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Ansible 100, November 1995

Cartoon: Ian Gunn

From Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU, UK. Fax 01734 669914. ISSN 0265-9816. E-mail ansible[at] Logo: Dan Steffan. Cartoon: Ian Gunn. Available for SAE or nice telegram from HM the Queen.

LOOKING BACKWARD. Once upon a time in 1979, Peter Roberts decided to terminate his famed UK sf/fan newsletter Checkpoint at issue 100. His slanlike tendrils combed the ether for a sucker and, after a confused interval well laced with beer, I found myself taking over with Ansible 1 at the 1979 Worldcon. This had the traditional first-issue defect of containing no news.... Years passed in a blur of being told by kindly fans, 'It's not as good as Checkpoint' – until the shock of Ansible's 1987 Hugo (and overextended subscription list) led to sudden collapse:

'Ansible passed away peacefully somewhere in the war-torn aftermath of the 1987 Worldcon. In its best years, whenever they were, it was generally agreed that this fanzine had done great things for semicolons. Indeed, the entire cyberpunk movement is clearly influenced by the seminal production values of issue 2/3 (a testament to the artistic effect of runny duplicator ink on shiny paper). Later, though, there came a decline. After major bypass surgery to the colophon, the sadly self-indulgent Ansible 666 concerned itself entirely with flatulent discussions about the protocol of stapling fanzines ('My teeth gritted, and the stapler went spung.'). The final, posthumous issues were so rambling, ill-written and ineptly edited that they earned the scorn of all true SF aficionados by becoming best-sellers, and there were angry scenes when one of these insults to science fiction was block-voted on to the 1987 Hugo shortlist by the sinister and hateful cult of 'Britfanologists', already proven by Los Angeles researchers to have been collectively responsible for the Holocaust and the postal system. Although the special Conspiracy '87 Ansible was a large and imposing edifice, well suited to a Worldcon despite the poor state of repair, it cannot be denied that its manager was drunk and behaved appallingly. Let us pass over the later controversy and the sadness of Ansible's lonely, alcoholic end ... and look back on the period of its greatness, believed to have appeared at the end of a sentence in issue 28.' [1989]

And then in 1991 Ansible mysteriously came back to life with issue 51. No one was as surprised as I. Where will it all end?

Something Strange

Sir Kingsley Amis died aged 73 on 22 October. See below.

Steve Baxter continues his relentless wit: 'I wonder if any of your readers have spotted the strange resemblance between Bob Eggleton's spectacular Jupiter cloudscape cover art for Gregory Benford's Sailing Bright Eternity (Gollancz hc 1995) and Bob Eggleton's spectacular Jupiter cloudscape cover art for my own Timelike Infinity (Roc pb 1992). Are they by any chance related? I only hope no unwary readers pick up the book and are disappointed to find it's not Stephen Baxter.'

Greg Benford gloats over his Lord Award 'for achievement in the sciences, both astrophysical research ("the standard model of the electrodynamical galactic centre") and for popularizing science, also. (If sf does that....) • The 1995 awards, a statue and $2,500, went to two Nobel laureates and GB.'

Mary Gentle was unwell and couldn't be guest at Octocon; she was impersonated by well-known lookalike Kim Newman.

Bob Shaw is embittered: 'At the Scottish Convention somebody pointed out to me that Eddie Jones has been labelled as me in the John Clute encyclopaedia. Somebody else at the same table suggested that I should sue. Mike Moir immediately chipped in and said Eddie Jones was the one entitled to sue. This ill-mannered remark was equally ill-timed, because I had been on the point of buying Mike a pint. He didn't get it, but perhaps Mr Jones will send him a crate of whisky.'

Neal Stephenson was not best pleased when The Economist quoted 'a recent sf novel' (i.e. his Snow Crash) as saying that America will soon lead the world only in software, movies and pizza delivery – but without attribution. 'I found two footnotes – but for other people's books. Both, I note, are serious-sounding non-fiction works whose authors (unlike science-fiction novelists, alas) are evidently thought to deserve recognition for their work. • The Economist should feel free to quote my ideas with due attribution, or leave them to languish in the obscurity of mere genre fiction – but not to enjoy the convenience of having it both ways.' Couldn't have put it better myself.


3-5 Nov • Novacon 25, Chamberlain Hotel, Brum. £30 reg.

3-5 Nov • ReCONTaniméTed, Grand Hotel, Brum. £26 reg.

17-19 Nov • Armadacon VII, Astor Hotel, Elliot St, The Hoe, Plymouth. £20 reg. Contact 4 Gleneagle Ave, Mannamead, Plymouth, Devon, PL3 5HL. (01752) 267873.

