by Chuck Tingle
The Builders, by Daniel Polanski
Perfect State, by Brandon Sanderson
Slow Bullets, by Alastair Reynolds
Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986, by Marc Aramini (not finished)
SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police, by Vox Day (not finished)
Selected Stories, by Alice Munro
Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
The Aeronaut's Windlass, by Jim Butcher (did not finish)

Next books
Peter & Max, by Bill Willingham
The Hidden War, by Michael Armstrong
Loving the Alien, by Mike Tucker and Robert Perry

Books acquired in last week
Time Lord, by Ian Marsh and Peter Darvill-Ebans
My nominations for Best Related Work this year were:

Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien, eds. Janet Brennan Croft and Leslie A. Donovan
Letters to Tiptree, eds Alissa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce
Companion Piece: Women Celebrate the Humans, Aliens and Tin Dogs of Doctor Who, eds. L.M. Myles and Liz Barr
TARDIS Eruditorum, by Philip Sandifer - the entire blog, which finished in February 2015
A Detailed Explanation, by Matthew David Surridge

None of these made the final ballot, which was completely determined by the slate. I don't regard any of the finalists as having legitimately earned their places, so I am voting No Award in this category; it does not in any way reflect the state of commentary on the genre in the last year.

Edited to add: The state of the genre last year is possibly better illustrated by the most popular Related Works among respondents to the File 770 straw poll. These were:

Letters to Tiptree, eds. Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein (24)
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir, by Felicia Day (12)
John Scalzi Is Not a Very Popular Author and I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels, by "Theophilus Pratt" [Alexandra Erin] (10)
Invisible 2: Personal Essays on Representation in SF/F, ed. Jim C. Hines (5)
The Wheel of Time Companion, by Robert Jordan, Harriet McDougal, Alan Romanczuk, and Maria Simons (5)
“A Detailed Explanation”, by Matthew David Surridge (4)
A History of Epic Fantasy, by Adam Whitehead (4)
Modern Masters of Science Fiction: Lois McMaster Bujold, by Edward James (4)
Women of Wonder: Celebrating Women Creators of Fantastic Art, by Cathy Fenner, intr. Lauren Panepinto (4)

(end of edit.)

Unlike last year, though, I'm going to give a couple of transfers to maximise the chances of the worst of them being beaten by the less awful. It's subjective, of course, but my ranking is as follows:

In summary: No AwardCollapse )

Well, that was depressing. Let's hope for better next year (though I will have to refrain from commentary).

Best Novel (1941/2016) / Best Novella (1941/2016) / Best Novelette (1941/2016) / Best Short Story (1941/2016) / Best Related Work (2016) / Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (1941/2016) / Art categories (1941/2016) / John W. Campbell Award


Interesting Links for 10-06-2016

Bételgeuse v.4: Les Cavernes, by Leo

Second frame of third page:

Kim: That little creature! Let's follow it! It will lead us there.
I was a bit dissatisfied with the previous couple of volumes in this series, which seemed to me to have a real middle-book syndrome feeling about them, but here we are moving satisfactorily towards a conclusion as Kim and fellow explorers, separated in their exploration of the lush planetary surface of Bételgeuse, endure deadly danger to eventually be led by the indigenous iums and the mysterious young human girl Mai Lin to the place where the secret of the planet can be found. At least, I hope so; I've bought the next book already and will report back.

Interesting Links for 09-06-2016

Cyprus Avenue, by David Ireland

Second line of Scene Three:
ERIC: She looked like Gerry Adams.
Thanks very much to webcowgirl for this script of a play currently on in the Royal Court Theatre in London, a co-production with the Abbey Theatre, starring Stephen Rea as Eric, a Loyalist whose obsession with the idea that his daughter's baby is actually Gerry Adams drives the story through the blackest of black humour to a horrific conclusion. There are has some gloriously funny moments of banter as well as agonising interrogation of identity.

