Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Fish Custard is now available in cartons....

The Viewer's Tale volume 2 

Andrew Rilstone's collected reviews and digressions about Doctor Who series 5 (The One With The Guy With The Floppy Hair) is now available in book form from those nice people at Lulu.

Still available...

The Viewer's Tale volume 1
Who Sent the Sentinels
Where Dawkins Went Wrong



and while you are there, why not pick up a copy of Andrew Hickey's splendid book about "The Beatles" as well.

40 comments:

Andrew Hickey said...

Aw, thanks! There was no need for the plug, but it's very good of you!

Mike Taylor said...

Seventy-two pages?

Andrew, I love your writing, I really do; and I've bought Sentinels, Dawkins and Viewer. I'll probably buy this one, too.

But really -- when you publish segments of your writing this tiny, it can hardly help but feel as though you're stretching your material thinly, like chocolate pudding scraped across too much ham. Apart from anything else, I resent paying Lulu a minimum of £2.99 in P&P, increasing the total price of the book by 66%.

I really hope that your next book is going to be a lot more substantial.

Sam Dodsworth said...

You did a really good job on that cover - especially considering the quality of the photos you had to work with.

Any plans to talk about politics, BTW? Bristol's full of activists, so I imagine it's a pretty exciting place to be right now.

Andrew Rilstone said...

I liked the idea of putting the Season 5 reviews in book format. There are lots of people who won't read my stuff off the screen. The alternative was to wait til -- I don't know -- 2014, and doing another 180 page Who book. (Or a 400 page complete Who blogs 2005 - 2015. Or something.) I could have done this saddle-stitched, so it looked more like a fanzine than a book, but that wouldn't have been any cheaper. (Or done a revised "Now Includes Season 5" version of the first book. Only just thought of that.)

Seriously, if you've read the online Whostuff, you don't need this. Or wait a month and get it postage free on Amazon.

"Do Balrogs Have Wings (And Other Pressing Questions)" currently stands at 238 pages, but isn't going to come out until I've added some new stuff (Caspian and Dawn Treader movies; Douglas's two books about Lewis; the Really Stupid Astrology Book; prolly a rewrite of the old trilema essays). So not much change from 300 pages. But don't expect it Any Time Soon.

Might put all the music stuff together, but that would be more of a magazine to flash at people who might pay me to write, and I'd sell it at cost. Might put Joseph Campbell and Star Wars in one booklet, but that would be small but perfectly formed. If my very short essay on David Benedictus's Winnie-the-Pooh gets any longer, it may turn into a Sentinels shaped thang in its own right. (I shall probably drop the line about Eeeyore's letter "A" being a neo-lancanian fall in which language comes between subject and object.)

And other stuff.

Or maybe I'll just get a life instead...

Andrew Rilstone said...

Any plans to talk about politics, BTW? Bristol's full of activists, so I imagine it's a pretty exciting place to be right now.

You should know by now that I never have any plans to write about anything.

I saw some students with placards yesterday. They were quite cross about something.

Andrew Rilstone said...

comterthinkofit there's no reason i shouldn't buy a stack of them at author discount and then post them out in envelopes via this site (provided i don't sell them for less than lulu)

watchthisspace

Mike Taylor said...

Well, I went ahead and bought the new book.

It's great to know you have this other stuff in the works, particularly the Tolkien-and-Lewis volume which will contain what I think is your very best stuff.

Do you really want to wait for the Dawn Treader movie? I'll be interested to know what you make of it, sure, but not to the stage where I think it'd be worth holding up the whole book.

One more thought: I don't know how you and others feel about thematic unity, but I'd have been happy to see some of your not-really-relevant-to-anything old pieces, like Hell's Teeth, reprinted as Special Bonus Material appendices of Fish Custard. Maybe you could do that with some of the shorter forthcoming volumes?

Sam Dodsworth said...

You should know by now that I never have any plans to write about anything.

A good point. You've been interested in education in the past - but not universities, now I come to think of it. And the whole "recruit teachers from the army" thing is an obvious non-event when you take a proper look.

Maybe some more about politics and folk music, if you ever feel inspired?

Andrew Rilstone said...

Not specially waiting for Dawn Treader, actually: more "waiting to get around to finishing the piece on the Stupid Astrology Book". But since it will probably come out after Christmas, it would be nice to be "up to date".(And quite nice to be able to say to my loyal Fan "a great big book, with literally everything I've written about the inklings, and a few new bits as well". Oh, and it will have the Harry Potter thing in it, because I can't think where else it would go.) Of course, I may seen Dawn Treader and I find I don't have anything to say about it.

