February 2008 books

February 2008 began with a really glorious moment as Iain Banks visited Brussels to speak at Scotland House - which occupies the top two floors of the building that my office was then located in. I went to Geneva for what was then my regular gig at GCSP, and Anne and I had a rare romantic getaway weekend in Rome. I wrote blog posts on the Lisbon Treaty and the genetics of blue eyes. Kosovo declared independence and the Greek Cypriot leader lost his re-election bid (and died soon after). At work, my Danish intern V left (she has now founded her own NGO, fighting for gender equality) and was replaced by American D, one of the real stars who I recruited in my eight years at that job (and they were all good).

I managed to read 20 books that month:

non-fiction 5 (YTD 7)
Oxford Take Off In Russian
Algernon, Charlie, and I: A Writer's Journey, by Daniel Keyes
The Time Out Guide to Rome
Dublin Castle and the 1916 Rising: The Story of Sir Matthew Nathan, by Leon Ó Broin
The Megalithic European: The 21st Century Traveller in Prehistoric Europe, by Julian Cope

non-genre 1 (YTD 2)
No Great Mischief, by Alistair MacLeod

script 1
Improbable Frequency, by Arthur Riordan and Bell Helicopter (Conor Kelly and Sam Park)

sf 6 (YTD 11)
The Atrocity Archives, by Charles Stross
The Rediscovery of Man, by Cordwainer Smith
Naked to the Stars, by Gordon R. Dickson
Interzone: The 5th Anthology, edited by John Clute, Lee Montgomerie and David Pringle
Matter, by Iain M. Banks
Humility Garden, by Felicity Savage

Doctor Who 7 (YTD 9)
The Year of Intelligent Tigers, by Kate Orman
Invasion of the Bane, by Terrance Dicks
Revenge of the Slitheen, by Rupert Laight
Eye of the Gorgon, by Phil Ford
Warriors of Kudlak, by Gary Russell

The Glittering Storm, by Shaun Lyon
The Thirteenth Stone, by Justin Richards

4,800 pages (YTD 8,900) not counting the two audiobooks
4/20 (YTD 8/31) by women, though I have no information about the authors of Oxford Take Off In Russian or The Time Out Guide to Rome
None so far this year by PoC, subject to the same caveat.

Four of these to particularly recommend: Improbable Frequency, a play about Schrödinger set in Dublin, which you can get here; Algernon, Charlie, and I: A Writer's Journey, the story of the classic sf story/book, which you can get here; No Great Mischief, a lovely Scottish Canadian novel, which you can get here; and The Megalithic European, which ticked my archæological boxes, and you can get it here.

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Whoniversaries 18 September: Gary Russell, Galaxy 4 #3, Masque of Mandragora #3

i) births and deaths

18 September 1931: birth of Terence Woodfield, who appeared in two different First Doctor stories in 1966: as Celation in the story we now call The Daleks' Master Plan, and as Maharis in the story we now call The Ark.

18 September 1963: birth of Gary Russell, former editor of Doctor Who Magazine, former producer at Big Finish, author of twelve Doctor Who novels (counting the book-of-the-movie) and of various other related books, script editor for The Waters of Mars and The End of Time, and director of the two Tenth Doctor animated stories.

18 September 2015: Webcast of Incoming Transmission, a prequel for the Youtubed Fan Show starring Dan Starkey as a new incarnation of Co-ordinator Engin.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

18 September 1965: broadcast of "Trap of Steel", the third episode of the series we now call Galaxy 4. The Drahvins hold Steven hostage while the Doctor and Vicki are sent to explore the Rills' ship; and Vicki is horrified when she actually sees one.

18 September 1976: broadcast of third episode of The Masque of Mandragora. Sarah is hypnotised and attempts to stab the Doctor; the Mandragora Helix gathers power.

iii) date specified in-universe

18 September 1945: Albert Einstein is accidentally transported onto the Tardis and briefly turned into an Ood. (Death is the Only Answer, 2011)

Public art in Ostende: repression and resistance

A fascinating juxtaposition of public art can be seen in Ostende, which we visited briefly on Sunday. Notoriously, an equestrian statue of King Leopold II (1835-1909, ruled 1865-1909) dominates the Royal Galleries along the seafront.
What makes this particularly gruesome is the tableau of naked Congolese on the left, along with a pith-helmetted Belgian liberator. Given what was actually going on in the Congo under Leopold's personal rule, it's a stomach-churning display. (On the right, a group of Ostenders give thanks to the king for his patronage of their resort.)

