Saturday Waffling (May 31st, 2014)


So, the Last War in Albion Kickstarter wraps today. If you've not contributed, please think about doing so.

All of which said, thank you. I say this often enough, but it really does bear repeating. I have a phenomenally cool job. The reason I can do this job, though, is that all of you are repeatedly willing to support me, whether by buying books or backing my periodic Kickstarters. (And I already have one in mind for 2015 that I think I can guarantee everyone will be very excited about.) You're an incredibly generous, lovely bunch of readers, and I'm proud as hell to have earned the respect and love from people as fantastic as you.

I won't lie, this Kickstarter was a bit scary for me. I've had the sense that Last War in Albion was starting to go well, but I didn't really know if it was a project that was going to make it. It needed to find a way to start earning money, and I really wasn't sure how much it could earn. And while it's clearly not as popular as my Doctor Who stuff (which is unsurprising, given the relative size of television's audience versus comics' audience - in the US, Doctor Who at its lowest-rated episodes are seen by more people than buy the highest-selling comics several times over), it's also clearly a project that has legs, which is heartening given that I absolutely adore writing it.

So here I am, about ninety minutes into what is technically Saturday morning, having wrapped up writing up A Christmas Carol (my buffer on Eruditorum is not what it used to be) and about to grill some burgers in a midnight drizzle before sitting down with them, a bottle of wine, and... actually, it would be spoiling things to tell you what the next episode I'm going to watch, wouldn't it? Everything I get to write about for the next month excites me. Sometimes it terrifies me (the Swamp Thing chapter is 11.5k already and is not even vaguely in the neighborhood of almost done. I think that chapter is going to end up being longer than the Flood book), but it thrills me. I'm astonishingly blessed to get to do all of this work. Astonishingly.

So thank you. No clever discussion topic or anything like that. Just thank you. Thank you so much.



Anton B 2 years, 8 months ago

Please accept a very English, self deprecating, polite and concise -
'No. Thank you '

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elvwood 2 years, 8 months ago


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jane 2 years, 8 months ago

Okay, I'll be the first to say, "You're quite welcome."

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storiteller 2 years, 8 months ago

Thank you for all of the wonderful writing you have shared with us! I'm proud to be a supporter of your Kickstarters. I have to say - I wish I had your writing in grad school. I think I would have understand the times we talked about critical analysis much more.

For those interested in the Moffatt and feminism debate, this is a really interesting info graphic from an academic project analyzing how often Davies and Moffatt episodes passed the Bechdel Test and how much companions spoke per episode.

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evilsoup 2 years, 8 months ago

Finally, scientific proof that Donna is the best.

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Bennett 2 years, 8 months ago

I'm really interested in reading Phil's response to this as an academic in the relevant field, but rather than sensibly wait for it I just can't resist sticking my oar in a little. I don't intend for this to come across as a personal attack on its author, and I really don't want to be associated with the simpletons throwing vitriol at her in that page's comment section. Please read this with that tone in mind (but also pick me up on it if I stray from that tone).

The Bechdel Test wasn't designed for use in this context, but the sharp disparity between the two eras should be acknowledged. While I'm not sure it can work as an objective metric, examples of the exchanges on which an episode was deemed to pass/fail would be illustrative. Sadly, these are not provided.

The companion speaking time is an odd measure, and clearly subject to statistical oddities. I mean, Rose has the second lowest average time by a fair margin, and for two years it was her show. I suspect the number of companions is a major bias factor here - both Rose and Amy shared the TARDIS for a nontrivial proportion of their time in the series. Cameo appearances must also be a factor: Rose is surely weighed down by Series 4, and the episode count Amy is credited with suggests that at least one of Closing Time and The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe was included. Similarly, Donna's high time was likely buoyed up by Turn Left alone.

The writeup, while clearly not a part of the academic submission, also has some concerns for me - particularly the way in which fan debate is characterised as a two sided war with each side ascribed a certain belief. You don't have to swing an Ergon too far in this fandom to hit someone who doesn't pass off feminist arguments as "too sensitive" or "you're just pining for Davies" - but instead appreciates the strengths, weaknesses and complexities of Moffat's female characters. (As an aside, I have found The Impossible Girls podcast to be an interesting listen of late. It features a group of young, passionate fans sharing their understanding of the Moffat era and articulating their emotional connection to it. Makes such a refreshing change from the staid and tired old curmudgeons that are usually the voice of fandom.)

I guess my feelings are that there's better ways to measure feminism than with a stopwatch, and better ways to quantify media studies than with a pithy infographic.

But at the very least, these are statistics worth revealing and this is a debate that is certainly worth having. And no-one said the prosecution had to be fair.

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Jordan Murphy 2 years, 8 months ago

Thank you for the reminder that the Kickstarter for Last War in Albion ends today. I'd been meaning to contribute what paltry amount my meager finances can accomodate, but kept putting it off. No longer.

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 8 months ago

Congrats! I don't really read it because I'm not that familiar with the material, but I might check out the Sandman volume since I'm trying to read that (I still have to start Volume 3...)

Supposedly a Doctor Who trailer is airing tonight before Casualty? One with actual footage?

