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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.

34 Comments

  1. Froborr
    May 30, 2014 @ 12:49 am

    If that last line isn't a build-up to a discussion of Terry Pratchett, I don't know what is…

    Reply

  2. Spacewarp
    May 30, 2014 @ 1:59 am

    "Even then, it’s fitting that this comes under Moffat’s watch, both because it neatly parallels the Moffat era’s move towards hiring celebrity writers for scripting duties."

    Have you missed out something here? "Both because…" expects an "and" but you haven't.

    Reply

  3. Alex Antonijevic
    May 30, 2014 @ 3:47 am

    I'd never even heard of this before now.

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  4. jane
    May 30, 2014 @ 4:18 am

    Huh.

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  5. John Anderson
    May 30, 2014 @ 5:07 am

    I really, actively disliked this. It felt like one massive in-joke – with, and here I must disagree with Dr Sandifer, a poorly defined Doctor and Amy – wrapped in a meandering, episodic quest plot. I don't know whether a greater familiarity with Moorcock's body of work would've enhanced my enjoyment any, but that just sounds like an excuse for a work that I found… well… rubbish.

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  6. David Anderson
    May 30, 2014 @ 5:26 am

    I think I've said this before, but although this may be the first time in Doctor Who history that you could have got a celebrity author writing a Doctor Who novel, Moorcock does Doctor Who could have been done at any time in the last thirty years. When I was growing up in the eighties Moorcock's sword and sorcery was ubiquitous in cheap paperback editions. Saying eighties or nineties UK genre fiction is influenced by Moorcock is like saying that a fantasy novel is influenced by Tolkien. It's not whether it's influenced by it; it's how much the writer in question has reworked it.
    The disappointment of Coming of the Terraphiles isn't that it feels like Doctor Who does Moorcock – it's that it feels like Doctor Who does Moorcock pastiche. And the influence of Moorcock on Doctor Who by now is too deep and too mediated by subsequent writers for that really to be worth doing.

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  7. Spoilers Below
    May 30, 2014 @ 5:46 am

    I would have guessed David Foster Wallace, if I didn't already know it wasn't coming…

    Reply

  8. BerserkRL
    May 30, 2014 @ 6:06 am

    My comment on Coming of the Terraphiles from two years ago.

    Reply

  9. Anton B
    May 30, 2014 @ 6:16 am

    I've tried a number of times to read The Coming of the Terraphiles and always fail to finish it. I was (and probably still am) a massive Moorcock fan. I think at one time my bookshelves held every one of those cheap paperbacks with their lurid covers that often had nothing to do with the content and a fair few of the rarer hardback 'serious' novels. I happen to think the Cornelius sequence of interconnecting narratives to be one of the finest flowerings of the speculative fiction genre. Unlike most of their contemporaries (excluding Ballard who's work remains timeless) they stand up well even today. I expect my opinions and love for Doctor Who needs no detailing here. However, this book is a mess. I have to file it next to David Lynch's Dune as a work combining an auteur that I admire with a narrative that I love that has no reason to fail and yet does so spectacularly.

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  10. Jack
    May 30, 2014 @ 6:17 am

    As a longtime fan of both Doctor Who and Michael Moorcock, both of which popped up almost at random intervals throughout my teens and early twenties, I suspect I rather enjoyed this book more than most. I can't particularly complain that it was basically Moorcock riffing on his usual Multiverse mythos and then adding the Doctor to it, because at this point asking Moorcock not to do what Moorcock does is like asking a blues guitarist not to use the same chords he's been using for forty years. It's who he is and it's what you're going to get. The basics might change-along the way, Moorcock's characters went from actively championing Law to actively opposing it, Chaos becoming the defining principle of resistance, as far as I can tell, sometime in the 90s with his Eternal Champion comics-but when you get Moorcock, you're going to get variations on a theme.

    So I was less than shocked to see a cast of Dancers At The End of Time knockoffs running headlong into another iteration of Jerry Cornelius and all of it involving a hunt for a Law themed Macguffin. What did shock me was the other expectation that I had, namely that Moorcock would set up one of his usual situations, and then throw the Doctor at it and see how he deforms the narrative, largely didn't really come to pass.

