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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Daibhid C
    January 14, 2013 @ 2:15 am

    The most fundemental evidence of Iris's effect on narrative structure is surely that she quite literally wandered into Doctor Who from a different narrative entirely. Apparently she first appeared in Magrs's mainstream magic realism novels, which I haven't read.

    As someone who has a tendency to go the anorak route, while appreciating the other viewpoint this blog represents, it's quite interesting to bear this post in mind while reading the discussions on the TARDIS Wiki about which versions of Iris "count", and why. As you say, the central point of the character is that Iris herself couldn't care less.


  2. Prole Hole
    January 14, 2013 @ 6:04 am

    I'm a big fan of the narrative discontinuity that Iris brings, but I completely understand why she comes across as utterly insufferable to other fans. The Scarlet Empress is one of the early highlights of the early EDAs (though Seeing I should absolutely be read, it's just a wonderful book) and the whole lyrical, fantastical approach was something of a breath of fresh air, akin to getting to the Mind Robber after endless base-under-seige stories. If Iris has a flaw is that repetition across the range tended to lead to diminishing returns (EDAs, PDAs, audios…).


  3. Adam Riggio
    January 14, 2013 @ 6:25 am

    Another aspect of Iris that I find intriguing is her portrayal in the audios by Katy Manning. I'd like to hear, on the blog proper or in someone's book version, your take on her performance as a figure with more mercury than the Doctor. After all, she's well-practiced at it, this having basically been Jo Grant's narrative relationship with Jon Pertwee's Doctor.

    Maybe The Wormery would be a good audio to cover in an upcoming book. Given your critiques of the Colin Baker era, especially the excessive influence anorak-style fans had on its aesthetic, an audio co-written by Paul Magrs and co-starring Katy Manning would make for a fascinating analysis.

    That reminds me that I should go listen to The Wormery again.


  4. Elizabeth Sandifer
    January 14, 2013 @ 6:35 am

    I do Find and Replace in the Pertwee book.


  5. Ununnilium
    January 14, 2013 @ 7:25 am

    I seriously need to check out some Wildthyme. What's generally considered her best book/audio?


  6. Tommy
    January 14, 2013 @ 7:52 am

    I think a good primer for Iris is to listen to The Wormery. It was my first introduction to her and I enjoyed it a lot. Enchanting I think was the word. However from there I started listening to her own solo audio spin-off series, and they kind of put me off her and made me realize I wasn't a fan of the character. I only tent to like Iris in small doses as a part time guest.

    It might also be that I don't tend to like Paul Magrs' work unless he has a co-author to counterbalance his excesses and his adulation for the character. Nothing Iris related, but I was pretty repulsed by his The Boy That Time Forgot to the point it nearly killed Big Finish for me.


  7. Arkadin
    January 14, 2013 @ 8:00 am

    The Big Finish companion chronicle Find and Replace–in which Katy Manning plays both Jo and Iris–is well worth listening to.


  8. Elizabeth Sandifer
    January 14, 2013 @ 10:02 am

    Equally, this is the debut and the natural starting point. And is quite good and fun.


  9. Arkadin
    January 14, 2013 @ 10:43 am

    Incidentally, I'm curious if anyone has read any of Magrs's non-Who novels, and which are considered the best. There doesn't seem to be a lot of crossover in his readership between his "literary" work and his Doctor Who work.


  10. Jesse
    January 14, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

    I haven't read any of his "literary" books, but I've read NEVER THE BRIDE, in which the Bride of Frankenstein runs a bed & breakfast and solves mysteries. I found it entertaining.


  11. Dr. Happypants
    January 14, 2013 @ 2:41 pm

    "I'm a big fan of the narrative discontinuity that Iris brings, but I completely understand why she comes across as utterly insufferable to other fans."

    I'm glad you said that, Prole Hole! Conversely, I completely understand why Magrs and Iris and The Scarlet Empress appeal to some people, but I just find Magrs' work, and TSE particularly, just…a slog. His style is just not to my taste at all; his kind of literary playfulness is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Again, it's purely a personal aesthetic thing, nothing I'd want to make and defend a serious intellectual case against.

