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My old pal Christopher Priest is celebrating his imminent escape from the Publisher from Hell: Simon & Schuster UK, who subjected the author to editorial purgatory, announced and then cancelled a 2002 hardback of his novel The Separation, wrong-footed the UK book trade with a false report of paperback publication in June, sneaked it out in August with an admitted publicity budget of zero (despite promising 'a special effort' as compensation for no hardback and therefore scant chance of newspaper reviews) and a blurb that concealed any hint of the story's tricky alternate-history aspects — and just six weeks later, as rave reviews nevertheless emerged in places like SF Weekly and Locus, cheerfully announced they were putting it out of print. Specialist sf dealers whose customers had standing orders for Priest first editions found the book's official status went from 'not yet published' to 'out of print' with no intervening period of availability. A small second printing emerged only after heavy pressure, while first-edition collectors gnashed their teeth ...

But now Orion is buying up rights to The Separation and plans a proper hardcover release under the Gollancz imprint. See Chris Priest's remarkably restrained announcement on his website.

Arthur C. Clarke couldn't resist responding to a query about Joycean influence on 2001: A Space Odyssey, in Roger Ebert's Chicago Sun-Times 'Movie Answer Man' column (23 February): 'Ashamed (?) to admit I've never read a word of Joyce — who I believe invented the useful name "quark". Now involved with a much better Irish writer — Lord Dunsany has asked me to write intros to two of his g'father's books.'

Peter Hamilton offers a travel tip for fellow-authors: 'I was GoH at the Mecon 6 convention in Belfast over the weekend [7-9 March], flying out from Stansted. Due to a combination of forgetfulness and plain stupidity I didn't have my passport or driver's licence with me when I checked in at the airline desk. Official UK photographic identification of all passengers being the security requirement these days, the lady behind the counter was resolutely not ever going to allow the likes of me on board the plane without it. That is until I produced a copy of the convention handbook, with a 2cm square, somewhat blurred, B&W author's photo of me on page 5. She let me go through. Oh, and it was a great little con, too.'

R.I.P. Sir Hardy Amies (1909-2003), the Queen's official dressmaker for 48 years, died on 5 March aged 93. The sf connection was his role as wardrobe designer for 2001: A Space Odyssey. • Fred Freiberger (1915-2003), US screenwriter and producer responsible for the second season of Space:1999, died on 2 March aged 88. He also worked on Star Trek, The Six Million Dollar Man, Superboy, and The Wild, Wild West, and wrote screenplays for 13 feature films including The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953).

Thog's Masterclass. Physics Dept. '... no, affinity wasn't quite the right word, it felt more like they were two north poles of a bipolar magnet, each vigorously, automatically repelled by the other.' (Jo Clayton, Blue Magic, 1988)


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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