Names and Abbreviations Frequency
Awards Book Reviews
and Ads? Links Policy
Convention Listing Policy
"Available for ..."???
Ansible Home Archive Index FAQ History
Title, Names and Abbreviations
- What is Ansible exactly?
A science fiction newsletter covering both the professional and the fan communities associated with (primarily) written sf, with a special focus on entertaining news/gossip and a deep-rooted lack of interest in routine "Author Sells Book" and "Publisher Acquires / Publishes Book" stories. The editor David Langford's whim is final.
- Where does the name Ansible come from?
The word was invented by Ursula Le Guin. It's the instantaneous communicator which appears in most of her "Hainish" sf stories: Rocannon's World in 1966, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed (whose hero develops the physics of the ansible), etc. Orson Scott Card pinched the term in 1977 for his "Ender" series and I pinched it in 1979 as a fanzine title. It's also been used by Vernor Vinge, Elizabeth Moon and (in a different sense) Paul Park, and has become a standard sf term for (fictional) interstellar comms links which are unhindered by speed-of-light limitations.
- Do you know there's a wargames magazine called The Ancible [sic]?
This was the number-one query of late 2009. Yes: Kenny Robb, MD of the magazine's publishing company, enquired in September whether I had any problem with the name. Me: "I've been running my newsletter Ansible for thirty years (and one month) with the blessing of SF author Ursula Le Guin, who coined the word in a 1960s novel. No objection at all to your use of a different spelling, provided you promise never to object to my title!" Such are the agreed terms of the Ansible/Ancible treaty.
- What is [was] The UK Science Fiction Fandom Archive?
This grandiose title was created by our original host webmaster Naveed Khan in the early 1990s, and applied to a miscellaneous grab-bag of available on-line sf texts hosted at Glasgow University, including Ansible. On taking over UKSFFA maintenance in 1995, I found I lacked the energy or inclination to expand the generalist sf coverage, but regularly updated the Ansible and (later) TAFF/GUFF archives. In 2004 I set up a mirror site for Ansible at news.ansible.uk. Owing to the Great Robert Stanek Tiresomeness of 2005 (see Ansible 219), the mirror site became the primary one. Meanwhile TAFF and GUFF migrated to my own webspace at taff.org.uk. The Glasgow site was finally deleted in February 2009, and most of its remaining material reinstated on other sites as detailed here.
- Who is Thog and what is Thog's Masterclass?
Thog the Mighty, a not terribly bright barbarian hero, is the creation of John Grant (Paul Barnett) in his "Lone Wolf" fantasy novels. The Thog's Masterclass section – featured in Ansible's second series since mid-1994 – enshrines gems of "differently good" prose from science fiction and fantasy, stuff which it is to be assumed that Thog really likes. In 2006, Thog acquired his own website at Thog.org.
- What are those mysterious letters in square brackets?
Initials of sources and newshounds, whose names appear in full in the closing credits unless I've made a mistake. For example, [PB] in the text will probably refer to "Paul Barnett" in this final thank-you section.
- And what about other abbreviations and acronyms?
These are the ones most commonly seen ...
B5 – Babylon 5 (usually as a convention theme description).
B7 – Blake's Seven (usually as a convention theme description).
BFS – British Fantasy Society.
BSFA – British Science Fiction Association.
C.o.A. or COA – Change of Address.
con – sf or fantasy convention. Mysterious words including "con" are apt to be convention names, like Britain's regular Eastercon (which see), Novacon (Birmingham/Midlands), Armadacon (Plymouth), Albacon (Glasgow) and Unicon (various university venues).
Eastercon – the British national convention, held each Easter weekend; each has its own unique name rather than being Eastercon nn, though Eastercon 22 in 1971 was a rare exception..
GoH – a convention or other event's Guest of Honour.
IRC – International Reply Coupon. Available from post offices; exchangeable for overseas postage anywhere in the world. (See SAE.) These cost so much more than their cash-in value that they're usually kept for re-use/barter. A US dollar bill is a more or less universally acceptable substitute.
pppn – per person per night, as in convention accommodation costs: "£50 pppn".
presupp – when rival committees are bidding to hold a particular Eastercon or Worldcon, they may sell "presupporting" memberships to raise publicity funding. If the bid wins, presupporters normally get a discount on supporting or full membership costs.
reg – a convention's full registration fee: entitles you to attend the event and receive all relevant literature (like the Programme or Souvenir Book).
R.I.P. – He's dead, Jim.
SAE or SSAE-- stamped addressed (or, as is tacitly assumed, self-addressed) envelope. The address should be your own.
SFF – Science Fiction Foundation.
