April 1st, 2021


Whoniversaries 1 April

i) births and deaths

1 April 1917: birth of Sydney Newman, without whom etc etc.

1 April 1926: birth of John Scott Martin, Dalek operator and rubber-suited monster extraordinaire.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

1 April 1967: broadcast of fourth episode of The Macra Terror. The Doctor floods the mines with oxygen and then blows them up, killing the Macra.

1 April 1972: broadcast of sixth episode of The Sea Devils. The Doctor sabotages the Sea Devils' base and it explodes killing them all; he and the Master escape.

iii) date specified in canon

1 April 1963: setting of First Doctor novella Time and Relative (2001), by Kim Newman.

My tweets


My BSFA votes: Best Novel, part 2

OK, to the top half of my ballot for this year's BSFA Award for Best Novel. Two of the below (Piranesi and The City We Became) are also on the Nebula ballot. In transparency, I nominated Piranesi myself; at that point in January I had read very few of this year's potential award nominees. They are all really good and it's a really tough choice

Again you have to start somewhere. (Really, can't they all win?)

5) The Doors of Eden, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Second paragraph of third chapter:
Not for one moment had she considered not going. The phone line hadn’t been great, but she knew Mal’s voice. And really, what was the plausible alternative? That, four years later, parties unknown were trolling her?
Great story of missing girls, parallel worlds, alien incursions, and messing with the fundamental nature of the universe, set in contemporary England and a number of its alternate versions. Really difficult to put down.

4) Threading the Labyrinth, by Tiffani Angus. Second paragraph of third chapter:
“You look like you could use lunch.”
A lovely novel about an English garden that connects a its contemporary American owner with past generations. I really love any work of literature that displays a rooted sense of place, dinnseanchas in Irish. Rather beautiful and engaging.

3) Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke. Second paragraph of third chapter:
It was not the Other. He was thinner, and not quite so tall.
As I said before, Clarke's first novel in the fifteen years since Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, a much much shorter book, in which the eponymous protagonist is one of two living inhabitants of a vast building which seems to be the entire world. Gradually the truth about the narrator's past and about the world they are in becomes clear. Intense and intricate. This was my only nomination for Best Novel.

2) The City We Became, by N.K. Jemisin. Second paragraph of third chapter:
The terminal is mostly just a big, brightly lit room where a few hundred people can assemble. There’s nothing that should be scary about it. Its walls are lined with ads for movies Aislyn isn’t planning to see and makeup she probably won’t ever wear. The people standing or sitting around her are hers, her people; she feels this instinctively even though her mind resists when her gaze skates over Asian faces, or her ears pick up a language that probably isn’t Spanish but also definitely isn’t English. (Quechua, her strange newer senses whisper, but she doesn’t want to hear it.) They aren’t bothering her, though, and there are plenty of normal people around, so there’s no good reason for her to be as terrified as she is. Terror doesn’t always happen for a good reason.
I was one of the three people in fandom who bounced off the Broken Earth trilogy (I also counted the votes that gave the second volume its Hugo). However this worked a lot better for me for some reason - our protagonists discover that they have become the incarnations, the genii loci, of New York's boroughs, and also that they are under magical attack. Somewhat reminiscent of Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London, except that here it's the human-built settlements that have acquired personalities. Vivid and sharp.

1) Comet Weather, by Liz Williams. Second paragraph of third chapter:
Do the gig. Come back home, flying into Luton on Easyjet. Take the train to Somerset, from Paddington. It wasn’t rocket science. It would be a quick trip and when she returned from Somerset she would stay with Serena and figure out her next move. Goa or Amsterdam, perhaps: wherever Liam wasn’t. But this trip was straightforward.
My top vote is set in contemporary England (like The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, The Doors of Eden and Threading the Labyrinth), a spooky story of four sisters looking for their mysteriously vanished mother, and the West Country home that some have left and some have not. Various bits of magic occur, including the Behenian stars, a bit of astronomical lore that I had completely forgotten, if I ever knew. Extra marks for several gratuitous Doctor Who references. I really loved it.

Though, as I said before, I'd be happy enough for any of the above to win.

Whew. Those books are almost 2900 pages in total. (Though I only read 2600 pages, skipping most of one of them.) I tend to find that award nominations shape my reading rather than vice versa; this was a lot of work to get through before Sunday's voting deadline.

A couple of delayed monthly book reviews next.
family, child

380 days of plague

Yep, ten days on from my last post in this series; April Fools' Day, though I do not feel particularly mirthful

More or less a year since I did my second lockdown video, about the ponds at Zoetwater:

The Belgian numbers have continued to rise rather alarmingly, though with the eye of faith there may be some flattening in the infection rate over the last couple of days. Vaccinations, which had been steadily increasing, seem to have lost a bit of momentum. I made a very careful expedition into Brussels to meet a diplomatic contact last week, walking around les étangs d'Ixelles; my tracker app conked out half way through, giving the impression that I teleported back to the Flagey car park shortly after buying my ice cream.

We had a nice excursion en famille to De Torenvalk, a walking area where a few weeks ago I had unsuccessfully looked for the planet Mercury in the dawn sky. U, with some reluctance, tried parts of the fitness trail.

More educationally for me, I took F and U to the video games museum at Tours & Taxis in Brussels on Sunday, along with a couple of other friends. (Anne has studying commitments at the moment.) It's a very well laid out exhibition, with enough explanation to make me feel that I understood a lot more at the end than I had at the beginning. U has her difficulties, but she does basically get video games. Here she is trying Pong, her faithful Android tucked under her arm, with F talking to our friend P (who is a real life pinball wizard) and P's other half V taking a nostalgic photo in the corner.

Unusually I had not one but two media interviews last week, with Radio Free Europe picking my brains on Kosovo, published in Albanian and Serbian, with a brief video excerpt in English:

And then I was asked to contribute to a panel on the Egyptian channel Al-Ghad ("Tomorrow's Channel") on the subject of EU-Turkey relations. This was an interesting experience, with simultaneous translation of what the other participants were saying in Arabic into my ear in English, and my own words being simultaneously translated from English into Arabic for viewers. I have no idea if I said anything sensible. The sharp-eyed will note the same background for both videos.

We have the long Easter weekend now; I'm taking tomorrow off and will be enjoying Eastercon (I'm on two panels on Saturday). It will be nice to recharge my social batteries a bit. See some of you there.