Every issue, the infallible SFXperts answer your SF and fantasy queries: "I read this book once that had Martian tripods attacking London with heat rays, but in the end they all died of measles. What was it?" Langford replies: "You've remembered several details wrong, but it's obviously Aldous Huxley's 1984. Not a lot of people know that this author also founded Scientology." Now, to complement the SFXperts, here's a trial run of the SFX personal advice column in which genre notables solve problems posted to our on-line forum.
"I'm suffering badly from Hogwarts. Is this one of the known symptoms of Swine 'Flu?" – Voldemort13.
Our star panellist J K Rowling's lawyers sent an exclusive response which, after translating legal terms like Avada Kedavra, seems to mean: "That's not funny."
"Our little kid gets bullied a lot at school. Any tips?" – WorriedDad.
Isaac Asimov writes: "A child must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law." Jerry Pournelle clarifies: "Nuke 'em till they glow, then shoot 'em in the dark." Ripley agrees: "Nuke the entire school from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."
"I am a lonely teenager looking for a serious relationship. How should I start?" – PimpleGirl.
Charlaine Harris says: "Vampire sex! Lots of sex with a really hunky vampire is the way to go!" Stephenie Meyer: "But not, of course, until the fourth volume and after the wedding. That's very important." Charlaine Harris: "Doing it several times in book one works for me." Anne McCaffrey: "Wouldn't it be so much nicer if you teamed up with a telepathic, teleporting dragon? You'd be the envy of your friends and save on bus fares. If your house doesn't have a 200-foot nesting chamber or you belong to the lower orders, why not adopt a cute fire lizard instead?"
"What's a good name for a fire lizard or similar pet?" – AnonymousUser37.
Iain M Banks writes: "Some particular favourite names for my cats (or General Feline Vehicles as I call them) are Barbed and Wickedly Ambivalent Phrase, I Love the Smell of Royalties in the Morning, and No, Mr Bond, I Expect You To Die."
"Our floor is full of tiny holes and makes a ticking noise. We think it may be death-watch beetle. What to do?" – HouseProud.
Gandalf the Grey investigated your problem: "Far, far below the deepest delving of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Rentokil knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day." That should sort you out! Ripley adds ... but we've heard her advice already.
"Another Monday morning, another terrible hangover. Any tips?" – MegaBinger.
Count Dracula knows the answer: "I never drink ... wine." H P Lovecraft suggests removing the afflicted brain and sealing it in a shiny metal cylinder as in his story "The Whisperer in Darkness"; but this old-fashioned cure doesn't agree with everyone.
"I am about to qualify as a chartered accountant. What is my best career plan?" – YoungFogey.
Conan the Barbarian reckons this is an easy one: "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women."
"A real literary question for a change. What's the first thing said by Frankenstein's monster? I think it's 'Arrgh! Kill!' but my friend Tracy says it's 'Gaaah! Maim!'" – SlowReader.
Luckily, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley just joined the panel: "Pardon this intrusion." Absolutely fine, Mary, you're not intruding at all. "That was the answer, you idiot." And so it is.
"I think I must be gay and am wondering about coming out of the closet. Can you advise?" – ConfusedTeen.
Here to help you is popular spiritual mentor C S Lewis: "Be very careful, lad! If you come out of the wardrobe for even a few moments you may find that many long centuries have passed while you were away from Narnia." Baron Vladimir Harkonnen also made a suggestion, but when the rest of the panel had recovered from uncontrollable nausea we decided not to print it.
"What is the ultimate answer to Life, the Universe and Everything?" – HitcherFan42.
Now there's a tough one! Space is running out: HAL 9000 will compute the answer next issue.
David Langford posted several plaintive queries about the pod bay door but was only told, "I can't do that, Dave."