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Ansible 185½, Xmas 2002

Cartoon: Ian Gunn

From Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU. ISSN 0265-9816. E-mail Website at Logo: Dan Steffan. Cartoon: Ian Gunn. Good Sports: Sir Arthur C.Clarke, Neil Gaiman, China Miéville.

A Year of Thog: 2002

As always, the most distressingly popular department of Ansible was the regular Thog's Masterclass slot, a showcase for genre and sometimes even non-genre prose best classed as 'differently good'. Thus:

January. 'The first smart rock overloaded the Phinon's shields and it collapsed to nothing but a smile of satisfaction on Rick's face.' (Jeffery D.Kooistra, Dykstra's War, 2000)
• 'This wasn't like him. But he had just vanquished an alien race single-handedly. It was natural he'd be different after that.' '"I'm going to remove the skull so I can watch what happens in the brain when I make you my mate," he said. "No one has ever determined if there is any actual physical response in the brain."' (Rodman Philbrick & Lynn Harnett, Abduction, 1998) [FR]

February. 'Somehow, the mackerel paté of memory had escaped its wrapper, skipped its kitchen dish, and turned into a flickering silver shoal, darting and twisting in terror against an empty darkness.' ('Gabriel King', The Wild Road, 1997) [BA]
Dept of Climbing Plants. 'There were clumps of forest filled with strange, intertwined trees and brachiating fungi.' (Alan Dean Foster, Star Wars: The Approaching Storm, 2002)

March. Dept of History. 'The remains gave off a strong earth smell. It suggested great age, century piled upon century in which this jumble of now articulated bones had lain forgotten in the volcanic silt of John Day Canyon. They had been ancient already when Christ reportedly spun fishes and loaves from thin air. Older still when Moses allegedly parted the Red Sea.' (Kirk Mitchell, Ancient Ones, 2001) [NR]
Dept of Simile. 'He sounded like a dead child discovering that eternity is some buzzing, languorous dream of Bath.' (M.John Harrison, 'Running Down', 1975) [BA]
Dept of Strange Endowments. 'Her slender chest rose and fell gently and slowly with her sleeping inhalations, her small breasts and rather larger nipples outdenting the flimsy fabric of her ragged tunic ...' (Fritz Leiber, The Knight and Knave of Swords, 1988) [BA]

April. 'The zeppelin of bluster Feldman excoriated Freddy with suddenly popped into a cloud of humility.' (David Grand, The Disappearing Body, 2002) [MMW]
• 'Schofield and Logan fought hard, covered in red emergency lighting.' (Matthew Reilly, Area 7, 2001) [MR]
Dept of Posh Talk. 'He abluted, accoutred, ate and arrived downstairs in the communal vestibule in good time to be picked up by Hans.' (James Lovegrove, 'Piecework' in Hideous Progeny, 1999). [SHS]

May. Highbrow Dept. 'Nordon dug out the ship's plans and located the approximate position from Jimmy's report. Then he whistled softly and his eyebrows climbed towards the ceiling.' (Arthur C.Clarke, The Sands of Mars, 1951) [RG]
One-Eyed Trouser Snake Dept. 'Poring over the curves of her breasts and hips, Patrick's erection pulsed wildly.'
• 'And then there was the old man she'd met that afternoon. He'd behaved as if a wolverine were in his drawers when she'd mentioned Chris.' (both Thomas Staab, Heart of Ice, Blood of Fire, 2000) [PB]
• 'He was not as old in appearance as his age might have made him appear.' (Gordon R.Dickson, Soldier, Ask Not, 1967) [ASR]

June. Litcrit Dept. 'In these stories of madness and shivered reality, frissons are the body language of the day.' (Edward Bryant, Locus, May 2002) [MMW]
Dept of Introspection. '"Impossible to see, the future is," the small Jedi Master replied, his great orbs still looking inward.' (R.A.Salvatore, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, 2002) It is suspected that Yoda is here trying to read his own mind.
Dept of Eyeballs in the Sky. 'Marley's great, popping black eyes bounced around the room, looking for any sign of retreat from any of the guests.' (James L.Swanson, The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, 2001) [DH]
Dept of Theology. 'Remember the first commandment? Thou shalt not kill?' (Jack Ketchum, Right to Life, 2002) [PB]
Dept of Morbid Physiology. 'His sweat was cold and clammy now, and even his anus squeezed open and shut.' (Nick Mamatas, Northern Gothic, 2001) [PB]

