Ansible 107, June 1996
From Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU, UK. Fax 0118 966 9914. ISSN 0265-9816. E-mail ansible[at]cix.co.uk. Logo: Dan Steffan. Available for stamped addressed envelopes, Theriac or Mithridatium.
GLOOM. As Greg Pickersgill puts it, 'the evidence that we are passing through a cosmic cloud of fan-tropic toxic gas mounts' (see R.I.P. overleaf) ... this in reaction to Ethel Lindsay's dismaying announcement that owing to intractable cancer she does not expect to be with us for much longer. (For new fans: Ethel published the long-running fanzines Scottishe and Haverings, was the 1962 TransAtlantic Fan Fund delegate and duly published a full trip report, and has for years been UK agent for SF Chronicle.) Then on 26 May we lost Richard Evans, probably my favourite editor in British sf publishing. He had been badly weakened by a 1994 health crisis; returning unwell from a US trip in May, he eventually entered hospital with pneumonia, was moved into intensive care on the 25th and died next day. He was only 46; he leaves a wife (Ali Dunn) and two teenaged children. It's hard to imagine Gollancz sf without him.... His funeral on 31 May at Kensal Green saw a huge turn-out of editors, agents and writers. Jo Fletcher spoke for Gollancz at this secular 'celebration of his life'. Mike Rohan and I were among those grateful to Richard for buying our first novels for Arrow; at Futura, he had launched the Orbit imprint. Other writers present included Brian Aldiss, John Brosnan, Chris Evans, Harry Harrison, Rob Holdstock, Roz Kaveney, Chris Priest and Andrew Stephenson – all of whom inevitably gravitated to a pub and swapped Richard anecdotes. One that he used to tell himself concerned his first day at Oxford, when after much gathering of courage he left his college room to find an exquisite fop in a velvet suit, cape and broad-brimmed aesthete's hat, who sneeringly passed by. Deeply conscious of his jeans and t-shirt, Richard retreated to his room and (he claimed) stayed there for three days. The poseur proved to be Martin Amis. Condolences from afar came from Neil Gaiman, busy novelizing his tv series Neverwhere – '... was devastated. Neverwhere was in many ways spawned from a conversation I had with him at 3am in a bar at a con at Glasgow in 85 or 86. Shit shit shit.' – and Terry Pratchett, on a signing tour: 'I think I liked it better when I was in the age group that went to each other's weddings.'
The Poison Belt
John Brosnan still knows how to have fun: 'Last Tuesday I had lunch with editor John Jarrold to celebrate the publication of my new novel Have Demon, Will Travel. We had a jolly time in a Turkish restaurant and naturally imbibed some wine and brandy. But we did not over-indulge. Oh no. At the end of the meal we said goodbye and went our separate ways. Then suddenly I was no longer in Pimlico but in a hospital casualty department and having treatment for a head injury. I have no memory of how I got there. My theory is that I had a close encounter with a vehicle.... Had Lunch, Went Travelling. Could this start a new trend among authors desperate to plug their books – by throwing themselves in front of cars?' [18 May]
Pat Cadigan goes all dewy-eyed: 'The Original Chris Fowler and I were married on May 9 in Haringey. Chris's best man was long-time woman-friend Dora Alderson. John Clute did a playful turn as matron-of-honor, while Judith Clute handled media-related duties and additional glamour.... I know the prospect of Pat Cadigan in full-time residence [in Haringey] is the sort of thing that induces ecstasy in you. Try to remain useful and competent nonetheless. You dog.'
Simon R. Green strives to raise our cultural tone: 'I've just been to see Barb Wire The Movie; a tits and guns, leave your brain at the door, no plot to get in the way of the action, film. When I was 15, I would have loved this film. Now I'm 40, I loved this film. It practically defines the phrase guilty pleasure. Great fun was had when Barb had to run anywhere, and they switched to a stunt stand-in because Pamela Anderson couldn't run in the costumes they had her stitched into.'
Charles Stross self-promotes: 'The Web Architect's Handbook (Addison-Wesley). All you need to know about the construction of large web sites, in that classic Interzone style: the squamous SGML parser groaned as it writhed beneath the iron boot of her DTD; "Now, little web site," hissed the editor, "this is what I want you to look like...."'