I never find it easy to judge how a script would come across on stage, and I was a bit concerned that the play might veer towards point-and-laugh-at-the-Prods. But from reviews, it sounds like the production has avoided that trap, and successfully made the wider point that sectarian hatred is something that we destructively do to ourselves. All identities are to an extent socially constructed, and we might as well accept that and move on. It's difficult to do that reflexively to both sides in Northern Ireland, but perhaps in a London show it's better to look at the Loyalists if you can only look at one. Anyway, I hope I'll have the chance to see this some day. Thanks again to webcowgirl for giving it to me.
Cyprus Avenue
As noted previously, it is more difficult this year than last year to assess the impact that slate voting had on the final ballot for the Hugos. For some guidance on that question, once again I'm looking at the File 770 straw poll, where the top novellas that readers reported nominating were:

Penric’s Demon, by Lois McMaster Bujold (25)
Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor (16)
Witches of Lychford, by Paul Cornell (13)
“The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn”, by Usman T. Malik (12)
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, by Kai Ashante Wilson (12)
“The New Mother”, by Eugene Fischer (11)

In fact the first two of these did make it to the final ballot, Binti without slate support and Penric’s Demon with support both from the Rabid Puppies and from me; if the File 770 readership is representative of the broader non-Puppy Hugo electorate (which of course it may not be), “Slow Bullets”, by Alastair Reynolds (7), would not have been far off either, whereas “The Builders”, by Daniel Polansky (3) was probably further, and “Perfect State” by Brandon Sanderson (0) further still.

It's probably also worth noting that all four of the slated finalists have distanced themselves from the slate in pretty clear terms. (Okorafor's views are also pretty clear.)

My own nominations were:

"The Mound", by H.P. Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop
"If This Goes On—", by Robert A. Heinlein (finalist)
Fattypuffs and Thinifers, by Andre Maurois
The Invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares
"But Without Horns", by Norvell Page

"Citadel of Weeping Pearls", by Aliette de Bodard
Penric's Demon, by Lois McMaster Bujold (finalist)
Witches of Lychford, by Paul Cornell
"The New Mother", by Eugene Fischer
A Day In Deep Freeze, by Lisa Shapter

So one of my five choices made the final ballot for both 1941 and 2016, and in both cases, having read the other four possibilities, my surviving nominee will remain my top preference.

Best Novella for 1941 Retro Hugos: If This Goes On—Collapse )

The quality gap between the 1941 and 2016 lists is rather less here than for other categories (mainly because the 1941 list has a couple of weak finalists). My votes for 2016 are as follows:

Best Novella for 2016 Hugos: Penric"s DemonCollapse )

I'm hoping that the one 1940 novelette that I haven't otherwise found will show up in the Retro Hugo packet from MidAmeriCon 2 - I've read all the others, including the 2015 finalists.

