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Dec 17, 2004

Ha, the lunatic takes over the asylum! Now, as Mr Pratchett likes to say, the worm is on the other boot. Our awesome editrix has been too distracted by worldwide signing tours and suchlike frippery to upload this column every week. But, thanks to technomagic at, I have gained the power to do this all by myself. My wrods of widsom shall appaer uncensered....

Ursula Le Guin is deeply unhappy with the Sci Fi Channel's adaptation of her Earthsea fantasies, and says so on her website and in an article for 'I don't know what the film is about. It's full of scenes from the story, arranged differently, in an entirely different plot, so that they make no sense. My protagonist is Ged, a boy with red-brown skin. In the film, he's a petulant white kid.' The overall result: 'a generic McMagic movie with a meaningless plot based on sex and violence.' Oh dear!

Diana Wynne Jones, however, is ecstatic after a secret première of Howl's Moving Castle, practically on her doorstep in Bristol: 'Miyazaki came in person, carrying with him a tape of the film, an interpreter and sundry other shadowy figures (all this was supposed to be secret for fear of the Japanese media, who then descended on me afterwards, so I couldn't mention it beforehand) and we had a private showing at the Watershed cinema. The film is goluptuously splendid with breathtaking animation. I had grown used to young ladies regularly writing to me to say that they wanted to marry Howl. Now, Howl in the film is so plain stunning and sexy that I think I have joined them. And after the showing and the scamper through Bristol I had a long talk with Mr Miyazaki and it began to seem that we were soulmates.' Some writers have all the luck.

As Others See Us. No one expects the Daily Mail to like any attack on organized religion, but Quentin Letts's review of His Dark Materials at the National Theatre may set a new record for spleen: 'Intellectual teenage girls swear by Philip Pullman. His novels sell by the ton and his science fictions are exotic and pseudo-portentous. Harry Potter for Oxbridge eggheads.' (Mail, 10 Dec) There is more, much more.

R.I.P. Pierre Berton (1920-2004), Canadian journalist, broadcaster and prolific novelist who wrote the children's fantasy The Secret World of Og (1961), died on 30 November aged 84. Larry Buchanan (1923-2004), US maker of low-budget films, died on 2 December at age 81. SF ventures by this self-confessed 'shlockmeister' included the TV movies Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1966), The Eye Creature (1967), In the Year 2889 (1967), Mars Needs Women (1967), and It's Alive (1969 -- not to be confused with the better-known 1974 Larry Cohen film). Irwin Donenfeld, editorial director and publisher of DC comics following the death of his father Harry (DC's founder) in 1965, died on 29 November; he was 78. Bob Haney, US comics writer who wrote very many DC titles from the mid-1950s and was described as one of the Silver Age comics greats, died on 27 November. He was 78. Trina Schart Hyman, US artist and writer who illustrated over 150 books including many fantasies for children, died on 19 November aged 65. She was a winner of the Caldecott Medal for children's authors and artists. Jane Yolen writes: 'Alas, one of dear Trina's last commissions was for the jacket of my historical novel (with a small fantasy element in it) Prince Across the Water. A dear friend, a brilliant illustrator, I shall miss her enormously.'

Sounds Like ... The Bookseller records yet another example of bookshop customers' creative title requests: C.S. Lewis's well-known children's fantasy Lionel Ritchie and His Wardrobe.

Small Press. Orbital, the new British magazine about sf which was scheduled to launch in June 2004, remains on hold for good reason. Its editor Steve Williams had a heart attack this summer and, although he intends to go ahead, has been under doctor's orders to avoid any work until his recovery is complete. Best of luck to him!

'We Burned So Bright.' Stephen Baxter is judging this competition for sf stories set in those familiar futures where oil is scarce and incredibly expensive. Unlike the prize: £100, plus £50 to each of two runners-up.

Thog's Masterclass. Eyeballs in the Sky Dept. 'With the sun lolling on the horizon like a bloody and raped eye upon a marble slab, twilight prevailed everywhere.' (Brian Aldiss, The Long Afternoon of Earth [Hothouse], 1961)


He Do the Time Police in Different VoicesDavid Langford is an author and a gentleman. His newsletter, Ansible, is the essential SF-insider sourcebook of wit and incongruity. His most recent books are Different Kinds of Darkness, a new short-story collection of horror, SF, and fantasy, Up Through an Empty House of Stars: Reviews and Essays 1980-2002, 100 pieces of Langfordian genre commentary, and He Do the Time Police in Different Voices, a short-story collection that brings together all of Dave's SF parodies and pastiches. (This is a scary thought. Are you ready to laugh that hard?)

Dave lives in Reading, England with his wife Hazel, 25,000 books, and a couple of dozen Hugo awards. He continues to add books and Hugos.

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