John Wyndham ... the plot thickens. The 'Wyndham Archive' currently being offered around for £100,000 was sold by the former Trustee of Wyndham's estate. This person allegedly neglected to consult or inform the heirs – who inherited said estate when JW's widow died in mid-1991, and had a tough time wresting control from said Trustee. By then the papers had been flogged, in late 1991, through an agent who still keeps the purchaser's identity a deadly secret and who is now handling the current sale at a price 'several multiples' higher. Information on this deal's progress is requested by the new Trustees.
14-16 Jun Nexus (Trek), Holiday Inn, Bristol. £35 reg. Contact 26 Milner Road, Horfield, Bristol, BS7 9PQ.
28-30 Jun Discworld Convention, Britannia 'Sasha's' Hotel, Manchester. GoHs: guess who? Registrations closed.
5-7 Jul Constitution (Trek), Tollgate Motel, Gravesend, Kent. Contact 115 The Brent, Dartford, Kent, DA1 1YH.
21 Jul Minanimi Con II (animé), Hilton National Hotel, Portsmouth. £15 ref; £20 at door. Contact 15 New Rd, Fair Oak, Eastleigh, Hants, SO50 8EN.
26-29 Jul Albacon 96, Central Hotel, Glasgow. £30 reg. GoH Terry Pratchett, David Gerrold (DG replaces Harlan Ellison following HE's recent heart surgery). Contact F1/2, 10 Atlas Rd, Springburn, Glasgow, G21 4TE.
26-31 Aug Arvon Foundation sf writing course tutored by Colin Greenland & Gwyneth Jones. £275 all in. Contact AF, Totleigh Barton, Sheepwash, Devon, EX21 5NS. 01409 231338.
4-6 Oct Fantasycon XX, International Hotel, Marsh Wall, London. GoH Christopher Fowler, Tom Holt, others. £40/$80 reg; £35/$70 BFS members. Contact (SAE) 137 Priory Road, Hall Green, Birmingham B28 OTB.
30 Oct-2 Nov 97 World Fantasy Convention, International Hotel, Marsh Wall, London. Ever so many guests. £75/$120 reg; membership limited to 750. Contact PO Box 31, Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO22 4YL.
28-31 Mar 97 Intervention (Eastercon), Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool. £30 reg/£20 unwaged; cheques now to 'Intervention'. Contact 12 Crowsbury Close, Emsworth, Hants, PO10 7TS.
10-12 Jul 98 Infinity (media-inclined), Angel Hotel, Cardiff, Wales. £30 reg. Contact Swn y Nant, 12 Stuart St, Treherbert, Treorchy, CF42 5PR.
Rumblings Radisson Edwardian Hotel: Simo 'sent the manager a lengthy letter on problems at Evolution and Accelerate '96. A swift, polite reply thanked me for feedback but failed to answer any specific points, citing the unusual circumstances of an sf con as the cause of the problems: "Right, we've got some sci-fi fans turning up, so hide all the kettles, take half the stuffing out of the pillows, turn off the heating in the corridors, water down the orange juice, introduce a random factor into the bar prices, replace the scrambled egg with cold vomit, and tell all the staff to feign ignorance of the English language. Don't worry, we can go back to normal on Tuesday."' The Black Lodge (Midlands horror/dark fantasy meeting) is now at Midlands Arts Centre, opposite Edgbaston cricket ground, 1st Tue each month. [SG]
R.I.P. Redd Boggs, long-time US fan, stalwart of FAPA, and fine fanwriter/editor, died on 9 May aged 75. The day before, Greg Pickersgill had been reading RB's old fanzines 'with great pleasure and genuine joy at being in contact, albeit at some remove in time and space, with an excellent person and wonderful fan.... I never had any personal contact with Boggs, and only "discovered" his brilliant fanwriting in recent years – and brilliant he is too; everything, from those physically tiny fanzines like Spirochaete, Bete Noir, Penseroso, Retrograde and Discord to the majestic Skyhook, is a pure white light of some of the best writing we are ever likely to see in fandom. His stuff is always exciting, finely written, about something; wonderful things.' Charles Burbee – famously acerbic US fanwriter, 'Burb' to friends – died on 27 May, aged 81. Gary Farber valued him for 'the template of much of fandom as I've known and cared for it. He set the tone for irreverence towards authority, puncturing pomposity, and generally being hilarious. [...] A lot of fans have imitated Burbee; for some generations it was nearly obligatory – but none ever came close to the original, the one, the only Charles Burbee. His wit and sensibility were unique.' Vera Chapman (1898-1996), doyenne of Arthurian novelists and founder of the Tolkien Society in 1969, died in mid-May. Roy Gasson, a British editor who worked with many sf writers, also died in May. A nice man and a witty one, notes Paul Barnett: 'He was also, I think, the originator of the publishing expression flop d'estime.' Leon Garfield (1921-96), noted children's novelist and author with Edward Blishen of the retelling of Greek mythology The God Beneath the Sea, died on 2 June. Timothy Leary, LSD guru, died on 31 May – his net-publicized last words being 'Why not?' and 'Yeah.' He was 75. Charles Platt's earlier deathbed vigil was in vain: 'he suddenly decided he didn't want to be frozen after all. Life is full of disappointments.' Complaining that the cryonics lot 'have no sense of humour', Leary opted instead to have his ashes launched into space.... Jon Pertwee (1919-96) died on 20 May aged 76; his much-loved tv rôles as the third Dr Who (1970-4) and Worzel Gummidge (1979-81; 1987; 1989) occupied only a tiny fraction of his 60-year acting career. Other genre-flavoured JP parts were in Toad of Toad Hall (BBC), The Avengers and The Goodies. Ed Wood, the old-time US fan spoofed in The Enchanted Duplicator as 'Dedwood', died in mid-May.
