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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. Aaron
    September 10, 2012 @ 4:13 am

    I don't dislike Deceit for any reasons of it being generic. I dislike Deceit because after almost exactly the midway point it becomes one mindless action scene- something the books could never quite figure out was really boring in prose form. And that scene goes on and on and on and more things are chainsawed to death, and Absolom continues to be a boring macho action figure that no one cares about, and then he chainsaws another thing and oh god kill me now.


  2. Neo Tuxedo
    September 10, 2012 @ 4:26 am

    We’ll deal with the specific iconography of aliens and conspiracy theories in a Pop Between Realities post that you get no points whatsoever for correctly guessing.

    Now you're just whistling past the graveyard. B-)

    of the post-Cold War anxiety to the effect of “what are all of these dangerous Cold Warriors going to do now that they don’t have a war to fight?”

    It sometimes seems to me that what they did, at least in the US, was continue the fight on the home front, against a Democrat [sic] Party they saw as the last holdout of the International Communist Conspiracy. And they're still doing it, as witness their portrayal of a cool, considerate man slightly to the right of Nixon as some sort of blood-crazed Mau-Mau Zedong.


  3. Ununnilium
    September 10, 2012 @ 7:24 am

    Hm. Interesting point about UFOs and conspiracies as being what we're worried about when we don't have anything else. (Of course, if one wants to play with those same theories, one could say that wars and such are what aliens and conspiracies create to divert attention from themselves.)

    Also, I was wondering about Grimdark Ace. Makes sense that she'd be part of the zeitgeist that brought us Image Comics, all smartbombs and not quite getting the original. I'm also going to guess that the character's portrayal in Lungbarrow, which seems weird out of context, is an explicit reaction against this.


  4. Adam Riggio
    September 10, 2012 @ 8:28 am

    The 'infected TARDIS' plotline, to me at least, doesn't seem a plotline as a recurring idea that nothing was openly done with. The 'infected TARDIS' is the reason why important plot events happened, but it flits around the far edges of the storyline from Witch Mark to here. It isn't dealt with as much as its effects are dealt with, and then it disappears. But something like an infection in the TARDIS should be something more noteworthy than what we got in this series of books. I remember what you wrote in your essay on The Enemy of the World, that what made Salamander a truly radical villain was that he penetrated the TARDIS; being able to affect the TARDIS is the sign of intense danger. But the 'infected TARDIS' is just a vague lurking.

    It actually reminded me of one fan theory I came across about the Colin Baker era, oddly enough. This theory (which, like all theories, makes just enough sense to be true, without having to be true) is that, like the Mr Darcy arc for Colin's Doctor, there was a long game in play for the planned seasons 22-24/5. Attack of the Cybermen, Mark of the Rani, The Two Doctors, and Timelash all involved shenanigans with time experiments, and in many cases the Time Lords were indirectly or directly involved. The theory goes that the original plan was to build slowly to an epic conspiracy at the heart of Time Lord society that the Doctor would uncover. Of course, this is probably blatantly untrue, as the quality of the late Saward era indicates pretty strongly that the production was falling apart. But it would have been difficult for even a competent production at the time to seed that kind of subtle thread through a series over several years.

    One series that did so in the 1990s was (he wrote not expecting to receive any points at all) was The X-Files. But they produced enough episodes in a year that they could put a minor element in one episode, have a major confrontation about it around October, not mention the conspiracy again until after Xmas, have another conspiracy episode to close out the year, and spend the rest of the season on adventures of the week and comedy interludes. Doctor Who having only six or seven stories a year in the mid-80s, couldn't treat its recurring elements that sparsely. The NAs could have done it better, having 12 books each year by this time, and books being a media better suited to close reading and scrutiny than television before the ubiquity of dvd box sets. In the case of the 'infected TARDIS,' unfortunately, they didn't.


  5. Ununnilium
    September 10, 2012 @ 8:52 am

    This is a problem with shared universes, where one writer will drop an interesting concept into the world, but nobody who follows after them is interested in playing with it. You see this in comics a fair bit.


