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November 4, 2005

What goes around in sf criticism, comes around. In Slate's analysis of the complete Star Wars cycle as 'The greatest postmodern art film ever', critic Aidan Wasley probes 'its secret, spiky intellectual heart' (oh, please let him be joking), goes on about its knowing postmodernism, and realizes in a blinding flash that 'The Force is, in other words, a metaphor for, or figuration of, the demands of narrative. The Force is the power of plot.' Like David Bratman (who pointed out the Slate piece), I was irresistibly reminded of Nick Lowe's 1986 Ansible essay 'The Well-Tempered Plot Device', and especially this bit.

BBC Radio 4 is planning a three-part documentary on British sf writing, to be broadcast next summer. UK authors are already fighting for places in the queue of those reckoned important enough to be interviewed in (provisionally) Spring 2006. Speaking of the BBC, here's the website for their adaptation of that nice Mr Pratchett's Johnny and the Bomb.

As Others See Us. Another reviewer, Dylan Otto Krider of the Houston Chronicle, who sees right through us: 'Joseph Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces garnered admirers (George Lucas being the most famous) who started tapping into age-old plots rather than plowing new narrative ground. [...] Science fiction and fantasy writers especially took to Campbell because he allowed them to see themselves not as dime-store hacks but as working in the tradition of the Viking sagas and Beowulf.' (31 October review of Anansi Boys, spotted by Neil Gaiman)

R.I.P. Lloyd Bochner (1924-2005), US actor best known for his part in the 1962 Twilight Zone adaptation of Damon Knight's 'To Serve Man', died on 29 October aged 81. Other TV work included Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Bewitched, The Bionic Woman, The Amazing Spider-Man, Battlestar: Galactica, the feature-length Manimal pilot, Superboy, and the 1992-4 animated Batman. Films included: The Dunwich Horror (1970), Millennium (1989), Legend of the Mummy (1997) and the animated Batman: Vengeance (2001). [SG] Elmer Dresslar, US entertainer who was the voice of the Jolly Green Giant in the famous TV ads (homaged in Bored of the Rings), died at the age of 80 on 23 October. (BBC) Dénis Lindbohm (1927-2005), Swedish fan and sf author whose first story (of more than a hundred) was published in 1945, died on 24 October; he had suffered from cancer for several years. He was 78. John-Henri Holmberg writes: 'Dénis was a founder of Swedish fandom and one of its most important members, writers, humorists, and publishers. He was a talented author, a stimulating and intelligent writer, a staunch friend and a wonderful, warm, demanding and giving person. There is no one to take his place in Swedish science fiction or in Swedish fandom.' Keith Parkinson (1958-2005), Chesley Award-winning US fantasy artist and game designer, died from leukaemia on 26 October, four days after his 47th birthday. Michael Piller (1948-2005), American tv writer/producer praised for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation, died from cancer on 1 November; he was 57. (Now Playing magazine obituary) Mary Wimbush, UK actress, died on 31 October aged 81; she collapsed at the Birmingham BBC studios after recording an instalment of The Archers. Genre productions in film included the psychodrama Fragment of Fear (1970) and Hammer's Vampire Circus (1972); in TV, the Doctor Who spinoff K-9 and Company (1981) and Century Falls (1993).

Ben Ball, editor at Simon & Schuster UK, is leaving to become publisher at Penguin Australia. Martin Sketchley grumbles that he will shortly be on his fourth S&S editor, with only two titles published.... Also leaving S&S is Tim Binding, who like Ball worked with the former 'Earthlight SF' authors (who are said to be unhappy about all this).

Miscellany. Patent Your Lousy SF Plot Now (or, US patent office has attack of delirium tremens). $cientology is throwing its weight around again, claiming that the satirical NZ site is a wicked infringement of something or other. Singing squid in outer space? Adam Roberts invites us all to share his bafflement with this page. Novacon (, the long-established UK convention, is not best pleased to find a cybersquatter trading on its reputation with sf ads and links at

Old Stories Revisited.

  • Steve Green on the Dark Side furore (see Runcible 175 and 182): 'The latest Dark Side contains the following editorial note from Allan Bryce: "As many of you may be aware, we had a few problems recently regarding material published that turned out to have been 'cribbed' from internet sources. We've taken steps to ensure that this doesn't happen again, and of course would like to apologise to any writers whose material has been published in error--although our investigations did reveal the disturbing fact that many of the so-called 'ripped off' reviews can be found on a number of different sites under a number of different names ... showing that there's plenty of this sort of thing going on among the netheads!" Translation: "We apologise for breaking into your home, but have since discovered you've been broken into before, so I guess we're not guilty after all."'
  • The Hotmail Abuse Team had the last word on that harassing email (see Runcible 188 and 189) which persuaded the Glasgow University authorities to impersonate headless chickens. Microsoft is made of sterner stuff: 'I have closed the account you reported ( in accordance with the Hotmail Terms of Use (TOU). It is a strict violation of the TOU for our members to send objectionable material of any kind or nature using our service.' Sic transit....

Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Born Politicians. 'Untruth was a violin which he played like a Paganini of bunkum.' (Marlon Brando and Donald Cammell, Fan-Tan, 2005)


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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