(How will they handle Eustace? Surely a modern filum can't say "He's a rotter because he went to a liberal school and was taught about science and not beaten often enough"? But surely the whole story falls apart if you say "He's not a rotter at all, it's just that he had a different kind of upbringing to Goody Goody Peter, and in the end they come to understand each other?" Actually, the best thing to do would be too turn the back story on its head and say "He's a rotter because he went to a horribly old fashioned school where they taught you Latin and made you run cross country in the rain" but then the ghost of C.S. Lewis would haunt you.)

I do have things to say about Doug Gresham's two books, but have been failing to get around to saying it for ages. Summary: Autobiography -- Terrific; Biography - Thoroughly Wierd.

Meanwhile: 250 words to write for Skiffynow on Doctor Who 2012. For, you know, money. (Not a lot.)

Andrew Rilstone said...

Sam: What I had in mind was that I never really know in advance what I'm going to write about. I really do have a long piece on Winnie-the-Pooh (well, on children's books, really) that I haven't finished; and I have a sort of Christmas thing that will probably annoy everybody. Somewhere I have a piece that started out being about scanners at airports and ended up being about nudity but which stopped because there are only so many penis jokes you can do before they stop being funny, where "so many" is any number greater than one. I might find myself in Starbucks tomorrow feeling like writing about the funding of higher education; I might just as well find myself writing about Robert E Howard, which I've been meaning to do for about two years. Truth is, like Bob Dylan, I feel like I've been through this movie before: naturally, the Tories are going to do Toryish things to schools; on the scale of things, I'm probably less irritated by Gove going on about school uniforms than I was about Blair's "Civics" and "Literacy Hours" and "Holocaust Studies". Ten year from now -- or sooner if the economy goes into a double dippy thing -- Miliband will reform them back in statist Stalinist direction, and ten years after that some new Tory will say that the solution to everything is little caps and little ties. My overall position is "If we don't get PR, I will never again vote for the liberals, and that sentence remains true even if you remove the words 'for the liberals'." I like Chumbawamba very much indeed.

Mike Taylor said...

The Dawn Treader movie terrifies me, not because of what they will do to Eustace, but because of what they will do to Aslan. It only took them till the second book of the film to relegate him to the role of Enabler for Peter's heroism -- in fact, as you ably pointed out, the first film veered dangerously in that direction, but that flower bloomed fully in Caspian. So what is left for them to do with Aslan? I would not be totally shocked if this time around he is presented as a hindrance -- a Childish Thing that Peter has to learn to leave behind if he is to embrace his inner hero and truly learn to trust in himself. Or at best, that Aslan's goal this time around is for Peter to stop relying on him.

This is all the sadder because Dawn Treader is perhaps my favourite of all seven books, in large part because the episodic format allows Aslan to turn up more. Certainly the passage where Eustace is de-dragonned is the most moving part of any of the books for me, and by far the best description I've ever read of what Christian conversion is like, or at any rate should be like. If they muff that part, I will walk out of the cinema (or, more realistically, out of my living room since I'll probably wait for the DVD).

That said, the specific problem you raise -- how to account for Eustace's initial Prize Rotter status -- doesn't strike me as a problem at all. Eustace's flaw (besides selfishness and pride, of course) isn't that he knows about science, it's that he knows about nothing but science. Rather as Susan's problem is that she cares for nothing but lipstick and nylons and invitations. Whatever Lewis's own feeling about science might have been, there is no need for the film to paint it as A Bad Thing. An all-science-all-the-time Eustace won't know what a dragon is -- not because he has read the wrong books but because he's never read the right ones.

Gavin Burrows said...

""waiting to get around to finishing the piece on the Stupid Astrology Book"

Watching the documentary on the Stupid Astrology Book, virtually my first thought was "I wonder what the good Mr. Rilstone will say about this?" (Closely followed by "I bet he'll say it's stupid." Closely followed by "it being stupid, and all.")

So I'll be looking out for that one, even if I already know the punchline.

(Disclaimer: the author doesn't actually believe in astrology. But it's still pretty stupid.)

Andrew Rilstone said...

((I imagine that the editor of Skiffynow would be almost as pleased if I wrote something about Doctor Who 2011. I could get a look at the 2012 version, it might contain spoilers.)

Mario NC said...

You know what would be nice Andrew?? A book of your comments about Cerebus and Dave Sim. Your impressive essays about the insanity of Sim and your analysis of issue 300 was the spark that started my interest in Cerebus. It was complex, painful, annoying and brilliant, and I would never forget the experience. And of course... you should write a book about that =)

Andrew Rilstone said...