Obviously with recent events, the removal of the statuary is being actively discussed. It would not be a straightforward enterprise. It's big and chunky and not easy to surround and bring down by superior force. Where there is a will, there's a way, of course, and I wouldn't be surprised to discover that it has been moved to a museum next time I am in Ostende.

Only a few hundred metres away is this striking declaration:

It's a work of visual poetry by the Scottish artist Robert Montgomery, written for what he calls "the year of the corrupted plebiscites", ie 2016, when we had the Brexit referendum and the Trump election. It's an intriguing statement of aspiration. I'm actually struggling to think of cities, let alone countries, built on graceful promontories. And the notion that good literature will ignore the past is something I struggle with. But it made me think, which I guess is the point.

Thursday reading

Titus Groan, by Mervyn Peake
The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel
Distraction, by Bruce Sterling

Last books finished
Bruges-La-Morte, by Georges Rodenbach
An Inland Voyage, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Isabelle, by Jean-Claude Servais
Shadow Scale, by Rachel Hartman

Next books
East West Street, by Philippe Sands
Chronin Volume 1: The Knife at Your Back, by Alison Wilgus

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Whoniversaries 17 September: Peter Stephens, Smugglers #3, Horror #3, Paradise #4

i) births and deaths

17 September 1931: birth of Ian Fairbairn, who played Questor in The Macra Terror (Second Doctor, 1967), Mark Gregory in The Invasion (Second Doctor, 1968), both John Bromleys in Inferno (Third Doctor, 1970) and Chester in The Seeds of Doom (Fourth Doctor, 1976).

17 September 1957:

17 September 1972: death of Peter Stephens, who played Cyril, the Kitchen Boy, and the Knave of Hearts in The Celestial Toymaker (First Doctor, 1966), and Lolem the high priest in The Underwater Menace (Second Doctor, 1967).

17 September 2010: death of Louis Marks, author of Planet of Giants (First Doctor, 1964), Day of the Daleks (Third Doctor, 1972), Planet of Evil (Fourth Doctor, 1975) and The Masque of Mandragora (Fourth Doctor, 1976).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

17 September 1966: broadcast of third episode of The Smugglers. Ben and Polly use witchcraft to escape the villagers, but are recaptured; the Doctor fails to escape the pirates. I should have mentioned previously that Elroy Josephs, as Jamaica, is the first Afro-Caribbean actor to have a speaking role on Doctor Who.

17 September 1977: broadcast of third episode of Horror of Fang Rock. People start dying; Reuben starts glowing; and the Doctor admits to Leela that he has locked the enemy in rather than out.

17 September 1993: broadcast of fourth episode of The Paradise of Death on BBC radio. Some very weird stuff with tame giant bats.

17 September 2011: broadcast of The God Complex. The Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory explore a hotel with some very odd residents.

iii) date specified in-universe

17 September 2016: the Level Two Careers Fair takes place at Coal Hill School, as seen in 2016 Class episodes For Tonight We Might Die and Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart.

Ypres, Flanders Fields and my great-uncle's grave

We spent one day of our trip out west in and around Ypres, where the grand Cloth Hall, reconstructed after 1918, houses the moving and thorough In Flanders Fields Museum, chronicling the experiences of the first world war. It took us about an hour and a half to walk through.

Just outside the church is a memorial to the Munsters:

The battlefields are all concentrated in a very small area - just a few kilometres separate Ypres from Passendaele; halfway between is Tyne Cot, the largest of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's cemeteries worldwide, with an unimaginable 16,000 buried there, many without identification.

Those whose resting place is not known are commemorated on the Menin Gate, a short walk from the centre of Ypres.

Over the summer I've been doing a lot of research into family history, and discovered that one of my (many) great-uncles is buried just across the French border in Bailleul. Tracking down the CWGC part of the municipal cemetery there was not straightforward; it is very far from the entrance, through the tangle of entombed local noteworthies.

