Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

February 14, 2016

I bricked my Kindle

“I feel as though you’ve just killed an old friend,” complained the Doctor as the Terileptil Leader fried his sonic screwdriver in 1982’s “The Visitation”. In retrospect it’s a rather tacky observation, given that Adric’s radioactive, dinosaur-extinctioning atoms would be scattered across the Cretaceous atmosphere just two stories later.

Still, I got a taste of how he felt this weekend. On the very final leg of my (typically arduous) overseas travel, I discovered to my horror that I had destroyed my Kindle. Three quarters of the screen – all but a small quadrant in the lower left corner – is frozen on the stark and scratchy image of an old-fashioned printing press. The one bit of the screen that’s behaving as it should offers a tantalising glimpse of the standard menu, but nothing readable.

What happened? I don’t know for sure. There’s a possibility it got crushed by my aeroplane seat – it had an unusual reclining angle that I could easily have failed to account for. On the other hand, it’s also pretty old – second generation Kindle, probably four or five years old at this point. That’s practically senescent in e-reader years.

A nice person on Amazon chat ran me through all the standard troubleshooting tricks I’d already found through an internet search. They confirmed that it was not fixable. Also no longer under warranty, which came as no surprise. Ah well.

There’s a small chance that, as the travel was work-related, I may be able to claim for a replacement item. If I did, the equivalent model costs about two or three times what i paid for my current one. I’m not holding my breath. More likely, I’ll be without my beloved e-reader and constant companion for several weeks, if not longer.

That’s good news for the backlog of physical books sitting beside my bed. There’s – what, maybe twenty or thirty books in that stack? That’s nothing next to the roughly a hundred or so titles languishing in the virtual oblivions of my Amazon account and my Backups folder. But any period of enforced separation from the light and easy Kindle option will be a boon for clearing up some floor space in my bedroom.

Time to go read a dead tree, the way our primitive ancestors used to do.

 

(PS: The trip was fine BTW. Exhausting but fine. I’m just not going to discuss the day job on the blog. Especially not this week, when I need to put in an application in order to keep it!)

November 2, 2014

NotNaNo Day 2 – Birthday party

Filed under: news of the day,wombat,wordsmithery — Tags: , , , — lexifab @ 11:30 pm

No writing this morning because we needed to prepare for the Little Wombat’s fourth birthday party. Two hours of lollies and train rides at a lakeside park. Turned out to be more painless than I was expecting. I only needed to provide first aid once, and that was to some random kid howling about a skinned knee in the sand pit, not one of the party-goers.

This evening I had to watch Doctor Who before I got started on writing, because omigod you guys SO GOOD!

So I started late and I didn’t far past my 500 word target of new words. But only the other hand I outlined four new stories, so I should have plenty of stuff to get stuck into.

Tally: 544 words (about 40 minutes or so of writing time)

Total fiction wordcount for the month: 1410 words

In this section, Dario is contemplating a locked room mystery (and I am discovering how hard it is to keep a scene moving where characters are looking at things without speaking to each other):

The duty watch had been detained and questioned, so if they knew anything they would already have given it up on the inquisitor’s wrack. Say what you like about our torturers, but I’ve never known them to fail to extract a confession. Not always the confession you’re looking for, but they tend to be thorough with details.

December 1, 2013

TMoRP Day 23 – The Day of the Doctor

Before

I have, no kidding, been waiting all my adult life for last weekend. Waiting for the 23rd of November 2013. Fifty years after the broadcast of ‘An Unearthly Child’, the first episode of Doctor Who. Roughly thirty-six years after I first saw an episode while sleeping over at a neighbour’s house where Episode 1 of ‘The Sontaran Experiment’ was playing. And something like 34 years since cliffhanger at the end of the first episode of ‘Terror of the Zygons’ so comprehensively scared the hell out of me that I wasn’t allowed to watch Doctor Who again for a year or so. Man, that stuff gets under your skin.

