Wednesday, January 20, 2010

PCC - Pretty Crap Complaints service

Well there's a surprise, given the toothless nature of the PCC and the fact it happily lives in the back pockets of the tabloids.

Dear Stuart Douglas


Thank you for sending us your complaint about the Daily Mail article on the subject of the death of Stephen Gately. We have received numerous complaints about this matter.
I should first make clear that the Commission generally requires the involvement of directly affected parties before it can begin an investigation into an article. On this occasion, it may be a matter for the family of Mr Gately to raise a complaint about how his death has been treated by the Daily Mail. I can inform you that we have made ourselves available to the family and Mr Gately's bandmates, in order that they can use our services if they wish.

We require the direct involvement of affected parties because the PCC process can have a public outcome and it would be discourteous for the Commission to publish information relating to individuals without their knowledge or consent. Indeed, doing so might unwittingly add to any intrusion. Additionally, one of the PCC's roles is dispute resolution, and we would need contact with the affected party in order to determine what would be an acceptable means of settling a complaint.

On initial examination, it would appear that you are, therefore, a third party to the complaint, and wemay not be able to pursue your concerns further. However, if you feel that your complaint touches on claims that do not relate directly to Mr Gately or his family, please let us know, making clear how they raise a breach of the Code of Practice. If you feel that the Commission should waive its third party rules, please make clear why you believe this.

Press Complaints Commission

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Obverse Books News

With apologies to my many, many readers who may already have seen this on various Dr Who fora and elsewhere, here's an update on Obverse's plans for 2010...

First off, the next book in the Iris series is to be called Ms Wildthyme and Friends Investigate, which Cody Schell described as "a quartet of loosely connected mystery-infused stories with danger and intrigue from the more obscure corners of the Obverse-iverse" - and that's as good a description as any.

Essentially it's four overlapping novellas which taken together make a single complete mystery novel.

Iris and Panda are in each story, but are only the primary stars of the final one. The other stories concern, respectively, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger; the Manleigh Halt Irregulars (as first seen in Paul's Panda Book of Horror tale, 'The Delightful Bag') and Senor 105, the Mexican masked wrestler created by Cody for his Celestial Omnibus story.

The authors for this book - Jim Smith, Nick Wallace, Cody Schell and myself - are already hard at work, since we're looking to publish the book in May 2010.

Secondly, the fourth book in the Iris series - and the second and final book for 2010 - is to be called Iris: Abroad (like the pun?), and will be a new short story collection edited by Paul and I along the lines of the two books already out. The only theme is that the stories can't be primarily set on the British mainland and must feature Iris and Panda as seen in the Panda Book/Celestial Omnibus. Anyone interested in pitching a story (as previously at leats one slot in the book will be reserved for a cold pitch via email or the website) should have their synopsis to us by the end of February 2010...

The publication date for this one will be November 2010 (publishing on 12 December turned out in retrospect to be a bit of a mistake, with the Christmas post slowing everything down).

Eh, and I think that's it.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Three Books

Let's see - what have I been up to recently? Nothing really, so here's some mega quick reviews of three snatches of recent reading...

The Year's Best Mystery and Suspense Stories, 1989
, edited by Edward D. Hoch is a decent collection of short stories, marred by one bloody awful crock of a tale, written by an American, about the plucky IRA 'freedom fighters', robbing the rich and feeding the poor, and the crooked British police in Northern Ireland. Seriously, someone needs to shove the entire book right up the author's arse.

The Affinity Bridge, by George Mann. After the disappointment of all but the first Lucifer Box book from Mark Gattis, it's a pleasure to report that this alterate history sf spy story set (roughly) in time of Empire is a cracking read throughout. Sir Maurice Newbury and Veronica Hobbes are believeable and interesting heroes and the world they inhabit, full of giant airships and shuffling plague-ridden zombies, nicely mixes the steampunk and horror genres to great effect, all leavened with a flavouring of the truly fantastic. Good enough that I've already bought the sequel, The Osiris Ritual. You should too.

Hells' Belles, Paul Magrs. This book is - enormously cooly - dedicated to me so I can't in all good conscience do a proper review. I will say however that it's as good as (if not better than) previous entries in the series, and I've scoured ebay for pre-release review editions of those previous entries, so enthralling are the adventures of Brenda and Effie. Seriously, go out and buy the damn thing - even if it didn't have my name in it, it'd still be fabulous and still be one of the best books you'll read this year.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

The End of Davies' Time

When I was very small, maybe 3 or 4, I had one of those Disney singles, a double a-side of the Ugly Duckling on one side and the Emperor's New Clothes on the other.

I loved both sides with a passion unequalled until I discovered David Bowie, but The Emperor's New Clothes was my favourite. I mention this fact both because (a) I just remembered about this single whilst I was walking the dog in the snow just now and the memory made me happy and (b) because I intend to very clumsily segue from here into a discussion of the final two part episode of David Tennant era Doctor Who.

