Ansible 113, December 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. Cartoon: Atom. Available for SAE or the ichor of the Sons of the Bird. Merry Xmas!
INFALIBLY MRITHFUL. Once upon a time when I first began to attend sf cons, people would flock to see a thing called the Star Trek Blooper Reel, in which actors drolly fell over or got their lines wrong. (CAPTAIN KIRK: 'Oh, fuck!' AUDIENCE: prolonged thigh-slapping hysterics extending into many minutes, they are going to hurt themselves, it is not good for them to laugh so much.) This cult attraction has spawned a million acclaimed successors – Red Dwarf Smeg Outs, etc – on the same principle whereby postage stamps are infinitely more valuable if the Queen's ears have been printed upside down. So my latest sure-fire project for 1997 is the Literary SF/Fantasy Out-Takes video, capturing the whacky, zany lapses of the writers themselves. See Rob Holdstock go 'Ouch' as he mis-researches an earthy rut scene for Mythagos Forever! [TITANIC CANNED LAUGHTER.] See Gene Wolfe scratch his head and mutter, 'What the hell did I mean by that bit, exactly?' [GALES OF HILARITY.] See John Clute tergiversate! [HUGE BLAST OF CANNED HAECCEITY.] See Pat Cadigan mistype 'Yuo odg'! [RAPTUROUS APPLAUSE.] See Terry Pratchett absent-mindedly signing his lunch! [DEAFENING SHRIEKS OF MIRTH.] See Harlan Ellison prevented from completing The Last Dangerous Visions by amusingly having to change his antique typewriter ribbon! [SHORT BUT VERY LOUD BURST OF LAUGHTER.] See Dave Langford make three countem three stabs at correctly spelling 'Ansible'! [MASSIVE OUTBREAK OF DEAD SILENCE.] ... How can this fail to be a best-seller?
The Bird Is Cruel
Stephen Baxter's launch party for Voyage at Forbidden Planet sounds decadent: 'The party went well. There was a huge book-shaped cake to celebrate a huge cake-shaped book. In my party bag from Dick Jude I found a Ken&Barbie Star Trek collectible; Barbie as Uhura is disturbingly sexy, those black tights.... There was competition from the New Worlds party at Murder One but a score draw was declared.'
Harlan Ellison, to general fannish applause, has delivered material eagerly awaited for 25 years ... being part 5 of his fan-fiction serial !Nissassa, begun in Lee Hoffman's Science Fiction Five-Yearly in 1956. (Geri Sullivan has guest-edited the latest SFFY, issue #10; its relentless schedule continues unbroken.)
Joe Haldeman cannot contain himself: 'Frabjous day! My Hollywood agent just sold the movie rights to The Forever War for $365,000, to Boss Films!' [9 Nov]
Liz Knights, 'the beloved publisher at Victor Gollancz, died of cancer in mid-November,' writes her colleague Jo Fletcher. 'She was 41 and had been battling the disease since 1991. Tragic is a word over-used in describing death; in this case it is entirely apposite. Liz was bright, committed, funny, supportive and an entirely wonderful person, loved by her colleagues, her authors and anyone who knew her. As a publisher, she combined flair, perspicacity, enthusiasm and determination. She leaves a husband, Ian Craig, and three stepchildren. She will be very deeply missed.' (Yes indeed – DRL.)
Fritz Leiber did not leave vast archives of unpublished material (would that we could say as much of L. Ron Hubbard). But a 1936 MS recently came to light, dating from Leiber's correspondence with H.P. Lovecraft, and 1997 sees first publication of the Lovecraftian The Dealings of Daniel Kesserich: A Study of the Mass-Insanity at Smithville (Tor).
Whitley Strieber has been sending out a digitized image of an utterly bog-standard and clichéd 'alien', hailing it as 'the most authentic looking photograph of an apparent alien that I have ever seen. The reason that I feel this is that it seems to reveal anatomical structures around the black eye covers that I have observed but intentionally never reported anywhere.' Gosh! Could someone be having him on? 'Whether this is a model or not, it is terribly authentic, so authentic that I believe that it can be used to acclimatize oneself to the actual grays, which is not easy to do you wake up in the middle of the night with one of them peering into your face.' [JM] Quite, quite. Characteristically, although the creator of the image is unknown and WS has absolutely no rights to it, he has 'copyrighted it in the name of the Communion Foundation, and it is not for distribution without permission.' I recall a refusal to let me quote the pages of Majestic which ripped off my own UFO spoof....
