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Ansible 138, January 1999

Cartoon: Atom

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: Atom, Arcturan Kama Sutra #48, 'Small Ripples on the Sea of Eternity'.

RESOLUTIONS. To write more fiction. To avoid Grecian 2000 despite Jim Barker's exaggeratedly white-haired Langford cartoons in SFX. To kill Barker deadly. To be extra-critical of Thog submissions whose authors might just be trying for humour or over-the-topness. To refrain from calling fandom's new London-meeting pub the Dead Nurse. To eschew Millennium Bug jokes. To stop mistyping 'Ken Mcloed'. To keep things easier for my conscience by making fewer New Year resolutions. To give up ... er, the previous resolution says I have to stop there.

The Year of the Jackpot

John Barnes explains why the blurb of his Earth Made of Glass, Orion UK edition, goes on about places and names (like Chaka Zulu) that appear nowhere in the book. 'Here's what happened: while A Certain Publisher was going through administrative chaos, with some resignations and places not filled, time came up for EMOG to come out, and there was no flap copy. They were just buying the printed pages from Tor/St Marty's, so they weren't fretting about the inside of the book, but a jacket must have copy ... so they went digging through the files to see what they could find, and what they found was a five year old proposal for a different, now never-to-be-written, book, called Junction of Fear ... which they and the American publishers had very wisely rejected. Parts of Junction of Fear, the better parts I hope, were cannibalized into Earth Made of Glass, so it's not wholly inaccurate ... just thoroughly bewildering to the poor reader. • At various times other publishers have done similar things to my bio, so I suppose that I must once again proclaim that I have never been to Khazakstan, I am not fluent in Swahili, I do not hold eleven master's degrees, I am not the president of General Motors, and on advice of counsel I will not confirm or deny the business about painting French poodles.'

Damien Broderick is extremely chuffed to report that Russell and Jenny Blackford will be guest-editing an issue of Foundation in 2000: 'a fantastic breakthru for Oz sf critical writing and editing.' Into reminiscence mode: 'Back in 1985 (or maybe late 1984), I rang Ed Ferman at F&SF and suggested that he give me his magazine for a special Oz sf issue to coincide with AussieCon II, akin to the Special British ish he'd done a while earlier. This wasn't as madly quixotic as it sounded, since I had a huge pile of good stuff for my original antho Strange Attractors, and the damned thing looked as if it were about to fall over because the Oz publisher was acting up. Ferman's voice, delayed by distance, was coldly incredulous. He declined my impertinent offer with a kind of trans-Pacific shudder of disbelief. Looking back on it, I still think he missed a great opportunity that would have catapulted Aussie sf into the US limelight about a decade earlier.'

Pat Cadigan instructed all right-thinking sf people ('Especially YOU, Langford. You Dog') to buy the 30 Dec Guardian with her cutting-edge interview on the 'Parents' page. Here, in mordant, no-holds-barred phrases, the Queen of Cyberparenting laid bare her controversial fondness for Lego, pizza and TV wrestling. One revelation was regarded as too hot for Grauniad readers and thus becomes an Ansible exclusive: 'I would also like to take the opportunity to deny, categorically, that Xena: Warrior Princess is not based on me. No, it isn't. Absolutely not.'

Tom Holt passed on horrific movie news from Canada, where there are plans for 'a super realistic animated feature film: Princess Diana Saves The World.' The high concept is that Di returns to Earth as 'The world's most loved adorable angel.' Literally: advance publicity features an 'original oil masterpiece' showing her with wings and a halo, while the Union Jack subtly turns into a cross above her head. In editorial circles, the words 'Bags I write this movie entry for the second edition of the Fantasy Encyclopedia!' were conspicuously not heard.

Robert Sawyer abruptly ceased to be SFWA President on 22 Dec: 'Enough. I resign. • Effective immediately, Dr Paul Levinson is the new President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.' He'd recently stated that SFWA work was eating into his writing time. Although SFWA is tight-lipped about internal frictions, rumblings of mutiny were apparently heard following RS's revival of the unpopular membership requalification issue, use of rarely invoked presidential powers to 'fire' several long-serving SFWA volunteers (SFWA's lawyer and Forum editor were also allegedly under threat), and controversial plans to tinker with the Grandmaster Nebula Award rules. At the recent SFWA meeting at the Baltimore Worldcon, certain members had called for a vote of censure against RS. All great fun for spectators....

Brian Stableford sent a letter on 12 December 1998 about his recent trip to Israel, but got squeezed out of the printed edition – see supplement.


