THE SEX COLUMN
by David Langford
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
As the back of The SEX Column points out, David Langford has "the largest arsenal of [Hugos] outside California and the second largest in the world." Although The SEX Column may add to his total, the columns which are reprinted within this volume are not, in theory, among those he has won a Hugo for. Instead, this collection includes the columns Langford published in SFX magazine from 1995 through 2005.
Langford's columns cover a wide range of topics in science fiction, from the film and fandom to literature and conventions. The columns show a man who is well versed in the modern science fiction culture, across all sub-genres and media. The columns are short, often witty, and capture the state of science fiction during the ten years they cover. In fact, the first column included, "The Book on the Edge of Forever," hearkens back to the 1970s in its coverage of Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions series and Christopher Priest's examination of the history of the final volume in the series, The Book on the Edge of Forever.
While Langford's fanzine, Ansible, allows him only enough space to note the passing of various authors on those sad occasions when they leave us, in his column from SFX, Langford is able to discuss the meaning of the author's life and work, as well as tell personal stories of the author, such as he did in the June 2000 column about John Sladek.
As Langford himself points out in his introductory essay, at times he recycles himself in these columns. While it would not be noticeable as the columns were originally published over a ten year span, when collected into book form, they become much more noticeable, especially if a reader is jumping around through the book reading essays on related topics.
Given the length of each of the individual essays, Langford manages to go into a tremendous depth into his chosen topics. The essays can be read quickly, sometimes it seems to quickly, but also leave the reader with a feeling of much greater knowledge than before the essay was read.
Overall, The SEX Column provides a good introduction to both science fiction at the turn of the millennium and the writing of David Langford. Although these essays are not fannish writing, they are indicative of Langford's style and it is quite possible that many who vote in the Hugos think of these essays when filling out their ballots.
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