Friday, August 04, 2017

New Beginnings: A New Book and a New Doctor

 New Beginnings: A New Book

It's here at last--the release of my first novel in my series, Loving Who, a sci-fi romantic-comedy full of Who fans and fun, is now available from Devine Destinies Books. Also available at Amazon in print and e-formats, and from other online retailers. You can read an excerpt below before I give my take on the "New Doctor."

Loving Who
by Cynthianna
Screwball comedy meets the world of Doctor Who fandom. Cici Connors' life will never be the same and it all changes when she takes a mysterious man into her life—and her bed. John Smith makes the perfect Doctor for their club's fan film, but is he really good boyfriend material? His fondness for popcorn and whipped cream are the least of his eccentricities, as Cici discovers not everyone sees the same man she sees.

When will John confess he's not from this planet? Will Cici regret having an affair and becoming mixed-up in an extra-terrestrial kidnapping plot? After all, how many alien assassins tracking her does one fangirl need?

And now an excerpt from Loving Who.  In this scene, our heroine Cici is transmatted from Earth to an alien world for the first time:

I don’t know when I began screaming, but my ears throbbed from my shrieks upon our arrival on a dark, featureless plain. I clapped my mouth shut and stared at John Smith, the man, alien, sentient being, who had made the unthinkable possible, the undoable doable, and in the process, had taken me to where I’d always wanted to go.

“Look up,” he said calmly.

I did. A million stars stabbed my eyes from a sea of the blackest velvet. A billion times better than staring through my souped up telescope. A trillion times better than pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope on the internet.

I was actually here.

“Like what you see?” He chuckled at my dumbfounded response. “Fancy the Bygons placing their teleportation deck where they keep their observatory.”

He strolled toward what appeared to be a console and flipped a couple of switches. Low-level lightning came on about the walls and a hum of machinery filled the emptiness of the circular chamber. I continued to gaze up through the huge skylight window.

“Cici? You okay?”

I pointed upward. “Stars,” I said at last. “Lots of them.”

“Eloquently put.” He came to my side and looked up. “You may or may not recognize any of the constellations but try not to worry. I’ll sort it out.”

“So many stars.” I had to close my mouth to keep from drooling.

“Uh, yes.” He frowned. “It appears I’ve made bit of a miscalculation. We’re not in Earth’s orbit. We’re not on a ship, either.”

I gasped. My knees turned to jelly. The piercing lights above began to swirl about me. I could feel my breakfast rising as a wave of nausea swept over me. John caught me by the elbow and lowered me to sit cross-legged on the deck.

“Where…are we?” I asked.

“A planet somewhere to the south and west of St. Louis by several million light years I estimate.” He stood and shrugged. “Not too far off the beaten path.”

“Not too far off?” My brain switched back on, and things began to sort themselves out internally. “We’re several million light years away from Earth, and you considered that close?”

“It’s all relative. Ask my friend Albert. It’s what he said. Anyway, we can go back the way we came, so we might as well avail ourselves of a tour of this curious facility.”

He offered me a hand, and I shakily regained my feet. “Where is everyone? I thought we’d run into the ghostly geeks with the shades.”

“So did I. Maybe it’s their tea time or something. Come along. Let’s explore.”

Loving Who now available from Devine Destinies Books and other fine online book sellers. (Now available at Amazon.)
You can read more about the other books in the series coming soon on my Loving Who series page by clicking here. If you can, please leave a review of my books on Amazon, Goodread, Facebook or elsewhere and let me know when you do so I can thank you. 

Loving Who was first written in the David Tennant era, so no, it doesn't mention the latest Doctor. It's about fans of both the classic series and the new. What do I think about the recent announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor? Well... I've not said much about the announcement online since I've been busy lately, and I've seen some fans attacking other fans over either liking or not liking the Beeb's decision.  Some even attacked Fifth Doctor Peter Davison for simply voicing his opinion. 

That's simply not right. It's a TV show, folks. In the grand scheme of things, it's entertainment--not life or death. Peter and all Whovians deserve the right to express their thoughts in a respectful manner. So with that in mind, here's what I say about this latest bit of Who news.

 A New Beginning: A New Doctor

As an author myself, I'm not always sure it's a good thing to mess with another artist's creative vision. Verity Lambert and Sydney Newman (the original producers/show creators) created  Doctor Who to be "family friendly" and "educational," but it has wandered far afield from this early concept. They made the Doctor a crusty, older British-sounding male, and cast William Hartnell in the role. If that's how they saw the character of the Doctor, who are we to argue with them? It would be like saying, "Huckleberry Finn is now a middle-aged, Chinese female instead of a young American boy." What would Mark Twain think of what you did to his character of Huck Finn? (Does a radically different Huck make sense in the context of the entire novel?) Since Verity and Sydney are no longer with us, we'll never know what they think about how others have interpreted their vision, but don't we owe it to their legacy to take care of their artistic creation?

