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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.

54 Comments

  1. SK
    October 1, 2012 @ 4:14 am

    I liked the Scrabble scene.

    Reply

  2. jane
    October 1, 2012 @ 7:08 am

    Definitely on good form for this one, Phil!

    Reply

  3. Matthew Celestis
    October 1, 2012 @ 7:11 am

    I really love this novel. It is almost my favorite NA, if it were not for the scene with John and Gillian. I really resent Steve Lyons attempt to de-canonise the TV Comic stories. It smacks of the worst kind of fan humourlessness. Doctor Who is so varied in tone and style; if there is room for both the Mythmakers and Caves of Androzani in the canon, surely there is room for The Challenge of the Piper and A Christmas Story?

    Reply

  4. jane
    October 1, 2012 @ 7:12 am

    Oh, but I wonder — is Lyons making a commentary on the kind of problems posed by a tediously Urizenic fandom? After all, the Writer is exactly that sort of fan, right? Or this a case of unintentional irony?

    Reply

  5. Ununnilium
    October 1, 2012 @ 7:29 am

    "If Lyons is trying to parody that by making a dark and violent version of an Adam West-style character, on the other hand, he runs into the problem of misjudging the future: Conundrum’s approach is almost indistinguishable from a Geoff Johns comic."

    Oh snap.

    (Also, I'd judge the Kremlin Accords as being mostly symbolic, but also very useful for preventing General Ripper-style shenanigans.)

    Reply

  6. Ununnilium
    October 1, 2012 @ 7:30 am

    Indeed there is.

    Reply

  7. Matt Michael
    October 1, 2012 @ 7:55 am

    Of course, the Land of Fiction is wider than that, so clearly the Gods of Ragnarok are just another story in the Land of Fiction, just another "Master Brain" McGuffin explanation that's far too timid and too small to explain a place where every story can be told and has been told. The reason I don't have a huge problem with this book is that I imagine it as just another volume on the shelves of the Land of Fiction Master's library. And, of course, the Master is an elderly man with a shock of white hair with a Ship that's bigger on the inside than out. Who just happens to look mysteriously like renowned actor Peter Cushing…

    Reply

  8. Jesse
    October 1, 2012 @ 8:09 am

    I really resent Steve Lyons attempt to de-canonise the TV Comic stories.

    I haven't read the book, but based on what I've heard about it, it sounded more like a clever way to canonize them.

    Reply

  9. BerserkRL
    October 1, 2012 @ 8:42 am

    a run of the mill alternate dimension that’s easily disrupted by McAllerson’s radiation, a concept seemingly utterly lacking in point.

    I haven't read the book, but one of the summaries you linked to says that the Doctor "guessed what was happening when the TARDIS transformed into a gingerbread cottage, and he therefore changed the story by specifying the nature of the Force as McAllister’s Radiation." As I read that, then, the point of the radiation is a metafictional decision on the Doctor's point to MAKE the Land of Fiction a "run of the mill alternate dimension that’s easily disrupted by McAllerson’s radiation." Is that wrong?

    Reply

  10. Matthew Blanchette
    October 1, 2012 @ 8:54 am

    So… nobody up in arms over the "Williams" gravestone, despite the prior reaction to "The God Complex"? Interesting…

    Personally, I loved the episode; what an ending. ;_;

    Reply

  11. David Anderson
    October 1, 2012 @ 9:05 am

    I confess to not understanding the significance of the reference to Geoff Johns. (My google-fu informs me that he's responsible for lots of big Green Lantern event shenanigans.)

    Reply

  12. Ununnilium
    October 1, 2012 @ 9:23 am

    He is… one of the more problematic of the current crop of Big Writers in comics. He has a definite knack for getting to the core of a concept and spinning new, interesting ideas out of that… but, more relevant to the topic at hand, he also has a tendency to bring back old characters without really understanding why they were worth bringing back, and going for boring shock techniques.

