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As everyone not living on a remote Tibetan mountain peak is now aware, Nancy Stouffer's never very convincing plagiarism case against J.K. Rowling didn't just fail on 19 September but rebounded spectacularly. Deciding that Stouffer had naughtily improved the evidence about her creation of Larry Potter and the Muggles, the judge fined her $30,000 for a 'pattern of intentional bad faith conduct', warned her never again to claim that Harry Potter violated her trademark, and ordered her to pay part of Rowling's costs. Oops!

Christopher Priest is strangely fascinated by the ranking of his alternate history novel The Separation, which is somehow clocking up hardback sales despite the publisher's decision to avoid tiresome newspaper reviews by furtively releasing it in trade paperback only. 'According to Amazon, for a few days at the beginning of August the nonexistent hardcover was outselling the paperback. I was greatly bemused by this. Since then, its sales have slipped steadily downwards… Now, in an attempt to beef up sales a little, Amazon are offering the hardcover Sep as a special set, bundled with the paperback. I'm so-o-o-o tempted to order this to find out what they'll do!'

R.I.P. Robert L. Forward (1932-2002), US gravitational physicist and author of 11 hard sf novels, died from brain cancer on 21 September; he was 70. He described his sf novel debut Dragon's Egg (1980) — built around the audacious notion of ultra-fast, intelligent nucleonic life on a neutron star — as 'A textbook on neutron star physics disguised as a novel.' Bob Forward was a popular and ebullient figure at sf conventions.

Thog's Interviewing Masterclass. Guy Haley reports his favourite interview question by an SFX magazine freelance who shall remain nameless. Interviewee Jeffrey Combs was discussing the latest Re-Animator sequel, imaginatively entitled Beyond Re-Animator. Released 13 years after Re-Animator II (1989), the new film is set 13 years later, leading to the question: 'Will Combs wear make-up so that West looks older?'

Lionel Fanthorpe, according to his latest book jacket (The World's Most Mysterious Objects), is now Magistral Chaplain General and Knight Commander of the Templar Priory of St. Mary Magdalene. I don't know whether you can get that by mail order…

Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Premature Threats. 'Captain, you will long have known that I consider Mote Prime the greatest threat to humanity since the Dinosaur Killer struck Earth sixty-five million years ago.' (Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, The Gripping Hand, 1993)


David Langford is an author and a gentleman. His newsletter, Ansible, is the essential SF-insider sourcebook of wit and incongruity. He lives in Reading, England with his wife Hazel, 25,000 books, and a few dozen Hugo awards. He continues to add books and Hugos.

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