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Ansible 109, August 1996

Cartoon: D. West

From Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU, UK. Fax 0118 966 9914. ISSN 0265-9816. E-mail ansible[at] Logo: Dan Steffan. Cartoon: D. West. Available for SAE or full transcription of the Dirac beep.

ANDROMEDA BREAKTHROUGH. The grandest social occasion of the 2-5 Suffolk Street, Birmingham, season took place on 6 July as Andromeda Bookshop celebrated 25 years of purveying fine sf to the gentry, with the opening of this big new shop. A glittering crowd of sf literati and Greg Pickersgill saw the ribbon across the doorway being ceremonially cut by David Gemmell, Terry Pratchett and a virtual Iain Banks (whose train was late). 'One hour ago,' marvelled bookmeister Rog Peyton, 'those shelves there were empty and covered in sawdust – we had the authors and publishers' reps filling them....' 5,271,009 customers then flocked in for an autograph session at which Messrs Banks and Gemmell achieved signing totals in the high single figures, while an exhausted Pratchett was more or less removed on a stretcher and missed the evening party in the Hotel Ibis bar. Here we strove in vain to cash in the numberless drinks vouchers flung around like confetti by Peyton the Bountiful: 'Have some more – have a whole sheet – have two sheets!' Next day, a wide range of auctorial dregs (from Brian Aldiss to 'Jonathan Wylie') gathered in the nearby Circo's Bar for a further mass signing. This would doubtless have been as record-breaking as intended, had anyone in Birmingham realized that – for the first time ever – Andromeda was open on a Sunday. A highlight of Circo's was its array of vodkas with unlikely added flavours: lemon grass, wine gums, Opal Fruits, Tunes, sump oil, ear wax, etc. The giggling Gollancz contingent offered compulsory sips of a version based on pear drops, whose effects are best concealed behind a discreet veil of paracetamol. Nice one, Rog.

The Transmitted Humagram

Brian Aldiss brings culture to our pages: 'In a bold and Bass-riddled moment, I promised you a public condemnation of sf in Latin. The occasion was an auspicious one. The Chancellor of Oxford University bestowed an honorary degree upon Mrs Doris Lessing, author of Shikasta and other space fictions. • While praising Lessing's talents highly, the public orator took the opportunity to say, if I heard him rightly, "mehercle immensum totius mundi fingendi onus suscepit, genus scribendi in qui plerumque nihil grave, nihil exspectamus quod ad vitae cotidianae veritatem accedat ..." You'll hardly need telling that this means something like, "She even took on the immense task of inventing a whole world, a genre of writing in which we expect to find nothing serious, which hardly accedes to the truths of ordinary life ..." I hope this is about right. My Lewis and Short is still in store. • Bloody university!'

Iain M. Banks mysteriously confirmed that although there was 'some truth' in the rumour that he was dropping the 'M' stigma for his sf books, this will not in fact be happening.

Steve Baxter gloated uncontrollably over his John W. Campbell Memorial Award, presented on 12 July for The Time Ships: 'And so I return from Lawrence, Kansas, wreathed in glory and air miles. The shortlist was me, The Diamond Age second, and Ian McDonald's Chaga third; nice to see this side of the pond represented so well. The presentation was at the alumni centre of the Uni of Kansas, which is, tragically, a dry campus, a relic of the prohibition which ended only in the 1980s, just about when Lawrence was, as I recall, nuked in Threads (a little harsh perhaps). So the awards dinner was dry, but at the reception later the students smuggled in beer in a Pepsi carton. Pepsi should sue, or possibly Coke. If I'd gone to a dry campus I'd have died for lack of calories, I think. Fred Pohl and his wife were there, also John McDaid, a new writer who won the Sturgeon award for short fiction....' (John McDaid won that tasty Sturgeon for his first and, so far, only short story, 'Jigoku no Mokishiroku' in Asimov's.)

Pat Cadigan underwent a gall bladder operation in the US on 27 July – but is recovering, and still hopes to move to London in late August for wedded bliss with 'The Original Chris Fowler'. [CF] Ansible somehow cannot imagine Pat without limitless supplies of gall.... (PC, feebly, from hospital bed: 'You dog.')

Arthur C. Clarke hopes to complete 3001: The Final Odyssey this year, 'for publication at HAL's birthday celebrations' in 1997. Experienced Clarke-watchers wonder whether the title's 'Final' will by then have become, say, 'Antepenultimate'.

Humphrey Price is to replace Richard Evans at Gollancz.

