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Ansible 6, February 1980

Scan of credit card slip

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 scanned and proofread for the archives by the poor bloody editor. • Dave Langford, 1997.

ANSIBLE 6 from Dave Langford, 22 Northumberland Avenue, Reading, Berks, RG2 7PW, UK. Rates: 4/50p in Europe, 3/$1 NA and Africa, 5/$1 Australia. Credit given for news; also certain trades. Those who have not renewed subscriptions should study the item to the left [or here, above: a credit card slip for a purchase of '1 Hydrogen bomb']. See Keith Freeman's nifty mailing label for your status. Comments on this keep-the-weight-down-while-getting-more-in format are invited. This issue is dated February 1980 (no, there was no January issue: sorry).


After a short and undistinguished writing career, Elmer T. Hack, the author of countless sf novels and short stories too numerous to remember, has announced his retirement from the field. Hack cites 'writer's cramp, artistic boredom, creeping paralysis of the brain and stagnation of the wallet' as the reasons for his retirement. After taking a short holiday in Tierra del Fuego, Hack plans to go into business as a retailer of the artificial eyes recently developed via microprocessor technology. He expects to open his Vision Chip Shop in the near future. If he has as much success in this venture as he did with his writing, then no-one will be unable to say that he is not doing extremely well – will they? Hack's last novel, The Three Tomatoes of Alma Everidge, will be published by Nadir Books in the near future. Rumours that the cover will be black with the words REST IN PEACE prominently displayed on it are as yet unconfirmed. (Chris Evans)


One little-known hazard of fanzine publishing is the irksome necessity of attending fannish gatherings in order to glean material. It becomes even more difficult when one lives some distance from the Metropolis and thus finds most parties and Tuns somewhat out of reach. Fear not! for there is a solution. The Northern Tun, held in that centre of all things Northern, the West Riding Hotel, Wellington St, Leeds, may well be the answer to all your problems.

There is some controversy over the exact date of the first Northern Tun, arising from the question of whether the last Leeds Group meeting of Feb '79 (made cosmopolitan by the presence of such jet-setters as Dave Bridges and Paul Kincaid), at which the suggestion of opening the last meeting of each month to all Northern fandom was first made, actually counts – or whether the officially dubbed Inaugural Meeting the following month (blessed by the presence of no less than two non-regular personages, myself and the aforementioned Kincaid) actually holds that honour. This is a vital question up here, where attendances at fannish gatherings are the equivalents of scalps to American Indians, and people like Dave Pringle cut notches in their travelling cases for each One Tun.

Still, whenever it actually arrives, the first anniversary is fast approaching; the tone of the meetings has done anything but remain the same. Early meetings consisted of Paul and I drifting over to join a bloated Leeds group for an extended falling-over. With the departure of young Paul and the ubiquitous Alan Dorey to seek fame and fortune in distant parts, and the fading of Yorcon into the race-memory with the consequent lapse of the members attracted by it, including the vast Ryan clan, faces changed. In compensation, Mike Scantlebury finally made his threatened appearance, complete with van and sundry reluctant Mancunians he and I had dragged along. The van was useful for transporting the whole crew back to continue revelries into the early hours, a feature of the meetings which has never died out. Laden with booze procured by whip-round, those who can face further merriment make their way back to whoever is willing to put people up (most of the group have spare floor space) and indulge in such traditional pastimes as playing records loudly, including various Doors albums and especially 'Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)', which Alan reckons to be the classic fannish track. This continues until someone falls over and is drawn upon, or the host becomes tired and institutes Plan A: passing round the unfinished 4th part of Gonad the Barbarian, at which everyone flees.

The next casualty was John Collick, who was dragged off kicking and screaming to some den of iniquity down south. Dave Pringle's threats of going off to make Virgins came to nothing, and when last heard of he was still getting up an hour before going to bed and licking road clean wi' t' tongue. A new addition to the intellectual part of the group was Tom Shippey, and Dorey finally managed to get a job so he could afford to return every month. Life goes on.

