1991 was the year of Doctor Who novels. Virgin Publishing had purchased Target books a few years earlier, which Doctor Who fans remember for the long line of excellent novelisations which we had instead of videos back in the day. Editor Peter Darvill-Evans had tried to get the license for Virgin to publish original Doctor Who tie-in novels, but this was refused until the cancellation of the show was official.
So in 1991 a mini-series of four linked novels was released to test the market. The Timewyrm series: Genesys, Exodus, Apocalypse and Revelation were written by John Peel, Terrance Dicks, Nigel Robinson and debut author Paul Cornell.
I ate these books up with a spoon when they came out. I was thirteen, I had pocket money (which I was supposed to spend on clothes, sorry Mum!) and I wanted more Ace and the Seventh Doctor. With these books, I got my wish. I remember very clearly that I loved Genesys and Exodus, was ‘meh’ about Apocalypse, and was confused, disorientated and slightly alienated by the much weirder and more experimental Revelation, which broke the mould from a literary point of view and is the one of the four that other fans tend to get most excited about.
Later on, as the New Adventures (and Ace in particular) got a lot darker, angstier and more WEIRD, I did rather blame Paul Cornell for starting them all off on that particular track. Sorry, Paul. I’m pretty sure I forgave you once Bernice Summerfield turned up.
So. Timewyrm: Genesys. The first of a series of books that would define Doctor Who for the next five years, and a medium that would define Doctor Who for more than a decade. Does it stand up to a re-read, what with all those things about feminism I’ve learned over the last 21 years? LET’S FIND OUT.
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Random Alex wrote a lovely post about the closure of ASIF. I pretty much nodded and moved on when I heard the news, as I’ve felt quite removed from the project for a long time, but Alex brought home to me what ASIF actually represents – sure, a site devoted to reviews which covered a long period when Australian SF/F writers were struggling to get reviewed anywhere, and sure, a site which published a lot of my writing over the years.
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The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson (one of the pantheon of female authors who took a male name to publish during that period of literary enlightenment known as the olden days) is one of those novels that I have heard mentioned here and there, but given my general allergy to Australian classics, I have not pursued it before now. But more recently, as I’ve been looking with greater interest at the history of women writers (or as I say on Pinterest, Lady Novelists) I became intrigued by Richardson.
I then realised that the movie I thought I had watched as a kid based on this book was actually My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin. Whoops! I am WAY better on the history of feminist science fiction novelists, I promise.
Anyway, in my research I saw reference to the fact that The Getting of Wisdom, as well as having that dreadful Australian Classic label, was a boarding school story. And I LOVE boarding school stories with a fiery passion. Apparently there were queer themes too, and there I was, ordering the book from the library like a boss.
Possibly it’s time to start reassessing what the ‘Australian Classic’ title means to me, or maybe it’s the benefit of reading as an adult rather than a child, but where has this book been all my life? Why was it not given to me with a ‘you’ve read Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, What Katy Did and the Little House on the Prairie books, plus all the Enid Blyton boarding school stories, and this is basically a cranky bitch version of all those books, set in Melbourne.’
Why do people not point twelve year olds towards the cranky bitch at boarding school books?
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Yeah. They probably hate you, too.
What if there were superpowers in the world, but no superheroes?
Deborah Biancotti has a reputation in Australia for rich, complex prose and bleak stories about the quiet horrors that we all hope will never happen. The Book of Endings, her first collection, made a powerful statement about the kind of fiction she is known for – and Bad Power, her far more slender second collection, makes an entirely different statement about the writer she is going to be.
The stories in Bad Power have a clear, sharp narrative, and a more restrained approach to her prose. As with many of the Twelve Planets collections, the stories are connected and serve to build up a particular world, based on a single premise. In this case, it is the idea that some people have powers, what comics readers or TV/movie fans would immediately designate superpowers, and that there is something deeply sinister about those powers, and those people.
