Ansible 152, March 2000
From Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU, UK. Fax 0705 080 1534. ISSN 0265-9816. E-mail ansible[at]cix.co.uk. Logo: Dan Steffan. Cartoon: Joe Mayhew. Available for SAE, mervan, twitus, furux, tox meratis or cluthe.
LATE NEWS. In the general year-2000 excitement, I utterly forgot to report the major event of 1999: 'The world as we know it will cease to exist, as I have stated previously in this volume, on August 18, 1999.' (Criswell Predicts: Your Future from Now to the Year 2000!, 1968) The things you miss if you let your attention wander for just one day....
The Game of X
Ellen Datlow survived her treat of being 'roasted' in a UK pub at Pat Cadigan's behest: 'Thank god, no one in London knows what a real roast is like or I would have been running out of the room screaming.' Now she's 'getting swamped with reprints because of a slight misunderstanding in my original Scifi.com market report indicating that we are publishing two reprints per month. I am not accepting unsolicited reprints for Scifi.com. I will be publishing "classic" reprints.' See COA.
Richard E. Geis announces a (temporary, I hope) silence, owing to 'severe damage to my spine recently. I've had to kill The Geis Letter in mid type, and have notified all the publishers to stop sending precious genre books for review. Saw a Neurologist today and he indicated the problem is "age-related" and that after an MRI scan surgeons will grind and chip and hack away at bone in my lower back to free up some important nerve clusters. So it goes. My life now is a series of pain episodes and trying out new pain-killing drugs. [...] Please spread the word that I'm out of the loop. Actually, the loop is a noose, but few ever realize it until something like this happens.' [5 Feb]
Harry Harrison has yet to deny that he turns 75 on 12 March.
Laurence James (1942-2000) died on 10 February. Chris Priest writes: 'In the early 1970s Laurence was the editor at New English Library and published several young writers in paperback for the first time: notably Bob Shaw, M. John Harrison, Stuart Gordon and myself. He left NEL in 1975 to write full-time. The only work of his published under his own name was science fiction: one or two stories for New Worlds Quarterly and the "Simon Rack" sf adventures. The rest of his work, a vast flood of commercial novels, was concealed behind a spray of pseudonyms. He became one of the most prolific writers ever, turning out one or two novels a month for twenty years. He was regarded as a supremely reliable professional: his books were delivered on time and most of them were skilful, intelligent and surprisingly personal. He was an unashamed hack writer (his e-mail address was Supahack). He once explained to me the difference between my writing and his: "You write deathless prose," he said, trying to set my career straight. "You should write lifeless prose, like me." His last five years were bedevilled by serious illness: he successfully fought off bone-marrow cancer, renal failure and a rare condition called light-chain deposition. At the end a heart attack got him. He leaves a wife – novelist Elizabeth James – and three adult children. He was ever such a good man: funny, kind, wise, honest and terrific company. He was a great friend for thirty years. His death is an intense personal blow to everyone who knew him.'
Terry Pratchett, weary and spent from finalizing his 25th Discworld novel The Truth, announced luxurious plans to take a break of 'about an hour' before embarking on the next one, Thief of Time. 'I can't be having with this "one a year" business any more.'
Colin Smythe, hero literary agent, grumbles that the one Pratchett title that needed no change for the German edition – Carpe Jugulum – has just mysteriously morphed in translation to Ruhig Blut!
4-5 Mar Microcon 20, Clydesdale House, Exeter University. Announced late Feb; unilaterally cancelled by guest liaison man on 1 Mar after 'GoH' Kim Newman noted that he hadn't been asked and wasn't coming; uncancelled by rest of committee 2 Mar; now proceeding. Free admission. Thog can't make it but is listed as doing a Live Masterclass. STOP PRESS! New GoH announced this morning – ufologist Nick Redfern.
10-12 Mar AKFT V, Kyance Hotel, The Hoe, Plymouth. GoH Mat Irvine, Michael Sheard. £35 reg, £40 at door. 'Adult only.' Contact 12 MacGregor House, Thornton Rd, Clapham Park, London, SW12 0LE.
