Saturday, February 27, 2016

[Zelazny] Worlds of IF scanned into the Internet Archive

The entire run of IF magazine has been scanned into the Internet Archive and can be read for free. Zelazny had quite a few stories in the magazine, and it's neat to read them in something approaching their original format.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Park of the Monsters

I came across a link to the Gardens of Bomarzo, aka Parco dei Mostri (Park of the Monsters)  while looking for something entirely unrelated, and I love living in a world where such a place exists.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Panache!

I'm not quite certain why my daughter grabbed my phone during a game of Words with Friends and texted her mom pretending to be me, yet there it is.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mentees: The Freshmaker

I caught a an episode of WHYY’s Radio Times on the topic of mentoring. On the whole, Radio Times is generally a good show. My biggest complaint is that host Marty Moss-Coane is often unwilling to challenge guests on claims that are technically true, but deliberately misleading. That wasn’t my issue with today's show, however.

What Makes a Mentor?  Who in your life would you be willing to bestow such an honorific title upon? While there are many official mentoring programs that are devoted to helping people in need of guidance, there is also the more unofficial version of a mentor – a person at work, school, or elsewhere that takes someone under their wing and guides them to success. Today on Radio Times, we discuss these special people in our lives that, for one reason or another, feel compelled to enter into a mentor/mentee relationship. We’ll be joined by W. BRAD JOHNSON, professor of psychology at the United States Naval Academy, and by ALYSE NELSON, president and CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership.
Jesus Christ.

We already have a word for the junior partner in a mentoring relationship. It’s protégé.

If you’re going to replace a perfectly cromulent word, don’t do it with a word that sounds a billion times worse.

This was addressed when a caller asked much the same thing, just with less swearing.

The guests defended their use of mentee, and had two issues with the  use of protégé, neither of which I found convincing.

The first was of the etymology of the word. Protégé is derived from the Middle French, protéger, to protect, and their argument was that the mentor is not always, strictly speaking “protecting” the protégé.

The other issue with protégé was that it implies that the mentor is training an apprentice or a successor, and that they will never be equal.

Each of these arguments is rather specious, in my opinion.

It’s silly to be bound by the literal meaning of a word’s antecedents, particularly when they’re so removed in time and space.

As for the second, this strikes me as a distinction without difference. A protégé could equal or surpass his or her mentor, just as an apprentice blacksmith could do the same to his master.

Other than their nails-on-the-chalkboard use of mentee, it was a very good show. They addressed the question, should men mentor women (yes, because in a lot of companies, if men don't mentor women, these women won't get mentored, as there are few women in positions to do so) and they briefly touched on having a good relationship with children, so that they may develop the proper schema to profit from a mentor.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Josh’s Doctor Who: Dramatis Personae

I just bought my tickets and booked my room for  (Re)Generation Who II. In honor of this momentous event, I'm continuing the discussion of what I’d do as the showrunner for Doctor Who.

Picking up where we left off, the Doctor was beaten at his own game by the Daleks, who overran his refuge and forced him to regenerate. He escaped to the TARDIS with the remaining survivors.

The new Doctor: It’s been ten years now, so let’s play with the formula. At first I was thinking maybe a young girl, like Marcy in Dark Season, but half Wednesday Addams, half Hannibal Lecter. However, I’m suffering evil little girl fatigue, so let’s go with this instead.

The new Doctor is an alien and inscrutable figure, obese, dressed all in white, with square spectacles.

Think Nero Wolfe or Mycroft Holmes as the Doctor, with just a dash of the vicar from A Night in the Lonesome October.

You never know what’s going on inside his head. He has become what Davros accused him of being, someone who takes people and fashions them into weapons. Over the course of the season, the Doctor becomes more manipulative, distant, and remote. Early on, he becomes reluctant to leave the TARDIS, and this eventually progresses to the point where he won’t let the others into the TARDIS in order to speak with him face to face.


Daisy:  In order to keep the Doctor larger than life, I’m going to keep him off screen as much as possible. I’d like an apprentice time lord in here to serve as the Doctor surrogate, and you can’t really do better than Romana II for the template. Young, bright and confident. Idealistic and enthusiastic, but not naïve. To steal a line from Miranda Raison, “Courageous without being annoying spiffy-spunky.” Serves as the main source of exposition by answering the "But Doctor, I don't understand!" and “Why is the Doctor doing that?” questions. She admired the old Doctor, is increasingly taking his role until he recovers, and wondering what she’ll do if he never does. I’m going to cast Daisy Ridley here.

Dorothy and Hector, two survivors from the colony based. Based on Ace and Hex from the audios, pretty much duplicating the dynamic the two characters had in the audio plays.  The girl a little older and more adventurous, Hector a few years younger, kinder, maybe a nurse like Hex, a caregiver who wears his heart on his sleeve and who nurses a hopeless crush on Dorothy,  who thinks of him as her kid brother.  I don’t have any specific actors in mind for the role, as I don’t know many young British actors. However, as Doctor Who skews towards attractive white actors as companions, let’s try to cast against that trend.