Whitley asks you not to look at this image without explicit permission.
Ian Watson knows how to have fun in Moreton Pinkney: 'We're off to a birthday party, in the village hall, for the Radio Four Jack the Ripper Tour Guide of the Year, who lives in Alexei Sayle's old house here when he isn't at the 12 Bells in Whitechapel. Harry has hired a bus to bring Londoners [including] Alexei and Yasser Arafat's best friend, though I will believe it when I see it. Booze-up in the hall, conga dance through the bewildered village, then explode fireworks in a field to entertain the sheep which lack stimulation at this time of the year, now that the rams have finished smearing blue wax on their backs.'
19 Dec London Xmas meeting, Wellington, nr Waterloo.
24-6 Dec Yulecon ... CANCELLED, I understand.
25 Dec No BSFA London meeting, for some odd reason.
31 Jan - 2 Feb 97 HarmonIX (filk), Rozel Hotel, Weston-Super-Mare. Now £23 reg. Contact 3 West Shrubbery, Redland, Bristol, BS6 6SZ ... an address which somehow rings a bell.
3-5 Jan 97 Shinnenkai (animé), Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Heathrow. Now £30 reg as of 1 Dec. Contact PO Box 3038, Wokingham, RG40 3JT.
8 Feb 97 Conpulsion (gaming), Edinburgh. £2.50 reg, to 7 Feb. Contact 67 Maitland Hog Lane, Kirkliston, ED29 9DU.
2 Mar 97 Picocon 14, Imperial College, London. 10am-8pm. £8 reg. Additional GoH: Nicholas Royle. Contact ICSF c/o IC Union, Beit Quad, Prince Consort Rd, London, SW7 2BB.
8 Mar 97 The Nightwatch (B5), Connaught Rooms, London. GoH Jeff Conaway. Contact Wolf 359, 141 Waarden Road, Canvey Island, Essex, SS8 9BE. 01753 771078.
28-31 Mar 97 Intervention (Eastercon), Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool. Now £35 reg (£25 unwaged). Contact 12 Crowsbury Close, Emsworth, Hants, PO10 7TS.
2-5 May 97 The Mission (Trek), Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool. Contact Wolf 359 as for Nightwatch above.
23-6 May 97 Year of the Wombat (humour/hangovers theme), Bestwood Lodge Hotel, Nottingham. £25 reg to 31 Mar. Contact 22 The City, Beeston, Nottingham, NG9 2ED.
18-20 Jul 97 Convocation (Unicon 16 + British RPG con), New Hall, Cambridge. GoH Steven Brust. £20 reg; 180-member limit. Contact 19 Uphall Road, Cambridge, CB1 3HX.
28 Aug - 2 Sep 97 LoneStarCon (55th Worldcon), San Antonio, Texas. $120 reg to end of year. Contact PO Box 27277, Austin, TX 78755-2277, USA or – for at last Ansible spies have penetrated the deep cover of the UK agent – Mike Moir, 27 Hampton Rd, Worcester Park, Surrey, KT4 8EU.
14-16 Nov 97 Novacon 27, De Vere Abbey Hotel, Great Malvern. GoH Peter F. Hamilton. £25 reg, rising in April. Contact 14 Park St, Lye, Stourbridge, West Midlands, DY9 8SS.
10-13 Apr 98 Intuition (Eastercon), Piccadilly Jarvis Hotel, Manchester. GoH Connie Willis, Ian McDonald, Martin Tudor. Now £28 reg, £15 supp. Contact (new address) 1 Waverley Way, Carshalton Beeches, Surrey, SM5 3LQ.
Rumblings More on Contagion's being shopped to the Inland Revenue (A112): 'The same low trick was tried on Wolf 359 conventions, but the group managed to survive (up yours Stargazer!) and has turned into a Ltd company. It's still fan-run by unpaid volunteers, and profits still go to charity, but it keeps the taxman happy.' [RB]
R.I.P. Michael Bentine (1921-1996), who died on 18 Nov, was fondly remembered by UK genre humorists for his surreal and fantastic comedy – first in the Goon Show team and later with such TV series as It's a Square World. In Terry Pratchett's words, 'He married the Goons style to the old comedy traditions and was, I think, more consistently funny than, say, Python.' John Harvey reminds us that MB was an sf fan who attended Seacon '79. Idries Shah (1924-1996) died on 23 Nov; many of his English retellings of Sufi parables – in The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin and subsequent collections – were of fantasy interest, to the extent that he nearly had a Fantasy Encyclopedia entry.... Joni Stopa, long-time Chicago area fan, died from a heart attack on 4 Dec. She had suffered a earlier heart attack at Windycon in Nov, followed (while in hospital) by a serious stroke, and had not been expected to recover. Commiserations to her husband Jon Stopa.
