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Feb 11, 2005

Some of our correspondents, I regret to report, have dreadfully low minds. Reading The Fellowship of the Ring to her 8-year-old son, Janice Eisen suffered a slight breakdown at this passage: 'Tom put his mouth to the crack and began singing into it in a low voice. They could not catch the words, but evidently Merry was aroused.' Oh dearie me.

As Others See Us. Michael Jackson, of all people, has grasped the essential point that sf is fiction: he compares press coverage of his legal entanglements to 'watching science fiction. It's not true.' (Thanks to Neil Gaiman for the link.)

R.I.P. Jack L. Chalker (1944-2005), the well-known US sf writer, editor (Mirage Press) and fan, died on the morning of 11 February; he was only 60. His 6 December collapse was reported in Runcible 153. Jack's early, idiosyncratic sf novels A Jungle of Stars (1976), Midnight at the Well of Souls (1977) and Dancers in the Afterglow (1978) set a pattern of compulsive, large-scale adventures usually involving bizarre character metamorphoses and (since Midnight) building into multi-volume series, some of them bestsellers. John Clute in the Encyclopedia of SF identified him, despite cavils about overproduction, as 'a novelist of considerable flair, with an ear acutely attuned to the secret dreams of freedom mortals tend to dream'. Much sympathy to his widow Eva Whitley and their family. Philip DeGuere (1944-2005), US writer, producer and director who worked on the 1978 tv movie Dr Strange, The Twilight Zone (1980s revival; he wrote 3 episodes) and Max Headroom (1987), died on 24 January. He was 60. John Vernon (1932-2005), Canadian-born actor whose most famous sf role was the voice of Big Brother in the 1956 film 1984, died on 3 February aged 72. He also voiced such characters as Sub-Mariner and Iron Man in tv superhero animations.

Simon R. Green once again angles for Ansible publicity in his latest space opera Deathstalker Coda (2005), whose hero deals summarily with the bit-part villain of Chapter Three despite the latter's surrender: 'He looked at deLangford, and let his anger lash out. DeLangford's head exploded, showering the surroundings with blood and brains and skull fragments. The body sank slowly to its knees, blood fountaining from the neck ...' Was it something I said?

F.M. 'Buz' Busby is slowly recuperating in hospital following serious intestinal problems, surgery, and subsequent complications. The greatest frustration, reports Elinor Busby, has been his inability to hold books or magazines in reading position.

Closure! Following the report in Runcible 156, The New York Review of SF (February 2005) has now published the long-lost ending of 'The Eye of Argon'. Your columnist dutifully added the missing 254 words to this on-line version.

Random Fandom. Joe Gordon, fired from Waterstone's Edinburgh bookshop for satirical weblog remarks (see Runcible 155), has ridden the resulting wave of publicity to a new job at the Edinburgh branch of Forbidden Planet. Remembering the FP chain's reputation for downplaying outmoded forms of sf like books, Charlie Stross adds: 'And hopefully this means Forbidden Planet will, gasp, start selling sc**nc* f*ct**n again real soon now.' Jim Young, former diplomat with the US Foreign Service, has found a new career: 'for the first time, I'm actually going to be paid for acting, and in a picture with Tom Cruise in it, no less. Yes, I'm going to be an extra in War of the Worlds. I tend to doubt that anyone will see me on the silver screen in this, but it's a start. Then again, I will probably be the only person running from the CGI Martians who wrote a doctoral dissertation dealing with H.G. Wells....'

Boris Johnson, as every sf fan knows, is the assassin-hero of Norman Spinrad's 1967 novel Agent of Chaos. Since BJ is also editor of the right-wing Spectator magazine and one of Britain's more eccentric Conservative MPs, The Guardian was delighted to report his sf connections in a recent 'Diary' column.

Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Ancient-Mariner Astronomy. 'She said "Thank you," again and went to look out, though she could see nothing but the old moon with a lost star drifting between its horns.' (Patricia A. McKillip, Heir of Sea and Fire, 1980)


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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