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Ansible 111, October 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 an nth-complexity infinite binary loop.

END OF THE THIRD AGE. In a simple but moving ceremony at the Clute residence on 21 September, Fantasy Encyclopedia co-editors John Clute and John Grant (with various cronies) got resoundingly smashed to mark the completion, at long, long last, of this mighty tome. Diana Wynne Jones and Chris Bell proudly related their critical input of writing 'Bollocks!' in the margins of all the more high-flown passages. Pat Cadigan made a surprise appearance, singled out a cringing Ansible editor, and cried: 'You dog!' Ron Tiner showed off his tour-de-force graphic novelization of A Christmas Carol in one page, now scheduled for our Xmas issue. Judith Clute gently coaxed the swaying masses into experimenting with a little food. Toasts were drunk to patient publishers Little, Brown, who had rather expected to have the book in print by now (see FANTASIES OF HISTORY); a 1997 Eastercon launch is likely (see PROPHECY). Finally, the end of more than three years of BONDAGE was signalled by a RITUAL derived from ARTHUR and CELTIC FANTASY, as the tired and over-emotional editors simultaneously gave their noses a DOLOROUS BLOW and cast the 4,000+ pages of final print-out into a sacred puddle on Camden High Street, where it was grasped by the mystic arm, clad in white samite, of the LADY OF THE LAKE (played by L,B editors Tim Holman and Colin Murray) and borne away to the blessed ISLAND of AVALON, played by an editorial desk in Lancaster Place. And in the solemn silence that ensued, the one faint sound that could be heard through the poignant evening stillness was a hoarse cry of, 'Oh fuck, we've still got to write the Introduction....' Explicit.

Down the Fontinella Wisp

Harlan Ellison's hot new publication is his 1960s Star Trek script The City on the Edge of Forever, with a 'blistering' 25,000-word introduction describing how the version screened in 1967 was 'eviscerated' in such a 'fatally inept' fashion that it won a Hugo award. Tragically, Ellison failed to publish this fearless denunciation in the fleeting interval, from 1967 to 1991, when its prime target Gene Roddenberry was alive to reply.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has resigned as editor of F&SF, to write many contracted books ... and is angered by the 'mean, vicious, ugly rumor' that she didn't jump but was pushed. She'll stay in charge until her successor is trained: 'at least 4 months.'

George Turner, Australia's dean of sf, is 80 this month.

Jane Yolen sadly announces that her eponymous young-adult fantasy/sf imprint at Harcourt Brace Co. 'is yet another victim of publishing "'ity." (As in iniquity, stupidity, cupidity, or any other "'ity" one can think up. In fact we could have a contest: NAME THE PUBLISHER'S 'ITY). • My final list will be spring '97, after which any of the books I contracted for and edited will be brought out simply as Harcourt Brace books with a different editor. • Life goes on, and this makes more time for writing and having fun. But I am still in the mourning stages, so if any of you see me wandering around looking as if I am in denial, angry, etc., buy me a drink. Bubbly water will do. I'm a cheap date.'


11-13 Oct • Octocon '96, Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoire, nr Dublin. GoH Brian Stableford, others. £20 at door. Contact 30 South Circular Rd, Dublin 8, Ireland ... and fast!

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

23 Oct • BSFA London meeting, Jubilee pub, York Rd, near Waterloo. With Michael Marshall Smith. 6pm for 8pm-ish.

25-8 Oct • Cult TV III, Haven Centre, Caister. Contact (SAE) PO Box 1701, Peterborough – no postcode given.

26-7 Oct • Who's 7 (Dr Blake con), Ashford International Hotel, Ashford, Kent. £40 reg to 31 May. Contact 10 Fillebrook Hall, Fillebrook Road, Leytonstone, London, E11 1AG.

1 Nov • Gary Farber descends in a great white bird from the skies: BA 178, Heathrow Terminal 4, 9pm. MC: Pam Wells.

8-10 Nov • Novacon 26, Hotel Ibis, Birmingham. GoH David Gemmell. Now £30 reg. Contact 14 Park St, Lye, Stourbridge, W. Midlands, DY9 8SS. Main hotel now full; overflow rates uncertain – phone 01384 825386 (pre-9pm) before booking; despite 1 Oct deadline, postal bookings 'will be treated sympathetically' to 18 Oct.

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.

23-4 Nov • TV SF/Fantasy Weekend, part of Folkestone & Boulogne International Film Festival. £40 reg (proceeds to charity). Contact 38 Rochford Ave, Loughton, Essex, IG10 2BS.

