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Ansible 116½, Easter 1997

Bad Hair Day

From Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU, UK. Fax 0118 966 9914. ISSN 0265-9816. E-mail ansible[at]cix.co.uk. Logo: Dan Steffan. Cartoon: » MYTHOLOGY. Available for SAE, apotropaic narcosis, haecceity or £50.00.

IT'S OUT! By ancient tradition, Ansible does a special issue at every Eastercon where its editor is a guest and the Fantasy Encyclopedia – ed. John Clute and John Grant, with me and others in lowlier editorial rôles – is being launched. Journey back through time with Ansible and my low-circulation Cloud Chamber (CC below) into an enchanted wonderland of musty old news items and forgotten FE trivia....

Ansible 70, 5/93. Computer magazines report a new Encyclopedia spin-off, 'the first Colour Look-Up Table Editor (CLUTE) from Visual Business Systems....'

Ansible 72, 7/93. Watch This Space: as we go to press the death struggle between Little, Brown and Millennium to commission the Fantasy Encyclopedia (companion volume to ...) is in its final phase.

Ansible 74, 9/93. John Clute jubilates, after awesome delays at Little, Brown: 'I and John Grant [Paul Barnett] have agreed with Orbit to do an Encyclopedia of Fantasy for Spring 1995 publication. It will cross-refer to the SF Encyclopedia and will have a similar setting and format, but entry structure and the balance between theme and author entries will differ. Contributing editors will be Roz Kaveney, David Langford and Brian Stableford.' [Remember that publication date?]

Ansible 75, 10/93. Peter Nicholls, rumours say, is now trying to flog his own alternative Fantasy Encyclopedia in the USA on the basis that this is the Real Thing, as opposed to Little, Brown's pathetic imitation edited by upstarts like that man Clute and everyone else on the new SF Encyclopedia's title page (except Peter)....

CC52, 7/94. Fantasy Encyclopedia. Bits of 'typesetting' work keep cropping up for me. First there was the 25pp Glossary, in which the Clute/Grant/Kaveney intelligentsia tried to explain for contributors' benefit what some of their esoteric headwords like BELATEDNESS, CROSSHATCH, KNOTS [later clarified as RECOGNITION], METAMORPHIC FANTASY [later simplified to INSTAURATION FANTASY], SEHNSUCHT and WAINSCOTS actually meant, in words of more than two syllables. Then came the Entry List, produced in a nice version solely for John Clute to wave at interested American publishers during his current trip: this ran to 25pp in three columns of small type, yet was avowedly incomplete (most TV entries yet to be added, for example). After that, the mere two sides of the contributors' 'style sheet' were a huge relief. This includes a sample entry which has its moments:

SMITH, (PETER) DON(ALD) J(OHN ALBERT) (1900-? ) US author who entered the field with "Scuttlebutt and Naughtiness"" in Spine-Shivering Tales in 1929. His first novel, The Elves of Arcadia (1934 UK; rev vt The Perfect Lover 1935 US), is a contemporary FAIRY TALE in which Oberon and Titania work in a used-car emporium. His most significant work was Brightsleeve and Wondermask (coll 1936; vt with 1 story cut Stop Me if You've Heard This – Aaargh! 1937 UK), assembling the 14 stories in his Count Parmesan series, relating the adventures of a 16th-century VAMPIRE-hunter in an ALTERNATE WORLD; one story, "Blue Stake"", was the basis of the film The CLOCK STRUCK THIRTEEN (1939). Thereafter DJS, an author of submarginal colloquy and a sense of muted velleity, left the field in somewhat mysterious circumstances. [KP]
Other works: It Crept from Out the Courtyard Deep * (1935), film tie; Suck that Aubergine! (1935), nonfiction vegetarian cookbook based on recipes numerologically deduced from Bram STOKER's Dracula (1897).
[Etc, etc.]

Ansible 85, 8/94, had more on the sister volume: The Fantasy & SF Book Club claims the SF Encyclopedia (offered at £30) is 'almost as big as the universe itself!' ... containing in fact 'OVER ONE MILLION PAGES'.

CC56, 7/95, on unreliable research sources: Regarding Arthur Mee, I suddenly had a flash of the other Children's Encyclopedia I possessed long ago, whose synoptic version of Greek mythology included the tragickall history of the lovers On and Ion. Parted by circumstances I now forget, they received the traditional mercy of the gods and were reunited and transformed into a plant whose portmanteau-named root brought tears, called ... at this point, though, retrospective disbelief set in. Were the editors taking the piss? Or was it one of those dummy entries introduced as traps for plagiarists of encyclopedias (a device I first discovered in a short Fred Saberhagen story)? Echo answered, 'Count the spoons!'