SFWA – Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. (Yes, they really did add Fantasy to the name without adding another F to the short version.)
supp – convention supporting membership fee: a cheaper rate that entitles you to the literature (progress reports, etc), but requires that you pay the balance of the registration fee to attend.
TBA – To Be Announced at some later date.
TBC – To Be Confirmed at some later date.
WFC – the annual World Fantasy Convention.
Who – Doctor Who(usually as a convention theme description).
Worldcon – the annual World SF Convention.
WSFS – World SF Society, the official body providing continuity and rules for Worldcons. When you join a Worldcon, you become a WSFS member for the duration.
ZZ9 – in full, ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha. British society founded in appreciation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and now covering sf/fantasy humour in general.
- Can you explain Ansible's publishing schedule?
The fifty issues of the first series (1979-1987) appeared irregularly; then came a gap. The second series began with #51 in October 1991. For ten years until October 2001 Ansible was produced for the London sf pub meeting on the first Thursday of each month, but may now appear days earlier or later. I aim for the first of the month, but this doesn't always work (especially at weekends, when the local printers aren't open, and even more so on bank holiday weekends). The electronic version normally goes out on the day of print publication, sometimes with slight corrections. Additional "half issues" may be published at the editor's whim for Christmas or major conventions, but don't hold your breath.
- With at least one issue per month, oughtn't you to have published a lot more issues from that 1979 start?
The first series was never quite monthly, and slowed down towards its close. Then came the aforementioned gap from late 1987 to late 1991. See the historical notes.
- How many Fanzine Hugo Awards has Ansible won?
Five – in 1987, 1995, 1996, 1999, and 2002.
- Is that all?
Ansible was moved by editorial fiat to the SemiProzine Hugo category in 2003, and (to my great surprise) won against the tougher Semiprozine competition in 2005. So actually it has won six Hugos. In 2009, rather to the editor's relief, it ceased to appear on this Hugo shortlist.
- Any other awards? Ansible was also the Best Fanzine winner in the relaunched N3F sf achievement awards ("Neffies") for 2004 work. Also, long ago, the members of the 1993 British Eastercon, Helicon, voted Ansible an Eastercon Award in the Short Text category. Possibly to prevent a recurrence of this terrible thing, the Eastercon Awards were later discontinued.
- Why don't you list the Lower Slobbovian SF Excellence Award nominations and winners?
Space limitations, as with the Convention Listing Policy: Ansible dutifully reports British and international sf awards, but usually not other "local" awards for which only inhabitants of [insert overseas country or region of your choice] are eligible. Perhaps more controversially, Ansible isn't keen on listing regular prizes restricted to previously unpublished creators, but is prepared to stretch a point for one or two like the James White Award which are based in the British Isles and don't have multiple categories.
Book Reviews and Ads
- Where should I send books for review in Ansible?
Study of back issues will show that Ansible doesn't run fiction reviews. In the past it has occasionally covered nonfiction/reference works of major importance to the genre, like the 1993 edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, but such exceptions are very rare. (Blatant mentions of the editor's own books and ebook reissues are another matter. He has a bad conscience about this, but bravely bears up under the load.) However, newly published books received by David Langford at 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU are listed on the imaginatively titled Ansible Books Received page. This records actual physical books, with proper ISBNs, whose existence I have confirmed – an emailed PDF or ebook does not qualify.
- How about a banner ad exchange to promote my book? Sorry, no. One of the reasons people seem to like the Ansible site is that it isn't cluttered with banner ads, promotional download links and the like. Although your promotional need is of course special and unique, any exception is liable to open the floodgates and lead hundreds of others to pester me in hope of becoming another exception. So: no.
- Do you accept paid advertising on your website news.ansible.uk?
- Won't you please publicize the KickStarter (or equivalent) fundraiser for my great new sf concept?
As a rule, no. There are just too many of the damned things these days. Very rare exceptions may be made for non-commercial crowdfunding, such as raising money for some notable author's or fan's medical treatment. Again, please don't nag me.
- Publisher XXXX has bought my book – you must tell the world!
Sorry. No "Author sells book!" stories. Ansible doesn't attempt to imitate Locus coverage of sf/fantasy book sales, acquisitions, publication schedules, appearances, or positions in bestseller lists.
- Why don't you link to my/our website?
Obviously the Ansible links page doesn't attempt to list every sf site on the web. Convention and club links will go in more or less automatically if British and relevant – more about Ansible convention listings below. Other link categories are more of a personal choice, and it should be fairly evident that the listings do not attempt to be comprehensive. The general Ansible policy is not to link to sites devoted to authors whose work I'm unfamiliar with (which doesn't indicate Langfordian disdain, just lack of time to read everything) and publishers whose authors are unknown to me. I'm not keen on vanity presses, or promotional material like on-line fiction excerpts and film trailers unless included in a site of more general interest.
