Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

[While The Doctor and Rose are in mannacles]
The Editor: Now, there's an interesting point. Is a slave a slave if he doesn't know he's been enslaved?
The Doctor: Yes.
The Editor: Oh, I was hoping for a philosophical debate. Is that all I'm gonna get? "Yes"?
The Doctor: Yes.
The Editor: [chuckles] You're no fun.
The Doctor: Let me out of these mannacles. Then you'll find out how much fun I am.
The Editor: [To Rose] Oooh, he's tough, isn't he?

("The Long Game", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Poetry Friday 60

With large chunks of Oxfordshire (including the area around the station) and Gloucestershire (my parents' home county) under water this week, I thought this poem by John Clare was appropriate:

The Flood

On Lolham Brigs in wild and lonely mood
I've seen the winter floods their gambols play
Through each old arch that trembled while I stood
Bent o'er its wall to watch the dashing spray
As their old stations would be washed away
Crash came the ice against the jambs and then
A shudder jarred the arches - yet once more
It breasted raving waves and stood agen
To wait the shock as stubborn as before
- White foam brown crested with the russet soil
As washed from new plough lands would dart beneath
Then round and round a thousand eddies boil
On tother side - then pause as if for breath
One minute - and engulphed - like life in death

Whose wrecky stains dart on the floods away
More swift than shadows in a stormy day
Straws trail and turn and steady - all in vain
The engulfing arches shoot them quickly through
The feather dances flutters and again
Darts through the deepest dangers still afloat
Seeming as faireys whisked it from the view
And danced it o'er the waves as pleasures boat
Light hearted as a thought in May -
Trays - uptorn bushes - fence demolished rails
Loaded with weeds in sluggish motions stray
Like water monsters lost each winds and trails
Till near the arches - then as in affright
It plunges - reels - and shudders out of sight

Waves trough - rebound - and fury boil again
Like plunging monsters rising underneath
Who at the top curl up a shaggy main
A moment catching at a surer breath
Then plunging headlong down and down - and on
Each following boil the shadow of the last
And other monsters rise when those are gone
Crest their fringed waves - plunge onward and are past
- The chill air comes around me ocean blea
From bank to bank the waterstrife is spread
Strange birds like snow spots o'er the huzzing sea
Hang where the wild duck hurried past and fled
On roars the flood - all restless to be free
Like trouble wandering to eternity

So far I've been unaffected by the flooding, but my parents and brother are without mains water and have been for two days - although there's no flooding in their area - we believe, but haven't been able to find out for sure - that the water company, in its infinite wisdom, have diverted water from their area to one of the flood-affected areas - which makes perfect sense (or not!)

My annoyance over this is made greater by the fact that the Government, in its infinite wisdom, allows planning permission to be given for building on flood plains. They're called "flood plains" for a REASON you know !!

This week's Poetry Friday round up is hosted by Jone, aka Ms Mac, over at Check it Out so be sure to - check it out!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

Rose: I'll let the Doctor describe it.
The Doctor: The Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. Planet Earth is at its height, covered with megacities, five moons, population 96 billion, the centre of a galactic domain that stretches across a million planets and species.
[Adam faints.]
The Doctor: He's your boyfriend.
Rose: Not any more.

("The Long Game", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J K Rowling

No, this is not a review - I'm saving that for the forthcoming HP7 discussion over on the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone in early August.

I have finished it though. It took me around seven hours in total - and I'm actually relieved to say I enjoyed it. I wasn't sure I would as I'd been resenting the prospect of reading it so much since rading it would be taking me out of the Whoniverse for several hours - the longest period I've spent *out* of the Whoniverse since I became immersed in it back in January. But once I started reading, the story tugged me along...

It was interesting reading this book from a fiction writer's point of view. This is the first HP book I've read since I began writing fiction myself and it was intriguing. I think I've mentioned here before that I have the facility to read on more than one level at the same time: I read as a child - wanting to get to the end of the story, hoping for a good ending, and I also read as a "critic" - looking at the structure, themes, language style, etc. And since I took up writing fiction I've been reading books at the level of someone who's also producing fiction - it's given me an extra awareness that I didn't possess when reading as a critic - sometimes that merely means thinking "Hmm, not sure I'd have written/structured that like that..." Sometimes it means a flare of admiring envy at the way something has been expressed and the desire to have that kind of mastery myself.

