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

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Humour

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EDIT: The BBC announced today that Peter Capaldi will play the twelfth Doctor.  We, of course, knew this beforehand and after-hand and simultaneous-hand.  It’s really hard to surprise time travelers.  Now, on with the post …

This week’s Fish and TARDIS Sauce newsletter will look at the use of humor in Doctor Who, and ways that you might be able to apply this technique in your everyday life.

In “The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe” (s06e24), Doctor Who travels back to 1940s London, where he meets Madge Ardwell, her son Cyril, and daughter Lily.   Madge comes home to tell the kids that she is going to help The Doctor return to his time machine, as if this happened every day (who knows, maybe it does).  While there at home, Madge asks Cyril what he’s is doing up so late looking through his telescope.  When Lily makes a snide comment it begins this brief but quite funny exchange among the characters.

  • Cyril — It’s astronomy.
  • Lily — Don’t make up words.  He’s always making up things … and breathing.
  • Madge — Where’s your father?
  • Cyril — In the garden.
  • Madge — What’s he doing in the garden?
  • Cyril — Agriculture.
  • Lily [off-camera] — You’re not fooling anyone.

And you see?  Like that.  Or three scenes later, which is also three years later, the family is standing in front of an ancient house somewhere in the English countryside, and the kids say —

  • Cyril — Is it haunted?
  • Lily — Is it drafty?

Another sharp, understated exchange.

But if you’ve seen this episode you know this episode is not all fun and games. The kids’ father is killed when his bomber goes down over the English Channel (although that’s not quite the whole story), leading to nightmarish grief and stress for Madge.   This leads to a poignant scene where Madge admits this to The Doctor and reflects on her short temper around her children.

  • Madge — I don’t know why I keep shouting at them.
  • The Doctor — Because every time you see them happy you remember how sad they’re going to be.  And it breaks your heart.

What we see here is a dramatic turn, where the dry wit of British comedy gives way to the realities of life during World War II (or anytime for that matter).  And once again, Doctor Who, the show, and Doctor Who, the character, offer us a glimpse into the human condition.  After all, why do we love a rose?  Because it’s blooming but will not do so forever.  Why does it smell so divine?  Because its thorns are so sharp.

It’s always been my opinion that humor for the sake of humor gets stale after a while.  Even the best comedians — the Steve Martins and  Richard Pryors and George Carlins — cannot sustain me for long unless I have a break.  It doesn’t have to be something morbid or maudlin, but it does have to be balanced.   And I love humor.   In fact, I was once asked why I don’t watch Comedy Central all the time.  The answer is simple, really.  I don’t watch Comedy Central, or any other 24/7 source of laughter, because I don’t usually turn to comedians for jokes.  The best humor grows out of drama, to relieve the tension, or out of horror, to dispel the terror.  That’s why, in that famous line from Steel Magnolias, the characters reflect on the wonder of laughter through tears.

Which brings us back to “The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe.”  Doctor Who, the character, looks at Madge thoughtfully in this episode, and finally offers his advice.  And this is one of the many reasons I love this show.  The characters get to the heart of the matter so damn well.  In the scene I’ve described above, Madge is momentarily distracted by the distant sounds of the children’s glee, leading Doctor Who to say this:

  • The Doctor — What’s the point of them being happy now if they’re going to be sad later?  The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later.

Pretty good stuff for science fiction, eh?

Until next time, remember: Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can procrastinate about today.

Years truly,

Keith Parker, CEO, COO, CTO, CCO, CAC, COCOA of The PITTS*

Please visit my hometown bloggers at our Rocket City Bloggers website!

* The Parker Institute for Time Travel Studies.

Copyright © 2013 Keith Parker

Doctor Who is copyright © 2013 BBC

Bootstrap

Sally SparrowThis week, The Parker Institute of Time Travel Studies (The PITTS) — in conjunction with State and Local Officials — has devised this warning for all time travelers and others involved in temporal excursions: Do not employ bootstrap time travel.

