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And thick and fast they came at last, And more, and more, and more …

Ursula Le Guin was named this week as SFWA's twentieth Grand Master, with a formal presentation to follow at the Nebula ceremony in April. This column is not afraid to say, however controversially: 'About time, too!'

As Others See Us. A change from the usual litany of contempt for sf and fantasy! Novelist Joanne Harris of Chocolat fame, invited to choose her six favourite books for The Week (28 Dec), came up with a distinctly fannish selection: The Gormenghast Trilogy, Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, Salammbô, Lolita and Zelazny's A Rose for Ecclesiastes. Meanwhile, for those uncertain of the precise genre of Star Trek: Nemesis, a Salisbury UK cinema sign reveals the answer: 'Romantic Comedy'.

Philip K. Dick Award for US paperback originals: here's the shortlist.

  Carol Emshwiller, The Mount and Report to the Men's Club and Other Stories

  Kay Kenyon, Maximum Ice

  Karin Lowachee, Warchild

  China Miéville, The Scar

  Jeff VanderMeer & Forrest Aguirre (ed.), Leviathan Three

  Liz Williams, Empire of Bones

UK New Year Honours. Ridley Scott was knighted. Peter Ackroyd (whose literary fantasies include Hawksmoor and The House of Doctor Dee) and Brian Cox (an actor with several TV sf credits, including Red Dwarf and The Cloning of Joanna May) received the CBE.

Jeff VanderMeer poses a question which had not occurred to me: 'Why are there so many entrances to hell in the UK?' He's been looking at … Not for nothing was our late Queen Mother known, in her giddy youth, as Buffy.

Golden Oldies. In reaction to endless hype about the latest Best Young British Writers promotion, BBC Radio 4's Front Row chose its list of the top ten British authors over 70, including Brian Aldiss, J.G.Ballard and Doris Lessing.

R.I.P. Another belated notice: Ian MacNaughton (1925-2002), director of almost every episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus and of the first Python film And Now For Something Completely Different (1971), died in Munich on 10 December following a car crash; he was 76. In an earlier acting career, he appeared in the sf film X The Unknown (1956). Paul Barnett remembers: 'He was one of the nicest, friendliest of men. It's little realized that, without him and his faith in this oddball new series, Monty Python's Flying Circus might have had an extremely hard job making it to the screen, if at all … I've always regarded him as the extra, uncredited Python.'

Thog's Masterclass. Relativity Dept. '"I once read somewhere," said Peter, "that a minute on Mars is equal to a year on our Earth, so that would be the reason why everything is terrifically speeded up."' (Prof A.M. Low, Adrift in the Stratosphere, 1937)


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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