strange_complex: (Vampira)
This weekend saw horror film fans from across the country gathering in Bradford for the 10th annual Fantastic Films Weekend. I didn't see quite as many fantastic films, or indeed little-known TV gems or enthralling interviews, as I'd originally planned, because I've been trying to be a little more sensible about not over-doing things since making myself ill that way in late April / early May. I realised that the important thing was to enjoy myself and feel relaxed and happy, rather than to approach the weekend as though it were a competition to see how many films I could possibly fit into the time available. So I missed the Friday altogether in favour of getting really on top of my work, and then took the Saturday and Sunday nice and easy, enjoying a good lie-in each morning and then just trundling over to Bradford for the things I really felt I couldn't miss. The result was that I only saw two actual films stricto sensu over the course of the weekend - but also two excellent interviews (one live, one recorded), and two rather unforgettable TV dramatisations.

8. Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971), dir. John D. Hancock )

Sinister Image (1988): Vincent Price in conversation with David Del Valle )

An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1972), dir. Kenneth Johnson )

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strange_complex: (Penelope)
Hmm, we have a bit of a Situation here. This time next week, I'll already be in Cardiff for the Classical Association conference, ready to deliver my paper on Doctor Who and historiography on the Saturday. When I submitted my abstract for that paper, I quite assumed I'd have seen and reviewed all the stories up to and including The Highlanders (where my enquiry ends) by the time I needed to deliver it. In fact I've only just finished reviewing as far as The Myth Makers (see below) and watching as far as The Ark - which means I have another eight stories left to watch and eleven to review. In one week, that clearly ain't gonna happen – not with the lengths of reviews I write anyway.

On the plus side, the paper is shaping up fairly well, and given that watching and writing up these stories is part of the research, it's reasonable enough to use bits of my working day this week to get on with the reviewing – that's what I've done today in order to get The Myth Makers finished. So I'll push on as far as I can over the next few days – which is probably going to mean quite an outpouring of Whovianism on these here pages. Then if necessary I can just watch the three remaining historical stories out of sequence, and that way at least I'll have seen all my major source material by the time of the conference.

I've also decided to institute a more fine-detail approach to cut-tagging these reviews, since they're really too long for a single cut to be very helpful. It means no-one can see what sorts of issues I've discussed until they get behind the main cut, and also that I can't link directly to specific bits of earlier reviews when I'm discussing the same issue in the context of a later story. I really wish I'd instituted this a lot earlier (and might start instituting it retrospectively if I get the time), but better late than never, eh?

First Doctor: The Myth Makers )

The source texts as garbled records of real events )

The Myth Makers and The Romans )

Steven and Vicki's integration into local culture )

Vicki's departure )

There are a couple of things I'd like to pursue further with regards to this story – and may try to do so if I have time before the CA. One is Cotton's use of contemporary academic publications, which I learn thanks to a publication by [livejournal.com profile] parrot_knight is actually quite easy to follow up in this case. Apparently, a 'reading list' still survives for this story, listing items like the relevant volumes of the Cambridge Ancient History and Encyclopaedia Britannica as potential resources. I assume it must be from these that Cotton drew some of the ideas about the historical basis for the Trojan war which appear in the script – e.g. the Trojans as migrants from central Asia who have settled on the coast, or the idea that the Trojan war was really about control of trade-routes through the Bosphorus. I'd also rather like to read the novelisation of this one, since I see from Wikipedia that it takes the very interesting step of having the whole story narrated from the first-person point of view of Homer. I'd love to see what Cotton does with that, since it certainly has the potential to expand even further than the TV version on the relationship between Cotton's story and his source texts. But I strongly doubt I'll have time to fit that in before the CA.

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strange_complex: (Lee as M.R. James)
Amazon page here.

Not the sort of book I would normally read - it's a historical thriller, and proudly proclaims on the front that it was 'shortlisted by Richard and Judy's Book Club 2005'. Quality!

Nonetheless, I did read it, mainly because it was given to me for free at the Diana Wynne Jones day I attended in Bristol last summer, and also because the 'American boy' of the title is no less than Edgar Allan Poe. Like most people of a somewhat gothique persuasion, I spent far too much time reading Poe's poems and short stories while I was a teenager, so couldn't resist reacquainting myself with him through the pages of the novel.

Unfortunately, however, he is only a fairly minor character in it, and besides is a perfectly normal boy of about ten years old at the time the action of the story takes place (1819-20), more intent on avoiding his Latin prep, ice-skating and finding buried treasure (which, OK, is a bit Poe-ish) than obsessing over lost loves and the possibility of being buried alive.

The story was readable enough, but the book was very much plot-driven, rather than character-driven, and the plot was hammered home fairly heavily. In case readers were too stupid to pick up the various 'clues' scattered through the narrative, points of recap were offered every now and again to remind them. E.g. on p. 172:
"Dansey had an intuition, but it occurred to me that I had more substantial grounds for caution: the manner in which first Mr Frant and now Mr Carswall had entangled me in their affairs; the codicil that had cost Mrs Frant an inheritance; the mutilated cadaver at Wellington-terrace; and the severed finger I had discovered in David Poe's satchel."
The writing style was about as subtle, with metaphors repeated about three times each to ensure their significance was recognised. Oh, and the thing there in the extract with 'Wellington-terrace' instead of Wellington Terrace? Judging by an interview with the author appended to the back of the book, this is the result of a rather over-studied attempt at authentic early 19th-century language: "The book has a first-person narrative, and perhaps foolishly I wanted the language to be as authentic as possible." It was applied to every single street name in the book, and remained incredibly annoying the whole way through.

What did I gain from reading the book? Honestly, nothing much other than an undemanding wind-down at the end of each evening. Still, that's mainly what I want from my bed-time reading, so no complaints really. The book'll probably make its way to the charity shop before long, though - unless anyone here tells me they want it?

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