The Good Doctor

I am ashamed of myself.  I have waited until just now, over twenty-five and a half years into my entire life, more than a third of the time I can expect to live, to start watching episodes of Classic Doctor Who.  My repentance is late in coming, perhaps, but thorough nonetheless.

I started my journey as any clueless wanderer ought – by asking Wikipedia to list off the episodes in correct order.  The explanatory material shocked me.  Episodes gone missing?  However could that have happened?  A policy to destroy old episodes of shows?  How barbaric.  I was appalled, of course.  A series popular enough to run for 26 seasons – yes, twenty-six of them – and the people responsible for its very creation and existence had a policy to destroy the older installments?  I knew there had to be a reason, but what reason could they possibly have had which would make any logical sense?  How could the destruction of such great material be justified?

As it turns out, though film and even broadcasting technologies weren’t exactly brand new, they were still, as the world transitioned from black-and-white to color, operating under the same contructs as the stage.  If you wanted to broadcast a story, the players would perform it for you, allow you to record it for that broadcast, and expect you to rehire them for subsequent rebroadcasts.  The ability of film to reduce the workload of everyone involved wasn’t entirely overlooked, however; time- and number-limited broadcasting licenses were usually attached to each piece, so it could be rebroadcast up to the set number of times within the set amount of time.  This time period was generally fairly short, amounting to only a couple of years.

When these licenses expired, the film copy was no longer of any use to the purchaser, since they no longer had the rights to use it, so these were destroyed to make space for other, frequently newer films.  If the originals were kept on tape instead of film – and many were – these tapes were erased and reused for other projects.  This had the added effect of reducing overall costs, as the amount of storage space required was kept low, and what space there was remained free of old projects which could no longer see a profit.

The idea that broadcast television material might serve a cultural purpose rather than simply a financial one eventually caught hold enough that preserving these older recordings became the policy, even when the rebroadcasting rights had expired.  There was, it had been determined, a cultural duty to preserve them.  From then on, the hunt for destroyed episodes was on – not just for Doctor Who, but for every series that had met with this unfortunate end.  Many such episodes had been sent overseas when broadcasting rights to them had been purchased there, though only copies were sent out; never originals.  Over the next several years, continuing to the present, most of the missing episodes returned, and Doctor Who is (among) the most compeletely recovered of such series.

Doctor Who is also peculiar in that it is the only series of that era for which every single episode has survived in at least an audio form – thanks mostly to viewers who didn’t have VCRs (this is before VHS/Betamax had their now-legendary war), and so had to accept merely recording the audio component during various broadcasts.  These audio versions are of course in varying states of quality and repair, but every episode’s audio still exists today, regardless of whether the video exists alongside it.

That bit of background absorbed, I then learned that each epsiode was generally considered merely part of a larger story, a “serial”.  Essentially, Classic Doctor Who is a collection of mini-series tied together only by the common character of the Doctor (though many other characters can be considered recurring at various points throughout).  I find this format to be fascinating, as it presents some interesting opportunities for storytelling.  Still, this format choice meant that a single missing episode would effectively ruin several adjacent as well, at least to the point where a video version of the surrounding episodes would probably not be released until the missing one(s) were restored.

Armed with my list, I set to Netflix to watch them all in order.  And discovered that the streaming service, at least, didn’t offer but a small handful of the full 155 serials originally broadcast, nor the 1996 TV movie which aired 6.5 years (approximate) after the last serial, and nearly 9 before the introduction of the Ninth Doctor in the presently-airing series.  Still, the theme song had now been running through my head incessantly for at least a week by this point, so I dove into the earliest of these I could find – Doctor Who: The Aztecs, the sixth serial, which can be found in Season 1.  I then proceeded chronologically by broadcast date through the paltry selection until arriving at Season 16, which is composed of six serials, themselves tied more closely together in a single arc called The Key To Time (if you find a DVD by that title, you have the entire 16th season of Classic Doctor Who in your hands).  And discovered that four of the six stories were actually available, including one written by none other than Douglas Adams, of Hitchhiker fame.  Called The Pirate Planet, this is the serial which I have just finished.  Downright amazing, and perhaps surprisingly coherent by Adams’s standards.  Many of the concepts Adams brought to Doctor Who, especially if they never actually made it to the screen, were later reused in his published works.

