Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway

As a way to jump-start interest in Jack Manley and the Warlord of Infinity, I am doing a giveaway on Goodreads. It was a simple process to set up: as an author on the site, I submitted my request detailing the length of the proposed promotion and the number of books I'm prepared to part with. A few days later Goodreads had set the whole thing up, and there's nothing else that I have to do. At the end of the giveaway Goodreads will send me an email with the names and addresses of the winners, and it's up to me to mail out the books. Dead simple.

The promotion started on October 8th, and will end on November 7th. I'm giving away five books, which is about all my meagre budget will support at the moment. So far 217 people have entered, and in addition there are 84 people who have added it to their to-read list. All of this could be meaningless; I'm sure there are plenty of Goodreads users out there who enter every free giveaway there is, just as I'm dubious that being added to a to-read list will translate to books sold. Nevertheless, that's over 200 people who know about my book that didn't a few days ago, and I count that as a success.


I'm still making my way through the Doctor Who marathon I started a while ago. I just watched the TV Movie, the obligatory entry (and only appearance) for Paul McGann's eighth Doctor. I remember enjoying this as a teenager when it first aired, and while I still think there is plenty to like about it time has not been kind.

Whereas 'Rose', the premiere episode of the current version of Doctor Who, is a textbook example of how to introduce the premise to a new audience, the 1996 TV Movie is just the opposite. It does everything wrong in this regard, beginning with the opening narration that feels the need to spell out everything from Time Lords to the Master to the Daleks to regeneration to you name it. There's something to be said for getting this stuff out of the way early, but it worked much better ten years later, where this stuff was teased out over the course of the first episode (and in some cases, the first three seasons).  A fan-wank speech laying out the minutiae of the premise was not the way to go.

Even the TARDIS reveal is blown in the opening scenes; we open with the Doctor in a gigantic parlour drinking tea, reading the Time Machine and engaging in similarly English activities, and then cut to a contextless shot of the TARDIS hurtling through the time vortex. There's no sense of scale to suggest the idea that the ship is bigger inside than out.

I could continue complaining about little things. The kissing, and the orchestral version of the theme music (both of which continue to irritate me well into the modern series). The whole half-human bit (thankfully ignored by the modern series entirely). The climax, which I still can't make any sense out of. It really is a mess.

I think the worst thing about it is the sheer banal, mid-90s cult TV vibe it has. Doctor Who has a tenuous relationship with sci-fi at best, especially the sort of stuff that was going around in 1996. As a show it works when it doesn't get caught up in continuity and details, and especially science. And when it really works is when it gets weird, and scary. When it tries its best to look like nothing else on the telly. This version of Doctor Who, had it gone to series, would have looked just like every other sci-fi show out there.

And yet, there are things to like as I said. It's very well-directed; the scenes of the Doctor's rebirth intercut with bits from the black-and-white Frankenstein movie are a particular stand-out. McGann is rather wonderful as the Doctor, and I get the feeling he would only have gotten better had the series continued. I have a certain perverse liking for Eric Roberts' ultra-camp turn as the Master.

It could have worked with a recut, perhaps by losing the infodump at the beginning. It would sadly cut the amount of screen-time for Sylvester McCoy's Doctor, but he's barely in the movie as it is. I wouldn't be surprised if some enterprising fan has done the work already, and I'd be interested to see if it makes for a better movie. As it is, it's an interesting yet flawed blip in the long history of the show.


What I've Been Reading
The Son of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
About Time Vol. 3 by Tat Wood

What I've Been Watching
Doctor Who: The Movie

What I've Been Playing
Need for Speed: The Run on the Nintendo Wii (just one challenge I can't complete; it's driving me bananas.)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Countdown to Paperback

I don't have a great deal to report this week, except to say that I have completed reviewing the proof copy of Jack Manley and approved it to go up on Amazon.  Now I'm just waiting for Amazon to set everything up, which could take anywhere from another three to five days to complete.  I had thought that it would be available by now, but I suppose that the wheels of commerce can turn only so fast.  I'll have all of the details next week, I'm sure.

(Addendum: No, it's up already!  Expect a social media blitz tomorrow!)


I have been deeply immersed in About Time Vol. 2 (by Lawrence Miles and Tat Wood), a deeply exhaustive guide to Doctor Who during the late 1960s.  The About Time series spans seven volumes so far, and is a brilliant mix of insightful critiques, cultural touchstones and hardcore nerd-facts.  It's an amazing piece of work, and should be the first stop for any serious Doctor Who fan looking for a guidebook to the series.  (The second stop should be Philip Sandifer's brilliant Tardis Eruditorum blog and book series.  It's just as good as About Time, but utterly different in all the right ways.)

Every time I read this book it makes me desperately want to do the same thing for the Marvel Universe.  The universe portrayed in Marvel Comics is a wonderful, fascinating thing, and easily my favourite work of fiction.  I would really love to write a series of guidebooks that covers the breadth and scope of the Marvel Universe in detail, but the prospect of doing so seems impossible.

The first reason for this is a function of my own skills as a writer and an analyst: I'm not particularly good at picking stories apart and examining their themes.  On top of that I have little experience with the cultural context that the early Marvel Comics were created in.  I'm not American, and I certainly wasn't alive during the 1960s.  I really wouldn't feel comfortable making authoritative statements about these kinds of things, so if I do pursue this project I won't be providing the level of insight given by Miles and Wood.

The second reason that a series of Marvel Guidebooks would be nigh-impossible to create is the sheer weight of the Marvel Universe.  We're talking thousands of comics spanning from 1939 to the present day.  To do the project in the style of About Time, I would have to read them all before I begin writing.  It's just about possible that I could read the entire Marvel Universe before I die, but that would still leave a very narrow window for me to write the damn things.  And there are more comics coming out every week, mounting and mounting up.  It never ends!

The only way I can see to do this is to tackle it in a piecemeal fashion.  The first book, for instance, might cover the first two years of the Marvel Universe proper (1961 and 1962), taking into account only the information contained in those comics.  The next book would incorporate the comics from 1963, the next the comics of 1964, and so on.  Each volume would be a snapshot of the Marvel Universe at a certain point in time, and taken together they would chronicle the development and expansion of that universe both internally and externally.  It sounds like something I would have a blast writing, but it also sounds like a life's work.  I'm going to tinker around with it for a while, and see how it comes out.


What I've Been Reading
The Son of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
About Time Vol. 2 by Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles

What I've Been Watching
Speed Racer

What I've Been Playing
Need for Speed: The Run on the Nintendo Wii