Essentially, as a child and as an adult I've always thought the moral of the ENC was that people can convince themselves of anything if they want to badly enough, and for nearly five years now I've been saying that a lot of Dr Who fans have been doing exactly that, so desperate are they for the new show to be not just a success but meaningful. After decades of ridicule, the Hardcore We so wanted the "re-imagining" to be critically lauded, to be a significant event, to be good...

And so the shallow Future Shock of Gridlock becomes a parable as deep as the ocean, the laughable society of The Doctor's Daughter is applauded not derided and Boom Town isn't slammed as a piece of sub-soap opera foolishness churned out by a writer who doesn't even understand the issue he's putting into his character's mouths never mind having anything interestnig to say on the subject.

This wilful blindness had I thought peaked with the Stolen Earth/Jounrey's End two parter which ended last season. The Doctor recruits an entire Scooby Gang, he tows the Earth on a big rope, Davros has a BIG BOMB OF DEATH and it turns out that six people are really needed to run the TARDIS. And yet otherwise sensible people, rather than going out and renting Buffy DVDs to remind themselves what good fantasy writing sounds like, went out of their way to fill the gaping holes in the plot, to provide meat to the skeletal bones of the story and to conjure up magic blu-tac to shove into the rents in logic which peppered the whole sorry, histrionic mess.

And, to be fair, that was the lowpoint of Who fandom's attitude to Rusty, since with this last two part send-off I see even real Davies' fans posting on fora and Facebook and Twitter and mailing lists, metaphorically scratching their heads and saying 'hmm, that was a bit rubbish, wasn't it?'

Don't misunderstand me - there were some lovely bits in The End of Time, though nearly all of them involved Tennant and Cribbens sitting alone, talking. They're both fabulous actors and can wrench meaning out of even the most asinine dialogue, but in all honesty there was, for once, a feeling of genuine emotion in Davies' words. That the emotion was largely a meta one - that Davies doesn't want to go but if he does have to he wants to make sure everyone acknowledges how brilliant he is - was made evident as the writer has Wilf derail the beautiful scene in the cafe by calling the Doctor the most wonderful person ever with tears in his eyes. More annoyingly still, in the final scene after the removal of the Time Lords, Wilf accepts the Doctor's sacrifice all too easily rather than trying like a proper old soldier to set off the gas before the Doctor can swap places with him.

Davies is like a sort of reverse JK Rowling I think - he can do character but not plot whereas she can do story but not character, and they both desperately need a proper old school script editor who isn't scared to say 'no, that's just stupid' to them. Sadly, they both evidently prefer to be surrounded by Yes Men who will agree that 'yes, it's a great idea to do a scene in the Mos Eisley Cantina where Russell Tovey decides what he likes in a man is looking like a 45 year old twink'. A decent editor would have asked the simple questions - questions like 'what is the point of the PM and his daughter? Was there one?' and 'is it really that believable that the guard who takes Lucy Saxon to her doom happens to be working for her?' and 'Do we really need the self congratulatory wanking of the last 15 minutes?' and, most importantly, 'Oh, and why does that first scene look like Harry Potter and that Gryffindor girl stopping the Slytherin guys from resurrecting Voldemort? Really, Russell, you need to at least try and obfuscate the things you're pinching!'

The End of Time in fact summed up a lot of what I think about RTD's era - he's a writer with almost no imagination and is utterly unsuited to the sf/fantasy arena Dr Who largely inhabits. So he sets everything on Earth and writes as much Who as contemporary drama as he can get away with. When he can't do that he throws big (frankly, old and bad) ideas at the screen and then fills in the inevitable gaps with what he fondly believes to be cool sounding sf titles (I actually laughe dout loud as the Doctor rattled off the ridiculous sounding names of the terrible Time War weapons, for all the world like a fanboy listing epsiodes of Old Who - 'The Lamentation of Bollocks, The Dreadfulness of Quorn and so on). Take him off earth and away from straight forward angasty soap opera drama and he's lost, reduced to, as someone wisely said, farting glitter in great clouds of bare competence.

One thing though, which I need to admit - the Master was handled beautifully in the second episode. For all that sending the drum beat (didn't it used to be three beats?) back in time to his childhood is the exact same plotting as Bad Wolf, the idea that Rassilon collatorally damaged the Master on purpose, knowing it would lead to a life of evil, is a brilliant one and the Master's realisation and revenge, killing himself as he blasts Rassilon back into Hell, following in his footsteps as he throws his own life away destroying those who caused his destruction - well, it's the single best thing in all of NuHu - no, the best thing in all of Doctor Who, post 2005 and possibly even before.

If only Davies has fully written the rest of the script instead of his usual lazy, half written work, then this might even have managed to be a classic. Unfortunaltey it falls far short of that and ends up merely being good by Davies' low standards.

Still, if Matt Smith in the season 31 trailer is anything to go by, maybe I'll soon be looking back on The Unicorn and the Wasp as the Golden Age.

Or, based on the final 15 minutes of End of Time, perhaps not...

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