The much mooted Leeds Group fanzine has been through various mutations and atrophied from a massive, ground-breaking, Northern-fans-only, all-Southerners-are-poofs genzine to a regular Northern Tun scandal sheet; and indeed response to this idea has been such that it might yet appear to join the ranks of such as Ocelot, O'Ryan and Blank Whole, and their Manchester counterparts like Stomach Pump, Perihelion and the new improved Tripe Picker's Journal. Anyone who wants to gain an insight into the arcane workings of the BSFA and Yorcon II can do worse than drop into the West Riding on the last Friday of the month. See you there. (Steev Higgins)

Footnote From D. West: 'Usual falling down drunkenness & debauchery in Leeds. Four Leeds fans in a car were stopped by Police as part of the bid to catch the Ripper. Thanks to Tom Shippey's amazing (in the circumstances) ability to remember both the colour and registration number of the vehicle he was driving, no immediate arrests were made. On another occasion I held an auction of tatty SF, raising various small sums for the DWF (not a new Welsh word but the Distressed West Fund). Best price was 40p for a copy of Sex Turned On by Richard E Geis, secured after some brisk bidding by Graham James. (The bits of this interesting volume I read were all about black lace panties. There were also some rather poor photographic illustrations, showing a woman half into the same garments.) Ah, what it is to be a Big Name Hugo Winner. How many years must I wait?'


On 29 November 1979, at 7.57 a.m. (I was there and looked at the clock...), to John & Pat Piggott, a daughter (Katherine). 9lb 6oz.... Needless to say both parents are overjoyed. I have plans to introduce her to fandom, but it must be a gradual process. The strength of her lungs, especially at times when civilized people are asleep, is such that the first function she attends will really have to be the next BSFA AGM. (John Piggott)


Saturday, Nov 24, 1979 saw the 'silver anniversary' of Pieria, which has little to do with food or diseases of the gums, but is in fact a gathering of people interested in writing and sufficiently masochistic to expose their latest fictional outpourings to the critical gaze of the group. At this 25th meeting I made my debut, pleased to be invited but somewhat apprehensive that my own story (precirculated to all members, like all contributions) might prove as dross amidst nuggets of gold. After the preliminary food, drink and gossip (and, in my case, numerous cigarettes) ten of us (plus Hazel as umpire) sat down to discuss the stories. Despite my fears, the criticism proved to be informed, friendly and spiced with a fair degree of wit and levity. Between stories we paused for refreshments, visits to the loo and deep sighs of relief. Even so, the programme was crowded, and we concluded at 10.30 that evening, having dismembered 8 of the 10 stories. Next morning we reconvened at 11.00 a.m. and polished off the other two, before attacking the remnants of cakes and other delicacies provided by various attendees. What can be said of Pieria 25? Only that the stories were good, the critical standards high, the atmosphere intense and energetic but far from stuffy. It was a social gathering as well as a writers' meet, and ultimately quite exhausting in a stimulating way. There were a couple of birthday cakes (one with candles), some booze and even time for the reading of a new Mac Malsenn story for which your editor must take all the blame. At one point Rob Holdstock and I completely missed the point of a witty Mike Rohan story, and henceforward any mention of dinosaurs to a Pieria member is likely to raise a smile or even a chuckle. It was that sort of meeting, too.... (Chris Evans)


Dear Mr Langford: I have been writing to fan editors for many years, but this is the first time I have ever read a fanzine.... To aid Chris Priest in his search for the perfect practical joke, I'd like to describe one I invented many years ago while living in Canada. There was an unpopular character in our office who had this habit of logging his car mileage each time he bought petrol, and of working out to three decimal places how many miles he was getting to the gallon. Apparently he used the information to diagnose all kinds of things about the car, and it was vitally important to him – so I decided to balls up his system. A common, uninspired practical joker might have siphoned off some petrol from his tank, but I got a better idea. I brought three or four others in on the thing, and every other day we had a whip-round and bought a gallon of petrol (it was ridiculously cheap out there at the time) and surreptitiously poured it into his tank. There is no way to describe the confusion, bafflement and doubting of reality that this bloke went through as it gradually dawned on him that his car was using no petrol at all: I can still see him repeatedly going over the entries in his log-book, and struggling to comprehend what was going on, and never coming near the truth because – after all – no practical joker is going to do his victim a good turn by providing him with free petrol.

I submit that this is close to the perfect practical joke because it was so funny for the perpetrators to watch and yet it did not harm the victim in any material way.

Also a word of advice to Paul Kincaid from a more experienced boozer – forget about Alka Seltzers. They work all right, especially if you take them before going to bed, but the cost is atrocious. You can get the same effect, or better, by swallowing two aspirins washed down with a tablespoon of baking soda in a glass of water. (Bob Shaw)


Scan of news item

The item on the left [also transcribed below] was pointed out by Leroy Kettle and others – no statement as yet from the real Real Peter Rabbit, who was last heard of a week ago (he was about to run off TAFF forms which at the time of typing I haven't received).

