Review: Doctor Who Christmas Special – Twice Upon a Time

The urge to indulge in long goodbyes proved too hard for Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi and so we all got a Christmas special heavy on farewells. I wish they wouldn’t do this, it didn’t work for David Tennant and as much as I like Peter Capaldi, he’s had a shorter tenure and less impact on shaping the new version of the Doctor as a character. Aside from anything else, it has been a long-established character trait of the Doctor that he does his utmost to avoid long goodbyes.

Still, this was an episode that wasn’t short of ideas, jokes, references to old episodes and cameos but very short of a plot. David Bradley reprised his impersonation of the First Doctor that he’d deployed as William Hartnell in An Adventure in Time and Space to great effect. Pearl Mackie got another send-off as Bill Potts but no hint that she might reappear in the next series (no hint that she wouldn’t either).

I’d still would have preferred less obvious sentimentality and more story though.

The Weird World of Pay-to-Play Awards


What could be more wonderful for your book than winning an award! Emblazon on your cover a multi-pointed metallic effect badge marking your success! Perhaps win THOUSANDS of dollars in prizes! And all for $70!

I’ve been gathering a list of these strange book awards off and on for a few weeks. I gave up when I realized quite how many there are. On Twitter today Foz Meadows pointed out another one:

That award seems particularly dodgy, with an ethically dubious marketing strategy of claiming an author had already been nominated. The outfit has the prestigious sounding but oddly generic name of “The NY Literary Magazine”. (You can find it here )

What they offer follows a template that you can find in multiple places. Compare these two:

Both of these:

  • Claim to be significant awards.
  • Cover a very long list of categories.
  • Are self-nominated awards.
  • Require a fee to enter.
  • Focus on self-published works.
  • Tell authors that awards are an important form of marketing.

The price for entry varies from $20 to $100 but often accompanied by special offers, early-bird rates and other marketing gimmicks. In addition, it is not uncommon to see either ‘free’ services provided or prizes ‘worth’ some large amount of money. The prizes are typically ebook related services such as file conversion or marketing services such as ‘targetted press releases’. (e.g. )

A scam? The sites themselves do not appear to be making false claims. Some of these may be operating as awards in good faith with judges and award ceremonies. However, none of them are particularly notable and a writer has no way of knowing what exactly they are paying for. Given the range of categories, the awards claim to cover it seems very unlikely that anything like a serious process is going into the selection of winners for each of these.

Here’s a selection of sites following the same model.

Am I tempted to see if Timothy could ‘win’ one of these? Maybe…;)



Trek Tuesday: The Alternative Factor

On my five* fortnight mission to boldly fill the space until Star Trek Discovery comes back, I’ve been looking at old Star Trek episodes that connect via topic, themes or plot with the updated version. This week it is time to head into parallel universes! But, I didn’t want to head straight to Mirror, Mirror. Instead, I went for the first episode I could find that mentioned parallel universes and that took me to The Alternative Factor.

I assume I must have seen this before but I had zero memory of it.

The Enterprise approaches a dead planet. Suddenly something really wacky happens. Spock can’t work out what it was. Star Fleet contacts Kirk and tells him the wacky thing happened everywhere but was centered near the Enterprise’s current location.

Spock discovers life signs on the planet below – which is surprising because they had previously surveyed the planet and found nothing.

They beam down and find a small space craft and then find a very agitated man called Lazarus. They take Lazarus on board the Enterprise for treatment. Lazarus warns them that he is being chased/is pursuing an evil monster who destroyed his home world.

The reality distortions continue and Lazarus is repeatedly forced to fight a foe during wacky special effects. However, Lazarus’s behavior and appearance is oddly inconsistent. Sometimes he is agitated and has a head injury and at other times he is calm and doesn’t. And no, it is not just bad continuity.

Eventually Lazarus reveals that he is a time travel. The planet below him is his former home world. His time travel invention led to a connection to a universe of anti-matter.

One version of Lazarus steals some (di)lithium crystals and then the other version does also to fix their respective time-spaceship-saucer craft.

Eventually Kirk travels to the anti-matter universe argle-bargle etc and meets the calm Lazarus. Calm Lazarus is the anti-matter version and is the good guy. Agitated Lazarus had a breakdown when he discovered the existence of anti-Lazarus to the extent that he wants to confront him in the anti-universe. Calm Lazarus explains to Kirk that the wormhole between the two universes will result in both universes being annihilated if agitated Lazarus kills calm Lazarus in the antimatter universe (the explanations are getting a bit confused at this point. But if Kirk can trap both Lazaruses (Lazarii?) within the wormhole by blowing up the time-spaceship-saucer craft on the positive Universe side then that will stop the universes exploding. Lazarus though, will end up trapped forever fighting himself within the wormhole.

So Kirk tricks Agitated Lazarus into the wormhole then blows up the time-spaceship-saucer craft. The end.

It’s not a terrible episode it just doesn’t have enough to carry the full fifty minutes. The reveal is unsurprising but still relies on a lot of exposition none of which makes much sense either within the confines of the story or scientifically.

Notably and with no fuss or bother at all, the episode also heavily features a black woman  as the engineer for the Enterprise (for this episode only). According to the Vaka Rangi blog ( ) there was intended to be a love story sub plot between Lazarus and Chief Engineer Masters as well but some TV Networks objected. The episode certainly feels like a hefty chunk of something is missing.

Still, we get our first Trek foray into the ever fertile field of parallel universes and machines that can travel between them. It isn’t an auspicious start – more of a sketch of an idea of an episode that might have been good.

*[I haven’t checked how many fortnights it actually is]

The Parliament of Cheese and Curds

As it is the season for old tales, here is one from 2015 to keep you going during the holiday.

Camestros Felapton

A fable about cheese (and a talking cat) with apologies to John C Wright’s Parliament of Beasts and Birds.

The dairy products gathered, one by one, outside the final city of People, furtive, curious, and slightly odd smelling.
All was dark. In the west was a blood-red sunset and in the east was a blood-red moonrise of a waning moon. Which, incidentally, confused a particularly pedantic ball of Edam which had taken the sentence “all was dark” a bit too literally. No lamps shined in the towers and minarets, and all the windows of the palaces, mansions, townhouses, semidetached project homes, terraces and those really big ranch style bungalows that have a name but which I’ve forgotten, were empty as the eyes of skulls. Well, the eye-sockets of skulls. The skulls didn’t have eyes – although a mischievous small ball of mozzarella had taken to sitting in the eye holes…

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Sad Puppy Watch Update

For the two people still interested, Sad Puppies is slightly less dead as a thing than it was the last time I checked, but only marginally so.

For those keeping track, the Pups had lots control of the domain for the Sad Puppies 4 website a few months ago. In the meantime, somebody must have paid the webhosting bill and the old SP4 site is back up ( ). However, the old post promising a Sad Puppies V has gone ( ).

Oh well.

Book Cover Thing 2017 – Design!

Previously: Start, Longer list, Culling, Artwork, An Aside, Functionality. . .

[ETA – posted this without a title! Somebody wanted kibble.]

Onto the graphic design (aesthetic) criteria: 0 to 6 points. Text, art, borders, colour, everything – as a complete image, how good is the cover in terms of making all the bits work together aesthetically? An extra couple of points are available here for covers with no artwork per-se, so that artwork-heavy covers don’t get an in-built advantage.

Here we go!

Continue reading “Book Cover Thing 2017 – Design!”