For most of that time, ever since 1989 when the show was cancelled amid plummeting ratings and daring experimentation, I expected that the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary would be marked somehow, probably with a slew of cash-in coffee table books and maybe a retrospective documentary with some of the show’s past stars and production staff. I quietly hoped Tom Baker would still be around to gleefully expound on his glory days.

For a while it looked like that’s all it would be. The 30th anniversary was marked with the release of the nigh-unwatchable special “Dimensions in Time”, which brings back several stars including Jon Pertwee and Liz Sladen, but also several characters from Eastenders (on whose set it was filmed, cheaply). I’m going to be honest, it was so awful and so laden with mid-nineties British pop culture references that I’ve always found it unfathomable. I’m pretty sure Ive never been able to sit through it all the way to the end.

The 35th anniversary was a little better. By 1998 the movie starring Paul McGann had come and gone and all hope was now lost that the Doctor would ever be back on the telly. So be it. We few dwindling fans still had the books to enjoy, and if the BBC Books-produced Eighth Doctor Adventures were never quite as compelling as the Virgin Books-produced New Adventures, there were still a few good ones amongst the range. One of them was Lance Parkin’s The Infinity Doctors, a book steeped in the rich continuity of Doctor Who without ever pretending to be part of continuity.  I loved reading the book, but I came nowhere near close to getting all the references. Maybe you should just read the Wikipedia explanation.

Of course, a few months before the 40th anniversary in 2003, we got ‘The Scream of the Shalka’, an animated webcast starring Richard E Grant as the Ninth Doctor. It was okay but not great, if we’re honest, but that didn’t matter because Shalka represented a brave new frontier of cheaply-made broadcast Doctor Who. At last we’d have new Who on our screens again, even if we had to painfully download each episode over slow dial-up in order to watch it on our tiny post-millenial computer monitors. That version of the future lasted all of a few weeks before the revelation, four weeks before the anniversary, that Who was coming back to broadcast television in 2005. And that Christopher-frickin’-Eccleston was gonna be in it.

Sorry, Richard E, but whatevs dude. We got Eccleston.

And all of a sudden the 50th anniversary was not only in sight, but hell, it might even get a real story. I was pretty chuffed. I wasn’t especially engaged with fandom at the time, but I’m guessing the sense of anticipation has been rising to hysterical levels in the meantime.

Approaching

What I didn’t expect was that the whole damned world would suddenly catch up to me and what I (naively) imagined was a relatively small pocket of geek fandom. Doctor Who got big. Bigger than its heydays of the Dalek-obsessed Hartnell sixties or the mad-about-Baker mid-seventies? I don’t know and can’t be arsed looking up viewing figures for the sake of a personal anecdote, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the show is currently more popular than it has ever been. It’s almost certainly generating more money than ever.

So all of a sudden we go from me and a few friends in our quiet little bubble occasionally glancing at a clock counting down to the 23rd of November, to every freaking news show in the English-speaking world (including maybe even a few in America!) joining in at the end of the countdown like a drunken New Year’s Eve crowd in Times Square suddenly catching on that something is happening on the monitors.

It’s a pretty far cry from the late 80’s when, if you mentioned to someone that your favourite show was Doctor Who, you’d be asked “Oh, is that still on?” (Until it wasn’t, obviously). Then you would cry a little inside, because Sylvester McCoy’s last two seasons were really damned good, especially if you ignore the existence of ‘Silver Nemesis’.

Personally though, the other thing I didn’t anticipate was falling sick – or rather discovering that I’d fallen sick a long time ago. Instead of having an ever-tightening sense of anticipation and excitement, I was just too damned tired to get that worked up about the anniversary. Instead of engaging on a year-long blogging project talking about my love for the show, I couldn’t even muster the energy to watch new episodes more than once. (Happily there were more than enough excellent anniversary-themed blogging projects going around, so the absence of my contribution is hardly a critical hole in the conversation).