18-19 Nov • Assimilation (Trek), Friendly Hotel, Milton Keynes. Contact 77 Holyrood Ave, South Harrow, HA2 8UD.

25-6 Nov • The Fantastic conference, Staff House, Hull University. £25 reg (£15 unwaged). Contact A. Butler, English Dept, Hull Univ, Hull, HU6 7RX. 01482 465644 (office hours).

8-11 Dec • UK Year of Literature sf/fantasy section events, Swansea. Write to mighty consultant Lionel Fanthorpe, 48 Claude Rd, Cardiff, CF2 3QA, in 35,000 words or more.

4 Feb 96 • Picocon 13, Imperial College, London. GoH Rob Holdstock, Chris Priest. £8 reg, students (correction) £4. Contact 13 Lindfield Gdns, Hampstead, London, NW3 6PX.

12-14 Jul 96 • Faircon '96 (small fan event): St Enoch Hotel, Glasgow. £10 reg. Contact 3/2 226 Woodlands Rd, Glasgow, G3 6LN. The apparently accidental clash with Contagion caused inordinate fuss, chiefly because Faircon's organizer is the notorious Evil Fake Bob Shaw. Erstwhile GoH Angus McAllister was 'frightened off by it all', while Faircon flyers were allegedly removed in bulk from Intersection tables. Displeasure at Faircon is indicated in Glasgow's sf newsletter Small Fry: but Our Bob, ever ready with the olive branch, claims to be inviting Small Fry editor Michelle 'Cuddles' Drayton as fan GoH....

13-15 Jul 96 • Contagion (Trek), Hospitality Inn, Glasgow. Contact PO Box 867, Rutherglen, Glasgow, G73 4HR.

8-10 Nov 96 • Novacon 26, Hotel Ibis, Birmingham. £23 reg to 6 Nov 95, then £25. GoH David Gemmell. Contact 14 Park St, Lye, Stourbridge, West Midlands, BY9 8SS.

28-31 Mar 97 • Intervention (Eastercon), Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool. £20 reg; £25 from 30 Nov; cheques to 'Wincon'. Contact 12 Crowsbury Close, Emsworth, Hants, PO10 7TS.

RumblingsSF/Fantasy Festival at Kingston (K) and Surbiton (S) libraries: 8 Nov, Josh Kirby (K); 9 Nov, Rob Holdstock, Garry Kilworth, Chris Evans (S); 14 Nov, Andrew Harman (K); 18 Nov, Ian Watson (S); 21 Nov, Tom Holt (S); 25 Nov, cartoon workshop (S); 28 Nov, Paul Gravett on graphic novels (K); 5 Dec, Simon Ings (K); 8 Dec (K) & 9 Dec (S), Storm Constantine; 12 Dec Steve Baxter (K). Times/prices: call 0181 547 6421. [SJ] Octocon: in the Who Really Shot John F. Kennedy panel, 'Scott McMillan was displaying an intimate knowledge of the affair which prompted Rob Holdstock to exclaim, "It was you on the grassy knoll!" McMillan: "I was looking for a wildebeeste." Near the end Kim Newman was heard to murmur, "I don't know why Rob and Graham wanted the key to my room for just an hour...."' [MP] Graham?

Infinitely Improbable

World Fantasy Awards. NOVEL James Morrow, Towing Jehovah; NOVELLA Elizabeth Hand, 'Last Summer at Mars Hills'; SHORT Stephen King, 'The Man in the Black Suit'; ANTHOLOGY Ellen Datlow (ed), Little Deaths; COLLECTION Bradley Denton, The Calvin Coolidge Home For Dead Comedians and A Conflagration Artist; ARTIST Jacek Yerka; SPECIAL AWARDS (pro) Ellen Datlow for editing; (fan) Bryan Cholfin for Broken Mirrors Press. [Announced at WFC#21, 29 Oct]

Publishers & Sinners. More on How Publishing Works: years ago, one of our spies (who are everywhere) saw the original MS of David Gemmell's first Alexander the Great novel. Good stuff, thought Spy X. Nifty storytelling; a fine historical novel in the Mary Renault tradition, which should be marketed as such since its fantasy content was minimal. Hearing this praise, famous (then) Legend editor Deborah Beale made a horrible face and instantly mailed the MS back to David Gemmell, demanding a rewrite to insert lots more fantasy. The resulting book (reckons Spy X) was much inferior to what DG had originally written. But hey, the purity of the fantasy genre had been preserved.

