Friday, October 10, 2008

Sidenotes on The Pit

In December (over nine months ago!) I read Time's Crucible and Damaged Goods. I've just finished reading The Pit. You can find some discussion of the latter over on my blog.

Meanwhile, Season 3 is long gone, and the Davies Era is drawing to a close too. Though one might say that, like the Lambert Era, or the Darvill-Evans Era, it will never really end. More to the point, one might say that I am nowhere near beginning the Duke's challenge to map the influence of Darvill-Evans on Davies.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Endnotes on Sky Pirates!

Doctor Who theory: p37 - There are millions of signals like this, from millions upon millions of disasters, shot through the Implicate like spiderstrands. The difference is that, here and now, this is the one we've intercepted. This is the one we can't [ignore]. p299 - All I can ever really do is buy you and others like you a little extra time.

p66 - She's ripped. She was almost pulled apart. Our heroes are injected into the story via TARDIS trauma, a favourite trope of the New Adventures.

p124 - Hoothi, Solarians, Greki, Sea Devils, Yeti, Silurians, Nazis, corporate arcologies, bogiemen, vampires, bodysnatchers and Bogwoppets from Altair XIV have variously known what it means to be my enemy or my friend. Ironic reversal of the Doctor's fame, first seen in Love and War.

p22 - ...floating three feet off the floor, juggling four variecoloured balls of blinding plasma and singing to himself an insane little song about a grackle, in three voices, simultaneously. A synthesis of the Doc and Legion in Lucifer Rising, highlighting their alien alikeness.

p19/20 - To what extent did he actively control the perceptions of those around him? I mentioned this thread in my Lucifer Rising notes. This is also an enlargement of the Doctor's schizoid behaviour first highlighted in Love and War. The dark reading is here redirected as the manipulations of the Charon.

p251/2 - But the acquisition of a pet incurs responsibility. That was something of which the Doctor had to be continually reminded. Obviously both Cornell and Aaronovitch had some complex ideas about the Doctor/companion relationship, but, taken as two datapoints, Love and War and Transit (p256) line up to give a fairly cynical tone. This scene joints the dots so that it can add some more.

p129-132 - Sometimes, she thought, the Time Lord was like something out of a particularly manic Chuck Jones cartoon. A tour de force that illuminates both Looney Tunes and Doctor Who. It ends with Benny's wondering if she can only make this analysis, which harkens back to the Love and War/Transit characterisation above, because the Doctor's distracted. The localised idea, that the Doctor has manipulated Benny's thoughts, is an explanation for her "change" in characterisation in The Highest Science and subsequent novels.

The fact that no sheep died today is the sole justification for any moral superiority that the dog who guards them has. Contrast with the first two quotes of this post.

The dog the lackey of a larger order which by its very nature kills, and kills, and kills again on an industrial basis. This deconstruction makes me think of how it's all about Pertwee...

p267-9 - I can't allow myself to be like that. The Doctor chooses to be human, treating Leetha as a companion. No I'm not [God]. I'm just the only alternative you've got at this point. The context is the Cartmel/Clarke/Cornell masterplan.

p293 - If we any of us allow ourselves to be like that we're utterly and irretrievably damned. The Doctor chooses to be human.

p288 - You've been taking us into the pit.

p292 - The seed of this novel is the Time Lord's eradication of life forms inimicable to humanoid life. This is a personalisation of the anthropic principle, that the universe must be the way it is for us to be here. This in turn might be a metaphor for history (less hamfisted than Falls The Shadow). There are ironies in the concrete setting and then the resolution.

Despite the plaudits given to Timewyrm: Revelation, Love and War seems like a more central novel to the New Adventures. Here is Benny, here is Death, here are Daleks and Earth Reptiles. More importantly, I'm not sure anyone ever really came back to Revelation. How could they, when they held it so dear? Love and War is more open to criticism. It's the one everyone wants to (re-)write. As it happens, the books I've been reading all try to deal with it.

Sky Pirates! in particular keeps bringing the matter up, with it on Benny's mind even more than it was in No Future. There are plot similarities: ancient Time Lord enemy manipulating an environment to give it sustenance, while the Doctor dithers until his one opportunity to win. But the plot transmutes: Leetha isn't Chosen. In the end, the Doctor is what he is in Human Nature, but naked now. The alchemical magic that seems to be at work is a transformation of Cornell's formulation of the Doctor as tragically lonely, who needs someone to be brave for, into Stone's formulation that the Doctor needs someone to keep him human. (The new series has hybridised the Doctor as tragically lonely, who needs someone to keep him human.)

Apart from the crazed stylistics and the hard science fiction, there's also a lot of textual reworking going on in this novel.