I tore through this book very quickly – it was such a fast-paced read, and so very enjoyable. Once it became clear that the order of the stories was important and that each fed something into the others, the mystery of how to fit all the pieces together added an extra layer of enjoyment. Each story has its own compelling protagonist, and distinct voice. My favourites were Detective Enora Palmer and Detective Max Ponti, just as my favourite stories were “Palming the Lady” and “Crossing the Bridge,” but this is one of those collections where the whole is far more than the sum of its parts.
BAD POWER, by Deborah Biancotti
Twelfth Planet Press
reviewed as part of the Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge
Tansy’s Australian Women Writer’s 2012 Reading Challenge.
1. Eona by Alison Goodman (fantasy)
2. Cooking the Books by Kerry Greenwood (contemporary crime)
3. Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti (spec fic, superhero)
I stated my intentions for the Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading Challenge here – and it’s been exciting to see all manner of people on my twitter feed, RSS reader & GoodReads updates linking to their early reviews of books for this challenge. Yay readers of Australian women writers!
By the way, someone other than me should TOTALLY put together a list of SF & Fantasy (or any genre really) books by female authors available on the Kindle in the Aus/NZ region – to encourage all those “I got a Kindle for Christmas” participants in the challenge. Let me know if you do this, and I will link to you!
I have started out this month well, I think, with three prose books under my belt already (two of which are by Australian women writers) and four books REMOVED from my to read shelf. All this reading all of a sudden may be causing excessive eye watering, but I’m willing to take that on the chin.
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Once again I find myself tackling the second half of my week’s comic haul with far less enthusiasm than the first half. Because, obviously, I read the ones I thought I would like first. This is a plan with drawbacks!
Mind you, if I’d read Red Hood and the Outlaws first I might have given up on comics altogether. Seriously. It’s that bad.
written by: Kyle Higgins
pencils by: Eddy Barrows
Nightwing first, which was… well, meh. Inoffensive and vaguely informative in that it tells us all the important things about Dick Grayson and where he is in his personal timeline. Plus the circus is back in town so we get a replay on that backstory too, for people who are completely new.
I really liked the idea that he didn’t like the circus being in Gotham City because the city finds a way to use everything he loves against him. I liked that Batman (for once) didn’t make an appearance, because frankly, he’s being way overused in the New 52. I liked the crack about how being a circus clown in Gotham was no fun at all. Dick himself isn’t too annoying, though I did find his judgemental inner thoughts about Bruce and his rich man privilege kind of annoying. Because, come on. Loft apartment does not give you indie cred.
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Blue Beetle #1
Written by: Tony Bedard
Pencils: Ig Guara
A very likeable re-introduction to Jaime Reyes, the modern Hispanic teenage Blue Beetle. I avoided him for a long time because of my grief and resentment about the death of Ted Kord (NOT SAYING I’M OVER IT) but thanks to Batman: Brave and the Bold I accidentally got introduced to Jaime and I like that his Blue Beetle is completely different to *mine* and that the version I saw in the cartoon was so respectful of the past.
It feels a bit odd having the origin story retold again so soon after Jaime’s Blue Beetle was introduced to the DC Universe, but given that I’ve never read his title before, I’m not complaining – this is a great comic, and we’ve been lacking in nice simple origin stories in the New 52. Not much Blue Beetle as such, but we get a lot of Jaime’s family and school life, and the culture he belongs to. I really like the way that we are getting common phrases of Spanish (is this the same as Hispanic? Help!) thrown into the dialogue so we can learn them, because it constantly reminds me that the story is not for the most part taking place in an Anglo US setting, and it’s great to see a comic marketed at teens which isn’t treating them like idiots. Is it wrong that I kept getting Veronica Mars vibes whenever the cool gang leader friend turned up? That’s probably a wrong thing. Though if that means Jaime gets to be Veronica, that’s pretty cool.
Also, having recently rewatched the Rise of the Blue Beetle and Fall of the Blue Beetle episodes of B:B&B with Raeli, in which Jaime questions whether he deserves to be a hero, having come into his powers by accident (and arguing with his mate about whether Hal Jordan’s origin story meant he was deserving or just plain lucky), it’s cool to see that the circumstances by which he acquires his magical scarab (cue Ted Kord from the grave complaining that no one ever gave him a magical scarab, in his day you had to build your own) are pretty heroic: sure, he lucks out, but he’s in that place because he did something stupidly brave.