- Will you add my SF shop to the links?
The dealer section of the links page – long confined to outlets with which I'd personally had dealings over some time – has been abolished altogether.
- How about this great blog?
If it's by an sf notable and talks reasonably regularly about sf/fantasy or writing/publishing in general, then maybe. Though exceptions may quite unreasonably be made for greatly admired authors and old pals who include sf content, Ansible does not as a rule link to blogs whose scope is confined, or mostly confined, to self-promotion, politics, domesticity, gardening, fan fiction or cats.
- How about this great podcast?
Owing to long-standing deafness I remain supremely ignorant of sound media and am unable to judge the virtues of podcasts and the like – so Ansible tends not to link to individual audio postings. Audio-centred websites of high reputation may be included eventually, but please don't nag.
Convention Listing Policy
- Why don't you list our excellent convention?
Possibly because no one has sent the needed information? Note that there are space constrictions: the bulk of the electronic Ansible comes word for word from the printed edition, which consists of one sheet of A4 paper. Convention listings in the monthly Ansible are therefore confined to British Isles events with some sort of sf/fantasy relevance. Exceptions are made for Eurocon and Worldcon.
- Isn't that a bit parochial?
No doubt. There is an old Welsh saying, probably to be found in the Mabinogion, which translates approximately as: "He who publishes a large-circulation newsletter at his own expense, and refuses to charge money for it, gets to make the editorial rules." But ... online only, the International Conventions List complements the Ansible events longlist.
- What information should we provide for an Ansible listing?
The usual minimum for the print edition is: date(s), name, venue, cost of one adult membership, and a booking/enquiries address. Web URLs may be included if theer's room and also appear in the Ansible links page and international conventions list; listings on both these pages consist of date, name, location, and (embedded) URL only. Lazy organizers who expect me to trawl their website for information may well be disappointed. Regarding Facebook event pages, see Links Policy above.
- Why isn't our convention listed again this issue?
In print, conventions get a listing (a) when Ansible first hears about them; (b) when significant changes occur, such as the registration fee going up or the committee sending me an enormous bribe; (c) when the event is actually getting close. An all-encompassing list would leave no room for the more interesting parts of Ansible. However, links in the main and international event lists online stay in place until the convention is over.
- So if our Guest of Honour changes, we get another listing?
Perhaps, if Guest of Honour is being used in the old-fashioned sense of an individual, or one of a few individuals, who is being specially honoured. Conventions with thirty guests are unlikely ever to get a full GoH listing in minimalist Ansible – let alone an item about the glorious addition of guest number 31. "Grotney Spung is world-famous as the sixth vaporized security man in that classic Trek episode 'Ten Red T-Shirts Sitting On A Wall'. Nowadays he makes his living by signing photographs for money."
- Why didn't you mention our Guest of Honour in our second listing?
Space, as I keep saying, is limited. Ansible treats Guests of Honour as news when first announced (space permitting) but generally omits them from subsequent listings of the same event.
- Why do [did] monthly email/web issues have three separate events lists?
Answer from A255: "The multiple Ansible event lists cause occasional puzzlement, not least to the editor. Everything above the Geeks' Corner heading is from the print edition, still appearing and still a single sheet of A4 paper, where space is tight and the Con[something] list includes newly announced, significantly updated and imminent events. Below the line, as it were, the Conventions/Events Longlist is meant as a reminder of what's on the links-page event list: I'm frequently tempted to reduce this section to a bare link. Apparitions [a late addition] deals with signings, library talks and other doings that don't make it into the main listing – but not appearances at main-list conventions with their (warning: literary effect ahead) perpetual plethora of peripatetic panel pundits." Since A260 the Conventions/Events Longlist has indeed been removed from the monthly e-Ansible: no one complained.
- How do I subscribe to Ansible by e-mail?
Just step this way.... Please note that we moved Ansible and all subscribers to a new list server in 2010 – use this page, not previous addresses in old issues of Ansible! This page also links to a further options page for the RSS feed (plus Facebook, LiveJournal and Twitter).
- May I copy the ASCII Ansible to my local BBS/whatever?
This query seems terribly outdated when it's so easy just to link to news.ansible.uk. I'd much prefer to be represented by the nice-looking HTML version of each issue on this site. If you persist in making this enquiry, the answer is usually yes, but please do ask me first and please don't alter the text. I'd be interested to hear of Ansible turning up on CD-ROMs produced by anyone other than myself and Interaction (the 2005 Worldcon), since my response to this permission enquiry has always been "Yes, provided I get a copy of the CD-ROM." Besides Interaction's, none has ever reached me.
- How can I get hold of printed copies?
If living in the United Kingdom, send me a wad of stamped addressed envelopes at 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU. Ansible is also reprinted from Official Master Copies and distributed by our Hero Agents, as follows:
- North America: Sorry, our NA agent gave up.