Instead of finding a way to celebrate for an entire year, I got tired and went to bed early. I can still feel the judgmental glare of my younger self, who probably thought some themed viewing parties and perhaps a little cosplay was in order. Stow it, young ‘un. Grumpy old future-self is taking a nap.

But as the date drew nearer (and I started treatment on my protracted sleep deprivation) I started feeling that old buzz again. The excitement of new Who. The sense that something big was going to happen. The expectation that the BBC and Steven Moffat would pull out all the stops to deliver a major event.

The teasers – or spoilers if you prefer – started leaking out. The anniversary story would feature the return of an old monster. It would be a multiple-Doctor story. Gallifrey would feature somehow. There would be time travel shenanigans. Daleks? Yes, probably Daleks!

And then came the end of Season 7B, and the sheer WTF ending of “The Name of the Doctor”. There was a regeneration we never knew about, the version of the Doctor who fought in the Time War and killed all the Time Lords (except one or two) and all of the Daleks (except for one or two million) and destroyed Gallifrey. The one who endured the trauma that left Eccleston’s Doctor with PTSD. The one who did something so profoundly un-Doctorish that he’s been in denial about it ever since.

Okay. That was a pretty compelling setup. I was onboard.

During

(Spoilers from here on in)

When it came, the anniversary was an embarrassment of riches. I’m hard-pressed to tell you which bit I loved the most.

Mini-episode: First there was the last little teaser mini-episode, ‘The Night of the Doctor’. Paul McGann *finally* got to reprise his portrayal of the Doctor onscreen, and it was short but perfectly formed. I was just transported with glee to see him back in the part. The highlight for me was his salutatory recitation to his departed companions from the Big Finish audio plays. Hilariously the list ignored the ones from the BBC’s own line of books, although I felt a bit bad for the long-suffering Fitz Kreiner, who I thought deserved a shout-out. Don’t worry Fitz, you’re still part of my head-canon. Also, it was nice that they brought back the bonkers not-even-pretending-to-be-scientific mysticism of the Sisterhood of Karn. McGann’s performance was an intense distillation of nearly ten years of playing the part in audio plays. He turned a good script into a goddamn tour de force. In six minutes, ‘The Night of the Doctor’ underscored what a damned shame it was that we never got to see the McGann Doctor (even if a series in the vein of the 1996 movie would probably have been terrible)

(Also: “Will it hurt?” Yeah, I sort of sob-laughed at that).

Anniversary: It was big. It was an event. It starred three Doctors at once and jammed all the rest in at the sides. It dropped a nuclear retcon right in the heart of the new series. It was a transformative event that nudges the show in a new direction without fundamentally altering its premise. It was sentimental, yes, but at least the sentiment this time around was redemptive optimism.

It pretty much did what an anniversary show should do. It celebrated the past and reinvigorated the future. In no small part, it did the latter by being simulcast worldwide, drawing an almost-unprecedented audience for any form of television, let alone a piece of children’s drama. (And let’s all be thankful they didn’t take the opportunity to do a callback to the Archangel Network from the climax of ‘The Last of the Time Lords’.)

I have minor complaints, of course (I wouldn’t be a Doctor Who fan if I didn’t). The sight of the airlifted TARDIS being choppered over London was a piece of pointless, bewildering spectacle that somewhat over-egged what was already a pretty rich pudding. Most of the scenes with Elizabeth I were more stupid than they were wacky, and disappointingly sexist in a story that did better with its other female characters. I disagree with the premise going around that they did fundamental damage to the character of the Tennant Doctor, but a lot of people invested in his performance disliked those scenes intensely, and I can’t much argue the point.

(Except to say – ZYGONS! Fuckin’ boo-yah!)

I also don’t really know what to make of the appearance of Tom Baker, but I have also concluded that I don’t care much. It was in there because he was one of the most beloved parts of a long-running television series, not because it made particular story sense. (And frankly, even though I can’t quite make sense of it, him turning up as either an implausibly well-informed curator or a future incarnation of the Doctor living out his retirement on one of his old bodies is no more nonsensical than the continuity errors in ‘The Five Doctors’ or any part of the plot of ‘The Three Doctors’).

