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Ansible 101, December 1995

Cartoon: Sue Mason

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: Sue Mason. Available for SAE or the worst thing in the world.

COPYEDITING HORROR! Famous skiffy scribe Simon R. Green sent me a cry of despair at the copyediting of his latest prose monument Deathstalker Rebellion: 'The "person" in question had no sense of humour, and had therefore gone through my entire MS crossing out anything humorous. Sometimes up to half a page at a time disappeared. I had to go through the whole 700 pages writing STET over and over and over again.... Let us remember, this is the same publisher that puts out the Terry Pratchett novels. Perhaps he doesn't want any competition....'

Intrigued, I attempted to contact the professionally anonymous freelance copyeditor who had worked on the book for Gollancz. Back through devious channels came this enigmatic response:

'Only the stupidest of Simon R. Green's "jokes" were deleted, as were hilarious cracks about the severely disabled. Where he made the same "joke" more than once, having clearly forgotten making it before (i.e., we're not talking about running gags), one or more renditions were cut. "Jokes" in the following categories were allowed to stand: (a) unfunny; (b) very unfunny; (c) profoundly unfunny; (d) unfunnier than that.'

Who can say where the truth lies?

Such Interesting Neighbours

Brian Aldiss wants everyone to know that he's appearing in Keynsham 'as an appendage to the Bath Festival' on 27 Feb, 7:30pm, talking about Turkmenistan and pushing his travel-writer credentials. 'By then, my translation of "Songs from Central Asia" will be published. I shall of course be singing some of them.' The ominous, doom-laden italics are his.

John Brunner's estate was valued at £251,472, according to the Telegraph. [MAH] The most vacuous obituary opening yet recorded was in Folk Roots: 'Like so many non-professionals on the folk scene, John was an enthusiastic amateur.' [via JN]

Jack Finney died in California on 14 Nov 1995 (it's been a terrible year for sf), aged 84. The fame of his uneasy 1955 novel The Body Snatchers – or rather of its three movie versions beginning with the classic 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers – seems rather to have overshadowed his other writing. Time and Again (1970) is surely Finney's best sf novel, and he also wrote many classy short stories: some early favourites were collected in The Clock of Time (1957).

David Garnett sent a postcard: 'Bob: New Worlds a magazine? Not since 1970! According to The Illustrated Clute, New Worlds was 1946-1970: when, it seems, I was the third editor.'

Diana Wynne Jones enjoyed an epiphany at Novacon when, after uttering the heartfelt cry, 'God, this place is an evil little labyrinth!', she found the other person in the lift was the hotel manager.

Terry Pratchett issued mild, bemused groans upon learning that his books' occasional mentions of sinister black dogs with orange eyebrows had caused dedicated fans to form a Theory: that this must refer to the newspaper story recorded in Charles Fort's Wild Talents, about the black dog with orange eyebrows which in 1908 said 'Good morning!' to two Pittsburgh policemen and then vanished in a thin, greenish vapour. Mr Pratchett conveyed that he was merely alluding to rottweilers and suchlike; meanwhile, your curious editor looked up the Fort anecdote and found it didn't mention eyebrows. Another legend dies. (This was Fort at his most sceptical, by the way: 'You can't fool me with that dog-story,' he wrote, since although he could swallow the 'Good morning' he drew the line at the thin, greenish vapour.)

Bob Shaw, illustrating anew the perils of attending these sf conventions, became engaged to Nancy Tucker during Novacon. They are reportedly marrying in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on 16 Dec, and Bob is moving over there. Congratulations.... (Gosh!)


7-11 Dec • Out of This World, UK Year of Literature sf/fantasy events, Swansea. A bugger to summarize! Most events are in Ty Llên, Somerset Place, £3/£2 admission: Fri Colin Wilson 7pm, Bob Shaw 9pm; Sat me/Brian Stableford 2pm, Aldiss/Fanthorpe/Pratchett/Shaw on funny sf 4:15, Pratchett/Aldiss double bill in Taleisin Arts Centre, U of Wales (£6/£4) 7pm – TP reading and 'last performance EVER of SF Blues', quoth BA; Sun Stableford/Pringle/Brazier on writing/selling sf 3pm; Fred Clarke on Arthur 7pm; SF poetry/music with Steve Sneyd et al 9pm; Mon Ian McDonald 7pm, more Aldiss 9pm – 'I'll be dressing up as a camel-driver to talk about how I invented Turkmenistan.'

8-11 Dec • Wintersection: The Yorkshire Con, various pubs in Leeds and environs. Secret event. GoH: D. West.