Brian Stableford was galled: 'Random House have revived that fine old English tradition the Tradesmen's Entrance. I called at their eponymous building in Vauxhall Bridge Road to deliver Chimera's Cradle (vol 3 of my 560,000-word magnum opus Genesys). Having obtained entry to Reception (itself a difficult task) I said, "I've got a manuscript for John Jarrold in Legend Editorial." The receptionist looked at me with deep disgust and said, "We don't accept parcels here. You'll have to take it round the back of the building to the post room." "Oh," I said apologetically. "Could you possibly ring John and ask him if he'd like to come down and collect it?" "Oh, all right," said the receptionist, pointedly refraining from reaching for the phone and deepening her expression of disgust by a further order of magnitude, "I'll let you leave it here just this once." • This does create something of a mystery: exactly what does Random House reception now receive?"' (Only visitors, says harassed John Jarrold: 'our receptionists have been told not to accept parcels since we had a rash of thefts a year or so ago ... I know it's irritating, but the thefts meant we did have to take some action.' The logic of this is of course entirely pellucid.)

Gene Wolfe, to confirm a recurrent net rumour, was indeed one of the Procter & Gamble engineers who designed the machinery used for making Pringles. (The editor of Interzone has failed to comment.) Critics are re-scrutinizing The Book of the New Sun in hope of identifying one of the torture machines as originally intended to produce small, curly potato nibbles....


3-4 Aug • Icon '96 (Dr Who/Meddyg Pwy), Aberconwy Centre, Llandudno. Numerous guests. £34 reg. Phone 01745 343388.

9-11 Aug • Delta Quadrant (Trek), Britannia Hotel, Birmingham. £35 reg. Contact (SAE) PO Box 8966, Great Barr, Birmingham, B43 5ST.

16 Aug • Richard Evans: in memoriam gathering upstairs at the Princess Louise pub, 208 High Holborn, WC1. 6:30pm. NB corrected date! All who knew Richard are welcome. Simon R. Green remembers: 'I'm in the lift at Fantasycon after a long journey. Someone gets in with me. The face is familiar. "I should know you, shouldn't I?" "Yes, Simon, I'm your editor." It was Richard. I put it down to jet lag, and that in a previous incarnation my brain was used as a door stop.'

16-18 Aug • Portmeiricon (Prisoner), Portmeirion, Gwynedd. Contact PO Box 66, Ipswich, No Bloody Postcode?

17-18 Aug • Caption '96 (comics), somewhere unspecified in Oxford. £7.50 reg. Contact 25 Hart St, Oxford, OX2 6BN.

23-4 Aug • Contraptions (gaming), Northampton Moat House Hotel. GoH Steve Jackson (US variety). £28 reg; £30 at door. Contact 12 Cartersmead Close, Horley, Surrey, RH6 9LG.

29 Aug - 2 Sep • LA-Con III (54th Worldcon), Anaheim Convention Centre, Hilton, and other hotels, Anaheim, California. No more advance registrations; $150 at door.

30 Aug - 1 Sep • Dimension Jump (Red Dwarf), Daventry Hotel, Daventry. Contact 40 Pitford Rd, Woodley, RG5 4QF.

31 Aug • Dangercon 666 (Dangermouse), Ruskin House, Croydon. £5 at door. Contact 37 Keens Rd, Croydon, CR0 1AH.

7 Sep • Armageddon Fireworks, Hardwick House, Whitchurch, nr Pangbourne. (Rained off in July.) Gates open 8pm, firing 10:30pm. £4 entrance. Beer, barbecue, music, etc.

29 Sep • Scotforce 1 (media, B5), The Thrice Accursed Glasgow Central Hotel [FX: Jo Walton spits], 10am-10pm. £20 reg. Contact (SAE) PO Box 3870, Glasgow, G44 3PZ.

18-20 Oct • Masque 4 (costuming), Moat House Hotel, W. Bromwich. Now £30 reg. Contact 130 Hamstead Hall Road, Handsworth Wood, Birmingham, B20 1JB.

25-28 Nov • Cult TV, Haven All-Action Centre, Caister on Sea, Gt Yarmouth. £39 reg; £44 from 1 Sep. Chalets £75 for weekend. Contact (SAE) PO Box 1701, Peterborough, PE1 1EX.

8-10 Nov • Novacon 26, Hotel Ibis, Birmingham. GoH David Gemmell. Now £27 reg; £30 from 1 Oct and at door. Contact 14 Park St, Lye, Stourbridge, West Midlands, DY9 8SS.

