Friday, 13 December 2013

Adults and adultery: Cleaning up Dumas onscreen.

Some time ago, I watched the recent film of The Three Musketeers. The one with the airships.

If that wasn't a big enough deviation from common sense, I then watched 1993 Disney version and promptly choked on my own boiling spleen. This blog article has been over a year in the writing, mostly because trying to work on it it causes me to start spewing blood before I collapse, shivering, in a corner in some literary form of post traumatic stress syndrome.

Oh, I wish I were joking.

It did not look like this.
Before anyone points out that a movie is not the same thing as a novel, I'll clarify; I wasn't expecting it to look exactly like the novel. Films and books are different art-forms, with different requirements. For example, in the novel, the fight between the Musketeers and the Cardinal's Guards is three against five. In these circumstances, D'Artagnan's offer of assistance brings a realistic chance of victory while still showing the Musketeers as superior fighters - four against five: more than plausible. In a film, though, that wouldn't look so hot, so I was fully expecting improbably large numbers of the Cardinal's guards and one heck of a sword fight. That's fair enough. In the same way, I'd hardly expect screen minutes to be wasted explaining the fact D'Artagnan had to serve out the equivalent of an apprenticeship in another regiment because the Musketeers isn't open to raw recruits. Alright, maybe it was going a bit far to disband them entirely, but we'll run with that, shall we? In movies, we do exposition differently.

And then the characters. Again, I knew there would be some drift. I get it, I honestly do. You want a sympathetic Athos, not an alcoholic psychopath. And, yeah, Richelieu needs to be a plain-dealing-villain, not an anti-hero politician trying to do what he thinks is best for France... Sure, we lose a lot of depth, but we also cut the need for a lot of exposition.

I can handle all that. Really. I can. It makes me itch, it makes me mutter, sometimes it elicits a scornful laugh or two, but it comes up every time I watch a film adaptation of a book I happen to love. It does not reduce me to putting my head into my hands and whimpering, “Make it stop, please, kill me. Kill me now.”

It does not make me get the fucking novel out and start shouting quotations at the television.

So what was the problem, then?

...or indeed an appropriate prize for Bible study.
And I will answer you, oh my dear hypothetical ideal and obliging reader, Sex is what bothered me. Well, sex and Milady.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Angela Carter: How to be a woman.

So, for reasons best known to themselves, the book group have elected to read Caitlin Moran's How To Be a Woman for next month, effectively throwing me into the path of a bullet I had been dodging since some time last year.

Bang. Splat.


I can't even be bothered to argue with it. Frankly, I'm having difficulty being bothered reading the damned thing. It's not so much inflammatory as dull. In fact to make the slog seem terminable, I have been interspersing its chapters with short stories from one of the better-loved volumes gracing my shelves, a book that must always be attended by score of superlatives, Angela Carter's incomparable The Bloody Chamber.

Its fitting, too, that it should be this book I use to re-engage my brain, restore my equilibrium and massage my affronted aesthetic sense. In part because I have, in my reading, hissed that any of Moran's factually correct statements were said, better, by Carter about thirty years before, and that the factually incorrect ones are refuted by she-who-must-not-be-contradicted with all her usual wit and perspicacity. Mostly, though, it is because I have been known to say that The Bloody Chamber should be placed before every girl in this country on her fourteenth birthday.

If I had my way, everybody would read this book anyway - as a work of literature, it is elegant, intelligent and powerfully done, its value is beyond doubt; but only to a pubescent girl is it a work whose value is beyond measure. I had always, always thought this, and I have never quite understood why. I think I get it now.

And I'm willing to admit that I have been wrong.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Iain Banks, a tribute

There is a church in Norwich, not far from where I live, which has some magnificent, 15th Century flush-work. Approaching it for the first time, one is struck by the sheer scale and beauty of the construction. The overall vista is a clear, serene shading of blue-grey flint and yellow sandstone. When one gets closer, we see that this grand, awe-inspiring whole is built from interlocking blocks of stone, cut, polished and inlaid into the sandstone. It might be possible to believe that this decreases the majesty of the whole, to see, literally, those building blocks of aesthetic effect. It does not, for the simple reason that flint is an absolute bastard to cut.