  • Bootstrap Time Travel (Encyclopedia Galactica*) — The bootstrap paradox is a paradox of time travel in which information or objects can exist without having been created. After information or an object is sent back in time, it is recovered in the present and becomes the very object/information that was initially brought back in time in the first place.

A recent examination by investigators — hired by the autonomous Fish and #TARDIS Sauce Group — indicate that there is an alarming rise of bootstrapped articles appearing throughout the timeline. The genesis of this “fad” seems to have been the airing of the Doctor Who episode, “Blink.” The PITTS, therefore, has been forced to implement emergency and draconian measures to staunch the flow of now-uncreated objects and information. Recent examples of bootstrap incursions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • A man from Nantucket took a freeze-dried lizard back to his childhood, gave the lizard to himself, which he (the younger) then kept until he was a grown man with a chance to travel back in time … the situation was frustrated by teaching his younger self a limirick.
  • A husky Russian émigré, intent on playing football for Vince Lombardi, recently overshot his mark and took his time vehicle to 1947 New Mexico instead of 1967 Wisconsin, ruining our research and playoff hopes in one selfish move.
  • An English woman, home from the laundry mat and feeling adventuresome, took the family Wellsian for a spin to Victorian England with a basket full of extra footwear, creating an impossible temporal vortex of missing socks that will confound 20th– and 21st-century men for eternity.
  • An Alabama man took an egg (cage-free, organic, with Omega-3s) to China, circa 6000 BC, to the very day that the first chicken became domesticated and, as a result of self-indulgent selfish motives, removed the chicken-egg paradox from modern thought.
  • A Jaffa woman recently returned The Holy Grail to its shelf at The Cenacle, thereby eliminating any possibility we could determine the origin of said graal.
  • And in 2007/1969 Doctor Who told Sally Sparrow, “Blink and you’re dead. They are fast. Faster than you can believe. Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. And don’t blink. Good luck.” The Doctor has been unavailable for comment.

These are but a few examples of what has become a worldwide epidemic. At this rate, all material objects, articles, matter, data, information, and salmon will not have a place of origin. The effects of this activity on the eco-military-industrial-climatic-god complex cannot not be overstated without embellishment. Please stay tuned to this channel for further updates.

The past is prologue; so is the future.

Years truly,

Keith

* All entries from Encyclopedia Galactica are, in fact, plagiarized liberated from Wikipedia.org (English version).

Copyright © 2013 Keith Parker

The Definite Article The

Amy Pond … “You may be a doctor. But I’m the Doctor. The definite article, you might say.” ~ Tom Baker playing the Fourth Doctor

It’s funny how quotes tell you so much about a person; Doctor Who, himself, and Doctor Who, the series, simply oozes quotability.  In fact, there are tumblr pages, blogs, Twitter feeds, and Facebook pages greater than the sum total of their parts dedicated to doing just this.  So, why another?  Because I want to.

Speaking of Twitter, if you happen to follow me I’m trying an experiment, changing my “SFQOTD” to a “DWQOTD” (or perhaps to “QWERTY”) if the mood strikes.  Regardless of what I call it (and not irregardless of what I call it, which would mean without without regard to what I call it) quotes, zingers, and one-liners appeal to me because I’ve always felt I was at my best when quoting zingers and one-liners.

There’s something special about quotes; it says something about the one quoted (namely that he said it at all), and it says something about the person quoting him (that you’ve chosen this quote to make a point about the person who said it).

Ultimately, what Doctor Who does, via quotes, is to bring out the humanity of the characters even when the show is hip-deep in campy science fiction bullshit.  So, today’s blog is an homage to some of the best lines I’ve heard in my limited time as a Whovian.  The picture of Amy Pond is there because I think she’s hot.  Without further ado, the quotes:

On romance:

  • The Doctor: So, the year five billion. The Sun expands.  Earth gets roasted.
  • Rose: That was our first date.

