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Viewing Blog: The Penguin Blog, dated 11/2012
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Penguin Books launched the first blog from a mainstream publisher on Monday 31st July. Having led the way in bringing publishing into the digital age with its award-winning podcasts, Penguin's blog is a destination where an editor will post the latest news from the company: new acquisitions, sneak previews from works in progress of some of Penguin's best-loved authors, industry gossip and advice on how to get published. The blog will give readers a glimpse into the editor's office, offering insight into the day-to-day running of the company and how books are made. The first blogger will be Venetia Butterfield, Publisher of Viking, the hardback imprint which counts Will Self, Nick Hornby, Jonathan Coe, Claire Tomalin, Jeremy Paxman and Rageh Omaar amongst its authors.
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1. All dressed up!

Chicagotardis1So now we’re into the final day of the Chicago TARDIS convention and last night was the Masquerade in which all the fans who love the costuming element of Doctor Who strutted their funky stuff, to the adoration of the crowds.

Judging then took place with guest fashionistas Ian McNeice (who played Winston Churchill in the series) and Simon Fisher-Becker (who played Dorium Maldovar) deliberating alongside “cosplay” experts from fandom to award certificates of merit.

Chicagotardis4As usual, I was amazed by the levels of creativity on show for not only do cosplayers make precise replicas of onscreen attire, they also make wild departures from the televised versions to adapt costumes, creating a sub-genre called “Fem”.

In this category, women will take the costumes worn by men (and especially the Doctor himself) and tweak them into feminine outfits of dresses and corsets. There was even a Fem Dalek ballerina and a TARDIS ballroom gown.

Chicagotardis2And it’s not just the grown-ups; children love to play dressing up and younger Doctor Who fans are no exception.

To me, these costumed fans are an excellent example of what the show is all about. Because, no matter what anyone might tell you, Doctor Who is not a children’s show. It’s a family show that everyone can enjoy.

Chicagotardis3And these guys really do wear their (two) hearts on their (meticulously-crafted) sleeves!

Richard Dinnick


Chicagotardis5Richard Dinnick is a writer of TV, comics and books who has contributed to the Doctor Who and Moshi Monsters ranges that Penguin publishes including: Doctor Who: Alien Adventures, The 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Sticker Book coming next year. You can follow him on Twitter (www.twitter.com/richarddinnick) or find out more by visiting his website (www.richarddinnick.com).

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2. The Con is on!

Having survived the madness of the Black Friday sales, the Doctor Who convention Chicago TARDIS is now in full swing.  But what, you may well ask yourselves, happens at a Doctor Who convention?

For the uninitiated, a Doctor Who convention is the mutated offspring of a television chat show and a fancy dress party with renegade DNA elements of a stag or hen party. The stars of the show along with us lesser mortals are interviewed on stage or sit on panels discussing the finer points of writing, or acting, or the rich history of the TV programme itself.  One panel even asks is Doctor Who is a religion (well, enquiring minds want to know)!

A8exl-DCYAAErkB.jpg largeAnd of course there is the dealers’ room (pictured, right) where every possible merchandising opportunity has had a Police Box slapped on it – from t-shirts to teacups and posters to coasters – along with the more usual DVDs, books, comics and action figures.

The several hundred fans attending the “con” mingle and chat, queue for autographs, watch the aforementioned panels and interviews, view their favourite episodes on the big screen and compete for the most outlandish or intricate costume. I will be blogging about the costume pageant tomorrow with a few images of this amazing spectacle, but the most important aspects of these conventions is the camaraderie, the sincere friendships that people – professionals and fans alike – make.

These things are great fun and a wonderful way to meet one’s readers, listeners and viewers. And, as you’ll see tomorrow, the creativity of the professionals is equaled by that of the “cosplayers” who go to such extraordinary lengths to make their costumes the best and most accurate.

There is such a lovely atmosphere at these US conventions. Everyone is upbeat and out for a good time. The cliché of the reclusive, awkward Doctor Who fan is blown away by the gregarious gathering of people here.

Because, in the end, that’s what we’re really here  for: to meet up with old friends and maybe make a few new ones along the way. Although, it does helps if you know your Hath from your Eldrad…

Richard Dinnick


Richard Dinnick is a writer of TV, comics and books who has contributed to the Doctor Who and Moshi Monsters ranges that Penguin publishes including: Doctor Who: Alien Adventures, The 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Sticker Book coming next year. You can follow him on Twitter (www.twitter.com/richarddinnick) or find out more by visiting his website (www.richarddinnick.com).



