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Ansible 1, August 1979

Cartoon: Alexis Gilliland

PLEASE NOTE that this old Ansible is a bit of history. Addresses have changed (in particular, the editor's postal address has), prices and agents' credits are invalid, etc. • This issue was produced in my BWP or Before-Word-Processors era and lovingly rekeyed for the archives by Bill Welch ... to whom many thanks! • Dave Langford, 1995.

ANSIBLE 1 (August 1979) comes from Dave Langford, 22 Northumberland Avenue, Reading, Berkshire RG2 7PW, UK. Available for news, articles, artwork, selected trades or money: 4/50p in UK & Europe, 3/$1 in USA (airmail), 5/$1 in Australia & NZ (airmail). Sterling, US dollars or International Reply Coupons (worth 10½p each at this end and lots more at your end) are acceptable; foreign-currency cheques dwindle almost to nothing whilst passing through my bank, and thus will earn you almost no credit. Cartoon by Alexis Gilliland. The Restormel Press No. is a thing of the past; you'll doubtless be bored to know this is Langford No.34.

For reasons which once seemed sensible, Ansible 1 was attached to the current issue of the GUFF newsletter The Northern Guffblower, whose lead article was ...

A Message From Our Founder
Chris Priest


This is not Checkpoint. Peter Roberts has been muttering for a good while now about folding Checkpoint at issue 100, which should coincide with Seacon; he's passing on the subscription list but clinging grimly to the title, which he insists must be buried with him. Here, then, is Ansible – a newszine which will differ subtly from Checkpoint in that the editor is not Peter Roberts (I did ask, but he wouldn't let me borrow his name). This issue rides with The Northern Guffblower 5 for no special reason, and counts as one issue at the old rates to Checkpoint subscribers; future rates are as above mainly owing to postal increases. Write now if you want a refund; better, send money and news. I also want short articles which are topical, which illuminate fandom's relationship with the eternal cosmic verities, or (failing all that) which I like. I do not particularly want sacks of letters telling me how subtly inappropriate is the title Ansible for something carried to the post office at a speed which makes Achilles and the tortoise appear to be running neck-and-neck. (If the word 'ansible' means nothing to you, what have you been reading?)


Last week came two 'fannish chain letters', possibly not the most brilliant notion since Space: 1999. The principle is familiar – you add your name to the bottom of a list, send out 8 copies of the letter to chosen victims plus a postcard to whoever's at the top of the list (all this within 3 days), and by and by you should receive 262,144 postcards. Even a Leeds fan would need no beermats for a week or two with that lot. However, I'm interested to see that the chain (both letters are in the same chain) purports to have begun in January 1973. Assuming fans have been co-operating ever since, the number of postcards going the rounds in the current cycle should be some 10^720; even with a dropout rate of 50% or more, there should be enough in transit to collapse the post office into a black hole (ditto the solar system). This is most unfannish: without the efforts of a Second Foundation at the other end of fandom which is circulating a chain of Cavorite postcards, we'd be gurgling messily down into a singularity. Only Ansible brings you the facts.


It was a surprise to read in DNQ that now standing for TAFF 1980 is none other than Joseph Nicholas: the lad hasn't mentioned his ambitions in this country. Other prospective candidates such as Jim Barker and the Ansible editor will be having a word with Joe in some dark alley behind the Metropole. But Joe's own fan club will be emerging in force at Seacon – the Surrey Limpwrists, including Alan Dorey, Kevin Smith, Bruce Healey, the Maules, the Drs Jackson, the Harveys and others too nonexistent to mention. Already the Limpwrist Constitution has gone through various crises to be revealed in Nabu, while the secret Limpwrist badge is the subject of much bored and apathetic speculation. Chris Priest, meanwhile, has been preparing his own badges for the Jaqueline Lichtenberg Appreciation Society – inspired by Ms Lichtenberg's generous offer to Seacon to hold Jaqueline Lichtenberg fan gatherings and to take neos round the book room telling them what to buy.