Docudrama: And then came the surprise highlight of the anniversary, An Adventure in Space and Time, the dramatisation of the making of the original series in 1963. Going into this I had some mixed feelings – the actors playing Sydney Newman, Verity Lambert and William Hartnell are all dead ringers for their counterparts. The teaser shots of David Bradley as Hartnell in particular looked scarily good. On the other hand it was written by Mark Gatiss, one of the modern Doctor Who writers of whose work I’m not especially fond. So I was expecting it to be an interesting look back at British television production in the 1960’s, and not much more than that.

Instead, it was a heartwarming and touching drama about bravery and the inevitability of change. For his faults, Gatiss’ nostalgia-steeped perspective on Doctor Who served him well here. The historical touchstones of the show – Daleks crossing the Thames in a deserted London, the extras walking about in the ridiculous butterfly-man Menoptera costumes – never overwhelmed the intersecting stories of Lambert’s rise to confidence and success and Hartnell’s arrogance softening as his health begins to decline.

Purists might decry the absurd moment toward the end when a confused Hartnell, almost too overcome by emotion and ill health to record his final scene, looks across the TARDIS console to see Matt Smith smiling encouragingly at him. It was a blatant vote of thanks to the man who started it all from a lifelong fan (Gatiss and probably everyone else involved with the production). I don’t know what Hartnell would have made of the fact that his program would go on to survive him (and two of his successors for that matter) but it’s easy to imagine he’d be pleased.

Hell, I hope that Doctor Who outlives me too. I never want to see the last episode again.

Coda: It wasn’t an official part of the anniversary, not exactly, but Peter Davison’s hilarious fly-on-the-wall faux-documentary The Five(-ish) Doctors Reboot was a delightful bonus. Davison (aka the Fifth Doctor), Colin Baker (the Sixth) and Sylvester McCoy (the Seventh) are all awaiting for a call from Steven Moffat to invite them to be in the 50th anniversary episode. When the invitation is not forthcoming, they take matters into their own hands. Clearly made with love for the new show from the stalwarts of its past, it’s wry and hilarious, with a gratuitous host of cameos by Doctor Who luminaries all too willing to take the piss out of themselves. John Barrowman’s bit is especially amusing and there are several surprise appearances that top even that. It’s well worth a look, especially if the anniversary episode itself was not to your tastes.

Afterward

It’s taken me a week to get through this entry, which is pretty indicative of the energy I have for writing at the moment. Things are weird at work, I am contemplating a new career and meanwhile the recovery of my lost sleep remains a slow business. I think I’m going to have to call time on the Month of Relentless Positivity, seeing as I wasn’t even able to hit my mark in two months (and that’s why NaNoWriMo has not appeared anywhere on my radar this year. Next year I might plan ahead and do NaNo, but probably not in November).

But at least I have Doctor Who to keep me sane. Roll on, Christmas special. Let’s see what you’ve got for us.

 

November 15, 2013

TMoRP Day 18 – The [Spoiler] of the [Spoiler] Mini-Episode

Filed under: geekery,the month of relentless positivity — Tags: , — lexifab @ 12:56 pm

(No Spoilers follow)

In less than 10 days, the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who will be broadcast around the universe (some areas will be on delayed transmission, obviously. Sorry, viewers on Saturn). As is their wont with the massive over-promotion of television events that basically everyone who cares would have watched anyway, the BBC have produced a six-minute mini-episode introducing the main movie-length special.

You can watch it on Youtube here.

WARNING: It spoils the living shit out of a surprise part of the anniversary episode that they managed to keep completely under wraps all year. At least, I wasn’t aware of it and I have been paying at least some attention. I’m guessing that nobody else knew either.