31 Jan - 2 Feb 97 • HarmonIX (filk), Rozel Hotel, Weston-Super-Mare. '£20 going on £22' reg, rising 'when we get PR2 out'. Contact 3 West Shrubbery, Redland, Bristol, BS6 6SZ.

14-17 Feb 97 • Attitude: the Convention (born of the fanzine), Abbey Hotel, Gt Malvern. Now £27 reg, to 31 Jan; hotel booking deadline is early Nov, so watch it. Contact First Floor Flat, 14 Prittlewell Square, Southend-on-Sea, SS1 1DW.

28-31 Mar 97 • Intervention (Eastercon), Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool. £30 reg, £20 supp/unwaged, rising to £35/£25 on 1 Dec. Contact 12 Crowsbury Close, Emsworth, Hants, PO10 7TS.

RumblingsAussiecon 3 ... secret agent 'Bunyip' reports scenes of triumphalism: 'The worldcon win announcement here in Australia went with a fizzle. There was a convention on here in Melbourne at the time. Did the committee make a big fuss about the win? – no. Did they even announce it at the convention? – no. Somebody else who wasn't on the committee made an announcement. Did the Aussiecon 3 people even have a notice on their table saying they had won? – no.'

Infinitely Improbable

Shysters of the Ancients. David V. Barrett deplores: 'In the latest well-publicized Rennes-le-Château book, The Tomb of God, Richard Andrews and Paul Schellenberger "prove" by geometric analysis of the famous Saunière parchments, Poussin's "Et in Arcadia Ego" paintings, and the geography around Rennes, that the mortal remains of Jesus are to be found under a French mountain. • Shortly after publication, BBC2's Timewatch presented their theory in all its glory, then continued with a beautiful demolition job, showing that the whole thing is (surprise!) a load of cobblers. • Now, apparently, Andrews and Schellenberger plan to sue the programme's makers on the grounds that it portrayed them in a poor light.... (Having had to read the bloody thing for review, I thought the programme was more than fair.) • Publishers Little, Brown reportedly paid an advance of £300,000; according to a mole there, the book is selling well and will easily recoup the advance. • Any comment from sf's own Rennes man, the Rev. Lionel Fanthorpe?'

R.I.P. 'Critical Wave [1987-] has finished business. It has not so much folded as been crushed by outside circumstances. One more issue will see print, in the New Year, and will be available to subscribers only. Wave will be contacting its bank to ensure no further standing orders are processed, but standing order subscribers should contact their own banks to cancel them as well.' [SG/MT] Sad news, indeed.

C.o.A. Amanda Baker & Dave Clements c/o Dr A.C. Baker, Service d'Astrophysique, C.E.A. Saclay, Orme des Merisiers Bat. 709, F91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, Cedex, France. John Bangsund & Sally Yeoland, PO Box 5005, North Geelong, Victoria 3215, Australia. Pat Cadigan, 106A Woodlands Park Road, London N15 3SD. Chris Cooper, 20 Wheathampstead Rd, Harpenden, Herts, AL5 1ND. Rhodri James, 135 Alex Wood Rd, Cambridge, CB4 2EJ. Keith Oborn, 6 Cannon St, Reading, RG1 7PH. Tami Vining, 120 14th Ave #6, Seattle, WA 98122-5559, USA.

Random Fandom. John Foyster caused mighty consternation among past GUFF winners by publishing the fund's first-ever trip report, Stranger in Stranger Lands, covering his own 1979 odyssey. • Jon Langford was listed ninth in a Q magazine sidebar entitled 'Ten artists with ten-inch reputations', to the possible mystification of our mother.... • Stan Nicholls, reviewing Clive Parker's Sci-Fi and the Internet for Time Out, puked at 'the dreadful word "sci-fi" (a derogatory term among aficionados)'; his column is unfortunately titled Sci-Fi Books. [RH] • Derek Pickles terrifyingly reports 'a heart attack on 9 Sept – fortunately I was in the best place I could have been, the heart ward at the Bradford Royal Infirmary, where I had been for three days having tests and treatment for completely unexpected angina chest pains.... I have to take things very easy for 4-6 weeks; I'd still like to hear from fans and read the fanzine masterpieces you send – only response will take longer than usual.' [16 Sep] Send to 44 Rooley La, Bankfoot, Bradford, BD5 8LX. • Helena & Martin Tudor wish to tell the world of their pre-parental state. Congratulations; likewise on Martin's mad achievement of publishing 4 TAFF report episodes totalling nearly 20,000 words, during his actual trip. Contact (SAE) 24 Ravensbourne Grove, (off Clarkes La), Willenhall, WV13 1HX.