11-12 Mar Mecon 2000, Queen's U of Belfast. GoH Harry Harrison, Ian McDonald. £12 ref to 10 Mar, £14 at door (£7/day). Contact 24 Malton Ct, Upper Malone Rd, Belfast, N. Ireland.
22 Mar BSFA Open Meeting, Florence Nightingale, on York Rd/Westminster Bridge Rd roundabout. 7pm on. With James Lovegrove.
Not 25-26 Mar Memorabilia (sf, collectors' etc fair), NEC, Birmingham. Ansible 151 was misinformed: this was apparently 26-27 Feb.
1 Apr Patrick O'Brian celebration for sf fans, The Hard, Portsmouth. Lunch etc 11am-1pm at The Ship Anson, look at historic ships 1-3pm, reassemble at Kepple's Head Hotel 3-4pm, etc etc. Fuller info from John Richards, 11 Cardiff Rd, North End, Portsmouth, PO2 8BH.
14 Apr - 1 Jul Dan Dare 50th anniversary exhibition, Atkinson Art Gallery, Lord St, Southport, Merseyside, PR8 1DB. £2.50 admission. More information from 01772 700874 or 0151 934 2111.
21-24 Apr 2Kon (51st Eastercon), Central Hotel, Glasgow. £30/$55 reg, £20 unwaged (bring proof of status), £15 supp/junior (8-15), infants (0-7) free. Postal membership cutoff date is 1 Apr; then £35 at door. Contact 30 Woodburn Terrace, St Andrews, KY16 8BA. Octavia Butler was to attend but found herself double-booked; Balticon had a prior claim. As Neil Gaiman's minion said after a similar schedule glitch, 'So what are you trying to tell me? That Easter MOVES?'
22-23 Apr Comics 2000, Watershed Media Centre, Bristol. Tickets £3 'browser' (dealer/exhibits access only), £6 'fanboy' (same, plus programme, with various 'individually ticketed' exceptions), £25 'superpass' (all events except Eagle Awards meal, which is extra) ... Contact (SAE) PO Box 48, Clevedon, Bristol BS21 7LQ; 0117 924 4655.
26 Apr BSFA Open Meeting as above. With Tricia Sullivan.
29-30 Apr Unconvention (Forteana), Commonwealth Inst, Kensington High St, London W8. With Jan Harold Brunvand, Ken Campbell, Lionel Fanthorpe, others. £20 reg (£12.50/day) to 6 Mar, then £25 (£15/day); advance booking closes 3 Apr. Booking 01795 414925.
28-31 Jul Millenicon Hand & Shrimp (Discworld), Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Heathrow. GoH: the usual suspects. £50 reg, £40 concessions. Contact PO Box 189, Patchway, Bristol, BS32 8YE.
18-20 Aug Lexicon (Unicon 2000), Exeter College, Oxford. GoH Philip Pullman. Rates now announced: £28 reg, £15 student/unwaged, £18/day. Contact 18 Letchworth Ave, Bedfont, Middlesex, TW14 9RY.
21-22 Oct Octocon 2000, Royal Dublin Hotel, O'Connell St, Dublin. Note new dates and hotel. GoH TBA. £15(I) reg, £12(I) junior, or £5(I) supp to 42 Capel Court, Dublin 1, Ireland; sterling £13, £11 or £5 to "Dave Lally No. 2 A/C", 64 Richborne Tce, London, SW8 1AX.
Rumblings Charlotte in 2004: US Worldcon bid seeks UK and Aussie agents. Masochists contact Irv Koch (email@example.com).
Publishers and Sinners. SF Age ceases publication with the May issue, and editor Scott Edelman has already accepted a job outside the genre; Sovereign Media's other fiction mag Realms of Fantasy is so far unaffected. Scott: 'The hardest thing for people to understand is that the magazine was still profitable, even at the end, but just not as profitable as any of the other Sovereign titles – the media magazine, the wrestling mag, the log home and history mags – all way surpassed what Age brought in.' Scifi.com bought Craig Engler's on-line Science Fiction Weekly in February, keeping Craig in charge as 'Executive Producer'.