On moral relativism:

  • Rose: Bet you five quid I can make her [Queen Victoria] say it.
  • The Doctor: If I gambled on that, it’d be an abuse of my privilege as a traveler in time.
  • Rose: Ten quid.
  • The Doctor: Done.

On perspective:

  • Mickey: What’s a horse doing on a spaceship?
  • The Doctor: Mickey, what’s pre-revolutionary France doing on a spaceship?

On geography:

  • The Doctor: Lots of planets have a north.

On sentimentality:

  • The Doctor: All my love to long ago.

On pop culture:

  • The Doctor: Elvis. No, The Beatles! Oh, wait, there was that remix.

On time:

  • The Doctor: People assume that time is a strict progression of cause-and-effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.

On compliments:

  • The Doctor: Correctamundo!  I’ve never used that word before and hopefully never again.

On insults:

  • The Doctor: You are a perfect example of the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain.

On wanderlust:

  • Romana: Where are we going?
  • The Doctor: Are you speaking philosophically or geographically?
  • Romana: Philosophically.
  • The Doctor: Then we’re going to lunch.

And finally, on logic:

  • The Doctor: Well, I just put 1.795372 and 2.204628 together.
  • Romana: And what does that mean?
  • The Doctor: Four!

Years truly,

Keith

Copyright © 2013 Ketih Parker, except for all the stuff on this page that I don’t own the copyright to.

The Time Traveler’s Life (Part I)

Still-of-Lea-Thompson-in-Back-to-the-Future-24BJGVYFS3-moviereviewfeeds-comIt seemed apropos that, on Groundhog Day, I’d post a picture of the first actress I had a crush on  … oh, wait!  What I mean to say is that I’d be asked to post an article on G+ about the challenges of writing time travel fiction.  If you want to delve into this weird but amazingly fun genre (where you may indeed have a protagonist who looks like Lea Thompson) you need to know what you’re up against.  What I’ve tried to do below is compile a list of issues the time travel writer needs to be aware of.

As with everything else in fiction, of course, the way to attract readers is through character.  But this article doesn’t address character development; there are ample resources for that.  Right now, we’ll stick to time-travel obstacles.

• Paradox Lost – You’ve got to come to grips with the notion of paradox.  That means wrapping your mind around two conflicting ideas.  My favorite time travel paradox, for example, is the one where the time traveler goes back in time and gives the blueprints for the time machine to his younger self.  Thinking about cause and effect here requires some serious mental gymnastics, not to mention a tall glass of scotch.  However, you really should avoid using this particular paradox in your story; it’s an overused cliche.

• Who’s Out to Get Your Hero? – You need to realize the villain of your story may well turn out to be the hero’s younger or older self.

• Timeline – Stephen King wrote a phenomenal time travel novel in 11/22/63.  In order to do that yourself, you’re going to have to map out the timeline chronologically (ahem).  So if you had a present-day time traveler going back to witness the events in Dealey Plaza, you’d need a timeline from 1963 till now.  Otherwise things are going to be a tangled mess.  Index cards work well for storyboarding such a plot, with each card representing a major aspect of the plot.11-22-63

• Travel Agent Required – How does the hero travel?  Via H.G. Wells steampunk machine?  A spaceship?  Gateway?  Phone booth?  Sports car?  Magic? You need to decide.  And once you decide you need to stick with it.  Time travel is part of your setting.  You wouldn’t have a creek flow uphill, so why would you have a time machine that worked inconsistently?

• The Left Behind – When your hero travels he’ll abandon friends and loved-ones.  How does he feel about that?  That’s nontrivial and potentially traumatic.

• Culture Shock – When Doctor Who’s Martha Jones (a woman of African descent) arrives in Shakespearean London she’s worried about getting sold into slavery.  Think about that.  Takes some of the romance out of the “good ol’ days,” doesn’t it?

• Cause and Effect – If the hero buys a ton of Apple Computer stock in 1999 will he really get rich?  Or does his stock purchase affect Apple’s success?

