Today is the day of the Doctor

Today is “The Day of the Doctor,” the soon-to-be classic (I hope) simulcast by the BBC and BBC America of the 50th Anniversary of the premiere of the iconic show, Doctor Who.   I realize it’s less than two hours until the premiere, but in case you don’t have the information, you will be able to set your DVRs by the schedule on the BBC website:

http://www.bbcamerica.com/doctor-who/guide/50th-specials/the-day-of-the-doctor/

In other news, I will soon be starting a new blog.  This blog (KeithParker.net) will become a personal memoir describing the impact of science fiction on my life.  The purpose of the new blog will be to seek out and review the coolest local Huntsville businesses and activities, especially those off the beaten track.  I don’t have a name, or a URL, for my new site yet.  However, if you are local or regional, and are interested in the Huntsville “metro area”, please visit my friends at the Rocket City Bloggers.  You can find them on the main webpage here:

Rocket City Bloggers Website

or, my preference, on Facebook, here:

Rocket City Bloggers Facebook Page

If you’re curious why I said Facebook, it’s because I love FB.  I’m probably the only person on earth who’ll admit that.  But I do.  There it is.  Out there.

Take care,

Keith

 

The TARDIS is everywhere

tardis-doctor_00370843-1My son recently told me that he’d placed everybody’s favorite box — Doctor Who’s TARDIS — on the fictional planet of Golarion that was developed by Paizo for their Pathfinder role-playing game.  If you’re not familiar with it, Pathfinder (3.75E) is one of the wildly popular successors to the original Dungeons & Dragons game system, which enables you to develop characters and settings to challenge players.  I’ve always loved geography, cartography, etc, so when my son told me about Golarion I was fascinated despite the fact that the planet doesn’t, um, exist.

He did not allow specifically why he chose to add a TARDIS — or the TARDIS, if you will — to the Pathfinder world, and I didn’t ask for fear I’d stymy his creativity.  For what it’s worth, I have tried to play Pathfinder, but I find its rules — skills, feats, AoAs, DCs — a tad overwhelming, particularly since I’m a buttondown-type (see: Raising Arizona).  But he seemed to have the same enthusiasm about Golarion that he has had about Minecraft for the last 2,387 years.  Also for what it’s worth I don’t “get” Minecraft either, but that’s okay; games are for fun.  And he is having fun.

I did ask him, though, where on Golarion he placed the TARDIS.  The setting has many earth-like analogs, and I was curious.  His answer?  “Dad, the TARDIS is everywhere!”

And isn’t that just like a kid?  Obviously it’d be everywhere; it’s a time machine.  In his mind, the entire surface of Golarion — and Earth, and Mars, and his Minecraft world — is covered with blue boxes, shoulder-to-shoulder.  Kinda like dancing cheek-to-cheek, isn’t it?

Until next time, peace,

Keith

Copyright (c) 2013 Keith Parker. All Rights Reserved. All trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners and are used for entertainment purposes only and as provided for by the “Fair Use” copyright clause

Tagline

Recently been asked about my tagline — Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, History, Mystery and Whiskey — and how I can juggle that many topics in a blog that is obstensibly about Doctor Who, Star Trek: TOS, and time travel.  First, let me speak directly to the numerous people who’ve asked.  And by numerous, I mean quite a few.  And by few, I actually mean only 2-3 actual human beings, but they are people who exist in the stratosphere of human achievement, like an Einstein or a Phineas Cage.  Well, truth be told, it wasn’t 2-3 people but was, instead, just one person, and I don’t think that he’s gotten any real noteriety.  In fact, if you want to know the whole truth, he didn’t ask me at all.  The reason is that he’s my dog, and English is not his best language.