    It's not like Moorcock isn't conversant with the show-famously, Harlan Ellison cited him in the introduction to the first run of US releases of the Target novelizations as the person who introduced him to Doctor Who-so I had hope we'd get that sort of thing, but it didn't really happen. Part of the problem might have been the space the Doctor usually has in a story, in Moorcock tends to be held by the Eternal Champion figure, which means that the best the Doctor could have hoped for was being the Moonglum-sidekick character (which actually would have been an interesting dynamic given how often the sidekick character in Moorcock can explain the plot, mostly in the Corum books.) Which leaves us as a novel that fails as a Moorcock novel-David Anderson hits it right on the head when he calls it a Moorcock pastiche, because it truly feels like it-and also fails as a Doctor Who story. The Doctor, aside from one clever bit at the end where he does something that changes the entire set up of the story, mostly reacts to the Multiverse/Chaos and Law set up of the story, becoming to a certain extent subsumed by it rather than deforming it.

    And yet I still like the damned thing. It fails, yes, but it fails trying to do things Doctor Who as a novel line in the past few years hasn't tried to do. Subsequent "event" books in the range were far more traditional in terms, almost as if the editors gave Dan Abnett, Stephen Baxter, and Alastair Reynolds a copy of this book and said "don't do that." Which is a shame, because while Terraphiles manifestly doesn't really work either as Doctor Who or Moorcock, it EXISTS. It's the single bravest statement Doctor Who as prose as made since the New Adventures, written by a marvelously talented writer who basically said "you know what, I might go down with the ship but I'm going to go down swinging!"

    It really does deserve to be liked simply for existing, and we'll likely never get anything quite this crazy out of the novel range again.

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  11. Theonlyspiral
    May 30, 2014 @ 6:24 am

    The book really benefits from a familiarity with P.G. Wodehouse (although the televised Jeeves and Wooster provides a fine primer) as well as a familiarity with Moorcock's work. It's a pastiche and a tribute, so if the source material isn't enjoyable to you it's going to fall flat.

    Reply

  12. BerserkRL
    May 30, 2014 @ 6:26 am

    Moorcock’s characterization of Smith’s Doctor is impeccable

    This is my biggest disagreement. My experience was precisely opposite: I found Moorcock's Eleven almost completely unrecognisable, and his Amy even more so. Thus I pretty much agree with both Andersons above. And in response to the former's wondering whether more familiarity with Moorcock would help — well, I've read something like 97% of everything Moorcock has published, and it didn't help; it just meant that I could recognise "oh, here's a more lacklustre version of something he did much more interestingly in Blood or Dancers or …."

    Trivia alert: technically this is not the first crossover between Moorcock's Multiverse and the Whoniverse. A guest list in Moorcock's 1977 Condition of Muzak lists "Doctor Who" and "a Dalek" among the guests.

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  13. BerserkRL
    May 30, 2014 @ 6:34 am

    As I've written yet elsewhere:

    "How the new book’s space travel theme is to be reconciled with Moorcock’s recent remark that 'the moment a spaceship turns up, you’ve lost me' is just one of the many mysteries of time and space that bedevil those who dare to steer their TARDISes along the Moonbeam Roads."

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  14. Jesse
    May 30, 2014 @ 8:36 am

    Trivia alert: technically this is not the first crossover between Moorcock's Multiverse and the Whoniverse. A guest list in Moorcock's 1977 Condition of Muzak lists "Doctor Who" and "a Dalek" among the guests.

    And now we know that that's canonical. Next they should get Joe Dante to write a Doctor Who book, so he can do the same for the Dalek's cameo in Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

    Reply

  15. ComMaxil
    May 30, 2014 @ 9:43 am

    I've never read anything by Moorcock before this and I loved it for the reasons some people have set out above, namely that its totally weird and totally original and like nothing else in Doctor Who. Go further compound the weirdness I started with the unabridged audio book read by Clive Mantle who (notwithstanding his work with Big Finish) appears never to have seen an episode of Doctor Who before and does Amy with the sort of cod Scottish accent not seen since the days of Russ Abbott in his pomp. It gets off to a very slow start and yet somehow it drew me into this world which was not one we see the Doctor in often, both alien and familiar. The only mild criticism I have is that the Doctor is perhaps a tad generic, was easy to imagine Tom Baker or maybe even Pertwee. but given that it was written largely before Season 5 aired that's understandable. I also feel Matt Smith might be like Troughton in that respect, the way he plays the Doctor is hard to capture on paper (I had the same issue with The Silent Stars Go By). I wouldn't want my Doctor Who novels to be like this all the time, but this was a treat. I even got my hard copy of the book in Poundland for a quid!

