TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – There’s an Yssgaroth in my Tortilla: Notes on “Against Nature”

Writer’s note: I wanted to do a fun, short article about a cool Faction Paradox book I’ve read and it turned into this mastodon. Whoops. This might be a bit of a tough one if you’re not familiar with the book, sorry – partly because a lot of it was made from my reading notes, this is less of a regular article and more of an academic dissertation that doesn’t really introduce you to the subject and rather goes about dissecting it straight away. So yes, spoilers, spoilers everywhere, and also no context whatsoever. Don’t worry, I’ll write something a lot less cryptic next time – but also, I mean, I had a blast doing this. You should get onto that Faction Paradox thing, honestly. It’s fun.


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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – Under the Silver Lake, the Bones of Gods: the Horrors of the Production Pipeline, Doctor Who and Faction Paradox

i. AN OWL WOMAN TOLD ME I WAS FUCKED

Under the Silver Lake is an American movie directed by David Robert Mitchell, which came out in 2018. It’s left, all things considered, a surprisingly small impact on the general consciousness. That’s probably the curse of coming after Mitchell’s own It Follows, one of the most impactful and best-rated horror movies – movies period? – of the decade. The difficult sophomore album.

It’s not like it’s hard to see why. It Follows is a tight, crisp screenplay: it uses ambiguity and the traditional trappings of Todorov’s teleology of the fantastic genre in a very savvy way, coasting on them without losing the audience. The mood and concept sketch out the outlines of the message well enough that you won’t feel dissatisfied by some grey zones. On the other corner, you get Under the Silver Lake, which delights in how obscure it is. I mean, it pulls out the Violent Femmes in its trailer, a band that made more than a few unlistenable songs on purpose, just to fuck with its audience, so that’s got to be a sign. The move from horror to the weird Lynchian-Pynchonesque wanderings probably didn’t help either, although that does give a solid angle to start tackling the film properly. It’s really not all that different from It Follows, actually, it’s just that the perspective is changed. That one was about interpersonal dynamics, and their toxic potential, taking form into an alien entity carrying its own system of rules and codes that the characters had to follow to survive. Here, the system isn’t an emanation of the characters, but rather something they are trapped within, incapable of understanding in any real way. A diptych of alienation, in a way: on one hand, the self and its secrets, on the other, the capitalist nightmare.

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GUEST POST – “Kerblam!”: Can Unethical Art Be Good?

by Mark Laherty

Last month, Elizabeth Sandifer (no introduction needed in this neighbourhood) had a self-consciously nuclear take, one that she says expresses a core truth about her aesthetics: “Kerblam! > Rosa.” She continues, “I’d rather art be effectively distressing than poorly soothing.”

What’s going on here? Well, Sandifer is expressing her position on ethics in art, not for the first time. I’m going to argue against her on this (not, to be honest, with a view toward changing her mind, which I think would be quite a lift, but hopefully I can change someone else’s mind) by going through some of the academic discussion in film and philosophy studies about the relationship between the two. Can a moral flaw make an episode of TV worse? If so, would it necessarily make it worse, or could it possibly make it better? I will be working under the assumption that everyone who reads Downtime understands defending capitalism to be a moral flaw and that we all agree that it’s possible for art to be immoral.

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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – A Case for You To Read Faction Paradox Books

[This originally was part of the next article to be posted on that blog, but it grew into a separate rant, and I thought it would be good to use what little #influencer power I have to convince people to give money to a good cause: progressive and good storytelling.]

There’s a vested interest in talking about “The Book of the Peace” on this site. It’s a book made, mostly, by friends of mine, friends that I interviewed on here before the launch. That’s why you didn’t see any review of it on the site: because the review format, whether I want it or not, does carry with it an implication of objectivity, and I wouldn’t want to have people misguided. But still, given that the thing hasn’t stopped wandering through my brain since I first read it, I think a write-up is required. So, let’s use this keyboard as a gun and drop some bullet points.

Because I see you. I know you have hang-ups about that side of expanded universe, about this looming esoteric threat in the background. You’re allured by promises of representation and cool sci-fi storytelling, but, well, the Faction repulses as much as it attracts. So, let’s make a case for it, alright? Obviously, all that stuff matters: Obverse Books is a really important creative voice in Who right now, and they need money to maintain this creative and experimental space, which is all the more important given the emphasis they place on getting new writers into the Who production circles, especially LGBT+ and BAME ones; and, if you have money to spare (if you don’t, no one will shame you for it, fandom classism is a bane, but at the very least hopefully the following should get you a bit more on board with the project) you should put your money where your mouth is.

But let’s not take that into consideration. Let’s be philosopher-kings, and make an abstract, intellectual case for why, indeed, you should read Faction Paradox books (and “The Book of the Peace” specifically. BUY IT.)

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THE BIG FINISH ROUND-UP – February 2019: Dick Zodiac, the Uncanny Valley, & Scottish Writers

Welcome to DoWntime’s monthly coverage of all the shiny new audios from the corporate overlords at Big Finish dot com. It’s fresh, it’s exciting, it aims to be spoiler-free but will have to make sacrifices here and there in order to discuss with a critical eye – and it’s back after a few months of silence, spent working on some really cool projects that sadly are still hush-hush. Enjoy.

