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Sunday 2 November 2008

John Brunner

I met British SF great John Brunner in his later years - liked him, but could understand his reputation for a certain spikiness and hauteur. He'd come up to Preston to address our local SF group and when the pub closed we all went back to Bryan Talbot's house, where John was staying.

I was going through an album yesterday and came across a small printed card that he gave me that night. I'm guessing that he carried them and handed them out as a kind of credo. It was signed at the bottom, with a small CND symbol appended. I kept it with the signed pictures of TV stars I collected as a kid.

It's titled What We Have Here. The graffito is quoting, I believe, from Cool Hand Luke, released the previous year.

"What we have here is a failure to communicate" - Graffito in hallway of slum apartment building, Lower East Side, New York, 1968

When those creatures who had men for ancestors
Set off in the ember glow of the dying galaxy
In search of fellow-mourners for its funeral
They came very shortly to Arcturus
And there found bones in heaps around machines
Which had been listening to the sky a million years

And likewise found at Regulus and Rigel
And Deneb and Polaris and Denebola
And Canopus and Capella and Achernar
And sixty systems in the Magellanic Clouds
- piled-up bones -
and electronic ears
Listening and listening
while no one spoke

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