Re-Dwarf: Dimension Jump

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Dimension Jump is one of the classic Dwarf episodes, one that has been referred back to on a few occasions, and whose catchphrase has lingered on.

The story begins with seven year old Rimmer hanging upside down by the ankles outside the family home, his mother raising with him the question of whether he should repeat a year of schooling, pointing out that ‘this decision could
completely alter the whole course of your life’.

Which is where we see what Rimmer could have achieved had he made a different decision on that day: the devilishly brave and handsome test pilot that can turn a guy’s head and make a woman quit her job… This is, of course, Ace Rimmer – the man Rimmer always wanted to be.

There’s some sort of disruption to the time-fabric continuum. At least, I presume that’s what it is, it’s certainly got all the signs. There’s this big wibbly-wobbly swirly thing that’s headed straight towards us.

We also meet the more talented and popular version of Lister: Spanners, a Space Corps technician married to one Kristine Kochanski – and crew members bearing a passing resemblance to Holly, Kryten’s human incarnation, and Cat. Interestingly, the Cat’s double is a Chaplain, although beyond platitudes about having Ace in his prayers and wishing him ‘God speed and bless you’ as he sets off on his next impossible mission, there isn’t really much to make of that fact.

The impossible mission in question concerns the ‘dimension theory of reality’; that for every decision that is made, the opposite decision plays out in another reality. The boffins have come with a crate that can break the speed of reality, sending an intrepid test pilot into these alternate dimensions. There must be some kind of small print which means the Dimension Jump ship homes in on alternate versions of its pilot – Ace is on a one way mission to meet all his alternate selves.

We can only assume that these are the two extremes of possible Rimmers; one talented, brave and popular, the other a snivelling, neurotic coward despised pretty much universally. By the end of the episode, ‘our’ Arnold is completely consumed by insane jealousy and bitterness towards the man he could have become.

So what does this tell us? Well mainly that every decision is important, every junction in our lives will affect every other junction we come to. From a Christian perspective, pray about every choice we make. And more importantly, don’t always jump in to what seems best at the time. As Ace says:

I was the one who went down a year. By his terms, he got the break. But being kept down a year made me. The humiliation… Being the tallest boy in the class by a clear foot. It changed me, made me buckle down, made me fight back. And I’ve been fighting back ever since.

Pride goes before destruction (Proverbs 16:8), and here young Arnie’s pride destroys an outstanding career – not to mention the fact that Arnold ends up dead, three million years from home.

While Rimmer hates his successful alter-ego, Lister takes great comfort in the fact that in some version of reality he got it right. We can spend our lives regretting bad decisions and moaning that God or fate or the universe has dealt us a duff hand; or we can see that actually, we have potential, we can be that better person.

It’s never too late to change, to take a step towards becoming our own version of Ace or Spanners. We just need to look past our jealousy or laziness or whatever is holding us back; put it down, repent, pray about it, hand it over to Christ… and move on. We may not be able to jump between dimensions, but our God can certainly change our reality.

 



CSFF Blog Tour vs Tuesday Tunes: Storm Siren

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Greetings, pop pickers! Welcome to that point in the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour when we forget about Mary Weber’s Storm Siren trilogy, and plumb the depths of my music collection (and Spotify, whose collection is a little more extensive) for a brief musical interlude.

It’s looking a bit black over Bill’s mother’s, so take cover before the Top Ten Storm Songs hit…

10. Spaceheads – Storm Force 8
And weopen with the customary 8 minutes of electronica.

9. U2 – Electrical Storm
U2 are an Irish rock band made up of oddly-named characters like ‘Bonio’, ‘Hedge’ and ‘Larry’. But don’t let that put you off, they could be big one day.

8. Tanya Donelly – The Storm
This song reminds me of Catatonia. Are we sure Tanya is from Newport, Rhode Island, and not Newport, Gwent?

7. The Wonder Stuff – Storm Drain
Paul from The Wonder Stuff was actually Marilyn Manson in disguise as a Black Country indie-rocker – a fact which has led to many an amusing rumour over the years.

6. The Levellers – Dance Before the Storm
First the Stuffies, now The Levellers… it’s a proper nostalgia factory in here tonight; like I’m in Sixth Form all over again.