What you see, looking at that facade is not only a sweeping and impressive whole, but hours, weeks, months, years of careful, backbreaking labour, it's bloodied hands and torn muscles. It's the delicate precision of a master-mason fitting soft sandstone to hard, sharp flint. It's the swaying, precarious construction of scaffolding creeping up into the Norwich skyline in the days before mechanical construction, before modern health and safety. It is a labour of, what? Dedication? Fear? The economic self-aggrandisement of the wool-trade?


Reading an Iain Banks book for the first time had something of the same effect. Strictly speaking, it was an Iain M Banks book, one of his Culture novels, specifically, Look to Windward. At the time, I didn't read an awful lot of sci-fi. If I'm honest about things, I still don't. World building tries my patience, both in my own work of that of others. It's grunt work, and it's tedious, and it so rarely turns out well.

Here though...

I was struck, immediately struck, with the sheer scale of the construction, the unflinching, galaxy spanning complexity of Banks' creation. Immediately, I was snatched up, dragged out of myself into this huge, rich bewildering world. The effect was similar to one desired by the church designers of late-Medieval Norfolk, awe and wonder. A sense of the numinous.

Then I got closer. The closer I got, I began to see quite how well, quite how cleverly this world had been fitted together, with what consummate skill each event had been crafted, how this great, impressive whole was founded upon tiny, polished blocks of flint, hand-cut and placed to perfection, in such a way that the spreading grandeur of the Culture's galaxy could almost be believed to be a natural growth.

Reading one of Banks' novels - sci-fi or straight Lit - is, to a greater or lesser extent, to experience this. The worlds and characters he creates are intricately imagined, and are drawn in such perfect detail that the reader is engulfed by something that could, so easily could, be natural.

There are writers who, one feels, simply spilled out their genius onto the page. We are left with something with a wild, random beauty. It is something fragile, fortuitous, chance.

Banks is not one of these writers. Banks is something far more special. The sheer scope of his vision, his passion, cannot receive justice in a thoughtless outpouring.

Many of his characters, or so it seems to me, are scientists, mechanics, mathematicians, gamers. They are people who break the world down to its barest essentials and are able to reconstruct it from that point. This is also what he does in every single on of his novels.

His craft is clear in the careful planning, the exquisite story-telling, the layering of narrative and echo, the skill of his shifts in voice and mood. A reader can sense each blow of the chisel against the flint, can see the eye that observed the placement of each block, that laid the mortar so carefully. We can feel the sheer grunt work laying the foundation of the first draft simply by seeing the grand scale of the final realisation. Never a writer to avoid going out on a limb, we can sense, too, the terrifying sway of the timber we see the tiny figure on the scaffolding, braving the elements to put each piece in place. And we can sit back, see the finished product, a perfect, seamless, whole.

Banks is a great writer - not a casual, careless 'great' but truly, as in Alexander the. Compassionate, fearless, and grandiose he creates with a scientist's precision and an artist's eye. He is without equal.

Today's news should devastate every reader if good fiction. I cannot begin to imagine how it must affect his loved ones, his family, or the man himself.

I don't really know how to end this, except with a great sense of loss and of sorrow.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Some extracts from a Hogwarts Ofstead report.

It came to me, this afternoon, that - if you think about it - Hogwarts is a bit shite.

Don't worry, I'm not going to start criticising Harry Potter. Were I to attempt that, my 13 year old self would leap up my throat and strangle me with a rope woven from pure, fanatical bile. Rest assured, I like the scar headed wizard as much as the next cynical, over-reading, novel-obsessed bitch. But, speaking as a pedagoge, I do have cause for concern.

"Despite inspirational leadership," an Ofstead report for Leadership and Management might go, "senior management appear to struggle to create a cohesive learning environment, or even an atmosphere of basic safety."

Or perhaps, "A deep-seated division regarding best practice and learning strategy appears among both staff and students. Senior management appear to have made no serious attempt to address this issue, a concerning trend if one considers that it dates back almost to the school's foundation."

Or even, "While tradition is to be encouraged, especially in an institution as respected as Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, such tradition should not be maintained if it constitutes a significant threat to the health, safety and well-being of the school's pupils. Hogwarts castle itself is an example of this. A Grade I listed building, its architectural impressiveness and historical importance are beyond doubt; however, it cannot, in conscience, be considered 'fit for purpose' for the education and accomodation of several hundred young people, many of whom will be away from home for the first time in their lives."

How about: "Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry is also suffering from a staffing crises bought about by an appointments proceedure that can be characterised as, at best, erratic, if not down-right bloodyminded. Arbitrary decisions regarding a teacher's suitability and frequent interventions from the Board of Governers have done nothing to alleviate this situation. Furthermore, even when a role is proving impossible to fill, Senior Management have refused to appoint internally, even if an existing member of staff is fully qualified."

