31 January 2017

Review: Infestation v.1 by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Mike Raicht, David Messina, Nick Roche, Giovanni Timpano, et al.

Comic trade paperback, 124 pages
Published 2011 (contents: 2011)
Acquired February 2013
Read October 2016
Infestation v.1

Written by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Mike Raicht
Art by David Messina, Nick Roche, and Giovanni Timpano
Prologue Art by Elena Casagrande with Claudia Balboni
Inks by Gaetano Carlucci
Colors by Joana Lafuente, J. Brown, and Scarlet Gothica
Letters by Robbie Robbins and Chris Mowry


I bought Infestation because it includes a Star Trek comic, but I read it now because it crosses over with IDW's Transformers tales. Infestation is more of a cross-through than cross over: a zombie outbreak begins in the Covert Vamiric Operations universe (a franchise original to IDW), and then escapes through a dimensional portal to four different realms, those of Transformers, G.I. Joe, Star Trek, and Ghostbusters, meaning each of those series has a short story about zombies. The first volume collects the kick-off issue and the Transformers and G.I. Joe tales. The frame story is boring (lots of characters you don't care about doing cliche zombie-fighting things), the Transformers story is a confusing mess (tons of robots and lots of gobbledygook, plus it draws on past continuity regarding Kup I don't know anything about), and it turns out that I just don't give a crap about a bunch of G.I. Joe villains (plus this one doesn't even feature Infestation's ostensible main villain). This should have been fun, but it wasn't at all.

I found the mass of robots confusing to sift through, a disappointing turnout from the usually dependable Nick Roche. But maybe it's the coloring? The later IDW stories in particular use shading to make robots stand out from one another and the background much better.
from The Transformers: Infestation #2 (script by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, art by Nick Roche)

Next Week: The end to Infestation!

30 January 2017

Review: The Beth Book by Sarah Grand

My review of the new reprint of the 1960s Avengers comic strips is up at USF. Read it!

Trade paperback, 571 pages
Published 2013 (originally 1897)
Acquired June 2016
Read July 2016
The Beth Book by Sarah Grand
"I don't believe in celibacy at all," Beth said cheerfully. "Celibacy is an attempt to curb a healthy instinct with a morbid idea." (494)
This novel concerns the life story of a girl named Beth, who grows up into a woman named Beth. Beth is one of those delightfully sassy female protagonists: there's not a little bit of Jane Eyre in her youth, especially when she is shunted off to a conservative girls' school, to which she turns out to be totally unsuited, but manages to bring under her control, almost. For example, many of the younger girls find their ways into informal "families" managed by the older girls, but Beth does not. A teacher suggests she ought to be, so Beth forms her own: making herself the "mother" to a group of older girls, the worst-behaved ones in the school. When the teacher expresses concern that they are a bad influence, Beth responds that she will straighten them out. And she does. This phase of the book was probably my favorite, combining as it does jokes with some good early feminist contempt for Victorian women's education, which left you unable to do anything except get married.

I hate to be one of those people who diagnoses fictional characters who were invented before the relevant mental illnesses were discovered, but I wanted to read both a mild autism spectrum disorder and bipolar disorder into Beth. Beth has "bright eyes" with "phenomenal receptivity" (42) and "learned to read a countenance long before she learned to read a book" (43), but sometimes struggles to pick up on unspoken social cues. When she's chastised for speaking with her mouth full by her uncle, she rejoins that he never told her this rule, and she will abide by it now that she knows (126-7). She has a similar complaint when at school. We're also told at one point that she suffers from "depression of spirits" but that she also has phases of great activity and excitement. By all accounts, Beth is pretty squarely based on Sarah Grand's life, and I know little about her.

I picked up this book because it features a vivisectionist, but it's not a anti-vivisection novel in same way as, say, Wilkie Collins's Heart and Science. (Incidentally, Beth reads Collins's The Moonstone at one point.) Rather, the middle of the novel is an extended and effective tale of a bad marriage, of Beth being psychologically abused by a terrible man, reminding me of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Shuttle. Virginia Woolf famously formulated that a woman needs "a room of one's own" in order to write, and Beth has to go through an awful lot of work to find such a room for herself under the gaze of her husband, a doctor who controls her finances, belittles her intellect, reads her mail, won't let her talk to other people, carries on affairs, and accuses her of infidelity. It's horrifying, and very effectively done.

"Dr. Dan" works in a lock hospital, a hospital for the treatment of veneral disease in women, though Beth doesn't know this when they get married. You might think looking out for women's health is good, but I guess early feminists were against this because of the double standard. Women would essentially be locked up without trial, but nothing ever happened to the men they slept with, something Beth criticizes Dan for here, who can only justify it on the basis that "[i]t’s a deuced awkward thing for a man to be suspected of disease" (417). It ruins his prospects! But part of the reason Beth is against Dan's occupation also seems to be, unfortunately to a modern reader, moral revulsion: Beth calls him a "pander" (i.e., a pimp) and their entire social circle shuns both of them for it. The novel criticizes their social circle, but only on the basis that Beth didn't know she married such a man. But, I want to know: surely someone has to treat these women? The novel doesn't really offer an alternative, though everyone does cheer when the Contagious Diseases Act is repealed, closing the lock hospitals, in 1886.

Part of the book's opposition seems to rest on a thesis that some people absorb the morality of their surroundings, and when Dan looks at degradation all the time, he becomes degraded himself, and soon begins to delight in it, and delight in trying to degrade Beth alongside him. Also it gets kind of weird and eugenicist at one point, when Beth complains that Dan is working against nature by encouraging the survival of the unfittest: "Let the unfit who are with us live, and save them from suffering when you can, by all means; but take pains to prevent the appearance of any more of them. By the reproduction of the unfit, the strength, the beauty, the morality of the race is undermined, and with them its best chances of happiness" (458).

Like I said, it's not an antivivisection novel per se. Rather, vivisection is just a quick way to establish that Dan is just even more despicable than you thought: he has a secret lab in their home where he vivisects dogs, supposedly "in the interests of suffering humanity," but Beth rejoins that he does it "[i]n the interests of cruel and ambitious scientific men, struggling to outstrip each other" (456). She hopes for the day that vivisectors will be ejected from society, and that's vivisection's whole role here-- just a way to establish that Dan is really nasty.

Outside of this, the last 150 or so pages of the novel get kind of dull, unfortunately. There are a lot of discussions between Beth and her friends (many of whom originate in a different Sarah Grand novel, The Heavenly Twins) about what makes good novels and bad novels, which initially I found interesting, but soon got tedious, and then there's this whole thing about Beth nursing a sick lodger which I found uninteresting except for when it taught me the origin of the Salisbury steak. But on the whole this was an enjoyable read, for its depiction of a prodigious child, of a horrendous marriage, and of the limits of Victorian women's education. Plenty of jokes, too.

27 January 2017

What's a Grecian Urn?: A Pun-ctilious History

Say you're talking to someone very learned about John Keats. And they're just nattering on, and you're like, who cares? How do you stop this? Simple: you ask, What's a Grecian urn? They begin to explain, Well, it's a kind of old vase-- and you cut them off. "About sixteen Euros a day."

