Cloud Chamber 140
May 2003

Although I don't remember indulging in any particularly hideous excesses, the Eastercon left me drained and lethargic for quite some while. Well, whoopee to the BSFA award – not to mention a Seiun Award nomination for the Japanese version of 'Different Kinds of Darkness' (no doubt it gained in the translation). Then came the first nervously awaited review of Up Through an Empty House of Stars, by Adam Roberts in The Alien Online, which is substantial, detailed, and much more generous than I'd dared to hope for. Meanwhile ...

Paul Barnett sent the above to me and John Clute: 'I'm attaching a scan showing front and back of a 1971 novel of enormous social relevance in today's troubled times, Parley J. Cooper's The Feminists. It's obviously dismaying that all mention of this work was covertly excised from the SFE by the feminist Thought Police; of course, what else could you expect during the era of the despicable traitor Clinton, when vile liberals held sway and red-blooded American patriot males were forbidden to gun down the women of their choice. Doubtless the damage inflicted by these neo-communists can be repaired in the forthcoming revised edition. I hereby volunteer to read the book – assuming I can get this new yard-sale purchase out of the clutches of my giggling wife (who herself, as I have explained to her, should never have been given the vote) long enough to do so – and thereafter to write the entry for COOPER, PARLEY J.'

Random Reading

HugeSouthAmericanRiver: some books about which I'm saying my bit for the HSAR website. Lian Hern's Grass for his Pillow (2003), second of the 'Tales of the Otori' trilogy of medieval-Japanese fantasy, spurred me to prior research: buying and reading book one, the critically acclaimed Across the Nightingale Floor (2002). Very good, too. I like the way the fantasy talents are shaped by warrior legends, with mastery of stealthy movement extending to brief periods of literal invisibility, and dazzling speed becoming momentary bilocation. Also: David Gemmell, White Wolf; Greg Keyes, The Briar King; David Lawrence, Nothing Like the Night – a police procedural for a change, sequelling his first book The Dead Sit Round in a Ring and rather good though a little heavy on maggots, messy autopsies and mutilating serial killers for my personal taste; Chris Wooding, The Weavers of Saramyr – yet to be read, but I have high hopes after The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray and good reports of Poison. Even if he is now committing trilogy.

Lemony Snicket, The Hostile Hospital (2001), book 8 in the sequence, with some useful variation in formula and pace as our hapless kids – rather than starting again as usual with a new, differently unsatisfactory guardian – remain on the run after being framed for murder in The Vile Village. The author continues to intrude: 'An associate of mine named William Congreve once wrote a very sad play that begins with the line "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast," a sentence which here means that if you are nervous or upset, you might listen to some music to calm you down or cheer you up. For instance, as I crouch here behind the altar of the Cathedral of the Alleged Virgin, a friend of mine is playing a sonata on the pipe organ, to calm me down and so the sounds of my typewriter will not be heard by the worshipers sitting in the pews.' • Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men, another accomplished Discworld performance for (ostensibly) younger readers; by coincidence this covers some of the same territory – understanding and escaping the toils of a fairy queen – as Coraline, but the approach could hardly be more different.

Mailing 123, April 2003

Me. I suppose last issue's George Bush II quote about Mars was too good to be true; I'm told that it's also ascribed (in about 50% of Google references) to Dan Quayle. Thanks for this information to Henry Farrell, to whom I spluttered unconvincingly: 'Well, I for one have never seen Bush II and Quayle in the same room....' • Jae. I expect you'll have heard that Gollancz, delighted with Mike Harrison's Tiptree presentation at Seacon, invested in tiaras of their very own to honour Mike and BSFA-award-winning Chris Priest at the VG Spring Party on 24 April. Both, I hear, wore their headgear with pride and panache for the rest of the evening. I was feeling low that day and didn't make it, which was a pity because an Ansible spy (Paul Rood) informed me that Malcolm Edwards 'took the opportunity to congratulate Dave Langford for the 364 days that his Discworld quiz book, The Wyrdest Link had been in print, having omitted to mention its publication on the same day as the annual Gollancz party in 2002. • He was appropriately remorseful at the omission and hoped he had been able to redress the lapse.' A nice gesture, I declare. • Bruce G. What a booklist! I'm sending you a spare 1985 paperback of The Leaky Establishment, having had stocks of this ever since the Joy of Remaindering; they sold slowly for many years until I took them off the market when Big Engine's edition appeared. Wildside Press would like to reissue both Leaky and Maps, so both books should be back on sale before too long. If Wildside's offer for BE book assets is accepted by the Liquidator, it's even possible that the same digital typesetting could be used, which would save time all round. • Penny. Several familiar items on your reading list this time. After Neil Gaiman's remarkable The Books of Magic, I followed the sequels by other hands for three volumes – Bindings, Summonings and Reckonings – before losing track of the series. In Summonings (which you mention), it was disconcerting that a whole lump of back-story in which our hero apparently visited the 'Free Country' is important to a couple of characters' motivation but doesn't actually appear: an episode deemed not good enough to be collected in graphic novel form? Also I came across Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits in a second-hand bookshop mere days ago: nice script, but I wish it had been better drawn. • Maureen, Steve. My next Foundation assignment is Justina Robson's Natural History.... • Everyone Else. Apologies for this continuing run of overly slim Cloud Chambers. Must try harder. [13-5-03]