Tag Archives: Doctor Who

What about gay books?

‘Thank goodness we’re all heterosexuals here,’ sighs Patrick Ness in his Guardian review of Steve Augarde’s book X Isle. (Spoiler warning, in case someone reads Patrick’s review and wants to read Steve’s book later.) And he goes on to say:

‘Gay teens read books, too, having a bit more reason than most to seek a safe and private world, and how miraculous it would be for them, just once, to read a mass-market adventure story where their absence isn’t greeted with relief. —  How refreshing it would be for gay teens – and, incidentally, straight teens, too – to read a twist that reverses expectations in new ways, rather than the usual Shakespearean ones. It’s time, perhaps, for certain old plot devices to be buried with a fond, but firm, farewell.’

I have to agree. I probably wouldn’t have minded Steve’s plot device (similar to Meg Rosoff’s in What I Was), but I can see where Patrick is coming from. But then, maybe it’s not so much what Steve or anyone else might have done with their plots which matters, as the simple fact that there are not a lot of gay YA books around.

In fact, I’m struggling to come up with any at all, other than Jacqueline Wilson’s Kiss. When I read I don’t compartmentalise story lines in my mind according to sexuality or skin colour. I’m not absolutely certain how I categorise books, now that I think about it. More like I do people, I expect. Nice people, awful people, bores, etc. Things that don’t depend on them being black or white or wealthy or badly educated or anything else like that.

So, I think ‘good book’, ‘couldn’t-wait-to-put-it-down book’, ‘book of the century’ or ‘OK, I suppose’. That kind of thing. If it’s got interesting relationships or sex or whatever I’ll mentally file it away as such.

Patrick is right, though. As long as being gay is seen as a problem or as a minority thing, there will be a captive audience waiting to read about themselves. And it wouldn’t hurt for others to read about it as well. But my own experience from blogging about Aspie books in the belief that it would be useful for ‘the others’, only to find that it was the Aspie readers who were desperate to find reading suggestions, shows that you can’t necessarily predict what anyone needs. Most of us would like to find someone we can identify with in fiction, whether it’s sexuality, disability, race or just simple stuff like being fat, clever, shy or something else, which for the ‘sufferer’ takes on disproportionate dimensions.

We don’t need more books about the hardships of being rich, beautiful, popular or terrific at sports. Vampires have recently had plenty of publicity for their special handicap, so maybe it’s time to cast a wider net?

To get back to gay books; who best to write them? It’s tempting to say those who are gay, but I have no idea if that’s right, and I don’t know how many gay authors there are. And of course, if you are gay, it’s a bit boring to feel that you therefore have to sit and compose one gay book after another. But it’s the ‘write about what you know’ thing, isn’t it? On the other hand, lots of authors write excellent portraits of someone the opposite sex from themselves, and writing about something new or different is supposedly the skill of a professional writer.

The other question is; can the market cope with gay novels for young readers? I suspect the publishers would find it hard, as might the buyer from the large chain. What about the grandparents? Or the school librarian, who should know better, but who worries about upsetting the parents. But the thing is, we have a generation of quite young children who have watched Doctor Who, and perhaps even Torchwood, who know all about Captain Jack, as well as John Barrowman, and who find it totally natural.

Not all authors want to ‘come out’, and I can see that there may be special issues perceived both by authors of young fiction and their publishers, if the author makes their sexual orientation known. So, maybe not ‘write about what you know’, for fear of upsetting customers?

But then, how do we ever go forward?

(I’d like more fiction about boring, short, fat girls. Preferably with really good looking boyfriends. Or girlfriends, to be non-sexist.)

Torchwood, the book

Time to break with bookwitch tradition here. I generally don’t bother blogging about books that aren’t up to scratch, and I tend to have read them myself first. Not this time.

Daughter is very keen on the Doctor Who books. I can’t wean her off them, so have decided that it’s fine for her to read those books, even to the exclusion of so much else. I don’t think they are bad. (Maybe I ought to read one?) I just think of them as being more formula books, as they are written by a number of different writers. But, one of them is Steve Cole, who is an excellent writer. So as I said, it’s not all bad.

Recently, Daughter moved on to trying the Torchwood variety of BBC books, so while waiting to catch up with the new Torchwood on television this week, she read Another Life. When we like formula books, we tend either not to notice, or at least to overlook, poor writing, because there is something there that is satisfying and good. And Daughter never ever mentions bad writing, or bad editing.