Nonetheless, I’d be remiss as a writer, blogger, hack and fool if I didn’t tell you the idea behind this tagline:

  • Science Fiction — Well, this one’s easy.  I grew up on Monte Sano Mountain here in Huntsville, among rocket scientists, engineers, technicians, and a few renegade Nazis who decided a domestic life in the USA was better than digging mass graves in the USSR.   So, the family and I — sans fascists — watched Star Trek.  The original.  A lot.  And The Twilight Zone.  And UFO.  And The Prisoner.  Curiously enough, what we did not watch was Doctor Who, even though the show’d already been on the air for 2357 years by the time we moved downtown.  So, science fiction roots run deep in my family.  That’s kinda odd, too, because if you were to look at me you’d see a button-down prep who is embarrassing his children quite a bit.  So I must be doing something right, right?
  • Fantasy — Isn’t science fiction just a subset of fantasy?  I don’t generally read or like “swords & sorcery” fiction.  When I refer to fantasy  I’m talking about the stuff that’d make a good episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits or The X-Files or Lost.  My literary heroes exist in a nebulous realm and I rub (or’d like to rub) shoulders with Gaiman, Ellison, Oates, Bradbury, Howard, Smith, Rowling, Pullman, and, yes, Lovecraft, speaking of whom …
  • Horror — I read horror fiction and I have no idea why.  If people know you read horror they go “ewwww” and back away without making eye contact.  And I don’t blame them.  Thank God for Kindles.  But for some deep psychological reason I can’t figure out, I need to read horror.    Horror movies?  Not so much.  Yes, if they’re really, really good, (e.g., Silence of the Lambs) then I’m there.  But Saw IV?  OMG.  Not just no, but hell no.
  • History — If I had focus on one subject this would be it.  My favorite eras are an eclectic mix: The Civil War, presidential history, JFK’s assassination, the dyfunctional causes of World War One, the European theatre of World War II, ancient civilizations, and gnosticism.  If you read history, remember to read it forward.  No one at the time of the bombing of Fort Sumter knew what was going to happen.
  • Mystery — Dashiell Hammit? Yes.  Murder, She Wrote?  No.  As a rule I’m not a fan of genre mystery, but I do love character-driven stoires where they pull everything together at the end (good movie: The Usual Suspects).  Having said that, there’s a fine line between mysteries and crime fiction.  And for what it’s worth, I can’t stand police procedurals.  I tried to watch NCIS once.  Hated it.  But I used to watch Dragnet.  Go figure.
  • Whiskey — neat.
That.is.all.
Peace, from
Keith

Antagonist

Doctor_Who_The_Name_of_The_Doctor“Welcome to the final resting place of the cruel tyrant.”

As we usher out Matt Smith and usher in Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor, it’s useful to reflect on just why “The Name of the Doctor” is such a brilliant piece of television science fiction.  In that finale Dr. Simeon makes the assertion (see quote above) about the Doctor’s “reputation.”   The Doctor, in all his incarnations, is the “slaughterer of the ten billion,” the one who wiped out (or will wipe out) the Sycorax, Soloman the Trader, the Cybermen, and the Daleks.

The reason I’m boring you with all this is simple: Most fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror aspire to be creative writers, whether short stories, novels, screenplays, or creative nonfiction.  And it’s worth offering a bit of writing advice to those who do.  Any story has to have an protagonist and an antagonist, or, as they say in Engligh, a hero and villain :)

If the antagonist is a “real person”, i.e., not a sharknado or disco music, then you need to make sure that you understand your villain.  He may be a son-of-a-bitch to everyone else, but to himself he’s God’s gift to mankind.  When we watch Doctor Who, we know the Cybermen and Daleks are evil, but to Dr. Simeon they’re victims.  It’s crucial for us writers to realize that from the point of view of the villain, the villain is the hero and the hero is the villain, or vice versa in reverse.

One exercise that I like to practice when writing a story is to write an outline from the villain’s perspective.  It gives me a sense of what he wants, how he views life.  This, I think, is crucial to three-dimensional characters and good, solid story, and the reason “The Name of the Doctor” is such a good episode.

That’s all for today.  I had a tooth extracted this week and I feel like warm-over dogshit.

So, until next time,

Peace,

Keith

Copyright (c) 2013 Keith Parker. All Rights Reserved. All trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners and are used for entertainment purposes only and as provided for by the “Fair Use” copyright clause.