Stylistics Dept. Andy Sawyer writes like F.R. Leavis: 'The new edition of Who Else Writes Like? A Readers' Guide to Fiction Authors (Roy and Jeanne Huse, Library and Information Statistics Unit) has arrived – officially out on 24 Sept. It's a lot better and includes more sf, but I don't think that fans will find it very useful. I persuaded them to make some more adventurous links than recommending that everyone read John Wyndham and Isaac Asimov, but seem to have failed in arguing that a purely genre approach doesn't work in a lot of cases. Readers of Chris Priest are now recommended to J.G. Ballard, Iain M. Banks, Philip K. Dick, Michael Moorcock, Keith Roberts, Kurt Vonnegut and Connie Willis, but like it or not Chris is still Science Fiction. They've dealt with Banks by putting him in twice, with and without an "M". With an M, if you like Banks you'll like Ray Bradbury. Without, Martin Amis. If you like Mary Gentle, you may like Raymond E. Feist. Fans of Jack Vance's baroque wordplay will find themselves directed to Patrick Tilley and David Wingrove. Some of the division into sub-genres is odd – J.G. Ballard apparently writes "Technology" and "Virtual Worlds" – and it all seems somehow half-hearted, as opposed to the Crime section, which seems to me a model of how this could be done.'

Hazel's Language Lessons. Tongan conrunning terminology: fakatangakaivale to divide things out selfishly, keeping the best for oneself; fakatuia to yield to someone else's bad manners, either by allowing oneself to be upset by them or by giving into them; fakamaleletu'u to come together ostensibly for work, but to do it negligently if at all; faka'u'ulu to make a great deal of noise but to do little or no work. [KL]

Hugo Goes. David Bratman, still joyously celebrating being an ex-Hugo administrator, reports: 'The motion passed at The Scottish Convention to eliminate the Best Original Artwork category was ratified convincingly but not overwhelmingly at the L.A.con Business Meeting. A number of fans, realizing that it is now gone, have been talking about putting it back again. If only more of them had been at the meeting....'

Thog's Masterclass. Ostrich Dept: 'Aldous Huxley was one of a handful of writers to integrate ideas about science into his novels.' (New Scientist 14 Sep) [PB] • Sports Dept: 'He [Conan Doyle] wore his fame lightly, taking more joy in bowling a century on the cricket field than in all the kudos of the literary establishment.' (William Hjortsberg, Nevermore) [KN] • Simile Dept: 'So we stayed, and tried to sleep, and the moon tumbled by like the ball in an exhausted roll-on deodorant.' (Michael Bishop, 'Snapshots from the Butterfly Plague') [PB] • Rough Justice Dept: 'The X-Files. At the end of the last series [...] Scully (Gillian Anderson) faced dismissal for subordination.' (Times 7 Sep) [PW]

Danger: Contagious Penguins!

Alarm and irritation were caused by a 'Virus Warning from the Internet' flyer received by hordes of British sf people circa 20 September. This was based on the pernicious 'Good Times' hoax, which falsely warns of an e-mail virus so hideous that merely reading a message headed 'Good Times' will erase your hard disk, damage the computer processor by placing it in 'an nth-complexity infinite binary loop', automatically e-mail the fatal message to all your friends, etc. As has been noted, this thing doesn't infect computers but people, who are urged to spread the false meme by warning everyone they know: it propagates like a chain letter. Net people who have spent ages trying to clean this particular brand of shit from the stables were less than pleased that some dim-brained hoaxer had dumped in a whole new bucket, with a changed name – 'Irina' instead of 'Good Times' – and a false signature, 'Professor Edward Prideaux' of the nonexistent 'College of Slavonic Studies'.

The hoax flyer was traceable, through characteristic typos in address labels, to the Penguin sf review mailing list! Several people alerted Penguin to the abuse of their database ... only to be gobsmacked by flyer #2, this time on Penguin notepaper, which coyly began: 'You may have received a letter from a Professor Edward Prideaux recently falsely warning of a virus called "Irina". Please note that "Irina" is not a virus, and the views of Prof. Prideaux are not those of Penguin Books. / "Irina" is the title of Penguin Books' ground-breaking interactive novel ... put together by the science fiction author, Stephen Baxter, by Guy Gadney, former Head of Electronic Publishing at Penguin, and Hugh Barnes, an Executive Editor at Penguin.' That is, Penguin had started a virus scare (which of course went round the world by e-mail in mere hours) simply to promote the bloody book. Steve Baxter hastened to proclaim his innocence: 'I did know they were planning a teaser-type PR campaign, but....' Various net and virus pundits pissed on Penguin from a great height; the Telegraph (23 Sept) quoted Guy Gadney as blandly saying, 'It is very unfortunate that we have created a scare – it was not our intention.' Ansible wondered whether what seemed daft here would pass unremarked in the hurly-burly of New York publishing ... but Patrick Nielsen Hayden of Tor assured me, 'If my publicity people had done that, I'd hang them out to dry, and you may quote me to the fine people at Penguin UK. • What's most offensive is their obvious belief that their need to publicize Baxter's book is more important than the rules of courtesy and common sense followed by the internet's little people. I'm sure I could get a lot of publicity by towing a billboard for my books down the wrong side of Fifth Avenue at seventy-five miles an hour, too, but it wouldn't make it a smart thing to do.'