This time she did. It must have been pretty bad for her to repeatedly say how badly written the book was, and to note how the proof-reading left something to be desired.

At £6.99 it’s not cheap for young fans, and I’m sure the BBC sell quite a respectable number of these books. They have certainly never responded to my requests for review copies, which tends to be a sign that someone reckons they don’t need reviews. They have never even bothered to reply to say no. But that’s up to them.

I do wish they’d provide young readers with better quality stories, though. Daughter has often wished she could write Doctor Who books. Maybe she could. Maybe she should.

Evil chocolate?

Halfway through Cornelia Funke’s Advent calendar book, I can tell you that chocolate is evil. At least I believe it is.

On that basis I should have refused Daughter’s dream of yet another chocolate Advent calendar, but she now has her own debit card and everything, so what can you do? As she hasn’t yet got round to lying about her age to shop on eBay, however, it was the witch who had to send off for the Doctor Who calendar. It’s a Dalek one, and the chocolates arrived very jumbled up, so I complained. They sent another one, but same jumble. The curse of the Daleks.

Dalek calendar

I suspect it’s Cornelia’s traditional calendars fighting back.

In the olden days, before chocolate calendars, the witch always bought her traditional calendar on the 19th of November. It was my name day, and the calendar was my present. It’s still my name day, of course, but no more calendars for me.

There was a Dalek in Stockport town centre on Saturday. Wasn’t able to ask it about the chocolates.

Anyone who needs to exercise their grey cells, can now start guessing what name goes with the 19th November.

Bookwitch in Cheltenham

You have an exhausted bookwitch at your service this morning. Let me tell you, going to Cheltenham is a lovely thing to do, but it is not restful. In order to be nice to Daughter, we went to see Russell T Davies and John Barrowman last thing last night, which meant the last train (lots of lasts, there) home. Daughter has staggered off to school now, and the witch has so far only managed to put her foot in wet paint once, this morning. (The decorator is here…)

Juggler

Anyway, as I was saying, Cheltenham is nice. Daughter gasped when she saw the architecture and I had fears her camera would run out of batteries. (These days you can’t run out of film, at least.) So, lovely town. Lovely weather, warm and sunny and the summer we never had. Literature festival. Also very nice. So much to do, and not enough time.

Darren Shan

Celia Rees

The first afternoon we ran like scalded rats between venues, taking in Darren Shan and Celia Rees as mentioned previously. Why can’t they all be in one place? The advantage of these festival thingies is meeting all sorts of people, and it’s particularly good for me to meet the people who work in the background and send me books and are generally helpful. Celia had Emma from Bloomsbury with her, providing me with more proof that the publishing industry is very pretty. Observed Ann Widdecombe being interviewed in the park, and wanted to dash over and discuss Jacqueline Wilson and unmarried mothers with her, but didn’t. Mal Peet strolled past, unfortunately without Meg Rosoff, who I assume had gone home after their event the day before. Dinner was the slowest pizza ever encountered, before the dash to the race course for Roger Moore. The moon was particularly nice looking on Saturday night, in case you were wondering.

Moon

My last blog post was written in the middle of the night, while I perched on a pillow to reach the computer, swearing over slow hotel broadband. After a few hours of sleep, it was up at dawn for a rendez vous with Eoin Colfer and his biggest fan, Charlie. Ever the interfering busybody, I had leaned on Puffin’s Adele Minchin until she tilted dangerously and said that “yes, of course, Charlie can interview Eoin”.

Adele Minchin and Eoin Colfer

 

So that was Charlie and family brimming over with excitement, and we all trooped into the Everyman theatre to wait. The interview will appear here, soon. Suffice it to say that it went very well and the whole Charlie family now love Eoin. The event was better than ever, which makes me wonder if Eoin was fibbing when he said minutes before it, that he didn’t know yet what he’d be talking about. (His horrible brothers, since you ask.)

Eoin Colfer at the Everyman Theatre

After refreshments in the Everyman Theatre’s writers’ room, we looked round Cheltenham, again. I think I saw Kate Adie near the Promenade. We went to the Times tent for our free Times reusable bags. In the sweltering October heat it felt incongruous to see our lunch restaurant urging their customers to book for Christmas, but there you are. We had wanted to eat outside, but so did everyone else.