C.o.A. Mark & Vanessa Loney, PO Box 181, Campbell, ACT 2612, Australia. Diane Duane & Peter Morwood, Coolafinchogue, Tinahely, Co.Wicklow, Ireland. Andi Shechter & Stu Shiffman (not a move: house number change only), 8616 Linden Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103, USA.

TransAtlantic Fan Fund. Martin Tudor is first to declare himself as a candidate for the 1996 race to LAcon, though hampered by the dubious support of Ansible. Who will step forth to challenge him before the 2 Dec deadline? Er um....

Random Fandom. Delany's Children is a 'British sf group for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and their friends': £12/year. SAE for info to BM Delanys, London, WC1N 3XX. • Malcolm Edwards, according to newspaper clippings sent by millions of fans, has been re-united with his pet tortoise which escaped in 1960 and has now reappeared a full 150 yards from home. I want to believe this is our very own sf Malcolm Edwards, but.... • R.I.P.: Eric Garber, US fan who co-authored a gay-oriented sf guide and edited gay sf/horror theme anthologies, died aged 40 on 8 Oct. [DF] • Teddy Harvia offers an anagram: 'I Be Slan.' • Kim Huett ponders: 'Perhaps you are indeed fandom's answer to Bob Guccione.... When can we expect to see tasteful nude studies of sf personalities tipped into future issues of Ansible? Jacqueline Lichtenberg and D. West re-enacting a scene from House of Zeor, Harry Adam Knight, Andy Porter, John Clute sprawled seductively over a PC....' • Lucy Huntzinger has a mission from God: 'I rejoice to tell you I am going to visit Mexico where I fully expect to find some trace of Mexican fandom. I will be able to tell them all about the wonderful conventions we had in their honour. Won't they be surprised?' • Cheryl Morgan reports from Down Under: 'The queue of Jackie McRobert suitors reached Darwin two days ago and is gradually extending across the desert towards Ayers Rock. Please don't publish news like that again – think how many previously stable relationships you've broken up.' • The Fake Bob Shaw's life is in turmoil: 'I was recently the victim of a blackmail ring led by a corrupt journalist, and his activities have cost me my job. No kidding! They attempted to set me up, failed to do so, and made up a daft story about me anyway. So, no money until my Industrial Tribunal = no conventions.' • Ian Sorensen views with alarm: 'What is happening to Scots fandom? First Naveed [Khan] and Leslie have a baby, then Joan Paterson and Tibs announce an imminent sprog. Cuddles and Ralph Harold got married last week [29 Sep] – how long before a Cuddlette appears?' • Larry van der Putte spent most of October in intensive care following chemotherapy and surgery which led to a heart attack and severe pancreas infection – but he's now on the mend, and was released on 1 Nov.

Net Book Agreement. Chris Priest muses: 'My guess is that specialist dealers will not be affected too badly, since they do not compete with other booksellers for sales of bestsellers. My other opinion is that we should let the new non-net arrangements run for a while before we judge them. In the long run [...] publishers will undoubtedly increase the prices so that the discount prices wil be at much the same level as full prices now. This means the £19.99 novel discounted to £14.99 or £15.99. I'd like to hear M. Edwards's rationalization of why his firm led the way into this jungle, though....' (In the short run, the new '£15.99' Terry Pratchett is widely available at £11.99 – which might slightly worry some fantasy/sf specialist dealers.)

Avram Davidson Award ... this, established by the late great man's estate, has a certain ironic appropriateness in being for 'the best-beloved out-of-print works of imaginative fiction'.

Psychic Corner. Ansible is not afraid to record the following awesome 1968 predictions of the future! Fidel Castro assassinated by unnamed woman, 9 Aug 1970; discovery of antimagnetic forces makes rocketless space flight possible, late 70s; New York City inundated and moved further inland, 21 Jan 1980; Caucasian woman becomes leader of entire Far East, 1985; Atlantis rises and joins Africa to S. America, mid-80s; giant meteor destroys London but subsequently becomes profitable tourist attraction, 18 Oct 1988; Denver, Colorado, transformed to jelly-like mass by 'strange and terrible pressure from outer space', 9 Jun 1989; Las Vegas hosts first Interplanetary Convention, 10 Mar 1990; global utopia almost achieved, 1 Jun 1995; world ends as mysterious space force sucks all oxygen from atmosphere, 18 Aug 1999. All this from Criswell Predicts: Your Future from Now to the Year 2000! (1968) – it must be good, he was in Plan 9 from Outer Space....

Century is a most impressively produced small-press sf mag in paperback format: now up to #3. $5.95, bimonthly. Contact PO Box 9270, Madison, WI 53715-0270, USA.