What it means for my reading of Harry Potter is that I've an extra appreciation of how bloody hard it is to tie up all the loose ends of a seven book series in a satisfying way that also gives readers at least a half-way decent story. And I think Rowling achieved that in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Oh and I don't totally hate the children's cover any longer - I still prefer the adult one, though ! But seeing it on book it seemed a little less morbid than in the photos (go figure !) And now that I know to what the UK cover relates, I'm impressed that it actually *fits* the story so well !

Friday, July 20, 2007

Live Webchat with Anthony Horowitz

Now this, in my view, is something worth getting excited about (certainly more than the publication of the last HP book - yes, I know, I'm hopeless - but the boy with glasses has been pushed out of my affections by the lanky Time Lord with glasses, what can I say ?)

From the Anthony Horowitz website:

Do you want to know what's in store for the five Gatekeepers following Nightrise?
Or how Alex Rider bites back in his next adventure, Snakehead?
Well, now's your chance to find out...

Anthony Horowitz will be hosting a live web chat from 14:00 - 15:00 (BST) on Tuesday 31 July 2007.

With Snakehead, Alex Rider's eagerly-awaited seventh mission, out on Wednesday 31 October we're sure you'll have masses of questions to ask Anthony.

All you have to do is log on to the link below at 14:00 GMT on Tuesday 31 July armed with your questions: Power of Five Chat.

Poetry Friday 59

It's been many years since I saw a Kingfisher, but I like this poem about the Kingfisher by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves - goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is?
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.

This is quite a complicated poem and you might find this lecture by poet Desmond Egan, delivered during the 2004 International Gerard Manley Hopkins Summer School, useful in illuminating it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Doctor Who Book Reviews

I've been spending so much time *writing* fiction of late (I began a series of Tenth Doctor/Martha Jones short stories last week - I didn't mean to, of course - a plot bunny came bounding into my head and wouldn't leave !), that I've not been writing any reviews of the fiction I read, and although I've just re-read Linda Buckley-Archer's Gideon the Cutpurse and The Tar Man (still brilliant on a third and second reading, respectively), I owe you reviews of about six other books. So I'm combining quick reviews of the latest three Doctor Who novels featuring the Tenth Doctor and Doctor-in-Training Martha Jones. All these books feature the Doctor and Martha Jones as played by David Tennant and Freema Agyeman in the acclaimed hit series from BBC Television.

The first of these is Stephen Cole's Sting of the Zygons which brings back Tenth Doctor actor David Tennant's favourite monster from the Classic Who series, the Zygons.

The TARDIS lands the Doctor and Martha in the Lake District in 1909 (although he'd been aiming for Russia), where a small village is being terrorised by a gigantic scaly monster. All the local huntsman are taking part in the search for the elusive "Beast of Westmorland" as it's been dubbed, and a number of explorers, naturalists and hunters from across the country are descending on the area. Even King Edward VII is on the way to join the search, offering a Knighthood for whoever can find the Beast. But there is a more sinister presence at work in the Lakes than a mere monster on the rampage, and the Doctor and Martha soon become embroiled in the plans of an old and terrifying enemy of the Doctor's. As the hunters find themselves becoming the hunted, a desperate battle of wits begins - with the future of the entire world at stake.

There is also an Audiobook available, read by Reggie Yates (who played Martha's younger brother Leo in the TV series).

* * * * * *

The second book is Jacqueline Rayner's The Last Dodo in which the Doctor and Martha set off in search of a real live dodo and find themselves transported by the TARDIS to the mysterious Museum of the Last Ones (MotLO). In the Earth section there they discover one specimen of every extinct creature up to the present day; there are billions of them, from the tiniest insect to the biggest dinosaur, all of them still alive, kept in suspended animation. The Museum's only job is to preserve each species by collecting the last surviving specimen of wach creature from all over the universe.

This book is particularly interesting in that Rayner does something that "Doctor Who" authors seldom dare to do - she writes sections of the story from Martha's perspective, in the past tense. Not only does this make a refreshing change, style-wise but it's also fascinating to experience first-hand Martha's thoughts about events, including an accidental genocide that she perpetrates (which, fortunately, the Doctor is able to reverse), as well her larger feelings about the Doctor and their travels together.