Ansible 98, 9/95, reported The Scottish Convention: John Clute on the FE panel, miraculously conveying his theory of true fantasy's pattern of Wrongness, Thinning and Healing against near-impossible odds. Problem: the SECC acoustics. 'Rooms' are flimsy, non-soundproofed, roofless enclosures; voices float upward into murmurous echoing vastness. To use the sound system is to compete with adjacent rooms: since the entrances face one another, John finds himself staring down the aisle at his hated sonic rival across the way, who is Gardner Dozois. Each manically succeeds in drowning out the other. (To do it properly, the committee explains firmly, would have cost money.)

CC62, 9/95, on the same panel ... (where Langford kept deplorably lowering the tone). I remember, during the actual event, getting the hang of the point about horror not progressing into real Healing even if you have killed all the vampires or whatever, and saying aloud: 'The thing is that a horror world remains a world where vampires are possible – there'll be another one along tomorrow.' Whereupon I swear I saw a 150w light bulb materialize briefly over Jilly Reed's head....

CC63, 10/95, recorded: one exception to the positive response to John Clute's Locus interview – Brian Stableford seems to object to the entire organization of the Fantasy Encyclopedia, and opined, 'I suppose Clute must have been drunk.' For shame. [Thus Brian dropped amicably enough from the list of editors, though he still wrote lots.]

Ansible 104, 3/96, dropped a hint at growing FE editorial exhaustion: Stephen Marley knows how to write a letter accepting a story of Lovecraftian pastiche (one of several to be adapted as a CDi game): 'I read it, first with unease, then a creeping sense of dread, and finally a black, clutching horror until I was reduced to a gibbering idiot mouthing primordial gobbledygook.' Similar symptoms are reliably generated by editorial work on the Fantasy Encyclopedia.

CC65, 3/96, apologized for lateness: The FE is generally held to blame, what with major last-minute panics since various contributors who shall not be named seem to have paid no heed whatever to the official and even extended-unofficial contributors' deadlines and are now crowding the ultimate, non-negotiable point (possibly already past by the time you read this) at which the poor bloody editors will have to either cut any outstanding headwords or fudge up some feeble, inadequate text of their own....

Ansible 105, 4/96, had some wishful thinking about its being almost over: As I write, the Clute/Grant Fantasy Encyclopedia is entering its final throes of assembly (» CREATION MYTH), with editors (» DARK LORDS; INSANITY) and contributors (» BONDAGE; NAZGUL) struggling (» LAST BATTLE) towards completion (» EUCATASTROPHE). The trouble (» WRONGNESS) with working for months (» CALENDAR) on this behemoth (» MONSTERS) of books (» LIBRARY) is that sooner or later (» TIME ABYSS; TIME IN FAERIE) you start tearing your hair (» THINNING; TORTURE), thinking (» PERCEPTION) entirely in cross-references (» RECURSIVE FANTASY), and wistfully (» SEHNSUCHT) wondering (» PORTENTS; SCRYING) if you'll ever again have time (» TIME FANTASIES) to visit (» NIGHT JOURNEY; QUEST) the pub (» INNS; PLOT DEVICES) for some relaxing beer (» HEALING)....

Also: Best cross-reference entry so far, surprising yet logical: 'GUYS » DOLLS'. • Most regrettedly unwritten theme-entry phrases: in DARK TOWER, '... often updated as black-glass skyscrapers; modern London and New York have suffered severe attacks of DTs'; and in BRAVE LITTLE TAILOR, 'The BLT sandwiches, as it were, the concepts of ...'

Ansible 106, 5/96 ... the fun continued. In one draft entry list, our spies were delighted to discover the cross-reference entries REVENGE » VENGEANCE and also VENGEANCE » REVENGE. 'Shut up, Langford,' explained editorial supremo John Grant as he hastily checked for RECURSIVE FANTASY » RECURSIVE FANTASY.

CC66, 5/96. State of play: the A, B and C proofs have been corrected, D is imminently awaited, E, F and G should reach the typesetters before you see this, and the titanic bolus of H, I and J is being end-edited by Paul Barnett while John Clute and I fill in missing entries formerly assigned to Those Who Have Let Us Down. Editorial humour grows ever more puerile under stress: Mike Ashley's discovery of a missing F in 'shapeshift' led, I regret, to an instant cod entry which is a bit funnier if you know the headword list, containing as it does things like FACE OF GLORY and RITUALS OF DESECRATION

SHAPESHITTING Literary RITUAL OF DEFECATION enacted by many minor contributors to this Encyclopedia. The excremental prose shapes most often adopted for their entries are the horse and the bull. [MA/JC/JG/DRL]
See also: CRAPRA, FRANK; FAECES OF GLORY; TURDABOUT.

