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....
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.
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:
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)
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
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.