9 Dec • BFS Xmas Open Night, The George, corner of Tolpuddle St/Liverpool Rd, near (5 min) Angel tube station.

21 Dec • London Xmas Meet, in Wellington pub as usual.

4 Feb 96 • Picocon 13, Imperial College, London. GoH Rob Holdstock, Chris Priest, Stephen Baxter. £8 reg; students £4. Contact (address change) ICSF, c/o Imperial College Union, Beit Quad, Prince Consort Road, London, SW7 2BB.

23-5 Feb 96 • Disection [sic], Scottish Convention post-mortem event, Rutland Hotel, Sheffield. £24 reg (£25 by credit card). Contact 379 Myrtle Road, Sheffield, S2 3HQ.

5-8 Apr 96 • Evolution (Eastercon), Radisson Edwardian Hotel, near Heathrow. £28 reg, 'very soft currencies £5'. Contact 13 Lindfield Gdns, Hampstead, London, NW3 6PX.

23-4 Aug 96 • Contraptions (gaming), somewhere. GoH

Steve Jackson (US variety). £25 reg until Easter. Contact 3 Bramley Ct, 43 Meath Green Lane, Horley, RH6 8EE.

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

28 Nov - 1 Dec 96 • DefCon 96 (media), Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool. £35 reg. Contact 47 Marsham, Orton Goldhay, Peterborough, PE2 5RN.

14-17 Feb 97 • Attitude: the Convention (born of the fanzine), Abbey Hotel, Gt Malvern. £23 reg. Contact First

Floor Flat, 14 Prittlewell Square, Southend-on-Sea, SS1 1DW.

28-31 Mar 97 • Intervention (Eastercon), Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool. Now £25 reg (£15 unwaged); cheques to 'Wincon'. Contact 12 Crowsbury Close, Emsworth, Hants, PO10 7TS.

RumblingsEastercon '98 contenders are the feistily all-female Intuition bid and the enigmatically silent Istanbul – one of which*, claims man of tact Steve Green, 'has chosen as its venue Manchester's Sacha's Hotel (truly wonderful for an event in the 200-250 membership range, but which would turn an Eastercon into one of those records where thirty people climb into a phonebox). Perhaps we should pass the hat round for the committee's psychiatric bill?' (*Clue from the grapevine: 'Not Intuition.' [JGD]) • Reconvene is a '99 bid run by familiar suspects from Sou'Wester and offering that hot new venue the Adelphi in Liverpool. Thog say: 'Newsletter? What effing newsletter?'

Infinitely Improbable

Novacon 25 happened in the Chamberlain Hotel deep in Birmingham's seedy hinterland, whose origins as a Victorian working men's dosshouse were tastefully recalled by plaques boasting that the dour blue-and-white glazed bricks of the restaurant walls were a legacy of its intended function as communal delousing chamber, or some such.... • John Brosnan developed an alarming tendency to huddle in corners and, at intervals, twitch violently, leading certain authors to speculate on forming the Brosnan Synchronized Twitching Team. • Graham Joyce had shaved off his moustache in hope of escaping the ignominy heaped on him in Critical Wave's letter column by Jo Fletcher of Gollancz, for Misplaced Irony. It was Misplaced for Graham to hint in CW42 that, splendid and laudable though it had been for Gollancz to arrange a deal whereby various sf authors' stories were 'presented to' 145,000 readers in a Focus magazine giveaway, it would have been even nicer to give the authors advance notice and offer payment. 'No one made any money from this,' retorts businesslike Jo (presumably the printers donated their services), and adds a sarcastic sideswipe at ingrate Peter Hamilton for being less than keen to see his 15,000-worder reprinted for nothing. (So, instead, it was dropped.) Onward to a bold new publishing future, untainted by sordid commerce! • But I digress. Guests Brian Aldiss, Iain Banks, Harry Harrison and Bob Shaw all did several things highly characteristic of themselves, and Novacon concluded with splendid events like a Sponsored Be-Your-Own-Sweeney-Todd Public Haircut Session orchestrated by Pam Wells (see below) and a prolonged beer tasting, both of which I missed because of catching trains. Rats.

Savoy Books brag that their infamous Lord Horror by David Britton fetched £220 at the Index on Censorship Auction of Banned Books on 6 Nov – outdoing first editions by Graham Greene and Salman Rushdie (who was also there, bidding for recordings of James Joyce reading his own stuff).

