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September 16, 2005

Older readers may recall the physical description of an ansible from Paul Park's A Princess of Roumania, which I quoted long ago in Runcible 184. Ursula Le Guin begs to differ: 'I don't know where they get their ansibles from in Roumania, but the last model I'm familiar with is more like a large pocket handkerchief with holograms and sound effects. The Roumanian version sounds unnecessarily massive.' So there.

Kazuo Ishiguro's clones-for-organs novel Never Let Me Go, the closest thing to sf on the Booker Prize longlist, has since made it to the six-book shortlist.

As Others See Us. From a review of Dan Simmons's Olympos: '... After epigraphs by Lucian, Conrad, and Shelley, we get quotations from Virgil, Milton, Blake, Byron, Keats, Tennyson and Rupert Brooke. It's easy to understand why a science fiction writer might suffer from a literary inferiority complex; but Simmons would seem less naked if he spent less time nervously covering his ass -- or if he acknowledged the real influences of HG Wells, Robert Heinlein and Kurt Vonnegut, instead of manufacturing so transparently bogus a literary lineage.' (Gary Taylor, The Guardian, 10 September)

Brian Aldiss went to the movies on 3 September: 'To the Odeon West End in Leicester Square. We ate eggs benedict in the square before going in to view the Marlin Film of Brothers of the Head. The cinema was packed. Of course I had been apprehensive; Toni Grisoni had warned me I might not like the adaptation. In fact, it's a splendid film, put over with immense conviction, and executed in documentary style. Noisy, of course -- lotsa rock'n'roll -- but well-characterised and brilliantly photographed -- sometimes almost abstract. The young brothers, whom I had met in Holt when filming last year, were excellent. Shot mainly on the bleak North Norfolk coast, far from humanity. I call it "England's First Surrealist Movie".'

Beatrix Potter's publisher Frederick Warne (a Penguin subsidiary) succeeded in legal action against Chinese pirates whose unauthorized translations used Potter's own artwork. Most unusually, this victory -- though subject to appeal -- was achieved in a Chinese court against a state-owned Chinese publisher.

R.I.P. Robert Denver (1935-2005), US actor best known for playing the title role in the much-repeated 1960s TV sitcom Gilligan's Island, died on 2 September. He was 70. The series often wandered into fantasy dream sequences, and the 1980s cartoon spinoff Gilligan's Planet reworked its castaway template as sf. Dan Patterson (1951-2005), American sf/aeronautical artist and fan, died on 13 September. (SFWA obituary) Vladimir Volkoff (1932-2005), French author born of exiled Russian parents, died on 13 September aged 72. Though best known for spy fiction, he won the Jules Verne award for Metro pour L'Enfer ("Metro to Hell", 1963) and returned to sf with two 1980s novels. Robert Wise (1904-2005), Hollywood director whose work covered a multitude of genres, died on 14 September -- four days after his 91st birthday. His sf, fantasy and horror films included Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Body Snatcher (1945), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Haunting (1963), The Andromeda Strain (1971), and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). (Guardian obituary) Late entry: Jonathan Adams (1931-2005), UK actor seen in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and other genre productions, died on 13 June aged 74.

As Others See Us II. Staggering revelations about the UK Amicus union leader Derek Simpson: 'He certainly doesn't have the interests you would associate with an engineer and former member of the Communist Party. He is a keen chess player, an avid Star Trek fan and collects old comics and Rupert the Bear annuals.' (Clinton Manning, Daily Mirror, 10 September) Our researcher Mat Coward agrees: 'I know -- that's what's always put me off Trek fandom: all those Old Etonians and stuck-up debs.'

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle received Heinlein Awards at Cascadia Con on 4 September, honouring their 'lifetime achievements for outstanding published work in hard science fiction or technical writings inspiring the human exploration of space.' (Heinlein Society release.) I could not forbear from reverently murmuring that great line in Footfall: 'Nuke 'em till they glow, then shoot 'em in the dark.'

Janet Street-Porter exposes the true horror of the British educational system: 'we make school children read Dickens and Philip Pullman ...' (Independent, 15 September)

Thog's Masterclass. Eyes Wide Shut Dept. 'The eyes that stared directly at her across the churchyard were closed, the face was pale and pasty in the faded moonlight.' (Doctor Who: Grave Matter, Justin Richards, BBC Books 2000)


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 The SEX Column and other misprints, collecting ten years of columns and essays for SFX magazine; 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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