I've deployed this joke periodically since I discovered it; a couple weeks ago I reduced a colleague to severe anger, to my extreme delight. Said colleague (I would say friend, but I suspect no more) asked if the joke was born of the financial crisis and Greek economic collapse, and though I was certain it was older than that, I wasn't certain how much older.

So: I investigated this for you. Google Books was of course my first stop. What turned out to be more interesting than I expected is the way the joke slowly mutates over time, its form undergoing alterations.

The joke is first recorded there in 1929, 110 years after Keats wrote his famous poem.

This hit is from Air Travel News, on a page of miscellaneous jokes (other winners include "The gnu is fast disappearing. Shall this little animal be allowed to become extinct? Gno! Gnever!"), but you'll see that it cites it to Life magazine. Google Books includes that it was in Life in the same year, but Google Books won't let me see those back issues.

It seems to get recycled around those kinds of page-filling joke lists a lot, but the answer begins to mutate. In The Literary Digest in 1936, the answer is "Very little" (plus the joke is cited to The Weekly of Auckland, New Zealand). This answer also appears in The Unitarian Register in 1937 and Typo Graphic in 1940. Some attribute names to the speakers, like "Joe" and "Sam," but in a 1941 issue of Foreign Service (the magazine of the VFW), it becomes a smart-arsed pupil, who says, "It depends on what he does," and this version has some staying power, being the almost universal form during the 1940s.

By 1941, it's common enough to yield a metajoke in the Saturday Review:

I wish I could see more of this one to understand the context better, but it appears to be a series of updates on proverbial boys?

In the 1950s, the smart-arsed student version is replaced with a variant featuring a dumb answerer: someone asks, "What's a Grecian urn?" usually a child in the form, "What's a Grecian urn, daddy?" and the other person says, "I dunno. I guess it depends on what he does."

In the 1960s, it actually becomes a joke by union members to make fun of their own, appearing in two union magazines (Carpenter in 1966 and News and Views by the Ohio AFL-CIO in 1967) in the form, "The youngster, doing his homework, asked his business agent father: 'Dad, what's a Grecian urn?' 'I dunno,' replied Dad. 'It'd depend on what his classification was.'"

In the 1970s, it finally mutates into the form I know, where the answer is just a simple amount of money: "Two-fifty an hour" (Westways, 1975) or "about ten drachmas an hour" (Walt Disney's Story a Day, 1978) or "about 20 drachmas a week after taxes" (Rajasthan District Gazetteer, 1978) or "about three drachmas a day" (Musical Heritage Review, 1983) or "a few hundred drachmas at a bare minimum" (How Do You Get a Horse out of the Bathtub?, 1983) or "ten drachmas a week" (Everyman's Word Games, 1986). Apparently the income rate of a Grecian is highly variable.

I should note that in a 1978 New York Classified, the joke warps all the back around into a non-joke, where the punchline is that there is no punchline: "'My wife just bought a Grecian urn.' 'What's a Grecian urn?' 'You know — "Beauty is truth, truth beauty".'" Yeah, I don't really think it's funny either. The 1970s is also when I found regular hits for "What's a Greek urn?" It does appear one or two times prior to that, but the 1970s is when it takes off; it must be when people who don't actually know the poem get hold of it.

I didn't find any Google Books references using euros, which is how I always tell it. There are a lot of opinion columns about the Greek debt crisis that use it as a headline or an opening line, though.

The joke even gets a mention in "Zero to Hero" in the 1998 Disney animated film Hercules:

26 January 2017

Review: The Riddle of the Sands by Erkine Childers

Trade paperback, 301 pages
Published 2011 (originally 1903)
Acquired September 2013
Read January 2015
The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service
by Erskine Childers

I read this book while travelling to the Eaton Collection to read science fiction from 1890-1910 during with future war/revolution. This turned out to be something of a coincidence, as The Riddle of the Sands is pretty much a member of the same genre-- except that it's not science fiction. It's about a planned German invasion of Britain, but the invasion is thwarted during the trial stages, meaning there's no counterfactual or future history proposed. Yet the book is clearly responding to the same concerns that drive contemporary science fiction novels like The Three Days' Terror and The Stolen Submarine: Britain's supremacy is under threat, but Your Humble Author knows how to rectify that, both in reality (some policy changes) and in fiction (plucky amateurism, which is the supreme skill of the fin-de-siècle Englishman).

If ever you wanted to know how difficult yachting in sandy waters was, this is the book for you. I mean that both facetiously and seriously: I never even thought about it before, but Childers really makes you the reader feel as though you're lost in an unnavigable fog. Hard going sometimes, but fun, and worth it. (The film adaptation is decent, too, though I think my wife mostly liked it for Michael York in tight trousers.)

25 January 2017

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part LXI: Zero Year

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2015 (contents: 2013-14)
Borrowed from the library
Read October 2016
DC Comics: Zero Year

Writers: Scott Snyder, James Tynion, Greg Pak, Marguerite Bennett, Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Marc Andreyko, Christy Marx, John Layman, Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato, Jeff Lemire, Van Jensen with Robert Venditti, Kyle Higgins
Artists: Greg Capullo & Danny Miki, Rafael Albuquerque, Aaron Kuder, Fernando Pasarin & Jonathan Glapion, Eduardo Pansica & Júlio Ferreira, Trevor McCarthy, Andrea Mutti, Pat Olliffe, Jim Fern, Jay Leisten & Tom Nguyen, Romano Molenaar, Daniel Sampere, Travis Moore, Vicente Cifuentes, Scott McDaniel, Aaron Lopresti & Art Thibert, Jason Fabok, Chris Sprouse & Francis Manapul, Karl Story & Keith Champagne, Andre Sorrentino, Denys Cowan & Bill Sienciewicz, Victor Drujiniu & Juan Castro, Ivan Fernandez & Rob Lean, Allan Jefferson, Will Conrad & Cliff Richards, Andy Clarke
Colorists: Fco Plascencia, Dave McCaig, Arif Prianto, Blond, Paul Mounts, Guy Major, Chris Sotomayor, Sonia Oback, Tomeu Morey, Brian Buccellato, Marcelo Maiolo, Matt Hollingsworth, Garry Henderson, Peter Pantazis
Letterers: Nick Napolitano, Taylor Esposito, Dezi Sienty, Todd Klein, Travis Lanham, Jared K. Fletcher, Carlos M. Mangual, Rob Leigh

Strictly speaking, this book doesn't cover a crisis, but throughout this project I have found it interesting to examine the fallout of crises as much as crises themselves: reading History of the DC Universe and Legends added to my comprehension of Crisis on Infinite Earths, for example. So, I'll be reading the five big collections DC has released from the "New 52" era (after Flashpoint, before Rebirth) in the order they take place.