Thog's Poetry Masterclass. 'Lust of my blood inflamed his yellow balls.' (Robert Browning, An Epistle Concerning the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician) [SS]
TAFF. Martin Tudor won by a landslide, crushing the hapless Simo by 138 votes to 9 ('No Preference' got 2 votes). This has worried the graceful loser: 'I DEMAND A RECOUNT! I can't believe that 9 people thought I was better than Tudor. Somebody must have voted for me twice.' MT flies first to Las Vegas 21/22 Aug; besides the Worldcon in LA, he hopes to visit San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC and possibly New York, returning 14/15 Sept. Rare UK fanzines for TAFF auction in the US are solicited. UK administrator Abigail Frost, groaning from prolonged 'flu, promises an official TAFF newsletter real soon now.
Filk Off! Another fan term has infected the wider world: 'filk'. A US editor reports that an acquaintance has been writing 'Christian filksongs' for years, in ignorance of the word's vile origins, and was horrified to learn the sf connection. 'Now she has to change the title of her new album, because her church considers science fiction to be a work of the devil.' [via JE]
C.o.A. Jim Barker has a new office ('I got flooded out of my old premises'): NR12, Newhouse Business Park, Newhouse Rd, Grangemouth, Falkirk, FK3 8LL. Cat Coast & Dave Hicks, 1 St Woolos Place, Newport, Gwent, NP9 4GQ. Colin Greenland & Susanna M. Clarke, 98 Sturton St, Cambridge, CB1 2QA. Christina Lake (temporary, to end Nov), c/o 21 Sunnyside Place, Belmont, MA 02178, USA. Ethel Lindsay, after a period in a hospice, should by now be at 1 Park Homes, Charles St, Carnoustie, Angus: 'My heartfelt thanks to all the good people who sent me cards and letters. They meant so much to me, and I was quite overwhelmed by the number of old friends and new who took so much trouble – and so quickly!' Alex McLintock, 14 Whitgift Rd, Teversham, Cambridge, CB1 5AY. Anne-Marie & Pete Wright, 56 Gladys Ave, North End, Portsmouth, PO2.
Random Fandom. Jim Barker: 'I did get around to writing my children's book, starring Julian Headlong, which is currently making the rounds of the publishers. No one has bitten yet, but it's nice to know I own the copyright to Julian....' Rob Hansen seeks a package bearing Allen Baum's name, containing a book which Rob was to pass on but left in the Wellington (May). Any sightings? Greg Pickersgill has imported copies of Harry Warner Jr's A Wealth of Fable: An Informal History of Fandom in the Fifties (SCIFI Press 1992 hardback, 456pp, photos, index): £15 inc p&p, from Greg at 3 Bethany Row, Narberth Rd, Haverfordwest, SA61 2XG ... or £12 in person at cons etc. David Riley of Beyond has sent form letters to (some) contributors, saying that issue 4 should appear this year, but that as a backlog-clearing measure he's returning all stories for which contracts have not been signed.