I wonder why the BBC doesn't start a new, completely unique show with a "Time Lady" (such as Romana or the Rani) instead. Then the new show creators could do whatever they like with the Time Lady character without the worries of upsetting fans of the old show or going against series canon. I hear rumors of actress Georgia Moffat returning as the "Doctor's Daughter" in her own television show, so it is possible to start fresh with a spin-off if you're feeling trapped by the older show's scope.

Since the Doctor has regenerated thirteen times now--and has always been "male" in appearance and British in his speech patterns--why would he/she/it become "female" now? What good reason can one give for this radical change in the character? Why isn't the Doctor African or Asian instead? Why can't the Doctor speak with an American or Australian accent? Why does the Doctor have to speak English at all? Why not make the Doctor Brazilian or Mexican? The fans south of the border would love it! It just doesn't make much sense within the internal logic of the Doctor's  character to change his basic make-up since it has worked so well for the show for almost 54 years.  Such a radical change comes across as a ratings' ploy more than an artistic choice. Is the show in such trouble that it needs to pull a "stunt" to gain new viewers? What's the real motive behind this "gimmick"?

Still, Jodie Whittaker is a good actress, and it's worth a look to see how she handles the part.  I wish her and the new showrunners the best of luck. Fingers crossed they give her decent scripts to act and not the poor quality scripts Peter Capaldi was sometimes stuck with. It's the poor scriptwriting of the newer Who series that's disappointed me at times--never the actors, settings or SFX, etc., which are generally first rate. Having studied screenplay writing and film critique, I hate to see opportunities wasted to create brilliant science fiction on screen. The talent is out there writing-wise, BBC. Please use it!

Loving Who now available from Devine Destinies Books and other fine online book sellers!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Book Review: The Diaries of John Quincy Adams

The Diaries of John Quincy Adams 1779-1848The Diaries of John Quincy Adams 1779-1848 by John Quincy Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is perhaps no other statesman in the annals of American history quite like John Quincy Adams. The oldest son of Revolutionary War patriots, President John Adams and Abigail Adams, John Quincy was destined for a life of public service, and he accepted this obligation, although sometimes at great hardship to himself and those he loved. His personal sacrifice and the sheer brilliance of his intellect are abundantly clear in his diaries, which he kept off and on from twelve years of age up until the day before his death.

From his early travels in Europe with his father, as ambassador of our nascent country, Adams became familiar with the world, politics, diplomacy, culture and languages. After years abroad he returned home and studied the law at Harvard, then became an ambassador to the Netherlands and appointed federal Senator from Massachusetts. He served as ambassador to France, Prussia (Berlin) and the Russian court before becoming Secretary of State under President James Monroe. His writings became the body of what became known as the "Monroe Doctrine," the concept that the Americas were destined to be ruled by its inhabitants and not Europeans. In the highly contested presidential election of 1824, Adams was chosen by the Electoral College over front-runner Andrew Jackson. After his one term in office, Adams retired briefly and then was elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he energetically advocated for the abolishment of slavery.

This Library of America hardcover two volume edition is a beautiful presentation of the words and thoughts of John Quincy Adams. As a young man Adams wisely observed, "…Men can never possess a great degree of Power without abusing it." One can feel his passion for his country and understand his fears about its future. We could all learn from his insights.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Book Review: A Friend of Mr. Lincoln

A Friend of Mr. LincolnA Friend of Mr. Lincoln by Stephen Harrigan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Imagine becoming a close personal associate of a world famous, almost god-like, historical personality. This is the intriguing premise of Stephen Harrigan's A Friend of Mr. Lincoln.

A fictional character, Micajah "Cage" Weatherby, makes the acquaintance of a young and ambitious Illinois assemblyman, Abraham Lincoln. Cage, Lincoln and a group of other Springfield young men share a passion for poetry and discussing the important topics of the day--the Alamo, then the Annexation of Texas; the need for infrastructure improvement such as canals and railroads in the state and how to pay for them, and sometimes even the evils of slavery. Cage, as a published poet with abolitionist leanings, doesn't understand his friend's skirting the issue. He sees Lincoln as two-faced, trying too hard to please everyone so he doesn't risk losing his office or pulling the Whig party down. Cage feels Lincoln needs to take a stand on slavery, and he finds himself both surprised and disappointed when Lincoln helps free a captured run-away slave woman in court, yet he also goes on to represent a Kentuckian who insists his Black servants remain slaves and return with him after he manages his land in the free state of Illinois.