This book gives snapshots of the early lives of a number of superheroes, framed by two parts of a Batman origin story. Someday I will read the full Batman: Zero Year story, but I liked what I got of it here. The book opens with Bruce Wayne as Batman taking down the Red Hood Gang, in what seems to be one of his first real superheroic actions. It's hard to judge the writing, since I only have a snippet of the story, but I really enjoyed Greg Capullo's art and Fco Plascencia's colors. This is a moody Gotham, but in a very different way to that of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. This is a harsh, dynamic, neon Gotham-- a purifying crucible for the weird. The story ends with a little epilogue that introduces the idea that a giant storm is about to hit Gotham... and some fellow calling himself the Riddler has deactivated the electrical grid.

Who knew Gotham was so pink?
from Batman vol. 2 #24 (script by Scott Snyder, art by Greg Capullo & Danny Miki)

This provides the setup for the stories that follow, as various young heroes who either live in Gotham or come to render aid to Gotham each has their own experiences during the hurricane. I think there are about twenty-five different stories, and as you might imagine, that results in quite a range of quality, andI don't think I could point to any I found outright terrible, though many are somewhat generic, which is perhaps worse.

24 January 2017

Review: The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers by Nick Roche, James Roberts, et al.

Comic hardcover, 175 pages
Published 2015 (contents: 2010)
Acquired August 2016
Read September 2016
The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers

Written by Nick Roche & James Roberts
Pencils by Nick Roche & Guido Guidi
Inks by Nick Roche, John Wycough, Guido Guidi, & Andrew Griffith
Colors by Josh Burcham & Joana Lafuente
Letters by Neil Uyetake & Chris Mowry


Long before the Transformers Humble Bundle came along, I'd heard of Last Stand of the Wreckers. It was described in hushed tones, as one of the best Transformers comics of all time-- and even one of the best comics of all time, full stop. And what I knew of it indicated it would appeal to me, as it is about a group of second-string robots fighting for their lives. So when I got the IDW Transformers Humble Bundle and Last Stand of the Wreckers wasn't in it, I took a gamble and purchased it-- not just in paper, but in hardback, so confident was I that I would like it.

Mottos are tough to come up with.
from The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers #3 (script by Nick Roche & James Roberts, art by Nick Roche & John Wycough)

Thankfully I was correct. Last Stand of the Wreckers takes a group of some of the worst Autobots out there and assigns them to the Wreckers, the amoral Autobot commando team with the highest mortality rate of any Autobot unit. My favorites were Pyro and Ironfist. Pyro's toy was a "redeco" of Optimus Prime's, and so the writers turn this into a point of characterization: Pyro modified himself to look more like Optimus, and spends his time making dramatic poses and trying to come up with mottos. Ironfist is a fanboy who writes up detailed accounts of Wrecker missions under the pseudonym Fistiron... only despite that, there's something darker going on with him no one knows about. (Except for Prowl, because Prowl knows everything.) Plus Verity Carlo, the young human who befriended the Autobots in Infiltration, is there too.

And they're even harder to live up to.
from The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers #4 (script by Nick Roche & James Roberts, art by Nick Roche & Andrew Griffith)

These characters are sent into a former Autobot prison that's been conquered by a depraved, rogue Decepticon. A lot of them don't make it. I don't think it's as amazing as people say (probably because I still struggle to distinguish robot characters on sight, and this volume has more than most), but it is very good. The real heroes are the people who don't think it matters, and do the right thing anyway, even if they're not always doing the right thing for the right reason. This is definitely a book about heroes.

Real life: never as good as the book.
from The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers #3 (script by Nick Roche & James Roberts, art by Nick Roche, Guido Guidi, and John Wycough & Andrew Griffith)

It's made even better by the fifty-plus pages of backmatter, which includes multiple prose short stories adding depth and nuance to the characters. These I read over a few days after finishing the main comic, and they left me wanting to reread the book all over again with these new insights in mind. These stories show that, like the best characters, even second-stringers are more than meets the eye.

Next Week: Meanwhile, in another dimension, it's the beginning of an Infestation!

23 January 2017

Review: Empire of the Sun by J. G. Ballard

Quick note before we get started: I have a review up of the first installment of Big Finish's Doctor Who Master trilogy, And You Will Obey Me by Alan Barnes. Enjoy!

Trade paperback, 351 pages
Published 1994 (originally 1984)

Acquired December 2015
Read August 2016
Empire of the Sun by J. G. Ballard

I wonder how many people are displaced by war vs. how many people are combatants. Empire of the Sun, the front and back covers proclaim, is a novel of the Second World War-- but not a single battle graces its pages. Which isn't unusual per se, as books like Between the Acts and Mrs. Miniver are World War II novels without any actual fighting, but all the violence in those books is offstage. Empire of the Sun is all about violence, but there are no battles.

The novel is about a young English boy named Jamie Graham, growing up as part of an English community in Shanghai. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and attack the British ships at Shanghai, Jamie becomes separated from his parents and ends up in a refugee camp. The book is a lot less orderly than this implies. What's astonishing about the book is how violent and callous everyone is. It takes Jamie ages just to get into the camp because the Japanese soldiers would rather ignore him than put effort into dealing with him. Similarly at the end of the war, the book has another hundred pages or so to go because it takes Jamie that long to find anyone who both can and will help him. It's a depressing testament to man's inhumanity to man, as Jamie grows up in an almost apocalyptic environment, helped only by those who perceive the benefits he can bring them.

Jamie experiences a lot of cognitive dissonance throughout the novel, held captive by brutal Japanese soldiers but unable to let go of his boyhood dream of being a pilot in the Japanese air force, or at one point believing himself to be dead, or at the same time forgetting what his parents look like and still believing they must be in Shanghai waiting for him unchanged, or his claim that World War III must have already started because he cannot imagine a world without war. Characters come and go in the world around him, and at times the detachment of the narrative means the book almost moves into a dreamlike state.

One of the most striking parts to me was when Jamie gets copies of magazine (Reader's Digest and Life, I think) after the end of the war, and they're full of people and things he never even heard of for all the years of the war, like Eisenhower and D-Day and Patton. Unlike Between the Acts or Mrs. Miniver, Jamie's not isolated from a war he knows about, but he's fighting an entirely different war that has nothing to do with the one we think of when we imagine "World War II." Yet for so many people, this is all the war there was, and it was ugly.

20 January 2017

It's like I've gone crazy and woken up in a new, darker universe.

I speak, of course, of the way the first series of ITV sci-fi show Primeval comes to an end.


My wife is making me watch this through with her; I think it's payback for subjecting her to seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. She has an innate bias toward it, as it's about a crack team of evolutionary biologists, which I guess is not a thing you see on television very much. (She's an evolutionary biologist.) The basic premise is that portals have opened up in contemporary England, linking it to times and places all along Earth's past and future-- and giant extinct animals are coming through, hungry for human flesh. Seriously, every animal across history apparently thinks humans are the best to eat.