CC67, 6/96: I thought I'd tot up all the FE entries I'd done, not including rewrites of others' work. Something like 72,000 words. Ouch.

Alexander, Lloyd; Amis, Kingsley; Amulets; Anachronism; Anstey, F.; Armstrong, Anthony; Arscott, David; As Above, So Below; Babel; Bad Place; Balance; Bear, Greg; Beerbohm, Max; Bestiaries; Blish, James; Bramah, Ernest; Brave Little Tailor; Cabell, James Branch; Calendar; Cats; Celtic Fantasy; Chess; Chesterton, G.K.; Cold Iron; Collier, John; Conditions; Cthulhu Mythos; Cuchulain; Cupid and Psyche; Daedalus; Dark Tower; De Sade, Marquis; Detective/Thriller Fantasy; Dickson, Gordon R.; Dionysus; Disguise; Eco, Umberto; Eldorado; Elementals; Elements; Enchantress; Escher, M.C.; Fictional Books; Fimbulwinter; Finn Mac Cool; Four Horsemen; Frayn, Michael; Frog Prince; Garrett, Randall; Giants; Gnostic Fantasy; Gorey, Edward; Goulart, Ron; Great Beast; Haunted Dwellings; Hughart, Barry; Humour; Hyperborea; Icarus; Identity Exchange; Illuminati; Illusion; Imaginary Lands; Imaginary Animals; Initiation; Inklings; Inns; Invisible Companion; Kalevala; Kipling, Rudyard; Labyrinth; Langford, David (har har); Last Battle; Learns Better; Leiber, Fritz; Lewis, C.S.; Library; Limbo; Loki; Low Fantasy; Magic Words; Magritte, Rene; Marl, David; Martin, J.P.; Mayne, William; Mcgirt, Dan; Mcguffin; Memory Wipe; Mentors; Metempsychosis; Milne, A.A.; Mirrlees, Hope; Mirror; Modesitt, L.E.; Monkey; Morris, William; Muses; Myth of Origin; Niven, Larry; Nonsense; Numerology; O'Brien, Flann; O'Shea, Pat; Orwell, George; Pandora's Box; Philosophers' Stone; Pictures and Portraits; Plot Coupons; Poictesme; Poltergeists; Pratchett, Terry; Precognition; Priest, Christopher; Priestley, J.B.; Quibbles; Read the Small Print; Richardson, Maurice; Riddles; Ring; Ritual; Robinson, W. Heath; Rumpelstiltskin; Saberhagen, Fred; Saki; Scott, Allan; Sea Monsters; Sensible Man; Shapeshifters; Sherlock Holmes; Shop; Simak, Clifford D; Smith, Thorne; Smith, Dodie; Sorcerer's Apprentice; Soul; Spells; Spiders; Stars; Statues; Swords; Talents; Template; Theriomorphy; Thurber, James; Time in Faerie; Totems; Trolls; True Name; Under the Sea; Unicorn; Urban Legends; Vance, Jack; Volsky, Paula; Webber, Collin; Whitbourn, John; Wild Hunt; Williams, Charles; Wilson, Gahan; Wilson, Colin; Wizards; Wolf; Worm Ouroboros; Xanadu; Zodiac.

You probably didn't know I was an authority on any of these people or alleged fantasy themes (sorry, 'motifs'). Frankly, neither did I.

Discworld Convention, 6/96. Some hidden hand slipped the con newsletter what purported to be an extract from a Clute FE entry on Terry PRATCHETT: 'We are complicit, all of us, in the haecceity engendered by Pratchett's chiaroscuro of disjected topoi. Pregnant with submarginal colloquy and muted velleity, he is our apophthegm of parousia – a veritable harbinger of hypomanic cacchination.' Hear, hear.

CC68, 7/96. They breed in the sewers, you know ... when I listed my Fantasy Encyclopedia entries last issue, I hoped that might be the lot. But silver-tongued John Clute then landed me with PUPPETS, QUEEN OF AIR AND DARKNESS, REAL BOY, RECURSIVE FANTASY, SACRIFICE, SECRET MASTERS, SELKIES, SHADOWS (literal sense only – he's doing the JUNGIAN PSYCHOLOGY angle; for this relief much thanks), STEPMOTHERS, SUPERSTITION, TOPSY-TURVY, TOYS, VENGEANCE and VISIONS. Argh. At least I resisted John's insidious argument that I must have much more recent memories of VIRGINITY than he. As he persuasively put it, 'I've had no experience of that since 1958.'