I originally considered an “Aunt Evelyn”/”Aunt Maggie”, as homage to Maggie Stables, an older woman and survivor of the colony, whose who adopted Ace and Hex as her own after her grandchildren were killed in the Dalek attack. Unfortunately, I don’t think she fits in with the dynamic. Let's keep her, but only as a background character

As long as I'm stealing ideas I like, we'll steal the idea from Big Finish, where the seventh doctor ran a much more violent set of black ops set companions in a separate TARDIS to clear the way for his White Hats . And, since we're stealing ideas for Josh's silly fankwank version of Doctor Who , I'm going to steal the name "Lysandra Aristides", which is glorious and so much fun to say. She’s a career military woman in a top secret lab who eventually joins the Seventh (of course) Doctor on some adventures. Maybe she was the head of security on the colony.  That’s a popular position for fighting types in sci-fi shows. Maggie O'Neill played the role, and I see no reason why she can't reprise it.

If she's unavailable, Nicola Walker would do a great job.

To expand on this idea of multiple teams, we’ll have an episode cold open with some outer space freebooters. They’re on a mission of some kind, but go off plan in order to rescue some people who look like they're in danger. Unfortunately, they’re captured in the process, and the Doctor activates the core team, apparently to pull their fat out the fire.

The Daisy/Dorothy/Hector team succeeds in achieving the original goal of the team, and afterward, Daisy confronts the Doctor, claiming that he led them to believe that they would be rescuing the first team, and the Doctor informs her flatly that they were already dead by the time the second team started, along with those they sought to save. Daisy asks the Doctor if there are other teams, and he does not answer. After she leaves, the Doctor turns back to the TARDIS screen, and a panel slides up, revealing monitors showing dozens of other teams.

And the Doctor also recruits enemies. The Master is congenitally treacherous like the scorpion in the fable and fucks up constantly, but Davros would be a candidate. I see him like Steven Moffat. He can produce something worthwhile, if you keep the leash tight.

"Moffat, I'll take away your bucket."
Imagine a scene where the Doctor has him a lab to develop an anti-Movellan agent that will attack their circuitry. He does, but as the Doctor is poised to release it, Davros warns him, “Ah, Doc-tor! I have modified the gas to also affect the humans in the colony.” The Doctor will tell him that he would never be so foolish as to accept something from Davros without checking it thoroughly. It was a moment to remove, and the time Davros spent creating it saved the Doctor several hours it would have taken if he developed it himself.

And finally, “The Prisoner”: Based on the character of “Ma'elKoth” from the Acts of Caine books, which I review here and here. He’s an autocratic demigod who had established a benevolent dictatorship, which the (Tenth) Doctor promptly toppled on discovering it. (And then he left, murmuring "I didn't want to. I'm so sorry..." )

Early season two, we have the voice over accompanying a montage of the events being described. To steal a line from Stover: If distant thunder could be made into precise words, broken into clipped and over-articulated speech, it would have the impersonal, dispassionately threatening sound of Ma'elKoth’s voice.

I was great man. I was never a good man.  My will stretched across the world and I unified tribes that had warred since the dawn of our civilization.  I brought enlightenment to the world. I gave freely of my power. Most saw the value of my gifts, and our legions grew. 
 There was no hunger. Women no longer died in childbirth. I ruled for twenty thousand years, and in that time, my empire spread across many worlds. Never in a thousand thousand worlds has the Golden Age we raised up been equaled. It ended, as all things must.  
A Champion came. 
We fought. Though I was undisputed master the fundamental forces that underlie the universe, the weapons he employed against me were not formed of matter, nor of anything else over which I could exercise control, bottled time and impossibilities brought to life.   
He  laid waste to the empire to reach me.  I was bound in a place beyond the walls of the world.  He shackled me with paradox and mocked me in my weakness. He boasted that he would destroy my empire in a year and force me to watch it in that place that was not a place. And he did. I watched him cast trillions in to barbarism for spite. To make a point. Even after all the time I had to reflect on this, I do not know what I did to offend him so. When the final collapse had come, time turned in on itself, and I returned to the beginning of that fateful year. 
For two billion years, I witnessed the ruin of my realm anew. Time passes no faster for my kind.  Many times I coveted the refuge of madness, but I was the last witness of my kind and I would not let them be forgotten.  
Hello, Doctor.
And the montage ends with the Doctor releasing the prisoner. I imagine him the same way I imagined the Lord of Bats, looking like a young Antonio Banderas, but with the voice of Anthony Hopkins.

The Prisoner possesses almost complete control over anything that doesn't involve the mind or soul or other intangibles. He set up what amounted to a post scarcity society, gave his people the benefits of his powers, gave them health and all the resources they wanted, laid down some basic laws along the lines of "No exploiting someone weaker than you" and then left things to run their course, with the occasional nudge. That, as much as anything, led to his downfall, as the Doctor was outraged that one man should have so much power, and cast him down, as he did Harriet Jones.

Despite his power, the Doctor keeps him in reserve, and he serves primarily as an intellectual foil for the Doctor, to whom he sometimes refers to as a god of narcissistic malice. As the season progresses, Daisy will be the angel of the Doctor’s better nature, and the Prisoner will be the devil whispering in his ear, urging him to take control of the situation. I don’t want to make it straight good against evil, but rather authoritarianism versus personal liberty. I want to give both of them valid points and well-reasoned positions, instead of an author surrogate knocking over a straw man.

Now that we've got the cast, the next post will lay out the story I want to tell with them.