So, if you are cheerfully oblivious about what the anniversary episode is about, or you don’t want to know any more than you already do about what’s going on in the story, maybe just save that link and come back in a couple of weeks.

I couldn’t resist, figuring (correctly) that since a couple of people in my Twitter feed gave it away anyway, I might as well check it out. It is glorious, wonderful geekbait, hearkening back with unabashed love for what’s come before and what comes next. It was penned by Steven Moffat, doing exactly the sort of thing that he does well.

Not that I have much fear of there being a long discussion thread about this, but please don’t spoil either the mini-episode or the details of the anniversary in the comments. Save it for the day of broadcast (Sunday 24th) when I will for once know precisely what the topic of my TMoRP post will be.

October 17, 2013

The (Delayed) Month of Relentless Positivity

I’m back. It’s been more than a month since my last blog update, in which I hilariously bemoaned my somnolent rate of updating.

Unintentional irony having served its purpose, I’m back, following job upheavals, timely holidays, a convention and a writing deadline. All of which made for a pretty busy month while I’m also battling with a nagging sleep disorder.

(Not that I’m grumbling, mind you. I have been using a CPAP machine for a couple of weeks now and have moved through the unpleasant but typical “wake up in the middle of the night horrified to discover a plastic octopus eating my face” phase of acquaintance. Pretty soon I expect to enter the “feel refreshed after a full night’s sleep” treatment phase, which will be worth all of the creepy cephalod-wrestling dreams).

ANYWAY. We have a tradition here at Lexifabricographer (est. 2012). A little thing I like to call

The Month of Relentless Positivity

in which October, traditionally thought of as the second most boring month of the year (after August, obviously), becomes instead a clarion call for forced cheer and mandatory goodwill. For one shining month of the year, I solemnly undertake to write at least one blog entry a day highlighting something good and pure and wonderful in the world, squeeing with unabashed delight and inviting my (dozen-plus!) readers to join the celebratory revels.

As this entry will go up on the 17th of October, it would not be unreasonable for the judges to disqualify me on a foot fault. I didn’t so much overstep my mark as soar on wings of silk and caffeine far beyond the shackles of  my mark’s gravity well.

I have a solution.

The Month of Relentless Positivity begins today! Starting today, and continuing until at least the 16th of November, I’m putting up a post every day. Every day I will spotlight something cool, something I love, something at which I would like to direct some eyeballs (even if it’s a very small number of mostly disinterested eyeballs).

(I might keep going until the 24th of November, when the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode screens).

In the meantime, between all that, I plan to resume work on my 75%-ish complete novel, write a couple of properly short stories (less than 2500 words, say), catch up on several months worth of tax work, throw myself into the crazed vortex of the Canberra writing community and generally be, like, super-positive.

Let’s go.

August 6, 2013

You had one job to do

Filed under: geekery,news of the day,property magnatism — Tags: , , , , — lexifab @ 2:57 pm

This is the 600th post on this iteration of Lexifabricographer [1]. For reasons I am not well equipped to examine at the moment, I have had this idea that I should mark the occasion with a special post. Yes, despite the fact that this could not possibly be a more meaningless milestone. All week I’ve been trying to think of a suitably worthy discussion topic. Each time I’ve failed, then gone off and found something else to do.

Obviously, what I should be doing is a classic Lexifab post of context-free observations and underdeveloped comments about two or three unrelated topics that occur to me as I type them. because everyone loves those, don’t they?

(Well, they might, but until I do a few and then examine the new analytical tools, how will I know?)

The Next of the Doctors

So they announced that <spoiler>Peter Capaldi</spoiler> will be taking the part of the twelfth-or-thirteenth Doctor when Matt Smith departs at the end of the year. So, the Doctor will continue to be a white bloke for the next three to five years. Once again my desperately unrealistic hopes of a Helen Mirren, Chiwetel Ejiofor or Sophie Okenedo Doctor will have to be shelved, as such hopes ever are. I find that this time around I am too tired of making the argument for a female Doctor, much less the surely-not-all-that-controversial possibility of casting a non-white actor, to even bother engaging in the discussion much.