15-17 Nov • Armadacon, Astor Hotel, The Hoe, Plymouth. £22 reg. GoH Colin Baker, Jack Cohen, Dave Langford. Contact 4 Gleneagle Ave, Mannamead, Plymouth, Devon, PL3 5HL.

23 (out) & 27 (back) Oct 97 • Coachcon: London to Portmeirion to Ireland (Octo/Eurocon) and back (for World Fantasy Con). Contact (SAE or 2 x IRC) 64 Richborne Tce, SW8 1AX.

RumblingsReading SF Berks: the Reading group meetings are on 'summer tour', at a new pub each Monday evening. Ask in advance!

Infinitely Improbable

Orbital Hell. The Times Literary Supplement noted that the UK hardback bestseller for mid-July, Robert Jordan's A Crown of Swords (book 7 of something or other) went virtually unreviewed in the national press. 'It's perfectly understandable,' explains TLS columnist 'D.S.': 'the book is strictly unreviewable, being bilge from beginning to far away end. Merely to handle the book is to have one's compassion excited for the editors who must at some point have been forced to read it. Being sent into Orbit, the fantasy department of Little, Brown, must be a punishment reserved only for the most perseveringly wicked.'

Random Fandom. Jane Barnett enjoyed full and frank exchanges with her father when the fanzine Plokta arrived, with a hitherto suppressed photo of her Evolution masquerade non-outfit. 'As Jane went to meet some chums, I said to her: "Don't make too many half-naked appearances in fanzines while you're out." She replied: "Don't worry, Daddy, I'm trying to cut down to twenty a day."' [PB] • Jonathan Cowie invites his fans to the decade's most awesome celebration: 'As you probably know Friday October 4th is my 40th birthday....' Venue: a London pub. Contact [address redacted by request]. • Leigh Edmonds & Valma Brown discovered a new perk of being visiting Australians in Britain: getting asked to the US Embassy for a performance by the band of fandom's own diplomat Jim Young.... • Chuch Harris's latest unconvincing excuse for falling behind with his e-mail is having broken his wrist while attempting certain Kama Sutra positions involving a step-ladder. • Kim Huett sends a holiday photo for the 'Only In America' file, depicting the tasteful shop-front sign of LITIGATION TECHNOLOGIES. • Harry Nadler of Festival of Fantastic Films fame 'is now back in his film memorabilia shop in Manchester, the IRA having rearranged much of his and his neighbours' stock.' [JC] • Martin Tudor, in a daring break with recent UK precedent, has published a TAFF newsletter! • Dave Wood is 60 this month: 'Should I assume the mantle of misplaced dignity and insist on being called David?'

A Dark & Stormy Night. The annual US Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest for awful opening sentences gave a coveted Dishonourable Mention to an sf submission: 'Baron Frankenstein looked up from his sewing, smiled benignly across the laboratory at his similarly engaged creation and protégé, and called, "Yes, yes! Put on a happy face; tonight will be your first date with the rest of your wife!"' [Anthony Buckland]

More Gloom. Following a fall, sf/fantasy author Jo Clayton entered hospital on 30 July with a fractured hip and was found to have 'extensive bone cancer'. Messages/flowers to her at Room 686, 6SW, Good Samaritan Hospital, 1015 NW 22nd Avenue, Portland, OR 97210, USA. [MB] (This supersedes the former Emanuel Hospital address.)

Naming of Parts. Steve Sneyd, fascinated by that A108 offer to send our signatures to Saturn on the Cassini probe, recalls 'the last time I got involved with one of NASA's PR things, a few years back ... they invited nominations for names for Venus features, nominees to be distinguished females ... so I put forward early sf poet Lilith Lorraine ... had to send a pile of supporting bio/biblio bumph. Years after, wrote (with SAE) to enquire if she'd made the final cut; got a letter saying decisions had been made as to who to nominate to whatever body in Geneva had final say, but they couldn't reveal 'em to members of the public ... secrecy nearly as pointless as Brit habit (unless it meant they'd lost the file) and even more bizarre as they'd invited the public to nominate in the first place ... did help me understand some of NASA's PR problems.'

C.o.A. Erwin S. 'Filthy Pierre' Strauss, 13107-B Autumn Woods Way, Fairfax, VA 22033, USA.

Fifty Years Ago ... H.G. Wells died on 13 August 1946.