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3. Doing Dickens – Part 14

I've finally discovered a greater pleasure than reading Dickens – and that's re-reading Dickens. Great Expectations, the 14th in our epic Dickens readathon, was, shamefully, the only one of his books I'd read properly before (at school), and visiting it again was an unalloyed joy. George Orwell said that once Dickens has described something you see it for the rest of your life, and here the images of Pip looking at the little graves of his family, the lawyer Jaggers obsessively washing his hands, Wemmick posting his dinner into his letter-box mouth, were just like flashback.

Yet there were surprises too. I'd forgotten just how quickly the hero Pip goes bad, becoming an unbearable, snobbish idiot even before his life is changed by coming into money. In fact, he's a complete tool for pretty much most of the book. Yet the changes in his character are turned into something so psychologically true, so gripping, and rendered with such unbearable honesty that it's car-crash compelling. When Pip describes his shame as his childhood protector Joe comes to visit him in his new life as a London gentleman ('If I could have kept him away by paying money, I certainly would have'), it's like a stab through the heart.

I'd also forgotten just how dark, mysterious, ghostly, weird and violent the novel is. Dickens describes how the feelings of guilt and fear that accompany childhood trauma (in this case an escaped prisoner threatening to eat your heart and liver) can taint your entire life and warp everything that comes afterwards. It's such a haunted book. Perhaps I still love David Copperfield slightly more, but it's very close. This book is like David Copperfield's sad, dark, grown-up and heartbreaking shadow. I cried like a baby at the end. What more can I say?

Next time, the last Big Beast and the second-to-last novel in our list – Our Mutual Friend

Louise Willder, Copywriter

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4. Black Friday for the Doctor

A8aZZ7dCQAAUsyG.jpg largeEvery November for the last few decades, Doctor Who fans have gathered in Chicago to celebrate the world's longest-running Science Fiction TV show. The current incarnation of the event is called Chicago TARDIS and coincides with both the broadcast of the first episode on 23rd November 1963 and the American holiday of Thanksgiving.

This year the convention is marking the 7th Doctor' era with main man Sylvester McCoy (about to appear on the big screen as Radagast the Brown in Peter Jackson's new version of The Hobbit) and the lovely Sophie Aldred who played his companion, Ace (now voicing Tree Fu Tom, the hugely successful computer animated series on CBeebies).

Of course, most people in the UK will be familiar with the concept of Thanksgiving from US films and TV, but one thing I never knew about until I came for the first time last year is the mysterious shopping event known as Black Friday.

Every year many retailers in the USA slash prices by huge margins and open their doors at midnight on Thursday 22nd November and let the punters who have often been queuing around the block and in their hundreds storm the aisles.

This is nothing like our own rather tame January sales or the myriad mid-season sales that litter the high streets of the UK like Autumn leaves. No. There is a feeling of Mardi Gras to a Black Friday event. Last year I donned a Viking helmet to wait in a freezing line of jovial, upbeat Americans and enter into the merchandising madness, running up and this year was no different. Except for the headgear.

That's not to say this was any less crazy, with those who had waited patiently at the front of the line coming away with shopping trolleys full of electronic goods (huge LCD TVs being the highest badge of honour).  Later arrivals then strip the shelves of lesser  but still impressive bargains like a plague of locusts on retail therapy.

It's fun and frenetic and everyone has a good time (pictured above are the queues at Target, Westin, circa 11pm last night). The closest I can think of an equivalent in the UK is the pictures we used to see of Harrods Sale in which hundreds of bepearled ladies would vie for the finest furs and crash crockery into baskets in a peculiarly British frenzy of bargain hunting. Only, Black Friday seems so much more good natured.

This morning the Doctor Who convention begins in earnest and I'll be bringing you edited highlights as the weekend progresses. And if you think black Friday looks and sounds strangely eccentric, then you ain't seen nothing yet! Wait for the Doctor Who costume pageant on Saturday night...

Richard Dinnick

Richard Dinnick is a writer of TV, comics and books who has contributed to the Doctor Who and Moshi Monsters ranges that Penguin publishes including: Doctor Who: Alien Adventures, The 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Sticker Book coming next year. You can follow him on Twitter (www.twitter.com/richarddinnick) or find out more by visiting his website (www.richarddinnick.com).

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