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April 1, 2006

Blinking furiously and rubbing ice crystals from its eyes, the Runcible column emerges from cryogenic slumber to discover itself in a weirdly changed future. In this eerie world of April 2006, the course of history has been warped (though not, frankly, very much) by the appearance of the January, February and March issues of Ansible! NOW READ ON....

As Others See Us. Adam Rogers of Wired soaked up the ambience of a Neil Gaiman signing at the 92nd Street Y in New York City: 'Whenever Gaiman appears, geeks of every type turn out in droves: beautiful goth girls with oil-black hair and cherry-red lips, overweight comics nerds (with dates), underweight comics nerds (with dates), science fiction obsessives, manga fanatics.' (Wired, April)

The 2006 Hugo Nominations appear in full here. Let there be no British triumphalism over the MacLeod and Stross novel nominations, plus various other UK appearances including the stuffing of Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) with Doctor Who episodes and 2005 Worldcon performances. Let there be no Infinite Matrix triumphalism regarding that nice Mr Doctorow's novelette. Most of all, let us avoid any hint of threefold Langford triumphalism about [That's quite enough lack of triumphalism, thank you -- Editrix.] This year's special innovation, the Hugo for Best Interactive Video Game, innovatively attracted too little interest and was thus innovatively dropped. The traditional magazine/anthology slant of the Professional Editor category continues: Patrick Nielsen Hayden acquired three of the five novel finalists for Tor but still didn't make this shortlist.

Jim Rigney, who writes as Robert Jordan, told Locus: 'I have been diagnosed with amyloidosis. That is a rare blood disease which affects only 8 people out of a million each year ...' His treatment (drastic bone marrow replacement) starts this month, and he's determined to beat the statistics that suggest a median life expectancy of four years.

Alma Alexander (that is, Alma Hromic Deckert) slipped the surly bonds of Earth: 'I am still reeling in wonder from it -- but NASA chose a fragment of a poem of mine to go on a commemorative poster about women astronauts in the USA....'

Liz Williams was hospitalized with a fractured rib and other woes after falling off a horse on 26 March, but is now recovering nicely at home.

Paul Parsons, editor of the BBC science magazine Focus, has been much admired for his diligence in devoting no fewer than ten pages of the April issue to promotion of The Science of Doctor Who by some chap called Paul Parsons. The book -- not published by the BBC -- also gets a plug in his editorial, and is reviewed in the books section by our very own Alastair Reynolds. (Independent, 22 March) If I were a real editor I would surely do this all the time.

More Awards. British Book Awards: J.K. Rowling's Whatsisname and the Half-Blood Prince was voted overall Book of the Year on 29 March, beating various celebrity autobiographies and cookbooks. The 'popular fiction' winner was The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (BBC) The James Tiptree Jr Award for best 'gender-exploring' novel of 2005 went to Geoff Ryman's Air: Or, Have Not Have, which is also shortlisted for the BSFA, Clarke and Nebula awards.

T.H. White's birth centenary is on 26 May 2006. His UK publisher, Voyager, proudly flaunts the ultimate accolade: 'Professor Charles Xavier also frequently cites The Once And Future King as his favourite book in the X Men, testifying to the very range and impact of his influence.' [sic]


  • Ronald Anthony Cross (1937-2006), US author whose first sf story appeared in 1973, died in March. Since 1994 he had published several volumes of his 'Eternal Guardians' fantasy series.
  • Dan Curtis (1928-2006), Hollywood producer/director who created the tv series Dark Shadows (1966-1971), died on 27 March; he was 77.
  • Ivor Cutler (1923-2006), surrealist Scots writer and singer whose eccentric stories often had a flavour of sf, died on 3 March aged 83. Story collections include Cock-a-doodle-don't, Gruts and Fremsley. He appeared as Buster Bloodvessel in the Beatles film Magical Mystery Tour.
  • Nancy A. Dibble (1942-2006), US author and fan who in the 1970s and 1980s published sf as Ansen Dibell, died on 7 March. She was 63.
  • David Feintuch (1944-2006), US author best known for his popular 'Seafort' series of Hornblower-in-space sf adventures that began in 1994 with Midshipman's Hope, died from a heart attack on 16 March. He was 61. The first Seafort novels won him the 1996 John W. Campbell award for best new writer.
  • Richard Fleischer (1916-2006), Hollywood director whose first major film was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), died on 25 March aged 89. His other genre films include Fantastic Voyage, Dr Dolittle (the 1967 original), and Soylent Green. (Telegraph obit)
  • Stanislaw Lem (1921-2006), not only Poland's greatest science fiction author but one whose sf greatness was recognized worldwide, died on 27 March; he was 84. His books sold more than 27 million copies, with translations into over 40 languages. The twice-filmed Solaris embodied his favourite theme of the unfathomability of the alien, also explored in The Invincible, His Master's Voice and others. Lem's lighter side, dazzlingly rather than dourly intellectual, was seen in such works as The Cyberiad, The Futurological Congress and The Star Diaries, whose extravagant wordplay challenged the translator. Several of his speculative 'non-fact' essays were worthy of Borges. He gave up writing sf, and indeed fiction, in 1989. (Guardian; Washington Post)
  • John Morressy (1930-2006), US academic and author who published many sf and (latterly) fantasy novels since his 1971 sf debut in F&SF, died on 25 March aged 76.

