I'm writing in the final throes of SF Encyclopedia madness. The online "beta text" version should be well launched by the time this SFX sees print, but right now I have regular small-hours paranoia about the need to know – or pretend to know – absolutely everything about SF. Imaginary quizmasters haunt my nightmares.
Eva D Fanglord (looking horribly like Anne Robinson): Name an SF author who collaborated with himself.
Myself: Er um how about Lester del Rey? He gave his own pseudonym Erik van Lhin equal billing on his novel Police Your Planet. Not a lot of people wanted to know that.
Q: While we're on the subject, who wrote Siege Perilous by Lester del Rey?
A: I think that's a trick question. I think it was ghostwritten by Paul W Fairman.
Q: What do the first Terminator movie, AOL and the 2011 film In Time have in common? A short answer, please.
A: Harlan Ellison. He filed copyright lawsuits against them all.
Q: Lee Barton, Thornton Bell, Noel Bertram, Leo Brett, Bron Fane, Trebor Thorpe, Neil Thanet, Pel Torro ... which is the odd one out?
A: Um. They're all pseudonyms of Robert Lionel Fanthorpe made up from various letters from his name. Can I phone a friend? No, wait, there's no M in Fanthorpe! Noel Bertram wrote for the same publisher but was someone else.
Q: Indeed. Which SF god, featuring in many mighty space-oaths, has golden gills, gadolinium guts, iridium intestines, tungsten teeth and curving carballoy claws?
A: L Ron Hubbard. I take that back, it's Klono in Doc Smith's Lensman series. He had an emerald-filled gizzard too.
Q: I don't wish to know that ... Of which SF novel did the stern critic James Blish say that when it won a Nebula award, "I stepped quietly out into the kitchen and bit my cat"?
A: Easy-peasy. Samuel R Delany's The Einstein Intersection.
Q: Correct, but I'm deducting one point for smugness. Which famous SF author was deeply embarrassed to have written in a novel, "There are no mountains on Mars"?
A: Arthur C Clarke, in The Sands of Mars. I say this very humbly.
Q: Correct, but I'm deducting a point for grovelling. Your next question is on imaginary books: G K Chesterton's short story "The Blast of the Book" has one that apparently causes its readers to vanish from the earth, and Frederik Pohl's Gateway sequence has one about his inscrutable aliens called Everything We Know About the Heechee. What do they have in common?
A: Both of them are all blank pages.
Q. Which SF author was born Edward Hamilton Waldo but wrote his books under a more plausible name?
A: Kilgore Trout ... no no no, I mean Theodore Sturgeon.
Q. Anthony Boucher wrote three short fantasy stories titled for the demons who appear in them: Sribidegibit, Snulbug and Nellthu. What do they have in common?
A (polishing fingernails modestly): They're all dodgy words from the "Bad Quarto" edition of Shakespeare's King Lear.
Q: Lose five points for being too clever by half. And the last question, for £64,000 or a hot date with the Doctor Who companion of your choice: What are the sinister walking, stinging vegetables that overrun Britain in John Wyndham's classic disaster novel The Day of the --?
A: Tribbles! Oh, hang on, was it Tripods? Trillions? Er, I need to phone a friend ...
Q: David Langford, You Are The Weakest Link.
Then I wake up screaming.
David Langford hopes it's now all working at www.sf-encyclopedia.com.