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December 9, 2005

Sometimes I hate collecting news. Robert Sheckley (1928-2005) died today, 9 December, at the age of 77. He was one of the true greats of intelligently humorous sf, and a personal hero too. Bob had been in the Intensive Care Unit at Vassar Brothers Medical Centre (Poughkeepsie, NY) since undergoing surgery for a brain aneurism on 10 November. He never really recovered, and spent his final days in coma. Oh damn. (SFWA obituary)

David Lammy, UK Minister for Culture, may not know much about Art but he knows what he doesn't like. His opening words when presenting this year's Turner Prize (awarded to the DIY conversion of an old shed by laborious stages into an old shed): 'I don't care who wins, as long as it's not Lord of the Rings.'

Brian Aldiss went to the movies: 'I feel compelled to report that the SF Film Festival took place in Trieste in November (23rd to 27th). Screenings in the new and sassy Cinecity. Among the organisers, Daniele Terzoli. / Since I attended the original festivals there in the sixties and seventies, together with such luminaries as Kingsley Amis, Harry Harrison and Walter Ernsting, they invited me back as a sort of totem -- a role I find increasingly easy to perform. / Most enjoyable flick was a Russian mocumentary, First on the Moon, shot in grainy b-&-w. The pretty humorous concept was that a Soviet ship reached the Moon successfully in the 1930's, unfortunately crashing in Chile on its return, so that the whole thing was hushed up. Among fake shots of the early USSR was one of the young Stalin proclaiming, "The hallmark of the new Soviet Union will be gaiety".... The satirical rogue who made this movie is one Aleksey Fedorchenko (Russia 2005) Use your immense influence to get this neat little trick shown in the UK. / Another mocumentary was Kevin Willmott's C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America. The South wins the civil war. Slavery still exists in 2004. So, another satirical rogue. / The film that won the award was James Bai's Puzzlehead. Another take on Frankenstein, the theme originated rather more engagingly by Miss Mary What's-her-Name.'

R.I.P. Jack Colvin (1934-2005), US actor seen in the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman and (as a regular character) The Incredible Hulk, died on 1 December. He was 71. Dan Hooker (1950-2005), US writer and literary agent who represented A.E. van Vogt and other sf authors, died on 24 November aged 54. (SFWA) Herbert L. Strock (1918-2005), US producer and director who did early TV work in the 1940s and directed such B-movies as I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957), How to Make a Monster (1958), and The Crawling Hand (1963), died on 30 November after a car accident. He was 87.

The Rich List. Forbes magazine produced a somewhat idiosyncratic list of the 15 wealthiest characters in fiction. Taking it from the top: Santa Claus allegedly has infinite wealth and Oliver 'Daddy' Warbucks from Little Orphan Annie is asssessed at $27.3 billion. Lesser lights: Richie Rich, Lex Luthor, C. Montgomery Burns, Scrooge McDuck, Jed Clampett, Bruce Wayne, Thurston Howell III, Willy Wonka, Arthur Bach, Ebenezer Scrooge, Lara Croft, Cruella De Vil, and finally Lucius Malfoy ($900 million, though I see no evidence for this in the Harry Potter books). H'mm. Where's Cordwainer Smith's Rod McBan, who bought Old Earth? Or the chap in Wells's The Sleeper Awakes, who owns the world after snoozing through 200 years of compound interest? Or even the Count of Monte Cristo? Of course, the Totally Rich of John Brunner's story will have paid Forbes well to keep their names unlisted....

Miscellany. Christopher Priest on Michael Coney (Guardian obit) UFOs versus the Net. Life imitates Langford novel.

Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Nose Noises. 'But the younger man had a nose for trouble which Acevedo had learned to trust, or at least listen very carefully to.' (David Weber, 'Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington' in Changer of Worlds, 2001) • 'He whispered under his nose.' (Greg Vilk, Golem, 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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