  6. Jesse
    September 10, 2012 @ 9:16 am

    in the 1950s when the second World War wrapped up and before the Cold War hit full scary imagination

    Actually, it coincided very much with the Cold War hitting full scary imagination.

    a similar switch towards there being uncanny things that threatened us instead of concrete fears

    I can't resist pointing out that the most infamous American hysteria over the uncanny — the Salem witch trials — were very closely associated with the fear of Indian attacks.


  7. Tommy
    September 10, 2012 @ 10:56 am

    "the anti-Thatcher counterculture that had been so neglected by Doctor Who over much of the 1980s."

    I still don't entirely buy this.

    I think you could make a case that Seasons 18-20 were apolitical, and even then I'm not convinced Terminus doesn't have the horrors of how badly the underclass are suffering under Thatcher's Britain, on its mind. Or that The Visitation doesn't have an echo of the aftermath of the current riots.

    The problem as I see it is that Seasons 21-23 were political and against the state, but in the worst way. In which by demonising those in power, everything else that the people did was justified as comparatively fair game.

    The era seemed to tap into the more harmful public attitudes that came about in the wake of the 1981 riots, in which the public seemed to be almost on the rioters' side against the police who were pacifying them, and so rampant violence and criminality was being almost condoned and celebrated in defiance of a corrupt state and corrupt police force. Where in the absence of justice, people started to demonise the police and think of themselves as laws unto themselves and think it was their right to treat each other and their communities as horribly as they liked- infact it almost seemed like the tyranny of violence became the glue holding broken families and communities together.

    This attitude was in Season 21 and 22 as well, or at least was tapped into, under JNT and Saward's cynical, hopeless wino's vision of the show. In which the police were even more demonised (Resurrection of the Daleks), the Doctor was reinterpreted as a domestic tyrant (Twin Dilemma) and also the Doctor would praise criminals (Attack of the Cybermen) and violent mobs (Warriors of the Deep) almost as if the fact they were violent outlaws made them worth championing and protecting from the state (at least Vengeance on Varos had more worthy things to say about the problems with our justice system and why hysterical lynch mobs are a bad thing). And basically the Doctor, who was always a law unto himself, was now becoming that unhealthy 80's idea of what being a law unto yourself means, in which he was either the enabler or instigator of violence.

    One could argue whether this was the show being deliberately political, or just following the zeitgeist of shows like Comic Strip Presents (particularly the episodes Slags and Gino), or the movie The Long Good Friday which was about that constant state of vengeful social rage of the disenfranchised being impossible to appease and finally bringing the rich and corrupt down into ruins. But to me the show was always left wing in the 80's (The Two Doctors excepted of course). The problem was it was left wing in the worst, most corrosive and destructive way.


  8. drfgsdgsdf
    September 10, 2012 @ 11:49 am

    Much like The Pit, I find Deceit interesting despite the book itself.

    First of all it's written by the editor Darvill-Evans. Back in other eras it's become almost irresistable to discuss the producer and the script editors and their influences on the text and shape of Who. From the start of the NAs D-E had to act as both, appealing to the audience, giving the works identity and encouraging new talent. And to his credit he did a damn good job. But his best quality was his openess to new ideas.

    In the 2001 DWM special they show his original plans for the NA books and how the Doctor would collect companions over the series, for some galactic finale later on in the series. It feels like the NAs would have been less like Gaiman and more like 80s DC (?)

    Then Cornell came along and D-E recognised the talent and by giving him such an important book allowed him to shape the NAs and give them a different identity. The problem is that D-E isn't able to change enough to catch Cornell's pass. I'm certain would've seemed more spectacular if there had been no Cornell or Platt. For me this book shows a good editor whose original plans have been completely surpassed.


  9. Josh Marsfelder
    September 10, 2012 @ 11:54 am

    I love the distinction you draw here between Cartmel-era Doctor Who and New Adventures-era Doctor Who in regards to how Sylvester McCoy's Doctor was envisioned. I think there's a troubling tendency in some sectors of fandom to think these two interpretations are the same and the the New Adventures were the logical conclusion of what happened in the televised McCoy era when in reality they are two connected, though different, readings. This is the best summation of that shift I've read.