Back out to the race course, for John Barrowman and his sister Carole. Daughter is a VERY big fan, so getting close to John was imperative. We scouted out the best route to the book signing and prepared with almost military precision. As we did this we saw Richard Attenborough, or Santa Claus, as Daughter calls him. He was there with Bob, Jacqueline Wilson’s driver. John and Carole were great, and there’ll be more on that over on CultureWitch soon. And the planning paid off, with Daughter getting to somewhere near the front of the queue.

Carole and John Barrowman

While waiting for that last Doctor Who event, we took our M&S sandwiches outside and sat by the fence near the entrance, looking at people passing by. Daughter fantasised about seeing someone she knew, but it was the witch who found her colleague Karen, from Eurocrime. Who says it’s lonely blogging?

 

(All photos by H Giles)

Sarah Jane is back

Sarah Jane Adventures

I hoped Sarah Jane would return to our televisions, but the last episode of Doctor Who made me wonder if they were all being got rid of. But of course they weren’t. You can’t kill all the fat calves or golden geese or what have you. Things sorted themselves out quite nicely, so I assume that this afternoon we’ll find Sarah Jane and Luke and any child helpers running around in that delicious green Figaro, pointing that pen thing at aliens as usual. And it appears Mr Smith has been forgiven, but can he be trusted?

Starts 16.35 on BBC1.

Who next?

Doctor Who

Doctor Who

I think we can safely say that a female Doctor Who would be a possibility, can’t we? Not that David Tennant needs to think of departing just yet, but maybe we can turn the tables with a female, and a nice male assistant. Still envy Sarah Jane her hair, which stays perfect, no matter where she goes, or how. And have the cheese graters had their final comeuppance, or not? Most likely not.

Mixed characters

Was I alone in thinking of the Muppet Family Christmas while watching Doctor Who last night? There’s something about mixing the characters from more than one favourite television programme. It’s like a massive family get-together, of the fun kind.

Those Daleks make me think of cheese-graters with Christmas tree lights. Their leader – if that’s who he was – reminded me of Voldemort, which probably makes the good Doctor the Harry Potter of this adventure. And it’s always embarrassing when all your lady friends suddenly meet up together.

Doctor Who in the library

I’m not a Doctor Who fanatic, although I am closely related to one. I know I mentioned the good Doctor only just last week, but did you see the episode on Saturday? That certainly put a new meaning to bodies in libraries. Who (sorry about that un-intentional pun) will dare go into a library now? I hope no children watching will be too scared to venture into one from now on.

I understand there’s a new head writer for the series. Steven Moffat is the man behind some earlier episodes like the “Are you my Mummy?” one. My own fanatic is concerned that all episodes will be as scary as that one. We did a lot of holding hands, very hard, watching the Mummy episode, around these parts.

Then Son did his bit to add to the scare. He was in the garden and just “happened” to climb up on the bench outside the kitchen window as I was standing by the sink, eased the already open window a bit more open, and asked sweetly “Are you my Mummy?”. I nearly died.

So if we’re getting the same with libraries I don’t think I can cope.

How Agatha lost her memory

Did anyone else see the latest episode of Doctor Who? It was fun to see how many Agatha Christie book titles the script writers could fit into the one episode. And I must say that the explanation for Agatha Christie’s supposed memory loss when she disappeared in 1926 is one of the best. It explains it all.

This episode paid homage to Christie and period whodunnits and bodies in libraries and the whole caboodle. But it wouldn’t have been so good for those who run when they see a wasp, so I’m glad Doctor Who doesn’t rank highly with my wasp phobic friend S.

Authorless Henry

I’ll just complain a bit here, with no real facts to back me up. I read this some weeks ago, most likely in the Guardian, so I’m disappointed in them. Could have been somewhere else. But it’s stuck in my mind, so I’ll complain away.

Anyway, it was about sales figures for books leading up to Christmas. And it seems that some series about a boy called Henry (why are my books suddenly full of Henrys?) was doing well and passing a number of “proper” books in the bestseller lists. (How dare it?)

I think what annoyed me so was that they were passing judgement (as I am now…) on what was made out to be not quite a real book. Personally I think that even the Doctor Who books are real, although written by lots of different authors, and it’s Doctor Who that matters, not who wrote the book.

Right, I’m getting there. But Henry happens to be Horrid Henry, written by Francesca Simon, who is very real. Somehow she wasn’t worthy of being mentioned in connection with her sales. Henry is a series. So’s Harry Potter. Books are books. And Francesca is an author, who happens to be doing very well. Good for her.

And good for Henry and all his fans. There’s a nice Christmas Henry out, for anyone who’s interested.