September 24th, 2010

buzz

Ian Sales' list of British sf masterworks

Usual procedure for book memes: bold if I've read it, italics if I've started but haven't finished it, struck through if I couldn't stand it. Discussion welcome here but probably better directed to Ian Sales' post here (revised from his original list). Writers are listed from 1 to 55 but there are in fact 77 distinct works. Only six women out of 55, three writers from Northern Ireland, no books post-1995 (I suppose to be a 'masterwork' you need to have demonstrated longevity).

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pointless, repression

Labour Deputy Leadership

I know that there are five candidates running for the position of Leader of the UK's Labour Party, whose result is to be announced tomorrow.

But is there also an election for the position of Deputy Leader, which was narrowly won by Harriet Harman (now in her last 24 hours as acting Leader) back in 2007? Or does she stay on as Deputy until she too resigns?
doctor who

Doctor Who Rewatch: 12

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So there we are - tantalisingly one story away from the next regeneration. My opinion of The Time Warrior has been raised by watching it in sequence, because of the refreshing reboot of the Doctor/companion relationship; my opinion of Planet of the Daleks, on the other hand, has been lowered. I think I also appreciate the good points of Invasion of the Dinosaurs, and deplore the weaknesses of Death to the Daleks, a little more as a result of watching this.

I am now 46% through the Old Who stories, 53% by screen minutes, 54% by episodes, and 40% of the time from November 1963 to December 1989 has elapsed. (The half-way mark in screen minutes is, I think, during episode 1 of The Time Warrior; if you count 697 episodes of Old Who, the 349th is the fifth episode of Planet of the Daleks.)

< An Unearthly Child - The Aztecs | The Sensorites - The Romans | The Web Planet - Galaxy 4 | Mission To The Unknown - The Gunfighters | The Savages - The Highlanders | The Underwater Menace - Tomb of the Cybermen | The Abominable Snowmen - The Wheel In Space | The Dominators - The Space Pirates | The War Games - Terror of the Autons | The Mind of Evil - The Curse of Peladon | The Sea Devils - Frontier in Space | Planet of the Daleks - The Monster of Peladon | Planet of the Spiders - Revenge of the Cybermen | Terror of the Zygons - The Seeds of Doom | The Masque of Mandragora - The Talons of Weng-Chiang | Horror of Fang Rock - The Invasion of Time | The Ribos Operation - The Armageddon Factor | Destiny of the Daleks - Shada | The Leisure Hive - The Keeper of Traken | Logopolis - The Visitation | Black Orchid - Mawdryn Undead | Terminus - The Awakening | Frontios - Attack of the Cybermen | Vengeance on Varos - In A Fix With Sontarans | The Mysterious Planet - Paradise Towers | Delta and the Bannermen - The Greatest Show in the Galaxy | Battlefield - The TV Movie >
books

A writer (or writers) that I don't like

I've given a partial answer to this with the earlier question about books I hate; I have seen no merits in Dan Brown, J.D. Salinger, Stefenie Meyer, Arthur Golden, Alice Sebold, Paulo Coelho, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jodi Picoult or Anne Rice worth celebrating.

So I'm going to veer into my own specialist interest, and single out three Doctor Who writers whose works I find consistently sub-standard to the point that I find it astonishing that they get commissions. They are Eric Saward, Nigel Robinson and Keith Topping.

Eric Saward's overall contribution to the decline of Doctor Who in the period when he was script editor has been well chronicled elsewhere. Let me note that two of his three story novelisations, Doctor Who - The Twin Dilemma and Doctor Who - Slipback are simply dire. There is admittedly more merit in his Doctor Who and the Visitation, which I think may have been written first, before he thought he knew what he was doing.

Nigel Robinson deserves some credit for his editorial and political skills in keeping the Doctor Who books going over the years. Unfortunately he is a bad writer; there is no way to sweeten the pill. His novelisations of The Underwater Menace, The Sensorites and The Edge of Destruction, while admittedly not working with the best material of the black-and-white era, add nothing to the stories seen on screen; his early New Adventure novel is one of the worst of that sequence; his two recent Companion Chronicles have been underwhelming. I will admit that I thought he did better with his novelisation of The Time Meddler, but that was a richer seam.

Keith Topping wrote two of my least favourite Who Books, the Telos novella Ghost Ship which is the weakest of a range which was not terribly strong, and Byzantium! which has utterly anachronistic minarets in the city now known as Istanbul, in a story set 250 years before it became Constantinople. I have a couple of non-fiction books on the shelves co-authored by him, which are a bit better, but my suspicion is that he is simply a dreadful fiction writer. Seeing his name on the spine or front cover of a book would certainly determine me not to buy it.

This seems a bit ungracious of me. I should say that most authors who I have met or interacted with in person have been pretty charming, even if I don't actually like their writing and have said so in public; and I want to give a particular shout-out to Catherine Asaro, towards whose writing I have been consistently hostile, but who chose to engage me with grace and generosity (though I'm afraid it didn't change my take on her work).

That was a difficult one (as demonstrated by the fact that it took me an extra day). The next questions are much easier.

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