Half-way Through August

We’re halfway through August. How did that happen? Seems like just yesterday it was mid-May. Down here in North Carolina school has started back–none of that progressive after-Labor Day stuff like you find in the civilized portions of the world–and I think we’ve had rain every day since mid-March. It’s all really quite depressing.

Well, it’s been a busy summer. Time doesn’t seem to be what it once was. Vacation in mid-July was a nice chunk of time, but it was both good time and bad time for various reasons, and then when I came back to work it’s like all the things that didn’t get done while I was gone needed doing, and then store visits with the Regional cropped up, store inventories loomed, and what about time to sit down and write? Or even post a brief message to the website? Or anything?

I think I can breathe a sigh of relief now.

Of the summer movies, I’ve been to see only two–Johnny English, and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The former was really quite fun; I wonder if this is what the long-rumored Blackadder MI-6 would have been like. The latter I enjoyed, even if the reviews were monstrously harsh. I went to the movie to be entertained, I came away feeling entertained, so what does it matter what the reviewers thought? (One quibble: Richard Roxburgh was a terrible Moriarty, and doesn’t fill me with any burning desire to see his take on Holmes in the recent BBC “Hound.”)

In the past month I’ve been paid for the Starfleet Corps of Engineers novella and the New Frontier short story. I’d feel better about the check for the novella if I knew that the editor had even read it, but as best I can tell he hasn’t, and it’s got me slightly antsy. The New Frontier story I feel better about; I got the line-edits in June, and the galley proofs at the end of July, and the book comes out in about six weeks. (No, that’s not a normal publishing schedule; Pocket decided at the beginning of March they wanted an anthology out in October, and the writers that were selected for the project had a matter of days to write their stories.) After I submitted the story I felt really bad about it, that it wasn’t clear, that it didn’t make sense, that it was simply too odd, but when I re-read it going through the galleys the story surprised me. There was actually some good stuff going on. Hopefully the same jitters I feel about the novella will dissipate in the same way in the next month or two.

The good thing about being paid for the writing is that one of the checks came at exactly the moment I most needed it. My car blew a fuel pump, and that was a twelve hundred dollar bill. Grrr.

The bad thing about being paid is the tax liability come spring. Grrr.

I’ve been listening to some Doctor Who recently. The first three Unbound plays have been good–the just-released third play was utterly compelling and downright shocking. As for the regular Big Finish plays, the last I bought was Nekromanteia, the last I listened to was Jubilee, so I’m well behind. And while on vacation, I finally listened to all of Death Comes to Time.

Death Comes to Time. I don’t really know where to begin. There were some things about the play that were simply amazing–the Doctor, the Minister, some of the philosophical wranglings. And there were some things that were absolutely awful–anything with Ace, some of the political machinations on Santiny and Canis, the way the story resolved itself. What I liked, I really liked. What I hated, I absolutely despised. So much of the story was a grand tragedy–Antimony’s meaningless death, the Minister’s hubris, the Doctor’s confrontation with the Minister, the final battle with the Doctor and Tannis. These things were epic, they had scope, and they made sense. Power corrupts, Lord Acton said, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. With great power, said Stan Lee, comes great responsibility. These were the underpinnings of the story, and had Death Comes to Time been content to explore that, I think it would have been hailed as a triumph.

Instead, the story bogged down on three things. First, the story didn’t represent any Doctor Who that I knew–Time Lords aren’t gods, locked in an eternal struggle of good and evil. Second, the middle of the story dragged horribly. For a five-episode story (six, when you stop to consider that the fifth episode is as long as any other two episodes), it really should have been condensed to a four-episode story. And third, Ace was superfluous to the story, and her story arc did nothing for me. (Though I should say that I understand why Ace’s role is what it was–if the old gods [the Time Lords] were dying, who would take their place?) I think an inventive fan could produce a workable edit of the story that could deal with those problems and come up with something that had the strengths of the broadcast story and fewer of the weaknesses.

I’ll call it a noble failure. You can’t fault the story for having ambition, even though it squandered much of that ambition needlessly.

I’ve started buying comic books again. Not many, but I found a comic shop fairly close, near the local Wal-Mart. Nothing that I’ve bought really stands out; I can say that Teen Titans disappointed me, probably because it’s only in name what I remember as a kid, and partly because the DC Universe has really changed in the last five years. Superman/Batman #1 the jury’s out on; good set-up, but no real payoff in twenty-odd pages. The Faction Paradox comic was interesting, and it’s really far removed from Doctor Who now. I think JLA/Avengers comes out in about a month, and that’ll be one to get.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes DVDs were obvious buys. I hate to say it, but I didn’t recognize Marina Sirtis in “The Six Napoleons” at all.

Among other recent DVD purchases were the Batman Animated and Super-friends DVDs. Watching these put me into a Batman kick, and I tracked down Batman/Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero and the Batman-Superman Movie. I hadn’t seen either of these. I don’t know how I missed Sub-Zero, but it was simply superb, possibly even better than Mask of the Phantasm. Mr. Freeze was a villain I thought wasn’t worth the effort, but Sub-Zero turned him into a downright tragic character, and the final ten minutes of the film are nail-bitingly intense. Despite Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s lack of involvement on Sub-Zero, the film succeeds.

Batman-Superman I liked well enough, but something didn’t sit quite right with me. The idea of Bruce dating Lois Lane has been done before in the comics (“Dark Knight Over Metropolis” back in 1990 comes to mind), so it wasn’t that. Superman’s use of his X-Ray vision to see beneath Batman’s cowl bothered me somewhat; I can’t see Superman being quite that petty. But I liked the dynamic between Superman and Batman; they have the same general goal, but very different means and motives, and their personalities simply don’t mesh.

More as thoughts occur.

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