Now Guy Gadney explains: 'The intention of the release was to convey the tone and the conspiratorial nature both of the plot of the novel, and of some areas of the Internet itself.' (Thus, for example, a book about political assassination might similarly have been promoted by mailing death threats to cabinet ministers ... plenty of publicity there.) 'Of course, we were keen that the information should be kept by the journalists and not sent out electronically.' (Disingenuous. To quote the first flyer: 'Please be careful and forward this mail to anyone you care about ... Alert your friends and local system users.' Now, boys and girls, when people are urgently told to warn their e-mail contacts, what route are they most likely to use?) 'To this end, the release was sent in hard copy by post to named individuals to avoid any wider dissemination.' (I'm certainly glad it didn't go to any of that notoriously indiscreet subset of humanity which lacks names. Sending scary information to journalists is of course a well-known way 'to avoid any wider dissemination'.) 'We also took steps to make sure that neither Professor Prideaux nor the College of Slavonic Studies exist outside the novel itself.' (It's good to know that some people have the integrity to make Really Sure they're signing a false name.) 'As regards the project itself, Stephen and I have been working together to produce what we believe is a true and seamless joining of technology and fictional story-telling. Based around the web sites of the key characters rather than an episodic, page-turning exercise, Irina is a ground-breaking project both for Stephen and Penguin. • I am sorry about any misunderstanding and hope that you will find Irina interesting.' (Er, what misunderstanding? A straightforward 'Sorry we acted like utter loons' would have been more to the point, but let it pass....)

Geeks' Corner

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Back issues etc:
[obsolete FTP/Gopher links removed]

Ansible Agents
Steve Jeffery (Storm Constantine Information Service),
Naveed Khan, hero web and listserver boss,
Janice Murray (North America),
Alan Stewart (Australia), s_alanjs@eduserv.its.unimelb.EDU.AU
Bridget Wilkinson (Fans Across The World),

Electronic C.o.A.s Etc.
*** All [name] addresses now allow the shorter form [name] – and a good thing too.
Amanda Baker,
John Bangsund,
Pat Cadigan,
Dave Clements,
Chris Cooper, home, work (faster)
Rhodri James,
Keith Oborn ... keith@specialix address no longer valid; no replacement as yet

Convention E-Addresses
Attitude: the Convention,
Babylon 5: The Wrap Party,
Intervention (Eastercon 1997),
Intuition (Eastercon 1998),
Octocon, now
TV/SF Fantasy (Folkestone),

Miscellaneous links from Ansible,
(Rather than repeat information each issue, regularly appearing URLs are deported to this Almost Useful Page.)
Fantasy Encyclopedia: one last time – can you help with authors' birth years? Query list at (updated October)
SF Encyclopedia: second edition corrections etc. now accessible at
That Martin Tudor TAFF Report-In-Progress,
Penguin and Irina ... listed reluctantly, out of fairness to Steve Baxter, but sod the rest of 'em: via

Stop Press. John Bangsund writes: 'George Turner, Australia's senior SF writer, turns 80 this month. Melbourne fandom is putting on a birthday party for him on Saturday 19 October. If you would like to send George a birthday greeting, e-mail me ('

Ansible 111 Copyright © Dave Langford, 1996. Thanks to John Bangsund, Paul Barnett, Rich Coad (Hero Hugo Transporter), Bernie Evans, Steve Green, Rob Hansen, Martin Hoare (Hero Hugo Accepter), Ken Lake, Cheryl Morgan (Other H.H.T.), Kim Newman, Mark Plummer, Spike Parsons, Peter Wareham, and our Hero Distributors: Janice Murray (NA), SCIS, Alan Stewart (Oz), Martin Tudor (Brum Group; Other H.H.A.), and Bridget Wilkinson (FATW). 3 Oct 96.