Best Novel (1941/2016) / Best Novella (1941/2016) / Best Novelette (1941/2016) / Best Short Story (1941/2016) / Best Related Work (2016) / Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (1941/2016) / Art categories (1941/2016) / John W. Campbell Award
Second paragraph of third chapter:
At the turn of the twentieth century, this optimism had begun to falter, after which it was shattered by the atrocities of the First World War. Sigmund Freud's theory of dreams and the subconscious, published in 1900, and Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity (1905), may be seen as symbolic points of entry into a new, and more ambivalent epoch of modernity. These theories attacked the very substance of the Victorian world: Fred dissolved the free, rational individual, the means and end of progress, into subconscious desires and irrational sexuality. Einstein dissolved physics, the most abstract of the empirical sciences, and the foundation of technological innovation, into uncertainty and flux. In 1907, Arnold Schoenberg wrote the first bars of twelve-tone music and Pablo Picasso began to experiment with non-representational painting. Modernism was born in the arts, a movement which - despite its misleading name - offered an ambivalent view on truth, morality and progress. In politics, anarchists proclaimed the destruction of the state and feminists demanded the end of the bourgeois family. Less than two decades into the new century, a devastating war left the old Europe in ruins, and the Russian Revolution established a new, frightening or attractive version of modern rationalism. It was in this turbulent period of decay and renewal, disillusion and new utopias that anthropology was transformed into a modern social science.
I've never studied anthropology, but I was exposed to it closely during my PhD years for peculiar bureaucratic reasons. My doctorate is in the History and Philosophy of Science, but the Queen's University of Belfast, in its wisdom, had closed the department down a couple of years before I arrived and split the two remaining lecturers between the Philosophy and Social Anthropology departments, my supervisor going with the latter. For most of my time, I was not just the only graduate student in History and Philosophy of Science in Belfast, I was the only graduate student in the field in the whole island of Ireland, so I socialised with the social anthropologists, whose departmental parties were legendary (I remember one year my supervisor and I performing the Fry and Laurie spoon-bending sketch, with me as the Uri Geller character wearing only underpants and an academic gown, for reasons that escape me right now). This also meant that I had a university card misleadingly marked with the name of my department rather than my subject, which led to this memorable exchange at about three o'clock one morning in Stranraer in 1992:
SECURITY GUARD, concerned to verify the credentials of youngish man attempting to sleep across three uncomfortable plastic chairs in the ferry terminal: Excuse me sir, can I see some forrm of identification?
ME, for it is me, rather sleepily: Er, sure, here's my university ID card.
SECURITY GUARD, examining it and keen to check out my story: Ah, Social Anthrropology - that'd be Claude Levi-Strrauss and that sorrt of thing, would it?
ME, somewhat flustered: Would it? Er, I don't know. I really study history and philosophy of science, anthropology's just what it says on the card...
SECURITY GUARD, suspiciously: So, that means ye'd be into that man Kahn, or is it Kohn...
ME, in relief: I think you mean Thomas Kuhn...
SECURITY GUARD: Aye, Thomas Kuhn and the Strructure of Scientific Rrevolutions...
ME, sincerely and with great relief: Great book that.
SECURITY GUARD: Indeed it is, sirr. You trry and get some rrest now, for ye'll be boarrding shorrtly.
Anyway, to get to the point. Since I became involved in politics as my main profession, I have consistently found that the insights I get from anthropology are far more helpful in understanding What Is Going On than I would have got from political science. Officials and policy-makers can be understood as tribal elders performing rituals (parliamentary debates, formulating legislation) motivated by concerns about their own status as much as by their belief in the intellectual content of what they are doing. I've encountered some particularly helpful stuff on the financial crisis, perceptions in Cyprus and the House of Lords, and I'm always on the lookout for more.

Unfortunately this book didn't scratch my itch - not much more than simply listing historical anthropologists and their wider intellectual context, with frustratingly little about the content of their actual work; the fact that they argued with each other intensely is recorded, but what they argued about isn't really, except when it's gossip (how Margaret Mead met Gregory Bateson). I really didn't learn as much from this as I had hoped, and it didn't give me much in the way of pointers for future reading either.

This was both the shortest unread book I had acquired in 2009 and the earliest acquired unread non-fiction book on my shelves. Next on the former list is Fanny Kemble and the Lovely Land, by Constance Wright; next on the latter is Between Structure and No-thing: An Annotated Reader in Social and Cultural Anthropology, by Patrick J. Devlieger, which I hope I'll find more useful.
History of Anthropology
Episode 15: United We Stand
First shown: 19 December 1970 (US), 30 April 1971 (UK)
Director: Harry Booth
Writers: John Tully and Glyn Jones
Appearing apart from the Double Deckers:
Pat Coombs as Miss Fisher
Derek Royle as Mr. Beaumont
Jack Haig as the Short Workman
Bob Todd as the Big Workman
Lauri Lupino Lane as the Mayor
John Barrard as the Short Councillor
Reg Peters as the Tall Councillor

Note: I was on the road every weekend in May except the last, which I spent catching up with other things. Only two more episodes after this one, alas.


