Neil Gaiman's Doctor Who episode 'A Nightmare in Silver' (11 May) includes a dialogue homage to Ursula Le Guin, or perhaps Orson Scott Card.... About nine minutes in, a character is heard to say: 'It can't be broken – it's a solid state ansible-class communicator!' [NG]
Jack Vance (1916-2013), US author who was deservedly one of the revered Great Old Ones of sf, died on 26 May at the ripe age of 96. His long career began with 'The World-Thinker' (Thrilling Wonder Stories 1945); The Dying Earth (1950) presented a haunting and hugely influential far-future milieu where the distinction between science and magic is long forgotten; Big Planet (1952) is a paradigm of what the SF Encyclopedia calls Planetary Romance; fascination with anthropological and sociological aspects of sf gave a special illumination to space-operatic revenge drama in the 1964-1981 Demon Princes quintet, and to coming-of-age rebellion in The Blue World (1966), Emphyrio (1969) and The Anome (1973). Vance's ironic prose and lovingly colourful choice of words remained highly effective in such later, longer series as the Lyonesse (fantasy) and Cadwal (sf) trilogies that appeared from 1983 to 1992; Night Lamp (1996) is a late sf work of considerable power. Shorter fiction won him two Hugos and a Nebula; a third Hugo went to his 2009 autobiography This is Me, Jack Vance! For life achievement Vance received the World Fantasy Award in 1984, the SFWA Grand Master Award in 1997, and SF Hall of Fame induction in 2001. Few sf authors have had a British Library volume devoted to them: Jack Vance: Critical Appreciations and a Bibliography ed. A.E.Cunningham (to which I was proud to contribute). Jack Vance had a good long run, but we still wish it had been longer.