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One theory of what Edward Lear might have meant by 'runcible', a word he applied to both spoons and cats, is 'tortoise-shell'. So, more tortoise-shell news snippets …

Isaac Asimov's death ten years ago (in April 1992) was hastened by AIDS, according to the new autobiographical collection Isaac Asimov: It's Been a Good Life, edited by his widow Janet Jeppson. He received an infected blood transfusion during 1983 heart bypass surgery. What rotten luck.

Geek Futurology Dept. 'In 1975 Ed Roberts, the founder of MITS, a calculator company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, put a microchip in a box with a screen and called his invention Altair, after a character in Star Wars.' (John Cassidy, dot.con, 2002)

Spike Milligan (1918-2002), last of the Goons from BBC radio's surreally fantastic The Goon Show, died at home on 27 February aged 83. His main contribution to sf was the dark post-holocaust comedy The Bed-Sitting Room, a 1963 play co-written with John Antrobus (movie version 1969). British stage productions in those days had to be approved by a government censor, the Lord Chamberlain, whose letter to Milligan and Antrobus featured passages like: 'Page 16: Omit "… clockwork Virgin Mary made in Hong Kong, whistles the Twist." Omit references to the Royal Family, the Queen's Christmas Message, and the Duke's shooting.' Likewise, 'The mock priest must not wear a crucifix on his snorkel.' And you couldn't mention the Prime Minister, either.

Karen Joy Fowler and other finalists for the 2002 PEN/Faulkner fiction award failed to impress the Washington Post, which sneered: 'Round up the usual suspects and tell them they are the finalists …', leading to the Publisher's Lunch headline 'PEN/Faulker Nominees Look Familiar'. Only one of the five had ever been shortlisted before (Claire Messud in 1996; she lost), but who cares about mere boring facts?

Outraged Letters. Several million readers insist that the late Chuck Jones's most famous cartoon creations were the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, not Bugs Bunny.

Hair Today … DC Comics is suing Wella Corp. for marketing a glowing green hair gel as Kryptonite, thus wickedly trading on 'the commercial magnetism of Superman.'

Thog's Masterclass. 'The zeppelin of bluster Feldman excoriated Freddy with suddenly popped into a cloud of humility.' (David Grand, The Disappearing Body, 2002)


David Langford is a writer, editor, physicist, bon vivant, and software consultant. His monthly SF newsletter, Ansible, is the essential SF-insider sourcebook of wit and incongruity. He lives in Reading, England with his wife Hazel, 25,000 books, and a few dozen Hugo awards.

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