Perhaps what causes the most heated conflict between the two men is their respective love lives. Lincoln's heart seems inconsistent to Cage. After losing the love of his life early on, Ann Rutherford, Lincoln doesn't seem able to settle with any of the ladies of Springfield society who want to attach themselves to the up-and-coming lawyer/politician. One in particular, Mary Todd, seems determined to win Lincoln over. Cage and Lincoln's other friends see Mary as a danger to the sanity of their manic-depressive comrade when Lincoln finds himself deeply unhappy after becoming "engaged to be engaged" to the ambitious woman. After rousing Lincoln from a near death depression over the misunderstanding, Cage makes an enemy of Miss Todd (and become off limits to Lincoln, once married to Mary). Cage's own love life falls apart when his secret lover, Ellie, moves her dress shop to Chicago after an anonymous letter in the newspaper exposes their affair. Cage and Lincoln drift apart, but the mutual admiration for the talent and humanity in each other doesn't, even as the years pass and the onset of Civil War brings both men to the same conclusion, slavery must end.

A Friend of Mr. Lincoln evokes a strong sense of being a part of history, of breathing the same air of great men during their formative years. Harrigan does an excellent job of building believable and well-rounded characters, both real and fictional. The settings and details bring the 1830s through1840s in Springfield, Illinois alive, giving modern readers insights into the customs, culture and politics of the time and place. It is a novel sure to please both history and Lincoln biography lovers alike.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Moffat Falls Short (Again)

 Moffat Falls Short (Again)
Warning: Spoiler Alert!

I held off writing a review of the last three episodes of Doctor Who in hope the season would end on a stronger note. Alas, this isn't the case. Peter Capaldi's last series as the Doctor ends on a whimper and not a bang. It's not surprising when you consider the last two episodes were written (and I use the term loosely) by Steven Moffat.

The third from last episode, The Eaters of Light, was about par for this season. We scratched out heads  wondering why aliens who ate light ran around in the darkness after human beings. Oh well... The Roman costuming was pretty good and the scenery of "Scotland" a nice change of pace. Definitely ranks with the mediocre episodes for the sheer amount of plot bunnies, but not totally a write-off with the good SFX. With some rewriting, it might have actually worked.

Then we come to the two-parter, The World Enough and Time, followed by the aptly named The Doctor Falls. Perhaps these two episodes should be collectively titled, Any Chance of A Coherent Storyline Falls Apart as the Doctor definitely "falls" into a big pile of steaming you-know-what.

The science part of the science fiction was missing in action throughout.  Bill winds up being shot and taken away  because the Doctor can't simply tell his companions to "Quick, run into the TARDIS and let's get out of here!"  (And why not take Bill into the TARDIS and take her someplace for surgery, huh?) Bill and the Doctor can't be together because there's too many floors in a space station between them, and time is happening faster at the back end than the front. This is a phenomenon noted by Einstein, but even a 500 story "building in space" wouldn't experience that much of a time dilation. It would have to be many light years in length for any noticeable effect. (Oops, that bothersome science of physics rears its ugly head again.) And finally, you take along your "prisoner" Missy out on a trip for what good reason, Doctor? Rehabilitation on the run?

Of course, if you live in a "building in space" you live in late 19th century houses and burn fossil fuels and blow things up all you like, never worrying about blowing a hole in the side of the space vessel thus allowing all the atmosphere to vent and be sucked into the nearby black hole. Yeah... My suspension of disbelief got so suspended that my eyes rolled into the back of my head and threatened never to roll back if I didn't watch something more intelligent within the next twenty minutes.

On the up side, the "Mondas Cybermen" were fun in their sock-puppet-with-a-lantern-0n-top way, and Nardole proved to be quite a hero and a gentleman. It was interesting to see John Simms channeling his inner Roger Delgado/Anthony Ainley as the Master again, complete with goatee beard, but the logic of how he came to be on the space station and why he'd help build Cybermen in the first place eluded us. (Didn't John Simms' Master end up being burned on a pyre after his Harold Saxon election-scheme fell through? It was confusing enough as to how he wound up as Missy, but logic doesn't seem to be necessary--or wanted--in a Moffat written script. Perhaps the Master faked his death then and went on to help Donald Trump's campaign?)

 The saddest thing character development-wise was how horribly the female companion was treated yet again. Correction: female companions. Both Bill Potts and Missy didn't exactly have ideal endings to their story arcs and both are made to suffer physically and emotionally first before they're dispatched. Moffat obviously wanted to do a "controversial kiss" scene in this last episode, and so he does with Bill and Heather, but it seemed tacked on and not very controversial. Bill's rescue scene is a bit of deus ex machina in implementation. We all saw that one coming, didn't we? 

It seems Moffat's idea of a happy ending for female companions is to 1.) Kill them and/or 2.) Regenerate them into an alien (or into a walking zombie in Clara's case). Either way, the girls never get to return home. Obviously, he feels women characters have to be punished by exile from Earth. Ow. He isn't making any brownie points with feminists once again.

