Wrong Notes

David Lang­ford de­spairs for hu­man­ity. He re­ally does

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Opinion -

Our lo­cal char­ity shop is closing down, and I res­cued a few ref­er­ence books from obliv­ion. Cham­bers Bi­o­graph­i­cal Dic­tio­nary is bound to come in handy some day… “Are you look­ing for your own name in there?” my wife asked. “No, no,” I lied, quickly pag­ing on to Ur­sula Le Guin, whose en­try men­tions the Earth Sea ( not Earth­sea) tril­ogy and morphs Planet Of Ex­ile into Plant Of Ex­ile. I re­mem­bered the bit in one of Robert Heinlein’s SF nov­els where the young hero is shocked, shocked when his fa­ther scrib­bles cor­rec­tions in a text­book.

You don’t ex­pect text­book stan­dards from news­pa­pers, not now they’ve fired all the re­searchers and fact- check­ers. A re­cent In­de­pen­dent snip­pet broke the news that Morten Tyl­dum is to di­rect the film Pat­tern Recog­ni­tion, “Based on the novel Neu­ro­mancer by Wil­liam Gibson…” For­tu­nately san­ity re­turned when the fol­low­ing Ex_ Machina thumb­nail syn­op­sis was of Gibson’s novel Pat­tern Recog­ni­tion. The Indy obit­u­ary for BBC pro­ducer/ direc­tor Michael Hayes cred­its him with early Doc­tor Who sto­ries and, be­fore that, the 1961 SF clas­sic AFor An­dromeda – or as the head­line put it, “the sci- fi se­ries ‘ The An­dromeda Strain’”. Duh.

An­other Gibson namecheck from a Sun­day Her­ald piece on the Glas­gow Science Fes­ti­val: “The whole ba­sis of the in­ter­net was fa­mously in­spired by Wil­liam Gibson’s book Neu­ro­mancer and Isaac Asimov, who re­cently died, ‘ in­vented’ earth- or­bit­ing satel­lites in one of his tales.” Poor old Arthur C Clarke, al­ready forgotten.

The BBC web­site ran a story about that mas­sive flop John Carter, “based on the books of Co­nan The Barbarian au­thor Edgar Rice Bur­roughs”. Af­ter the first 5,271,009 com­plaints, Co­nan mag­i­cally be­came Tarzan. Our most re­li­able sources of SF/ fan­tasy dis­in­for­ma­tion are quiz shows, not cov­ered here ( with a nod to Pri­vate Eye’s “Dumb Bri­tain”) for over 50 is­sues. Put on your tin­foil- lined think­ing caps…

The Chase: “In what novel by HG Wells does an in­ven­tor travel into the fu­ture?” Con­tes­tant: “Great Ex­pec­ta­tions.”

Cash Cab: “What plant is said to de­ter vam­pires?” Con­tes­tant ( af­ter a long pause): “Well, I was gonna say gar­lic but that’s not a plant, is it?” Host: “You’ve just won ten pounds!”

The Weak­est Link: “In as­tron­omy, a nu­cleus, a coma and a tail are all parts of which ce­les­tial body?” Con­tes­tant: “A horse.”

The Chase: “Which Irvine Welsh novel fea­tures a mono­logue by a tape­worm?” Con­tes­tant: “Wuther­ing Heights.” David Lang­ford is not the an­swer – he’s part of the prob­lem.

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