Outraged Letters. 'Regarding the HarperCollins and Gollancz launch parties, I must disagree with your report [of others' remarks – DRL]. HC's launch for Kim Stanley Robinson had the best wine, while the canapés at VG's Vista/Indigo bash were far superior (if equally unrecognizable). Both events were extremely well attended, despite four other parties in town that night.' – Steve (Party Animal) Jones. Charles Platt: 'Q: What does Dave Langford have in common with Charlie Brown? A: They both print stories without checking sources! There is no such organization as the Cryogenics Society. Cryogenics is the science of low temperatures. Cryonics means freezing people. I am Vice President of CryoCare, a cryonics organization I helped to establish.'
Nebulosity. Charles Platt was there: 'Since I had nothing better to do while I waited in LA to freeze Timothy Leary's head, I dropped in at the Nebula awards dinner on board the Queen Mary. Bruce Murray (keynote speaker), formerly of JPL, expounded at considerable length on the startling possibility that we may be entering an Information Age. He also predicted a mission to Mars real soon now, sponsored by an unprecedented alliance of western and bankrupt eastern nations, for motives unstated. George Alec Effinger (toastmaster) reminisced, also at length, on his multiple failure modes as a writer. Sample: "One of my worst experiences is finding books that I've autographed, turning up in second-hand bookstores. I even found one that I had dedicated to an ex-wife." At this point I would like to offer some unsolicited advice for future Nebulas programming: 1. It's probably not a good idea for the SFWA president to select a toastmaster based on his credentials as her boyfriend. 2. Try to present the Grandmaster Award without implying that the winner has been selected mainly because his health is frail. 3. If you know that an elderly person is to receive an award, seat him near the stage so that he doesn't have to embark on a hazardous and lengthy trek while people in the audience try to sustain their applause – unsuccessfully, leaving a hideously embarrassing silence while he struggles to reach the microphone. 4. People who are asked to stand up and read out lists of nominees should be given the lists beforehand, so they don't have to tear them out of the SFWA Bulletin. Also, they should have at least a vague idea of how to pronounce author names and titles. 5. When a toastmaster has untested humorous credentials, try his speech on some fan focus groups beforehand to weed out the jokes that are deeply embarrassing as opposed to merely lame. Incidentally, I was very happy to see A.E.van Vogt get the Grandmaster Award, even though it was given for the usual wrong reasons. If it had been given for the right reasons he would have received it years ago. Outside the Queen Mary was a 300-foot bungee jump, which a couple of skiffy scribes dared to try, no doubt eager to experience zero-gravity. I watched one young woman fall and rebound, at which point the cable attached to the elastic writhed in a chaotic fashion and threatened to loop itself around her neck. Just imagine that on the cover of Locus!'
Thog's Optical Masterclass. 'Schulutski's body lay revoltingly supine, the distorted eyes staring up, like two accusing fingers, shrouded by a thick, pink glove.' ('John E. Muller', The Negative Ones) 'He blinked away the waves of blackness lapping at his ankles.' (Richard Matheson, The Shores of Space) 'He swept the antechamber with the eyes of a trapped animal.' (Poul Anderson, 'Among Thieves')
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Post-Wellington Update, 7 June. Millions of fans desperate to know the fate of Allen Baum's book package (see above) can now cease their agony of suspense: eagle-eyed Abigail Frost found the thing and conveyed it to Alison Scott for safe keeping. Just another of the million stories in the naked city.
Also at the Wellington, it was whispered again that London first-Thursday meetings might usefully move from this acoustically awful (think 'SECC'), music-plagued and suit-infested pub. So far, this is merely a low muttering....
Squeezed out of the printed Ansible by too many obits and a sense that most people would see it too late: Newham (London) libraries' June-August sf festival is launched today, Friday 7 June (1pm-9pm) and Saturday 8 June (11am-9pm) at The Old Town Hall, Stratford, London. Steve Baxter is a guest. Further events in libraries too various to list: Dave Gibbons 11 June; writers' workshop 18 June; Rob Holdstock, Simon Ings and Michael Marshall Smith panel 20 June; story/magazine workshop 9 July; SF poetry with Steve Sneyd and John Light 25 July; Andrew Harman and Harry Harrison 15 August. More details: Jenny Bowen, 0181 557 8882.
Ansible 107 Copyright © Dave Langford, 1996. Thanks to Paul Barnett, Janice Eisen, Steve Green, Steve Jones, Chris Priest, Roger Robinson, Steve Sneyd, and our Hero Distributors: Janice Murray (NA), SCIS, Alan Stewart (Oz), Martin Tudor, Bridget Wilkinson (FATW). 6 Jun 96.