Random Fandom. Dave Clarke whinges: REGRET TO INFORM YOU LOCUS DECLINED TO PRINT PHOTOS OF PARTY CHEZ LANGFORD STOP NOT ENOUGH SEX OR VIOLENCE STOP NEXT TIME DON'T CLEAN UP NUNS IN CELLAR STOPHugh Mascetti earned the respect of his fellow firework enthusiasts by being quoted as an explosives expert in that scholarly journal of record, the News of the World. 'God, we can really respect that!' they shrieked in between bouts of mysterious hysterics.... [CS] • Lloyd Penney courageously takes my life in his hands: 'Next time you see Peter Morwood, ask him who Philip is, and then run away. Peter and Diane's newest Batman animated show lists his first name as Philip, for some reason.' • Martin Tudor, also infected by the heady air of Novacon, is now engaged to Helena Gough. • Larry van der Putte, despite medical horrors recounted last issue, was sighted at CozyCon and 'looks much better, with hair growing in at least one of the usual places.' [RS]

The Financial Times offered a cartoon feature showing the financial past, with a highwayman stockbroker threatening Victorian investors, and the future – symbolized by the Mekon threatening investors wearing propellor beanies. The imagery of sf having swept the world, the Protocols of the Elders of Fandom are following.... [CM]

Fanfundery. TAFF: 1996 trip candidates appear to be, in alphabetical order, Martin Tudor (who has my nomination) and 'Simo' Simpson. In a pathetic attempt at self-promotion, both announce new addresses in this very issue; Martin excelled at Novacon by carving 'Tudor for TAFF' into Nic Farey's hair when it was publicly cut in aid of Worthy Causes, but Simo threatens counter-propaganda on the cover of an upcoming SFX.... • DUFF: Stephen Dedman, Danny Heap and Perry Middlemiss are contending for the 1996 DUFF trip, Australia to LAcon.

Nova Awards (Novacon again) went to ... FANZINE Attitude (with Lagoon and Empties trailing); FANWRITER Simon Ounsley, while runners-up Dave 'One rotten, lousy vote' Langford and Alison Freebairn curse their luck; FANARTIST D. West, by a traditional colossal majority: Shep Kirkbride and Dave Mooring shared second place. There was a special award for ailing Brian Burgess, as consolation for missing his first Novacon.

C.o.A. Janice Eisen, 1424 Emmett Dr, Johnstown, PA 15905, USA. Joe McNally, 6 Sterling Gdns, New Cross, London [delayed to January]. Jackie McRobert, Flat 3/2, 114 Berkeley St, Charing Cross, Glasgow, G3 7HU. M.J.'Simo' Simpson & Hillary Stephen, 3 Eleanor Cottages, How Hill, Twerton, Bath, BA2 1DL. Martin Tudor, 24 Ravensbourne Grove, off Clarkes Lane, Willenhall, W. Midlands, WV13 1HX. • Bridget Wilkinson, Ground Floor Flat, 8 West Avenue Rd, Walthamstow, E17 9SE.

Hazel's Language Lessons. Cumberland Dialect: arvals drink given to helpers at a pig-killing; lant stale, partly fermented urine, used formerly for washing clothes; nurble to turn the toes in when walking; scrat a hermaphrodite sheep with predominant female characters; taff of pastures, to recover their normal condition after long-continued dry weather; willy-lilt to make a sound like a sandpiper. (Supplement to the Glossary of the Dialect of Cumberland by E.W. Prevost, 1905) [KH]

British Fantasy Awards (Oct 95) ... NOVEL Michael Marshall Smith, Only Forward. SHORT Paul McAuley, 'The Temptation of Dr Stein'. SMALL PRESS Necrofile. COLLECTION/ANTHOLOGY Joel Lane, The Earthwire. ARTIST Martin McKenna. NEWCOMER Maggie Furey. SPECIAL COMMITTEE AWARD FOR BEING JOHN JARROLD – no info on this one....

Publishers & Sinners. On a personal note: there is something utterly characteristic of the wonderful world of publishing in receiving an editorial letter that begins, 'Thanks for all your extraordinary hard work – the book is an absolute masterpiece!' and immediately goes on to talk about the sweeping rewrites that may nevertheless be needed.... • Pat Robertson, US born-again loon, bursts into sf with his apocalyptic novel The End of the Age – based on the staggeringly original concept of a giant meteor hitting the Earth! 'Does this mean that Robertson will be competing with Newt Gingrich for the Campbell Award?' [MMW]

Light's List of small press magazines gives addresses and mercilessly probing descriptions for some 600 titles: e.g. my own efforts are laid bare as 'Ansible SF Newsletter'. £1 plus A5 SAE from John Light, 29 Longfield Rd, Tring, Herts, HP23 4DG.