    Reply

  16. encyclops
    May 30, 2014 @ 10:33 am

    Pale Fire?

    Just as long as it's not Dave Eggers.

    Reply

  17. encyclops
    May 30, 2014 @ 10:37 am

    David Lynch's Dune is my favorite failure in cinema. I can't defend it as a work of art but it will probably never leave my top ten movie list, if only for sentimental reasons.

    This is in no way an objection to the way you've characterized it, which I think is perfectly reasonable.

    Reply

  18. encyclops
    May 30, 2014 @ 10:40 am

    I'm sure we'll get to it eventually, but "Nothing O'Clock" is the only Eleventh Doctor prose I've read (unless you consider the comics to be prose). What are our thoughts on whether it captured the Eleventh Doctor well, and if so, did it do a better job than this (which I haven't read, but honestly now want to, failure or no)?

    Reply

  19. Matter-Eater Lad
    May 30, 2014 @ 10:46 am

    I am pleased to be of such an age that the fact that Nothing O'Clock cannot possibly fit into Series Five where Gaiman says it does is amusing, and not irritating.

    Reply

  20. Allyn Gibson
    May 30, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

    So I was less than shocked to see … another iteration of Jerry Cornelius

    Moorcock wrote on his bulletin board shortly after the book came out that he had intended Captain Cornelius to be Jack Harkness but the BBC nixed that. Ever since then, I've looked at Terraphiles's Cornelius not as a Jerry Cornelius iteration but as the Jack Harkness of that era living under a new identity. I found that gave a character that had, frankly, been rather bland some life and vitality.

    Well, and I liked the idea of Jack and the eleventh Doctor having an adventure together.

    Reply

  21. Jack
    May 30, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

    Ahh, suddenly a lot of things about that particular character make a lot more sense. I actually avoided a lot of the usual places where people would talk about Doctor Who when this book came out because there was a hilarious discussion on one Livejournal community that argued Moorcock wasn't fit to write Doctor Who and I figured commentary on the book would largely be "see, we were right!" and totally missed that fact.

    I have to admit that if anyone from Doctor Who could be reconfigured into the Cornelius role, it'd be Jack Harkness, but when you remove him from the equation, it falls apart. Makes sense now.

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  22. Jack
    May 30, 2014 @ 1:14 pm

    It falls apart in the sense that, without this character being Jack Harkness, you wind up with a generic Cornelius character. Jack-as-Jerry would have been interesting, but without that frisson, the fun is lost.

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  23. BerserkRL
    May 30, 2014 @ 8:21 pm

    I love Wodehouse. But I rather doubt that Moorcock loves Wodehouse. In any case, the Wodehouse pastiche fell flat for me because I'm familiar with the source material (Code of the Woosters in particular).

    That's what bugs me so much about the book. Three things I love — Doctor Who, Wodehouse, and Moorcock's Multiverse — that are all combined in a lacklustre way.

    Reply

  24. BerserkRL
    May 30, 2014 @ 8:29 pm

    Okay, that's interesting; if I ever reread it I'll try to keep Harkness in mind for the Captain.

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  25. BerserkRL
    May 30, 2014 @ 11:36 pm

    So what about Abducted by the Daleks?

    Reply

  26. Anton B
    May 31, 2014 @ 12:01 am

    Thanks. Have you seen the TV mini series of Dune? Apart from some bad casting decisions it achieves a far greater affinity to the source material on an appreciably lower budget. The luxury of the longer running time of a series over a movie allows for a more leisurely unfolding which is closer to Frank Herbert's writing style.

    Reply

  27. David Anderson
    May 31, 2014 @ 12:41 am

    It feels more as if Moorcock's using Wodehouse as his source for generic English upper-class twits, rather than directly invoking Wodehouse if that makes sense.
    I don't know whether Moorcock has an opinion on Downton Abbey; but I would guess he'd think Phil is a bit soft on it. Basically, I think Moorcock is sending up those kinds of Downton Abbey ideas, and if you do that without making your characters actual villains you can't really avoid the shadow of Wodehouse. The thing is, it's territory Moorcock has covered before, most obviously in Dancers.

