Saturday, 29 September 2012

Doctor Who And The Real Stuff

When I advise Doctor Who fans to read "the real stuff," the examples I give are The Time Machine by HG Wells, The Time Patrol by Poul Anderson and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffeneger. These unrelated titles form a conceptual sequence:

a temporal vehicle;
a time traveling organization;
a time traveler's private life.

-and correspond to features of Doctor Who:

the Tardis;
the Time Lords;
The Doctor's Wife, an episode scripted by Neil Gaiman.

The Dancer From Atlantis by Poul Anderson is also relevant. It features:

a man in a malfunctioning space-time vehicle;
companions accidentally gathered from earlier periods;
a language teaching device;
a visit to Atlantis (this happened to the Third Doctor).

Monday, 10 September 2012

Doctor Who

Doctor Who will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in November, 2013. Like Superman, Star Trek and Flash Gordon, it is a story that needs to be retold from the beginning, getting it right this time. The Time Lords should be:

not aliens but our future;
not extraterrestrials but extra-temporals;
our evolutionary successors, like Poul Anderson's Danellians.

The originals of the Doctor and his companions against the Daleks are the Time Traveller and Weena against the Morlocks.

On a Doctor Who fan's shelves, I saw:

a boxed set of CD's of the first three Doctor Who stories - the beginning;
a boxed set of DVD's of the two feature films starring Peter Cushing - an alternative beginning;
a "Doctor Who: Lost in Time" CD collection of episodes of early stories that no longer exist in their entirety - truly "lost in time";
the DVD of the television film starring Paul McCann in his single appearance as the Doctor;
CD's of various stories featuring different Doctors;
thus, television and cinema history.

The TV series is called Doctor Who but the first feature film was Doctor Who And The Daleks and the second was Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD so the Daleks take over the titles. In the TV series, the second story is "The Daleks." Curiously, the poster for the second film prominently features not a Dalek but a roboman with Daleks and other figures in the background.

I have stopped watching the TV series which cleverly presented the circular causality paradox in the first "Weeping Angels" story but mishandled causality violation when Rose tried to prevent her father's death. I advise Whovians to read The Time Machine, The Time Patrol and The Time Traveler's Wife.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

"Hard Fantasy"

The premise of Robert Heinlein's "Magic, Inc." is that magic works and is practised like a set of technologies. Magical practice is based on the reality of supernatural entities and forces, not on any new theory, discovery or application of the natural sciences. Thus, "Magic, Inc." is fantasy, not science fiction (sf).

We might call it "hard fantasy" to indicate that the implications of the premise are deduced as rigorously as are the consequences of any new technology in hard sf.

Two other "hard fantasies":

in The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, there is time travel to historical periods with circular causality as in an sf novel but here the time travel is one of several applications of magic;

in Black Easter/The Day After Judgement by James Blish, demons are real.

Blish wrote mostly hard sf. It is possible, when reading his fantasies, to forget that they are a different genre from his sf. Indeed, some of his characters find it hard to believe that their high technology coexists with demons. In fact, Black...Judgement is the second volume of a trilogy about the conflict between secularism and supernaturalism. Volumes I and III remain ambiguous but it is a premise of Volume II that demons exist and are neither technological nor extraterrestrial but supernatural.