Verdict: good stuff, I’m sticking around. And not just in the hopes of a dead Ted cameo. Not even. Maybe a little bit.
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Kathryn’s and I have taken the challenge to read every book written by Agatha Christie, in order of publication and we’re blogging as we go along. We’re calling it the Agathon! You can find Kathryn’s post over here: If you’d like to read the conversation going on in the comments. As a warning, there may be spoilers, though they will be signposted.
5 – Poirot Investigates (1924)
Short Stories (Featuring: Poirot and Hastings, Inspector Japp makes an appearance)
So Poirot Investigates is the first short story collection that we’ve read as part of the Agathon, and I have to say I’m felling fairly meh about it. If anything these shorts remind me of flash fiction – they’re all gimmick but no have real character development (perhaps we should call it Flash!Christie!) and this leaves us with a set of very varied mysteries, in which Hastings is always wrong, Poriot acts a little silly but is superciliously right in the end. Of course. Granted, this just might be how Poirot and Hasting interact forever more (I guess we shall see!), but at least in a novel it only happens once, rather than the 11 times it occurs in this collection. I think another issue is that in a novel, the suspects often play a very central part in the story, with their own character development and plot. This is really missing in these shorts – there is very few secondary characters at all, and I think none that rate more than a cursory look, be they villain or victim.
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Written by: Scott Lobdell
Pencils by: RB Silva
This one was a genuinely pleasant surprise – I picked it up mostly thanks to Wolverina’s recent nostalgia fest on the How I Got My Boyfriend Into Comics podcast, because I haven’t read Superboy since his original 90’s reboot run. After a series of dull, by the numbers comics from DC this month I was delighted to find a dynamic story with a narrative that genuinely feels modern and fresh, despite starting the character from his origin point.
Who knew? It can be done!
Superboy himself is an intriguing central character considering that he doesn’t actually do anything much beyond hang around in his cloning vat for this issue. His voice comes through clearly, though, sardonic and quietly angry, observing the scientists who are making decisions about him, not for him. We also get some cool female characters – ‘Red,’ the scientist in charge of Superboy’s care, two versions of ‘Rose,’ the sarcastic indie teen girl designed to interest him, as well as the adult she is based on, and even in a few tantalising panels, a very sharp Lois Lane.
There are clever moments throughout the script which kept me very interested, particularly the implications that there is something very wrong with this Superboy when it comes to empathy (and I’m hoping that what is implied about his human donor is true). What’s the point of a superhero who doesn’t see the point of saving people? I guess we’ll find out!
Superboy #1 is shaping up to be a smart piece of YA SF with appropriate but not overwhelming angsty bits, and I’m genuinely excited about where it’s going. Hooray! Of course this does mean I’m going to have to pick up Teen Titans, too, but that was probably inevitable.
VERDICT: finally, a comic that doesn’t insult my intelligence, and knows how to make set up interesting. I’m on board!
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Yeah so I think I need to learn from this week that reading the half of your comics haul that you’re most excited about first is not necessarily a good thing.
Or maybe I learned that I need to only buy the comics I actually care two pins about.
Action Comics #1
written by: Grant Morrison
pencils by: Rags Morales
Man this was a dull comic. Possibly one of the dullest Superman comics I’ve ever read. In the end I was reduced to counting women (one elderly but surprisingly chatty landlady and a belated appearance by Lois Lane) and saying, really? A train speeding out of control? Is that what the cool kids are putting in comics now? Because I’m pretty sure it was done better in Spiderman II…
This is the trouble with cutting away all the baggage and history of current characters, but not actually doing anything new with them. Superman in blue jeans is less interesting than when Cassie in Tiny Titans chose jeans instead of a traditional costume. Yes, I am comparing this comic to Tiny Titans, because that is what I read to cheer myself up afterwards!
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