    Reply

  13. Ununnilium
    October 1, 2012 @ 9:24 am

    I still haven't seen it. >.>

    Reply

  14. Eric Gimlin
    October 1, 2012 @ 9:33 am

    My problem with the book was that it just got nasty, for lack of a better word. I know part of the point was to show the current Master of the Land of Fiction wasn't a very good writer, but Lyons wasn't able to pull that off completely. To be fair, that's a VERY hard line to walk. But it very much crossed the line from "the current Master is unpleasant and wants to dump on the kid adventurer group as nastily as possible" and "Lyons is unpleasant and wants…"

    I must admit the book was interesting, with a lot of interesting ideas. I just can't call it even remotely enjoyable. Which is not an absolute requirement for a book, but it needs to have a heck of a lot to overcome that.

    Reply

  15. daibhid-c
    October 1, 2012 @ 10:47 am

    In the sense of saying "yes, they technically exist in continuity, but they don't actually have anything to do with the TV Doctor because That Would Be Silly." So one step below the DWM strip that made TV Action land the Doctor's dreamworld in terms of how much they "count", really.

    Reply

  16. Matt Michael
    October 1, 2012 @ 10:57 am

    So, SPOILERS… many ways I loved the episode – beautifully made, possibly THE most beautifully made ever. And the Angels were much more effective here than in their previous story. But I felt the ending got caught up in its own tortuous and poorly articulated logic to the extent that I really don't get what the problem is – especially given River seems perfectly able to go and visit with manuscripts and the like. I get "Rose is trapped in another universe" as an ending. I didn't get this

    Reply

  17. BerserkRL
    October 1, 2012 @ 11:08 am

    Well, the gravestone wasn't a comment by the Doctor; indeed we don't know who wrote it. (Well, I guess it would be the next of kin — meaning River? But she couldn't or wouldn't prove she was next of kin, so more likely some friend?)

    Reply

  18. Jesse
    October 1, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    It was written by Stephen Moffat, of course.

    Reply

  19. BerserkRL
    October 1, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    To Matt (and again, SPOILERS): Right, and if the TARDIS can't go to 1938 NYC, how about 1939 NYC? Or 1938 New Jersey?

    Reply

  20. BerserkRL
    October 1, 2012 @ 11:12 am

    But (still SPOILERS) — the we're-characters-within-a-book idea, and the parallel between angels becoming fixed when you look at them and the past becoming fixed when you read about it were very nice.

    Reply

  21. BerserkRL
    October 1, 2012 @ 11:13 am

    It was written by Stephen Moffat, of course.

    I doubt he's that steady a hand at stonecarving. He probably just told someone else to write it.

    Reply

  22. BerserkRL
    October 1, 2012 @ 11:27 am

    He is also like the Master is being very fond of the word "decimate" — but unlike the Master in not knowing what it means.

    Reply

  23. Matt Michael
    October 1, 2012 @ 11:43 am

    It's really interesting watching your odyssey of the NAs. I joined for about the last third – from The Also People onwards, by which time I sense the books had loosened up and were, you know, enjoying being the future of Doctor Who. Until the TV Movie came along and spoiled it. There are still many of the middle books I've never read between Conundrum and Head Games. Which means my "era" of the NAs almost exactly coincides with the move to the new cover style, and the first Cornell book I read was the wildly untypical Happy Endings.

    I do agree the early NAs seem often desperate to be anything other than Doctor Who. And I think is is why they were so marmite – and quite probably a contributing factor to launching the Missing Adventures in 1994. Certainly, when I was reading them in my mid teens, I found the earlier books notably harder going than "my era" of the books. The "future history arc" of Deceit, Lucifer Rising and Transit were a particular slog, and I even remember struggling with The Left-Handed Hummingbird in comparison to SLEEPY and Return of the Living Dad.

    This I think also made me far more contented with the EDAs than long-term NA readers, given "my era" saw books by Lawrence Miles, Lance Parkin, Jim Mortimore, Kate Orman and Terrance Dicks – all mainstays of the early BBC books. I have to admit I don't remember a stylistic sea-change between The Room With No Doors, The Dying Days, Vampire Science and Alien Bodies. It was a comfortable segue as far as I remember.

    I'm looking forward to where you're going with this particular thesis, and when you see the novels actually starting to embrace their Whoishness. After some initial scepticism that it made sense to cover so many of the NAs, I'm totally sold.

