Demons of the Punjab Review

In any previous season, this would have been a minor gem; in this context, it feels like a cool drink of water in the desert. After five episodes that repeatedly struggled at the task of being about things where the one that seemed to know what it was doing had its own deep problems, here we get an episode of admirable clarity and focus that deftly balances the broad historical and intimate personal scales. There’s nothing save for the agonizingly overdue engagement with India that makes the story extraordinary, but there’s also a refreshing lack of any significant flaws, and all in all this feels like the most developed idea of what Doctor Who should be in 2018 that we’ve had to date.

Let’s start with the politics. There are obvious fallings short; the clangingly bad line about the Doctor forwarding Prem’s complaints on to Mountbatten next time she sees him being the worst. And more broadly, there’s a milquetoast tendency throughout to place responsibility for the violence of partition on the masses instead of on the British empire, which finds itself blamed more for the carelessness of partition than for the exploitation that preceded it. None of this was ...

Real Gone

Sections of this piece are drawn from conversations with Niki Haringsma, whose forthcoming Black Archive on 'Love & Monsters' is really good.  Don't blame her for this though, for god's sake.

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The style/substance dichotomy is, of course, false.  Most dichotomies are, when you dig deeply enough. The thing is: dichotomies are also real.  Even false dichotomies are real. Our world - bourgeois society, the capitalist epoch - is made of ‘real false dichotomies’.  The most fundamental dichotomies in our society - capitalist and worker; use value and exchange value - are both real, in the sense of having real material effects, and also unreal, insane, hallucinatory.  Capitalism is the rule of abstraction. It is concrete human existence tyrannised by the slippery, the spectral, the notional.

For Marx, when things are produced as commodities they are no longer just ‘use values’ but now have the divided nature of also being ‘exchange values’.  Use values are useful, sensual, material, human. Exchange value is abstract, useless outside the profit system, and has no use beyond the self-expansion of value. That’s capitalism.  That’s the root of ‘profit for profit’s sake’. Marx sees labour, and thus production, as fundamental to human life and society (our ...

Eruditorum Presscast: The Tsuranga Connundrum

This week I'm joined by Beth Axford of Doctor Who Magazine's Time Team and the delightful blog The Time Ladies to talk about The Tsuranga Conundrum, which we gradually find is very hard to say out loud and decide to rename. To what? Listen and find out.

This podcast also features the "classic" version of the Eruditorum Presscast theme, because elections make me cranky. As usual, it's by my good friend Alex via his band Seeming, which you can and should check out here.

Guest Post: Alternate Histories Part 2a: I Have No Idea What I'm Talking About

Here's Part 2 (well, part "2a") of Ben Knaak's Alternate Histories project exploring how to model a materialist conception of history through video games. Be sure to follow along on his blog and YouTube Channel!

 

King Solomon greets Queen Makeda of Sheba

Shit I Don't Know Entry #1: Where Are We?

Here I must confess as to the greatest difficulty I face with a project that deals extensively with Ethiopian history: if you held a gun to my head, I would not be able to give you a concise, coherent definition of what Ethiopia even is.  The concept of the nation in general is a nebulous one that at even its most vivid doesn't come close to approaching a science. National consciousness is therefore one which a historical materialist must regard with healthy skepticism, even when it accompanies a struggle for liberation against colonizers.  It certainly isn't a sufficiently robust concept to be the sole basis for the authority of a state.

 

You will note that I have elected not to take the coward's way out by appealing to a dictionary definition of the word "nation."  There are two reasons for this: first, it's a hacky, middle school ...

The Tsuranga Conundrum Review

If the Chibnall era is, as theorized last week, a latter-day Pertwee era, this is the equivalent of The Sea Devils. Not so much flawless as without any major issues, at several points veering into fascinating but still basically uninspiring, and an all around good showing for the period. As is clearly usual for Chibnall’s solo scripts, it is simply unconcerned with the idea that it should be “about” something. Instead it is a jumble of elements being juxtaposed purposelessly, with all the unexpected pleasures and awkward dissonance that implies, although at some point one has to admit that the consistency with which the balance trends towards the former implies some sort of underlying aesthetic sense.

At its heart, of course, it’s a fairly unreconstructed base under siege. As is often the case with Chibnall, however, the reduction to influences doesn’t quite work as an explanation. The convention of base under sieges, especially in the modern era, is to use the support cast as a supply of potential deaths to be drawn from when things are getting a bit dry. There’s typically at least some effort to give them characterization so that these resulting deaths have some emotional resonance, but ...

Die Review

Doctor Who review won't be up until Tuesday at the earliest, as I spent most of Sunday running my Werewolf: The Apocalypse game and didn't watch it until late. But speaking of my gaming habit, I got a chance to read the first issue of Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans's forthcoming comic Die, so I can at least tell you all sorts of interesting stuff about that. Well, sort of. This is my first time in the weird realm of embargos and "spoiler-free" reviews. So I have to tell you how awesome this thing is without actually telling you anything about it that hasn't already been spilled in interviews already.

Let's start with the obvious. This thing is awesome. It's a fascinating book that has all the signs of being a major statement on the nature of fantasy and escapism. You should definitely pre-order it; if you buy physical comics, call your local shop. If you're into digital or haven't really bought many comics and just want an easy way to do the thing, you can pre-order it on Comixology. Pre-ordering is massively important with comics because it is an insane industry where nothing ...

10,000 Dawns: Poor Man's Illiad

This is a sponsored post by James Wylder. If you're interested in having your project featured on Eruditorum Press, you can e-mail me at snowspinner at gmail dot com. 

 

 

History can be fascinating, you just need the right storytellers.

One thing that always frustrated me growing up as I read science-fiction and fantasy was the tendency for there to be massive detailed backstories to some of my favorite universes that could only be read in summary. The stories that hung at the edges of another story, propping it up but forever remaining elusive. Of course, getting older, I began to realize why telling those stories often wasn’t a good idea: they were often piecemeal, a series of interlinked events that couldn’t easily be formed into something good. Trying to shove them into a traditional narrative was a recipe for disaster. As my friends and I started working on our own series of sci-fi books we called “10,000 Dawns”, I began to wonder...what if we could find a way to tell those stories?

After some playing around, I came up with the idea for my new anthology, “10,000 Dawns: Poor Man’s ...

These Things of Darkness - Part 1

Dismembered Bits and Pieces of an Introduction;

A Fingerpost Pointing in Various Directions, Some Wiser to Travel Than Others

 

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It would be obvious and banal to repeat the observation, employed by every hack journalist tasked with writing some bit of Dracula fluff, that “the Count will never lie down”.  Similarly, it would be obvious and banal to liken the spread of Dracula around the world and throughout culture to the exponential, viral expansion of vampirism that would ensue if vampires were actually real.  It would be no more than stating the fact that Dracula is a successful commodity or brand. That is what successful commodities or brands do. They reproduce. Seemingly without human input and out of human control, to the point of threatening people.  They seem to do this despite the fact that their reproduction is actually a result of human production. As with vampires, commodities are reproduced by the parasitism upon, and negation of, the human subject. Capital is the vampire battening on us, as Marx saw.  Commodity production hollows people out. Capital expands as humanity shrinks. The similarity between the viral commodity and Dracula is a tautology, since it has been so successful precisely because it ...

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