22 August 2007

Project Pope

What with one thing and another that's been happening recently, I haven't mentioned how enormously I'm looking forward (as usual) to this year's Greenbelt festival, or to encourage you to read my daily festival blogs when they appear on Surefish.

(If you don't know what I'm talking about, click here to check out my previous years' enthusings on the subject.)

In the meantime, also at Surefish, my column for this month has appeared (with some subtle editing by Andy to make my predictions about August's weather look less blitheringly idiotic). This one's artfully designed to look lazy and summery and as if it wasn't any work at all. In fact it took me nearly a day to put together... which hopefully won't be the case for the Greenbelt writeups, or I'll have nothing to write up.

As a special bonus feature (exclusive to this blog!) here are the five runners-up for that "Top 5 Science Fiction Popes" list:
6. Innocent XIV (Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling). After experimental rejuvenation treatment, Innocent pioneers the sacramental use of hallucinogens and becomes the figurehead for an artificially youthful global gerontocracy.
7. Hadrian XI ("The Futurological Congress" by Stanislaw Lem). This Hadrian is constantly beset by Catholics -- some armed with specialised "papalshooters" -- hoping to make a martyr of him.
8. Crocodylus I (Futurama by Matt Groening et al). The reptilian Space Pope is known to disapprove of mixed human-robot relationships.
9. Eleanor I (The Night's Dawn Trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton). Eleanor excommunicates all users of biotechnology in 2090, creating an acrimonious rift between human cultures. You see, that's what happens when you let women become pontiffs...
10. Amen I (St Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman by Walter M. Miller Jr.) The former hermit is installed as a puppet Pope by the machiavellian Cardinal Brownpony, in the former U.S.A. a millennium after a nuclear holocaust.
To be honest, some of those are reaching a bit -- I wouldn't recommend St Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman to anybody, particularly not to anybody who'd read A Canticle for Leibowitz and was expecting a worthwhile sequel.

If I hadn't been so fussy about using the Popes' regnal names, I would have included the unnamed Bishop of Rome who sends a young monk out to search for the body of a robot saint in Anthony Boucher's "The Quest for St Aquin" and the clone of Cardinal Richelieu who siezes the Papal See (but whose ex officio name is never revealed) in the Doctor Who novel Managra. It just wouldn't have looked as good.

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