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 8 months ago

Clara isn't counted, and she has an 82% pass rate so far. Also her speaking time would be higher due to lack of an additional companion.

Somehow "The Girl in the Fireplace" doesn't count, despite it having a minute conversation in which Rose warns Reinette.

River disagrees with the Doctor plenty of times. (Also it's fair to note that Rose becomes increasingly dependent on the Doctor, while River becomes increasingly independent, but of course her story is shown backward.)

Moffat's episodes tend to be more centered around the main characters and give less screen time to supporting ones. (Just look at the finales especially...and there are many episodes with a small cast regardless, like Craig's episodes, "The Girl Who Wait" [which wasn't counted in the study], "Let's Kill Hitler", etc)

There are lots of flaws, obviously, and there are people who have gone way more in depth than I did. I personally just wish people would stop simplifying the characters.

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Bennett 2 years, 8 months ago

"Somehow "The Girl in the Fireplace" doesn't count, despite it having a minute conversation in which Rose warns Reinette."

I assume that conversation would not count as it was largely about the Doctor (as would the conversation between Reinette and Catherine because it regarded King Louis). Again, it is worth emphasising that the test is being employed here for a purpose it wasn't really designed for.

In other news, thanks to the Guardian* this 'study' has now received an official response from Faith Penhale - the Executive Producer of The Day of the Doctor recently seen collecting that production's well-deserved BAFTA. To be honest, this whole situation is getting me a bit steamed - not at the original author whose intentions were probably benign, but at the Internet snark brigade twisting that work into an assault on a writer who is more invested in defending the right for feminist critique than in defending himself. I must have missed the Guardian's post about that.

*I'd link to the Guardian blog entry in question, but I don't care to support clickbait. I just wish web browsers had a redaction option.

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Andy 2 years, 8 months ago

Thanks for the blog. I'm a lurking reader and this post made me get my arse in gear to give you something back. Sorry it can't be more.

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Nyq Only 2 years, 8 months ago

"I guess my feelings are that there's better ways to measure feminism than with a stopwatch, and better ways to quantify media studies than with a pithy infographic."

I can imagine that there are many ways to study feminism but I'm not sure if there are better ways to measure it than looking at lengths of time that women lead a conversation.

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 8 months ago

I think this is a really impressive piece of undergraduate research. There are a wealth of methodological critiques to be had, yes, but if it were one of my students writing this, I'd be proud as hell to be able to call myself their teacher.

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Bennett 2 years, 8 months ago

Well put, Phil.

I do want to reiterate, as vehement as my above rantings are, that I bear no ill will towards the author; nor do I doubt either her intentions or her skill as a media student (it's a lot better than some of the crap I wrote for my undergraduate degree). Again, it's the repurposing of her work by others who represent it as something it is not that really grinds my gears, but that is beyond her control.

So I'll revert back to my first closing statement (and where I probably should have left it): whatever minor quibbles I may have, these are statistics worth discussing and a debate worth having.

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mewiet 2 years, 8 months ago

"I assume that conversation would not count as it was largely about the Doctor"

It wasn't, it was largely about Reinette and the threat coming for her. According to Moore's stipulations - more than two lines of exchange by named women with allowed brief mentions of a man that, if removed, would not have any impact on the topic at hand - it passes.

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mengu 2 years, 8 months ago

They say Dalek passes and Let's Kill Hitler fails.

On a larger scale it can be useful, but it needs to be based on accurate data.

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Daru 2 years, 8 months ago

Hey, thank you Phil! I feel really grateful for your work and for this blog's community. Well done!

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peeeeeeet 2 years, 8 months ago

It wasn't, it was largely about Reinette and the threat coming for her.

If we're looking at the same scene, eleven out of 22 lines refer directly to the Doctor and a couple more indirectly. I don't see how you can remove these references without removing an important purpose of the scene which is the development of Reinette's attitude to the Doctor based on Rose sharing her experience.

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Jack Graham 2 years, 8 months ago

Interesting little study.

It reminds me - very faintly, and I don't make any claim to any comparable degree of scrupulousness - of a little study I myself made of reactions at Gallifrey Base after the showing of an episode.

It seemed to me that, after every episode aired, the Rate-It thread would be deluged with broadly positive responses, only challenged in number by the amount of complaints about suffocating negativity. So I made a little study of the Rate-It thread for 'Vampires of Venice' (it just happened to be the next story to be shown) once the thread was a few days old.

I created four categories, something like 'Positive', 'Mostly Positive', 'Mostly Negative' and 'Negative'. I included all posts (not excluding multiple posts by the same author, since I was guaging the feel of the thread) and posts of all lengths, from one word responses to longer ones.

I found - as I recall - that Positive responses outnumbered all other types combined. I thus concluded that the widespread perception on the boards that the threads were deluged with complaints and negativity were wholly mistaken.

Of course, looking back, I should have also counted how many posts complained about complaints and negativity, and thus quantified the accuracy of my own perception that large numbers of people were complaining about a phantasmic avalanche of complaints.

I posted my results in-thread but nobody took any notice. Except to call me anal. Which may have been a fair point.

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Kit Power 2 years, 8 months ago

Hey, you keep writing 'em, I'll keep buying 'em.

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