CTTO

KateThis week, The Parker Institute for Time Travel Studies (The PITTS) has asked our Chief Time Travel Officer (CTTO) to look back at his favorite science fiction shows over the years, to include more than just Doctor Who. He was given the choice of time travel devices for this effort, including a TARDIS, a Delorean, a stopwatch, and a hot tub.  Being a button-down preppie type, Parker asked for a BMZ Z4, as we expected. He was dismayed that we had not tailored the Z4 with a flux capacitor, and the weather hasn’t been stormy anyway, so he chose the stopwatch, thinking it looked good with his summer wool trousers (it doesn’t). So, without further ado, our CTTO’s list:

The Twilight Zone:

My favorite episodes are two of the show’s creepiest, “The Hitchhiker” and “Long Distance Call.” I don’t know why I keep one foot in the horror camp, considering how horrible it is there, but since it’s in my tagline (“science fiction, fantasy, horror, history, mystery, whiskey”) I figure I best get with the program, as it were.

Star Trek: The Original Series

This one’s easy. There are three episodes I could watch anytime, anywhere. The original pilot (“The Cage”) with its mysterious cast that wasn’t; Harlan Ellison’s incomparable “City on the Edge of Forever”, which is one of the best romances ever put on the broadcast TV; and the truly testosterone-driven guy episode (“The Doomsday Machine”). “They say there’s no devil, Jim …”

The Outer Limits

“Demon with a Glass Hand” because anything written by Harlan Ellison is superb, and “It Came Out of the Woodwork” because of that one foot in the horror camp thingie (yep, I said thingie … comfortable in my own skin).

Space: 1999

Keeping with the foot-in-horror one more time, this absurdly stupid TV series produced one of the scariest hours of programming ever with “Dragon’s Domain.” It’s the kind of thing that’d keep me up at night if it weren’t for the whole whiskey thing (see tagline, above).  Tentacles. Lots of slimy tentacles.

The X-Files

Gotta go with “Paper Clip” here for its incredible kitchen-sink mix of conspiracies and contemporary mythologies. I need to visit the grassy knoll one day.

The NEW Battlestar Galactica

Did you notice I said new? I’m referring, of course, to the re-imagined series that began in 2003, and not the commode-ringed insult to our intelligence and eyes that came out in the late 70s. Anyway, fave episode? The one titled “33”, hands-down. The whole concept could be made into a novel (note to self).  An attack coming every 33 minutes?  No time to sleep.  No way to even think.  Oh, hell, yes.  Great show!  The original Battlestar Galaxative?  Makes me wanna pour bleach in my eyes.

LOST

There are almost too many to list here, considering it’s one of my favorite shows EVER, but I think I’ll give the nod to “The Constant” when Desmond is jumping back-and-forth between his Army service and modern day, including finding Penny. Another gem is “Through the Looking Glass,” and it’s damn hard to discount the Pilot. There’s something about pilots (which means Jules Winfield and I are on the same page).  There’s a picture of Kate in her underwear above; the purpose of that is eye candy (#shameless #lech).

Firefly

All. Of. Them.  Every damn episode.  “Well, my time of not taking you seriously is coming to a middle.”

Classic Doctor Who

I haven’t seen as many as I’d like, but for now “City of Death”, penned by the best science fiction humorist ever, Douglas Adams, is never going to be far from the top in my book. Have I ever mentioned just how CUTE Romana is? Oh, yeah, I did. But it’s worth repeating. Also, since she’s not so terribly much older than I perhaps my crush on her is a good bit more acceptable than a crush might be on, say, Jenna-Louise Coleman, who’s probably young enough to be my daughter. I really need to look into using time travel to age backwards.

New Doctor Who

“The Name of the Doctor”.  Despite my sister-in-law’s (sister’s-in-law?) insistence that there’s only one Doctor (David Tennant) the seventh series finale of Doctor Who is a masterpiece of humor, horror, sentimentality, action, adventure and mystery. If the series had never hit a homerun before (it had) they certainly did with this.

And so, back to you …

The PITTS would like to tolerate thank Parker for his insight. His essay has been logged and filed in its proper location: the circular cabinet.

Peace.

Copyright (c) 2013 Keith Parker. All Rights Reserved. All trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners and are used for entertainment purposes only and as provided for by the “Fair Use” copyright clause.

Expansion

“Pardon my progess!”

“Here we grow again!”

