Cloud Chamber 127
March 2002

A hasty stopgap issue this month, alas. I've been in the throes of vast SFX assignments: reviewing (for the third time) their entire current small-press stack, and writing all too much of a special extra issue on space opera, or 'Deep Space SF' as they call it in the firm belief that the punters won't understand 'space opera'. Next, hefty essays for Richard Bleiler's updated Supernatural Fiction Writers, which should really be subtitled Including SF Writers Who Got Squeezed Out of the SF Volume ... such as, oh dearie me, Anne McCaffrey. The usual regular columns and reviews continue. Am not sleeping well.

Steve McThog. Robert Day passes on TLS gleanings from Christopher Sandford's biography of Steve McQueen ('published by HarperCollins, whose editors seem to have been all out of the building when this one went through.'): 'The two women were friendly, but not that civil.' Dept of Mathematical Logic: '... there was no end to their finite but expanding relationship ...' On McQueen's cremation: 'It was what [he] had wanted. He'd always hated fires.' And finally: 'Steve McQueen was dead. It was a strange enough ending for a life.'

Random Reading

Dorothy Sayers & Jill Paton Walsh, Thrones, Dominations (1998), that final Lord Peter Wimsey novel completed by Walsh from a smallish fragment that Sayers abandoned. It's not too bad, but seems thin and dilute compared to the rich dottiness of the later Wimsey canon. The central mystery is feeble and remarkably contrived, as is the prefiguring of some plot stuff about Victorian-era London sewers when Harriet Vane-that-was just happens to need this data for her current novel and consults the encyclopedic Wimsey – who disgorges a vast info-dump about relief sewers, the engineer Joseph Bazalgette and the Great Stink of 1858, without so much as glancing at a reference book. Yvonne Rousseau wrote in a 1998 letter: 'This is actually more enjoyable than might have been expected. But Harriet Vane and Lord Peter and Bunter have become vastly less complicated personalities – the detection is not convoluted – Honoria Lucasta, Dowager Duchess of Denver, lacks her former wide-ranging awareness and unerring precision....' Also, in a story set in 1936, I'm not sure that Wimsey's meticulous policeman brother-in-law Charles Parker would use such terms as 'GBH' (earliest OED citation 1958) or 'stroppy' (1950). • No time to go on about other reading.

Mailing 109, February 2002

Maureen. No, I don't recall being contacted for permission to use your Ansible 106 rant about the Highgate Vampire nutter. Tut. • Your mention of Colin Wilson reminds me to share (for those who don't read rec.arts.sf.fandom) Arthur Hlavaty's favourite quote from the Wilson history of science, Starseekers: 'Ironically, the Pythagorean ideas suffered their greatest blow through one of the master's most interesting discoveries – the so-called irrational numbers. The ratio of the diameter of a circle to its circumference is 3 1/7. But if you try to turn this into decimals, it is impossible; the decimal for one-seventh begins .142857, and then repeats itself an infinite number of times.' (The masters fall over they are in stitches.) • Benedict. Gene Wolfe's third Soldier book has been so long delayed that I've almost lost hope. • Andy. The lines you quote from Black Sabbath's 'Paranoid' (wholly new to me) reminded me of the 'Postscript' to Auden's The Sea and the Mirror, where Ariel sings to his dark twin Caliban: '... For my company be lonely, / For my health be ill: / I will sing if you will cry ...' • Damien. My Mum liked Gosford Park. I haven't actually been in a cinema since (entering embarrassed confession mode) the UK press showing of Dune in 1985. • Sorry this is so short! [14-3-02]