SF Prophecy. Uncanny foreshadowing spotted in a 1981 sf story: 'I was no real artist. I was just your typical product of Babylon-5, all jargon and no vision.' ('Mallworld Graffiti' by Somtow Sucharitkul, now better known as S.P. Somtow.) [GD]
Fundraising. TAFF raised £1,308.90 in frenzied auctions and silliness at Novacon 26, considerably restoring the health of this frostbitten fund; Confabulation (Eastercon 1995) donated a further £500, and Nic Farey's secret beer tasting produced £132.40. Armadacon lashed its 100-odd attendees into parting with over £1,000 for RNIB Talking Books. And Fantasycon's dread raffle mysteriously raised not pounds but $650, for the memorial fund in honour of Richard Evans.
Small Press Stuff. Substance magazine is folding and returning unused subscriptions with issue 4. The 23rd issue of Chris Reed's Back Brain Recluse is also to be the last subscription issue; BBR is becoming an irregular anthology. Small Press Guide 1997: A Detailed Guide to Poetry & Small Press Magazines indicates its priorities in the subtitle – poetry first – but covers various other areas, including sf: Ansible, BBR, Interzone etc. £7.99 from Writer's Bookshop, 7-11 Kensington High St, London, W8 5NP. Steve Sneyd announces his epic survey Star-Spangled Shadows, covering poetry in 1930s-60s US fanzines. £1.95 (inc p&p) from 4 Nowell Place, Almondbury, Huddersfield, HD5 8PB.
Nova Awards at Novacon 26 caused controversy in Leeds: that is, D. West is said to have charismatically mumbled his disapproval of the (popular) fanzine result. BEST FANZINE Waxen Wings and Banana Skins aka Banana Wings ed Mark Plummer & Claire Brialey (runner-up: Attitude). FAN WRITER Alison Freebairn (r-u Mark Plummer). FAN ARTIST D. West (r-u Dave Mooring). BEST FAN – a special one-off presentation – Bob Shaw, the trophy being accepted by Nancy Shaw.
Random Fandom. Brian Burgess, though wheelchair-bound and finding it hard to write, still enjoys letters and fanzines: Creedy House, Nether Avenue, Littlestone on Sea, Kent, TN28 8NH. Gary Farber returned safely home from his month in Britain, and is expected to recover soon from the after-effects of a Greg Pickersgill Denunciation and his own daring act of kissing Martin Tudor's naked feet as a sponsored performance in aid of TAFF. Jean Hoare has begun a course of chemotherapy for breast cancer, and gloomily expects to be throwing up a lot for several months to come; fingers are crossed for successful results. We will spare you Martin Hoare's jest, at Jean's pre-treatment Indian lunch, about keema therapy.... Kathy & Ian Taylor have a new address (same as Intuition, above) and an only slightly less new daughter: Charlotte Amanda, b. 20 Sept. Patricia & Rob Welbourn are bragging about the birth of son Miles Alexander Fantuzzi on 26 Nov.
BSFA Awards. The 1996 presentation was hideously delayed, but at last the winners were announced at Novacon. NOVEL Stephen Baxter, The Time Ships. SHORT Brian Stableford, The Hunger and Ecstasy of Vampires (short version, Interzone 91/92). ARTWORK Jim Burns, cover for Seasons of Plenty ... the only finalist which wasn't an IZ cover.
Publishers & Sinners. Malcolm Edwards is now apparently both the UK HarperCollinsTradeDivision supremo and deputy managing director, following (according to Private Eye) a mighty ego battle with HC rival Norman Proffit, who after various threatened (NP's) and actual (Malcolm's) resignations has mysteriously been granted 'equal status' with Le Petit Mal. Coo. US pb rights to Chris Priest's The Prestige ('Triffic' – Ansible) had languished until the book's World Fantasy Award win ... whereupon a 'spirited auction' began, and was won by Tor.
