I don’t think they read the book.
Karen Johnson, from Out of the Kaje #3, Jan 1999

Once upon a time, the New Yorker (I think – it was a long time ago) ran a series of weekly competitions for its readers. Each one focused on some unusual aspect of language eg. unusual translations of foreign terms, or mottoes for very un-useful greeting cards. The competitions were so popular that they gathered the results together and published a book called “So, I hear your sea-turtle has died.” (named after the winner of the greeting card competition) and then a sequel, called appropriately “Son of Sea Turtle.” These two volumes turned up in our local library, and we read them several times. Alas, they’re gone now, victims of the library funding cuts or possibly just plain old-age, but I remembered them the other day, and especially one of their competitions. This particular competition was called ‘I don’t think they read the book first’ and the aim was to come up with the most grotesquely misinterpreted jacket blurb possible eg. ‘A Tale of Two Cities – guidebook for travellers in France.’ or ‘Everest – one man’s search for the perfect mattress.’

I was reminded of the books when I read the jacket blurb for Icehenge, and then found that the contents of the book bore almost no resemblance to the story described in the blurb. It’s a fairly common occurrence, but it prompted me to compile my own collection. These books may once have been SF, but now they’re something very different. Some of them are movies, some are television programs, and some are books, but you’ve never seen anything quite like them before.

Antarctica – Kim Stanley Robinson
One man’s mission to survey the entire continent of Antarctica, in detail, by air. Complete with the most detailed maps ever presented.
Space 1999
They’re a very special team. Dispatched to check each and every computer for Year 2000 compliance. The ones on earth were easy, but now they’ve got to venture out into space, and there’s less than a year left…
2001: A Space Odyssey
Sequel to Space 1999. They tried their best, but they didn’t quite make it. Now they’ve got to repair the damage…
Star Wars/The Empire Strikes Back
A pair of documentaries on the development of space-based weaponry. Part 1 focuses on the USA’s attempts, popularly known as the ‘Star Wars program’, while Part 2 uncovers the USSR’s attempts to keep up.
Close Encounters
You never know what’s out there unless you really, really look. This program presents a detailed study of the wide variety of insect life in the typical suburban backyard.
The Blob
Charles was a junior copyist at a Law Firm. He was good at his job and proud of his perfect track record. One day, his pen slips…
An hilarious tale of misadventure as Charles attempts to cover up his misdeed.
Babylon 5
Latest in a long-running series of historical soap-operas
The Towering Inferno
The crew was on board, the course was set, it was all fueled up and ready to go. 10 … 9 … 8 … 7 … Blast off. Suddenly something goes wrong. Instead of launching, Rocket X351 has become the Towering Inferno. Can they rescue the crew before it’s Too Late?
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
Sebrano is your typical small Italian farming community. Nothing much happens there – the biggest thrill of the year is the annual tomato harvest. Young Dr Chiaruso expects his job to be easy, but something is going seriously wrong. People are dying, and it looks like Botulism. If Dr Chiaruso’s worst fears are confirmed, it could cause the financial death of Sebrano. If they aren’t, it will be the death of the town – literally…
Aliens I – IV
Docu-drama series focusing on the plight of the Refugee/Illegal immigrant throughout history. We call them aliens, they call themselves people.
Blake’s 7
The stakes were high, very high. More than $700,000 lay on the table. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In his hand, Blake already held the 5, 6, 8, and 9 of hearts. All he was missing was the last card…
Space, above and beyond
Don’t miss this fascinating documentary on the characteristics of interstellar gas clouds.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
BBC documentary on Burke and Hare.
Total Recall
Eidetic memory. Myth or Reality? Well-known scientist Professor Charles Davies explores the phenonemon popularly known as ‘total recall.’
The Andromeda Strain
It was the worst oil spill in history. Several thousand miles of heavily populated coastline were threatened with destruction unless something was done. Luckily, scientists at Monash University had been working on a new strain of oil-eating bacteria. This was their chance to show that Australians could Do Science. Others in the international scientific community were openly doubtful, while someone would stop at nothing to see the bacteria fail.
Foundation Trilogy
Complete guide to the laying and pouring of foundations. Of great value to every builder.
Red Dwarf
The tale of a disabled Chinese boy who dreams of retracing the route taken by Chairman Mao and the Long March.
Do-it-yourself guide to 101 basic magic tricks and illusions.
Catch 22
The Andromedans had caught 21 specimens of terrestrial life without incident – but all that would change with their next sampling. Bruce Willis stars in the all-new Sci-fi blockbuster Catch #22.
Heartwarming Family Drama. Susan was a stutterer. She was unable to speak a single word intelligebly, but she could spell with the best of them – and then she found that she could sing.
Shadow’s Fall – Simon R Green
Masterful analysis of sunset times all over the world.
The Shining – Stephen King
A pocket guide to the identification of radioactive substances, based on the intensity and characteristics of their distinctive glow.
The True Game – Sheri S.Tepper
Prize-winning essays on the ancient art of angling.
I know what you did last summer
Time Travel romp. A lovelorn teenage genius invents a time machine, and uses it in an attempt to pick up girls.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
A daring yet sensitive exploration of cross-species romance
The Man in the Maze
Mr Bean’s adventures at Mazeworld, the largest hedge-maze in the world.


A Few Computer Games to finish up with.

Quake II
Recent advances in force-feedback technology have made this sequel to the classic earthquake simulator even more gripping than its predecessor
Thief, Sin, Hetetic, Heretic II, Doom
This well-known set of religious primers explores the nature of moral responsibility and the inevitable consequences of wrong doing.
Fallout, Halflife
An extremely boring pair of real-time simulators or radioactive decay process, these programs should not be at the top of anyone’s shopping list.