Unfortunately these passages have clearly been written with a younger audience in mind so they aren't as detailed as they might have been. Pleasingly whilst Martha's television story arc concentrates a lot on her unrequited feelings for the Doctor, Rayner makes only fleeting references to this in the story. The book also features the amusing device of the "I-Spyder Book of Earth Creatures Guide" which the Doctor gives to Martha before they arrive at the Museum, and which underpins the whole novel in a very humorous Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy manner.

There is also an Audiobook available, read by Freema Agyeman.

* * * * * *

Martin Day's Wooden Heart features the "Castor", a vast starship which is apparently deserted and has been left drifting slowly in the void of deep space. Martha and the Doctor explore the ship and discover that they may not be alone on board it after all. It appears that someone has survived the disaster that overcame the rest of the crew. The pair try to discover what continues to power the vessel - and why a stretch of wooded countryside has suddenly appeared in the middle of the ship. As they journey through the forest, the Doctor and Martha find a mysterious, fogbound village that is traumatised by some of its children going missin and by tales of its own destruction. The Doctor and Martha find themselves in separate races against time to save the village, Martha from with the forest and the Doctor from outside in the ship.

There is also an Audiobook available, read by Adjoa Andoh (who played Martha's mother Francine in the TV series)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

[The Doctor, encouraging Adam to explore the station]
The Doctor: The thing is, Adam, time travel is like visiting Paris. You can't just read the guidebook, you've got to throw yourself in. Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers... or is that just me?

("The Long Game", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

From the Guardian Online

There's an interesting article in today's Guardian by Sarah Crown, one of this year's Forward Poetry Prize Judges. She writes:

In the run up to the judging meeting for this year's Forward prizes shortlist, I read nothing but poetry for three weeks. No newspapers, no magazines, no reference books and, crucially, no novels. Nothing. But. Poetry. It was a mind-bending experience.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining, quite the opposite. I'm a sucker for poetry. I'll happily read a collection from cover to cover, and usually get through four or five new ones every month - as well as dipping in and out of volumes and anthologies I've read before. But to consume so much - somewhere in the region of 120 collections, I think - in such a concentrated way, without the leavening effect of prose, effected a profound and - to me, at least - fascinating shift in the way I read.

It's an interesting article that's worth reading in full. I can't actually imagine reading nothing but poetry for three weeks - or even three days ! I love my narrative fixes - even when I'm reading a lot of non-fiction (as I am now for researching my story, "Improbable Journeys"), I still like to read some fiction in bed before I sleep to allow my brain to unwind towards sleep. But I confess I'm intrigued !

Friday, July 13, 2007

Poetry Friday 58

Today is the birthday of the rural poet John Clare, of whose poetry Edmund Blunden was a champion.


The water-lilies on the meadow stream
Again spread out their leaves of glossy green;
And some, yet young, of a rich copper gleam,
Scarce open, in the sunny stream are seen,
Throwing a richness upon Leisure's eye,
That thither wanders in a vacant joy;
While on the sloping banks, luxuriantly,
Tending of horse and cow, the chubby boy,
In self-delighted whims, will often throw
Pebbles, to hit and splash their sunny leaves;
Yet quickly dry again, they shine and glow
Like some rich vision that his eye deceives;
Spreading above the water, day by day,
In dangerous deeps, yet out of danger's way.

Clare was born in Nottinghamshire on July 13, 1793 and may be the poorest person to ever become a major writer in English literature. His father was a peasant farmer and the family often had to live off the proceeds from a single apple tree in their yard. Clare went to the village school between the ages of five and eleven, and having learnt to read and write, he decided that he wanted to write poetry.

He was forced to support himself by working as a farm labourer. Malnutrition had stunted his growth and he was never more than 5 feet tall, so he couldn't do any heavy work. Most of the time he weeded, stacked hay bales and looked after the animals. Since he couldn't afford to buy paper, he made his own from birch bark; he also made his own ink. However some of his poems were written on old envelopes.

Whilst other romantic poets, such as Wordsworth and Keats, were writing nature poetry they wrote about nature as a metaphor for something else. Clare, however, always tried to write about nature as it was, the thing itself.

His first poetry book came out in 1820 and the fact that he was a peasant helped to make it a bestseller. However, there was a bank crash a few years later, and then a recession in England so his books sold fewer and fewer copies, and he eventually moved back to the farm.