And: "Time-tabling, too, is a point of contention. At O.W.L level, it seems pupils appear to be given full choice as to the number and content of their options without the consideration of compatibility, despite the fact new subjects frequently clash with core options. Additionally, on-site inspectors feel they should make the recommendation that, while staff have access to devices which allow the progress of time to be reversed, this does not mean that use of such devices should be routine."

Or, you know, Health and Safety: "The record of pupil care presents an equally alarming picture. Injuries, both in curricular and extra curricular activities, are higher than one might expect, whilst risk assessments are non-existent. Although much is made of the stringency of the security arrangements, it should be noted that Senior Management appears unable to provide a closed campus, or even to protect students from its own security staff."

Oh, I've not finished yet. Here are some more.

From the Teaching section: 
"The quality of teaching at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry reflects the lack of unity within the staff, and the lack of reasonable direction from senior management. While in possession of impressive academic accolades, few of the teaching staff are able to supply any evidence of QTS, vocation, or even teaching experience. Many fail even the most routine of background checks. Particular attention must be drawn to one Severus Snape. While it is not in the inspector's role to question management appointment conditions of those with an established criminal record, it is important to note that extended membership of a covert, far-right organisation who have acknowledged links with many acts of assault, terrorism and several unexplained deaths, should be uncovered by even the most cursory CRB check. Furthermore, it is not unreasonable for parents to feel concerned if their children to be taught by an individual known to espouse views which promote violence against an ethnic group who comprise almost 50% of the school's intake. The appointment of such an individual suggest that the senior management have clearly, and alarming, failed in its duty to safeguarding legislation."

"While, as a selective and fee paying academy, Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizadry is not constrained by the National Curriculum, it is somewhat alarming that there is no compulsory aspect of numeracy or literacy continued after the age of eleven, especially as no cohesive alternative curriculum or set of learning goals has been forwarded. No pupil's academic journey appears to be logged, no attempt is made to engage with the material on a personal level and lesson planning is - with a few notable exceptions - entirely absent. Assessment appears as idiosyncratic as the teaching quality itself, with some subjects displaying an unreasonable bias towards either the practical or the theoretical.

Also, despite extensive grounds and resources, few pupils appear to have the opportunity to engage in any P.E. activities. One is forced to wonder, other than referee the occasional inter-house Quidditch match, quite what the dedicated teacher does to earn her pay-cheque."

Friday, 8 February 2013

Wuthering Heights: In defence of amour fou

So, I took the plunge and went to a book group. 

Wow. Socialising. With real live people-persons who had real people personalities. That's not happened in a while. The book we were talking about was Wuthering Heights. I enjoyed the discussion; lots of interesting stuff raised, tangents and ideas about, not only the book in question, but about the nature of people-persons, and the way that said people-persons interact with books. It was good. Naturally, I did my usual seminar dear-God-no-wonder-you-had-no-friends-at-University routine, but that's a story for another day.

It also raised something that's been brewing in my head for quite a long time – something about the way our current society thinks about love. It may surprise none of you to learn that I agree with Angela Carter.

“Well,” my obliging hypothetical audience supply, “what do you agree with Angela Carter about, aside from 'practically-everything-with-the-notable-exception-of-clitoral-orgasm'?”

For a start, I agree with her about Wuthering Heights. And about love. There is a significant overlap between the two1

Obviously, the whole 'love' thing came up at the book group – notably the conception that Wuthering Heights is some kind of a romance novel2. We were asked, more as an opener to discussion than anything else, whether we thought Wuthering Heights was a love story. There was derisory laughter, slightly incredulous glances, and there was me, too much of a fucking coward to offer disagreement.

Which is this: 

We have a real problem with love in this country (or this society, or the English speaking bits of the world. Whatever.) We have a problem with it. So often, in the discussion, words came up to describe what Cathy and Heathcliff felt: obsession, infatuation. We are not, as a society, willing to believe that what those two experience is love. Ask people what love is, and there is a fair chance they will start quoting Corinthians 13:4 at you3.

Patient? Kind? Right... Are we even talking about the same thing, here?