Clarke Awards. Shortlist for 2000: Time, Stephen Baxter; The Bones of Time, Kathleen Ann Goonan; Silver Screen, Justina Robson; Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson; Distraction, Bruce Sterling; A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge. Award presentation on 17 May. [PK]
That Was Then, This Is Now. From TVData Features Syndrome listings (NA): 'When Daniel Keyes wrote the short story "Flowers for Algernon" in 1959, it was science fiction. Today, the story of a mentally disabled man who undergoes experimental brain surgery to make him smart is science in the future.' [CR] A very, very different thing.
Random Fandom. Ken Cheslin thanks contributors to the cost of his classic fanzine reprints; alas, photocopier repairs will set him back another £200-odd ... 29 Kestrel Rd, Halesowen, W. Midlands, B63 2PH. Teresa Nielsen Hayden explains last issue's Mystery Concept: 'I believe the Donaldsonian/Feistian Grip is a variety of luggage, doubtless possessing eldritch powers; and that it is offered in the same hard-to-find catalogues that sell the many-footed Pratchett Trunk, the Glory Road Carryall, the Harpo Marx Trenchcoat, and S. Morgenstern's invaluable Pocket Guide to Packing. It seems perfectly logical to me; but I may be as disappointed in this as I was in the error-correcting modem, the magnetic stud finder, the universal remote control, and the Radio Shack male-to-female, female-to-male conversion kit.' N. Lee Wood is making progress after a lengthy struggle with the UK government: 'At long last, I'm no longer an "illegal immigrant". I've been granted a year's visa to remain in the UK and earn my living by writing ...'
Fanfundery. TAFF voting (a tiny reminder) continues until 6 May.
R.I.P. John D. Rickett, UK fan, Corflu UK GoH and stalwart of many APAs, died unexpectedly (though, it seems, peacefully) on 27 February. [CC] Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame died from colon cancer on 12 February, just before the appearance of the last cartoon strip that heralded his retirement; he was 77. Roger Vadim (1928-2000), the movie director best known in sf for exposing titillating areas of his then wife Jane Fonda in Barbarella (1968), died of cancer on 11 February at age 72. All five of his wives – including Brigitte Bardot – attended the 18 February funeral in Saint-Tropez, France.
Alternate Skiffy. Jean-Daniel Breque reported on the current French bestseller Une education anglaise by Christian Lehmann (Paris, Jan 2000). This looks like and has been reviewed as autobiography, but implies some unfamiliar fan history. The author/narrator has an sf-writing uncle called Luther Rohan who lives in Oxford and once feuded with Harlan Ellison. There's a Brighton Worldcon, Seacon '73 at the Metropole Hotel, with Clarke and Leiber as guests; a transparent allusion to at least one of the Oxford SF Group 'bombers'; a fan called Alan who adopts a female persona as Rose; a major pro (Rohan) dying at the Worldcon and being eulogized at the awards ceremony; and knowledgeable stuff about panels, beer-drinking, auctions, Trek fans.... Ansible notes that Christian L. is a cousin of Michael Scott Rohan, who then lived in Oxford; that according to Mike, Luther Rohan is another joint cousin (lawyer, not writer); and that CL did indeed attend 1970s UK cons, even playing D&D at the Langford hovel. He gleefully admits to including 'a few good friends from way back', and especially 'the kind of people who send mortar rounds from the top of hotel buildings at night, if you see what I mean.' Death will not release us.