5 Jan - 26 Feb • The Return of the Triffids: display from John Wyndham archive, Sydney Jones Library, U of Liverpool. Contact Andy Sawyer, U of Liverpool Library, PO Box 123, Liverpool, L69 3DA.

7 Jan • London Group Meeting, ending the current Jubilee series since it's landlord Kevin's last day: he's at the Florence Nightingale pub from 9 Jan, and fans are following. New location: east side of the roundabout where York Rd joins Westminster Bridge Rd. 5pm on.

27 Jan • BSFA Open Meeting, Florence Nightingale pub nr Westminster bridge (as above), 7pm on; fans around from 5pm.

6 Feb • London (Media) Group, New Connaught Rooms, Covent Garden. £8 reg. 10am onward. (Next meeting is 22 May.)

6 Feb • Picocon, Imperial College Union, Prince Consort Rd, London, SW7 2BB. 11am-6pm. GoH Stephen Lawhead, Jane Johnson, Mike Harrison. £7 reg to 31 Jan; £8 at door. Students £4/£5; ICSF members £1. Contact ICSF, 3 Salisbury Pavement, Dawes Rd, London, SW6 7HT.

24 Feb • BSFA Open Meeting, as 27 Jan. With Christopher Evans.

26-8 Feb • Redemption (B7/B5), Ashford International Hotel, Ashford, Kent. £40 reg, £45 at door. £15 supp. Contact (SAE) Waveney, 28 Diprose Rd, Corfe Mullen, Wimborne, Dorset, BH21 3QY.

6-7 Mar • Microcon 19, University of Exeter. GoH: me. Free entry, with no advance booking, but members are asked to give to University Rag charities. Contact 16 Fairlea Close, Dawlish, Devon, EX7 0NN.

13-14 Mar • Mecon 2, SCR, Queen's U of Belfast. GoH Michael Marshall Smith. £10/£12I reg, to Queen's U SF Soc c/o Flat 2, 12 Ashley Avenue, Belfast, BT9 7BT.

2-5 Apr • Reconvene (Eastercon), Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool. £30 reg; £15 supp, children 5-14, over-60s; too late now for presupporter discounts. Under-5s free. Repeated Warning Of Desperate Import: rates rise to £50 and £25 on 1 Feb, £80 and £40 at the door. Contact 3 West Shrubbery, Redland, Bristol, BS6 6SZ.

30 Jul - 1 Aug • Clarecraft Event (Discworld), open air, Woolpit, Suffolk. With T. Pratchett and the usual suspects. £2.50/ticket to Discworld Collectors' Guild, Clarecraft, Woolpit Business Park, Woolpit, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP 30 9UP. Credit cards: fax 01359 242253.

Aug • Eclipse Tour to Romania. Jonathan Cowie answers the most common question, 'how much?': under £700 inc return flight & one week's accommodation. Party has own sf fan guides and translators. Hurry: flights are now getting full. Contact 44 Brook St, Erith, DA8 1JQ.

4-6 Sep • Festival of Fantastic Films, Sacha's Hotel, Manchester. £45 reg, rising in Apr. Tenth event in series. Contact 5 South Mesnesfield Rd, Salford, Manchester, M7 3QP.

5-7 Sep • Nocturnal (media), Sacha's Hotel, Manchester. £45 reg. Contact (SAE) PO Box 3870, Troon, KA10 7PZ.

28 Apr - 1 May 00 • AD2000 (49th UK Trek con), Palace Hotel, Manchester. £50 reg. Contact (SAE) PO Box 3870, Troon, KA10 7PZ.

RumblingsParagon (Eastercon 2001 bid, Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool) now admits to a postal address: £2 presupp to Steve Lawson, 379 Myrtle Rd, Sheffield, S2 3HQ. Alice Lawson is chair.

Infinitely Improbable

The Sources of the Nile. Ned Brooks discovered Revealed Truth in his local paper The Atlanta Constitution: '"J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) was the creator of the imaginary Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, which spawned the entire genre of fantasy science fiction." So now you know where we're coming from....'