No. We're not. That's one of the problems we face, just to have this discussion: there are a dearth of words in the English language to describe love. Of course, some kinds of love are patient, and kind, and they are valid, important types of love. They, however, are not what I am talking about. The Greeks have it slightly better, they have agápe, éros, philía, and storgē, but even they do not quite answer my purposes. These are different types of love used, exclusively or in combination, in different kinds of relationships. Most often, the distinction is used to separate basic human compassion from emotional love from lust. But I am not talking about physical love as opposed to emotional love, and whatever list of those one needs to build a happy relationship. I'm not, if I'm honest, talking about relationships. A relationship is an ongoing negotiation between two or more people; a relationship answers to sense, to reason, to common, human kindness.

No. I'm not talking about relationships.

There is, though, a distinction in the English language, a distinction that tells us more about ourselves than many of us would care to admit. We talk about loving and we talk about being in love.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Dance of the Undead: Why I don't like zombies and why that doesn't matter

The tide, thank Gods, has finally turned. Twice, twice! in the last two days, my twitter feed has revealed to me people disparaging zombies and the zombie genre. It's overdone! Give it a rest! Too mainstream!


I'll be honest with you: I've never had much time for zombies. If we're going to have revenants emerging grisly from their tombs, I prefer them to be incorporeal. If we're going to have monsters ravening for the flesh of the living, I prefer them to be equipped witty conversation and reasonable dress sense. Between friends, I'm a ghost girl, I'm (and I'm sure this will be a surprise to everyone) a vampire girl.

Zombies. I just don't like 'em.

What? You need reasons from me?

Okay. I think my first reason is the type of surface narrative zombies seem to engender: post-apocalyptic worlds, scratching faceless hordes, heroic (or anti-heroic) types marching round the place toting huge-arsed guns. It's food supplies and water filtration and constant, knife-edged danger. That's... well, that's okay, I suppose. It's not really my scene. I don't, in my escapist moments, imagine myself as some kind of tooled up commando, fighting for survival in a ghost world. I am not hard-bitten and taciturn, I am loquacious and somewhat effete.I know that there are vampire narratives like this, and I don't read those much, either.

Then, there's the second reason. Zombies are, actually, that little bit too scary for me. Perhaps it's just paranoia, but the idea of some huge population disaster that leaves us scrabbling around in the ruins of our civilisation seems just a mite too plausible. As, for that matter, does a worldview that sees a significant chunk of the population as faceless, needlessly destructive, and possible to be killed with a clean conscience. This is the kind of world I dread leaving to my children. I have nightmares about zombies. That this counts as a point against zombies troubles me, but it brings us to reason number three.

Zombies just aren't any fun.

Even the worst, most hackneyed vampire narratives are entertaining to me, whereas bad zombie narratives are just dull. Even good zombie stories only serve to make me jumpy, and while maybe that's part of what they are supposed to do, I just don't get off on that, thank you very much.

Thing is, the function of literature, should always be, to some small extent, to give your reader their jollies. Sure, hurt them; don't pull your punches, kick 'em while they're down, give them nightmares so bad they sleep with the light on for weeks*, or make them feel so sick that they can't eat for three days;** but while you're at it, throw them a fucking bone, won't you?

We escape, we fantasise, we fancy dress. We flinch from crucifixes.

Which brings us to four: from the little I've seen, zombie narratives seem to be more about the survivors. You didn't get bit so you acclimatise yourself to grief, to killing the monsters who wear the faces of your loved ones. You survive at all costs and maybe you lose. You try to live with yourself, with others, with terror, with grief. It is humans put in extremis - the zombies are more of an environmental hazard. And, again, this is too much like life. Vampires stories, ghost stories - these are far more concerned with the monster and that is where my interest lies, especially if we're given a ton of that pesky moral grey.

But... but... but... All this is personal taste. I'm convinced there is some brilliant zombie fiction out there, inspired, intelligent, gripping stuff. There is also a lot of enjoyable dross, and reading is something we do for pleasure, right? Zombie fans, go out and enjoy yourself, gorge yourself on the current glut.

Don't mind me, I'll be lurking with a well thumbed copy of Dracula.

So why the "yippie"?

Well, here's the thing: for the past five years I've heard one heck of a lot of "Vampires, oh God, that is so mainstream and overdone... Zombies, now they're hardcore." I've heard Goths (Goths, for Pete's sake) talk about how vampires have become 'stale' and how they are really pushing the envelope with 'zombie chic' (also, actually, zombie chic? WTF?) and been roundly mocked and condemned for my continuing allegiance to the children of the night.