The true tragedy, though, is that none of the serials available on Netflix have anything to do with the Daleks at all, despite the fact that Daleks are perhaps the true icons of the series – after the Tardis, of course.  Still, the fact that any of these classic episodes are available to begin with is satisfying, so I can’t complain too loudly for too long.

Have you met the good Doctor yet?  Have you braved the Classic series, or stayed safely in the confines of the modern version?  So long as you expect material from the 1960s through the late 1980s, I suspect you’ll enjoy the Classic episodes just as thoroughly – and gain a greater insight into what’s really going on here.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.


Drawing Out The Dragons, One Last Time

Today is your LAST CHANCE (ever?) to get a FREE copy of James A. Owen’s amazing book, Drawing Out The Dragons.  Yes, FREE.  No contests, no gimmicks, just an email.  Do yourself the favor of getting this book while it’s still free – not because I don’t want to support the author by having you buy it, but because it’s really worth so much more than he’s charging for it, you’ll feel like you stole it if you wait to pay.

Please.  Get your copy now.  You won’t regret it.

  • Dan


Things I’m Up To, 1st Edition

For those curious, here’s a brief overview of the Things I’m Up To at the moment.  I’ll try to make these kinds of posts fairly frequently.

Writing:

My main focus with writing, at the moment, is with a project I actually can’t say much about, yet.  It’s simply not ready for public knowledge.  I can say that I’ll be working with my great friend and colleague Ian Mayes on this project, but that’s about it.

I’m also very excited about James A. Owen’s Drawing out the Dragons ebook giveaway, which was extended to a full week from the single day he originally had planned.  I urge you to take advantage of this offer, if you haven’t already – more information can be found in my previous two posts here on my blog.  And to anyone who thinks this is a marketing ploy – well, you haven’t read the book or heard him speak.

I do have a couple of novels outlined, though one will probably never see the light of day – it’s truly awful.  As the project I can’t say much about reaches the point where I can focus elsewhere, I’ll start to work on turning the other outline into something worthwhile.

Programming:

I’m very nearly ready to start taking on other clients.  I’ve already approached one group, but still need to present a quote and mockup to them before things progress any further.  Should they accept, my client search will be placed on hold for a while as I push forward on their project; otherwise I’ll start actively searching elsewhere.  Either way, when I open my doors to more clients, I’ll be looking to do any sort of programming project you can think up.  Of course, faster delivery will come from projects I’m already familiar with, but I’m still always up for a challenge.  I’ll provide more details on this as soon as I open up my client search.

My current projects include migrating a client web site to a new server, and finishing a development framework I designed so I could develop an information management database for my Navy Reserve unit.  The migration has top priority, of course, and is finished with the exception of selecting and acquiring an SSL certificate, and getting the server moved from my basement to the data center where it will be permanently housed.  I can’t do the latter without first doing the former, of course, but this should be taken care of by Monday, I hope.

As far as the framework is concerned, it’s actually open source.  I need to update it with current information, but the official home for the project is SourceForge, project name IDLX.  The current version would be on SF hosting if their PHP installation supported the HTML Tidy module.  The basic premise is that the framework itself does any heavy lifting, through module extensibility, and your framework-based project simply defines the user interface and connects that to the underlying framework capabilities.  My goal is to make the framework operate on the web or on the desktop with equal ease, with modules translating your interface design code (written in one flavor or another of XML) into whatever format is needed for the current platform.  It promises to be a lot of work, but it’s been fun so far.

Miscellania:

I have recently created a GoodReads account, and am using that to keep track of my progress with reading things.  I didn’t realize I was reading six things at once until I started using this!  I think there’s actually a seventh that I need to go back and add, but I think I’ll have to restart that one anyway, so I’m not too worried about it at the moment.  You can see what I’m currently reading just by looking at the bottom of this page.

