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The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell (Books 2014, 8)

I’m now so far behind in posting these that I’m just going to put very brief notes up for most of them.

As a sequel to the excellent London Falling this suffers slightly from what feels a bit like middle-book-of-trilogy syndrome; though I believe Cornell intends this to be an ongoing series, rather than a trilogy.

That said, there is an overarching mystery, which we must hope will be resolved over the course of several books. And at that point, maybe he’ll stop. But the actual story here is perhaps slight compared to the origin stories of the first one, and the horror that Quill and his wife, in particular, experienced.

A mysterious ghostly figure — invisible to all who don’t have The Sight, of course — is killing people in London. There appears to be little to connect them at first, but graffiti at some of the scenes suggests there might be a link to Jack the Ripper. Has his ghost come back and this time gone after rich white men? Or is it something else entirely?

It’s a fun read, despite my reservations above, with some amusing reference to fandom, and the terrible, terrible abuse of a giant of the fantasy genre.

The tragedy of the Liberal Democrats

It seems like a curious choice for the Liberal Democrats to have their national conference in Glasgow this year, what with everything else that’s been going on in Scotland. I don’t think they’re very popular there.

Then again, they’re not very popular anywhere.

Back before the the coalition, when the Lib Dems were the third party, they always spoke in favour of coalition government. They always said that they would work with anyone if it they ever held the balance of power.

Then when it looked there was going to be a hung parliament, and when there actually was, they still said that they would work with either Labour or the Tories in order to bring a government into being.

The trouble is, no-one really believed them.

OK, I can only really speak for myself; but I’m probably not that unusual. The Lib Dems were always seen as being closer to Labour than to the Tories. There was the Lib-Lab pact back in the seventies. And all through the New Labour years, they were generally seen as being further left than Labour.

So when they held the balance of power in 2010, it was obvious — so we all thought, I say — that they would work with Labour, rather than the Tories.

Alas, it was not to be. Imagine how different the country might be now if Clegg had swung the right way back then. The country wouldn’t have been half-destroyed by Osbourne’s “austerity” measures. (I mean, really: haven’t they learned by now that you don’t cut public spending in a recession?)

Of course, there have been some good things during the coalition: marriage equality; the Scottish referendum (irrespective of how it turned out, Cameron agreed to it). There was even — if you recall — a referendum on electoral reform. Remember that?

No, me neither. It was a fix (since it got voted down), but I don’t recall how. Oh, yes wait: the anti-reform camp made a big thing of how much more complex than first-past-the-post the alternative vote (AV) system would be. When in fact it’s quite simple. And I guess they got the friendly media working against it.

Anyway, now they’ve been all but wiped out in yesterday’s by election. The worst thing about that is that UKIP seem to be in danger of replacing them as the third party.

Scary but interesting times.

Space bat angel dragons hatch in their own way

Sometimes you’re thinking about writing a blog post and then you write a long comment on someone else’s post that contains most of what you were planning on saying. So I wrote this as a comment on The Reinvigorated Programmer, and thought I should repeat it here.

The background: Mike, the Programmer and Doctor Who fan, if that’s not too tautologous, was complaining about the latest episode, “Kill the Moon”. Now, I didn’t think it was all that bad, as these things go, but I knew that other people, on Facebook and elsewhere, have both complained about it and praised it. Which seems to be par for the course this series (and maybe every series). Anyway, I had some thoughts on the matter, and put them like this.

I was disappointed that they didn’t put in at least a handwavy explanation of the extra mass (which they could have done: posit highly-effecient energy-to-mass conversion, and the sun). But as people have said in other places, you’re accepting a time-travelling, dimensionally-transcendental blue box, and a regenerating Time Lord, so…?

As to the biology of the creature… well, it’s alien. Possibly one of a kind. Why wouldn’t it lay an egg as soon as it hatched? Remembering that “egg” and “hatch” are only our Terracentrist words for something entirely other.

Indeed, that could be exactly why the creature’s mass spikes in the last few years or months of its dormant cycle: it’s forming the new “egg” so it itself will be ready to “hatch”.

And by default it would be in the same orbit, unless something displaced it.

But yes, while you can argue all that, the story would have been improved if it had included at least a nod to those points. And they should have got their sums right.

But I think there’s something bigger going on across this whole series. It’s the development of Clara’s character, and Danny’s secret, and everything. It’s more: I just have a feeling that there’s something else behind it all. Maybe I’ve just been trained to expect a season arc since the Bad Wolf, but… there’s definitely something going on.

And Missy and the promised land, of course.

Someone somewhere suggested that maybe the whole series is taking place in a miniscope, since the Doc mentioned them in episode 3. I hope it’s more than that.

The morning after

I wake to disappointment. I had vacillated away from a “Yes” position to some extent in the days since I wrote that I favoured it, but I can’t help but be saddened by the result. Mainly I feel let down that my countryfolk didn’t grab hold of an opportunity when they were offered it.

On the other hand, I can’t help being a little bit pleased that we’re all going to stay part of one country.

The Westminster politicians this morning are promising more devolution for Scotland, and for all the countries of the UK. Now we have to get hold of some of the energy, the political engagement that Scotland showed, and hold them to it.

To use a favourite quote from a great Scot1, it’s time for all of us to “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.”

  1. Though according to that article, he attributes it to a Canadian author called Dennis Lee 

Andy’s unpunctuated ambiguity

Andy Murray finally reveals views on Scottish independence“, says the headline in the Telegraph. It goes on to say he “appeared to declare his support for Scottish independence”. That “appeared” is key, because the lack of punctuation and capitalisation in Andy’s tweet actually allows at least a couple of interpretations:

Huge day for Scotland today! no campaign negativity last few days totally swayed my view on it. excited to see the outcome. lets do this!

The Telegraph is clearly reading that as “‘No’-Campaign negativity…” The negativity from the “No” campaign, in other words.

But you could read it simply as “[there has been] no campaign negativity…” In other words, the absence of negativity in the campaigning (by either side or both) has left him with a positive view of the referendum.

I’d guess that the Telegraph‘s opinion is correct. But it just goes to show… if he could place a quote character like he can place a tennis ball, it would all be perfectly clear.


Despite my positive-seeming thoughts and comments over the last few days, I can’t help but feeling today that — to paraphrase, if not exactly quote, Hunter S Thompson — the wave has begun to break, if not roll back.

And it’s all going to be so close that, whatever way the people of Scotland finally vote, they clearly are not of one mind on the matter. You begin to see why some votes require things like a two-thirds majority; or even why the 1979 referendum included the “40% rule“.

(Though again, that was not vote on independence, but on Scotland having an assembly. Who could vote against that, you’d have to wonder?1)

What has brought on this change, you’re almost certainly asking? More polls, more fearmongering headlines, and just a sense that the impetus has been lost. The yes campaign peaked too soon, you could say.

But, there’s still another week to go. Anything could happen.

  1. Perhaps the kind of person who would vote against having an elected mayor in their city, though it’s not exactly comparable. I voted in favour of having a London Mayor, but then against having an elected mayor in Hackney; it just seemed like a layer to far — though in the end it’s just a slightly-higher-profile Leader of the Council. But I can see how some people might not want what could be seen as an extra layer of administration.