Allegedly ... we await denial of the seductive rumour – transmitted by BSFA gossip columnist 'Aleph' – that a Welsh edition of Kim Stanley Robinson's trilogy had to be abandoned owing to the reps at HarperCollinsForeignDivision having persistent difficulty in distinguishing Mawrth Glas (Green Mars) from Mawrth Glas (Blue Mars).
Outraged Letters. Steve Gallagher also suffered from the Anonymous Letter-Writing Yorkshire Pest (Ansible, passim): 'I try to reply honestly to whatever mail I get. I thought I was dealing with someone who was maybe in earnest but damaged, so I responded with some politeness and kept my home address well out of it. By the time I got the third letter, I'd become convinced that here was a person getting kicks out of his/her own mendaciousness. It's sad and a bore. An eight-year-old would have more of a life.' Steve also came up with a revenge scheme which is perfect in its evil appropriateness; I hesitate only owing to a worry that the Pest may in fact be mentally ill. Simon R. Green adds: 'I feel quite jealous that I've never been plagued by "Rachel Oliver". What's the matter; I'm not big enough for her? Hmmph.' Kim Newman responds to Simon (A112): 'M.M. Smith did not devise the "you can fuck right off" game. I'm responsible for introducing it to him (at a Steve Jones party in Wembley), but as far as I know it was invented (in a dacha in the White Carpathians – I'm not making this up) by Brian Smedley, who is a Labour district councillor in Bridgwater, Somerset. Oh, and Eugene Byrne was in on its inception too. The best I can say for it is that it's less offensive than Brian's next stab at old-style make your own entertainment – "Fantasy Serial Killer".'
CAN of Worms. 'The Cult Awareness Network has been forced into bankruptcy, due to 45 lawsuits filed by the Scientologists,' writes Steve Brown. 'A judge went for one of them and entered a $1.8 million judgement against the CAN. The CAN's assets were put up for auction. Their name, logo, PO Box and phone number – their identity – were sold to the highest bidder, who turned out to be a Scientologist. He intends to keep the organization going, but utilizing it for his own purposes. Thus, people who find CAN's 20-year-old phone number and call, worried about a son who just became a Hubbardite, will be talking to a Scientologist.... CAN said that throughout their career, "aside from Satanic groups, more callers asked about Scientology than any other group." There's more: pending is a sale of 600 feet of files on cults accumulated over the years. The Church of Sci wants these bad. Not only to finger people who have blown the whistle on their own activities, but to get dirt on rival cults. "Scientology will pay anything to get their hands on those files," said Robert Young, a former Scientologist spokesman who quit and became a major critic, "We always figured CAN was the nexus for all the rest of the problems Scientology had. So the idea of getting the files is similar to the KGB being able to buy the files of the CIA." A judge is thinking this over right now.'
Thog's Masterclass. Cultural Research Special Credit: 'Walter was in the kitchen, his elbows plunged into soapy water, singing along with Radio 1 as he worked, an opera program.' (Kelly Link, 'Flying Lessons', Asimov's Oct/Nov) [DW] 'Her eyes were two small heavens filled with their own wild tempests.' '"Cold?" Minarik asked, his voice breaking the silence as gently as if it were an egg.' 'Her head gimbaled back to rest between her shoulders.' '"The tension is thicker than the gravy," he said.' (all Robin Wayne Bailey, Shadowdance, 1996)
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Stop Press. Attempts in early December to subscribe to Ansible through the Majordomo@imi.gla.ac.uk server were being bounced with messages of computerized despair: 'I'm afraid I wasn't able to deliver your message to the following addresses. This is a permanent error; I've given up. Sorry it didn't work out.' Naveed Khan promises that he is administering electronic Prozac and restoring the system's will to live....
The newly-revealed UK LoneStarCon agent Mike Moir has now been interviewed by Ansible, and memorably stated: 'They told me two years ago that I was an agent and I haven't heard anything from them since.'
Ansible 113 Copyright © Dave Langford, 1996. Pre-festive thanks to Ruth Ballam, Paul Barnett, Chris Bell, Gary Dalkin, Jo Fletcher, Tim Illingworth, Joe McNally, Chris O'Shea, Chris Priest, Joyce Scrivner, Chris Terran, Jonathan Waite, Dave Wood and our Hero Distributors: Janice Murray (NA), SCIS, Alan Stewart (Oz), and Martin Tudor (Brum Group). 5 Dec 96.