C.o.A. Andrew M. Butler, c/o Dept of Arts and Media, ASSH F Floor,
Buckingham Chilterns University College, High Wycombe, HP11 2JZ. Ellen Datlow (for purposes of short original sf/fantasy submissions; no sword'n'sorcery or space opera), Fiction Editor, Scifi.com, 48 Eighth Ave, PMB 405, New York, NY 10014, USA. Bill Donaho, Veterans Home, PO Box 1200, Yountville, CA 94599-1297, USA. Joe Gibbons, 27 Spring Tce, Mount Pleasant, Reading, RG2 0BD. Steve ('not the horror editor') Jones, 100 Balsall Heath Rd, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B5 7NQ. Writers Brew Press, PO Box 241, Oakengates, TF2 9XZ.
Lambda Awards shortlist for 1999 gay/lesbian sf/fantasy: Minions of the Moon, Richard Bowes; Night Shade, Victoria Brownworth & Judith Redding; The Annunciate, Severna Park; The Gumshoe, the Witch, and the Virtual Corpse, Keith Hartman; Through a Brazen Mirror, Delia Sherman, Cortney Skinner & Ellen Kushner. Winner announced on 1 June.
Outraged Letters. Andrew A. Adams, 2Kon chair, caused Ansible to grovel by revealing that more art show space had been allocated before the over-excited 2Kon Art Show Action Plea in A151. Simon R. Green cannot be disbelieved: 'I'm also working on my new, guaranteed to be a hit, TV series: Jesus Christ, Private Eye. Down these mean streets of Jerusalem a man must go who is more than a man.... Every week, Jesus tracks down the bad guys, and forgives them. Really, I am.' Michael Swanwick (alias Swanwicik) is most grateful: 'the Aussies came through as promised. A brand-new, gleaming and perfect Hugo was presented to me at Boskone by Deb Geisler. It felt every bit as good as receiving it at Worldcon would have, and now I am at peace with all the world.'
Animé News. Diana Wynne Jones is gobsmacked at being offered vast-seeming piles of yen (not to mention soft toys called Totoro) by famous Hayao Miyazaki, for film rights to Howl's Moving Castle. [CB]
Weird Tales. '"Your e-mail pen pal may in fact be a disembodied spirit," English psychic researcher Alfred Halifcourt claims. "Cyberspace is a place where the spirit and material worlds overlap and it's easy for spirits to communicate with us there." Halifcourt first became aware of this while surfing the net in 1995. Having chanced on a woman called "Carolyn" in a chat room he found "she was very flirtatious but I kept noticing her language was somewhat out of date. I became suspicious and asked if she was a ghost. At first she denied it, but when I pressed her, she admitted that she had drowned back in 1911 at the age of 21." Halifcourt believes up to as many as 200,000 spirits are logged on to the Internet at any one time, their messages often typed in Gothic font, while he or she often have poor knowledge of current events.' (Ali Catterall, Big Issue, 7-13 Feb) Researcher Chris Bell says: 'Hmmmm. I think it high time Thog own up to leg-pull here.' The Tooth Is Out There: even more inexplicable and eldritch, Chris Bell, Dave Langford and Sue Mason (for TAFF!) all had horrible disintegrative things happen to upper left-hand backmost molars in February. Ouch, groan.
Not New Worlds. Guy Haley of SFX was also in the Guardian 'New Worlds' sf supplement (sponsored by Voyager, so non-Voyager authors were downplayed or deleted) that enraged Michael Moorcock. 'They rang me up and said "Could you do a timeline of fantasy literature – you know, starting with Gilgamesh and ending with Raymond E. Feist?" I told them no (after hooting with laughter) and explained why, offering to do a timeline starting with Victorian fairy-fanciers and suchlike, charting the path of modern Sword'n'Sorcery/Fantasy Junk. Okay, said they. But then I got it back to find a load of third-rate Voyager hacks unconvincingly jammed in. Shocking. To think that bastion of the left, The Guardian, would be so swayed by the petty forces of capitalism as to blatantly claim that the whole of western mythology has been a gradual and triumphant ascent to the dizzying heights of Raymond E. Feist's epic sagas is scandalous. In fact, the Liverpudlian Basque who was running the whole affair rang me back several times saying "Will you write a boxout on Raymond E. Feist? No-one will write anything about him, what has this man done wrong?" I think only a Literary Crimes Tribunal at the Hague could answer that question impartially.'