- Australia: Formerly distributed with subscription copies of the Aussie newzine Thyme, ed. Alan Stewart, PO Box 222, World Trade Centre, Melbourne, Vic 3005, Australia. Thyme seems to be in suspended animation, but I gather that Alan distributes Ansible at local gatherings. For those who don't attend such affairs, an email Ansible subscription is advisable.
- Birmingham (England): Distributed with the Birmingham SF Group Newsletter, ed. Rog Peyton, 19 Eves Croft, Bartley Green, Birmingham, B32 3QL. Usually, alas, about a month after publication owing to the regular clash of BSFGN and Ansible schedules.
- Storm Constantine Information Service: distributed with newsletters ed. Steve Jeffery and Vikki Lee France, 44 White Way, Kidlington, Oxon, OX5 2XA – who also send out copies with the "Prophecy" APA.
- Hey, I sent you a lot of first-class stamps – how come my Ansibles arrive by second-class post?
I'm afraid I don't have time to keep track of this kind of thing. Ansible is officially available for stamped addressed envelopes. If you put first-class stamps on such envelopes, you'll get it by first-class post. If you just send stamps, I'll merely (try to remember to) make a note of how many issues they represent, and put the stamps in the postage book.
- What are Ansible's submission guidelines?
You should read a lot of back issues and guess the sort of thing I like. Anything used (typically sf/fannish news snippets and oddities) may be heavily edited or paraphrased, but source credit is normally given. E-mail submission is fine, but keep it short – though a bare URL is too short: please explain what the linked story is about. Press releases are apt to be ignored or filleted for substantive content. Line art, preferably humorous, is used in every issue but must be comprehensible after scanning (if necessary) and reduction to fit the printed Ansible's art slot, 1.24 inches square. Please double-check Thog and other sf-quote submissions for letter-perfect accuracy, and include the quoted book's title, author(s), and year of publication.
- Any guidelines on what not to send?
I'm glad you asked. Do not send fiction, fiction reviews or poetry. Because life is too short, Ansible (to repeat a point made above) doesn't attempt to imitate Locus coverage of sf/fantasy book sales, acquisitions, publication schedules, appearances, or positions in bestseller lists. (See also Book reviews.) Launches of non-paying sf magazines, especially on-line, are ten a penny and don't get covered – though new paying markets may well be noted. Self-promotion is likely to be ignored unless it features some suitably quirky news interest or opportunity to mock the self-promoter. Commonplace activities – "I have published or decided to publish a fanzine [podcast, ebook], joined Facebook [Google+, Bebo, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, MySpace], plan to attend XXXcon where I will be delighted to meet my millions of fans" – are not regarded as news.
- What rates of payment apply?
None whatever. But look on the bright side: Ansible doesn't cost anything. Although donations are not refused.
- Can I send news with the condition that you don't attribute it to me?
Much depends on context. An unattributable item from someone who has a valid reason for not wishing their name attached may well go in as asked. (Example: a certain World Fantasy Awards judge plucked Thog's Masterclass items from WFA submissions and thought it more tactful not to take credit for these.) If I know and trust the submitter, the chances go up. Anonymous denunciations will be suspiciously scrutinized for mean-spiritedness or potential libel.
- What are the typefaces used in Ansible, and why?
All fonts in the print edition are from Bitstream in their proprietary Speedo format. The body type is Bitstream Charter, specifically designed for good appearance at small point sizes (here 8 points), with its corresponding Italic, Black and Black Italic versions. Centred headlines are in Clarendon Roman, and small type in the masthead and credits boxes is Bitstream Swiss, i.e. another Helvetica clone. Thog's personal font is Cloister Black Regular.
- You mean you ... don't use Windows TrueType fonts!?
Not as yet. Ansible is still produced with the ancient WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS. I could more or less instantly switch to WP for Windows (which I use for another fanzine), but am not entirely happy with the appearance at 8 points of the "identical" TrueType body face offered by Bitstream, which is Charter ITC. Also there are all theselegacy macros which auto-generate the clean HTML version for the website and plain text for email....
- What about the website font?
The Ansible site's style sheet specifies Verdana, though your browser settings may override this.
"Available for SAE or ..."???
- What on earth are all those peculiar items that Ansible is listed as being available for?
Besides stamped addressed envelopes, you mean? (See above.) I admit to amusing myself in most masthead boxes by adding something more or less esoteric and hard to locate. Some people treat this as an unannounced quiz, and send desperate e-mails when they can't identify the current item or items. For the benefit of those who go mad over these items, there is an instructive spoiler list here.
Antisocial Queries should be sent to
Ansible Home Index Links FAQ History