    Reply

  24. Henry R. Kujawa
    October 1, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

    Yes, the 2 things Geoff Johns seems to be known for in his writing for DC Comics is, 1)"Fixing" characters that other writers have systematically destroyed over a great many years, and 2)"Wholesale slaughter" of old characters in the most horrific, brutal fashion, just to get a rise out of the audience.

    Sure seems to me like he's working at cross-purposes with himself!

    Reply

  25. Josh Marsfelder
    October 1, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

    @Matthew

    I did a lot of yelling and screaming about "Angels Take Manhattan" on Twitter. Trust me, it got a reaction. I just try to keep my mad ranting away from the Eruditorum when it's not strictly relevant.

    Reply

  26. Matthew Blanchette
    October 1, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

    THERE's the reaction I was expecting. 😛

    Josh, if you yelled and screamed over it… well, frankly, you missed the damned point. They were always meant to be the Williams's; it's not any misogynist creed, dude. People marry, they change names; if that winds up on a headstone, who needs protest?

    Annnnnybody else? 😛

    Reply

  27. BerserkRL
    October 1, 2012 @ 3:18 pm

    You mean apart from women's changing their names in marriage being a) a misogynist relic of coverture, and b) a practice that is now happily starting to die out?

    Reply

  28. Josh Marsfelder
    October 1, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

    @Matthew

    This is precisely why I didn't want to bring my opinions here in the first place.

    @BeserkRL:

    Thanks.

    Reply

  29. Matthew Blanchette
    October 1, 2012 @ 3:47 pm

    @Berserk: That's not Moffat's point.

    They had two lives; life with the Doctor (as "Amelia Pond", the Girl who Waited) and "real life" (as "Amy Williams"). The fact that Amy chose to live with Rory is in no way a validation of misogynism; in fact, I'd say that accusation is totally out-of-hand with Moffat, since he (if you remember) is not the one who made a companion forever pine after the Doctor.

    If it was "Amy Pond" on the gravestone, that whole connecting point would be lost. You wouldn't be up in arms, but then, this doesn't need to be something to get up in arms about. This isn't "The Twin Dilemma", for cripes' sake! 🙁

    Reply

  30. John Seavey
    October 1, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

    It can't be "McGuffin's Radiation" because the Master of the Land of Fiction is aware of the tropes of fiction and would spot the use of a metafictional joke immediately. Honestly, for someone who complains about the reading of a previous story being far too literal and didactic, you are kind of taking at face value the idea that everything the Doctor says in this story is absolutely true even when it's blatantly obvious that everything he says in the story from page one onwards is a shameless lie. 🙂

    The Doctor is playing a game of storytelling with the Master from moment one, subverting his narrative and substituting a different one that diminishes its threat to him, because he refuses to be limited by an author's interpretation of him. He defines the Land of Fiction within his reality, rather than allowing himself to become just a part of a larger narrative, in order to preserve his freedom to travel (and isn't it said that the TARDIS is really a device for traveling between genres?) To assume that Lyons literally intends the origins of the Land of Fiction to be what he says they are is to colossally miss the point: Everyone is lying. Everyone is making up stories and narratives to define the world they live in on their terms. It's how we survive as human beings.

    Or at least, that's how I see it. 🙂

    Reply

  31. Ununnilium
    October 1, 2012 @ 5:46 pm

    INDEED. Of course, occasionally he "fixes" characters who had nothing wrong with them, like Brainiac.

    Reply

  32. Ununnilium
    October 1, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

    Ah, but the important thing is: Did that come out in the book itself? How much do you have to read that assumption into it?

    I want to read Conundrum for myself now, just to answer that question.

    Reply

  33. Wm Keith
    October 1, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

    I don't think the "Williams" issue would be quite such a sore point were it not for the ugly way the name is forced on Amy in "The God Complex".

    As a husband and wife in mid-20th century New York it would, of course, be extremely unusual for Rory and Amy not to share a surname. Seeing, however, that they had the opportunity (and indeed needed) to set up their new lives from scratch, it's a real shame that Rory's surname didn't fade to "Pond" as Amy's inscription appeared on the gravestone.