John Clare wrote: "I live here among the ignorant like a lost man ... they hardly dare talk in my company for fear I should mention them in my writings." He began suffering from a psychiatric disorder and his behavior became more and more erratic. He began seeing things such as spirits and demons, and was committed to an asylum where he forgot who he was; at some points he thought he was Lord Byron, and wrote some poems in Byron's style. He escaped from the asylum at one point but was returned and lived there for the rest of his life.

In all Clare wrote about 3,500 poems of which only 400 were published in his lifetime, and his great importance as an English poet has only become clear in the last few decades, in part due to the work begun by Edmund Blunden, himself a Nature poet even in the midst of the First World War.

Today's Poetry Friday round up will be hosted by Susan at Chicken Spaghetti.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

Dalek: [appears on a monitor] I shall speak only to the Doctor.
The Doctor: [sees the fire sprinklers in action, raining water upon the Dalek] You're gonna get rusty.
Dalek: I fed off the DNA of Rose Tyler. Extrapolating the biomass of a time-traveller regenerated me.
The Doctor: What's your next trick?
Dalek: I have been searching for the Daleks.
The Doctor: Yeah, I saw. Downloading the internet. What did you find?
Dalek: I scanned your satellites and radio telescopes.
The Doctor: And?
Dalek: Nothing. [Beat] Where shall I get my orders now?!
The Doctor: You're just a soldier without commands.
Dalek: Then I shall follow the Primary Order: the Dalek instinct to destroy, to conquer!!
The Doctor: But what for? What's the point?! Don't you see? It's all gone. Everything you were, everything you stood for.
Dalek: ... Then what should I do?
The Doctor: All right, then. If you want orders, follow this one. Kill yourself.
Dalek: The Daleks must survive!
The Doctor: The Daleks have failed! Now why don't you finish the job, and make the Daleks extinct?! Rid the universe of your filth! Why don't you just DIE?!
Dalek: [Beat] You would make a good Dalek.

("Dalek", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Campaign to Save the Potterverse

I confidently predict this will cause uproar in some circles: Waterstone's has launched an online petition to Save Harry Potter. The site proclaims:

There has never been a place like Hogwarts. There has never been a writer like JK Rowling. And there has never, ever been a character like Harry Potter. Millions, perhaps billions of us love reading his adventures, and we never want them to end.

The professed aim of the site is "to get one million names by July 21st (the launch date for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)" at which point the petition will be presented to J K Rowling, who during a recent interview on the UK chat-show Friday Night With Jonathan Ross apparently agreed that you should "never say 'never'" with regard to the possibility that she might write more fiction set in the Potterverse in future. (You can see something of the JKR interview with Jonathan Ross on YouTube.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Book and Blog News

I meant to post about this last week, but got bogged down in a post-weekend-off work slog; still it's not too late to be relevant. The Bath Festival of Children's Literature programme is now available and amongst the literally dozens of fab events they're holding are the following which made me squeak with pleasure, then moan with despair as I don't think I'll get to any of them. The second one is the one that got me most excited and despairing:

Wednesday 26th September
F1 5.30 – 6.30pm, The Forum, £5
A brilliant performer and one of the most popular writers for young people today, Anthony Horowitz will fire up the imagination with a sneak preview of his eagerly awaited new Alex Rider novel, Snakehead, discuss his bestselling series The Power of Five and deliver a quickfire question-and-answer session covering his writing for page and screen.

Friday 28th September
H2 7 – 8pm, Guildhall, £4.50
Accompanying the current Doctor Who BBC TV Series is a successful range of tie-in novels – brand new and original adventures featuring the Doctor and Martha written by some of the best writers around. This is a rare chance to hear many of these Doctor Who experts talk about how they write for the last of the Timelords. Join Mark Michalowski, Mark Morris, Paul Magrs, Justin Richards and Steve Cole in conversation with Michael Stevens, Doctor Who Range Editor at Bath-based BBC Audiobooks, for an evening of fascinating insight into everyone’s favourite time-traveller.

Sunday 23rd September
C5 11 – 12pm, Assembly Rooms, £5
You lucky people! Come and meet award-winning fantasy author Garth Nix in his first UK appearance for more than two years! Hear him talking about his current Keys to the Kingdom series, plus the legendary Old Kingdom trilogy and Shade's Children. Don't miss your chance to hear this master of storytelling explain all.