• Think Out of the Box – Suppose the time machine is a simple door.  What happens if the hero steps through using his cell phone?  Does he still have coverage?  That’s not as weird as it sounds.  If he can see through the door (visible light) then cell phone signals (radio waves) can travel through it, too.

• Grandfather Paradox – Is the hero going to do something that keeps himself from being born?  Suppose it involves murder.  How does the hero cope with that?  Murder is murder, in 2013 BC and 2013 CE.

• History Mystery – The hero wants to witness the Kennedy assassination.  Great subject, but you better damn well know your subject.  As the writer, can you tell us who the Babushka Lady was?  Or what was on Dallas TV right before the news broke?  Which motorcycle cop had his two-way radio on?   What was the weather like?  What’s the distance from the Book Depository to Kennedy’s car?  What did the “Treason” leaflets say?  What did the Manhattan businessman say about JFK’s killer? Zapruder-Film-Frame-366

• Action or Reaction –  How does the hero react to witnessing a really brutal murder?  The President, after all, had his brains blown out, literally.  If you’ve ever seen the Zapruder film you know it was a grisly, ugly, and sickening sight.  Now imagine being there, with the sights, the screams, the smells …

Time travel is not for the feint of heart.

In the next installment of “The Time Traveler’s Life” I’ll explore some of the pitfalls you need to avoid.  And in a later chapter, I’ll recommend some books and movies.  Stay tuned, same Chiroptera time, same Chiroptera channel!

Pax vobiscum,

Keith

Copyright © 2013

Don’t Be a Dumpster Fire

ImageYou don’t write to get rich.  You write because writing is a fundamental part of who you are.  Your odds of becoming Stephen King or Sue Grafton are longer than your odds of winning a multi-state lottery.

The basic idea behind any form of art is to express emotions.  You’ll notice I write a lot about time travel, science fiction, horror, and love.  I write about love and romance because I have a sentimental streak.  I write about horror because of panic attacks, and people are drawn to things that scare them (counterintuitive, but true).  I write about science fiction because I grew up watching the original Star Trek, and it’s like comfort food for me.  And I love time travel for some reason I can’t really explain.  Maybe I have a lot of regrets and want to right some wrongs.  Who the hell knows?  Or maybe I’d just like swap one-liners with Groucho Marx.  “After two days in the hospital I took a turn for the nurse.”

I also dish out writing advice.  You know where I get that wisdom?  Failure … sometimes epic.  Or, as we say on Twitter, #dumpsterfire fiction.  If you try to imitate bestsellers, your novel is going to be a disaster, a dumpster fire in kids’ lingo today.  And you’ll feel like one, too, after spending all that time and effort to produce something no one wants to read.  Believe me, I’ve been there.

Caveat: This does not mean you set your sights low.  No.  Aim to be the very best writer you can  be.  Every sentence you write should be exactly what you want to read.  Anything less and you’re being dishonest.

But if you’re trying to become Dan Brown or Suzanne Collins, forget it.  We already have a Brown and a Collins and a King and a Grafton.  Mimicking them is not going make you rich and famous.

If you want to get rich you need to be flipping houses and bootlegging whiskey.

Writers are artists, and we get paid the same.  Would you like fries with that?

Peace, from Keith

Copyright © 2013

She’s Just So Darn Cute

Inspector Duggan: What’s Scarlioni’s angle?

The Doctor: Scarlioni’s angle? I’ve never heard –.  [To Romana] Have you ever heard of Scarlioni’s angle?

Romana: No, I was never any good at geometry.

The Doctor: [to Duggan] Who’s Scarlinoi?

RomanaShe’s just so darned cute.  Lalla Ward is an English actress, writer and artist who played the Companion Romana [sic] in a classic series of Doctor Who episodes with Tom Baker.  And she has got to be one of the primary reasons the episode “City of Death” has rocketed to the all-time best list of a show that’s been on the air since 1963.  I fell in love with the episode when I first saw that hat pinned to her blond hair.  I’m a guy; it happens.

