20 July 2017

Why The 13th Doctor Makes Total Sense

It was at about the time of the 50th Anniversary that I first noted how the path of the Doctor's regenerations, completely by accident, make a huge and logical character arc. The announcement that Jodie Whittaker is to become the first female doctor has received polarized responses but, man-baby whinging notwithstanding, it does make complete sense.

Let me take you on a short journey which you probably won't care much about but may while away a couple of minutes.

The Doctor's Arc

The uber-arc for the character of the Doctor falls into four parts.

Part One: The Man Who Knew Better AKA Classic Who

In this part of the arc the Doctor is a brash, alien being who has rejected the aloof nature of his people, the Time Lords, but is uncertain how to become anyone else. This part of the arc covers Hartnell to McGann thusly.

  • Hartnell: Assuming the persona of an older, wiser man the original doctor meddles and shouts his way through adventures finding that his mantle of academic authority is too harsh for the persona he wants to project.
  • Troughton: In his first regeneration he pushes things into harmless clown a little too far, deciding, overall that he would like to be seen not as a stick-in-the-mud, or as a trickster but more of a man of action leading to...
  • Pertwee: Employing cars, gadgets and, occasionally, light violence to adventure his way through exile the Doctor backs himself into a bit of a corner. Adventurer is a fine persona, but maybe too limiting.
  • Baker the First: At last a persona he can really embrace, somewhat clownish, ostentatious, pompous but endearing, this Doctor has that Willy Wonka trait of abivalence and humour meaning you're never quite sure what he's thinking. In the end though, too entrenched.
  • Davison: A more staid persona, and notably much younger than before. Almost a mantle assumed to see how people would treat a younger, less flamboyant version of himself.
  • Baker The Second: All that underlying creepy weirdness, repressed during the Davison regeneration floods through the Doctor, he is almost a sociopath, he begins to not like himself.
  • McCoy: Sinking deeply into almost self-parody, the initial Doctor becomes a sinister clown, manipulating even his assistants in order to achieve his ends. He learns how to control his manipulative side.
  • McGann: The Doctor believes he is complete, he becomes a handsome man just before middle years, urbane, sophisticated, but always thinking ahead and with just enough flamboyance to communicate the other-ness he wears as a badge of honour, then, the Time War.

Part Two: The War Doctor

The Doctor's persona is tested in a war with the Daleks. He does things he never thought he would do. He becomes traumatised.

Part Three: A Good Man AKA Nu Who up to Capaldi

This part of the arc covers a Doctor who has tried to be a hero, but has seen things, and done things in the Time War that have radically re-defined what a good man is within the Doctor's psyche, this part of the arc plays between the poles of trauma and aspiration from Eccleston to Smith thus.

  • Eccleston: The Doctor emerges from the time war damaged, trying to assume his old jaunty demeanour but prone to fits of rage and fury that scare even him. He relies on his companion to ground him and retreats into a fantasy version of himself.
  • Tennant: Outwardly this doctor continues the pattern of his eighth regeneration but inside he is wracked with an unstable emotional angst. He clings to this persona but it slowly crumbles.
  • Smith: Back to his other persona, the clown, now more integrated with his dashing, heroic side. At last, in what is supposed to be his final regeneration the Doctor begins to wonder what else he might have done. He faces mortality for the first time. He wonders if he was all that he could have been. He wonders what he might do differently if he had it all to do again.

Part Four: Second Chances

Given a second chance the Doctor is, at first shocked into a kind of summation of all that he has been, at first unable to overcome the cold, callous personality and slowly rediscovering a deeper verison of the good man thirsty for re-definition and open to new experience.

  • Capaldi: Surprised by a second parcel of regenerations the Doctor reverts into a kind of ur-Doctor, brash, callous, self-important. As the shock of the new wears off he discovers the good man is still there and now with a world of opportunities to push the boundaries of what he can be, he is determined not to waste a second cycle of regenerations.

And that leads us up to the present time. In a way if you look at this madly re-inventing persona, trying to have authority and power (with a side of responsibility, natch) while at the same time being a kind of heroic facilitator, occasionally falling prey to a worrying harsh brutality, you can see it so clearly.

In the Doctor's worry about what kind of hero to try to be and a natural concern about some of the traps and dead ends from the first cycle of regenerations it is completely appropriate to head straight into the most fundamental difference the Doctor has perceived. This time lord has widened the possibility in its personal development and there's no reason to suppose that femaleness is where the Doctor's new comfort in experiencing life as something other than the first idea will end.

Man-baby whiners may want to buckle up, the ride looks set to be bumpy from here on out, gender and racial identity wise.

21 February 2017

Arthur... but, you know, from "the streets".

The moment I'm talking about is about 2:44 in a caption flashes up that states, unequivocally, "Raised on the streets". At that point my worry that someone had stepped up to fill in the space formerly (in fact, now, still) occupied by Boorman's Excalibur evaporated, straight up.

My ongoing but still insubstantial Arthur Redux project seeks to unite all the various strands of Arthurian mythos into one (hopefully) coherent narrative. I'm currently stuck at the beginning of Book Two: Merlin having been strict with myself that I should pump out no more new content until I had properly disposed of the old content. That, it transpires, has been quite the mouthful, in retrospect.

But another time for that discussion, maybe never. Where was I? Arthur being "raised on the streets". Sigh.

The reason for my project is just this kind of unmitigated bollocks. Why do people think it's okay to just re-work the King Arthur legend on a whim? Well, I suppose that's obvious, it's so old even the current ridiculous limitations of copyright put him in the public domain and finding out exactly what the deal is with old Artura is the work of beardy scholars and other obsessive weirdos.

