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March 18, 2005

Nice to see that the Scottish Book Trust's '100 Best Scottish Books of All Time' list features several genre titles, not only classics like Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and The Wind in the Willows, but even such cult oddities as David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus. Selections by living authors include Alasdair Gray's Lanark, Iain Banks's The Wasp Factory, and the ubiquitous Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone of Scone (in America, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Cookie). Particularly surprising is the appearance of Nineteen Eighty-Four by that braw, sonsie lad George Orwell, on the flimsy basis that he wrote it on the Isle of Jura. (Justifying the inclusions of Heart of Darkness and From Russia With Love is left as an exercise for the student.)

As Others See Us. Further reassurance regarding Kazuo Ishiguro's rip-snorting space opera about rogue clones, Never Let Me Go: 'This is not a book of science fiction. I doubt that Ishiguro is even particularly interested in the science or ethics of cloning. So don't go to the novel for a Peter Singer workout. What you will find is an intense, but undramatised exploration of the intricacies of human emotion and human interplay.' (Morag Fraser, The Age, Melbourne, 12 March)

R.I.P. Karen Wynn Fonstad (1945-2005), US cartographer who created The Atlas of Middle-Earth (1981) and other fantasy and sf map-books, died on 11 March. Willis Hall (1929-2005), UK playwright (mainly in collaboration with Keith Waterhouse) and children's fantasy novelist, died on 7 March aged 75. His TV work included many scripts for Worzel Gummidge. (Times obituary) Andre Norton (1912-2005), long-time US author who needs no introduction, died on 17 March at age 93, following long illness and final weeks of hospice care at home. She published over 130 books, from a 1934 historical debut to a final solo sf novel awaiting publication this April (Tor Books rushed her an early copy), and in 1984 became the first woman to be honoured as SFWA Grand Master. Her many sf and science-fantasy series, most famously the 'Witch World' sequence, were formative influences on countless young readers. See the long SFWA obituary/memorial page, and the CNN report. [Later: Daily Telegraph obituary.]

Samuel R. Delany had an emergency appendectomy on 5 March, followed by complications -- a split suture leading to infection but luckily not peritonitis -- requiring further hospital treatment. He is now recovering and would like to do so in private, so please don't deluge him with get-well messages.

Richard E. Geis (who frequently e-mails Ansible to gloat over having evaded the obituary column yet again) is, despite his famous reclusiveness, the subject of a sympathetic Steve Duin column in The Oregonian for 15 March. His many Hugo awards for Science Fiction Review / The Alien Critic get an admiring mention....

Outraged Letters. Steve Green continues to track one UK media critic's avoidance of certain genres: 'Russell T. Davies was interviewed on Front Row on 7 March, first about Casanova and then Dr Who. And surprise, surprise, Mark Lawson took the day off. Meanwhile, Mr Lawson devoted most of his column in the same day's Guardian G2 to comparing Davies with Dennis Potter, devoting barely half a sentence to his subject's sf-related project. What an arse.' Helen Spiral, however, demurs: 'Mark Lawson enthusiastically reviewed the new Dr Who on BBC2's Newsnight Review programme. He clearly enjoyed it and reported that the kids he watched it with (8 & 10) were highly entertained. Novelist Ian Rankin and Professor John Carey also gave the episodes they saw an extremely positive review. Only American writer and critic Bonnie Greer dissented because she thought it looked cheap and she predicted that it "won't travel" to America (!) but she also claimed that she's never encountered Dr Who before (!?!),'

Miscellany. Isaac Asimov reappears with a previously unpublished interview in the Christian Science Monitor. K.V. Bailey's recent death was briefly reported here: a longer obituary by Steve Sneyd is now on-line. Marmite Ads homaging The Blob have terrified young children and earned the disapproval of the Advertising Standards Authority, according to BBC News. Well, I was personally terrorized by Marmite when little, but the callous media ignored my sufferings. Today's brats have it too easy. Harrumph!

Thog's Masterclass. Theory of Numbers Dept. 'The number of vertices of the shapes on the left-hand frame are the first four primes: one, three, five and seven.' (Alastair Reynolds, Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, 2002)


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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