5. Leftfield – Storm 3000
I think I just tuned into that pirate radio station again…oh well, I’ll see how this track plays out before I retune for Mark Goodier’s Evening Session.

4. Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Storm in a Teacup
You know the Chilli Peppers, famous Mexican rock band. Probably. Look, I haven’t got time to fact check, I have geography homework to do.

3. Astralasia – Riders on the Storm
Granted, a psychadelic trance cover of a Doors classic may not be to everyone’s taste, but I happen rather to like this.

2. Tangerine Dream – Storm Seekers
It’s quite possible that a lot of the facts in these bits are made up, and made up with references far too obscure for most of my readers. Still, I’m having fun. I’ll take questions at the end of the Top Ten.

1. Young Knives – Storm Clouds
This is just awesome. If storm clouds could play guitars and drums and stuff, they would totally sound like this.

And that was our Top Ten. I have it on good authority that Storm Siren
by Mary Weber is still available, and still rocks like a Mexican four-piece. But don’t take my word for it, click something at random from the list on the sidebar, and see what my fellow bloggers think.

CSFF Blog Tour: Storm Siren by Mary Weber

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Seems like it’s been a while since we had a blog tour, doesn’t it? Well, here we are again, and this time round we’re shining a light on Mary Weber’s YA trilogy (or part one thereof), Storm Siren.

And here’s something about the book I managed to glean from amazon:

Nym, a slave and unlikely heroine, is plagued by guilt for the innocents killed by her superpower: dangerous weather spawned by her out-of-control anger. Along with flesh-eating horses and the shape-shifting wolf-wizard Draewulf, she considers herself one of the monsters that inhabit the war-torn world of Faelen. Together with Colin, who generates earthquakes, and handsome Eogan, who calms her storms, Nym –

Wait, what? Together with who? The maker of earthquakes, creator of tsunamis, spinner of tectonic plates… Colin? Colins do not have seismic superpowers. They’re a supervisor in a call centre, or a bank manager from Swindon. They don’t cause buildings to tremble or land to slide. They certainly don’t have an epicentre.

bio-picNow, I could be jumping to conclusions here, but I don’t think Mary Weber has ever met a Colin. Seriously, I’ve seen her author pic. That’s her there. Does she look like someone who mixes with Colins? Mad Dog or Shredmaster maybe. Or Sixfingers. I’d even believe Nym… but not Colin. A Collins Dictionary, sure, being an author and everything. Just not… Colin.

Clearly, any book which claims someone called Colin might register on the Richter scale has no credibility. It’s just fantasy as far as I’m concerned, and should be clearly marketed as such.


This week, I have been mostly…

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…getting distracted by my mid-life crisis, obviously. It’s already almost a week into Camp NaNoWriMo (how did that happen?) but I don’t have a great deal to say about that, so we’ll come back to that later in the month shall we? First things first though, did I get much done in the last few weeks?

Writing.

Er, not much. Not fiction anyway; I did manage a blog post over at Christian Geek Central about Doctor Who, so that’s a bonus. As far as stories are concerned, I think I got too caught up in the big edit-frenzy that is Camp NaNo and spent my writing time trying to get ready for that.
 

Editing.

April’s writing time has been given over to the next edit/rewrite stage of Bootlesquith Manor. To date that has consisted of slashing 5,000 useless words, and putting the remaining chapters in a more sensible order. The detail editing will probably start tomorrow.
 

Planning.

I desperately want to get on with the Ambivalence Chronicles, but at the moment I’m trying to figure out whether or not it will have some loose connection to Bootlesquith Manor. I suspect it might, but how obvious – or indeed relevant – that becomes is still a mystery.
 

Coming soon…

Bootlesquith Manor. Or at least, the story which is currently going by that alias, for reasons which may or may not be explained later. Needless to say I missed the March deadline for Writers of the Future, but there’s always next quarter, assuming Bootlesquith Manor gets finished.
 
So that’s what I’ve been up to; now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to camp.

Tuesday Tunes: Lola & Percy

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As it’s been a little while since I did a music review, this week I’m giving you not one, but two Kinks CD reviews.