Sunday 30th September
K16 6 – 7pm, Guildhall, £4.50
A rare chance to catch together three great fantasy authors discussing their craft. Frank Beddor is a best-selling author who has written two bold fantasies inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Catherine Fisher's past work is popular and very highly acclaimed. Her new novel, Incarceron, is her hugely enjoyable yet terrifying vision of the future. David Clement-Davies unique brand of literary, anthropomorphic animal fantasy has won him rave reviews all over the world. His new novel, Fell, is a sequel to The Sight.

The chance to hear Justin Richards and Stephen Cole, whose Doctor Who novels I've really enjoyed, is fabulous, but 8 pm talk requires an overnight stay and as things stand, I can't afford it...

* * * * * *

Nancy, of the Journey Woman Blog, has just celebrated her Blogiversary (it was mine last week but did I remember? Nope ! That's two years in a row I've missed it!) and she's holding a Lives in Letters Contest during July.

She says:

The prizes:

I'll award 4 prizes, each a $25 gift card. Probably Starbucks gift cards, though I might shake it up a bit and go with Target gift cards too. Plus each winner will get one mystery prize of small monetary but huge sentimental value.

The deadline:

All entries must be in by July 31, midnight. I announce winners on August 2, which just happens to be my 39th birthday.

If you want to know more about how to participate, hightail it over to Journey Woman now !

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone Update

I've just posted my review of Doctor Who season 3 episodes 12 and 13 "The Sound of Drums" and "The Last of the Time Lords" (the final two episodes) over on the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Question for readers of Time Travel Tales

I'm hoping (see previous post) to properly start work on my non-Who Time Travel tale next week and I've been thinking about it a good deal in the meantime. The one thing I've been wondering is whether or not to have an object that precipitates Danny's time-travelling. My original idea was that he would not have such an object - no mechanical or magical machine that causes him to time-travel, so no TARDIS ("Doctor Who"), no DeLorean ("Back to the Future"), no Art Deco radio (London Calling), no Rift ("Torchwood"/"Doctor Who"), no bags of Time (Johnny and the Bomb), etc.

But I remembered conversations about Susan Cooper's King of Shadows, in which young Nat Field travels back to 1599 without the use of a particular time-travel device and now I'm wondering which method readers prefer ? If I choose to go for the no device option, how much of an explanation would you want for how Danny manages to travel in time ? Personally I'm quite happy without a detailed explanation (I think part of the reason I love King of Shadows is the mystery that surrounds Nat's time-travelling, but I'm curious to know what others prefer.

Poetry Friday 57

Time for some more Shakespeare this week. This Sonnet turned up in my inbox last week via the daily "The Writer's Almanac" email, so I thought I would share it with you.

Sonnet 55

Not marble nor the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear'd with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room,
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.

It seemed particularly apt following my poems last week to commemorate the anniversary of the start of World War 1 and because I've been doing some WW1-related background reading for my non-Who Time Travel tale, which I hope to begin work on properly next week, work schedule permitting (I've taken to getting up at 5 am to write before breakfast since I can't seem to fit any writing into the day and I'm far too shattered most evenings).

This week's Poetry Friday round up is hosted by Farm School.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

Rose: [Approaches the damaged Dalek] ... Hello?
[no response] Are you in pain? My name's Rose Tyler. I've got a friend who can help, he's called the Doctor. What's your name?
Dalek: [weak] ... Yes...
Rose: What?
Dalek: [eyestalk lifts feebly] ... I... am... in pain... They... torture me... but still they fear me... Do you fear me?...
Rose: [soft] No.
[the Dalek's eyestalk lowers again, as if in despair]
Dalek: ... I... am... dying...
Rose: No, we can help --
Dalek: ... I... welcome death... But... I am glad... that before I die... I met a human... who was not afraid...
Rose: Isn't there anything I can do?
Dalek: ... My race... is dead... I... shall die... alone...
[Rose touches the Dalek's dome to comfort it]
Adam: Rose, no!
[Rose pulls her hand away in pain. And the Dalek is triumphant.]
Dalek: [Voice volume steadily increases] Genetic material extrapolated! Initiate cellular RECONSTRUCTION!!!

("Dalek", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

* * * * * *

My review of the season 3 two part finale will go up later this week as I've not yet had a chance to re-watch the 13th episode since it aired on Saturday.

Scholar's Blog Book Discussion Group

Just a quick reminder that the discussion of Louis Sachar's The Boy Who Lost His Face has now started. Feel free to pop over and participate if you've read it.