But I have to say, I’m really glad I started watching the 2005 reboot of Doctor Who before I saw this classic.   If I’d started with “City of Death” (its 1979 airdate tells you a lot), the teaser would’ve had me saying, “Ewwww” – and not in a good way.   The show starts with an alien who looks like a bowl of split-pea soup garnished with a dollop of eyeball.  The alien is sitting inside a spaceship that’s about to explode.  That’d have been enough right there to send me groping for a football game.  The scene is so damn cheesy the writers of Lost in Space would’ve been embarrassed.  Well, maybe that’s going a little far for a group of people who invented Carrot People, but you get my drift.

But after the title sequence we shift gears to Paris, where the Doctor and Romana (who’s just so darn cute … have I mentioned that?) are sitting around discussing what they’re going to do on their vacation in the city of lights.  And their one-liners are classic.  The one above, including the Investigator Duggan, is a good example.  Here’s another:

Romana: Where’re we going?

The Doctor: Are you talking philosophically or geographically?

Romana: Philosophically.

The Doctor: Then we’re going to lunch. I know a little place that does wonderful bouillabaisse.

 Romana: Mmm, bouillabaisse.

Priceless.

In fact, I could devote an entire blog to the dialog alone, in large part because it was co-written by the famous Douglas Adams.  As usual, Adams’ humor crackles, and it reminded me – as strange as it may sound – of the classic American comedy His Girl Friday, with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.  Grant and RussellLike the movie, this episode resonates with the audience because of its nonstop one-liners and because of the sizzling chemistry between two charismatic actors.

Mona_LisaBeing Doctor Who, of course, means time travel, and there’s plenty of that to move the plot along.  The alien – the one who looks like split-pea soup – has been “broken apart” due to an accident.  He’s been scattered through time … a little bit of him here, a little bit there.  That alone is crazy enough to keep me interested.  But in order to “reunite himself” he has to use 20th century time travel technology, which inconveniently hasn’t been invented yet.  So, he’s funding a mad scientist using cash made from sales on the antiquities black market.  Specifically, he’s selling several original versions of the Mona Lisa that the 16th-Century version of himself got Leonardo to paint.  With cash in hand – or claw – he’s bankrolling a time travel gizmo that’ll propel him back to a point before the accident occurred.  This, by the way, will have a side effect of wiping out humanity; so it goes.  The whole concept is preposterous and hilarious.  It kept me watching.

And it’s that outrageousness – coupled with “believable” plot points – that makes Doctor Who gripping.  Well, that and really cute companions like Romana.

The Doctor: Are you suggesting those men were in my employ?

Inspector Duggan: Yes.

The Doctor: I don’t know if you noticed but he was pointing a gun at me. Anyone in my employ who behaved like that, I’d sack him on the spot.

As you look at science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery and romance, keep an eye open for this kind of chemistry among characters.  You’ll see it in the best novels, film and TV.  The plot is going to evolve out of characters’ drama and actions.  Sure, the fingerprints of Douglas Adams’ humor are all over this script, much like the fingerprints of Cary Grant are all over Rosiland Russell, but Adams had to have characters to write dialog for.  That makes all the difference.

In closing here’s one last exchange between the Doctor and Romana, the kind of woman you really want to hold hands and run through Paris with.

Romana: That bouquet.

The Doctor: What Paris has, it has an ethos. A life.  It has –.

Romana: A bouquet?

The Doctor: A spirit all its own. Like a wine, it has –.

Romana: A bouquet.

The Doctor: It has a bouquet. Like a good wine, you have to choose one of the vintage years, of course.

 Romana: What year’s this?

The Doctor: Ah, well… well, it’s 1979, actually. More of a table wine, shall we say?

Until next time,

Peace, from Keith

The commentary of this blog post are Copyright © 2013 Alan Keith Parker.  Quotes from Dcotor Who are Copyright © 1979 British Broadcasting Corporation.  Embedded pictures of the Mona Lisa, His Girl Friday, and Lalla Ward, were taken from Wikipedia.org.  If the latter violate any copyrights I will remove the images.