(Speaking of textual reworkings, you'll see a lot of this novel in Lawrence Miles's Christmas on a Rational Planet, Down, and Dead Romance.)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Benny's hair

Though her character notes or subsequent biographies don't hint at her interest in follicular fashion, Bernice Surprise Summerfield has probably had more haircuts than all of the Doctor's other companions put together. I'm in the middle of my fourth recent reading of a New Adventure, and her hair has been different from her default look:
  • in Human Nature she has hair extensions
  • in Set Piece she has grown her hair long and dyed it blonde
  • in Lucifer Rising she put it in dreadlocks
  • and in Sky Pirates! she has it cropped.

I'm sure I remember other novels with different do's, too. It's appropriate, given her status as first novelistic companion. Changing hair is uniquely possible in novels. In comics, looks must be iconic; in television, it's subject to actor cooperation and continuity; in radio, no one has hair.

Brief notes on Lucifer Rising

p58 - It was as if he and his friends had always been there. Had always been there. / p168 - Wherever we land, people accept us. I think Cat's Cradle: Warhead did this stuff first, but in a more literary way; this is the first novel to make a point of it. I mainly mention it because Sky Pirates! picks up the ball and runs with it.

p166/167 - It's like seeing a snowball start to roll down a mountain. You know at the bottom it's going to be avalanche time. It's just novels in the shadows of waves all the way, isn't it? Unlike Human Nature and Set Piece, this is fictional history... but, then again, is it?

p257 - Fuck you, mother. Fuck you to hell and back.

p262 - Don't go off to Margate with Julian when he asks, 'cos when you come back, your dad'll be in hospital with a stroke, and he'll never wake up, and you'll wish you'd been with him for those last precious moments after all those years apart. RIP Ace's dad.

p267 - It's the golden rule, isn't it? See also Transit and Sky Pirates! But, more to the point, see the confrontation with Zebulon Pryce in Original Sin. And all those Nietzsche references.

p327 - Family's where, when you come back, they've got to take you in.

p329 - Where the TARDIS crew's ego boundaries dissolve. Agonistic to Timewyrm: Revelation and Love and War.

p339 - Something moved upon the face of the dark. In 1993 I read this through the prism of The Pit, but now I see it's a happy ending. There is mystery in the universe.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rough notes on Set Piece

Are you sitting comfortably? What do you think is the moral of the story? Sun Tzu turns up again and again (p53, 130, 146, 171, 192, 232). Ace kind of gets it and I think I do too.

We get a lot of dead fathers: Benny's (p34, 182, 204), Ace's (p120, 151, 230), and Kadiatu's (p178). The latter two see the Doctor as a father figure. With all this going on, you could get the feminist message of the novel mixed up, but the concreteness of everything stops it getting needlessly symbolic.

(As near as I can work out, Ace was just a troubled teen who hated her mum until Love and War, when we suddenly discover she has an absent dad and her mum sees other men while she's away; in Lucifer Rising we discover her dad died shortly before she got whisked away by the time storm.)

Like Benny, I hate Jungian stuff, but I don't think that's where we are in this novel's four dreams (p88, 111, 132, 136). The key figure is Pain, who is an empathetic/experiential/existential god; nothing essential here. She gets created on p208 of Timewyrm: Revelation, incidentally - Ah well, pain it was.

I have always loved the idea of the TARDIS crew turning up in each other's dreams. The TARDIS links them: the promise of travel. (The TARDIS is drawn to Ace, in a reversal of Survival, p228).

Did he only exist because so many people dreamed about him? cf Transit.

Benny's dream is a tour de force of retroactive continuity/misprision, rewriting Battlefield, Timewyrm: Genesys, Nightshade, and (paired with Ace's p120 contemplation) Lucifer Rising.

Rereading this novel, I was surprised at how much I remembered. Scene after small scene is written extremely vividly. Too many authors try to paint pictures, but I'm not very good with remembering what characters or settings are supposed to look like. Orman deals with words. She knows how to pick the punchiest details to let you know what things smell and feel like. There's texture and scar tissue. There's what it's like to be there.

Two scenes stand out: p60 - She wondered if the little machines in her blood would let her get pregnant. A line that sent chills down my spine when I read it, and that I still find upsetting. This scene cuts right to the heart of feminism. p82 - For women there are only two boxes. Right? They're labelled WIFE and WHORE. And this startling scene helped me on a path I am still walking down.

In 1995 it wasn't surprising to have a feminist Doctor Who novel. The New Adventures were that great. (This one's also a meditation on history and a genuine deconstruction of chaos.) Though, back then, I thought there were aimless expanses where nothing happened, but I just didn't know how to pay attention.

I didn't like the structure, back in 1995, but now I think it's fine. I enjoy how the explosive opening breaks up and fades away like a dream. How, just when Ace takes consolation in the thought that Benny's probably having a worse time, we cut to find her having a great time. How, just when Ace accepts that the Doctor is dead, we cut to find he isn't. The pairing up of characters. How it all comes together.