The Doctor's "fall" isn't so much a classic Disney-death-by-falling as much as a fall-on-your-back-in-a-big-explosion (after doing terribly stupid and heroic hand-to-hand combat with Cybermen in a holographic meadow inside a space station, no less) fall. At least the Doctor is going out in a noble fashion, trying to save others by fighting the bad guys. But Moffat doesn't know when to stop there, and so we have a repeat of David Tennant's  Tenth Doctor's "I don't want to go!" whiny regeneration started. We'll have to wait until Christmas to see how whiny and clingy to Peter Capaldi's gorgeous body the Twelfth Doctor will be. Thank goodness it looks like it's going to be a "Two Doctors" special with a return of David Bradley as the First Doctor. 

Until Christmas, we'll be holding our breaths and crossing our fingers for a decent final send off for Peter. I'll be asking Santa that it be a story written by either Mark Gatiss or Jamie Mathieson. Please?

What do you think of these last episodes of the Peter's final year as the Doctor? Write your comments in below.

P.S. I'm looking forward to next month when my novel Loving Who will be released by Devine Destinies Books. (The female companion experiences a happily ever after ending, too!)

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Doctor As Show Man and Space 1889 Cosplayer

The Doctor As Show Man and Space 1889 Cosplayer
(Spoiler Alert!)

It's been a busy two weeks, so when I finally sat down to catch up with Doctor Who, I had two episodes to watch. The first episode, The Lie of the Land, is actually part three of the two previous episodes which I found to be mediocre as best. 

Was I expecting anything better for this storyline's finale? No, not really. The Lie of the Land didn't disappoint on that respect. It was mediocre in script and well-done in acting and execution. Bill is still a strong, sympathetic character willing to lay down her life to save others, Nardole is still a loyal aide-de-camp willing to go the extra mile to help out, and the Doctor is... Well, he's a show man of sorts, selling the evil monks' "new history" to the unsuspecting public through slick commercials. Why the evil monks ever go to the extent they do to take over the world is never satisfactorily explained, including the gigantic statues of their mummy-like visages. They should have taken a lesson from the Daleks and Cybermen. Good ol' fashioned firepower and metal suits work just fine to invade Earth in Doctor Who.
Missy is seen once again in The Lie, but her cameo doesn't seem particularly necessary to the plot, as the Doctor should be able to figure things out himself with his abilities and resources. She's incarcerated in a TARDIS-styled vault and seems content to be locked up. There's hints she's not as sociopathic/psychopathic as she once was, but she's still not portrayed as a positive middle-aged female image, but rather as a figure of ridicule/hate. Actress Michelle Gomez could do better and deserves a stronger role.
The Orwellian overtones of "He who owns the past owns the future" are good in The Lie, but the overall arc of the trilogy of episodes isn't quite pulled off.  A good script editor could have helped cobble these three disparate episodes together in a more coherent and effective manner and brought out the strengths in each. As is... nice try, but it's very sad how this trilogy falls flat. At least Bill has a decent hairstyle this time out, and I enjoyed the "Maoist China" style of bland/uni-colored clothing of the populace as well as the Doctor's "worn" jacket.

Empress of Mars is a stronger episode in that it doesn't try to be anything it isn't.  The Doctor meets his old foes, the Ice Warriors. They've been updated a bit without losing their lovable "monster of the week" look about them that they've sported since the Patrick Troughton era. My husband was pleased to see the Victorian-era military men on an expedition on Mars, very reminiscent of the characters one takes on in the role playing game Space 1889. (The military costuming was accurate historically according to hubby who is an expert on such things, too.)

Why there is oxygen underground on Mars is never explained, especially since the surface is dead and there's no obvious plant life left.  The frozen/hibernating Ice Warriors are very similar to the Patrick Troughton series Cybermen who were hibernating on Mondas in a pyramid-like set-up. 

Hmm... Pyramids and spacesuits seem to be returning images in this season, as the Doctor and Bill have been seen in spacesuits in Empress of Mars, Oxygen and in underwater diving suits in Thin Ice. The evil monks have a spacecraft (I assume that's what it is since it "flies") that's pyramid-shaped in Nemesis, The Pyramid at the End of the World,  and The Lie of the Land. Is there some kind of connection we're suppose to make with the reoccurring imagery? I have to say, Peter looks great in a form-hugging spacesuit. I hope the hoodie look has been put to rest for good.

With only a few more episodes to go in Peter Capaldi's last year as the Doctor, fingers crossed we get another Mark Gatiss-written story. What's your take on these last episodes? Please write your comments below. Thanks.
 Can't get enough of the man in the spacesuit, can you? :)

Coming Soon... The Loving Who series from Devine Destinies Books!

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