1946 Retro-Hugos for work published in 1945 are being voted on for LAcon (1996 Worldcon). Will there be an evil British block vote in the nonfiction category, for H.G. Wells's last books The Happy Turning and Mind at the End of its Tether?

Mutant Myths. Anyone remember my 1979 UFO book An Account of a Meeting with Denizens of Another World, 1871? This is perennially rediscovered in Buckinghamshire, where it's set: the latest Bucks Free Press write-up offers a new variation, with the book being by one Dan Harleyford. (Who he? – Ed.) • Meanwhile, the Swansea event (see Continae) invites punters to 'Join David Langford, author of the "Ansible" books ...' What a wonderful idea. Shared world, anyone?

Outraged Letters. Chris Priest expanded his thoughts on the author's lot in a post-Net Book Agreement world. Imaginary example: 'My £16 novel should give me, under the NBA, £1.60 a copy sold, and the publisher (assuming a 35% discount) about £10.40, or £8.80 after he's paid my royalty. But if the publisher massively discounts it (figures of 75% are now being bandied), then my income is no longer royalty-based but becomes 10% of net receipts. My share is then 40p a copy, and the publisher's £3.60. This means the loss of income is disproportionate (mine drops by 75% and the publisher's by only roughly 59%) and is something the author has absolutely no control or check over. Meanwhile, the bookseller's share has more than doubled. The equitable solution is for authors to go over to royalty accounting on the basis of percentage-of-receipts, across the board. The baseline figure is 18.18% of receipts, equivalent to a 10% royalty on a book discounted at 45% ... a generous and realistic "average" discount.' • D.M. Sherwood denounces Chris for praising Kingsley Amis in his obit: 'Guy must have no political opinions at all or a titanium-plated stomach to appreciate Amis's later work ... blatantly lunatically right-wing stuff ... appreciating the good bits got like eating a bowl of cow-shit stew and just appreciating the delicacy of the spices.' (Editorial disagreement is registered here, Mike.)Steve Sneyd points out a palindrome: 'Good to see Amis tribute. As CP says, definitely not PC, but a helluva writer, and New Maps of Hell a much better book than the hindsight experts give credit for.'

Thog's Historical Masterclass. BCA catalogue blurb for Robin Hood: the Man behind the Myth by 'peerless historical sleuths' Graham Phillips & Martin Keatman: 'In mythology, aristocratic Robin Hood became an outlaw in Sherwood Forest when Richard I was crusading. This riveting book shares new evidence that Robin was a Wakefield peasant who lived 1500 years later ... And that's just the beginning of the revelations ...' (Ellipses in original.) [PB]

Geeks' Corner

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

Attitude: the Convention,
British SF Association (general enquiries),
Steve Brown/SF Eye,
Evolution (Eastercon 1996),
Andy Hooper: new address,
Intervention (Eastercon 1997),
Intuition (Eastercon 1998 bid),
Edward James and Foundation,
Janice Murray (Ansible US agent),
Alan Stewart (Ansible Aussie agent; DUFF), s_alanjs@eduserv.its.unimelb.EDU.AU

Con listing by Famous Chris O'Shea,
DefCon 96,
Evolution (Eastercon 1996),
Fan e-mail directory,
Fanzine archive under development by Roxanne Smith-Graham,
Laurie Mann's interesting sf/fan links,
Roberto Quaglia's Intersection report (with some pokes at Brits and Americans for lack of interest in the unprecedented continental European turnout),
Some pictures, ditto ...
Science Fiction Foundation Collection,
Worldcon bids round-up by Chaz Baden,
Worldcons ditto,

Appalling Omission. I didn't hear until some hours after this Ansible was printed that Robertson Davies, one of my all-time favourite writers, had died on 2 December. He was 82, but had been bouncing around Britain earlier this year to plug his new novel The Cunning Man.... I came across his first really major book Fifth Business in 1979, and expect to reread this, and the rest of the Deptford trilogy (The Manticore, World of Wonders), and the Cornish trilogy (The Rebel Angels, What's Bred in the Bone, The Lyre of Orpheus) several more times yet. All highly recommended.

Ansible 101 Copyright © Dave Langford, 1995. Thanks to Paul Barnett, John Dallman, Martin Hoare, Kim Huett, Caroline Mullan, Joseph Nicholas, Chris Priest, Joyce Scrivner, Robert Sneddon, Chris Suslowicz, Martin Morse Wooster and our Hero Distributors: Janice Murray (NA), SCIS, Alan Stewart (Oz), Martin (For TAFF!) Tudor and Bridget Wilkinson (FATW). 7 Dec 95.