The Doctor's advice to writers

The longer version, which they used in the commercial for the sixth season of Doctor Who, went like this:

“All of time and space, everything that ever happened, or ever will…where do you want to start? Anywhere you want. Anytime you want. One condition— it has to be amazing.”

That’s what it’s all about, it finally occurred to me, when I’m writing. This is the question the reader has every time she opens a book: where are you taking me? It can be anything that ever happened (history), or ever will (fiction). It just has to be amazing.

End of another semester

The semester is nearly over — just final exam essays to read and grade, and grades to turn in. Then a few weeks “off,” during which I hope to get a lot of writing done. Then Spring semester and my first experience teaching my very own college class.

I’ll be teaching the first half of the US History survey, which traditionally covers the period from the beginning of the British colonies to the end of the Civil War (or sometimes the end of Reconstruction, depending on when you think Reconstruction ended). The course fills a general education requirement, and the specific class I’ll be teaching will be an Honors section for UMass’s Commonwealth Honors College. There will be two other people teaching the regular version of the same course. One is a retired professor, the other is a one-year hire who just received a PhD last Spring. I’m lucky to be getting this opportunity, and since it may be my only chance to ever teach a class at a place like UMass, I plan to make the most of it.

More on this class when I start posting syllabus, readings, lectures, etc.

I’ve also been reading a lot, and finding lots of interesting synchronicities. Like the way Plato ranted about the growth of literacy, and how it was going to make people stupid because they’d no longer have to remember stuff. This was recounted in
James Gleick’s The Information, and just goes to show that the archetype of the tools I mentioned down below is very old. and also that it can easily be take to ridiculous extremes.

Sandman on Fire

I’m finally getting around to reading all the Sandman graphic novels, on the Kindle Fire. It’s cheaper and much more portable than paper, and kills no trees. If only the Kindle Mac application would display the pages…but I assume they’ll get around to that soon.

“I placed too much of myself in the TOOLS. And they are GONE,” says Morpheus in the second chapter of
Preludes and Nocturnes. I never realized how powerful and pervasive an archetype that was. Sauron’s ring, Morpheus’s ruby. Steve Jobs’s iPad. It’s interesting.

Yeah, the Kindle Fire may also be an unnecessary tool that adds little to the content. But at least it’s
a bit more about the content. Actually, I suspect that there are ways to use the Kindle that haven’t been done quite yet (but I’m working on it), that will add to the content...



After getting a solstice tree this morning, I made a list of the books I’ve read over the last couple of years that I’ve written something about. It finally occurred to me that leaving them buried in the archives of my reading blog isn’t helpful -- there are a lot of them and I can’t even find them myself when I need them! There’s also a new page called Dan’s index of books that has a brief summary of each book.