Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale: the Final Chapter by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook (Books 2014, 14)

I read the original version this a few years back, when my sister bought it for my son. It was good, very interesting and informative. And I wanted to read this expanded edition when it first came out. Although it’s called “The Final Chapter”, as if it were purely an additional piece, it contains both the original book and the new work — which is a lot more than just a “chapter”. But it was always just ferociously expensive.

Like, old-school hardback price for a large-format paperback. And it never seemed to come down, or come to in a smaller-size, mass-market paperback edition. So it always just felt too daunting.

Then eventually I saw it was on Kindle for what seemed like a more reasonable price, so I grabbed it.

It’s nothing more or less than an edited, long, email conversation between Davies and Cook. Sometimes several emails a day, in which Cook asks Davies questions about the latter’s writing process and other aspects of making Doctor Who (and to a lesser extent Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures).

And it’s absolutely fascinating read, especially if you’re at all interested in the creative process, in how writers write, and so on. It also feels a bit like you’re eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation at times, Somehow that’s not a problem, though. After all, it’s an interesting conversation, and we’ve been invited to listen in.

It’s clear that Davies enjoys sharing his thoughts on his process in this way, and it sort of makes you wonder why he doesn’t blog. But then, if he had been writing these emails as blog posts at the time, he couldn’t possibly have shared as much as he did with Cook, and with us several years after the events.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Books 2014, 13)

This is the one that’s won them all: BSFA (jointly), Clarke, Nebula, and more recently, the Hugo Award. Never before has a single book had such a sweeping effect on the world of SF awards.

And does it deserve them all? Does it live up to the effusive reaction of the community?

Err, well… no, not really.

Which is not to say it’s bad. In a sense, nothing could live up that level of praise.

However, my personal problem with it — at least at first — was this: I like my super-intelligent spaceship minds to be the good guys. To be part of, and defending, Utopia. In short, I want The Culture. And I guess I hoped that Ann Leckie might sort of take Banksie’s place.

Obviously there wasn’t much chance of that, and it isn’t fair to judge the book on those terms.

So, back to its own terms. In any case, these super-intelligent spaceship minds aren’t necessarily bad guys; but they’re in the service of a pretty unpleasant empire. Though things get ambiguous. And interesting. And of course, there’s the gender-blindness of the viewpoint character, which is great. So yeah, it was fun, I enjoyed it, it goes to some interesting places, and it sets things up nicely for a series.

Oh, god, a series. Does nobody write books in ones any more? I was just looking at the current crop of so-called “Black Friday” deals on Kindle. There were quite a lot of books for crazy-cheap prices. Except… there weren’t really that many if you count a series as one.

C’mon, folks, write a book that doesn’t have a sequel, hey?

But I digress. Go read about Ancillary Justice: you’ll find reviews of it all over the place. Then go and read it. It’s great.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Books 2014, 13)

This is the one that’s won them all: BSFA (jointly), Clarke, Nebula, and more recently, the Hugo Award. Never before has a single book had such a sweeping effect on the world of SF awards.

And does it deserve them all? Does it live up to the effusive reaction of the community?

Err, well… no, not really.

Which is not to say it’s bad. In a sense, nothing could live up that level of praise.

However, my personal problem with it — at least at first — was this: I like my super-intelligent spaceship minds to be the good guys. To be part of, and defending, Utopia. In short, I want The Culture. And I guess I hoped that Ann Leckie might sort of take Banksie’s place.

Obviously there wasn’t much chance of that, and it isn’t fair to judge the book on those terms.

So, back to its own terms. In any case, these super-intelligent spaceship minds aren’t necessarily bad guys; but they’re in the service of a pretty unpleasant empire. Though things get ambiguous. And interesting. And of course, there’s the gender-blindness of the viewpoint character, which is great. So yeah, it was fun, I enjoyed it, it goes to some interesting places, and it sets things up nicely for a series.

Oh, god, a series. Does nobody write books in ones any more? I was just looking at the current crop of so-called “Black Friday” deals on Kindle. There were quite a lot of books for crazy-cheap prices. Except… there weren’t really that many if you count a series as one.

C’mon, folks, write a book that doesn’t have a sequel, hey?

But I digress. Go read about Ancillary Justice: you’ll find reviews of it all over the place. Then go and read it. It’s great.

Thin

We used to call this “thin clients”; or just a terminal logged on to a server or mainframe. Jason Snell writes of something newish that Adobe and Google are doing with Chromebooks:

This week I got a demo of Photoshop running inside Chrome, and while it was really interesting, some of my assumptions were faulty. It turns out that when Adobe says Photoshop is a “streaming app,” they mean it—it’s much more like screen sharing than native software. Photoshop runs remotely on a Windows-based server, and video of the app’s interface streams to the Chrome browser.

via Six Colors: Adobe streams Photoshop to Chromebooks.

Hijacked

Can anyone explain to my why this is resignation-worthy?

Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, … told the Mail Online it was “like the Labour party has been hijacked by the north London liberal elite, and it’s comments like that which reinforce that view”.

The comment was, “Image from #Rochdale.” It was a picture of a white van outside a house covered in English flags. And that can drive a shadow cabinet member to resign. What?!?

On Writing by AL Kennedy (Books 2014, 11)

Unlike Stephen King’s book of the same title, this isn’t exactly “a manual of the craft.” You won’t find much about the writing side of writing here; nothing about crafting sentences, forming paragraphs, developing characters or plots.

It’s less about the craft of writing than about the life of a writer; and it shares with King’s eponym the part-memoir approach. Kennedy spends a lot of time describing how writing has been bad for her health in various ways, and how in turn her pathological fear of flying has made the writing life more difficult, (travelling to North America by ship for a signing tour) for example.

The largest and most entertaining part of it was originally published as blog entries on The Guardian’s site.

It’s very good. And not from the book, but with Doctor Who back (and nearly finished) you should read her meditation on it and on the state of Britain.

Warning: contains language from the outset