'The Enid Blyton With Tears element is at its strongest in Myra Schneider's Will The Real Pete Roberts Stand Up? (Heinemann Pyramid, £2.95). As authentic a portrait of life on the edge of despair as you're ever likely to read, it concerns a lad in care who gets involved with petty crime and a pretty girl and comes out almost unkissed and totally unscathed.'


Andrew Porter (PO Box 4175, NY 10017, USA) wants conreps for his SF Chronicle and will pay 3 cents per word, $5 for a photo (sterling equivalent) for coverage of, I presume, major cons. 'Time value is important' – so forget that Seacon report you meant to finish one day. SFC also wants a paid UK correspondent, especially for professional stuff: send credentials & indication of ability to write. 'Charles Platt need not apply,' says Mr Porter.

Meanwhile, your editor is assembling material for a collection of amazing 'scientific' boobs, ranging from Bishop Ussher's calculation of the date of Creation (4004 BC, 2lst October, 10.30 in the morning, wasn't it?) to such profound 20th century statements as that of the limit of 2,000 for the automobile market in Europe (only that many chauffeurs available, you see) and onward to the present day. Anyone sending suitable and preferably documented material will achieve undying fame on the acknowledgements page... not to mention extension of their Ansible subscription....


The 1980 TAFF nominations closed on 31 Dec '79 with only two nominated candidates, Jim Barker and some chap called Dave Langford. Barker hints at a Welsh and Langford at a Scots victory; both agree the Celts have a good chance, Mr Hold O'Verfunds having announced Irish ancestry. Barker & Langford (who were nominated by, among others, Langford & Barker) plan a fundraising fanzine which will include such delights as a Barker article with Langford illustrations, and vice-versa: material for this peerless work is sought from all Ansible readers who happen to be called Barker or, for that matter, Langford. TAFF form enclosed if Peter Roberts gets it here in time. Vote for a Celt!

Cartoon: Jim Barker

Impression of the TAFF candidates, above, by Jim Barker [left]


Malcolm Edwards recently announced his resignation as SF Foundation administrator, feeling that his other sources of income – Gollancz, bookdealing, freelance writing – were adequate for his simple needs. At once replacements were rumoured: Dave Pringle, Brian Stableford (who had, however, just contrived a long-term contract with Reading U; he should be moving here this summer), Roz Kaveney, Dave Langford (false rumour put about by literary sociologist to increase the Pringle paranoia) and, shock horror, Gerry Webb. ('The Webb SF Foundation Consultancy Ltd: no subject too small, no fee too large!') Thanks to our wonderful government's assault on education, the problem of succession has become (ho ho) academic: the NELP will not be replacing Malcolm and the Foundation thus effectively dies. Foundation should continue; the fate of the library etc. is uncertain. Malcolm adds glumly that the post would probably have been axed in any case; his cleverly timed resignation merely ensures he will receive no redundancy payment.


Albacon PR2 is out, at last making it clear that hotel rates are £11.70 per person per night (some read previous announcements as meaning a rate per room).... Rockcon; the possibly-a-hoax Edinburgh '81 bid ('a figment of the other Bob Shaw's imagination', says an Edinburgh fan in Matrix) is advertised in this PR.... Yorcon II planning continues, says John Collick, who will be doing the Fan Room if the bid wins; he's already assembling notions for the fan programme (Albacon is still asking for ideas in PR2).... Meanwhile, in 1982:

'The committee for the 1982 South of England Eastercon bid are: Eve Harvey (chairman), and the Significant Members of her Team: Chris Atkinson (programme); Pat Charnock (membership secretary); Coral Jackson (publicity & publications); Janice Maule (treasurer); Kath Mitchell (bookroom and films); Simone Walsh (fan room); and Sue Williams (art show). Despite the obvious feminine bias, the committee wish to stress that just as an all-male committee is not chauvinistic, so this will not be a feminist convention. The exact location of the hotel and room rates will be announced in the not too distant future. Presupporting membership (50p) will be available at Albacon.' (Coral Jackson)

Denvention II rates go up from 1 Jan 80. Supporting/attending rates are: if you voted far site selection at Seacon, free/£7.50; if you didn't, £3.75/£12.50; 1st March to 1st Sept 1980, same but no discount for site voters; after 1st Sept, further increase. 50p off for presupporters. Cheques to Denvention; all Eurocurrencies OK; send to Graham England, 1 Fleetway, Didcot, Oxon, OX11 8BZ. Graham would like to hear from anyone whose site selection ballot cheque wasn't paid for any reason; also from Denvention I attendees, who get free membership. NB: Graham will be changing jobs and fleeing Britain on March 20th (to 'Munich, Luxembourg, Rome or somewhere else'); watch for COA here.


