Friday, November 30, 2007

Another Scientist with a Mythic Imagination

Henry Gee is an editor at the science journal Nature and is now also editor of the Tolkien Society journal Mallorn. He is the author of Jacob's Ladder: the History of the Human Genome (2004), In Search of Deep Time (1999), A Field Guide to Dinosaurs (2003), The Science of Middle-Earth (2004), and a new book this month Futures from Nature (2007). I read his blog on the site occasionally, but this entry was really funny, in the middle of a commentary for the new Kindle ebook reader from

You’d think, that as an avid Tolkien fan I’d have a fine hardback three-volume edition of The Lord Of The Rings vacuum-packed in cellophane or stored in a vault in an argon atmosphere behind a 24-hour armed response unit. Not a bit of it. My copy of the timeless classic is a cheapo movie tie-in untimely ripped, much graffitoed with notes and marginalia, and stuffed with small pieces of paper (including a treasured admit-one pass for the party in LA hosted by to celebrate the Oscar-night sweep of The Return Of The King.) The book – now more like a mille-feuille pastry well past its sell-by date – is scuffed and multiply repaired with tape. When the time comes to recall my legacy, they shall call me ‘Spinebreaker’.

Hmmm. The previous sentence requires some more portentous capitalization and dramatic emphasis. They Shall Call Me … Spinebreaker. Actually, I quite like that. Henry Gee, Spinebreaker. When word got round that I was not only a Nature editor but the new editor of the Tolkien Society journal Mallorn, a colleague suggested that I should simply write, by way of manuscript rejection letters, something like this.

Dear Professor Trellis

Thank you for your manuscript entitled “On the positively negative interaction between one abbreviation and another abbreviation, conditional on the negatively double-negative interaction between a third abbreviation and one or other of the first two abbreviations”.

Please be aware that I am a Servant of the Secret Fire, Wielder of the Flame of Anor, and in that capacity I’m afraid to say that the Dark Fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun. I regret that your manuscript must go back to the Shadow. I am sorry to be the bearer of what must be disappointing news.


Dr Henry Gee

PS - You Shall Not Pass!

Oh, I wish. But back to the Kindle. Now, the demise of books and their replacement by e-readers has been heralded more often and with more vigour than the retirements of James D. Watson."

As you were. Oh, BTW, the new book is a collection of SF short stories published in Nature every week under the title: Futures. I'm an avid reader of these -- there is something rather satisfying after reading peer-reviewed science journal articles to finish each issue with a little science fiction, or excuse, me SPECULATIVE FICTION. For some reason, SF is out of vogue for some.

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