Small Press. Light's List 2000 (15th edition) briefly describes over 1,450 small English-language magazines, with contact details. 64pp A5, £2 from Photon Press, 37 The Meadows, Berwick-on-Tweed, TD15 1NY.
Supernova. Last issue's mention of this very sci-fi movie brought prolonged groans from David Alexander McDonald ('better known to his readers as Steven E. McDonald'): 'Oh dear. Don't let me get started on that madness – having managed to create a silk purse from a sow's ear with Event Horizon, Tor had me tackle Supernova with the same intent. What a script ... the subsequent rewrite did not help, either (merely tacked on a downer ending). The script had it worse than the actual movie – they were hopping galaxies (all with cutesy-woo skiffy author names) and I had a very interesting time coming up with an explanation for both this and the Killer Stardrive. Then again, I had to come up with all kinds of stuff, such as characterization, logic, common sense, backstory, gobs of stuff to fill in the odd plot hole (like the one between page 2 and page 122 of the script).... The book was finished, but never released, thanks to MGM screwing around and screwing Tor on the rights deal. On the one hand, I'm sorry about that – it's always nice to have things come out in my name(s) – but I must say that I'm not so sorry about being distanced from the turkey as it plummeted to Earth.'
Twenty Years Ago. Harlan Ellison announced his coming triumph: 'Two years from now, I will be on the top of the best-seller list ... the novel that I'm writing ... will be the number 1 fiction best-seller in the nation. I promise you ... a natural best-seller idea. It's got to be a runaway. I mean, it's such a simple, terrific idea you say, "Oh Christ, why didn't I think of that? Why didn't anyone think of that?" I thought of it. And I'm going to write it.' (Ansible 7, March 1980) Remember 1982?
Group Gropes. Solent Green meets 3rd Thur evening each month at the Duke of Wellington pub, Bugle St, Southampton. [SP]
Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Arcane Cartography: 'Without waiting for a response, Dan stretched his hand toward Kim and began murmuring sharp, crystalline words. They hung in the air, twisting over and under and around each other like the streets of London ...' (Patricia C. Wrede, Mairelon the Magician, 1991) [PB] Dept of Beetling Brows: '... his square chin, weathered skin, and small eyes that never seemed still. They darted up and down her own figure now, Hester thought, like a pair of those black beetles that ran from the light at night if one had reason to go into the nether regions of a house.' (Robert Bloch & Andre Norton, The Jekyll Legacy, 1990) [BA] Dept of Eyeballs in the Sky: 'They all felt Michael's adrenaline kick in and watched his eyes bounce off his legal pad ...' (Rock Brynner, The Doomsday Report, 1998)
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Once on a while I count how many people subscribe to Ansible by e-mail. The latest figure is 1,744. Makes me feel proud, yet kind of humble....
Roger Burton West has invented a wheel of novel shape: 'I've just finished testing a new e-mail and web toy: convention.org.uk. This is designed for people who can't remember convention email addresses or web sites: it's a redirection system, such that one can email CONNAME@convention.org.uk, or point a web browser at http://www.CONNAME.convention.org.uk, and have the request sent to the right place. It's thus possible at last to write to "firstname.lastname@example.org" and expect it to go somewhere useful.' Coo er gosh. The next upgrade will presumably be for people who can't even remember 'convention.org.uk'.
Ansible 152 Copyright © Dave Langford, 2000. Thanks to Andrew A. Adams, Brian Ameringen, Paul Barnett, Chris Bell, Chuck Connor, Paul Kincaid, John Light, Sheila Pover, Craig Russell, John Selmes, Gordon Van Gelder, Jo Walton and our Hero Distributors: Janice Murray (NA), SCIS, Alan Stewart (Oz), Brum Group News. 2 Mar 00.