W.R. BENEDICT, #12-401 Grier Ave INE, Calgary, Alta, Canada, T2K 3T8 / JOHN COLLICK (termtime only), Room 38, Norwich House, Sussex U, Falmer, Brighton, Sussex / LEIGH EDMONDS, PO Box 433, Civic Square, Canberra, ACT 2606, Australia / PAUL KINCAID, 17 Radnor Bridge Rd, Folkestone, Kent (the change is that it's no longer 'Basement Flat' and the address is now permanent) / ERIC MAYER & KATHY MALONE, 654 Boulevard East (2nd floor), Weehawken, New Jersey 07087, USA / JOE NICHOLAS, Room 9, 94 St George's Square, Pimlico, London SW.1 / PIERROT PUBLISHING LTD, 60 Greek St, Soho Square, London WlV 5LR / KEVIN SMITH, 10 Cleves Court, St Mark's Hill, Surbiton, Surrey, KT6 4PS / PHIL STEPHENSEN-PAYNE, c/o Systime SA (Pty) Ltd, PO Box 3238, Johannesburg 2000, South Africa / alert readers will deduce that the Dorey/Nicholas Flatsharing Plan fell through.


Ian Watson writes: 'Got a letter from a French ufologist I'm friendly with. He was in a state of great excitement because he'd discovered a close encounter, vintage 1871, in a book entitled Account of a meeting with denizens etc, commented on by ... hmm. Ufologist wanted me to get the book instantly, to determine with my anglophone ear whether it sounded authentic.... You naughty man, Dave!' • Maxim Jakubowski has bounced back at Virgin Books, says Dave Pringle with a sob: he has a secretary, expects to take on a junior editor and will probably publish 10 books in 1980. Send him all your grubby handwritten MSS; or try them on Paul Barnett's new editorial consultancy: BEAUTIFUL BARNETT BOOKS INC (They Blast your Brains, Stagger your Synapses and Break your Bank!!!), Book House (geddit?), 84 Wykes Rd, Exeter.Galileo have sent Peter Roberts a free copy of their sf newspaper, SF TIMES (50 cents), in which he was horrified to find a picture of D. Langford. Good grief.... • Douglas Adams has been replaced as Dr Who script editor by one Chris Bidmead, who plans to reduce the frivolity and up the drama. Hope he kills off K9.


Peter Roberts's phone number is now (0626) 890553. • FAAn Award nominations are open again; forms available from me. • The Surrey Limpwrists now meet on the 2nd Friday and 4th Tuesday of the month, still in the Southampton in Surbiton. • Mary Long has given birth to something called David (good name that) Mark and weighing 9lb 6½oz, thus beating the Piggotts by a clear ½oz! • Leigh Edmonds & Valma Brown have married at last: says Leigh; 'We've only been married a week and it seems like years.' • Joe Nicholas has a phone number too: 01 821 8819 (shared with many others). • Ron Salomon, a pervert, has arranged honorary citizenship for me in Father Flanagan's Boys' Home (Nebraska); next he promises the same in Dean Martin's Home for Wayward Girls. Somebody stop this man.... • Andy Darlington has been giving sponsored poetry readings: 'strange pub venue with antagonistic groups (student clique, OAPs who'd come expecting to play dominoes, nouveau-Mod group with parkas & Who logos) sitting around hating each other. The organizer walks out, turns off the jukebox in mid-record and says "Let's have some poetry – here's Andy ...!"' Let us draw a veil over the ensuing scene....) • D. West complains of misquotation re Jackie Lichtenberg: not 'blatant homosexual fantasy' but 'blatantly silly homosexual fantasy' is his opinion of her books. I stand corrected. • Chris Morgan writes: 'I've been reading Fred T Jane's 1897 novel To Venus in Five Seconds ... it will cause Hazel to jump up and down and gnash her teeth due to its treatment of the ancient Egyptians (who really all came from Mexico in their matter transmitters, you see).' • I hear that my 'Sex Pirates of the Blood Asteroid' (recently reprinted for 5,350,000 Penthouse readers) looks like being on the slate for the BSFA Award. 'It's that or let Chris Priest win,' said an ashen-faced Dorey.

Stop Press! The UK postal increase (25% on 2nd class mail) means ANSIBLE will cost 60p for 4 issues in the UK henceforth. Existing subs will be honoured at the old rates; foreign rates notified when postal rates are available. Stop Press Again! Got a letter from a French ufologist: 'Unless you prove me the contrary, I consider your book is a Hoax.' Rats.

ANSIBLE 6: 22 Northumberland Ave, Reading, Berks, UK.