I'm not sure I've ever met a postdoc this badass.
I'm not an evolutionary biologist, but as an academic, I still do appreciate that the core team is made up of a professor, his postdoc, an undergraduate, and a zoo attendant (I'd guess she must have a Master's, though no one says that). There are not many tv shows with postdocs in them, so I get a kick out of this, though the show often raises questions for me that it will never answer, like how does a postdoc afford an apartment that nice, and is the government paying for the professor's course release so that he can go hunt dinosaurs, and will the professor's wife have to go up before the university ethics board for having a sexual relationship with the postdoc back when he was a graduate student? I've also hung out with enough research biologists to know they really wouldn't give a shit about saving the life of a single ancient animal / making sure it got back to its own time. They'd want to dissect the thing, or at least study it!

Apparently being able to quote Star Trek II
is all the skill you need to be on a top-
secret government team.
The first series ranges from dumb to silly. Basically every episode is set in a different location, and the whole thrill of the show is seeing an ancient life-form where it doesn't belong. At the point I'm up to we've seen forest/suburbs, the London Underground, underwater, a kitchen, a country club, a zoo, a mall, a skyscraper, an amusement park, underwater (again), a housing estate, and a motorway. Are there enough visually interesting locations in England to sustain three more series? I mean, they squandered the Underground in episode two!

It has a very procedural feel (each episode begins with a random jerk who gets eaten to prove the situation is serious), and the characters are written with all the subtlety of a brick to the head: there's the scientist one (because he's a professor, he knows all sciences, including physics), the attractive male action one, the nerdy one, and the girl one (the show contrives to get her into her pants in most episodes of the first series). There's also the boss one, who I feel like I should like, but mostly he just stands there. At the end of the first series, I wasn't exactly enthused.

Would you give this man tenure?
(I've met worse-dressed professors of
ecology.)
The second series makes a couple interesting move: during Professor Nick Cutter's trip into the past at the end of series one, he accidentally changes history, which is both a really clever way to have a couple status quo changes (I spent the whole first series saying the team should have an SGC-esque base; in the new timeline, they just have one, no moving necessary) and to kill a character off without killing her off. She just never existed, and only Cutter remembers her. (This doesn't really go anywhere in the end.) There's also a conspiracy introduced around the same time, which connects a background threat to each monster-of-the-week, which really works to raise the stakes and make the episodes feel more consequential. I also think the direction gets better-- it feels very lightweight and corny (in a bad way) in series one.

It all falls apart in the finale, though, because the conspiracy turns out to be dumb, the bad guy revealing himself for absolutely no benefit, and his plan not really making any sense. Also Cutter's wife goes from havining-a-possibly-mysterious-yet-interesting-agenda to always-performing-the-most-evil-action-for-no-readily-apparent-reason-but-with-cleavage. The characters are still very simple, though I assume the guy playing the professor said his favorite emotion to play was "haunted" because he spends the whole series freaking out and yelling at people because the timeline change threw him off so much.

But seriously, why isn't there a physicist on the team?

19 January 2017

Review: His Wisdom the Defender by Simon Newcomb

Hardcover, 329 pages
Published 1975 (originally 1900)
Borrowed from the library
Read October 2013
His Wisdom the Defender by Simon Newcomb

Simon Newcomb was a Canadian-born U.S. astronomer; H. G. Wells actually references him in The Time Machine to justify that book's depiction of time as another dimension. His Wisdom the Defender, Newcomb's own stab into scientific fiction, is much more typical of fin-de-siècle attempts at the genre than Wells's exemplary work. Basically, in the 1940s, a Harvard physics professor named Archibald Campbell invents the air-ship and decides to use it to impose his law on the world: that there should be no more war. It's a sort of typical position of the era, peace through brute force. Newcomb engages with some of the philosophical ramifications of this ("He who would wield the power of a god must bear the responsibility of a god"), but most of the book is pretty plodding, to be honest. When he's finally forced to use his air-ships ("motes") in combat, Campbell knows that what he is doing is intellectually sound, but can't shake the feeling that it's just murder-- so he's got more of a conscience than any George Griffith protagonist at least. (This is damning with faint praise.)

Thankfully and somewhat improbably, the problem of one man imposing his will on the world through overwhelming destructive force does not backfire, because Campbell is such a swell guy he eventually becomes known as "His Wisdom." Everyone comes to like Campbell's rule and there are no problems of any sort in international relations ever again, thanks to Campbell's arbitration. Who knew a physics professor would have it in him? This is the sort of novel that Wells would skewer in The War in the Air, and rightfully so.

18 January 2017

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part LX: Flashpoint

Comic hardcover, n.pag.
Published 2011 (contents: 2011)
Borrowed from the library
Read September 2016
Flashpoint

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Andy Kubert
Inkers: Sandra Hope, Jesse Delperdang
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano

After five thick volumes of build-up-- not to mention my own extradiegetic knowledge of how this book changed DC's continuity-- did Flashpoint live up to it all? Not really. The Flash wakes up in a world that I already knew the basics of, having read all the World of Flashpoint tie-ins (the Wonder Woman and Batman ones were probably the most relevant in the end). He spends a lot of time being baffled why he doesn't have powers and why his mom is still alive, he goes to talk to Batman, he electrocutes himself, he blames Professor Zoom the Reverse Flash for it all but discovers it's his own work, and he fixes his mistake. Given the large, complicated world the tie-ins introduced, the events of the main story are distressingly straightforward. (And some of them never really tied in at all, like Kid Flash's role in the Flash volume.)

C'mon, Barry, it's an alternate universe. You're a superhero, you should be used to this crap.
from Flashpoint vol. 2 #1 (art by Andy Kubert & Sandra Hope)

There's some potential in the idea that the Flash blames his enemy for messing with time, but it turns out to be his own work, but Geoff Johns doesn't really exploit that here. It should send your world shuddering to a halt, instead it just feels like a minor road bump on the way to the climax. That Barry Allen, not just the fastest man alive but often the nicest, could create a world so horrific seems worth delving into, but Johns doesn't. That he did it in his sleep, apparently, is a big copout. There's a good story about parents and expectations somewhere in here, given that the biggest character other than the Flash is a version of Batman who is a Thomas Wayne that watched his son die, but Johns doesn't do anything with these themes or ideas. Even at five issues (compare to Crisis on Infinite Earth's twelve-plus!), this story feels stretched out, with Barry electrocuting himself to regain his powers twice for no obvious narrative reason.

I wish I remembered.
from Flashpoint vol. 2 #5 (art by Andy Kubert and Sandra Hope & Jesse Delperdang)

Crisis on Infinite Earths is a good metric here: Marv Wolfman and George Perez made something epic. Then, when Wolfman novelized it and told it from the perspective of Barry Allen, it became something impressively personal. Flashpoint is neither as epic nor as personal as it wants to be.

Including Grifter in the same tier of heroes as Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman makes the presence of Cyborg look positively reasonable.
from Flashpoint vol. 2 #5 (art by Andy Kubert and Sandra Hope & Jesse Delperdang)

Next Week: What's this new DC universe like? I go back to the beginning to find out, to the days of the Zero Year!

17 January 2017

Review: The Transformers: For All Mankind by Mike Costa and Don Figueroa

Comic PDF eBook, 136 pages
Published 2010 (contents: 2009-10)
Acquired August 2014
Read August 2016
The Transformers, Volume 1: For All Mankind

Writer: Mike Costa
Art: Don Figueroa
Colors: J. Brown
Lettering: Chris Mowry & Robbie Robbins


This volume didn't move me much either way. It introduces a new, post-All Hail Megatron status quo: the Autobots are on Earth, protecting humanity from the scattered Decepticons abandoned there during the Decepticon retreat after Megatron was defeated by Optimus. Only the Autobots are perceived as being as much of a threat as the Decepticons are, so the Autobots have to protect the humans while staying hidden from them, causing some moral dilemmas for them. Albeit, not very interesting ones; this is the sort of overly angsty Optimus Prime that doesn't do much for me. Like a lot of these comics, I think it partially suffered from me not knowing the characters: what's Ironhide to him, or he to Ironhide, that he would weep for him?

I mean, he may be evil, but he's got a point.
from The Transformers vol. 1 #2

What did work was a subplot about Hot Rod deciding that this whole conflict was bogus and working together with a group of Autobots and Decepticons to just be rid of the whole thing. Thanks to the manipulations of the Decepticon Swindle, he begins to see himself as a savior of an independent group-- hearkening back to his original stance in the Great War as the leader of a local community that just wanted to stay out of it all, as per Autocracy. Swindle begins calling him "Rodimus Prime," a very different origin story than in the Generation One cartoon! I felt Costa pulled back from the potential here, though, as in the end Swindle is just, well, swindling Hot Rod. But the seeds sown here would bear fruit in More than Meets the Eye, by which Hot Rod is legitimately called Rodimus, and more idealistic than ever.

Next Week: Meanwhile, in space, it's the Last Stand of the Wreckers!

16 January 2017

Review: The Making of Stanley Kubrick's 2OO1: A Space Odyssey by Piers Bizony

In reviews news, I have covered a Doctor Who: Short Trip at USF: the Eighth Doctor and Charley feature in The Man Who Wasn't There.

Hardcover, 562 pages
Published 2014

Acquired December 2015
Read July 2016
The Making of Stanley Kubrick's 2OO1: A Space Odyssey
by Piers Bizony

This is definitely a fancy book, a making-of for 2001: A Space Odyssey formatted in the dimensions of the famous monolith. (I always remember from the novel by Arthur C. Clarke that the proportions are 1:4:9, the squares of the first three integers, though I have no idea if that was actually true of the film prop.) This looks pretty cool, but sometimes makes for inconvenient reading. The cover you see here is actually just a slip cover; the volume underneath is all black with four original graphics meant to evoke visual motifs from the film.

Bizony's history is pretty comprehensive, as far as I could tell, covering Kubrick's early career up until he decided to do a science fiction film in a broad overview, and then going into detail on Kubrick's collaboration with Arthur Clarke, the evolution of the script, the selection of actors, the filming of the special effects sequences, and so on. Sometime it's organized a bit weirdly (I don't know why the section on the music comes after the recounting of the film's release and reception), but overall it's packed with interesting details if you're into the mechanics of filmmaking, such as how that centrifuge set worked. Bizony sources his information from new interviews, archival interviews, and the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the University of the Arts London, and it all seems quite thorough. Lots of good anecdotes, and I feel like most any question I've ever had about the making of the film was answered somewhere in here. (I wasn't sure at first about the chapter about whether extraterrestrial life really exists, but by its end, I decided I'd learned enough to make it worth reading.)

It would be a good book with just the text, but the real star of the book are the illustrations, which consist of large, high-quality images, taking in film stills, publicity photographs, concept art, set close-ups, pictures of the filming models, spaceship diagrams, and so on. The pictures are gorgeous, showing just how much thought went into every little aspect of the film. Few movies have such a unified aesthetic as 2001; it's hard to imagine wanting to pore over close-ups of control panels from many other films, but 2001 sustains such interest. Almost every image is beautiful, and the book has a large number of gatefolds that really show off the details at a large scale. Some are disrupted by the book's spine, but those are in a minority; what's more annoying is the sometimes random placement. Most of the time the images are near where relevant events are discussed in the text, but at times, it gets weird, with the images of the polka-dot alien Kubrick experimented with being housed in a totally different chapter than where the experiments are details, for example. But that's a small quibble; you could reread the book just for the images, I think, and have an amazing visual narrative to experience.

Combine this book with Peter Krämer's BFI Film Classics entry on the film, and you will have a pretty thorough take on the film as a whole, both background and interpretation. (Krämer gives some common pitfalls of 2001 discussion, and I was pleased to note that Bizony fell into none of them.) Now I just need to rewatch the movie-- it's been almost a decade since I last saw it, and I've no doubt these two books will give me a renewed appreciation for it.

13 January 2017

Heavy

This week I visited the University of Tampa, which was originally the Tampa Bay Hotel, now called Plant Hall, after Henry B. Plant, the sort of guy you call a railroad magnate. He seems like an interesting fellow, and I am sure I could go on about him at length, so I'll discuss him in the future, probably.

In the meantime, while walking around campus, I came across this stone:
courtesy Wikimedia Commons

It's hard to read in full, so I'll transcribe it:
THIS MONUMENT HAS BEEN
ERECTED 1965 BY THE
GRAVITY RESEARCH FOUNDATION
ROGER W. BABSON FOUNDER

IT IS TO REMIND STUDENTS
OF THE BLESSINGS FORTHCOMING
WHEN SCIENCE DETERMINES
WHAT GRAVITY IS, HOW IT WORKS
AND HOW IT MAY BE CONTROLLED.


Gravity-- how does it work?

Roger Babson was a rich, mid-20th century eccentric; he made his money applying Newtonian principles to the stock market, founded three colleges, and ran for president in 1940 (he came in fourth, with 0.12% of the popular vote). His sister and grandson both drowned, for which he blamed gravity and resolved to defeat it:
from Babson's essay, "Gravity: Our Enemy Number One"

Babson rejects your notion of "drowning"-- gravity knows what it did! His writing refers to life rings as "practical anti-gravity aids," which feels like a slight exaggeration of what life rings can do, but I'm not a physicist, so what do I know? He also blamed gravity for bad air circulation, causing people to "drown" in poor air; this discussion culminates in the following claim:
When a fire gets underway, super-heated combustion gases ranging from 800 to 1,000 degrees in temperature defy Gravity and quickly flood the upper halls of a house, hotel or office building. These lethal gases enter bed- and other upper rooms through open doors and transoms and asphyxiate the occupants. This means that Gravity can work against us in two opposite ways. 
It doesn't really seem fair or logical that you can blame gravity for things going up as well as down.

He wanted to defeat gravity with an anti-gravity insulator. This just makes me think he read too much H. G. Wells when he was a kid. (He also wanted to train people to not feel bothered when air was blown on their faces by electric fans. I guess that's useful... but dude, not gravity related!)