There are actually two reasons for this: first, the recent deluxe reissue of Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, came packaged with the follow-up, Percy, on the second disc. This was presumably related to my second reason: Percy was a bit rubbish, frankly.

So let’s get that one out of the way first: it was recorded as a soundtrack to a film about the recipient of the world’s first penis transplant. Yeah. The album was the Kinks’ last under contract with Pye, and I get the feeling they sort of phoned it in.

Anyway, it opens with the fairly cheesey God’s Children, which is followed by an instrumental blues jam version of Lola that, for me, is the too-early peak of the album. The rest is mainly a so-so mix of instrumentals and songs, and while there is the odd good moment – Dave’s slow blues guitar on Completely is the only one that springs to mind – it just plods along until John Dalton’s karaoke Elvis vocals on Willesden Green, which is notable mainly for novelty of not being a Davies brother on vocals.

Lola, on the other hand, is a proper Kinks album. The pseudo-country opening of Contenders quickly segues into a more rock and roll sound; Denmark Street is a bit rock n roll with a distinct Cockney sing-a-long vibe, while Get Back In Line has a much more melancholy feel, musically and lyrically.

And so it goes on, from the guitar driven rock of Top of the Pops and Powerman to the slower This Time Tomorrow and A Long Way From Home, to more pub sing-a-longs with The Moneygoround. All tell a darkly honest story of 60s pop stardom, the overall effect of which is to give the impression that Ray has become utterly disillusioned with the life of a pop star, and misses just banging out a tune on the ol’ Joanna in his Mum’s front room.

Well, disillusioned he may have been, but there are some great tracks on here, most with the distinct Davies magic (even Strangers, with its Dave Davies magic, is pretty decent, and he’s back to his loud and distorted best on Rats).
220px-KinksPercySoundtrackThe icing on this particular cake is, of course, the title track. No, not Powerman, the other title track. No, not The Moneygoround etither, although they are both good. I mean Lola, of course, presented here in all its original banned-by-the-BBC glory (if you don’t know why it was banned, give it a listen, see if you can figure it out).

The bonus material for the latest release includes a couple of ‘new’ tracks, a couple of instrumental versions, and alternate takes of singles Apeman (with varying pronunciations of ‘foggin’) and Lola (the BBC approved version of which appears as a bonus track on the Percy disc).

Stand-out tracks: The various renditions of Lola; the longer, mostly acoustic version among the bonus material specifically, had a couple of nice surprises that made this long-time fan smile. This Time Tomorrow, though, has turned out to be a grower.

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Linky goodness

The Kinks Official Website

Ray Davies’ website

Dave Davies’ website

KindaKinks.net

Who’s First

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This was going to be the latest Re-Dwarf post, but then I realised that thanks to the wonders of modern technology I can repeat my exact thoughts from, well, ten years and a day ago now, because I didn’t do it on the actual anniversary. Why be normal, after all.

Anyway, ten years ago (yesterday) I was eagerly awaiting the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy movie, which was just under 42 days away. But rather more pressingly, I blogged this:

Of course, before we welcome Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent to the big screen, there’s another eccentric alien and his Earthling companion to welcome back…

As I write this, it’s about four hours before the first new episode of Doctor Who in about 16 years (unless you count the ’96 movie, which I always thought was just someone’s millennial paranoia tale tacked onto a famous name to make a sale, but what do I know?) and I’m so stupidly excited I feel like I should be about ten again.

I could be disappointed, of course, with the absence of the old four-part serials, but hey, this is the 21st Century – I’m sure the Doctor can move with the times. Besides, it can’t be any worse than the Colin Baker years, can it? (It’s nothing personal, Col – I mean, it’s hardly your fault you got saddled with Trial of a Timelord, the extended clip show that lasted about three months, is it?)

Of course, Tom Baker is the Doctor*. I’m part of his generation (or should that be… oh, never mind. The pun’s far too obvious). I grew up with K-9, for heaven’s sake. The hat, the scarf, the jelly babies…

Sylvester McCoy was good, too. Pity he was the one that got the chop. And Ace was my fave companion (she had a certain appeal to me when I was a hormone-addled 15-year-old… I forget why) although I have a certain fondness for Billie Piper. That’s something different though. That’s me being a refugee from Swindon too. I kinda wish Doctor Who had come and rescued me…

*He’s also the best bit on Little Britain, IMO, although I acknowledge that may be a minority viewpoint

Hitchhikers and Doctor Who, both making a long-awaited return within a few weeks of each other. Must have been a good year! Thankfully, one of the two turned out not to be a pile of fetid dingoes kidneys.

