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September 30, 2005

Now it can be told. The mystery complaint that caused such trouble for the Ansible archive at Glasgow University has been forwarded at last. Apparently, however factually based and written in a spirit of fair comment, light-hearted squibs are fraught with peril if they refer to fantasy author Robert Stanek. The following e-mail, with the mysterious subject line 'Violation', was sent to Glasgow U from a Hotmail account (as used by the best attorneys) and is signed 'Timothy Donaldson, J.D., B.A. George Washington University Law School' ...

'It is my estimation, after careful review, that David Langford did willfully and with malice of forethought cause material and economic harm to Robert Stanek through his online column. Given the opportunity to correct such without recourse, David Langford chose a course of action that caused continuing material and economic harm to Robert Stanek. As a university, Glasgow must uphold a higher standard or be held equally accountable and liable. I respectfully request that you take immediate action to remove the following pages from your site: [Here the Glasgow URLs of Ansible 181 and Ansible 178 are given.] As recompense, I would further ask that you cease publication of Mr. Langford's work and remove all Ansible listings from your site[.]'

For the record, I received no prior complaints about those issues; but then, Hotmail can easily fall foul of spam filters. I am unaware of having felt malice, or even 'malice of forethought', towards Stanek: can readers detect this in the above links? And since it's a truism of the book business that any mention of an author's name has publicity value, I can't imagine where the 'material and economic harm' arises. What hideous vials of wrath, I wonder, are poured out on people who go further and actually give Stanek bad reviews?

As Others See Us. Applause of a sort for Joss Whedon's Serenity: 'Writer Brian Pendreigh suggests: "As a race, sci-fi fans make Klingons seem like regular, laid-back guys, only better-looking and often with clearer complexions. History, however, shows that Whedon's appeal can stretch beyond the intergalactic anorak and reach a much wider audience." [...] Actor Sean Maher, who plays the ship's doctor, admits that he was put off by the science-fiction tag when he first heard about Firefly. "But now I feel like Firefly and Serenity are their own genre. It's not science-fiction so much as it's about humanity and characters and dynamics between people."' (Scotland on Sunday Spectrum magazine, 25 September)

R.I.P. Don Adams (1923-2005), US comedian remembered as the inept Agent 86 in the 1960s TV spy-spoof series Get Smart, died on 25 September; he was 82. In the 1990s he voiced the title role of the Inspector Gadget cartoon. Tommy Bond (Thomas Ross Bond, 1926-2005), US actor who played Jimmy Olsen in the first Superman film serial (1948) and its sequel, died on 24 September aged 79. Helen Cresswell (1934-2005), British author of more than 100 children's fantasies and comedies, died from cancer on 26 September; she was 71. Her best known fantasies were Lizzie Dripping (1973, assembling stories written for the BBC's Jackanory) and the Bagthorpe Saga which began with Ordinary Jack (1977) and became a 1981 TV series. (BBC News story) Constance Moore (1920-2005), US actress and singer who co-starred with Buster Crabbe in the 1939 Buck Rogers film serial, died on 16 September; she was 85. Joe Nolan, long-time Belfast SF Group fan and con-goer, died on 27 September; he was in his nineties. He assisted James White with novel research, and appears as ship-captain 'Seosadn Ui Nuallain, or Joseph Nolan' in JW's The First Protector (2000).

Thog's Blurb Masterclass. Spotted on Christopher Stasheff's The Warlock Enraged: 'On the magical planet of Gramarye, science coexists with witches and elves [...] and telepathy is the most common means of transportation.'

Miscellany. New Scientist launches readers' forum with stunningly innovative sf debate. BSFA news weblog, with London meeting and speaker announcements (though not much else). The Scotsman struggles to wow fantasy fans with a skim-the-reference-books story that should be titled Dead Inklings in Tepid Controversy ...

Thog's Masterclass. Beards Got Eyes Dept. 'She saw him murmur to Jair, and saw the big red beard turn in the lamplit dimness to stare almost incredulously at his leader.' (C.L. Moore, 'Judgment Night', 1943)


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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