My point is this: zombies, vampires, ghosts - they are all mainstream, they always have been. One comes to prominence for a bit and everyone jumps on the gravy train until the non-core fanbase get fed up and the wheel turns again. Vamps have had their turn, zombies, take a bow and slip back beneath the ground for a bit. It won't be for long.

So why the "yippie"?

Because you notice the third article on that list?

Come on, Montague Rhodes James!

*or too afraid to turn the light on because then they can see it coming for them...
** I'm looking at you, H.P Lovecraft

Incidentally, if you are a zombie fan, even after my reasons as to why you shouldn't be, check out the Science Museum's Zombie Lab:

Friday, 18 January 2013

Anne Rice: On falling in love with one's characters and 'the iron bar' factor

I have very recently come into possession of the majority of Anne Rice's 'The Vampire Chronicles'. So now I've got them all, and I've been reading them. Well, okay, not Blood and Gold or Mnenoch the Devil because the person who gave them to me didn't have those ones. Never mind, eh? Not like I've missed anything controversial or direction changing about the series then.

Now, I've always enjoyed Anne Rice, but, before I begin I will admit to a couple of pet peeves. There's the small matter of continuity – exactly how her vampirism works, as well as the physical characteristics and ages of her changeless vampires are somewhat open to discussion. Is Armand auburn, or is he strawberry blond? And, curly? Did his hair always curl? And is this blog really the place for insanely geeky speculations about relative strengths and telepathic abilities of her vampires?

I can answer that last one: No. So, Alys, stop it. Now.

Then there are the more significant concerns: her pervasive tendency to preach, whether her ideology of the moment is materialism, secularism or Catholicism; the absolute, conspicuous consumption of all her main characters as a way of burning through their obscene, nay, limitless wealth; her occasional, and irritating lapses of voice; the minor, subsidiary and unconvincing roles of her female characters; her bizarre, and frankly patronising, conception of age (especially annoying in the historical circumstances;) her total, I mean absolute inability to to write a convincing English gentleman, and her insistence upon narrating an entire book from such a vantage point.

The fact is, Anne Rice is a flawed writer, but I would argue that, in some measure, it is her flaws which make her lovable; I want to assure you of that before you come to the conclusion that I'm having some manner of apoplexy. So, while in several matters or style, taste and skill Anne Rice is far from perfect, she is still a remarkably compelling writer. And, for the record, I loved Merrick and think David Talbot is wonderful – he's not English by any stretch of the imagination, but he's none the worse for it.

So, for a quick review: although I found The Vampire Armand dragged in places, I've never had that much time for him as a character anyway, it was amusing enough. Pandora was a refreshing and thought provoking look at one of her much underused minor figures. Yes, Merrick stumbled in places, and Blackwood Farm in others, but both were well rounded, enjoyable reads – and to be honest, meeting some new faces was rather pleasant after so long with the same old crowd. Throughout all of these books there is a commitment to character and world development in the aftermath of the events of Mnenoch the Devil; events of which, I'll admit, I have only the foggiest understanding.

Which brings us to Blood Canticle. Which brings us, if I'm honest, to my biggest misgiving about the entire Vampire Chronicles series, a misgiving standing – as he so repeatedly tells us – 6 foot tall with his blond hair, blue eyes1 clad in understated designer clobber or else in velvet, leather and lace. Yes, dear old Lestat; Lestat, the Brat Prince who breaks down the fourth wall with all the subtlety of a bulldozer. Lestat, the demon turned anti-hero turned rock-star turned demi-God turned Saint turned... no, hang on, I'm a bit lost. Er...

Let's start again. Without Lestat, there would be no Vampire Chronicles; okay, we might have Louis moping into eternity with his irritating but compelling melancholy, because his Lestat is not our Lestat. Without Lestat, it is arguable that the world – and certainly Rice's fictional universe – would be a duller place. I have no problem with Lestat. I even have no problem with Lestat being snatched up into the ether and going on some strange, metaphysical journey, meeting Saint Veronica, meeting Chris and converting back to Catholicism. I don't mind that Lestat wants to be good; on some level, Lestat has always wanted to be good. At times, I might argue, he even succeeds.

No, my problem with Lestat is that he and Anne Rice get a little bit too close. Always, he has been given too much emphasis, too much power, too many excuses. Every now and then, his voice slips and we see no longer our alluring, conceited murderer desperate for redemption but a writer who wants us, who needs us to believe that Lestat is really okay. That what he did to Louis, or Claudia, or David, that any of that can be shunted under the carpet; that really, this being is a consummate charmer, a doomed individual worthy of our sympathies, of our love.

