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December 30, 2005

The Omega Point. Two hundred and one instalments of The Runcible Ansible! Not a round number at all, but nevertheless this is the end. Lots of thanks to our wonderful editrix Eileen Gunn for allowing me free rein for so long.... Anyone interested in taking over publication of the column should send offers of vast remuneration to the usual address. Happy New Year to everyone, and thanks for all the fish.

Zirn Left Unguarded, The Jenghik Palace in Flames, Jon Westerly Dead. Further momentous announcements about The Infinite Matrix itself can be found in Eileen's latest editorial. Overhead, without any fuss, the stars ...

UK New Year Honours. Not a good year for contemporary literature, with only two people in the whole vast list being honoured in this area. One of these has written enough fantastic fiction to have an entry in the Clute/Grant Encyclopedia of Fantasy: Jeanette Winterson, OBE. Another OBE, for drama, is Robbie Coltrane -- whose three-decade acting career is frequently condensed to 'Hagrid in the Harry Potter films'.

As Others See Us. Clive James, waxing nostalgic in the Times Literary Supplement about his early reading of 'sludge fiction', somehow digresses from Bulldog Drummond to small-screen sf: '... the classically awful British television SF series Blakes Seven: no apostrophe in the title, no sense in the plot. The depraved space queen Servalan, played by the slinky Jacqueline Pearce, could never quite bring herself to volatilize the dimly heroic Blake even when she had him square in the sights of her plasmatic spasm guns. The secret of Blake's appeal, or Blakes appeal, for the otherwise infallibly fatale Servalan remained a mystery, like the actual wattage of light bulb on which the design of Blake's spaceship, or Blakes spaceship, was plainly based.'

Iain Banks is allowing himself to be typecast again for Celebrity Mastermind (BBC1, 2 January, 7pm), where he will answer questions on that profoundly Cultured subject 'Malt Whisky and the Distilleries of Scotland'.

R.I.P. Kenneth Macksey (1923-2005), author and editor best known for books of what-if speculation like his The Alternate History of the German Invasion of England, July 1940 (1980) died on 30 November. Vincent Schiavelli (1948-2005), popular US character actor whose many genre film/TV credits included Batman Returns, Buckaroo Banzai, Buffy, Ghost and Star Trek: TNG, died on 26 December. He was 57.

In Typo Veritas? Unexpected Contents Dept: 'There, in the room full of mirrors, she threw her head down on the disarrayed sheets, lifted herself up, and I saw myself slide into her up to the hilt with a gasp, because now she was burning. She was burning inside, gripping me with the liquid entirely of hot bathwater," (Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon, Del Rey edition, 2003)

Robert E. Howard is rarely news these days, but there's modest rejoicing that his old house in Cross Plains, Texas -- now the Robert E. Howard Museum -- survived the raging grass fires which on 28 December destroyed scores of local homes and a church. (News story)

Space Squid Are Everywhere. Niall Harrison has been watching Aaron (The West Wing) Sorkin's earlier show, Sports Night: 'I was impressed to discover that Sorkin seemed to have been right on the ball when it came to developments in space technology. From "The Sweet Smell of Air" (January 2000): the show's producer, Dana Whitaker, wants to talk to her boss, Isaac Jaffe, about a Michael Jordan interview, but Isaac is more interested in something else....

DANA: Hi, Isaac--
ISAAC: Hi. Dana, listen to this, this is fantastic. [reads from magazine] "Bioengineering might one day create living creatures adapted to survival in space."
ISAAC: Space birds.
DANA: ... OK.
ISAAC: Don't you wanna know how they're gonna fly without air?
DANA: Uh ... OK.
ISAAC: It says here they're gonna fly on sunlight.
DANA: ... So, we got this Michael Jordan offer ...
ISAAC: And further out where the sunlight grows weaker, they're gonna bioengineer a squid.
DANA: ... Squid?
ISAAC: Yes! Swimming not in water, but in space. [reading again] "Drawing volatile fuels from Jovian moons to power their gentle but efficient propulsion systems."
DANA: ... uh ... Michael Jordan ...?
ISAAC: "Their utility could be comparable to that of horses and mules in the winning of the West."
ISAAC: I can see myself out there. Sitting alone by the fire. A space squid my only companion.
DANA: Isaac!

This episode was first aired in January 2000. Niall again: 'I note that Time, which of course features a time-travelling space squid, was published in August 1999. To date, however, reports that Sorkin is a closet Stephen Baxter fan remain unconfirmed.'

Miscellany. A Christmas treat from Frank Key of Hooting Yard: synopses from 'the thrilling new drama Blodgett And His Pals Hanging Around On A Mysterious Island After Surviving A Plane Crash.' Wired's 50 Best Robots. Langford SFX columns on line. Sheckley obit in the Telegraph. The smell of turnips: Joss Whedon on being quoted out of context by Entertainment Weekly (link stolen from Making Light).

Steve Sneyd adds a poetic footnote on Ken Bulmer, whose funeral was scheduled for 12:30pm today at Tunbridge Wells Crematorium: 'Vignette, which he published in 1954, was almost certainly the first anthology of sf poetry to appear in this country (though he didn't describe it as such, rather as a one-shot poetry fanzine for OMPA). Inter alia it included Brunner, poems reprinted from '41 US fanzines, and a reprinting of Arthur C. Clarke's pioneering article in a 1938 Novae Terrae calling for a poetry of science fiction.'

Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Time & Motion Studies. 'The first step is to put the fleet on one-hour-alert status instead of twenty-four. ... It'll take about six hours to bring us up to one-hour readiness.' (Lois McMaster Bujold, The Vor Game, 1990) Dept of No Matter Where You Go, There You Are. 'Rafe was in Thendara. / That meant Kadarin and Thyra were -- somewhere. / And so was the Sharra matrix. / And so -- all the Gods of Darkover be merciful -- so was I.' (Marion Zimmer Bradley, Sharra's Exile, 1981)


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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