  10. drfgsdgsdf
    September 10, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

    It's worth mentioning that D-E added references to the infected Tardis to Love and War, and asked that The Pit show the Doctor as unwell. This was all to build to his planned "finale" of Deceit. Just as he later added references to the Chronovore to some of the earlier Alt-Universe books.

    Another influence I detected in Deceit was from either Dungeons and Dragons or the increasingly popular Warhammer. D-E wrote the roleplaying game "Timelord"

    Much is made of the Medieval style castle setting and the space marines (although precious little is really done with either) and one of the book's biggest flaws is that after the first 1/3 it gives the characters so little to do. Once the Doctor and his party land on the planet, they run and escape, and fight and escape, with the same enemies over and over until they reach Pool.(150 pages thereof)

    To me, this 'spinning out" quality are very remiscent of a D&D campaign


  11. Ununnilium
    September 10, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

    Hmmmm! Good point.


  12. sleepyscholar
    September 10, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

    Darvers not only wrote Timelord, he had earlier worked for Games Workshop (he was my first boss), and he also wrote Fighting Fantasy books. So the RPG connection is indeed pretty strong, making your D&D theory quite compelling.


  13. Aaron
    September 10, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

    Yeah, I'd agree with Jesse. From my own research the Cold War fears are highest at the very beginning of the Cold War, from about 48-54. After 54, with Stalin dead and McCarthy disgraced, the interest in communist subversion in the country goes away, at least until the Cuban Missile Crisis. Plus, I mean, this right at the point when the Soviets get the atomic bomb. That's the scary part of the Cold War.

    Of course, to be fair, regular American men and women were never really scared of the Soviet threat at any point, except around the Cuban Missile Crisis. Polls taken at the time show most Americans were more worried about getting a job and raising children than any foreign threats.


  14. Iain Coleman
    September 10, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

    That's interesting. By rights, the scary part of the Cold War should have begun in late 1955, when the Soviet Union develops its hydrogen bomb. That's when the outlook for WWIII goes from "WWII mass bombing on fast forward" to "total annihilation, the survivors will envy the dead". And less than two years later Sputnik demonstrates Soviet ballistic missile capability. I wonder why, in the popular imagination, fear subsided at the time when the potential danger was vastly increasing.


  15. Jesse
    September 10, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

    The interest in communist subversion doesn't disappear after 1954, but the McCarthy moment does end. J. Hoberman's recent book An Army of Phantoms discusses the subject intelligently, and yes, he brings the UFO scare into the picture.

    Of course, the fear of the bomb and the fear of subversion are different things — strongly linked, but still distinct.


  16. Josh Marsfelder
    September 10, 2012 @ 7:30 pm

    A quick, late thought: What about the UFO "flap" craze that was arguably a huge part of pop culture in the 1970s (the era of John Keel, blockbuster science fiction movies and spacey glam rock)? Do you see that as, say, an extension/repositioning of the space craze of the late-1960s instead?


  17. Adam Riggio
    September 11, 2012 @ 2:25 pm

    In a way, this makes the current production model for Doctor Who, where all the general directions and script ideas are at the direction of a single Svengali before whom all must bow down, better for this kind of approach. Davies or Moffatt (esp. Moffatt) could come up with a detailed story arc for the entire season, direct the individual writers on what to include, and then re-edit their scripts before production to reflect better his own priorities anyway.

    Of course, as soon as someone with less talent than Davies and Moffatt takes over the reins as showrunner, Doctor Who is going to explode. But it's the duty of the current producers to delay that inevitable collapse as long as possible.


  18. Peter McDonald
    September 14, 2012 @ 7:30 am

    Sorry to sound an arse, but did you mean to say "As I explained EARLIER, this is not one of the most beloved of New Adventures"?

    I've been proof-reading at work recently; quite disturbing its seeped into my real life!


  19. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 14, 2012 @ 7:31 am

    I didn't, actually – I was making a small joke based on the name of the lead-in section in which I established its lack of belovedness. What I did wrong was forget to include the "I'll Explain Later" header on that section for this entry.


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