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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.

12 Comments

  1. Ross
    December 19, 2012 @ 3:02 am

    I only ever encountered Oh No It Isn't as a Big Finish audio — the Virgin NAs became too hard to find for me not long after 'The Also People' hit shelves, but I immediately found it fantastic (It helps that I work somewhere that holds a ball every year, giving me a chance to appropriate the "The King's balls get bigger every year" joke). When I found out that Big Finish was doing a Benny line, I was initially ambivalent — I'd always found Benny sort of insufferable in the books. But out on her own, without the weight of the "Darker and Edgier" Virgin NA line around her, it turned out that the character was just a lot of fun. (It undoubtedly helps that it was no longer the 1990s and I was no longer twelve)

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  2. goatie
    December 19, 2012 @ 3:43 am

    Regarding your assertion that the pantomime tradition is largely lost on Americans: I agree that is the case for mainstream America. But this book wasn't intended for them; it was intended for the Doctor Who fans, who were a subculture with quite differing interests. It's not so much the case with the new series, but I'd argue that American Who fans in the 90s tended to be Anglophiles, and the book buyers moreso. They'd either be familiar with panto or immediately have something new they'd want to learn about.

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  3. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 19, 2012 @ 3:47 am

    Yes, but this was still early days of the Internet. Was there a "giant guide to Panto" floating around anywhere? I mean, I'm familiar with it in broad strokes and did my homework before reading this book such that I knew most of the major plots and conventions, but it was still a strange experience. I suspect general Anglophilia is not sufficient to tackle this one.

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  4. Dr. Happypants
    December 19, 2012 @ 6:13 am

    "I suspect general Anglophilia is not sufficient to tackle this one."

    It definitely wasn't for me: reading this book when it first came out was like going to a party only to find everyone else there in incomprehensible fancy dress sharing in-jokes that were probably funny if you were in on them but…

    I followed the Benny books because I loved the character, but good God, Virgin didn't make it easy.

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  5. David Anderson
    December 19, 2012 @ 7:39 am

    "I suspect general Anglophilia is not sufficient to tackle this one."

    Oh yes it is!

    Sorry – had to be said.
    I can't actually imagine how to start explaining a British pantomime to someone who hasn't been to one. (Saying that it's as camp as a bunch of drag queens living in tents is only a start.)

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  6. Adam Riggio
    December 19, 2012 @ 8:07 am

    I have never read Oh No It Isn't. I have no idea what I would have thought of it had I read it when it first came out, at age 14. As I read your summary of the book (sci-fi meets panto), I could only agree with your assessment: What the H was Paul Cornell thinking.

    All I knew of panto at the time was a Monty Python sketch where Puss in Boots appears to menace John Cleese dressed as a fascist torturer who has ways of making you talk, which devolved into an exchange of "Oh no it isn't!" with Cleese's "Oh yes it is!" It was funny, but I had no idea what was happening.

    Really, the only way Doctor Who fans in America would know anything about panto is trying to figure out what kind of weird kinky drag show John Barrowman goes into every Xmas, and following Colin Baker's twitter feed. And even then, it's just kind of fucked up.

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  7. Dougie
    December 19, 2012 @ 9:11 am

    Panto is one of the great joys of Xmas. Before I moved to the parochial and retrograde North-East of Scotland- a kind of middle-class military forces fantasy of 1950s values in a setting of social deprivation and marked financial inequity- I would attend at least three pantos in Glasgow at this time of year.

    Rambunctious retellings of fairy tales with cross dressing, vaudevillian set pieces and topical jokes, they are probably an impenetrable theatrical form to US natives.

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  8. Matthew Blanchette
    December 19, 2012 @ 9:53 am

    Quite. Yeh krahzy baestarrrds. 😛

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  9. Iain Coleman
    December 19, 2012 @ 5:37 pm

    Panto has to be experienced to be understood. I wish I could help, but I can't.

    I also wish I had something substantive to say about this story, but I remember literally nothing about it. It's on my bookshelf, evidently I read it at some point, but not one word of it has stuck in my mind.

    And that's my problem with the Bernice Summerfield NAs generally. I found so many of them utterly forgettable, even when they were written by author's whose Who-NA work I had greatly admired.

    For me, the Benny adventures fell into three classes:

    1. Books I never read
    2. Books I read but immediately forgot all about
    3. Books by Lawrence Miles.

    Miles at least was determined to be strange, provocative and driven by a unique creative and ideological agenda. For the other authors, the Benny adventures just seemed to be stuff happening.

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  10. sleepyscholar
    December 19, 2012 @ 8:02 pm

    With immaculate timing, the current issue of Doctor Who magazine has a long feature on panto. It goes some way towards explaining what it's about, especially with the connections to commedia del'arte and the Bakhtinian carnivalesque, combining with the luvvie reminiscences that give a better idea of how it functions in practice. But of course, there is no substitute for direct experience.

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  11. The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca
    December 20, 2012 @ 3:43 am

    There is a panto tradition here in Canada.

    I hate them.

    This is not a very enliving comment, I am aware. I just needed to state, for the record, that I hate Panto, and everything about Panto that isn't the Pantomime horse sketches in Monty Python.

    "Here we see a pantomime Princess Margaret engaged in a life or death struggle with a breakfast…"

    Reply

  12. neroden@gmail
    December 14, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

    For me, the really great Benny books are:
    1 – Walking to Babylon (the absolutely definitive book on the lurking "Time War" concept)
    2 – Beige Planet Mars
    The second grade ones:
    3 – Ship of Fools
    4 – Dry Pilgrimage
    5 – Twilight of the Gods

    Walking to Babylon defines the "Serious Benny", as later done by Big Finish. Beige Planet Mars defines the "Silly Benny", as later done by Big Finish — but is actually a book with a serious emotional heart and some intense thoughts. "Dry Pilgrimage" and "Ship of Fools" are books which "get" the basic Benny structural principles, and "Ship of Fools" is notable for being possibly the most fan-oriented book ever, with Dave Stone actually requesting fans on rec.arts.drwho to volunteer their names and methods of being murdered. I don't know if Random Companion still goes to conventions, but I remember meeting her…

    "Twilight of the Gods" is mostly notable for tying up a bunch of very poorly thought out arcs in a way which actually makes sense and is satsifying for the longtime reader, although very few readers seem to have recognized this at the time (I had to explain it to the other writers at the Gallifrey convention, probably because they hadn't read Cold Fusion). It reinforced my feeling that Mark Clapham was a writer who believed in rewarding the fans who'd been reading all along. But it was a "season finale" for a very long series of books — the actual end to the Virgin line.

    The Lawrence Miles stuff in the Benny run isn't very good. It's got the wrong tone for Benny. Which you can tell by the fact that he promptly writes a Benny-free story. Which is still not good because it's still got the wrong tone for Chris Cwej! This is guns vs. frocks again. "Down" works OK only due to the unreliable narrator. But then Miles is generally tone-deaf and mispitches his books.

    Reply

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