Overall, I've written less about Cerebus then you might think - not enough to fill a book. (Surprisingly little about comics, actually. Lots and lots about the Daily Express, though :)

One of my plans for 2010 was to reread Cerebus #1 - #300. I am starting to think that I may have to leave this to 2011. But that's bound to lead to a Vast Oupouring Of Writing. Or at least a short review.

Glad to know you liked the stuff I did write; thanks for saying so.

SK said...

I didn't find the Astrology Book that stupid -- I mean, it rather stretched and shrank and twisted and cut things to fit its conclusions, but unlike most of these things the supposed 'scheme' was actually something that the author was genuinely interested in and had actually written a book about rather than trying to prove that, say, Shakespeare was writing in code about Al Queda.

So even if you're unconvinced about the rather too-neat 'one planet per book' thesis, 'ways in which Lewis's interests in medieval cosmology may have influenced his fiction' is an interesting thesis topic in itself.

Mike Taylor said...

I'd like to propose an experiment, if I may. I am guessing that lots of people who read this blog both (A) are familiar with the Narnia books and (B) haven't read the Stupid Astrology Book, which gives us the right conditions.

The thesis of the Stupid Astrology Book is that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the seven Narnia books and the seven medieval planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the Sun and the Moon -- and that this is because Lewis deliberately wrote them that way, but didn't tell anyone. Supposedly each book embodies the mythological properties of one planet: for example, one of them (I won't say which) exemplifies Mars, the god of war (and agricultured), while another exemplified Venus, the god of love (and beauty and fertility).

My experiment is this: I'd like to see Lewisophiles try to match up the seven planets with the seven books, and we'll see how many of us land up with the same mapping as the Stupid Astrology Book.

Here are the rules: if you want to take part then please DO NOT either look up the Stupid Astrology Book itself or look at any of the suggested mappings that get posted here. Feel free to go back to the Narnia books themselves, and to read about the medieval planets -- in Wikipedia, for example.

Let's see what we discover.

(Andrew, hope you don't mind my hijacking your blog for this.)

Gavin Burrows said...

"So even if you're unconvinced about the rather too-neat 'one planet per book' thesis, 'ways in which Lewis's interests in medieval cosmology may have influenced his fiction' is an interesting thesis topic in itself."

I don't actually disagree with any of this. If you wanted to substitute the term "entertaining but pointless" for "stupid" I would demure quite happily, just so long as you didn't go anywhere near "convincing" or "significant".

Lewis was interested in Medieval cosmology so it is more appropriate to relate that to his seven books than, say, the seven dwarves. (At least a bit.)

But of course the point remains that if you go looking for patterns then you will find patterns. It can be a fun hobby, it can be a form of mental exercise. It just won't ever prove anything.

(Hope at least one person takes Mike up on his experiment, incidentally.)

Andrew Stevens said...

Okay, I'll bite. It's been a while since I've read the Narnia books (and I only saw the first film), but I'm confident that I remember the gist of all seven. My knowledge of medieval cosmology is fairly limited and it's just about impossible to research it within the confines of this experiment since probably 1/2 to 2/3 of the results I'm getting refer to the Stupid Astrology Book (though I was very careful to avoid spoilers so I still don't know anything), but my mythology is okay so I probably have the basic idea of what each planet represents.

Sun- The Magician's Nephew (the Sun is usually associated with creation, yes?)
Moon- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (I must confess that this was my process of elimination choice, but I don't think it's a terrible fit - the Moon is usually feminine and the first book has a lot of emphasis on female characters with the main hero being Lucy and the main villain being the Witch)
Mercury- Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Mercury was the patron of travelers, yes?)
Venus- The Horse and His Boy (the only book which includes a love story as part of its plot, I believe)
Mars- Prince Caspian (IIRC, I regard this as the most warlike of the books)
Jupiter- The Last Battle (which would seem to be a good fit for Mars with the word "battle" in the title, but it's not a terribly martial book and, given the ending, should probably be associated with the king of the gods)
Saturn- The Silver Chair (I seem to recall that Saturn is associated in astrology with restriction and binding, which relates to the main plot of the book)

Gavin Burrows said...

Yes, but what about the seven dwarves?

The Silver Chair is quite obviously Sleepy, but from thereon in I'm stumped. Maybe The Last Battle is Dopey on the grounds that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Helen Louise said...

Given that everyone who has ever written about magic and suchlike was really ripping off St JK Rowling, everyone knows that the Narnia books are really take-offs of the Harry Potter books.