July. 'Her brother's twitching eyes and bared buck teeth gave him the look of a gopher on pure crystal meth, capable of anything, one way or the other.' (S.M.Stirling, Island in the Sea of Time, 1998) [O]
• 'When he spoke again he could barely suppress a yodel of irritation.' (Ian McEwan, The Innocent, 1990) [PB]
Dept of Logic, Pure: 'After all, Roamers had disproved the impossible time and again.' Applied: 'In the vacuum of space no one could see beautiful lines or shiny hulls anyway.' (both Kevin J.Anderson, Hidden Empire, 2002)

August. Dept of True Romance, or Smoking In Bed. 'Tita timidly touched the hard muscles on Pedro's arms and chest; lower down, she felt a red-hot coal that throbbed through his clothes.' (Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate, 1992) [MMW]
Purple Prose of Cairo Dept. 'Yes. Unable to press her tongue against the word, Briony could only nod, and felt as she did so a sulky thrill of self-annihilating compliance spreading across her skin, ballooning outwards from it, darkening the room in throbs.' (Ian McEwan, Atonement, 2001) [LS]

September. Dept of Hugo Winners. 'Mr Ibis said nothing, but he smirked loudly.' (Neil Gaiman, American Gods, 2001) [RB]
Neat Tricks Dept: 'He held his left hand out in front of his face; palm down and with his index finger raised six inches above his hand.' (Nigel Atkinson, 'An Exhalation of Butterflies', Interzone, May 2002) [SL]
Dept of Optimistic Pessimism. 'Piles of floppyscreens lay scattered in the corner next to a couple of empty wine glasses that were half full.' (Paul Ebbs, Dr Who: The Book of the Still, 2002) [LC]

October. Detached Viewpoint Dept. 'Isaac threw up his face and swung it around him, desperately searching for light.' (China Miéville, Perdido Street Station, 2000) [JK]
Long Division Dept. 'The moment you draw a circle, pi exists. Yet it's entirely irrational. There's no rational answer to the sum "twenty-two over seven". You can divide twenty-two by seven for ever but you never get a real definite answer.' (Ian Watson, Alien Embassy, 1977) [HW]
Golden Flow of Rhetoric Dept. 'Other-ness plays the same part in urinating as in producing poetry.' (Colin Wilson, The Philosopher's Stone, 1969) [LP]
Eyeballs Dept. 'Her wide, dark eyes crawled over me like spiders.' (Manly Wade Wellman, 'The Spring', 1979) [LP]
Dept of Pre-Emptive Threats. 'Captain, you will long have known that I consider Mote Prime the greatest threat to humanity since the Dinosaur Killer struck Earth sixty-five million years ago.' (Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, The Gripping Hand, 1993) [PB]

November. Dept of Eyeballs in the Sky. '"Seigneur, I have invented forty new dishes for to-night's banquet," Francois said pathetically, his eyes creeping out until they hung on the rims of their sockets like desperate people wavering on the edges of precipices.' (George Viereck & Paul Eldridge, Salome The Wandering Jewess, 1930) [BA]
Neat Tricks Dept. 'They don't kill any of them but the women are – how you say – mutilated. Same way. And beheaded.' (Charlee Jacob, 'Bonerider', in Decadence ed Monica J. O'Rourke, 2002)
• 'Mark pulled Anna's blue bikini top off her shoulders and slid them down to her waist.' (Nicholas Kaufmann, 'V.I.P. Room', ibid) [PB]

December. Sensitive Mainstream Dept. '[They] walked off in separate directions through the chaparral to stand spraddlelegged clutching their knees and vomiting. The browsing horses jerked their heads up. It was no sound they'd ever heard before. In the gray twilight those retchings seemed to echo like the calls of some rude provisional species loosed upon that waste. Something imperfect and malformed lodged in the heart of being. A thing smirking deep in the eyes of grace itself like a gorgon in an autumn pool.' (Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses, 1992) [PB]
Neat Tricks Dept.
• 'He started pushing her buttocks up until they had almost disconnected.' (Nancy Taylor Rosenberg, Interest of Justice, 1993) [PB]
• 'His nose wrinkled at the smell of blood and sought permission to cover the body with a sheet.' (Peter Tremayne, 'Methought You Saw A Serpent', in Shakespearean Detectives ed. Mike Ashley, 1998) [EO]

Ansible 185½ Copyright © Dave Langford, 2002. All thanks to Thog's dedicated researchers: Brian Ameringen, Paul Barnett, Ruth Bygrave, Lawrence Conquest, Rupert Goodwins, Don Herron, Jerry Kaufman, Stewart Lloyd, Karl-Johan Norén, Emmet O'Brien, Omega, Lawrence Person, Alter S.Reiss, Nonie Rider, Franz Rottensteiner, Marcus Rowland, Steven H Silver, Lucy Sussex, Hilary Wade, and Martin Morse Wooster. Christmas 2002.