Tag Archives: SciFi

Dr Who? Matt Smith who?

As Kat comments on the Times Online:

You know women, or people of colour can be Drs too. Perhaps the people at the BBC don’t know this.

The BBC’s response is clear.

My hopes are dashed. Again. I fear that the sexy young thinging of the Doctor is an irreversible decline of standards, however the more I read about Matt Smith, the more I think he has interesting acting chops. And I’m kind of getting used to the face.

I remember thinking that Peter Davison, the former youngest doctor ever, was a lot unbelievable but I got over it.. No, actually he still looks like a complete prat. And I also don’t think a time lord needs to look wizened and twisted. Let’s extend!

1. William Hartnell (1963-1966)
2. Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)
3. Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)
4. Tom Baker (1974-1981)
5. Peter Davison – pictured (1982-1984)
6. Colin Baker (1984-1986)
7. Sylvester McCoy (1987-1996)
8. Paul McGann (1996)
9. Christopher Eccleston (2005)
10. David Tennant (2005-2010)
11. Matt Smith (2010 – ?)

Professor River Song for President!

Robot Nation – coming to your screens soon

Personally, we already have a robot vacuum cleaner and I LOVE IT AND ALL THINGS ROBOT! I was a scifi geek girl from conception. We also have a robot mop and many robot toys. Note.. my mother bought a ‘robot’ appliance but was very disappointed in the product. Anything can call itself ‘robot’ and frequently does. However Korea has forecast robotics as the social and industrial growth area of the next decade and is pouring in as much money as it did into broadband, and everyone has broadband in Korea.

clipped from gizmodo.com

We honestly haven’t kept up with the television documentary Vanguard or its sponsoring Internet/Cable channel Current TV, but this trailer for their upcoming show Japan: Robot Nation has our interest piqued. We’re digging all of the robots, the ties of said robots to evolving Japanese culture and the overly dramatic score supporting the whole thing. The show doesn’t air until December 10, 10PM EST & 10PM PST on Current TV. But if you’ve got the channel, now might be a good time to set the DVR. Otherwise it’ll probably be viewable on the web at that time, too.

blog it

“Japan, the world’s No. 2 economy and important global player, is experiencing the steepest peacetime population decline in history. A combination of low birthrates, changing lifestyles and strict immigration policies may be cause for the fall of a nation once expected to challenge American supremacy on the world stage. Japan’s government is looking at several ways to stem the tide; encouraging and providing incentives to couples to have more sex — and more babies. However, because Japan’s insular and xenophobic society will not tolerate the admission of greater numbers of immigrants, Japan’s tackling the population problem in a way only it can — by creating a robot nation.

Japan’s issues aren’t isolated … Many European nations, especially & old; countries like Italy, are experiencing the same population contraction. And even though Japan is unique in its problems and solutions, there’s a sense that it simply reflects a future much of the rest of the developed world will soon see.

Tune in to watch me interact with Japan’s latest robots: Wednesday, December 10, 10PM EST & 10PM PST”

Quotes From Adam Yamaguchi on Current

Dr Who’s Companions POST SEASON FINALE

SCREEAMMMMMMM!

Donna Noble: you are now 1 SWORD of awful. You had me going there. For a while, I was thinking 4 SWORDS… maybe this is it, even 5 !!!! then…

Catherine Tate: you have 4 SWORDS of awesome for your rivetingly versatile performance as Donna Noble. You were BATHETIC at the end and became horribly stupidly trivial leaving me in tears. You reminded me of Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Rose Tyler: I’d retract your SWORD AWARD for that horrible last scene, where you find true love with the part human doctor but then, it’s HIS fault. You know who!

Russell T Davies! Wow, I bet the swords have been out for you! I daren’t read the forums. I really love your writing but why can’t you stretch yourself a little bit. Go on and try out more different gender roles.

I guess The Doctor is so lovingly constructed as tragic father figure (western hero) that any other strong figure can not survive in the same series. That’s why I say, “Hey, Russell, try a woman next time! AS THE DOCTOR!

Dr Who’s Companions and the SWORD AWARDS

NOTE – First up is my PRE-SEASON FINALE POST which wasn’t finished before Sunday night. There’s a POST SEASON FINALE follow up!

Firstly, the fact that the women on Dr Who are all companions and that Dr Who has never been a woman for all of his vaunted alien regenerative body shifting abilities automatically disqualifies ANY of them from getting 4 SWORDS.

If Dr Who becomes a woman though, she’s a fair chance at 4 or even 5 SWORDS of AWESOME WOMAN WARRIORNESS!

Secondly, Billie Piper with a gun bigger than her entire torso. PUHLEASE! She is so 1 SWORD of awkward. She is BIG CAR LITTLE DICK!

Now, some other companions have been more Emma Peel and less Agent 99, but I’m still waiting for serious SWORDS! There are a bucket load of companions on wikipedia and I’m going to enjoy revisiting old episodes in my new quest to rate the companions.