That said, I like Peter Capaldi very much as an actor and I am sure he will be just as marvellous in the role as everyone else who ever got the job. He has an expressive face with the capacity to do both “angry” and “concerned” and his comic timing appears sound. What’s of more interest – and I have to say concern – is whether the hyper-fluid, breathless and often incoherent storytelling that has marked the Moffatt era so far, will continue after Matt Smith’s departure. That style of drama has its positive points but seems to favour being clever over being smart a little too often for my tastes. [2]

If it were me – and let us be honest it never will or should be me in charge of Doctor Who – I’d take the opportunity of casting a slightly less spritely-appearing actor (Capaldi is 55, which is OMG as old as William Hartnell was when he took the role) to extend the metaphor into the meta a bit. I think it would make a nice change to enjoy a period of slightly less rushed and deliberately confusing storytelling, where the exploration of character has a bit of space to happen naturally in amongst the exploding space-skyscrapers and timey-wimey shenanigans.

LISTEN TO ME I SOUND LIKE A CRANKY OLD MAN GET OFF MY TIME-LAWN YOU DANGED KIDS WITH YOUR HOVER-MOTORBIKES AND YOUR SPARKLY TIME-STREAMS

Deadlines whoosh by

I still haven’t finished my novel manuscript. July was almost a complete washout, thanks to sleepiness and, I’ll be honest, a solid spoonful of disenchantment with both the story and my ability to tell it. In the last week or so some of the wind has returned to my sails and the manuscript-so-far, while undoubtedly riddled with structural defects and rookie errors, doesn’t look all that bad. I’ll put a fair chunk of the blame on the tiredness for that one.

My novel critiquing group is owed a finished manuscript in eight days. They’re not going to get one. Even if I took the next week off work I doubt I could get to the finish line on that one. Lucky for me, they’ve all been extraordinarily patient and have generously agreed to read whatever I have done at that point. It would have been good to be able to hand over something with THE END typed on the last page. I’m disappointed that I didn’t make it (and sometime soon I’ll need to take a much closer look at everything from my approach to outlining, my writing session discipline and the reasonableness of my self-expectations to see where improvements can be made in future).

But the crit group have been ruthless in their dissection of each others’ work over the course of this year. Weak characters, inconsistent settings and rambling plots have been unearthed in even the most polished of manuscripts. (Not by me, I might add – I fear I was among the softer, less helpful critics in the group. Most of the time I couldn’t spot an error in plot logic even if you explained it slowly with flowcharts). They are going to have a field day with mine – but the crucial part is that they will probably identify problems that I don’t already know about. And they might very well come up with ideas that are better than mine.

So I have one week to go through what I’ve written so far and at least fix all the typos so they don’t have to deal with those…

Tax time

Back in real life, however, what I have to spend the rest of this week and probably some part of the weekend doing is getting my tax documents and spreadsheets together. While we have highly paid accountants to work out the intricate tax details of our investment property empire (such as it is), we can’t really afford to just throw all our receipts at them and let them do all the work. Which means that around this time every year I have to pull together a ten-page spreadsheet of itemised income and expenditure statements, together with the usual huge bundles of invoices, bank statements and income summaries.

So far the only fun thing about preparing this  year’s spreadsheet has been adding a line item in my income statement for income from writing. First step on the long and probably neverending journey to a professional career in writing! If nothing else, it gives me a target to aim at for next year.

 

 

[1] The previous iteration still exists, mostly unlinked-to, like a confused and irritable ghost meandering about the halls of an orange-hued gothic manor. Do not attempt to engage it, for its ill-focused ennui is both parasitic and contagious, a bit like all the comment spam that has nestled in it for warmth and nutrients.

[2] That said, I found more to like than dislike in the eight stories of Season 7B than in any previous stretch of the Twelfth Doctor run, even though those very qualities have been wound up to Ramming Speed.

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