SF Book Club supremo Paul Begg informs me that David & Charles are planning a follow-up to that super collection Aries 1 (not to be missed by Langford completists). The new collection will not be called Aries 2 (which is OK by me), will be paying twice the money (yes, yes, go on Paul) and will not be featuring writers who appeared in Aries 1. Hate, hate, hate. Another rumour from D&C is that the SFBC will be folding next year, perhaps in an attempt to make sure they don't print Bob Tucker's The Lincoln Hunters for a third time. Several people, including Greg Pickersgill, insist that SFBC lost its charm when they stopped numbering their books; D&C remain impervious to such criticism. Better death than dishonour, and so on. It may be that D&C will not survive the Langford book on flying saucers, due next month.


Fritz Leiber fans will no doubt be desperate to acquire Chris Morgan's near-as-dammit-complete Leiber bibliography, chronicling all known appearances of 37 books, 64 articles and 206 stories by The Man. Available for £1.50/$3.00 from me or from Chris (39 Hollybrow, Selly Oak, Birmingham B29 4LX); if you're reading this at Seacon, you should find copies in the Fan Room and Book Room. Meanwhile, still moving in these lofty strata of publication, Ian Garbutt confides that: 'Creations is the name of my new mag, not to be confused with Tangent despite the logo on the front cover.' I don't know what sort of fanzine this will be; Ian's only hint is that Jim Barker is 'the wrong type of artist' to feature in Creations.


[omitted for on-line edition]


I don't think I believe the item below, supposedly from a Florida newspaper; however, you never know ... WANTED – person to work on nuclear fissionable isotope molecular reactive counters and three phase cyclotronic uranium photosynthesisers – NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY.

Got dem ole single element blues • Kevin Smith

[the first in a series on little-known hazards of fanzine production....]

'Where's the question mark on this thing?' I said to Dave. I was typing out the last stencil of Drilkjis 4 on Dave's typewriter, and my question wasn't as dumb as it sounds because Dave's typewriter is a golf-ball machine. 'So what?' you say. 'The keys are marked, aren't they? You can read, can't you? What does it say on that key there?'

'It says question mark,' I reply.

'Well then!' you say in disgust.

'You can't believe everything you read,' I say. 'That's nothing but an upper case comma.' [FOOTNOTE: It also says question mark on the other key over there; press it and you get +.]

The problem is, you see, that the golf-balls are exchangeable to give different type-faces – one of the undoubted attractions of the machine – but the key-board isn't. The key-board is a standard type-writer key-board, except that several of the keys have three or four characters marked on them. This is the first clue that golf-balls might not be quite identical in ways other than the mere typeface.

The letters are all right, and so are the numbers from 2 to 9, full stop, comma, semi-colon, colon, round brackets, quotation marks, hyphen and underline. But you can't trust anything else. There might not seem much left, but it is surprising how often you need a 1, 0 or £, say; not to mention ? and ! – especially in fanzines.

This typeface is called 'Courier'. It's a very good typeface, and Dave likes it a lot (hence TD, Drilkjis, The Northern Guffblower and now Ansible [the names are in Courier Italic] all use it as the basic typeface). But it has a number of flaws. One of these is the position of the question mark.

I knew it wasn't on the key marked '?' and dimly remembered it as being on the key with ½ and %. Since Dave didn't answer, I bravely typed ½. /, it typed on the stencil. Out came the corflu. The / was obliterated. I typed %, and got my ?. That was another character sorted out. I already knew that there wasn't a 1, and I had to use l – which looks a little tautologous in Courier; it's a lower case L. If you hit the '1' key you get a righthand square bracket, which is a very useful character to have except when you're typing the date – ]979. (The [ is the upper case ]; neither of these is marked.)

So by now I thought I had it sussed, and was typing confidently. Then I came to a heading which required a change of golf-ball to Dual Gothic. Ostentatious, I know, but if you've got it, flaunt it. WAR IN 2¼8 I typed, and stopped.

'There isn't a zero on the Gothic, is there?' I said.

'Er, no. You have to use an upper case O,' said Dave. 'Anyway, it does say quarter on that zero key.'

He was right, it was the third character on the key. Courier, of course, has a zero. More corflu. I got the heading right and moved on to the price of his dratted book, which was in Courier again. I changed the golf-ball.