I can understand why Rice does this; she loves Lestat. From what I understand of her biography, he is, to an extent, her mirror. When we love someone, we invariably want the world to focus on their good characteristics – their flaws must always be seen as forgivable. When I write, before I get heartily sick of my protagonists and start being really unpleasant to them, I want the same thing: I want them understood, nurtured, I want to hand them over to people who will understand them in all their complexity. And in the intimacy of the first person, the confessional nature of it, this impulse is very hard to ignore.

Rice is lucky, of course. Lestat is very easy to love, if you're into that kind of thing; mouthy, attractive and impulsive, tortured, affectionate, sexual – oh, so very sexual – and dangerous, too. Readers who enjoy her books are generally willing to forgive him – at least, within the scope of the books themselves. All is well; the Brat Prince receives the adulation that he so clearly wants, and which Rice desperately asks. Then... then Mnenoch the Devil, which I haven't read.

After that, a slew of books about other people; Lestat is a minor figure, comatose and tragic, or else moving slowly and plagued by doubts. Taken from the limelight we can feel the equal measures of devotion and scorn which he invokes; and because David loves him, because David has forgiven him, we love him also. Quin falls in love with him on sight, and Lestat behaves with a charity suitable to the capricious and ardent nature we've seen elsewhere. Everywhere, he is shown to inspire love and to make some effort to be worthy of it. That's it – Claudia, Louis and David, that poor girl in Tale of the Body Thief who's name I've forgotten, all those past betrayals brushed under the carpet. The massacre of some thousands of men in Queen of the Damned of no further import. Impulsive, yes. Mislead, yes, easily mislead, but evil? Well, only enjoyably so.

On to Blood Canticle, and, as the effusive blurb informs us, “Lestat really is back with a vengeance”, an expression which will henceforth fill me with as much enthusiasm as a Doctor Who story entitled 'Insert appropriate noun of the Daleks'2.

Yes, Lestat is back, and Lestat is pissed off that people aren't taking his redemption seriously. Lestat is back and, however much he might doubt it, something important happened to him, dammit! Lestat is back and Lestat is... whining. He wants us to understand, wants us to see how important and seminal his experiences were and how we've no right to speak about him as a fictional character and complain that his behaviour has become inconsistent, just because he's changed. “How can I be inconsistent,” he asks, “when I'm as badass as ever?”

And this is my complaint: here he is inconsistent, here he is no longer being badassed. Frankly, Lestat is exactly the type of Vampire I'd expect to have some massive, spiritual experience. The image of him soaring up to heaven, plummeting down to Hell, drinking the blood of Christ himself and stumbling back into the modern day with an insanely valuable relic is his style precisely. If he's going to go all 'born again' on us, I wouldn't expect him to do it in any kind of understated, 'good works and clean living' kind of way; after all, in Queen of the Damned he didn't just bring the Vampires out into the light – he pretty much brought about their extinction as a species. What I don't expect him to do is mewl about it; “It's not my fault, it's not fair,” is the kind of thing Armand, might say, although even he'd say it with more dignity.

The whole problem, for me, is summed up in the character of Mona. About a third of the way through the book, she writes a little essay on what it means to have become a vampire, having been a committed Catholic until that point. Written in the style of a first year Lit student, it's main point seems to be that as Vampires can no longer be assessed within the human moral framework, she cannot know until she dies whether they are part of God's plan and can still achieve a form of salvation, and therefore can but try. All well and good – what else would a Christian, even a lip-service Christian, be worrying about after getting turned if not salvation, damnation and one's altered place in the grand scheme of things. Thing is, this is nothing new – this is what Rice was getting at in the first four bloody books. And the sixth. And the seventh. It takes Lestat 200 fucking years, and God knows how many pages, to reach the conclusion that 'maybe there is a God and, if there is, maybe he has a place for me and I'm not damned after all. I can't be sure though, as the only way to find out is through snuffing it, which I can't do. Cue existential despair.'

We get it, Anne Rice, we bloody well get it. It sounded better the first six times.

1Unless they're purple – I forget.
2This article was written, obviously, before Asylum of the Daleks, which, aside from a few minor points, was a marvellous example of storytelling. Well done, Moff. Keep up the good work.