(Why are you looking at me like that?)

Anyhow, if you were thinking that this would help the lay man unpick the once and future king of Britain from  a bunch of made up cinematic trope du jour BS then you will be disappointed. Still, at least it isn't just Clive Owen mumbling on a muddy field this time, there look to be actual monsters in this one.

20 February 2017

Monkeys Check, Typewriters Check

It's all a massive production. Even when it looks so small. So much calculated off stage. So much time poured into the sugar frosting...

19 February 2017

The Windows Are Dusty

The interior of the store is lit by a single weak lamp. The tables are pushed up against the walls, the chairs are stacked up on the tables, resting one on top of another, seats kissing.

There's a brighter light coming from the office out back. It just makes the shadowy figure sweeping the dusty floor even harder to focus on. This business does not seem to have opened its doors in a very long while.

The windows are clean but there are marks here and there, the residue of tabs of sticky tape, the remnants of old notices. Now they have all been taken down. There is only one notice here now, in the centre of the door window, in the place where you might expect the word "open" or, in this case, "closed".

The notice says neither of these things. It says, rather, "Coming Soon, more things."

You guess the store will not open today. Probably not tomorrow either, but apparently things, more of them, are coming, and soon. You are not sure you believe this. Still, you will keep an eye on the store because you could do with more things, and this looks like the place to get them.

11 July 2016

Back Soon

Will be blogging soon. In new posts more politics and more fatherhood than you may have been used to previously.

9 September 2015

Weird Things About Being A Digital Author

The cover of  The Elias Anomaly. You could read it
on Wattpad if you wanted. But you'd be the first.
It has often been my contention that I was an artisanal author before I knew what that was. Not for me the hassle of sending stuff off and waiting for the rubber stamp of mid-list approval. Not for me the irritation of people actually reading what I write or caring about it. No. I write for me. I know I am a good writer. I live in the hope that one day someone else will agree with me. If it doesn't happen, well, the world's loss frankly.

Nevertheless it's no good writing things in this day and age and letting them fester on a hard drive. To show intent of actually publishing something one should "get out there" and "build a fanbase". One should, at least, make the attempt, I feel, anyway.

With this in mind I have put a few things up on Wattpad like my spiffing Kafka meets cyberpunk meets Douglas Adams affair The Elias Anomaly. Now complete and available through this perfectly wonderful online e-book delivery system.

At some point soon I shall make paper and electronic (e.g. Kindle) editions available also. This brings us to the point of the weird things mentioned in the post title.

Writing with this method, in these channels, changes the business of writing after a certain point. If you are writing something fresh, i.e. drafting out, then nothing has changed there. Likely it never will. You bang out the words, you get through the material. You write. No problem.

After that it gets tricky.

For a short while (Just over a century?) it has been accepted that authors may not edit their own work. Many reasons are given for this but chief among them appears to be that editors like to eat. Now, in an ideal world where every book was to be given the respect it deserves this would be a no-brainer. If I could be assured that everything I wrote would make enough money to pay for my time and the time of an editor and a cover designer then I would happily pay for these things.

This, however, is not the case. This leaves an author with few choices. One is to admit that writing is a hobby that they like to spend money on. Pay the cover designer, pay the editor, eat the losses. That's cool if you want to do it. No problem with that as an approach.

The other is to find workarounds. This is my approach. I realise I am not a great artist and I am a mediocre cover designer. But hell, mediocre professional cover designers get paid. If I'm doing what they're doing for free I'm a winner, right? Additionally tools like Hemingway help me do a serviceable job of editing. I've read some very poorly edited small press stuff recently, not that I am one of those editing pedants.

The age of meticulous editing on everything we read is over. As the means of production come down in cost and the available stories expand to every conceivable taste it is inevitable that some things you read will have less than perfect editing. My stuff has typos in it, for sure. I have to admit this. I have done the best that I could and I can't do more.

However, I've read stuff recently where there are malapropisms, blatantly wrong uses of words, words added that don't exist AND typos. These things were edited by third parties. It turns out all those copy editors with high and mighty arrogance about how undervalued they were had a point all along. Being a super-editor takes some chops.

I am a good editor, not a great one. Compared to this other stuff I've read that purports to exist in a semi-legitimate state my stuff is golden. Sad but true.

So I am a one man band. This I have become used to.

The really odd thing is that I have evolved working practices to optimise the flow of work going out and they introduce bizarre tasks at weird times.

For example, the best way to edit alone is to go a chapter at a time. The best way to ensure that you are concentrating to your very hardest on that one chapter is to bang it out via Wattpad as part of a serialization. So you take the chapter, Hemingway it and then "publish" it for the delectation and delight of young adults writing mopey, awkwardly eroticised post-apocalyptic steampunk fantasy. No, really, I've just described 95% of what's on Wattpad. Check it out if you don't believe me.

The only problem with this process is that in order to make it look nice on Wattpad you must design a "cover". You don't have to but if you don't take it seriously who else will? No one. So you must have that cover ready before you're even ready to re-edit for public consumption. That's weird.

What's even weirder is that if you have, oh, I don't know, some kind of Patreon thing going on then you might want to promote what you're doing in that medium. Before you can though you really ought to have some sort of video.

I know, mental. You've written a first draft, then you have to design a cover and bang out a video before you're even ready to drip feed your work onto the web. In addition the commercial version of the work won't even be ready until after the thing's already been serialised onto your digital platforms.

In addition you've just graduated from cover designer to short film-maker in your efforts to go it alone.

Never mind weird, being a serious independent author is just a hell of a lot of work. Oh well, off to my editing software I go. Time for me to produce some actual content.