For now:

River Song: 3 SWORDS – only we don’t really know if you’re a companion yet.
Sarah Jane Smith: 3 SWORDS – for sheer persistence and fun.
Sara Kingdom: 3 SWORDS – only you got killed off straightaway – such is the fate of many of the strong women companions it seems!

Donna Noble: 2 SWORDS – when you’re good, you’re great but you’re such a temp warrior.
Martha Jones: 2 SWORDS – you were a bit whiny to start but the uniform suits you.

Astrid Peth: 1 SWORD – worth a mention even if only a canary sized mini companion.
Rose Tyler: 1 SWORD – as said above, you are a bit BCLD !





All I can say though, is thank heavens for the taboo against kissing in the tardis!

Fly by Night – Frances Hardinge

Cheap book shops are one of the world’s great mysteries and joys. Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge is the best book I’ve read for a long long time. It was on the discount table. Go figure.

An oddly ironic place given the nature of the book itself and the free exchange of ideas and literature.

Orphaned daughter of an exiled intellectual, Mosca Mye runs away from home, pausing only to collect her sidekick, a pugnacious gander, and to burn her uncle’s mill to the ground in vengeful remembrance of things past. An overheard conversation sends her to rescue a travelling con-artist from the stocks, in the belief that he might prove useful to her, and together they leave the waterlogged village of Chough, where the petrifying springs bleach everything chalk-white, and head for a life of opportunity in the riverside towns and cities of the Fractured Kingdom.

.. from a rather sour review in the Guardian by Jan Mark. The Written Nerd has a more interesting review (to my mind) as he/she likes the book and is comparing two recent childrens works around the theme of censorship. Fly by Night and The Lost Colony by Grady Klein.

Strange Horizons’ review by Farah Mendelsohn touches upon Fly by Night in a review for Hardinge’s more recent book, Verdigris.

Feminism and Science Fiction part 4

Chapter 10: Feminism and Science Fiction part 4
from In the Chinks of the World Machine by Sarah Lefanu

Rhoda Lerman (and Tanith Lee and Angela Carter, as mentioned earlier) is concerned with the body’s interchangeability. In Lerman’s Call Me Ishtar the movement is between goddess and mortal, the queen of the heavens and a middle-class American woman. In The Book of the Night a girl child, Celeste, is brought up as a boy and accepted into the monastery on Iona where she subsequently lives. At puberty she is transformed into a cow. While some of the tenth-century monks are attracted by the increasing power of Rome, for others ancient Seth still roars from the chaos. The forces of disorder and entropy are marshalled against the order of language, progress and rationalism.

As in the Zoline story, language takes on a logic of its own that is unrelated to the objects to which it was formerly tied. From this follows a breakdown, not just of women’s role in the order of human society, but of the very nature of femaleness. As with Zoline, it is not only culture that is interrogated but nature. But the pivot in Lerman’s work is the powerful awakening of sexuality, which transgresses linguistic and cultural codes.

So, too, with Angela Carter, who takes the anodyne out of fairy tales and re-euips her young girls with claws, teeth and a powerful desire. There is an element of violence in Lerman’s work which is traditionally not a quality of ‘feminine’ writing: such an element appears in the work of other women, for example Octavia Butler and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, as well as Carter, Lee and Tuttle. It too is transgressive; the construction of the inviolable body is a corollary of the construction of the coherent self. Woman as ‘woman’ is interrogated as well as woman as self.

Perhaps it is the position of science fiction on the periphery of mainstream fiction that makes it so open to borrowing from elsewhere, from physics and fairy tales, from philosophy, folklore and myth. And perhaps it is the position of women on the periphery of mainstream (patriarchal) culture that makes SF so suitable a genre for them to work in. For women have not had to bear the awful weight of the Great Tradition, and so have been free to experiment, to riffle through, stopping here and there to work in odd corners, as Tiptree’s Ruth describes to Don how women live, ‘by ones and twos in the chinks of your world-machine’.”

Monique Wittig’s Les Guerilleres is often included in discussions of feminist utopias of the 1970s (see for example Joanna Russ, ‘Recent Feminist Utopias’), but I think it is more fruitful to read it in the context of the ‘disintegrationist’ writers. Like Carter, Lerman and Russ, Wittig questions the laws of language and difference that govern our place in the world. Les Guerilleres gets included under the ‘utopian’ label because it shows a future, separatist, almost women-only world. But the guerrilla fighters of the title are not simply waging a war against men (who appear only peripherally anyway) but a war against the language that constructs them as women and then contains, or encloses them. They are trying to get back to point zero, denying even the names that women have given to themselves in defiance of men, and questioning in particular the metaphors that bind women to the processes of Nature.

Les Guerilleres does share a certain dream-like quality with Gerhart’s The Wanderground: a similar circular structure with the story unfolding through many different voices; but its aims are quite different. Where Gearhart seeks harmony and synthesis with nature, Wittig questions the possibility of such a notion.

