Cloud Chamber 152
January 2005

Altogether too much work on hand, I fear. So I'm cheating by including a mass of material from our very splendid correspondents. Hence the ...

Letter Column

Yvonne Rousseau went to the cinema: 'While in Melbourne, I sneaked off alone to watch Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events at a Russell Street Greater Union cinema (Bruce Gillespie had already seen it at a Westgarth cinema). Bruce was disappointed – partly that Count Olaf wasn't portrayed in a stiff-upper-lip understated Eton-trained way. I was disappointed that the whole thing didn't meld. • The film was meant to cover the first three books (The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window). This gave Meryl Streep and the wardrobe mistress the opportunity to present Edwardian Aunt Josephine in splendid Edward-Gorey style (during the credits, which I alone in the cinema remained watching to the end, there was also something slightly Gorey in the black-and-white animated cartoons of the Baudelaire orphans and Count Olaf – prey and predator aboard pogo sticks, unicycles, hot-air balloons, sailing vessels and such). However, the order of events was altered so that the unsuccessful theatrical marriage between Violet and Count Olaf occurred at the end of the film – after the adventures with Uncle Monty and Aunt Josephine. Thus, even if Billy Connolly had seemed anything like a libertarian like-minded tremendously amiable Uncle Monty, he and his coconut cream cake (present, but ineffectual) were not made resplendent by adequate amounts of preceding horror. • Worst, however, was the fact that the Lemony-Snicket commentary functioned to make the Baudelaire Orphans appear like docile puppets. At the beginning, the audience was presented with the opening credits for a horribly winsome "Littlest Elf" movie, with shrill singing and grinning and dancing in the Disneyesque forest – whereupon the Lemony-Snicket commentary warned us that this was not the movie we were about to see, and that there was still time to leave our seats and move to one of the other cinemas in the complex for something more upbeat. However, the Lemony-Snicket descriptions of the Orphans' talents, and of the problems they had to solve, made them seem to be following a pre-ordained script (and we know that can't be right) instead of responding with initiative, originality and bravery to imminent and possibly insuperable perils. On the other hand – Sunny (played, so far as I could judge from the credits, by a couple of siblings) was a lot better than I could have imagined.'

Tanaqui Weaver's stylistic sensibilities were affronted by Stephen Donaldson's The Runes of the Earth:

Mailing 135, November 2004

Steve J. I have to agree about the eerie sparseness of Novacon. No actual complaints, but I found myself all itchy-footed by Saturday afternoon, and quietly made off – as noted in CC151.

Chris H. The Reading Friar Street Bookshop's upstairs sf section does seem to emphasize manga and toys rather more than used to be the case. I must confess that when buying graphic novels I try to support the more wholeheartedly comics-oriented Escape Bookshop in Cheapside, not far from the main entrance of the Broad Street Mall (or, as many Reading dwellers still call it, the Butts Centre). Indeed I've acquired a few things there that still haven't had a CC mention: Alan Moore's Smax, a comic-fantasy spinoff from the comic-sf police procedurals of Top 10, and somewhat less densely, innnovatively funny – though there are nice bits like the Astral Plane sequence whose flight attendant goes through a series of very familiar gestures, explaining that in the event of emergency these will ward off nether-demons. Three volumes of Warren Ellis's The Authority, in which a more than usually eccentric superhero team fights off world-threatening silliness like a serious attempt at unterraforming Earth to restore its prior function of retirement home for a colossal, pyramidal, alien God. Two books of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, heavily recommended to me by Rob Hansen while it was first appearing around 1989-1990, and reissued in graphic novel form last year. This is full of enjoyably outrageous steals, like the invented city Orqwith which threatens to subsume our base reality as in Borges's 'Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius', and contains a splendid supervillain speech when the leader of the Brotherhood of Evil addresses his henchfolk – 'My dear ludicrous friends, standing there like lost property no one wants to claim, with stupid names and even more stupid costumes' – before rebranding as the Brotherhood of Dada to deploy a Magrittesque doomsday canvas which literally fulfils the promise of the collection title The Painting That Ate Paris. In other words, this man was deeply weird even before The Invisibles. But for Neil Gaiman's 1602, I had to go to Waterstone's.

Penny. Sorcery & Cecelia has been a favourite here since acquired in 1998, before it grew a subtitle.

KVB. Farewell, alas. [K.V. Bailey's death was reported in Ansible 210 and its later supplement. He was a stalwart of Acnestis.] • [16-1-05]