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Ansible 137½, Xmas 1998

MONSANTO: Delicious Gene-Enhanced Christmas Turkey

From Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU, UK. Fax 0118 966 9914. ISSN 0265-9816. E-mail ansible[at] Logo: Dan Steffan. Cartoon: Burgess Shale. Available for SAE, or Undo function for time's obliterine.

ART. In a bold attempt at the 1999 Turner Prize, Dave and Hazel Langford have despatched conceptual Christmas cards to all of you. Eschewing the pitfall of 'the obscurantism of the explicit' which bedevils mere blank white cards (so easily misidentified as clichéd snow scenes), the artists have modelled their creations as virtual particles from an imagined Feynman diagram. This makes them very cheap to post. Those believing themselves not to have received this aesthetic marvel are self-proclaimed Philistines. Or not on our mailing list. Whichever.

Infinitely Improbable

TAFF. The TransAtlantic Fan Fund race to Reconvene (Eastercon '99) was won by Velma 'Vijay' Bowen with 55 votes to Sarah Prince's 15. There were 16 No Preference and 5 Hold Over Funds votes. Vijay: 'The first thing I believe I said was "AAAAIIIIIEEEEE!" but I don't know if that's an official victory statement. How about ... I'd like to thank everyone who voted for TAFF this year, and everyone who has supported it through the years. PS: I may be the first TAFF winner to be a blood relation to a former one: Elliott Shorter (1970) is my first cousin once removed. He never completed his report, and it weighs upon our family's conscience. The shame, the shame....' Itinerary next issue.

Vince Clarke's Funeral on 7 Dec was marked by a freeze-up that paralysed south-London railways, making it difficult to reach the crematorium on time. Besides Vince's daughter Nicki Hunt, her husband Alan, their two daughters, and other relatives, the extended family of fandom was present in force. Sighted at the cemetery or the subsequent wake in The Jolly Fenman (Vince would have chuckled): Sandra Bond, Claire Brialey, Avedon Carol, Tony Chester, Jonathan Cowie, Rob Hansen, Chuck & Sue Harris, John & Eve Harvey, Terry & Margaret Hill, me, Jim Linwood, Catherine McAulay, Pat McMurray, Greg Pickersgill, Mark Plummer, Nigel Rowe, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Geri Sullivan and Bridget Wilkinson. The humanist service reflected Vince's atheism and, thanks to briefing by Rob Hansen, covered his fan career in detail. A mention of his 1954 TAFF win was appreciated by the several fan-fund winners present, and my jaw dropped a bit when a fanzine obituary was read out and proved to be Ansible's. It was Nicki's turn to be slightly shaken on learning that fans had flown in from Chicago (Nigel), Minneapolis (Geri) and Hong Kong (Eve, coincidentally returning from a business trip at 5am that morning). Vince had already provided his own characteristically modest funeral thoughts in a 1985 letter: 'I'm most annoyed that when I pass on and down (or up) there'll be expensive waste, no matter how simply things are arranged.' For a moment we imagined him in that pub, gently chiding us for making such a fuss.

Hazel's Language Lessons: Greek. rafanizou, to thrust a radish up the fundament; a punishment for adulterers in Athens. [VC, 1985]

The Tooth Fairy. In theory, my OryCon root-canal horrors (see A137) were covered by insurance. But the small print lists an annoying £200 limit for dental claims, and the slow-moving insurance outfit may yet reduce this by a quibble. The good news: John Lorentz and OryCon spontaneously decided that, this injury being Incurred In Their Service, they'll make up any shortfall. Wow! Huge thanks.

Overleaf. Steve Stiles has graciously let me reprint a page from his 1979 Hyper Comics, which seems indefinably festive ... albeit eldritch. [Omitted from electronic editions – sorry!]

Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Hazards of Picking One's Nose: '... his large nostrils flared with rage, big as cannon muzzles.' (Harry Harrison, Stars and Stripes Forever, 1998) [TB] • Vince Clarke had a last contribution in the works ... the Dept of Attention to Detail: '"Set your time-travel pack to ... let's see." Kial closed his eyes. "Plus seven aitch one five em three aught ess. And your space travel pack to Mongo grid coordinates latt plus one two seven and eight milliseconds; long plus eight aught degrees, five hours, five seven minutes, two seconds and one aught five milliseconds. Right?"' (Alex Raymond 'adapted by Con Steffanson', Flash Gordon: The Time Trap of Ming XIII, 1974.) • Dept of Turkey Carving: 'At the beginning Mondino dissected himself but later this task was passed on to his assistants.' (T.V.N. Persaud, Early History of Anatomy: From Antiquity to the Beginning of the Modern Era, 1984) [VR]

With Necessary Apologies

CONTEXT: in net discussion of the expected (by some) Vingean Singularity and the optimists who keep calculating earlier dates for this, most recently around 2015, Ken MacLeod said: 'I can see it coming: the Millennium Bug hits the Singularity.' Simon Bradshaw takes it from there....

Cyberpunk: Hello, I wish to register a complaint ... Hello?

Shopkeeper: Sorry, we're closing for a quick game of Quake II.

C: Never mind that, I wish to complain about a singularity what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.

S: Oh yes, the Vernor Vinge. What's wrong with it?

C: I'll tell you what's wrong with it. It's not Y2K compliant, that's what's wrong with it.

S: No, no, it needs upgrading.

C: Look, I know a non-Y2K-compliant singularity when I see one and I'm looking at one right now.

S: No, no sir, it's not non-compliant. It just needs the Plus Pack.

C: Plus Pack!?!

S: Yeah, remarkable singularity the Vernor Vinge, beautiful emergent phenomena.

C: The emergent phenomena don't enter into it – it's not Y2K compliant.

S: No, no – it's just in need of an upgrade.

C: All right then, if it needs an upgrade I'll give it one. [Shouts at singularity] Hello! I've got a nice FTL datalink for you when you Transcend, Mr Singularity!

S: [jogging singularity] There, it Transcended.

C: No it didn't. That was you Uplifting it.

S: I did not.

C: Yes, you did. [takes singularity and shouts at it] Hello Singularity [bangs it against the counter] wake up! [throws it in the air and it lands on the floor] Now that's what I call a non-Y2K-compliant singularity.

S: No, no, it's stuck in a strange attractor.

C: Look, I've had just about enough of this. That singularity is definitely not Y2K compliant. And when I bought it not half an hour ago, you assured me that its lack of technological phase change was due to it being tired and shagged out after downloading the complete book reviews of John Clute.

S: It's probably pining for the High Beyond.

C: Pining for the High Beyond, what kind of talk is that? Look, why did it interface to AOL when I got it home?

S: The Vernor Vinge prefers communicating via AOL. Beautiful singularity, lovely emergent phenomena.

C: Look, I took the liberty of examining this singularity, and I discovered that the only reason that it had appeared even remotely near the cutting edge of science fiction was because someone had nailed a copy of Interzone to it.

S: Well of course a copy of Interzone was nailed there. Otherwise it would muscle up to your neural pathways and voom!

C: Look matey [picks it up] this singularity wouldn't go voom if I put the complete works of Greg Egan through it. It's bleeding demised.

S: It's not. It's pining.

C: It's not pining, it's passed on. This singularity is no more. It has ceased to be. It's expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late singularity. It's a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. If you hadn't nailed it to an SF mag, it would be joining the Hugos on Dave Langford's mantelpiece. It's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-singularity.

S: Well I'd better replace it then. [Rummages below the counter.] Sorry guv, we're right out of technological singularities.

C: I see. I see. I get the picture.

S: I've got a copy of Windows 98.

C: Is it Y2K compliant?

S: Not really, no....


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Ansible 137½ Copyright © Dave Langford, 1998. Thanks to Tanya Brown, Simon Bradshaw, Vince Clarke, Vicki Rosenzweig, Steve Stiles, and our Hero Distributors. 17 Dec 98.