Blurb Copy, 1910. 'Complaints continue to reach us from all parts of the country to the effect that Mr. W. HOPE HODGSON's "Carnacki" stories are producing a widespread epidemic of Nervous Prostration! So far from being able to reassure or calm our nervous readers, we are compelled to warn them that "The Whistling Room", which we publish this month, is worse than ever. Our advertising manager had to go to bed for two days after reading the advance sheets; a proof reader has sent in his resignation; and, worst of all, our smartest office boy – But this is no place to bewail or seek for sympathy. Yet another of those stories will appear in April!' (The Idler ed Jerome K. Jerome, March 1910 – passed on by Marcus Rowland in a paltry attempt to plug his game/sf sourcebook disk Forgotten Futures IV: The Carnacki Cylinders; 22 Westbourne Pk Villas, London, W2 5EA.)

Hazel's Language Lessons: Malay. Chakap daripada hidong, Dollah punya yang lebeh besar sakai: talking of noses, Dollah's is the largest by far. Adah orang suka roda warna merah lain tidak: some folks like a red coloured wheel, others don't. Orang baru lepas beranak ta' boleh bekerja menjalankan enjin: a person just after childbirth cannot work at starting up an engine. (A.W. Hamilton, Malay Made Easy) [JD]

Beyond Belief. David Riley of Beyond sf magazine writes in great anguish to announce that issue 4 is still delayed but will indeed appear. Difficulties have included misleading sales/returns reports from distributors, and what sounds like serious abuse of the returns system: for example, 'the unexpected development of closures by [W.H.] Smiths of many of their wholesale warehouses. Their intention is to concentrate on fewer, but bigger, centralized outlets for the retail trade to get their supplies of magazines from. Unfortunately, while not warning us beforehand of these closures, they still ordered large quantities of the magazine for them. And when these copies were sent out, they were immediately destroyed, unsold, by every warehouse that shut down, resulting in over a thousand copies being dumped outright, with no financial compensation at all for ourselves, even though we had supplied these copies in good faith on the strength of Smiths' orders.... • If this were not enough, we also received a large number of ridiculous returns figures from Smiths, in which they allegedly returned [i.e. threw away] more copies of the magazine than they were actually sent, resulting in minus sales figures. [...] At the end of the day the only result we could get was for them to be adjusted to a zero sales figure, as it is now claimed that it isn't possible to find out the true sales figures because of accounting errors on the part of Smiths. So again, hundreds of copies were sent out and never paid for, even those that were actually sold by the wholesale trade to the various shops who bought copies from them. When over seven wholesale warehouses do this, again you can imagine the loss....' DR is selling his vast sf collection for the 'Beyond printing fund': SAE for list to 130 Union Rd, Oswaldtwistle, Lancs, BB5 3DR.

Thog's Masterclass. Nose & Throat Dept: '... on Meld XVII he had bought himself a new face that did not bear the tell-tale features of the Zonnigog aristocracy. Gone were the sharp, almost razorlike cheekbones, the pale skin, the wide-set black eyes, the nose jutting from the forehead.' (Webber Martin, 'Spacerogue') [DC] • 'Something jumped in the back of Morgon's throat. It was huge, broad as a farmhorse, with a deer's delicate, triangular face.' (Patricia McKillip, The Riddle-Master of Hed) • 'Despite the message, she would have giggled had she possessed a throat.' (Robert Jordan, A Crown of Swords)

Geeks' Corner

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Electronic COAs Etc.
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Convention E-Addresses
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Miscellaneous links from Ansible,
(Rather than repeat information each issue, regularly appearing URLs are deported to this Almost Useful Page.)
Fantasy Encyclopedia: can you help with authors' birth years?

Footnote. That wandering Reading (Berkshire, UK) pub meeting will, on Monday 5th August, be at The Sun in Castle Street ... 9pm onward.

Jo Clayton has been diagnosed as having multiple myeloma of the spine. Anticipating the US medical costs, which are likely to be horrendous, Katharine Kerr adds: 'There will be a benefit auction at a late November convention. Anyone wishing to donate can contact me at: ...'

Ansible 109 Copyright © Dave Langford, 1996. Thanks to Paul Barnett, Mark Bourne, Dave Clark, Jonathan Cowie, James Dignan, Ellen Datlow, Chris (Not That Horror Hack) Fowler, Hazel, Dolores Phelps, Chris Priest, and our Hero Distributors: Janice Murray (NA), SCIS, Alan Stewart (Oz), Martin Tudor (Brum Group), and Bridget Wilkinson (FATW). 1 Aug 96.