In 1995 I was spoiled by my fannish knowing that Ace wasn't going to die. In 2007, I know Ace isn't going to die, but still the tension built as I got towards the end. I cried on p230. Orman's writing is an experience.

I still don't like the disoriented Doctor mistaking Kadiatu for Ruby Duvall (p65). I know it's one of those Doctor mistakes Ace for Sarah scenes (or as Dave Stone has Benny call them in Sky Pirates! - his Musical bloody Companion routine), but it leaves a definite bad taste. On the other hand, Kadiatu/Ruby confusion helps build the comparisons with Ace (p219 - Click your heels together). Other variations of Ace played by Kadiatu are the Doctor's apprentice and sci-fi killer. Interestingly, Kadiatu also plays a variation of the Doctor, turning up in France during a revolution on one of her early trips. This is her The Highest Science, the novel where she gets written by someone other than her creator, and, as with Benny, there's some violence, but I think there's also a lot of justice.

p197 - That's what faith is for. Faith in Time, faith that things will work out the way they're supposed to. Time's Champion. And the Darvill-Evans spin on p120 and 147. My favourite view of history is on p119/120 regarding The Farm and Nirvana. And the Doctor Who motto on p232 - I don't want to change it, I just want to be part of it. Which goes nicely with the Doctor's advice to Genevieve who doesn't think she earned the right to be free (p188/189) - Do something now.

On p237 there is talk of saving Manisha, as there was talk of saving Jan in No Future earlier, and Guy and Joan in Human Nature later.

Finally, on p238, the wave of history finally breaks, again.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

life and death's textual highway

Read: No Future, Human Nature, Return of the Living Dad. Reading Timewyrm: Revelation.

Actually I've fallen stuck in a particular chapter of Revelation, which is why I've come to write tonight. Cautionary context: sadly my recollection of my reading of the NAs is limited, I have to rely on my instinct fed by my unconscious to make generalised statements.

one: there are four eras of the NAs.

the first - the stories are Doctor Who episodes written large, they could very well be novelisations of the TV episodes, the standard set by Ben Aaronovitch's Remembrance of the Daleks. This runs up to and including Nightshade. The main highlight is Revelation which could be described as a proto-NA.

the second - from Love and War up until Human Nature is an era of experimentation of authors writing stories working with ideas about Doctor Who and Doctor Who as literature.

the third - from Human Nature to Happy Endings - solid New Adventures with an established method and concepts, telling fantastic accomplished stories. This became a solid foundation for the next era...

the fourth
- the concepts of Doctor Who are expanded further. This includes novels such as Christmas on a Rational Planet, Return of the Living Dad, Damaged Goods.. probably So Vile a Sin and the Room with No Doors. The NAs start to approach Doctor Who in new ways, the result of which never got to be explored with the end of the NA series.

Reflecting on this last era, reading Return of the Living Dad I can't help think that this era may have served as a bible for the new series.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Dave's Project

What to read next?

In Human Nature, the Doctor imagines an afterlife for Smith and the Aubertides, but is unable to love Joan. In The Also People (p284), the Doctor's imagination fails to make Roz offer love to feLixi. In the former, the Doctor states a desire to one day be "just a man", while in the latter, the Doctor takes time out as a street performer.

It's easy as a fan to be distracted by Future History and Psi Powers Cycles, but reading as a reader, I see better threads to follow. Human Nature, The Also People, and Sleepy form a Death Cycle.

Sleepy is also another kind of sequel to Human Nature, with a different take on a character being the sum of their memories.

These things popped into my head as I read Human Nature. But they are not what I'm going to pursue, right now. I already had a thread to search for, when I set out on my Western Australian trip:
I am thinking about the difference between "family" (in the New Adventures) and "home" (Buffy, new Doctor Who) and how this plays out in 'Love and Monsters'. I'm not sure if there is an exemplar novel for "family" (well, Happy Endings) because it is such an omnipresent theme (as "home" is in Buffy).
This "family" is not Ace's dad, Benny's mum, Chris's bastard, or Roz's niece. It's the "family" of Spaced, which is friends. I'll explain later.

This is what I'm thinking: Human Nature ends with two identical snowflakes. In Set Piece our heroes share dreams. In Lucifer Rising they share memory and understanding, after running through the first version of the friends-divided-coming-together of No Future. And maybe, Sky Pirates, with new friends joining the crew, in a novel of extended families?

This is an interesting set of authors too. Paul Cornell may have issued the call to New Adventures, but I've always felt that Kate Orman made the series her own like no one else. And though they are not as high profile as some authors, Jim Mortimore, Andy Lane and Dave Stone made some of the most vital contributions to the series.

I've also just finished rewatching Season 1 of the new television series, and am planning on rewatching some of Season 2. So far I've seen the first nine episodes of Season 3. Yes, I've seen 'Human Nature'/'The Family of Blood'.