Local businessman Mr Beaumont wants to raze the Double Deckers' den and turn it into a car park. Two workmen are sent to clear it are frightened into retreat by the gang, who then sabotage Mr Beaumont's site visit with the Mayor and two councillors.

Glorious Moments

This episode is almost entirely slapstick, at the expense of Mr Beaumont...

...and also of the two workmen who are a delightful direct homage to Laurel and Hardy (their theme tune is referenced in the incidental music at one point).

Less glorious moments

There's not much here apart from the slapstick, and the kids don't actually get as much to do as the adult actors.

What's all this then?

The basic plot of the evil capitalist plan to destroy the place where the kids are having fun is most famously developed in Cliff Richard's The Young Ones (1961), also shot at Elstree. Melvyn Hayes, who appears in most Double Deckers episodes (but not this one) was of course in the next Cliff Richard film, Summer Holiday (1963).

Mr Beaumont, the evil authority figure, may have been intended to be a return appearance of Graham Stark's very similar character Mr Brimble from Episode 11, A Helping Hound - when he first appears, Billie says, "It's Mr Beaumont - he's come back!" although he has not previously appeared in the show.

Who's That?

John Tully, who gets part credit for the script, wrote three of the best-loved BBC TV adaptations of children's books in the 1970s - Tom's Midnight Garden (1974), Kizzy (1976) and The Phoenix and the Carpet (1976-77) - the last of these starred a young Gary Russell, who has gone on to other things. It's his only Double Deckers script, but given his track record I can't imagine that he was the writer of whom Glyn Jones complained that he had to rewrite the entire thing.

We have already seen Pat Coombs (Miss Fisher), who plays Doris in Episode 5, Happy Haunting, Jack Haig (the Short Workman), who plays Harvey the Toy Shop Assistant in Episode 2, The Case of the Missing Doughnut, and John Barrard (the Short Councillor) who plays the King of Diamonds in Episode 8, Scooper Strikes Out.

Derek Royle (Mr Beaumont), born in 1928, had a bit part in the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour (1968), and ended his career in 'Allo 'Allo as Roger LeClerc (whose brother Ernest LeClerc was played by Jack Haig); the part was recast after his death in 1990. In the mid-1970s he and Pat Coombs appeared in a children's sit-com about a medical practice called Hogg's Back, in which he played the title character. He memorably also played Mr Leeman, the eponymous corpse in the classic Fawlty Towers episode The Kipper and the Corpse.

Bob Todd (the Tall Workman), born in 1921, had a long career as straight man to the likes of Benny Hill, Spike Milligan and Marty Feldman. He died in 1992.

Lauri Lupino Lane (the Mayor), also born in 1921, was the son of Lupino Lane, an Edwardian child actor who grew up to make the Lambeth Walk famous as the star of Me and My Girl (stage 1937, film 1939). Lauri has only ten credits on IMDB, the first being an appearance in his father's 1939 film and the last being another Mayor in Confessions of a Summer Camp Councillor (1977). He died in 1986. NB that IMDB incorrectly credits him as one of the councillors.

Reg Peters (the taller councillor) has nine minor IMDB credits between 1968 and 1971 followed by one in 1985, and that's it.

Where's that?

Entirely filmed in studio.

See you next week...

...for Up to Scratch.

Saturday reading

Watership Down, by Richard Adams (a chapter a week)
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
The Unicorn Hunt, by Dorothy Dunnett
Selected Stories, by Alice Munro

Last books finished
Space Raptor Butt Invasion, by Chuck Tingle
The Builders, by Daniel Polanski
Perfect State, by Brandon Sanderson
Slow Bullets, by Alastair Reynolds

Next books
Peter & Max, by Bill Willingham
The Hidden War, by Michael Armstrong
Short Trips: 2040, ed. John Binns