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  28. BerserkRL
    May 31, 2014 @ 7:09 am

    But the plot situation does mirror Code of the Woosters in what feels like more than an accidental way.

    Reply

  29. Dave Simmons
    May 31, 2014 @ 6:45 pm

    Moorcock's fantasy stuff always feels like a guilty pleasure to me. It veers from excellent to mediocre depending upon which series you're reading, and yet I'll always have a soft spot for it.

    Reply

  30. David Anderson
    June 1, 2014 @ 5:37 am

    The story goes that every time New Worlds got into financial trouble, Michael Moorcock would spend the weekend knocking out a sword and sorcery novel and use the proceeds to keep New Worlds afloat. New Worlds was an experimental sf magazine. Moorcock wrote a lot of sword and sorcery novels.

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  31. Daibhid C
    June 1, 2014 @ 10:27 am

    Kim Newman is also a sf writer with some literary respect, isn't he? I mean, not Moorcock level, but still. And he wrote a Doctor Who book back in 2001.

    As a casual Moorcock fan, I enjoyed the book, but the only injokes I noticed were Cornelius, and that the Second Aether was presumably a reference to the Second Ether series, which I haven't read.

    The Doctor and Amy … well, there was nothing about them that struck me as wrong, but they could be a bit generic in places. But we got the Doctor doing weird tangents with lots of verbal backspaces (which, yes, Tennant did a bit as well, but it's the definitive aspect of Smith's performance) and Amy at least gets a couple of lines that nod to her being Scottish.

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  32. Kit
    June 1, 2014 @ 5:51 pm

    As you say, Newman is far from on the level of influence or recognition of Moorcock; he's also – if one must categorise – a horror/fantasy writer far more than SF; and a novella for a small press with limited distribution is less notable than a full-length hardcover original from the largest book publisher in the world (and the first Who novel baaaaasically for adults in over half a decade, the first since the show returned).

    Reply

  33. encyclops
    June 1, 2014 @ 9:54 pm

    I couldn't stand the TV miniseries the first time I saw it. Yeah, I thought the cast was impossibly bland (William Hurt standing out, but I can't think of a single exception offhand), but also the sets and costumes cheap and uninspired, and the storytelling soporific. I watched it with several friends, including at least one other Dune fan, and by the end all of us were chewing our own legs off to escape.

    At time of writing there hasn't been a second viewing. I do intend to give it one more chance someday. It might even be soon, though I really need to watch INLAND EMPIRE first.

    The thing is, I didn't really care much about the affinity to the source material, though I respect and understand why someone else might. For me, Lynch's Dune was my first exposure to the story. I don't remember finding it at all difficult to follow (mind you, I saw the extended Alan Smithee version, not the theatrical cut), and I took for granted that the book would be longer and deeper. I brought to the book the film's visual imagination and strangeness, and had the story fleshed out for me in complementary ways. I'm not sure I would have fallen in love with the gestalt in any other way.

    That said, I did watch Children of Dune, and I had a pretty good time with that. Partly I think it was that I had no other version to compare it to, and partly it was probably that James McAvoy was a lot more fun to watch than the dude who played Paul. Then again, Matt Keeslar was more fun to watch than Sting, and that didn't help block out the Bene Gesserit Cowgirl Sisterhood, so I don't know.

    I just…I like the weirding modules and the heartplugs. I know, right? Freddie Jones versus Brad Dourif. Francesca Annis, Dean Stockwell, Linda fucking Hunt. Over it all, that bizarre Lynchian mood, convincing me like no one else could that this is, what, eight thousand years from now?

    It could have been better. Yet somehow I think better in any direction would have been worse.

    Again, I realize this is an entirely personal opinion. I'm okay with that. 🙂

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  34. Daru
    June 1, 2014 @ 10:50 pm

    Hmm, not eead it read but will do so. I have read read masses of Moorcock and I have a feeling that I mat still enjoy this as I am a fan of footnotes and the kind of sideways narrative experiments that Alan Moore wove into his works.

    Reply

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