ME AND THOG: Dave Langford

Our esteemed Bursar asked me to explain Ansible and its 'Thog's Masterclass' department. At once I riposted "Er... um... oh, all right." Ansible is my SF newsletter and gossip sheet, which has been compared to Private Eye without the reverent good taste. The easiest way to get it is via the Web at Alternatively, you can receive the current issue by sending an SAE to:

Dave Langford
94 London Road

Now, Thog the Mighty is Ansible's resident barbarian, who in 'Thog's Masterclass' selects those gems of SF/fantasy prose which are best appreciated with a morningstar. Here are some favourites from his extensive files.

 Brian Aldiss demonstrates his knowledge of geography in Remembrance Day: "She wore large bronze earrings made in an obscure country which rattled when she laughed."

Isaac Asimov records an odd throat problem in Prelude to Foundation: "His mouth, for a moment, ran liquid and then it slid, almost of its own accord, down his throat."

A.A.Attanasio's The Dark Shore has tips on post-mortem deodorant use: "Since she has died, her fragrance is everywhere." And also on timekeeping: "Less than a day remained before dawn..."

Stephen Baxter reveals a daring combat technique in 'The Star Beast': "He closed with Arabs whose breath stank of spices and who fought with knives clutched in their teeth."

David Gerrold's 'Chess with a Dragon' shows how to do metaphor: "The argument was a peripatetic orang-utan, bouncing off the walls of their separate frustrations like a ping-pong ball in a wind tunnel."

Robert Heinlein's female narrator sensitively describes a kiss in The Number of the Beast: 'Our teeth grated, and my nipples went spung!'

Robert Holdstock combines horror with fruit salad in The Stalking: "His head suddenly began to peel, the flesh tearing away from the bone in ragged strips, like a pink banana."

Kim Stanley Robinson finds a new simile for a space elevator in Green Mars: 'Just to the south of them, the new Socket was like a titanic concrete bunker, the new elevator cable rising out of it like an elevator cable...'

Patrick Tilley's The Amtrak Wars offers a lesson in anatomy: 'He covered his face and pressed his fingertips against his closed eyes in a vain effort to wipe the blood-stained images from his retinas. His fingers could not reach deep enough.'

And Connie Willis describes her versatile heroine in Doomsday Book: 'She knew how to embroider and milk a cow.'

What's that question I hear from the audience? Does Terry Pratchett ever appear in the Masterclass? Well, eagle-eyed critics on found this subtle specimen from Lords and Ladies: 'The bat burped. Granny genteelly covered her hand with her mouth.'

Ouch! Oh - sorry Terry, I didn't see you there....

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May 1998