8/96. My last delivery of late-assigned material. Bloody hell, I ended up doing VIRGINITY after all. (That damned persuasive Clute....) Also others I'd long struggled to avoid: QUINCUNX, SERPENTS, SHAMANISM, TALISMANS, TIR-NAN-OG, UGLY DUCKLING, VILLAINS, WEAPONS, WEREWOLVES, Dennis WHEATLEY, WISHES, and additional dialogue for several more.

In the FE bunker, late 96, the great John Clute was also getting over-tired: 'TWINS Modern men and women may know that twins are natural occurrences; that identical (monozygotic) twins come from single fertilized eggs, and that fraternal (dizygotic) twins, who may not be the same sex, develop from two eggs which have been separately fertilized. This knowledge – and our relative sophistication about matters of BIOLOGY – may help account for the relative kindness with which twins are treated in modern fantasy literature.' [Draft ruthlessly cut by John Grant, but not before copying it to the Thog's Masterclass files.]

Ansible 111, 10/96. END OF THE THIRD AGE. In a simple but moving ceremony at the Clute residence on 21 September, Fantasy Encyclopedia co-editors John Clute and John Grant (with various cronies) got resoundingly smashed to mark the completion, at long, long last, of this mighty tome. Diana Wynne Jones and Chris Bell proudly related their critical input of writing 'Bollocks!' in the margins of all the more high-flown passages. Pat Cadigan made a surprise appearance, singled out a cringing Ansible editor, and cried: 'You dog!' Ron Tiner showed off his tour-de-force graphic novelization of A Christmas Carol in one page, now scheduled for our Xmas issue. Judith Clute gently coaxed the swaying masses into experimenting with a little food. Toasts were drunk to patient publishers Little, Brown, who had rather expected to have the book in print by now (see FANTASIES OF HISTORY); a 1997 Eastercon launch is likely (see PROPHECY). Finally, the end of more than three years of BONDAGE was signalled by a RITUAL derived from ARTHUR and CELTIC FANTASY, as the tired and over-emotional editors simultaneously gave their noses a DOLOROUS BLOW and cast the 4,000+ pages of final print-out into a sacred puddle on Camden High Street, where it was grasped by the mystic arm, clad in white samite, of the LADY OF THE LAKE (played by L,B editors Tim Holman and Colin Murray) and borne away to the blessed ISLAND of AVALON, played by an editorial desk in Lancaster Place. And in the solemn silence that ensued, the one faint sound that could be heard through the poignant evening stillness was a hoarse cry of, 'Oh fuck, we've still got to write the Introduction....' Explicit.

CC70, 11/96 ... sudden flashback to a forgotten moment of personal sense-of-wonder in the late 1960s, when Isaac Asimov finally brought the Foundation series' major plot device on-stage via 'the Prime Radiant, which held in its vitals the Seldon Plan – complete.' This came to mind on Saturday 19 October as I gloated over a row of eight ring-binders containing in their vitals the 1094 proof pages (plus front matter, i to xvi) of the Fantasy Encyclopedia – complete. Perhaps now, after too many false endings, the bloody thing really is finished with.

Ansible 114, 1/97. Publishers & Sinners: Tim Holman (joint hero, with Colin Murray, of Orbit's work on the mighty FE) has been appointed Editorial Director of Orbit as from 1 Jan. So this is not the time to grumble that the Orbit catalogue page on the FE omits three Contributing Editors and both Associate Editors.... Temporarily erased from history: R. Kaveney, D. Langford, R. Tiner, D. Hartwell, G. Westfahl.

Delirious Barnett Fax, 15/3/97. 'Cry in the distance from Catherine that there's a parcel arrived from L,B. She doesn't know what the excitement is about as I snatch it from her hands and break into it with a chainsaw. God, bloody hell, wow: the book really does look good.'

Early Corrections! John Clute's collaborator on part 1 of STORY is GKW (Gary K. Wolfe) and not GW (Gary Westfahl) as listed. Also, the GAARDER entry credit should be JG/JC (Grant/Clute), not JC alone.

Intervention, 28/3/97. At last, it's out! Trebles all round....

Ansible 116½ Copyright © Dave Langford, 1997. Thanks to Paul Barnett/John Grant, John Clute, all the rest of the FE contributing and associate editors, Orbit, and Intervention. 28 Mar 97.