Books acquired in last week
Who Moved My Blackberry? by Martin Lukes with Lucy Kellaway
Dark Horse, by Fletcher Knebel
Alice in Sunderland, by Bryan Talbot
The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot
Waldo and Magic, Inc., by Robert A. Heinlein
Second paragraph of third chapter:
The next day, Chorley rose at his usual hour of 7:30am and, fuelled by three cups of percolated coffee (an extravagance he could never forsake), he began his investigation into Dominex.
Another in the very enjoyable series of books about the career of Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart between the events of The Invasion and Spearhead from Space, this actually manages to tell a good story about the Dominators taking over part of Dartmoor for their own nefarious purposes, bringing in Harold Chorley and other figures from the relevant era of Doctor Who. I realise to my annoyance that I'm now out of sequence - I should have read Beast of Fang Rock before this - but it's great fun, Lethbridge-Stewart forced to go rogue and ally with hippies at one point, and sinister insights into what the Estabishment is Really Up To. It doesn't especially break new ground, but it's another nice block in the secret history of how UNIT came to be.
The Hugos this year present some difficulty for the voter who objects to the slating tactics of the self-styled Rabid Puppies. They cunningly nominated some items that were not absolutely unworthy of the ballot. Indeed, in one or two cases I myself nominated finalists that were also on the Rabid Puppy slate.

The Short Story category isn't one of those difficult cases. It's my personal judgement that four of the five finalists had little support outside the slate, and owe their places on the ballot entirely to that sponsorship. File 770 held a survey of its own readers to ask who they had nominated, and the top listed short stories were:

“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (21)
“Pocosin” by Ursula Vernon (18)
“Damage” by David D. Levine (13)
“Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon (13)
“Hello, Hello” by Seanan McGuire (7)
“Monkey King, Faerie Queen” by Zen Cho (7)
“Today I Am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker (7)

Apart from “Cat Pictures Please”, the only one of the actual finalists mentioned on File 770 was “Asymmetrical Warfare” which one person reported having nominated. File 770 doesn't represent the whole of fandom, of course, but it is none the less a fairly broad spectrum.

My own nominations were:

1941 Retro Hugos:
“John Duffy's Brother”, by Flann O'Brien
“The Stellar Legion”, by Leigh Brackett (Finalist)
“The Piper”, by Ray Bradbury (as Ron Reynolds)
“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, by Jorge Luís Borges (Finalist)
“Quietus”, by Ross Rocklynne

2016 Hugos:
"Caisson", by Karl Bunker
"The Shape of My Name", by Nino Cipri
"Madeleine", by Amal El-Mohtar
"Summer at Grandma's House", by Hao Jingfang, tr Carmen Yiling Yan
"The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill", by Kelly Robson

I was pretty much out of sync both with the combined wisdom of File 770 readers and with the actual ballot.

For these write-ups in general, I've excerpted the second paragraph of each story which in most cases is a fairly good insight into the style of the whole (with the exception of Chuck Tingle's story, which swerves into porn two thirds of the way through). Here are my votes:

Best Short Story for 1941 Retro Hugos: Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis TertiusCollapse )

There's a bit of a quality contrast, to put it mildly, between the 1941 Retro Hugos and this year's Hugo nominations. My votes for the latter are as follows:

Best Short Story for 2016 Hugos: No AwardCollapse )

Let's hope for better times to come.

Best Novel (1941/2016) / Best Novella (1941/2016) / Best Novelette (1941/2016) / Best Short Story (1941/2016) / Best Related Work (2016) / Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (1941/2016) / Art categories (1941/2016) / John W. Campbell Award

President Abdelaziz

Very sorry to learn of the death of Mohamed Abdelaziz, leader of the Saharawi people of Western Sahara, Secretary-General of the Frente POLISARIO, and president of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. I met him in December 2008 when he came to my office and I organised media meetings for him. His people have still not had the self-determination to which they are entitled by international law and ICJ opinion. Condolences to his family, friends and people.
I'm going to take a long lunch break tomorrow and visit the Cartoon Museum's exhibitions on the Great British Graphic Novel and the Doctor Who Target Book Artwork. Anyone else want to come? It's near the British Museum; opening hours are 1030-1730 - earlier suits me better than later, otherwise flexible.


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