I recently posted a Ruelle Electrique review of the “Bartleby Snopes” Post-Experimentalism special issue, which offers an interesting range of bizarre and often beautiful stories. Coming in, I wasn’t really sure what post-experimentalism was, and unfortunately I came out of reading the issue not understanding the genre any better. Nonetheless, some worthwhile reads.
For the September 1, 2012 Carve Story Spotlight, I look back in time to John Henry Fleming’s “Coward,” which appeared in the winter 2011 issue. A short but affecting piece, “Coward” follows a protagonist who at age six had his father hold a knife to his throat; when he was nine, his father committed suicide, leaving a note to his son to not follow in his footsteps. What follows is a story about cowardice and feigned courage, as well as the ability of the psychically scarred to move on.
By the way, before you read the Story Spotlight, just wanted to give the heads up that you’ll be seeing more of me on the Carve website, as I’ve been asked to contribute more posts in the blog’s “From the Editor” section. So look forward to some Q&As with past Carve authors and relevant news from the publishing world, among many other blog posts to come.
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
An overlong absence of “Doctor Who” is, well, like sex deprivation. It’s miserable for a while, then you habituate, but your first go at it after the long interim is, well, rewardingly explosive. (Oh stop the Victorian-era gasps; you know how ribald I can get). “Asylum of the Daleks” definitely was, yes, massively orgasmic.
This is, for once, how you do a proper Dalek story; none of that “Victory of the Daleks” or “Daleks in Manhattan” mess. Done away with (at least for now) are the interconnectedness or episodic feel of past series (especially the wonderfully arc-heavy series 6). Series 7 truly is as cinematic as advertised. (The movie posters for the autumn episodes definitely capture the new series’s cinematic direction). Truly stand-alone in a movie-size kind of way, “Asylum of the Daleks” felt bigger than the time it was allotted, yet at the same time fit that allotment perfectly. Steven Moffat got the tone right, with episodic humor downplayed and not too many reminders of the show’s backstory to hit us over the head with.
Moffat’s genius writing is like an old friend whom you wish you weren’t restricted to see only in moderation. It’s almost Dalek-like, his genius. He does it again with his play on eggs and milk, two seemingly trivial mentions early in the game that suddenly grow in significance by game’s end. I love the introduction of another nickname for the Oncoming Storm (“The Predator”), and his idea of nanogenes that transform organisms into Dalek puppets (or make them get all Daleked, as Amy puts it). I also loved his handling of the Ponds’ falling out and eventual reunion; in the beginning, there’s a scene of model Amy flashing the words LOVE and HATE on her knuckles, a subtle hint at the resolution for her and Rory’s storyline in this episode (the formula for Dalek conversion: subtract love, add anger). And how ingenious it was for Moffat to further the Doctor’s retreat into the shadows by having Oswin erase the Predator from the Daleks’ collective memory. Ah, so many felicities in this episode, all stemming from the writing. Moffat’s writing is admittedly the reason I tune in to this show. The day he steps down as head writer will be a grim day indeed.
Jenna-Louise Coleman’s surprise appearance (about five episodes premature) as Oswin Oswald, a junior entertainment manager of a shipwrecked starliner with an uncanny ability to hack Dalek tech, was brilliant. What a coup for Moffat and team to have pulled off the secret and actually properly fool us. Coleman’s insertion into the episode was only equaled by the shocking and nightmarish reveal of Oswin’s true state as a Dalek convert in denial. I’m as in the dark as everyone else as to how Moffat will maneuver Oswin into a full-time companion slot; it will definitely make things interesting having a Dalek as the next Doctor’s companion. (On a minor note, I already love the snippets of what I am presuming is Oswin’s theme that surfaced at select points in the episode; Murray Gold ftw!).
One final note on the modified title sequence: Though not very radically changed, it’s now more Halloween-y, with spooky greens meshed in with the dark blues of the Time Vortex. The font has been changed and now has a ghost-like ripple fade-out. And the “Doctor Who” logo was customized presumably for this episode with hemis (or Dalek bumps, if you will). I’m sure the Whovian community will be divided over the modifications; I, for one, find them fitting. I love Moffat’s experimentations with the show’s format and look, as controversial or at the least frustrating as they may be. They definitely keep the show from getting stale.