He created a gravity research foundation and sponsored prizes and that kind of thing, but part of his anti-gravity initiative was to pay colleges with stocks to install these stones. Over fifty years later, and it would seem that these blessings are still forthcoming, but a number of colleges still have the stones, including UT. Others include Colby College in Maine, Tufts in Massachusetts, and Emory in Atlanta. (Most of them are East Coast states.) Some are worded differently, ending with an intent "to remind students of the blessings forthcoming when a semi-insulator is discovered in order to harness gravity as a free power and reduce airplane accidents."

This blogger suspects he is the only living person to have visited all the New England gravity stones. I kinda want to outdo him and visit all of them, but so far I've only done one. (And I didn't even take a picture!)

12 January 2017

Review: The Brontës Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson

Trade paperback, 188 pages
Published 2010 (originally 1931)

Acquired March 2010
Previously read May 2010

Reread October 2014
The Brontës Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson
What I can never get my editors to realise is that every soul who is alive is ‘modern,’ and that when they use the word they privily mean depraved or racketty. (12)
When I was assigned to teach The Modern Novel, I absolutely knew I wanted to teach this book, even though it's not exactly canonical, as I would argue that it takes the narrative techniques of modernism-- stream of consciousness, fragmentation, and so on-- but deploys them to make jokes. Jesse Matz, in his book The Modern Novel: A Short Introduction, argues that "whereas writers of the past might have thought they could take a certain 'reality' for granted and get right to the work of writing, modern writers had to pause at the outset and self-consciously ask: what is 'reality,' exactly – and how do we know it?" (32). This is exactly what's going on in The Brontës Went to Woolworths, except it's got jokes in it. (There aren't a lot of jokes in Mrs. Dalloway as I recall.) The whole book is about the complications that ensue for three sisters and their mother who have a menagerie of imaginary friends, but Ferguson deliberately writes it so that it's difficult for the reader to tell who's real and who's not.

Matz argues that after the advent of modernism, "Reality now becomes not a thing, but a process. It is not something out there, for sure, that the novelist must describe. It is a process of engagement, a set of subjective acts, a psychological performance, something always ongoing" (36). But unlike in other modernist texts I've read, this book's attitude seems to be that the breakdown of our conventional ways of knowing the world creates the possibility of fun. Matz says, "Questioning reality transformed realism in the modern novel, producing a new realism based strangely on doubts about reality itself" (33), but I can't recall any other modernist text where the doubts about reality were used as an excuse for game-playing. Or perhaps not an excuse-- maybe the only choice in the face of the collapse of epistemology is to play games. Except you can't acknowledge they're games; you have to commit to them as being part of reality because you no longer have yardstick for distinguishing objective and subjective realities from one another.

Anyway, like with a lot of my more esoteric teaching choices, some of my students had trouble with it, and we spent one whole 50-minute class session just working out what had happened and what hadn't. But for me as a teacher, that's a feature not a bug.

11 January 2017

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part LIX: The World of Flashpoint featuring the Flash

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2012 (contents: 2011)
Borrowed from the library
Read September 2016
The World of Flashpoint featuring the Flash

Writers: Scott Kolins, Adam Glass, Sean Ryan, Sterling Gates
Artists: Joel Gomez, Scott Kolins, Rodney Buchemi & José Marzán Jr., Ig Guara & Ruy José, Oliver Nome & Trevor Scott
Colorists: Brian Buccellato, Mike Atiyeh, Artur Fujita, Stefani Rennee
Letterers: Sal Cipriano, Dave Sharpe, Carlos M. Mangual, Dezi Sienty

It seemed to me that the volume of The World of Flashpoint featuring the Flash would have the most to do with Flashpoint proper given that it features the Flash, which I think is why I read it last. Actually, it doesn't really shed that much light on Flashpoint. (I don't think so, anyway-- keep in mind I actually haven't read Flashpoint yet!) There's a short "Reverse Flash" story written by Scott Kolins (a longtime collaborator with Geoff Johns on The Flash) which seems to be laying some groundwork for what will come in Flashpoint, but also is somewhat redundant with the Reverse Flash story contained in The Road to Flashpoint (which was illustrated by Kolins). I'm not well-versed enough in Flash lore to know how much of what is contained here-- the Reverse Flash manipulates the Flash's childhood a little bit-- is new information, and how much is a reminder of old information. I did quite like Joel Gomez's artwork, however; it reminds me of Kolins, as well as other frequent Johns collaborator Francis Manapul, and the stuff featuring kid Barry Allen is especially cute.

You can't change history. Not one line! Except when you can.
from Flashpoint: Reverse Flash #1 (script by Scott Kolins, art by Joel Gomez)

The other story that seems to be directly tying into Flashpoint proper is "Kid Flash Lost," about young Bart Allen winding up in a dystopian future ruled by Brainiac alongside Hot Pursuit, who in Road to Flashpoint was an alternate-Earth Barry Allen, but whose equipment and identity has been taken by Patty Spivot, a forensic scientist who also appeared in Road to Flashpoint. This story doesn't take place in the world of Flashpoint like most other World of Flashpoint stories, but rather has Bart jumping through time, trying to find Barry Allen and help him put time back together. It's nothing incredible, but Sterling Gates writes a decent little story of an optimistic little kid maintaining his outlook in the face of a pessimistic universe and doing what he has to do to help his idol put things right, complete with Crisis on Infinite Earths throwback. I assume this will tie into Flashpoint in some way, like Bart shows up at the climax and tosses Barry some speed force. This seems to also be an ending point of Bart Allen, a character I don't know much about, but do know was sorely mishandled in the period between Infinite Crisis and Flashpoint.

By the time I write this caption, I have read Flashpoint. This has nothing to do with anything. I guess it happens between panels.
from Flashpoint: Kid Flash Lost #3 (script by Sterling Gates, art by Oliver Nome & Trevor Scott)

The other three stories here are mostly just more glimpses of the alternate world of Flashpoint, and I didn't find any of them terribly interesting. "Citizen Cold" shows us that in a world without the Flash, Captain Cold is instead "Citizen Cold," hero of Central City, but despite some quality Scott Kolins art (he also writes the story), the story doesn't really say anything interesting: the alternate Cold is still an asshole who is cruel to women.

The Hero of Central City.
from Flashpoint: Citizen Cold #1 (script & art by Scott Kolins)

Even more unpleasant to read is "Legion of Doom," one of those World of Flashpoint stories that's basically just about how cruel people are in the world of Flashpoint. Like, do I really need three issues of this gross shit? It is nice to get a glimpse at how heroic Cyborg is in this world (he's been a side character in tons of these stories, but this is the closest he gets to the spotlight), but other than that this tale produces little of value.

The same goes for "Grodd of War," where we learn Grodd's gorillas control all of Africa in the Flashpoint timeline. It's most more gratuitous, uninteresting violence.

So, in the end, the balance of this collection is a little odd: two stories (four issues) that might or might not add something to our understanding of Flashpoint, three stories (seven issues) that seemingly don't, and none of them are really standouts. At this point, though, I just want to get to the real deal!

