|SFX magazine column by David Langford: issue #72, Christmas 2000|
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Another year ends. What awaits in 2001? Like all the best psychics, the Langford Nostradamic Algorithmic Predictometer infallibly churns out any old rubbish in the confident belief that no one ever bothers to check whether the prophecies worked out.
Storms. Arthur C. Clarke announces that improved computer calculations show the true millennium doesn't begin until 1 January 2002, which coincidentally is publication day for his major SF blockbuster titled 2002: The Really, Really, Utterly Final Odyssey, And I Mean It This Time. Stephen Baxter is already writing it.
Blizzards. Tentacled, ichorous aliens from planet Tharg descend in their mighty disc ships and abduct the Millennium Dome. The panic-stricken British public sends frantic radio messages begging them to relent, come back, and take our Prime Minister and Cabinet as well.
Tornadoes. Countless newly floated e-publishing outfits offer SF and fantasy authors amazing opportunities, as summed up in market leader e-Blag's simple, no-nonsense royalty deal: "Give us all your money and we'll put your book on our website." Stephen King announces his latest on-line novel The Plinth, available for completely free download with payment on the honour system.
Hailstorms. 5,271,009 Stephen King fans download The Plinth, which proves to consist of abandoned first drafts, badly rhyming limericks and the author's collected shopping lists. Only five readers send in the requested $10 fee. US newspapers report terrible nightmares and agonizing stabbing pains suffered by an estimated 5,271,004 Stephen King fans.
Cloudbursts. The "King Plinth Plague Mystery" continues as a worldwide media sensation. Iain M. Banks reaches the very last page in that famous notebook of silly spaceship names, and announces his retirement after one final Culture novel set on the Amnesia-class General Systems Vehicle flagship It's On The Tip Of My Tongue But I Can't Quite Remember The Name, Be Forgetting My Own Mind Next, Ha Ha.
Solar flares. Stephen King announces that all fans who downloaded The Plinth have now repented and paid up, apart from a few thousand unfortunate fatalities. Next year, he reveals, he's launching his nonfiction handbook How Voodoo Can Help You Make Money On-Line. Its pre-released cover picture shows King wearing a huge smile as he vigorously sticks pins into a list of e-mail addresses.
Heatwave. Church of England disestablished and replaced by First Universal Church of Harry Potter under Popess J.K. Rowling.
Drought. Terry Pratchett PLC announces purchase of abandoned Millennium Dome site as location for Rincewindland, an exciting Discworld theme park where punters will pay large sums to flee in terror from a variety of state-of-the-art audio-animatronic fantasy monsters with enormous teeth. Apparently it's based on Pratchett's experience with the Inland Revenue.
Floods. Paedophile-hunting tabloid newspapers are tipped off to the existence of such obviously suspect SF stories as Piers Anthony's Dragon on a Pedestal, Ray Bradbury's "The Pedestrian", Fritz Leiber's "X Marks the Pedwalk", Anne McCaffrey's "Pedigreed Stallion", and Robert Silverberg's "The Pain Peddlers". As a result, names and addresses of all known British SF fans appear in the News of the World under the concerned headline STRING UP THESE FILTHY CHILD MOLESTERS!
Massive meteor strikes. Authors of SF meteor-impact novels (Benford, Clarke, Harrison, Niven, Pournelle, etc.) interrogated by police about resulting destruction of News of the World head office. Discworld theme park plans abandoned as offering an insufficiently huge tax loss: Dome site now acquired by Publishers' Association as the setting for Remainderworld, a terrifying spectacle where every day millions of defenceless books are dumped, shredded, pulped, converted to landfill, and other awful fates worthy of the London Dungeon. Early reviews of this attraction: "Ghastly beyond belief!" – Society of Authors. "The first horror theme park that I don't dare visit!" – Stephen King.
Nuclear holocaust. No mention of multi-megaton detonations or vaporized cities on front pages of British tabloids, which have dug up another red-hot old story about Princess Diana and have no room for trivia. Surrounded by adoring worshippers, Robert Rankin ascends bodily into Heaven, which proves to be an exact copy of Brentford but without the pubs.
Galaxy-wrecking supernova explosion and scattered showers. Popess Rowling denounces the Christmas industry for blaspheming against the First Universal Church of Harry Potter by not being commercial enough. Publishing business collapses, stock market crashes, government falls, world ends. Xmas partygoers too hungover to notice.
David Langford believes every word of the above, though not necessarily in that order.
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