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GUEST POST – Adventures in Narrative Substitution #5: “The Girl Who Waited”

by Christa Mactire

One of my favorite classic-era Who stories is “The Edge of Destruction“. Part of the very first season, it was commissioned entirely to fill out the 13-episode order, most of which had been taken up by An Unearthly Child and The Daleks. Notably, it’s one of the show’s few Bottle Episodes, defined as an episode featuring mainly the regulars and one standing set, in this case the TARDIS console room and various other areas within.

This doesn’t sound terribly exciting on the surface; but the confined space of the TARDIS set, coupled with the fact that our main cast are just four strangers who’ve spent the last ten episodes wandering around pre-historic Earth and fighting off some art-deco saltshakers with a murder fetish and are only now able to catch their breath, leads to some pretty amazing character development work, thanks to David Whitaker’s script.

The template hasn’t been used terribly often in the intervening decades, but I’d argue that “Amy’s Choice from 2010 is close to a straight-up remake (since the Upper Leadworth stuff is just a shared dream, strictly speaking the entire episode takes place in the TARDIS console room), while “The Girl Who Waited and The Tsuranga Conundrum hew more closely to a general Bottle Episode rather than anything TARDIS-specific.

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GUEST POST – “Twelve Angels Weeping”: a review

by Tori Das

 

Obligatory note: SPOILERS AHEAD. Also, some discussion of body horror and suicide.

Christmas, the stories, the lights and the gifts, the sacrifice and the transformation – and how it can all go horribly awry for you and yours if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is a rundown of some of the worst Christmases experienced by people across the universe who are not (hopefully) you, the reader, so that you can feel that much safer and better about your Christmas.

Twelve Angels Weeping is an anthology of stories told from perspectives not often seen or heard in the regular televised or audio format. These are tales told from the sidelines, by those who may or may not be monsters or be pushed into a realm of monsters. It’s an excellent premise with room for some very innovative storytelling. In fact, the promise of radical viewpoints soared so high that there also happened a fall, unfortunately. While there are stories that are absolutely brilliant, some left me with a twinge of disappointment. That the book still makes me feel warm is a testament to just how great the good stories and the illustrations by Alexis Snell are.

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GUEST POST – Adventures in Narrative Substitution #3: “Thin Ice”

by Christa Mactíre

 

If there was a concept that could describe the two hundred and forty-some years of American history, that concept would be race. And more specifically, the fact that large parts of the United States were, literally, built on the backs of slaves. We even fought a war over the ability of white people to claim black people as property. And there exists, today, right now, a not-insignificant number of people for whom the Confederate States of America were totally cool. And now these people have their very own president in the White House; a spray-tanned loudmouth with bad hair and even worse political views. This is the cultural moment in which Chris Chibnall decided to make an episode of Doctor Who about Rosa Parks.

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GUEST POST – Adventures in Narrative Substituion #2: “The Beast Below”

by Christa Mctíre

 

The Beast Below” is… well, a strange beast. Story-wise, it functions as a future-set bottle episode not unlike 2005’s “The End of the World (and even includes a long shot of the Doctor staring out a window with his back to the camera). Narratively, it’s a bit like the old analog conception of a single: a popular A-side that everyone knows, and the less well-known B-side. Thus, “The Beast Below is the B-side to “The Eleventh Hour’s A-side. Put another way, it’s the “This Boy” to “Eleventh Hour“’s “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

I would say it also prefigures things like the 2014 Scottish independence referendum or Brexit, but I think that’s just happenstance. I will note, however, that the big moral dilemma of the episode and the Doctor’s actions in the climax, plus Amy’s response to them, is basically what you’d get if you took “The Day of the Doctor and only included the bits on Gallifrey: the Doctor has to make a decision that will result in him giving up his name, only for the companion to do something that results in little to no fatalities. Continue reading

GUEST POST – Adventures in Narrative Substitution #1: Introduction & “The Eleventh Hour”

by Christa Mactíre

 

Greetings, DoWntime readers! I’m Christa Mactíre, and like most of you I tuned in to watch the premiere of Doctor Who’s eleventh series on October 7th, 2018, lured by the promise of Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor and a new authorial voice in the form of show runner Chris Chibnall. While surprisingly grim and dour for a Doctor introduction story, The Woman Who Fell to Earth was a promising start to what could have been a fascinating new era for our collective favorite show. I even, after several years sitting on the sidelines, took a dive into reviews and televisual criticism on my Tumblr blog, which you can find here.

But then the wheels started to come off the train. As the weeks rolled by and the series continued, the flaws that stuck out to me in first few episodes began to feel less like bugs and more like features. The lack of interiority in the Thirteenth Doctor relative to her recent predecessors, the focus on male pain (and especially white male pain) at the expense of women of color, deeply unfortunate racial politics, emphasis on heterosexual relationships after claiming greater LGBT representation, killing off gay characters or making them antagonists, the Doctor’s refusal to stand up to corrupt regimes, the Doctor’s myopic morals in regards to violence and weapons, the lack of wonder and warmth in any of the episodes… I could spend all day listing all the flaws in Series 11, but I don’t really want to. The point is: Series 11 was, in my opinion and in those of several others, one of the weakest seasons the show has seen since it returned, and I wanted something better.

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