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Dec 24, 2004

Christmas is upon us, a time when Ansible traditionally recollects the seasonal blessing pronounced by Aunt Ada Doom of Cold Comfort Farm: 'Amos, carve the bird. Ay, would it were a vulture, 'twere more fitting! Reuben, fling these dogs the fare my bounty provides. Sausages ... pah! Mince-pies ... what a black-bitter mockery it all is! Every almond, every raisin, is wrung from the dry dying soil and paid for with sparse greasy notes grudged alike by bank and buyer. Come, Ezra, pass the ginger wine! Be gay, spawn! Laugh, stuff yourself, gorge and forget, you rat-heaps! Rot you all!' (Stella Gibbons, 'Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm', 1940) Oh, and have a happy new year too.

Margaret Atwood, still wrestling with the fatal temptation to produce sf, has devised a new strategy of lovingly outlining the books she doesn't intend to write. Her 18 December Times article gives rip-roaring scenarios for Worm Zero (in which, evidently homaging Edgar Wallace's classic 'The Man Who Hated Earthworms', global disaster is brought on by worm extinction), Beetleplunge (in which, 'like lemmings', the world's beetles suicidally plunge) and Spongedeath -- in which a rampant sea-sponge becomes The Blob That Ravaged Florida. But, she muses, 'until I'm convinced, in my heart, that the human spirit has the wherewithal to go head to headless against this malevolent wad of cellulose -- because as a writer loyal to the truth of the inner self you can't fake these things -- it might be as well not to begin.' Oh, go on....

Philip Pullman is much annoyed by another Times story (8 Dec), headlined 'God is cut from film of Dark Materials' and alleging that New Line Cinema plans 'to remove anti-religious overtones [...] because of fears of a backlash from the Christian Right in the United States.' Moreover, Pullman complains, 'the article maintained that I had gone along with this, by cheerfully colluding in a betrayal of the vision that underlies the books'. This claim was buttressed by creative use of quotation: 'To take an answer from one context, invent a question that hadn't been asked, and put the answer next to it is not what used to be called honest journalism.' Finally our author insists, 'There will be no betrayal of any kind.' We shall see.

As Others See Us. The Radio Times (5 December) explains a programme titled What we still don't know: 'Astronomer Royal Martin Rees explores ideas once firmly entrenched in the realms of sci-fi and philosophy ...' Mat Coward wonders, 'Is that what a PPE stands for, then? Politics, Philosophy and Enormousbigspaceshipswithtentacles?'

R.I.P. Douglas Mason (1941-2004), Scots antiquarian book dealer, avid sf collector, and Conservative politician who supposedly invented the unpopular UK poll tax, died on 13 December after long illness with a brain tumour; he was 63. (Not to be confused with the Douglas R. Mason born in 1918, who wrote sf as John Rankine.) London's Fantasy Centre recently acquired his vast magazine collection. W. Warren Wagar (1932-2004), US academic and H.G. Wells scholar, died on 16 November. His publications ranged from H.G. Wells and the World State (1961) to the 2004 H.G. Wells: Traversing Time.

Thog's Masterclass. Dept of That's Easy For You To Say: 'Kelric opened his mouth to speak but then fell silent.' (Lyndon Hardy, Master Of The Five Magics, 1986)

 


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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