The Agony Aunts

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."