    When Philip says…

    "Why wouldn’t we want the central organizing force of our narrative to be nothing so much as an overflowing, libidinous glee?"

    …my reply would be, "That'd be great if Magrs and Iris were fun for me, but they aren't."

    I want to like his stuff, I really do. For me, the problem comes down to this…

    I like unapologetic science fiction and fantasy a lot more than I like metafictional magical realism.

    In TSE, Magrs has a lot to say about narrative and adventure fiction, couched in the form of adventure fiction, but TSE just doesn't work very well on the adventure fiction level. None of his stuff that I've read or heard has been particularly strong on the plot level, and most of his non-Iris characters are fairly thinly-sketched. His ideas and imagery fail to grab me because he never manages to convince me that his approach actually leads to better, more fun storytelling rather than just…commentary.

    TSE is a piece of adventure fiction that doesn't really deliver the pleasures I get from a solid adventure yarn, and instead offers something else, a something else that isn't, on its own, to my taste. If he could combine that same literary playfulness with a story that really did beat pulp adventure at its own game too–a more engaging plot, richer characters, greater tension, more thrills, a more compelling world–then I'd be sold.


  12. Adam Riggio
    January 14, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

    I hadn't heard of Find and Replace until you mentioned it in this thread, and after researching it on the internet, I have come to these solid conclusions.

    1. I very much want to listen to this play.
    2. I am convinced that this play was written specifically for Phil Sandifer to analyze.


  13. Daibhid C
    January 15, 2013 @ 2:29 am

    Strictly speaking (puts on anorak), Iris made her debut in a Fourth Doctor story in the original Short Trips volume, but there's only a handful of months in it, and that story possibly works better as a "teaser" of "here's this mad character, if you're intrigued, buy Scarlet Empress" than an actual introduction.


  14. Nick Smale
    January 15, 2013 @ 5:31 am

    Of all the books I've read with the words "Doctor Who" on the cover – and there are many – I think this is my very favourite. Just enormously fun, and funny, and joyful.


  15. Archeology of the Future
    January 15, 2013 @ 7:51 am

    What interests me is that from the Eight Doctor onwards we get writers aware enough of how the Doctor works that they realise certain questions about who and what the Doctor is and what the Doctor means need to be shunted off into characters like Iris and Jack Harkness because the New Adventures showed what happens to an ongoing narrative if you try to answer them within the Doctor himself.


  16. Dan Abel
    January 15, 2013 @ 8:00 am

    I read Magrs earlier work (Marked for Life,
    Does it Show? & Could It be Magic? ) after reading Scarlet Empress and enjoyed them a lot – but i think that the milage may vary. His work from 2000 on, less so.

    I've also really enjoyed the early Brenda and Effie books, but the later ones remain good holiday novels, though i do adore the BBC radio play.


  17. Steven Clubb
    January 15, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

    Find & Replace is probably the better of the two to do. The Wormery is a bit of fun, but as it's deconstructing the whole concept of the Valeyard, I find it steps off a cliff in the home stretch. Since no one seems to have a particularly clear view of what the Valeyard is (beyond evil Doctor guy), it's pretty resistant to efforts to deconstruct it.

    Find & Replace manages to take the madness that is Iris and force her into a coherent story, and a touching farewell to the late Jon Pertwee.


  18. Steven Clubb
    January 15, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

    The Womery is fun, although I think it falls apart in the home-stretch.

    The first two installments of her on-going series are kind of there.

    So, I'd say her second series, which parody four different eras. Panda is the most awesome character ever.


  19. Ununnilium
    January 15, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

    Hmmmmmm… interesting point. Of course, sometimes they do anyway.


  20. Seeing_I
    January 25, 2013 @ 5:05 am

    Everybody really out to check out the 1934 film "The Scarlet Empress" from which this novel takes its name. Like 1930's classic "The Blue Angel," it stars Marlene Dietrich and was directed by the genius Josef von Sternberg. The film "The Scarlet Empress" is a warped epic fairy tale of sexual politics with wicked humor and breathtakingly gorgeous cinematography. One of the all-time great gay icons, Marlene Dietrich, plays the notorious Catherine the Great. Notice how often the director puts her in proximity to horses…


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