Next Week: Finally! The main event is upon us! A race against time to solve the mystery of the Flashpoint!

10 January 2017

Review: The Transformers: All Hail Megatron, Volume 4: Coda by Mike Costa, Chee Yang Ong, et al.

Short Trips triple threat! This weekend I posted reviews of three Doctor Who short stories to USF: "Damascus" featuring the third Doctor and Prime Minister Jeremy, "A Full Life" featuring the fourth Doctor and Adric, and "The Toy" featuring the fifth Doctor and Nyssa. Of course the one with Adric was best.

Comic PDF eBook, n.pag.
Published 2010 (contents: 2009)
Acquired August 2014
Read August 2016
The Transformers: All Hail Megatron, Volume 4: Coda

Written by Simon Furman, Mike Costa, Shane McCarthy, Andy Schmidt, Nick Roche, Denton J. Tipton, Zander Cannon
Art by Don Figueroa, Chee Yang Ong, Emiliano Santalucia, Andrew Griffith, Nick Roche, Casey Coller, Guido Guidi
Colors by James Brown, Moose Baumann, Josh Burcham, Kris Carter, Joana Lafuente
Letters by Chris Mowry

Most, though not all, of the eight stories collected in this volume are codas to the main saga of All Hail Megatron, moving the pieces into position for what comes next in the ongoing series written by Mike Costa (of which I have only read the first volume). The eight stories are by seven different writers and seven different artists, many of them old IDW standbys like Simon Furman and Nick Roche.

A few promised something really interesting to come, like "Uneasy Lies the Head." Starscream, following the events of volume 2 of All Hail Megatron, is now the leader of the Decepticons. Yet with the Decepticons sent packing from Earth, he can only lead them into failure, and the lesson he learned in All Hail Megatron was that he didn't deserve to be leader except if he took power by force; that is the Decepticon philosophy. So what is he to do? He uses the fact that he possesses the Autobot Matrix of Leadership to rally everyone to his side while Megatron recuperates... but outside of that he has no idea:
"Having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true."
from The Transformers: All Hail Megatron #13 (script by Mike Costa, art by Chee Yang Ong)

Some are clearly doing set-up work, like "The Man of Steel," where Spike Witwicky is put in charge of a Transformers-hunting unit and given more of a personal reason to hate the Transformers, when he's brutally injured by Ravage. (I'm not sure why this was needed, given that the Transformers killed billions in All Hail Megatron, but I guess that wasn't personal enough.)

Some didn't do much for me, like "Old Ways," where Ironhide wants to retire but doesn't. I can't tell Ironhide apart from all the other robots still, and Figueroa's redesigns make everyone look hella creepy. Some draw on earlier continuity that I didn't know anything about, like "Rebirth," about what Galvatron is doing in space or something. Or there's "Replay," which exists only to retcon Devastation so that Sunstreaker's actions in All Hail Megatron seem more justified.

Optimus Prime is going to eat your soul.
from The Transformers: All Hail Megatron #13 (script by Simon Furman, art by Don Figueroa)

It was with the stories "Everything in Its Right Place" and "Lost & Found" that the IDW continuity began to click into place for me, where I began to be able to see how these characters moved from story to story and changed and developed. In "Everything in Its Right Place," Autobot scientist Perceptor joins Kup's team to monitor him, since Kup has gone insane but cannot spared, and Perceptor's cure requires constant monitoring. From there, Perceptor appears in the Drift story in volume 3 of All Hail Megatron, where he's badly injured. Then he appears back in this volume, in "Lost & Found," where he decides to upgrade himself to be more of a fighter than a scientist. "Lost & Found" leads directly into volume 1 of All Hail Megatron, where Kup's team crashlands on Cybertron, and the Autobots already on Cybertron are flabbergasted by what a badass sharpshooter Perceptor is now. And Perceptor will go on to play a key role in the excellent Last Stand of the Wreckers. It's tangled, obviously, but once I decoded that tangle with the help of the Transformers wiki, I was impressed, and the massive ongoing story of the IDW Transformers tales began to come into focus.

Blaster's always gotta complain about something. (That's Blaster, right?)
from The Transformers: All Hail Megatron #15 (script by Denton J. Tipton, art by Casey Coller)

Next Week: Optimus Prime discovers how hard it is to stick it out on Earth, even when you've decided to dedicated yourself to service For All Mankind!

09 January 2017

Review: The Road to Armageddon by Cecil Degrotte Eby

Hardcover, 280 pages
Published 1988
Borrowed from the library
Read July 2016
The Road to Armageddon: The Martial Spirit in English Popular Literature, 1870-1914
by Cecil Degrotte Eby

Eby's book charts English popular culture about war from The Battle of Dorking to the Great War: in invasion fiction, in H. G. Wells, in the Boy Scouts, in public schools, in sports (especially cricket), on the stage, in Rudyard Kipling, in Arthur Conan Doyle, and in material published during the Great War itself. It's one of those books that sort of lives or dies on your own interests, I think-- so I was really interested in Eby's accounts of invasion fiction and of Boy Scouts, less interested in what he had to say about public schools and sports, though it was still interesting enough to obtain some insight into the turn-of-the-century conception of manhood. The discussion of invasion fiction was nicely congruent with Gannon's Rumors of War, which I read around the same time. Gannon spends more time on invasion fiction, while Eby only spends one chapter on it-- but the myriad other chapters give it more of a cultural context than Gannon does, so the books go together nicely.

I did quite like Eby's stats: he reveals that between 1871 and 1914, there were 60-plus invasion narratives published in book or pamphlet form (so that's not counting ones published in periodicals). Germany was the aggressor in 41 of them, France 18 times, Russia 8 times, and then China, Japan, the U.S., and Mars all had one or so goes. No wonder Britain was so pumped for World War I when it finally happened! I was a little disappointed that it seemed like Eby hadn't read George Griffith-- some of his statements about the genre seemed to come from someone who hadn't read Angel of the Revolution (1893), which I would argue is the apex of the invasion genre, and as important a precursor to science fiction as H. G. Wells's work.

As a former Boy Scout (is one always a Boy Scout?) I found the chapter on the early days of Scouting fascinating: Baden-Powell was a magnificently reprehensible bastard. We've heard the stories of World War I going on pause and the combatants playing sports, but when the Boers asked Baden-Powell for a Sunday reprieve to play cricked, Baden-Powell turned them down because the English were winning the only war that mattered, the battle itself. For Baden-Powell, the Boer War was a jolly caper and a place for him to commit atrocities, and he went back to England to transform its weakling city boys into something more like Boer boys he had seen in South Africa, training his young Boy Scouts to defend their home country at all costs. Empire was the only important game.

06 January 2017

Who Has Written for the Most Doctors Who?

A thread on Reddit inspired me to try to figure out who has written for the most actors to have played the Doctor. This is quite a tricky question, of course, because you have to define your parameters. I decided pretty quickly to discount prose fiction because otherwise it all just gets out of hand too quickly: some Short Trips writers have written short stories featuring all eight pre-2005 Doctors, and then all they need is a couple new series novels, and BAM, twelve or thirteen Doctors. But I did decide to count audio, because hey, Colin Baker did read those lines aloud. So the rule is that the Doctor has to be played by an actor who played the Doctor on television, but the actor doesn't have to be playing the Doctor on television.

