April 10th, 2011


April Books 11) Year's Best SF 12, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer

Good if somewhat gloomy selection of short SF first published in 2006; the only one I had read before was Michael Flynn's "Dawn, and Sunset, and the Colours of the Earth", which was also the only one of the 26 stories here to make it to either Hugo or Nebula shortlist (though the Locus Best Novelette winner, Cory Doctorow's "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth", is also here). Other stories here that I liked included Gardner Dozois' "Counterfactual" and Carol Emshwiller's "Quill". 2007 was the year when I wasn't able to write up the various Hugo nominees in my usual detail, but my main memory is that they were a bit more cheerful; winners were "A Billion Eves" by Robert Reed, "The Djinn's Wife" by Ian Mcdonald and "Impossible Dream" by Tim Pratt.

Industrial archæology in Sint-Joris-Weert

If you head to the next village south of us, and wander out to the west a little, you will find a mysterious ridge departing the village in a northwesterly direction, roughly here. F and I cycled down to find it yesterday, and he took this picture of it from the road:

What could this mysterious structure be? A dike? Unlikely, give its relationship with the river Dijle, not 25 metres away and intersecting it diagonally. A disused road? Well, there are plenty of used roads around, and this one doesn't appear to go anywhere.

But if you trace the ridge back into the village, you will eventually find that opposite the railway station (itself somewhat dilapidated) is this building (ignore the strange man in red shorts checking his Blackberry):

This, believe it or not, is the former station in Sint-Joris-Weert of the steam tram line which ran between Tervuren and Tienen from 1905 to 1957. If you look over the door you can still see where the name "Sint-Joris-Weert" would have been written, over half a century ago.

An easy enough Saturday outing. All photos taken by young F.

April Books 12) The Unsilent Library, edited by Simon Bradshaw, Antony Keen and Graham Sleight

This short (170 pages) and digestible book of essays on the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who was published last month by the Science Fiction Foundation; the editors kindly invited me to contribute when it was first mooted two years ago, and I wish I had had the time (and scholarly resources) to do so, as it is always nice to be in good company (two of the three editors and altariel are also contributors).

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Although the focus of the book is on the five years of the Russell T. Davies era - from Easter 2005 to New Year's Day 2010 - almost all of the authors seem pretty solidly committed to looking at Who not only with the tools of interpretation of contemporary media and literature, but also as a phenomemon which started in 1963 rather than 2005, and indeed which continues past Davies' handing over the reins to Steven Moffat in 2010. For old school fans like me this is rather comforting, and hopefully it may tempt any New Who fans who pick it up and have not yet been converted to give Old Who a try as context. In any case it's a very good set of essays, more profound than Chicks Dig Time Lords, more diverse than Triumph of a Time Lord, and better than any of the other analytical books I've read about New Who.

April Books 14) The Rights of Women, by Mary Wollstonecraft

One of those classic political texts which everyone should read, written in the revolutionary moment of 1792, and making the daring argument that women should be educated rather than infantilised, indeed, boys and girls should be educated together. Many of her arguments are unfortunately still valid; her analysis of power and oppression is pretty acute, and must be one of the earliest examples of applying arguments about socieo-economic equality to gender relations. I was interested that she clearly has a great deal of respect for Talleyrand, who I'd always thought of as wily statesman rather than advanced political thinker in his own right, which may just show my ignorance.

I was startled by a line in the introduction by Pamela Frankau, who writes that "with feminism we are surely done. It went out - didn't it? - some twenty-five years ago." This was written in 1954. I'm glad to say that a second reading (not sitting in the warm sunshine) reassured me that she was being ironic.