The Magician's Nephew was actually The Philosopher's Stone, dumbing down Philosopher to Magician for an American audience. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was really The Half Blood Prince - both have a cupboards-as-transport motif. The Horse and His Boy is actually The Deathly Hallows, since it's mostly about camping. Prince Caspian is really the Order of the Phoenix - in both our heroes must defy the tyrannical rulers in secret. Voyage of the Dawn Treader is actually Goblet of Fire... there's eternal glory, or something. Silver Chair is really Prisoner of Azkaban - the prisoner appears evil but turns out to be good, and Last Battle is actually the Chamber of Secrets, because good people are persecuted in both.

With such evidence of C S Lewis's flagrant plagiarism, how can you continue to laud this man? He even occasionally refers to boarding schools and once has something magical happen in a station.

SK said...

While not, as I wrote, being convinced by Ward's schema, I do find it more convincing than yours.

Mike: while I suspect your experiment may provide interesting results, I do not think this is the kind of thing that can be settled by a vote. The persuasiveness and depth (or otherwise) of the reasoning must be taken into account; not simply such tritenesses as 'first book has a lot of emphasis on female characters'.)

And what is more, it's totally wrong to say that looking for patterns 'just won't ever prove anything'. It may well not prove what you set out to prove, that is, the existence of the pattern, especially if you cling to 'the pattern' as the singular, reductive 'key to the cypher' proposed by the thesis; but, I think that Ward's book does prove something very important, which is the influence of the medieval cosmology on Lewis's fictional work. The form that influence took may not be the precise one-planet-one-book correspondence set out in Planet Narnia, but, having read it, I find it hard to deny that certain elements of certain books (such as Father Christmas, for example, or the dryads, ) were not influenced by aspects of the medieval cosmology.

For the record, I am persuaded by Ward that the Narnia Chronicles are an attempt to integrate medieval symbols and tropes (including the cosmology) into a Christian paradigm, and that this makes sense of, for example, the superficially chaotic symbolism of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (though I think that some of the superficial chaos comes from the fact that at the time of writing the first book, Lewis hadn't quite worked out what his subconscious was doing; and that the more unified symbolism of later books reflects a greater awareness of his aim); but I am not persuaded that there was a deliberate attempt on Lewis's part to match one book to one planet.

And moreover, I think that the idea that literary criticism 'can't prove anything' would not have found approval in the Pickerel, or any other pub near Magdalen. Unless the thesis you were trying to prove was spmething Lewis disagreed with, of course.

Gavin Burrows said...

SK, I am going to give you the courtesy of assuming that you can tell the difference between 'literary criticism' and looking ass-backwards for all-embracing patterns.

...in which case I think you are looking for a disagreement where none actually exists.

'The Lion, The Witch and the wardrobe' (the one which introduces Aslan) is Doc. 'Dawn Treader' is Happy.

SK said...

You know, I'm not sure I can tell the difference; a lot of literary criticism is looking for patterns (after all, what is any symbol but a repeated pattern of connotative association?).

So perhaps you might explain the difference to me?

Gavin Burrows said...

You are confusing literary criticism with games of snap.

(Further correspondence will not be entered into.)

SK said...

So after establishing I don't know the difference, you refuse to explain it.

Anyone else find the pedagogy lacking there?

Andrew Rilstone said...

If I joined in this game, I wouldn't get around to writing the actual article.

We've all read "Promethea", haven't we? Absolutely everything is a symbol of absolutely everything else.

Gavin Burrows said...

So in this case the comments are here before the actual article?

Is that postmodern? I find it hard to keep up...

Albert said...

Gosh, I just wanted to say
a) Hooray! A new book, exactly the right length to read in the bath and great value at £4.50
b) Yeh, £2.99 for postage is annoying, but imagine if you'd sent off an order yesterday with the code cyberuk305 getting 25% off, and now it won't let you do it again.
c) I was going to make a hilarious CS Lewis gag but I suspect the outcome may be unfavourable amongst such august company.

Andrew Stevens said...

The persuasiveness and depth (or otherwise) of the reasoning must be taken into account; not simply such tritenesses as 'first book has a lot of emphasis on female characters'.)

That one was admittedly my process of elimination choice. I didn't think the Moon fit that book very well, but none of them seemed to. I haven't read the book, but I have read up a bit on Ward's theory since I made that list. Ward has stated that once you figure out that each book represents a planet, that it's "blindingly obvious." If that were so, you'd think my list would be a better match for Ward's, but in fact it matches exactly one (Prince Caspian for Mars).

The most obvious reason why Ward is not correct is because Lewis would surely have mentioned this at some point in his voluminous correspondence if he had done it intentionally. (He was not shy about discussing such things.) Lewis did not mention it, ergo it was not intentional. That Lewis was well aware of medieval cosmology and that this likely showed up in his Narnia books, whether intentionally or not, is a trivial point, easily granted.