Thog's Masterclass. The Bookseller announces Jonathan Carroll's collection: The Picnic Hand. [CP] • '"Oh," Zoe said. She looked at Joyce from under her eyelids.' (Stella Hargreaves in Narrow Houses) [PB]

Kingsley Amis, 1922-1995

Chris Priest writes ...

I discovered Kingsley Amis's work through New Maps of Hell, a book about science fiction which in 1962 was a revelation to me and (as it turned out) to many other people too. In particular, it had a great impact on the book's own British publisher, Gollancz. Hilary Rubinstein, then editor at Gollancz, realized how few of the books Amis mentioned were available in the UK, and set about acquiring and publishing them. This was the beginning of what was for years unquestionably the most influential sf list in Britain.

New Maps of Hell is still one of the greatest of all books on the subject, but it is of course now dated. Many years later, when I knew Kingsley, I asked him if he had ever thought about writing a revised version, for instance to discuss Ballard, who is not even mentioned in passing in the original, or the New Wave movement of the 1960s, or anything else since. Characteristically, Amis launched into an extremely amusing tirade against bloody secondrate American writers, who had read his book and, sensing a good thing, had moved in and ruined everything. Anyway, he said, he didn't want to have to read all that stuff to catch up, only to see it start slipping out of date again.

Amis's own attempts at writing sf are not his best work, although The Alteration is a good genre novel (and nods gratefully to Keith Roberts and Harry Harrison, whose own alternate-worlds novels had impressed him). Amis often experimented with genre fiction, and his other sf novel, not as good, was Russian Hide and Seek. He also wrote Colonel Sun (a James Bond novel), The Riverside Villas Mystery (a murder mystery), and The Green Man (a superb book: a modern ghost story with a truly frightening climax). What he excelled at, though, were his social comedies.

Lucky Jim was the first of these, the novel which made him famous, and the one sensed by people who never really liked Amis to be possibly his best. It was a long way from this. His writing got better as time went by, and as he grew older, more right-wing, more intemperate, more politically incorrect, his comedies became increasingly funny and ideologically unsound. My own favourites are One Fat Englishman, Girl 20, Take a Girl Like You, Jake's Thing and The Old Devils, but I can also say that I never read an Amis book I didn't enjoy for one reason or another. His essays are required reading, in my view, even the slightest of them; 'Sod the Public: a Consumer's Guide' is quintessential Amis.

I was not a close personal friend, but I treasure my memories of my meetings with him. He was the best of company: a wonderful mimic, a storyteller, a boozer, a sharp-eyed observer. Men loved his company, but so too did a lot of women – he was not a sexist, as I've heard him described since his death, but a misogynist, an altogether trickier proposition for feminists to deal with. He went on about things, but never tediously, and was sharpest of all about people who went on about things too long. I thought of him as our best contemporary writer, and I was distressed when I heard he had died.

Geeks' Corner

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Back issues available:
[obsolete FTP/Gopher links removed]
(Thanks as always to Naveed Khan for all this.)

@ the Core
British SF Association (general enquiries),
Evolution (Eastercon 1996),
Intervention (Eastercon 1997),
Intuition (Eastercon 1998 bid),
Mark & Vanessa Loney,
Janice Murray (Ansible US agent),
Small Fry,
Alan Stewart (Ansible Aussie agent; DUFF), s_alanjs@eduserv.its.unimelb.EDU.AU
Sue Thomas,

Spider Kiss
Evolution (Eastercon 1996),
Fan e-mail directory (see below),
'The Fantastic' conference,
Fanzine archive under development by Roxanne Smith-Graham,
Laurie Mann's interesting sf/fan links,
Science Fiction Foundation Collection,
Worldcon bids round-up by Chaz Baden (changed),
Worldcons ditto,

The Last Deadloss Visions. Chris Priest feels that the on-line availability of his polemical essay has continued long enough, and politely requests its removal from all on-line archives. (I have already done this for the British CIX sf conference.) No one is being asked to erase their personal copies, of course, but further public dissemination is discouraged. The printed version The Book on the Edge of Forever continues – I believe – to be available from Fantagraphics Books.

Fannish E-Mail Directory. A new edition of John Lorentz's directory (Release 95-C) appeared in late October. Enquiries to ... or collect from the FTP site above.

Ansible 100 Copyright © Dave Langford, 1995. Thanks to Paul Barnett, Doug Faunt, Martin Hoare, Steve Jeffrey, Locus, Marion Pitman, Chris Priest and our Hero Distributors: Janice Murray (NA), SCIS, Alan Stewart (Oz), Martin Tudor and Bridget Wilkinson (FATW). 2 Nov 95.