    Also – was the episode suggesting that it was River's insecurity about her appearance that had made her appear (previously) in the Doctor's life in reverse chronological order? Or was it really saying that someone who used to date Cameca is now bothered about seeing the effects of ageing?

    Reply

  34. David Anderson
    October 1, 2012 @ 10:50 pm

    Various points:
    a) River doesn't know that the Doctor knows when and how River is going to die. River is almost certainly not fully interpreting the Doctor's reaction, and may be misinterpreting.
    b) the Doctor is an immortal time traveller. It makes sense to say that the only way he can relate to human beings is by deliberately ignoring the fact that human lives are ephemeral compared to his.
    c) it makes thematic sense to raise the point in a story about accepting the fact that the people we love are going to die.

    And, yes, the Williams-Pond thing is a misjudged piece of symbolism in relation to everything else.

    Still, I expect Phil will find quite a lot to say about the story when he gets to it.

    Reply

  35. Wm Keith
    October 2, 2012 @ 12:31 am

    a) I don't disagree with you.
    b) It's not really "relating", though, in that case. Ignoring an issue is not the same as accepting it. Quite possibly there's an intention to make something of this later in the series.
    c) Except, of course, the point is spoiled somewhat because the loss is not absolute. The Ponds don't die; they emigrate, write letters home, and have their own spin-off adventures featuring Morton Dill.

    Reply

  36. daibhid-c
    October 2, 2012 @ 12:51 am

    @Matt

    Is River able to visit with manuscripts? I got the impression she posted it from somewhere that wasn't riddled with paradox.

    Why the Pond-Williamses can't leave paradox-riddled New York and go somewhere the TARDIS can pick them up is unclear. (They'd leave a trail of paradox? Not if they had every intention of returning to New York by their eighties, surely?)

    @Wm Keith

    They do die; there's a gravestone. Yes, if you think about it for three seconds that means absolutely nothing to a time traveler, as I note above, but the intent is "they're dead, that's fixed".

    Reply

  37. daibhid-c
    October 2, 2012 @ 12:58 am

    The problem is the MacAllistair radiation; it doesn't affect the Land of Fiction because the Doctor says it does, it does so because it's MacAllistair radiation, and that's what it does, and the Doctor only explains what's going on afterwards. Otherwise the Master would know not to go along with the Doctor's claim that the Source is MacAllistair radiation.

    I suppose you could claim that the Doctor has cunningly defined both the Land and the radiation to act in accordance with each other, and the Master goes along with both seperate theories without realising how they interact. I'd have to reread it to see how well that holds up.

    Reply

  38. daibhid-c
    October 2, 2012 @ 1:02 am

    "Dark and violent version of an Adam West-style character"? Wasn't the Adam West character pretty dark and violent by 1993? Certainly when I read about the gratuitous death of the White Knight's kid sidekick, my firtst thought was to wonder if the Master's audience had got to vote on it…

    Reply

  39. Wm Keith
    October 2, 2012 @ 1:03 am

    Yes, it seems that writing something down "fixes" it, so long as what is written down is true when written. Personally speaking, I'm pretty convinced that it's the Hand of Omega in that grave.

    Reply

  40. Jesse
    October 2, 2012 @ 4:07 am

    Or was it really saying that someone who used to date Cameca is now bothered about seeing the effects of ageing?

    I don't think it was an issue of looking old; I think it was an issue of looking older. The Doctor is disturbed by the transformation, and the implicit reminder of approaching death.

    Reply

  41. Kit
    October 2, 2012 @ 4:29 am

    "This comes to a swift end, as Chaka Demus and Pliers get to number one with “Twist and Shout” featuring Jack Radics and Taxi Gang, which seems like far too many people for “Twist and Shout.” Two weeks later it’s unseated by D:Ream’s “Things Can Only Get Better,” which plays out the month"

    This is the first time I've noticed the Eruditorium has synced up with Popular: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/popular/

    Reply

  42. Anton B
    October 2, 2012 @ 4:35 am

    You're confusing Adam West with Bruce Wayne I think. That's like saying Patrick Troughton had developed tasteless dress sense and become prone to strangling his companions by the 1980s.