Looking back, RTD got it pretty spot on when he brought the good Doctor back. Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor, missing the, um, memorable attire of the likes of Baker, Davison and Baker, was perhaps less alien than he might have been… at least, no more alien than a lot of Northerners are. Eccleston brought a certain gravitas to the role that got the show off to a fantastic start – even when faced with the slightly comedic Autons as his first baddie.

It was only a few weeks later that it was announced that he wouldn’t return for a second series; the Ninth Doctor had already made a big impression, because I could not see how the show could carry on with a new lead after so short a time…

And then, of course, David Tenant rocked up in his dressing gown and made a better homage to Douglas Adams than that wretched movie.

And in time, of course, we got Daleks, Cybermen, and even the Master back… The scarf, the jelly babaies, and a variety of hats came along later too. New Who has been a bit of a success really, among new fans and old, and I suppose we owe at least part of that to the too short-lived Ninth Doctor.

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Book Review: The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

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The Long Earth could have gone either way; Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter have each written things I could happily read over and over, and things that have utterly failed to grab me.

As it turns out, it went the good way – for me at least, but it is the sort of work that won’t appeal to everyone.

It certainly isn’t a Discworld story; it’s quite light hearted, the design of the stepper itself could have been straight from the streets of Ankh-Morpork, but it’s not LOL funny like an early Discworld novel.

It’s also not the kind of hard sf Baxter often writes, but the world-building, which is based on potential alternative evolutionary paths for our world, seems like an extension of some of his other work.

In the year 2015, humanity discovers a way of ‘stepping’ into alternate earths by means of a simple device anyone can build based on instructions released onto the internet. Unlike some parallel world stories, humanity has evolved on only one Earth, although intelligent humanoids are discovered elsewhere and given flattering names like trolls and elves, as humans are likely to do.

This book is, for the most part, an odyssey through the Long Earth, following natural stepper Joshua Valienté, and an artificial intelligence named Lobsang, who believes himself to be a reincarnated Tibetan motorcycle repairman.

What Lobsang may or may not be is an interesting philosophical diversion for a few pages, but I would have liked to learn more about him, the extent of his artificial mind, and how reincarnation works in this world.

There isn’t a whole lot of action, but that’s not a bad thing because the world is fun to explore, and the writing is easy to get lost in. Between them the authors have created an interesting premise and a potentially infinite multiverse to explore; their two normally very different approaches to world-building coming together here and creating something I don’t think either could have done alone.

Open this book without expectations based on either Pratchett or Baxter; just sit back and watch the worlds go by.




Re-Dwarf: White Hole

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Finally, after many months’ absence, the Great Red Dwarf re-watch is back. And White Hole is probably one of my top three episodes ever, if I were to ever sit and compile such a thing.

The story starts with Kryten repairing Talkie Toaster in order to conduct experiments in intelligence compression to stave of Holly’s computer senility. Predictably, things go awry and the crew are suddenly left without Holly – and without access to any of the technology their daily lives normally depend upon; as Lister points out, they are reduced to the level of primitives.

And just when they thought the day couldn’t get any worse, they encounter a new phenomenon…

Holly’s plan is, basically, to throw a nuclear bomb at the sun, using the resulting solar flare to plug the white hole with a planet. To play pool with planets. This plan, however, puts her firmly on Lister’s home ground, and on thebasis that having an IQ of 12,000 doesn’t mean she can play pool, Lister takes the shot himself, relying on Wicked Strength lager and skills refined at the Aigburth Arms on a Friday night.

Given that God is infinite, and that the universe is also infinite; would you like a toasted teacake?

But before the Prince of the Planet-Potters plays his trick shot, let’s back up a little, to where everything shuts down. Holly takes with her the engines, navigation and all but emergency power. Everything, in fact, except the oxygen recycler, minimal heating and lighting… and Rimmer.