Andrew Stevens said...

I am reminded of the theory that the seven castaways in Gilligan's Island represent the Seven Deadly Sins. Some of these are obvious matches so we match Ginger with lust and Mr. Howell with greed. Then it starts reaching - the Professor gets pride and Mary Ann gets envy. These sort of work, but not really. The problem is that Mrs. Howell and Gilligan should probably both get sloth and we need the Skipper to get both anger and gluttony. Ultimately it just doesn't work and it clearly wasn't intentional on the part of the show's creators. But if you asked random people to match them up, you'd get much more similar lists than you ever would matching the planets to the Narnia books.

Andrew Rilstone said...

I am really not going to write my article until I have re-read the book and highlighted bits with little yellow post it tabs.

However.

The fact that Lewis never mentioned it is what PROVES that the theory is true. It is a BIG SECRET that he hid in the books; he even DELIBERATELY LAID FALSE TRAILS but pointing to Christological readings which aren't there; we know he was the sort of person who would do this sort of thing because he WENT BY A NICKNAME, SOMETIMES USED A PEN-NAME, and DIDN'T TELL HIS FATHER WHEN HE MOVED IN WITH A MARRIED WOMAN. But an old pupil seems to remember that he once said that seven was a good number of books to have in a series of children's fantasy stories, because seven is a magic number. Which proves it.

When Lewis's mother died, he felt that his whole world had changed, as if a great continent had vanished beneath the waves. The Magicians Nephew, of course, involves a boy using magic to save the life of his terribly ill mother. And the key magic item is a ring which comes from ANCIENT ATLANTIS. That's the sort of thing which make's me go. "Hmm....that's really, really interesting. I don't know what it proves, but it's really, really interesting." It comes from the Really Stupid Freudian Book. I didn't find many comparable observations in the Astrology book. (Though I didn't know what a keen amateur stargazer Lewis was, I must admit.)

Sam Dodsworth said...

The Magicians Nephew, of course, involves a boy using magic to save the life of his terribly ill mother. And the key magic item is a ring which comes from ANCIENT ATLANTIS.

I call "Promethea!" The rings are key items, but what saves the mother is an apple. What's more, the apple keeps the doctor away and thus clearly shows that C S Lewis believed the site of Ancient Atlantis was in fact Pembrookshire.

Andrew Rilstone said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andrew Rilstone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Rilstone said...

ridiculously long comment posted in wrong thread

twice

Mike Taylor said...

I attempted my own challenge. Here's what I came up with (without having read anyone else's proposals):

The Magician's Nephew -- it's a shame that I have to start with the most tenuous one, but I gave this to Saturn, who is associated with dance, justice and the harvest (e.g. of the magical fruit)

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe -- it's largely about the end of winter and the return of day, so I gave it to the Sun.

The Horse and his Boy -- Shasta and co crucially act as messengers, so Mercury?

Prince Caspian turns on the fertility of the Narnian trees, so perhaps Venus, the goddess of (among other things) fertility?

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader -- sailing under and endless open sky, at the mercy of the weather; the ship is wrecked in a thunderstorm. So Jupiter.

The Silver Chair takes place mostly in the cold and darkness of night, which is associated with the moon: also, the metal silver is related to the moon in mythology.

The Last Battle -- easy one: got to go to Mars, the god of war.

So that's my mapping. I wonder how many I got the same as the Stupid Astrology Book?

Mike Taylor said...

Hmm. I am pleasantly surprised to find that my proposed scheme does not share even a single book-plant correspondence with Andrew Stevens's.

Mike Taylor said...

... and having compared my mapping with the one in the Stupid Astrology Book, I see that, like Andrew S., I got exactly one book "right" (i.e. the same as Ward).

Anyone else want to have a go?

Gavin Burrows said...

"The fact that Lewis never mentioned it is what PROVES that the theory is true."

Such is Ward's emphasis on this, that if a tranche of documents were suddenly discovered in which Lewis confessed to the whole schema, he'd probably turn against the whole enterprise. And decide the books were based on the Seven Wonders of The Ancient World. Or the Seven Sisters. Or something else which very significantly had a seven in it.

All this emphasis on it rending cohesive the imagery of 'Lion, Witch, Wardrobe'... but that's making the rather hefty assumption that the imagery is cohesive in some way. Yet sometimes "goo-goo goo-joob" just means "goo-goo goo-joob."

(I'd suspect Lewis simply wrote "winter but never Christmas" as a catchy line, then decided afterwards that this obliged him into having Father Christmas turning up.)