Monique Wittig’s most recent novel, Across the Acheron is a fierce and witty re-enactment of Dante’s journeyings through the circles of Hell. Wittig herself is the vengeful voyager, her anger, passion and contempt for sexual slavery held in check, not always successfully, by her guide Manastabal, and resting from her labours every so often in the lesbian bars of limbo.

None of these writers is concerned with the conventions of the ‘feminine’ in terms of construction, imagery or language, yet all of them, I think, are powerfully feminist. If we want to see what women writers of science fiction have to offer the reader, then we shouldn’t be sidetracked by essentialist, and finally moralistic notions of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’, although the appearance of such a dichotomy is understandable, given the received view of science fiction as a male bastion. We should be looking instead at how science fiction, true to its tradition (not always exploited) of political as well as scientific speculation, can be grasped and used by women writers whose ideas are rooted in a feminist analysis of the world.

Different writers of course hold very different ideas of what feminist SF is. Unlike other forms of genre writing, such as detective stories and romances, which demand the reinstatement of order and thus can be described as ‘closed’ texts, science fiction is by its nature interrogative, open. Feminism questions a given order in political terms, while science fiction questions it in imaginative terms. I have tried to show the many ways in which contemporary women writers express this, and I hope that I have shown the political and aesthetic vitality of science fiction. If science fiction demands our acceptance of a relativistic universe, then feminism demands, no less, our acceptance of a relativistic social order. Nothing, in these terms, is natural, least of all the cultural notions of ‘woman’ and ‘man’.

Feminism and Science Fiction part 3

Chapter 10: Feminism and Science Fiction part 3
from In the Chinks of the World Machine by Sarah Lefanu

The housewife’s struggle for order is renewed each day. Dust creeps in and settles on all surfaces. As with dust, so with death. With the resigned irony with which she accepts the arbitrariness of signs, Sarah Boyle allows death and dust into her fantasies. ‘The plants would grow wild and wind into a jungle around the house, splitting plaster, tearing shingles, the garden would enter in at the door. The goldfish would die, the birds would die, we’d have them stuffed; the dog would die from lack of care, and probably the children – all stuffed and sitting around the house, covered with dust.’ As the conventions that join signifiers to signified are shattered, so the conventions of sentimentatility are broken apart. Children are the ‘too often disappointing vegetables of one’s own womb’, or, in a reversion to a time of pre-culture, apparently edible.

Sarah herself is a construct, she ‘muses or is mused’. Here is no quest for wholeness, rather a doomed struggle against the slipping of self into other, a struggle to set up difference in the face of undifferentiation. Chaos is kept at bay and the elements of dissolution are separated out, paragraph by paragraph, until there is no available energy left. The turtle is dead. The floor is covered with smashed eggs and broken shards of bunny bowls. The stove bleeds, the particles in the universe attain complete disorder, time runs backwards and Sarah Boyle opens her mouth again and again and repeatedly begins to cry.

‘The Heat Death of the Universe’ was first published in the magazine New Worlds in 1967 and is one of those SF stories that has achieved a small cult status, reappearing every so often in anthologies. It reappears in a New Worlds anthology edited by Michael Moorcock (Flamingo, 1983) where it is one of two stories by women (the other is Hilary Bailey’s ‘Dr Gelabius’) out of a total of 29. I mention this merely to point out the rarity of women participants in the ‘progressive’ New Wave. While ‘Heat Death’ is obviously a part of the entropy-orientation of New Worlds, its meditation on entropy is grounded in the organisation of a woman’s life.

‘Heat Death’ achieves two apparently contradictory goals: it deconstructs the notion of woman as a stable centre of family life, subverting the conventional values that are attached to that concept; while at the same time it also subverts accepted notion of what is a suitable ‘subject’ for a story by focusing on a housewife and housework. It at once centralises and deconstructs ‘woman’. This, I think, exemplifies a problem that structuralist and post-structuralist criticism poses for feminists: the radical, or transgressive aspects of the structuralist subversion of the subject do not allow for an analysis that shows ‘woman’ never to have been the subject in the first place. ‘Heat Death’ is one of my favourite of all science fiction stories, expressing as it does with such elegance and wit the vistas of emptiness hidden behind the slogan ‘a woman’s work is never done’.

Interestingly enough, Pamela Zoline’s most recent SF story, ‘Instructions for Exiting this Building In Case of Fire’, also centralises the experience of women and children, although again, not in any conventional way, as it is about breaking or undermining, the ties that hold together familes and nations. I say interestingly as Zoline does not, I think, consider herself particularly feminist; where some writers, as I have mentioned’, centralise women and questions of reproductions as a way of challenging the male-dominated concerns of SF, Zoline, it seems, finds the metaphors of science fiction speak to the fragmentation of a woman’s life. Male writers do not, on the whole, write about female experience, but women writers, like Judith Merril and Pamela Zoline, use that experience to remarkable effect, within a science fictional framework. So we have motherhood and nuclear radiation; and housework and entropy.