A friend of mine has run a website with an extensive White Wolf RPG section for several years.  Indeed, that’s actually how we met.  I have been working on a PDF version of his content, which is difficult to do between all the other projects I’ve been working on, and the updates he’s been making between the time I started and the present day.  Still, I promised a PDF, so I shall deliver.  Eventually.

Normally I’d have other role-playing news to report, but I’m currently in a gaming-free period.

I’m on the wire with re-enlisting or not.  My original contract, a standard eight year deal, expires in a month, and I need to either sign a new one or never return.  There are some things happening that might even prevent me from being able to re-enlist, but we’ll see.  More on that if it turns out to be a huge problem.

Non-projects:

And finally, a small section for things happening that aren’t really projects, even in the loosest sense.

I’ve been married for two years and almost four months.  My wife and I had a son two days before our second anniversary – so he, too, is almost four months.  He was born exactly on time, but was fairly small – a mere 3 lbs 14 oz.  He’s strong, though, and has already reached, if not surpassed, ten pounds.  I made the joke in the delivery room, but stand by it to this day, that our little guy just couldn’t resist showing off his smarts by making his first act into a math joke.  I also suspect he’ll like pie.


How Important Is A Single Week?

Ten minutes.

An hour.

A day.

Each of these periods of time is small, compared to the whole span of a person’s life.  Even that lifetime is small compared to the life of a species, a planet, a star, or the entire Universe.  So what importance could any of these miniscule periods of time have?  What impact?

As it turns out, quite a lot.

I posted yesterday about an amazing chance to get an amazing book by an amazing person – for an amazing price.  The offer was only good for that day.  And it was overwhelmingly successful, in ways not imagined by those participating from afar.  I don’t have the words to do it justice (I would if I took more time, but I think it’s more important to get it said than to say it well at this point), so I’ll let Mr. Owen himself do the talking.

Please.  If you read nothing else at all for the rest of your life, read this note, and read the book.  You won’t be disappointed.  You have my word.

  • Daniel Hunsaker


Drawing Out The Dragons

If you haven’t seen this yet, you either aren’t a member of or haven’t paid attention to the LTUE group on Facebook. James Artimus Owen was this year’s keynote speaker at the symposium, and his address was based on his book DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS. He’s decided, in a fit of insanity and goodwill, to share the book itself with as many people as possible today.

Today. And today only. His goal is to GIVE AWAY 1,000 copies of the book today. Each copy is a ZIP file containing the book in THREE different ebook formats. That pretty much covers every ebook reader on the face of the planet, folks, be it Nook/Kindle or PC/Mac, or anything in between.

I’ll say that again in case you didn’t get it. GIVE. AWAY.

And let me tell you, the address was just about the most inspirational and motivational and all-around AWESOME speech I’ve ever heard in my life. Given that this is the book that address was based on? YOU WANT THIS BOOK.


Introduction

Hi, I’m Dan. I work nights as a software developer for a company I also happen to own. But this mild-mannered persona is merely my secret identity, a mask I use to fool the world, and protect myself and my loved ones from harm. During the day, I reveal my true self – I am a writer!

I’ll write just about anything, really. A fascination with language has left me with a deep understanding and appreciation for English, my primary tongue, and started me down the path of my alter-ego in software. But it also keeps me writing other things at the same time. Fiction or non, genre or literary, I have tread on nearly all the ground there is to tread. My focus, however, has been what I tend to call Science Friction (because I can shorten it to Sci-Fri, of course!), but most others would simply call Science Fantasy. Mine has been the task of exploring explanations for the fantastic, reasons for the unreasonable, and possibilities for the impossible. I have forged ahead to change where the lines are drawn, and it has been an exciting adventure.

Of course, anyone can talk themselves up however they like. Unless they have something to show for it, it isn’t safe to believe them. The only sane conclusion here is to remain skeptical. The work I have done, I cannot show yet. It isn’t quite ready. But it will be, and this will be the place to find it.

So I hope you stick around, or at least come back from time to time. This journey has just begun.