De Mortuis. The 1976 Stanislaw Lem/SFWA controversy is noted in some obituaries -- nowhere more blandly than on the SFWA site, from which you'd never guess that Lem's unflattering comments on (most) Western sf caused splenetic internal debate and led to his being booted out on a technicality: 'Lem was an honorary member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America until his work was published in the United States and he was eligible for regular membership. He was disappointed with the loss of honorary membership and felt it was due to the controversial nature of some of his work.' John Clute puts it differently in the Independent: '... he thought British and American science fiction was spoiled, spineless, frivolous and intellectually void. His expression of these views in the 1970s caused the withdrawal of an honorary membership in the Science Fiction Writers of America, a personal slight and intellectual insult he never forgave.'

As Others See Us II. Early in March, Mariella Frostrup interviewed Joanne Harris of Chocolat fame on BBC Radio 4's Open Book, about the new Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks edition of Something Wicked This Way Comes. Jimi Fallows reports: 'Harris kicked off by expressing regret that SWTWC was being printed under the fantasy label, as it is much closer in content to real fiction. Sadly, Mariella Frostrup did not take the chance here to point out the number of other fine novels that could almost be called literature in the same imprint. The fantastical element of Bradbury's work was discussed with much earnestness to protect his reputation as an author, culminating in this devastating aside from Frostrup: "Some people even refer to him as a science fiction author, however erroneous that may be." It's still available to listen on line, and well worth it for the particular emphasis of disdain that Mariella lavishes on the sf word.'

Harry Harrison gloats over his latest criminal act: 'Just sold an option to my short "A Criminal Act" to the omnibus series Masters of Science Fiction [ABC tv]. It should be produced this year.'

Publishers and Sinners. Amazing Stories magazine, launched in 1926 by Hugo Gernsback, has at last been officially cancelled by its current owner Paizo Publishing. It had previously spent 14 months in 'hiatus'.

Paul Kincaid, after eleven years' toil as Arthur C. Clarke Award administrator, has resigned -- to take effect after this month's presentation. According to Paul, this is 'an unmissable opportunity for me to leave on a high note. It's the 20th anniversary, with an all-British shortlist and all six authors will be present at the ceremony.'

As Others See Us III. News of the Trek Passions on-line dating service aroused inevitable mirth and rhetoric of great originality, for example at Popwatch: 'I'd always assumed Star Trek fans reproduced asexually, like tribbles, but apparently they find love the way the rest of us do: on the Internet. If you like candlelit dinners, moonlight strolls, and debating whether or not Farscape was a better show than Babylon 5, then Trek Passions is the personals site for you.'

Fay Wray of King Kong fame is to appear on a Canadian stamp, part of a 26 May set whose theme is Canadians in Hollywood.


SF Hall of Fame. To be inducted (as they call it) in June 2006: Frank Kelly Freas, Frank Herbert, George Lucas, and Anne McCaffrey.

Thog's Masterclass.

  • Dept of Heat Quanta. '... The temperature in the oval control chamber started to climb rapidly, at first half a degree at a time, then in jumps of five and ten degrees ...' (Con Steffanson [Ron Goulart], The Lion Men of Mongo, 1974)
  • Dept of Persistent Engrams. 'Doug fought the memory. It had happened before he'd been born.' (Ben Bova, Moonwar, 1997)
  • Arcane Similarity Dept. 'Daren was as randy as Kero was discreet. ... We're too much alike.' (Mercedes Lackey, By the Sword, 1991)

'And now that you have surveyed the futuristic wonders of April 2006,' said our all-wise editrix and mentrix, 'it is time for you to enter Cold Sleep once more.' 'Oh, all right,' yawned Runcible, wondering what even more bizarrely transformed world would provide the backdrop to its next awakening....

Epilogue. Runcible woke --


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 (and now shortlisted for the 2006 Best Related Book Hugo); 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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