'Pound sign?' I asked.

'Where it says,' said Dave.

'Fine.' I happily typed %. 'Oy!' I said. 'What's this then?'

'Oh, sorry. I thought you were still on Gothic. Courier doesn't have a pound sign.'

'Bloody Americans!' I thought as I slapped on the corflu again. I found another golf-ball with a compatible pound sign and typed it in. Then came the American edition. Surely they'd get the dollar sign right. But I asked Dave anyway.

'Where it says slash,' said Dave. This seemed reasonable; the actual / was where it said ½, after all.

#, I typed. The level in the corflu bottle was getting very low.

'You did that deliberately!' I said.

'It's a very useful sign, is the hash,' said Dave. 'Not many golf-balls give you a hash.'

'Where's the bloody dollar sign?'

'Try the "at".'

I tried the @ and got my $. 'What's on the dollar, as a matter of interest?'

'Cents,' said Dave.

Well of course. What else could it be?

When they bring out a golf-ball typewriter with LCD keys that change to match the golf-ball fitted, I might possibly be tempted to buy one. But right now – forget it!

Kevin Smith

FOOTNOTE: I had to type * to get that @ above.
I had to type 3/4 to get that *.
This Courier doesn't have a 3/4.
Anyone want to buy a sodding golf-ball typewriter? (DRL) (really KJS)


[This section originally appeared on a spare half-page in the attached GUFF newsletter The Northern Guffblower, but seems to fit most logically here....]

Huog Award Error: a few days ago, the engraved Hugos arrived complete with creative spelling – the Dramatic Presentation Hugo is a SCIENCE FICTION AGHIEVEMENT trophy. Panic began at once, though the engravers promised corrections by Seacon (SGIENGE FIGTION ACHIEVEMENT ...). The Campbell award was marked SEACON 1978.... • Late COA: Phil Stephensen-Payne, c/o Systime SA Ltd, 10th Floor, Delvers Square, Cnr. Delvers & Kerk Sts., Johannesburg 2001, S Africa. • Langford Buys SF Book – Scotland Yard Baffled: the new D.G. Compton, A Usual Lunacy, costs $3.95 from Borgo Press. What's that in real money? The Forbidden Planet bookshop says £2.95, Rog Peyton says £2.75 and Bram Stokes shocks the nation with a mere £2.40. 'Not worth changing my opinion of him for 35p,' said a One Tun pundit.... • Mulligrubs Gives In: John 'Mulligrubs' Collick has yielded to Kev Smith's Bane; his fanzine (formerly 101 Ballooning Adventures ...) will become Mulligrubs from issue 3. Those blind to the relevance of a term meaning 'stomach pain' must own rotten dictionaries which omit the key word, ie. colic.... • Seacon Reich – Achtung! The ordinance has gone forth: famous authors at Seacon are not to sign books at just any time, but only at official signing sessions. Also they must not sign books not bought at Seacon. Also dealers must not arrange signing sessions except at special expensive signing-only tables at which no books may be sold. Brian Aldiss, it seems, has already informed the committee of where to put these directions: he'll be signing books wherever he finds them, to the annoyance of those who hoped to arrange a committee monopoly of his selling/signing sessions. • D. West Reads Junk: desperate for Seacon pocket-money, the Astral Leauge's High Priest has been mucking out the Gollancz slushpile: 'Brain-damaging,' he reports. Watch for Arnold Tharg in yellow jackets next year.... • Albacon Hotel Is Super, says Ken Slater with many a dribble over the marble foyers and countless bars. Be nice to hear more about the price: D. West's claim that double rooms cost £37 a night has been pooh-poohed by Albacon, but they seem in no hurry to release the real, discounted prices. So long as the bar prices undercut those reported by the Glicksohn Advance Seacon Survey: 90p/pint for Guinness, 75p for lager.... • Stop Press! Seacon Happens! You read it first in ANSIBLE! [last stencil 20 Aug]

Oh Godfrey – if Sir Jasper forecloses on CHECKPOINT, what will be left for us in life?



from Dave Langford
22 Northumberland Avenue


(nb: future issues will contain news.)