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July 22, 2005

By a remarkable coincidence, Terry Pratchett chose the H*rry P*tter publication day to issue this stern warning about his next Discworld novel: 'Now that the bound proof copies of Thud! are out, and will no doubt be winging their way to an e-bay near you, I would like to say that ANYONE WHO READS A WORD OF IT before publication day will be MADE TO SIT IN THE CORNER and their ENTIRE COUNTRY will be given DOUBLE DETENTION until every single person SAYS SORRY!!!!!' So there.

Rocket To The Morgue. BBC Radio's Start the Week (18 July) discussed George Pendle's recent biography of an oddball US rocketry pioneer who blew himself up in 1952 -- Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons. Andrew Marr not unfairly characterized early rocket science as driven by 'enthusiasts, hobbyists, nuts, fantasists, science fiction writers.' Then Jonathan Miller came up with a doomy generalization that also covered Parsons's occult interests: 'I think behind all this lies the deeply infectious notion of the cosmos. The cosmos is very dangerous to think about, and into it, often, vacant minds expand.' A warning to us all.

R.I.P. James N. Aparo (1932-2005), US artist whose work for DC Comics over more than 30 years included what many regard as the definitive Batman, died on 19 July; he was 72. (SFWA) James Doohan (1920-2005), Canadian-born character actor famous for (and inextricably identified with) the part of chief engineer Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott in the original Star Trek series and spinoff films, died on 20 June. He was 85, and had been suffering from pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease. (BBC) His ashes, like Gene Roddenberry's, will be fired into space. Geraldine Fitzgerald (1913-2005), Irish-born actress whose lengthy film career included a part in Poltergeist II (1986), died on 17 July aged 91. Giles Hart, a British sf enthusiast, died in the London bus bombing on 7 July; he was 55. A particular fan of Alice in Wonderland and H.G. Wells, he chaired a branch of the Wells Society and was scheduled to speak that evening on 'The Lesser-Known Works of Lewis Carroll.' (New York Times, 17 July)

As Others See Us. A sympathetic viewpoint from Michael (The Hours) Cunningham, whose latest novel Specimen Days includes 'a futuristic lizard woman from another planet' but definitely no talking squid. Is he interested in 'crossing over to sci-fi?', asked an interviewer: 'No. I've always wondered if it's a good idea to separate books into the "serious literature" section, where you practically have to pay people to read them, and the "other sections," where they fly off the shelves.' But on the other hand, 'I think sci-fi books are often more interesting, deep and provocative than the tepid, thinly veiled autobiographies in the serious section. Yet, almost everyone I know has read those autobiographies. I wanted to cross the line.' (USA Today Weekend)

Miscellany. Michael Moorcock reviews The World Hitler Never Made (Telegraph) Homage to that War of the Worlds actor. Orson Scott Card plans to launch that staggering innovation, an online sf magazine. Michael Coney reportedly has terminal cancer and has posted three freely downloadable novels (including the sequel to Hello Summer, Goodbye aka Rax) as a farewell gift to readers. Iain M. Banks invaded by space squid!

Thog's Masterclass. Ornamentation Dept. 'Lan's own helmet was open in the style of dead Malkier, supporting a steel crescent moon above his forehead [...] The rider drew rein in front of Lan and Bukama. Remaining in his saddle, he eyed them uncertainly, no doubt because their armor was unadorned.' (Robert Jordan, New Spring, 2004)


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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