Meh.  Platitudes.  Point being: The blog’s expanding.  To get fresh meat into cyberspace (especially in this odd interlude between Doctors) I’m going to draw on SFFH (science fiction, fantasy, and horror)  more heavily.   The theme of the blog stays the same, though: I’ll take a snippet from a favorite book or show, and contort it to the point that it’s both unrecognizable and fairly confusing.  I’ll also continue to give my thoughts about everything, the universe, life (42).  If you’re curious (which I doubt) here is a (long) list of material I’ll draw from –

  • Star Trek: The Original Series
  • Doctor Who
  • The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons
  • The weird fiction of Lovecraft, REH, Derleth, Bloch, et al
  • Stephen King
  • The short fiction of Joyce Carol Oates, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison
  • The Foundation Series by Asimov
  • Back to the Future
  • Planet of the Apes
  • LOST
  • Neal Stephenson
  • Firefly and Serenity
  • The reimagined Battlestar Galactica
  • Babylon 5
  • Aliens
  • Forbidden Planet
  • Primer
  • Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
  • Groundhog Day
  • Peggy Sue Got Married
  • Pleasantville
  • Star Trek IV: The One about the Whales
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Slaughterhouse Five.

It’s a weirdly eclectic mix.  But what’d’ya expect from a button-down science fiction fan?

If it has a contemporary setting putting ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, then I’ll love it.  If it has time travel I’ll probably love it, too.  But if it’s dystopian (or has zombies) I’ll hate it.  If it’s too damn weird (or has zombies) I’ll hate it.  If it’s set in outer space with plastic aliens (or zombies) I’ll hate it … unless the characters are freakin’ amazing.  If it has zombies I’ll hate it.

But, I’m not abandoning Doctor Who at all, and just to prove it to you, here are some quotes I’ve collected for my not-famous #DoctorWho QOTD, @keith0363

  • “There’s no point being a grown up if you can’t act childish sometimes.”
  • “You’ve been watching too much television.”
  • “We’re all stories in the end.”
  • “I’m clever, and I’m listening. Now don’t patronise me, ’cause people have died and I’m not happy.”
  • “Always bring a banana to a party, Rose.”
  • “I love humans. Always looking for patterns in things that aren’t there.”

My plan’s to post on Fridays.  Whether I do so weekly or biweekly is up in the air depending on how things go with my novel.

So, until next Friday, peace (but not hair grease) from Keith.

Copyright © 2013

Cyborg

Cyborg.  Ha!  Gotta have a huge shout-out to my man, “MirkinFirkin”, and his hilarious blog, www.JustJiggleTheHandle.com. If you’re a fan of the satirical newspaper, The Onion, you will love his satire. He is a riot. The shout-out is specifically related to his mention of the Cybermen from Doctor Who. Until yesterday I honestly did not know the difference between a robot and a cyborg.  How weird is that?  I’ve read/watched SFFH my whole freakin’ life … didn’t have a clue.  I’d better learn really freakin’ fast, though, because we got us a new novel in the works; it’s set on an alien planet where robots with human brains (i.e., cyborgs) are preparing the way for human colonization when they discover (wait for it!) an ancient evil. Did you expect anything less from a Lovecraft fan?

More on the novel in coming months, but for now I will say that the “robots” do not look anything like Doctor Who‘s Cybermen. Why? Because I think the Cybermen look like shit. Seriously. I hate them. They remind me of something I’d see in a bad episode of Lost in Space (but that’s redundant, isn’t it?). In fact, I’d rather kick back and watch reruns of the original Battlestar Galaxative rather assault my eyes with that garbage.

But, enough whining. People whine too much these days. Doctor Who is fun. That’s what TV is for.

Before I close, though, another shout-out is in order to my friend and fellow Birmingham-Southern physicist, James Archer (who is not a cyborg) for reminding me that everything in the universe has a starting point and an ending point.  Everything that can exist does exist, at least according to prevailing theories (theories in the sciences are the same as facts for you and me).  Now all I have to do to comfort myself (perhaps a nice glass of whiskey) is find a theory for emergent consciousness.  That should be simple like radar, as The Stooges once said.

  • A man walks into a bar and asks, “Where’s the Doctor?”
  • The bartender replies, “Doctor Who?”

Peace, from

Keith

Copyright (c) 2013, Keith Parker