    Reply

  43. BerserkRL
    October 2, 2012 @ 11:56 am

    You wouldn't be up in arms

    But the whole point of my first post was that I wasn't up in arms — that, given the context, "Williams" on Amy's tombstone didn't seem as objectionable as the parallel reference in "God Complex."

    My subsequent comment was simply a response to the later suggestion that the tombstone wasn't problematic at all.

    fact that Amy chose to live with Rory is in no way a validation of misogynism; in fact, I'd say that accusation

    What accusation? Certainly not one I made.

    is totally out-of-hand with Moffat

    I think those who see Moffat as purely sexist and those who see him as completely free from sexism are both wrong, FWIW. There are strongly feminist and strongly antifeminist strands in his writing.

    Reply

  44. Stephen
    October 2, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

    @Ununnilium
    Ah, but the important thing is: Did that come out in the book itself? How much do you have to read that assumption into it?

    It's pretty explicitly established that the Doctor knows what's going on as soon as he exits the TARDIS and sees it take the shape of a gingerbread house. The narration establishes that the Master of the Land is very much familiar with fictional tropes. The only question is – as daibhid-c says – about the actual effect of McAllerson's Radiation.

    And colour me surprised that Phil dislikes what's almost certainly the most postmodern Doctor Who story ever written, and seems to base that dislike almost entirely on a throwaway line about the Gods of Ragnorak.

    Reply

  45. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 2, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

    My strong impression from the book was that McAllerson's Radiation's effect is based on some predictable technobabble. The line "it interfered with the energies making up the Land of Fiction" seems telling in this regard – it's something that works in a sciency way. He tricks the Master on literary grounds, sure, but he ultimately trumps fiction with sci-fi concepts. Which is bad enough.

    As for why I didn't like it… because it was facile postmodernism, mainly. Being postmodern is certainly a plus in my book, but it's not an automatic seal of approval. The Gods of Ragnarok throwaway seemed to me emblematic of the whole book: it cheapens the Land of Fiction by making it just another sci-fi concept. The Land of Fiction just becomes Planet of the Postmodernists. And I think that's less than what The Mind Robber gave us.

    That said, I'm starting to feel guilty about beating up on Steve Lyons, and I'm going to try very hard to like Head Games. 🙂

    Reply

  46. 5tephe
    October 2, 2012 @ 6:58 pm

    Not trying to rag on daibhid's innocent mistake here, but Anton B wins the comments section today.

    Reply

  47. Nick Smale
    October 3, 2012 @ 2:09 am

    As a husband and wife in mid-20th century New York it would, of course, be extremely unusual for Rory and Amy not to share a surname.

    I doubt they died in mid-century, however. Unless I'm very much mistaken, the font on the gravestone is Avenir, which dates from the late 80s, so they must have survived until then at least (which would make sense if the Angel sent them back to 1938 and they lived another 50+ years).

    Reply

  48. daibhid-c
    October 3, 2012 @ 2:39 am

    @5tephe Absolutely, although I would argue Anton is the one confusing "Adam West character" with "Adam West"…

    Reply

  49. Wm Keith
    October 3, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

    I think they died with the TV series. Rory died after Survival; Amy made it to Dimensions in Time.

    Reply

  50. dreamer-easy
    October 6, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

    The Scrabble scene was pure genius. I just about fell out of my chair.

    Reply

  51. Froborr
    October 6, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

    I think the point is that any time travel which alters the time traveler creates a paradox. Since the Doctor remembers reading the book, he cannot change the past in a way that changes what he remembers, because that would change him. Specifically, altering the past to prevent an event he remembers obviates his reason for traveling back in the first place, creating a grandfather paradox.

    The very fact that "real" life is coded as "Amy changes her name" and "fantasy adventure" life is coded as "Amy keeps her name" is itself misogynistic.

    Personally, I think Moffat is aware that sexism is bad, but still can't quite wrap his head around the notion that women are people. Hence his complete inability to write women as anything other than broad stereotypes–it's because he's trying to write women, rather than trying to write people.

    Reply

  52. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 6, 2012 @ 2:47 pm

    I concur.

    Reply

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    July 13, 2015 @ 7:44 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply

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    July 13, 2015 @ 7:49 am

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