It seems that Rimmer was granted a reprieve because there would be insufficient power to reboot him from the emergency batteries, despite the fact that without his drain on the system, Lister and Cat could extend their (admittedly still very short) remaining time. Under normal circumstances, SpaceCorps Directives dictate that ‘a hologrammatic crewmember must lay down his life in order that the living crewmembers might survive’; this being Red Dwarf, however, and the SpaceCorps being about three million years out of date, the switch-off option is taken off the table.

I find Rimmer’s choices here interesting. One the one hand, he can make the ultimate sacrifice, lay down his life so that what passes as his friends can live longer. Or he can refuse, watch them die, and then carry on, alone, until he eventually runs out of power and ‘dies’ anyway. Give your life up willingly, or lose it anyway.

The other point of potential relevance is what happens when Holly – the entity who effectively keeps their universe (within Red Dwarf anyway) running, provides them with food, warmth, the very air they breathe – is suddenly taken out of the equation:

It leaves us galloping up diarrhoea drive without a saddle.

So I guess the moral of this story, such as it is, is don’t switch your Holly off. That, and keep your pool playing arm solid, just in case.

 



Tuesday Tunes: St Patrick’s Day edition

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It is, of course, St Patrick’s Day today, in honour of which today’s musical blog will be dedicated to some good traditional Irish music: the 3-disc box set of Thin Lizzy’s greatest hits. (The third disc is a DVD of live performances which I still haven’t watched, and will play no further part in this review.)

Reviewing such a thing properly would, of course, be largely redundant. If you haven’t at least heard The Boys Are Back In Town, you have actually just arrived on this planet, and should turn on the TV immediately. It’ll be on something or other soon.

The Boys Are Back was the band’s big international break, and almost certainly their best known track, and is a predictable but deserving opener to this collection. (A live version also closes the second disc, just to prove the point.) If you like that tune, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll enjoy the rest of this compilation. That’s not to say that the rest of the tracks are rehashed versions of their best tune – check out, for instance, the more melodic Sarah, about Phil Lynott’s baby daughter.

There are, as well as Thin Lizzy’s finest moments, a smattering of Phil Lynott’s solo tracks and some he recorded with Gary Moore – seriously, the guitar work on Parisienne Walkways, how awesome is it? If I could play guitar, I’d want to play like Gary Moore. Or Dave Davies. Or both. But I can’t, so that’s beside the point.

Also among Lynott’s solo efforts is the slightly odd Yellow Pearl, which I literally just (well, when I bought the CD) discovered was the tune to Top of the Pops during my formative years. I guess that might go some way to explaining why I think the Lizzy are cool. On the other hand, it could be the insightful lyrics (“Tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak/ Somewhere in this town” – I’m guessing probably not IKEA?), or the random bits of Irishness (notably Emerald, and Whiskey in the Jar). Or the kickass guitars. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s just great music that stands the test of time and still rocks 30-odd years later. A bit like me really…

Listen along

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Sir Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)

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I have nothing to say here that hasn’t already been said more eloquently or meaningfully throughout the internet. I don’t have a story of how he mocked the scruffy copy of Hogfather I asked him to sign – I’ve never even been to a Terry signing (although I’m sure that, as most houses in this country do, we have a signed Discworld novel somewhere). I don’t have a better geek dad story than this one. I can’t even claim to have read all his novels, although I probably still have the t-shirt.

In fact, besides the now very old and possibly moth-eaten t-shirt, all I have to offer is a model of the Discworld on the back of a Mini Pick-up.
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I hope that’s a suitably unique tribute to an author who has undoubtedly influenced my reading and writing over the years – if I could convey half the sense of fun and silliness that came from those early Discworld books (especially the ones with Rincewind or Gaspode the Wonder Dog in them), create a carnival of freaks remotely as memorable as those that populate Ankh-Morpork, or get away with calling a character Moist von Lipwig, I would be… well, I’d be a better author, I expect.

It is a bittersweet moment; at least Sir Terry was granted his wish not to suffer Alzheimer’s through to the bitter end. I think he’d want us to be happy about that. And as he wrote in Reaper Man:

No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.


With over 50 novels and a whole bunch of other writing loose in the world, Terry Pratchett has left a lot of ripples.

Read Terry Pratchett: