27 January 2006

Where All the Time Has Gone

I'm utterly exhausted currently, having spent the week working on a variety of things. These include the proposal for a short story, which at present is looking like being a quarter of the length of the short story itself (so, nothing terribly new there), and a chapter breakdown for the putative, hypothetical and in any case pseudonymous novel I mentioned a while back.

There are other reasons why I'm finding less time available for blogging at present, too, which hopefully might begin to sort themselves out over the next couple of months. I'm finding it all terribly frustrating, to be honest, as I keep having exciting ideas about stuff I want to say here.

In summary, though... well, I've been watching the excellent Life on Mars and recording Desperate Housewives, rewatching Buffy Season 4 and Six Feet Under Season 3, have finished China Miéville's Perdido Street Station and begun Christopher Priest's The Extremes, and also read the 2006 Doctor Who Annual, Alan Moore's Smax , Paul Magrs' Aisles and Armand Marie Leroi's charmingly-written yet terribly disturbing Mutants. I could write screens and screeds about any of these (with the obvious exception of Housewives Season 2 which I haven't seen yet). Maybe I'll get the time next week.

Meanwhile, here's a challenge. How many sequels to The Time Machine have been written during the last 110 years? (In book form, I mean, I'm not interested in episodes of Lois and Clark.) See how many you can come up with without reading the following...


I can think of five offhand:
  • The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter -- The "official" sequel, for what that may be worth. Conceptually more in the style of Stapledon than Wells, as Victorian humanity colonises the distant past and present-day London becomes a hive of hyperevolved posthuman machine-people directing the evolution of the universe itself.
  • The Space Machine by Christopher Priest -- One of the Priests I haven't read yet, oddly enough, although I have it sitting on my shelf waiting.
  • Morlock Night by K W Jeter -- A distinctly odd variant, where the Morlocks invade Victorian London and have to be fought of by a reawakened King Arthur.
  • The Dancers at the End of Time trilogy by Michael Moorcock, which features both the Time Traveller and Wells himself in reasonably major roles.
  • Allan and the Sundered Veil by Alan Moore -- The B-side to the first League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book, a serialised text story where the Time Traveller teams up with Allan Quatermain, John Carter of Mars and Randolph Carter of Arkham, along with others whom I probably forget.
There are, as Wikipedia reveals, a number of others.

23 January 2006

Bad Blogger! No Biscuit!

Good grief, it's now a fortnight since I last updated this thing. Apologies for this -- it's down to excessive busyness on my part just at the moment, in areas which for a number of reasons I can't directly mention here. I am sorry about that.

I may have time for a couple of brief updates later this week, and things will ease up a tiny bit after the end of the month. I wouldn't expect the three or four postings a week I was managing last year for quite a while, though.

Again, Peculiar Times apologises for this interruption to your regular work displacement activity service.

09 January 2006


Andrew Rilstone's always very entertaining, at least when he's writing about something I know about. (Fortunately, he's an Inklings fan and S.F. Geek In Ordinary, although he loses me a bit when he talks about comics or role-playing games.)

His review and analysis of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is particularly entertaining, though -- the first footnote specifically is one of the funniest things I've read in ages. It's also very wise, although some of what he says about the film is almost diametrically opposite to the conclusions I came to. The stuff about how the blockbuster genre warps the stories and characters with which it comes into contact is fascinating.

(Now, if only he'd get a decent spellchecker and proofreader, and check people's names when mentioning them...)

I've just bought myself this and this from Borders, and this from Amazon. I love having leftover Christmas money, although of course it never lasts long.

Ooh, Political.

Two brief thoughts regarding Lib Dem leader-designate Menzies Campbell:

1. Nobody's going to vote for a party led by someone whose given name is Ming and who Steve Bell draws like this.
2. If he's elected, it's going to be terribly reminiscent of right-wing elder statesman Michael Howard's return from the very-nearly-dead to lead the Conservative party. Which, assuming the analogy holds, makes it seem all the more likely that Cameron-analogue Simon Hughes will be taking over at some point after the next election.

I like Simon Hughes, who a friend of mine worked for for some years. I also like Nick Harvey, also recently touted as a potential leadership candidate, who gave me my first cigar at that same friend's wedding. (OK, so I didn't smoke a cigar until I was 29 and married. You can't do everything when you're young.)

It's good to see, though, that hair isn't a requirement for leading the Lib Dems, any more than it is for the Tories. How many balding Labour front-benchers can you name now Robin Cook and Mo Mowlam are dead, hmm?

[Insert "hair apparent" joke here... and cut.]

07 January 2006

More Reviews

I thought I'd mentioned these already, but clearly it slipped my mind during the whole hectic Christmas maelstrom.

Sci-Fi Online, who have previously reviewed A Life Worth Living and Peculiar Lives, now have a review up for Short Trips: The History of Christmas. I don't know whether to be disappointed or relieved that the reviewer makes no mention of "The Long Midwinter", given how much of the review he devotes to savaging Marcus Flavin's story. He rightly singles out Simon Bucher-Jones's and Peter Anghelides' stories for praise, though.

More excitingly (for me at least) the surprisingly mainstream SF webzine The Zone has a review of Peculiar Lives alongside those for various genre books including Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel.

The reviewer's ambivalent about the book, but most of what he says seems fair. I might argue that what he perceives as a weakness of the novella (the independence of Peculiar Lives from the rest of the Time Hunter series) is actually a strength of the range: the format is flexible enough that it can accommodate a non-standard book like Peculiar Lives or The Clockwork Woman without breaking its stride.

Still: "incredibly brave", "a challenging but ultimately rewarding read"... and, best of all, "The central idea is extremely well handled and the descriptions of Honore's travels in time in particular are fascinating to read." That's the kind of criticism I can live with, I think.

05 January 2006

Weapons, Teleportation and Religion...

...was the title I wanted surefish to use for my review of Back in Time: A Thinking Fan’s Guide to Doctor Who. Which, if you can't be bothered to follow the links, is now up, under the title "A Religious Who’s Who".

The book's essentially a christian perspective on Doctor Who, with "a" being the operative word there -- it's certainly radically different from my take on the subject. Specifically, it's more conservative in its fandom and more evangelical in its theology than I'm comfortable with. There is, as the review suggests, altogether too much general ranting on unrelated topics (including a deeply, deeply annoying section on [sarcastic cough] "intelligent design"), some of which is hung up on arguments which were dodgy when C S Lewis made them several generations ago.

On the other hand, there is some decent criticism of Doctor Who. Just not nearly as much as there could have been if they'd devoted the book to it.

If any of this sounds intriguing, then surefish are running a competition to win copies. Alternatively, you could buy it here and benefit Christian Aid -- which you may feel preferable to buying it through the link in the first sentence, since that only benefits me. (And, obviously, the authors. Oh, and Amazon.)

03 January 2006

Winterval Summary

Well, I've had a very satisfying, if not terribly relaxing or recuperative, Christmas and New Year break. Since the last time we saw one another I have, in no particular order:
  • travelled some 800 miles visiting family and friends in Richmond, Norbiton, Worthing, Petersfield, Bristol, Malvern Wells, Oxford and Leeds;
  • met my brother and sister-in-law's new dog;
  • been to midnight mass;
  • eaten a disproportionately large amount of Christmas pudding, mince pies, veggie sausages, nut roast, brandy butter, chocolate, etc;
  • put on more than half a stone, which I now need to take off again;
  • been presented with many splendid presents, including the following bookish offerings:
  • , not all of which I asked for but all of which will, I'm sure, be fascinating;
  • written a review of this book for these people, which I'll post a link to when it's up;
  • picked up a crateful of other S.F. and fantasy books (mostly by people I haven't read much or any of, like Stephen Baxter, Greg Bear, Frederick Pohl and Tim Powers, but also including some Paul McAuley and Kim Stanley Robinson, and many of the Larry Nivens I remember devouring as an adolescent) from my Dad, who's trying to have a bit of a clear-out;
  • been given a thali tiffen and its contents;
  • visited the Mappamundi and Chained Library at Hereford Cathedral;
  • been to three thoroughly excellent, one middling and two dire pubs, where I drank a variety of interesting and appalling beers;
  • also been given, and watched, the wonderful and highly-recommended Casanova, featuring Mr David Tennant;
  • also watched The Christmas Invasion, also featuring Mr Tennant, on Christmas Day, which I really need to see again before I'm ready to review it on Parrinium Mines;
  • broken off reading Perdido Street Station to read Thud!, and become more convinced than ever that China Miéville is Terry Pratchett's evil twin (only much younger -- it's probably a similar arrangement to Picard's clone in Star Trek: Nemesis);
  • drank Caol Ila for the first time;
  • stayed up till 3am with a large number of friends in a total stranger's flat on New Year's Eve singing along to CDs of 80s music, as you do;
  • not slept nearly as much as I'd have liked to.
I'd love to go into more detail about some or all of those, but rampant lack of time sadly prevents me. Some of them were very lovely indeed, though.

Back to work tomorrow. Ho hum.