Here's who I think the top contenders are: (I'm not going to list anyone who got 5/13 just through audio because it's too easy to write for all five of the regular Big Finish Doctors. Sorry Paul Magrs and John Dorney and I'm sure many others.)
  • Andrew Smith
    • Four: Full Circle (television)
    • Five: Mistfall (audio)
    • Six: The First Sontarans et al. (audio)
    • Eight: The Sontaran Ordeal (audio)
    • War: Agents of Chaos (audio)
    • TOTAL: 5/13
  • Marc Platt
    • Four: Night of the Stormcrow et al. (audio)
    • Five: Spare Parts et al. (audio) 
    • Six: Paper Cuts et al. (audio)
    • Seven: Ghost Light (television)
    • Eight: The Skull of Sobek et al. (audio)
    • TOTAL: 5/13
  • Gareth Roberts
    • Six: The One Doctor (audio)
    • Seven: Bang-Bang-a-Boom! (audio)
    • Ten: "The Shakespeare Code" et al. (television)
    • Eleven: "The Lodger" et al. (television)
    • Twelve: "The Caretaker" (television)
      • He wrote three novels for Four that were later turned into audios... but he didn't write the audios so TOO BAD.
    • TOTAL: 5/13
  • Robert Holmes
    • Two: The Krotons et al. (television)
    • Three: Spearhead from Space et al. (television)
    • Four: The Ark in Space et al. (television)
    • Five: The Caves of Androzani (television)
    • Six: The Two Doctors et al. (television)
      • If Holmes had written The Five Doctors as originally planned, he would have netted 6/13. But he and Dicks tie for scoring purely off the classic run. In fact, I don't think anyone else even comes close!
    • TOTAL: 5/13
  • Nicholas Briggs
    • Four: Destination: Nerva et al. (audio)
    • Five: The Sirens of Time et al. (audio)
    • Six: The Sirens of Time et al. (audio)
    • Seven: The Sirens of Time et al. (audio)
    • Eight: Sword of Orion et al. (audio)
    • War: Only the Monstrous (audio)
      • Briggs could actually rack up Four through Eight just because of The Light at the End. And if you count Big Finish's recasts of One through Three (I don't, a position you could argue is inconsistent with some I will adopt elsewhere in this tally), he would actually get up to three more from it.
    • TOTAL: 6/13
  • Alan Barnes
    • Four: Trail of the White Worm et al. (audio)
    • Five: Castle of Fear et al. (audio)
    • Six: Brotherhood of the Daleks et al. (audio)
    • Seven: Gods and Monsters et al. (audio)
    • Eight: Storm Warning et al. (audio)
    • Ten: "The Infinite Quest" (cartoon)
      • Yes, you did forget there was a cartoon episode with David Tennant in 2007. Lucky you. You could argue Barnes should also get Three for Zagreus, but they were only archival clips, i.e., Barnes didn't actually write any lines for Jon Pertwee.
    • TOTAL: 6/13
  • Terrance Dicks
    • One: The Five Doctors et al. (television)
    • Two: The War Games (television)
    • Three: The Five Doctors (television)
    • Four: Robot et al. (television)
    • Five: The Five Doctors (television)
    • Six: The Ultimate Adventure (stageplay)
      • Even though Dicks script-edited the whole Jon Pertwee era, he technically never wrote for Pertwee until eight years later, in The Five Doctors. The Five Doctors actually presents something of a problem, as One was recast and played by Richard Hurndall. Which you could dispute as counting. So I guess I'm defining this as "actors who officially played Doctor Who on television, including recasts." And yes, I did count a stageplay!
    • TOTAL: 6/13
  • Mark Gatiss
    • Five: Phantasmagoria (audio)
    • Eight: Invaders from Mars (audio)
    • Nine: "The Unquiet Dead" (television)
    • Ten: "The Idiot's Lantern" (television)
    • Eleven: "Victory of the Daleks" et al. (television)
    • Twelve: "Robot of Sherwood" et al. (television)
      • Gatiss also wrote a Seven novel, Nightshade, which was turned into an audio, but Gatiss didn't write the script of the audio, so arguably it doesn't pass my no-prose rule. He doesn't get a point for One in An Adventure in Space and Time, either, since that's not David Bradley playing One, it's David Bradley playing William Hartnell playing One.
    • TOTAL: 6/13
  • Paul Cornell
    • Five: Circular Time (audio)
    • Six: 100 (audio)
    • Seven: The Shadow of the Scourge (audio)
    • Eight: Seasons of Fear (audio)
    • Nine: "Father's Day" (television)
    • Ten: "Human Nature" (television)
      • There was a point in time (2007, I guess) where Paul Cornell was the only person to have written for all the actively-performing Doctors. But then Tom Baker came back to audio in 2009 and Cornell hasn't written for the television show since, which is a shame. You could also argue he deserves a point for Richard E. Grant in Scream of the Shalka... but... ahahaha, no.
    • TOTAL: 6/13
  • Matt Fitton
    • Four: Death Match (audio)
    • Five: Equilibrium (audio)
    • Six: The Wrong Doctors et al. (audio)
    • Seven: Black and White et al. (audio)
    • Eight: Dark Eyes 2 et al. (audio)
    • War: Infernal Devices (audio)
    • Ten: Technophobia (audio)
      • Fitton has a big advantage in being the only Big Finish writer to have written for both the Tenth Doctor and the War Doctor.
    • TOTAL: 7/13
  • Steven Moffatt
    • One: "The Day of the Doctor" (television)
    • Four: "The Day of the Doctor" (television)
    • Five: "Time Crash" (television)
    • Eight: "The Night of the Doctor" (web)
    • War: "The Day of the Doctor" (television)
    • Nine: "The Empty Child" (television)
    • Ten: "The Girl in the Fireplace" et al. (television)
    • Eleven: "The Eleventh Hour" et al. (television)
    • Twelve: "Deep Breath" et al. (television)
      • Really he gets in here on two technicalities. Of course William Hartnell was long-dead by "Day of the Doctor," but if I count One's recast for The Five Doctors, I don't see how I can't count John Guilor's one line in "Day." Plus Tom Baker is technically not playing Four in "Day"... but he is playing a future incarnation of the Doctor, so he still counts as a Doctor actor playing the Doctor. But even though Two, Three, Six, and Seven also appeared in "Day" (not to mention "The Name of the Doctor") it was only via archival footage or stand-ins, so it doesn't count.
    • TOTAL: 9/13
As the Reddit thread concluded, not only is Moffatt winning, but he's winning by such a degree and in such a way it's hard to imagine how anyone else will catch him up-- at least, until Christopher Eccleston, Matt Smith, and Peter Capaldi also agree to do audio adventures in their dotage, allowing Matt Fitton to wrack up three more points.