SFF Stack Exchange is starting topic challenges

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A new year is beginning, and 2021 brings new change to SFF Stack Exchange. The site turns one decade old this month, on 11 January 2021, and its eleventh year is being marked with a new program of monthly topic challenges.

First up is the famous sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov, the topic of the month for January 2021. SFF welcomes all (on-topic) questions about Asimov works during this month, and a list will be kept on meta. Bounties may be awarded at the end of the month.

For future months’ topics, a proposals thread is now open for suggestions on the meta site. Whichever answer gets most upvotes there by the end of January will become the February 2021 topic challenge.

All welcome to participate!

A review of the Stonewylde series

I first discovered the Stonewylde books one Beltane a few years ago, and was immediately captivated by the magical story. It’s a strange kind of fantasy: set in a fictional secluded village in the English countryside, and rarely containing much palpable magic, preferring instead a subtlety which makes the magic, mainly based on ceremonies and meditation, hardly perceptible. A pagan believer might even argue that this isn’t fantasy at all. But I’m going to go with assuming it’s on-topic here; indeed, since the so-called Outside World is hardly involved in the story at all, much of it feels like it could be classic LotR-style fantasy, set in an entirely imaginary universe rather than an esoteric enclave of the real world.

The series consists of five books … wait, did I say five? I meant three. It’s a wonderful trilogy consisting of three books. OK, there are also two more books, set some thirteen years after the first three, but DO NOT read them. The first three books form a magical and beautiful story, like a delicate flower whose love and innocence shines through the darkest of times and uplifts the reader’s soul. The last two are a sickening blot, ugly and brutal in their betrayal of the franchise, like a crippling disease that consumes from within and slays slowly and without mercy; they leave a foul taste in the reader’s mouth. So most of this review will completely ignore the last two books and focus only on the first three. I will avoid spoilers as much as possible, although there will be a short section at the end which covers the last two books and necessarily contains spoilers from the first three.

stonewylde

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Doctor Who isn’t really about time travel

The purpose of this article is to support the possibly controversial claim that for a show which claims to be all about time travel, Doctor Who doesn’t actually involve all that much time travel. Oh, sure, the Doctor has a time machine, but it tends to be used only as a means of getting to wherever he wants to go (or, as she herself once put it, wherever he needs to go), rather than time travel actually being relevant to the plot of the episode. Most episodes start with the Doctor and Companion turning up somewhere in the TARDIS and then staying in the same time zone all the way through; as we shall see, very few involve time travel which couldn’t be removed with no effect on the storyline.

I’m going to examine all the episodes of the Russell T Davies era, i.e. the Ninth and Tenth Doctor stories. Mainly this is because I haven’t finished watching the whole of the Moffat era yet, but I also suspect my point will be better made here since the show has tended to go further into issues of time travel, time paradoxes and so on under Moffat’s leadership.

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Doctor Who Series 9 Review – Part 2 of 2

After an interval of eight weeks (or possibly eight seconds, or eight hundred years, or minus eight weeks, according to whose timeline you may be following), here we are again with the second of the two instalments of my Doctor Who Series 9 review.

The episodes in this series are on a steep uphill climb, with nearly every story being better than the last. We’ve already seen a two-parter involving Missy and Davros (which, despite some interesting aspects, was mainly fanwank), a “base under siege” two-parter (standard Doctor Who fare, plus a time-travelling twist), the first Ashildr episode (more standard Doctor Who fare, but a nice snapshot of the Doctor doing what he does best), and the second one (an even less interesting storyline, but with some fascinating exploration of the life of an immortal). Now it’s time to move on to the second half of Series 9, in which every one of the stories makes Doctor Who history while also being fantastic in its own right.

Once again, of course, SPOILER ALERT.

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