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Currently reading... a Wednesday meme on a Thursday morning

June 26th, 2014 (01:06 am)

True Fire by Gary Meehan. Teenage pregnancy in rural fantasy setting turns rapidly into a kind of Meg Rossoff's How I Live Now with crossbows and swords and a political-religious movement which makes Boko Haram, ISIS, the Lord's Resistance Army and their likes seem positively cuddly. With an eye to film adaptations, there's a strong supporting role for a fortysomething woman good at archery and being drunk.

The Sea-Stone Sword by Joel Cornah. I've not really started this one yet, but every time I open it I see a fannish reference to some other text. From a smaller publisher and definitely aimed at transmedia-literate genre fans, but with its own narrative concerns too.

Doctor Who Magazine 475; not a book but more words than many of them; the first part of a more-detailed-than-usual interview with Terrance Dicks and the second part of Andrew Cartmel's interviews with the writers he worked with as script editor in the McCoy period add more insight to two already well-explored periods of Doctor Who history. New to me were the suggestion that the insistence in the early 1970s on a 'family' television label and the research to show that most of Doctor Who's audiemce were adult was in part a rebuff to takeover attempts on Doctor Who by the renascent BBC Television children's department (imagine Jon Pertwee arriving at Television Centre to find that his producer is not Barry Letts but [yes, I know she didn't do drama really] Biddy Baxter...), Ben Aaronovitch's belief that in practical terms writing for Doctor Who set his career back twenty years, and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy emerging as a way for Andrew Cartmel to kill an idea John Nathan-Turner had commissioned from Stephen Wyatt while Cartmel was on holiday, for a three-part story to be made entirely in the Doctor Who Exhibition at Longleat House. Oh, and much Vastra, Jenny and Strax, too, with an interview with their real-life alter-egos and a comic strip starring them, with no sign of the Doctor.

Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman. Jefferson is one of those annoying historical figures who can seem so modern and contemporary and yet their careers, their personalities, privileges and weaknesses show that they are their own. Kalman's illustrated children's book on Abraham Lincoln was fascinating and this imagines a Jefferson who said kind words to his (enslaved black) cooks and seemed to live more hours than exist in the day while enjoying both a full political life as well as pursuing his cultural interests, as well as amorous ones: Sally Hemings appears and the opportunity is taken to explain what "pass for white" meant and why it was important in a "PREJUDICED LAND" (Kalman's capitals). My teeth are set on edge by the mention of "the tyrannical rule of an English king" (far too hard on conscientious George III) Above all, Kalman's pictures and text restore a humanity which this observer finds America can strip from its icons: Jefferson and Lafayette are painted plucking figs from the trees at Monticello, and in noting that Jefferson's self-penned epitaph on his gravestone does not mention that he was President of the United States, she asks (of her young readers) "I wonder why", before on the next spread urging her readers to follow "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything", though Jefferson himself might have mused whether such a quest was reasonable or possible for everyone without the benefit of a tobacco plantation.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/2014/06/26/currently-reading-a-wednesday-meme-on-a-thursday-morning.html.


Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: June 27th, 2014 10:58 am (UTC)

I find the ‘mad, bad King George’ view of history to be prevalent among Americans. Not that we Britons don’t have our own prejudices about past monarchs (and Americans).

I thought the Cartmel article was good (and is one of several that is making me rethink not renewing my subscription later in the year), but the ‘hook’ (how did late eighties Who inspire new Who?) seems a little contrived. Straightforward interviews would have worked better. Although I agree that Silver Nemesis seems astonishingly contemporary and would probably work better at forty-five minutes long, the extensive cuts already made notwithstanding. Aaronovitch’s thesis that the BBC ‘high ups’ still hate Doctor Who, but are lumbered with it due to its success is provocative and probably not true, but perhaps containing an element of truth.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 27th, 2014 02:52 pm (UTC)

I think the hook has been useful in giving a focus to the conversations, even if the resulting material has sometimes seemed a little forced. Aaronovitch's statement is probably more true now than it was in, say, 2006/7...