- “How much trouble, Mr Pond? Out of ten? Eleven.” -the Doctor to Rory, in one of Moffat’s sly nods to this being the Doctor’s eleventh incarnation
- “I did make a souffle but it was too beautiful to live.” -Oswin on her birthday present for her mother
- “You think hatred is beautiful?” / “Perhaps that is why we have never been able to kill you.” -The Doctor and the Dalek Prime Minister
- “What colour? …Sorry, there weren’t any good questions left.” -Rory, in a cheeky reference to the (what many have found ill-conceived) multi-colored Daleks of series 5
- “Where do you get the milk?” -The Doctor, in wonderment of Oswin’s ability to bake a souffle in the core of the Asylum
- “Don’t be fair to the Daleks when they’re firing me at a planet.” -The Doctor scolding Rory as they get forced into an Asylum expedition
- “It’s life. That thing that goes on when you’re not there.” -Amy to the Doctor
- “Sorry, what? …Eggs?” -Rory to an awakening Asylum Dalek attempting to say “Exterminate.”
- “Pop your shirt off, quick as you like.” / “Why?” / “Does there have to be a reson?” -Oswin flirting with Rory to keep him in good spirits
- “Run, you clever boy, and remember” -Dalek Oswin; she’ll surely be remembered in time for the Christmas special
- “Titles are not meaningful in this context. Doctor who?” -Dalek puppet Darla von Karlsen to the now mysterious stranger before her and the Daleks
For Carve‘s August 15, 2012 Story Spotlight, I cover Yuvi Zalkow’s fall 2007 story, “When My Body Smashed Into the Sidewalk.” Told in posthumous narration, this surreal story covers the intersecting lives (and deaths) of a man who had jumped off a burning building (a deliberate conjuration of the 9/11 World Trade Center fire and collapse) and the woman who had the misfortune of being in the wrong spot at the right time: The man fell right in front of her, his body’s collision with the ground imprinted in her mind for the rest of her life.
Revisit yet another Carve classic, this one from the spring 2007 issue: Nate House’s “When Snow Falls on Atlantic City.” An old woman, unappreciated in a loveless marriage, steps out of character and finds herself all of a sudden in the “World’s Favorite Playground.”
Acquaint (or re-acquaint) yourself with an oldie but goodie from the Carve archives, “Weekend With the Boy,” from the fall 2007 issue. The charming story, written by the mysteriously mono-named author “Ezra,” focuses on a Sydney artist whose son comes to visit for the weekend. Being so devoutly married to his art, will he make concessions for his own, and very non-abstract, child?
A few weeks back (sorry, been on vacation mode!), one of my favorite short story writers and video game journalists, Peter Tieryas Liu, nominated this humble blog before you for a “Versatile Blogger Award.” Part and parcel of the nomination/award is a bit of fun protocol: As a nominee I am in turn supposed to nominate other blogs and/or bloggers I find worthy of recognition. So, being my own prize selection committee, here are just a sampling of blogs I would recommend, in purely random order:
- Stephanie Barbé Hammer @ MAGICALLY REAL
- slices of bizarro pie (the Website of author Jeremy C. Shipp)
- Mary Volmer
- Slouching Towards Thatcham
- Roz Foster
- Howard Junker
- Rosebud Ben-Oni
- Salonniere Alexis
- The Whimsy of Creation: The Blog of Tieryas
I’m also supposed to share seven things about myself, so here they are in all their silly, random, but true glory:
- My first foray into publishing was at nine years old, when I tried to cobble together a Nintendo Power magazine knock-off (shelved–and rightly so–shortly after conception).
- eBooks made me realize just how much I hate physical books, i.e. having to angle them so and precariously hold up the free weights they can be when I’m reading lying down.
- I want to decorate my house with Yoshitaka Amano prints, install a giant koi pond in my bedroom, and get a live-in sushi chef.
- I would like Nobuo Uematsu to compose the soundtrack to my life, and for Kate Bush to sing the theme song.
- My bucket list consists of meeting Michelle Kwan, writing a Doctor Who episode, and penning a video game script.
- I know my way around time-sucking vortices. I’m your man should you need a cartographer of them.
- Heaven for me is being a swat-proof fly on the wall, while hell consists of having to go to casinos and clubs (even though I’ve got moves like Jagger).
Ruelle Electrique has just posted a movie review I wrote of Wes Anderson’s ingratiating paean to youthful love, “Moonrise Kingdom.” My fondness of Benjamin Britten’s music certainly helped drive me to the theater, but Anderson’s Polaroid fairy tale didn’t need that advantage to win this curmudgeonly reviewer over. (Not by a long shot). I give this summertime treat my heartiest Ebertian two thumbs up. Watch it, but before you do…
My July 1, 2012 Story Spotlight for Carve focuses on Stephanie Dickinson’s “Hybrid,” a story set in New York about a well-off teenager with an intriguing preoccupation on hybrid cats. This classic Carve piece appeared in the summer 2007 issue.
Ruelle Electrique has just published my review of the fiction pieces in the summer 2012 issue of The Adirondack Review. The three stories I cover are:
- “Mermaid’s Gulch” by Radha Narayan
- “Cake” by Matt Carmichael
- “News Item” by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz