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My favourite 'Ansible' alternative suggested by the better class of spell-checkers continues to be 'Runcible'. After the first 5,271,009 hilariously original reports, I do not wish to hear any more about 'Unusable'.

Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002), Sweden's best-loved writer of children's fiction and fantasy, died on 28 January aged 94. Landmark titles included Pippi Longstocking (1945) and its sequels, with their controversially nonconformist young heroine, and such high fantasies as The Brothers Lionheart (1973). Lindgren was the most widely translated and read Swedish author of the 20th century; for the Swedes, this is comparable to losing Tolkien.

Philip Pullman won the 25,000 Whitbread Book of the Year prize on 22 January for The Amber Spyglass—the first 'children's' book to bag this major UK award. Reportedly the judges took just two minutes to pick the 'overwhelming' winner: 'We did worry about giving such a literary prize to a children's book, but then we thought of C.S. Lewis and that was that,' said the chairman. There'd been heavy betting on Spyglass for the Whitbread despite its failure to make the Booker Prize shortlist; the bookies William Hill had nervously stopped accepting bets on the 18th.

Terry Pratchett adds his own footnote: 'Have you noticed that Mr Pullman—a nice chap, by the way—has certainly grasped one requisite for being a successful fantasy writer? He says he doesn't write fantasy, but "stark realism".'

Andromeda Bookshop in Birmingham, Britain's highest-profile sf specialist outlet, is to close after more than 30 years. There are rumours of sinister pressure from site owners wanting a quick sale for redevelopment. All sympathy to Rog Peyton, Andromeda's founder and owner, who's been a centre of good cheer at UK convention dealers' rooms and bars for longer than I can remember.

Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Maths (Three Orders Of Magnitude subdivision). 'A man could be made to slash his throat in a quarter of a minute. An exec, killing, killing, killing without pause, could destroy his own two million enemies in an eight-hour day.' (Frederik Pohl, A Plague of Pythons, 1965 … revised, to be fair, as 'could destroy a thousand enemies in a day' for the 1984 reissue)


David Langford is a writer, editor, physicist, bon vivant, and software consultant. His monthly SF 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.

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