We forget that the Allied forces of the day were actually fairly multicultural:

We struggled to find my great-uncle among the 4,000 Allied (and some German) casualties at Bailleul. One thing we did notice was that very few of the graves were marked as unidentified - Bailleul had been the site of a field hospital, which I guess meant that when you died there, they knew who you were. Luckily M. Kapenowski, himself a veteran and chronicler of his town's contribution to history, was there and able to guide us.

And, in a row of early Allied graves just outside the main CWGC field, we found him.

My grandfather and all three of his living brothers also fought in the first world war; so did their oldest nephew, who was killed at Gallipoli, where my grandfather was wounded. I confess that I was barely aware of Captain Corbally's existence until a few months ago. He had four children, aged between two and seven when he died, who were among my father's many first cousins; I only remember meeting one of them. An obituary says,
He was educated first at the Oratory School, from which he went to Stonyhurst. He served through the Boer War in the Dublin Yeomanry, and was taken prisoner at Lindley. For his services he received the Queen's medal. He was a member of the Stock Exchange, and was engaged there, and also in the management of some special business for Messrs. Brunner, Mond and Co. when war broke out in August, 1914. He then rejoined the Army, and received a commission, as Temporary Captain, in the Royal Field Artillery in September, 1914. Captain Corbally was severely wounded in action near Ypres, and died in hospital at Hazebrouck on the 6th May, 1915.

Captain Corbally married, in 1906, Nancy, daughter of J.J. Whyte, D.L., of Loughbrickland, Co. Down, and left four children. He was a very interesting speaker, and impressed one as a shrewd judge of men and things. As a business man his abilities were recognised in influential quarters, and he had been employed latterly on some highly paid special work by firms representing very wide interests. He possessed a very ready pen, and had made a successful trial of journalism before he took to financial work, and even then he still contributed articles on subjects which interested him. He was a keen sportsman and a good game shot with the rifle and sporting gun, but his favourite recreation was angling, on which subject he would discourse most entertainingly with kindred spirits.
Another source adds:
Our position was on the railway about 4 miles N.E. of Ypres, and it was going back to see the first line about ½ a mile along the line that the shelling took place.
That must have been pretty close to the location of Tyne Cot cemetery today. The regimental war diary records that he was wounded on 1 May, and died in hospital on the 6th.
His two sons both had military careers - the older, Pat, was in the Royal Ulster Rifles, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1954; the younger, Teddy, rose to Air Vice Marshal, retiring in 1959. There were two daughters as well, Biddy and Molly. Pat is the only one I remember meeting; he had a wooden leg, which seemed pretty exotic to me as a boy. I feel a lot closer to them now.

It is a bit frustrating that although family records are clear that his first name was Louis, he is recorded as "Lewis" in the cemetery records; and on the gravestone, "Amen" is misspelt "Amem".

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Whoniversaries 16 September: Tomb of the Cybermen #3, The Ribos Operation #3, Zygon hunting

i) births and deaths

16 September 2014: death of Michael Hayes, who directed Fourth Doctor stories The Androids of Tara (1978), The Armageddon Factor (1979) and City of Death (also 1979).

16 September 2016: death of Andrew Staines, who played Benik's sergeant in The Enemy of the World (Second Doctor, 1968), Goodge in Terror of the Autons (Third Doctor, 1971), the Captain in Carnival of Monsters (Third Doctor, 1973) and Keaver in Planet of the Spiders (1974). He was a nephew of Barry Letts, the show's producer for the Pertwee years.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

16 September 1967: broadcast of episode 3 of Tomb of the Cybermen. The Cybermen reveal their plan to convert all the explorers into Cybermen; the expedition have different views on this prospect.

16 September 1978: broadcast of episode 3 of The Ribos Operation. K9 rescues the Doctor and Romana from the Graff, but they encounter him again in the catacombs (with Binro the Heretic).

iii) date specified in canon

16 September 1909: Martha and the Tenth Doctor get caught up in Lord Haleston's hunt for monsters near the Lake District village of Templewell (in Stephen Cole's 2007 novel, Sting of the Zygons).