Richard Evans Memorial Prize. The first prize of £1,500 will be awarded in Apr to a genre-fiction author chosen for being highly worthy but insufficiently recognized. Judges include Pat Cadigan, John Clute (chair), Rog Peyton, Terry Pratchett and David Pringle. [P]

Random Fandom. Vince Clarke's fanzine collection has (as he wished) been taken in charge by Rob Hansen, and all the convention material by Pat McMurray for Memory Hole Annexe. • Victor Gonzalez outed 'E.B. Frohvet', mystery editor of the US fanzine Twink, as David M. Shea (who?). [S] • Martin Hoare's favourite Christmas present was a suspiciously familiar-shaped trophy, its base engraved with the legend 'BEST HUGO AWARD ACCEPTER: MARTIN HOARE'. • Kim Huett explains all: 'Contrary to rumour my low profile of late has NOT been due to my accepting the role of Thrusty the Wonderdog in the new Ken Russell philosophical action thriller, Waiting For Godot II: Fists Of Death.' It's good to have that cleared up. • Joan Paterson & Tibs announce the birth of Thomas Alasdair Ibbs on 26 Dec 98. • M.J. 'Simo' Simpson is apparently moonlighting: 'Remember that Femme Fatales magazine of mine that's a proper magazine about sci-fi actresses and not thinly disguised pornography at all? I'm now staff writer on it!' [D] • Lucy Sussex ponders on Coincidence: 'You hear we had a shooting in our street? The day after I taught a class in how to write death scenes?'

C.o.A. Bridget & Simon Bradshaw, 46 The Oval, Henlow, Beds, SG16 6EU. Tibs & Joan Paterson (since 3/98), 22 Bullen Close, Cambridge, CB1 8YU. David Redd reverts to his home address: Plas Hyfryd, 48 Cardigan Rd, Haverfordwest, Dyfed, SA61 2QN. Roy Tackett, c/o Hallett Realty, 7800 Marble NE, Suite 5, Albuquerque, NM 87110, USA.

Small Press. Lexicon Urthus: Additions, Errata &cetera Vol III ... the final addenda to Michael Andre-Driussi's guide to The Book of the New Sun. 34pp; $3 inc post. PO Box 460430, San Francisco, CA 94146, USA.

R.I.P. Jean-Claude Forest (1930-1998), the French artist who created the original Barbarella comic strip, died on 30 Dec. [JC] • Joe Orlando (1927-1998), long-time comics artist and editor, died on 23 Dec aged 71. Titles he was involved with include EC's Tales from the Crypt, Little Orphan Annie, House of Mystery, Swamp Thing and – right up to his death – Mad magazine. [BW] • Don Taylor (1920-1998), who directed Escape from the Planet of the Apes, The Island of Dr Moreau (1977) and Damien: Omen 2, died 28 Dec aged 78. [SG] • George Wilson (1921-1998), artist and cartoonist, died on 7 Dec. He drew comic strips for Fiction House, Centaur, and Ace in the early 1940s; in the 50s and 60s he was a prolific cover artist, especially for Western Publishing: Turok Son Of Stone, Space Family Robinson, The Phantom and others. [SH]

TAFF: TransAtlantic Fan Fund winner Velma 'Vijay' Bowen reveals her itinerary: 'Current – though tentative – plans are to fly in to London around 28 Mar, lurk about with disreputable characters there, then go to Reconvene; and then spend the next two weeks or so getting into entertaining positions in other places. About 16 Apr, I shall return to Brooklyn, full of beer and tales of great hospitality and perversity, if all goes well. For those of you who might consider putting up with a wandering TAFF delegate, I'm housebroken, short-haired, fairly well-domesticated, with no allergies; I don't smoke, but don't mind staying in smoking households; and I'm easily entertained, as well as easily talked into absurd situations. Again, thank you all. I'm still somewhat croggled by this, but should be able to pass for coherent within a few weeks.' PO Box 156, Village Station, New York, NY 10014-0156, USA. • Snufkin Goes West, Maureen Kincaid Speller's collected 'Notes from the TAFF Trail' – not a full trip report – has a tasty Sue Mason cover; 10pp A4; £1.50 (cheques to Maureen Speller) or $3 (to Roger Robinson) from Fishlifter Press, 14 Northway Rd, Croydon, Surrey, CR0 6JE.

GUFF: the 1999 race is on, with Steve Davies, Julian Headlong and Paul Kincaid contending for a trip to Aussiecon 3. Ballots from Joseph Nicholas, 15 Jansons Rd, Tottenham, London, N15 4JU, or from Ansible.

All At Sea. Since Patrick O'Brian is so popular among sf fans, we record his response when an interviewer asked if he knew about the many web sites devoted to his work: 'You know, I went to see my agent in London – a very nice woman who's looked after me for a great while – and she said she would show me the Internet. "Well," she said, "look, here it is." She pointed to a sort of screen, not unlike a television. Then she seized an object, which she called a mouse, and tweaked it in various directions. • Nothing whatsoever happened.' [BD]

Thog's Language Lessons. Years ago Kingsley Amis came down hard on the translation of Harry Martinson's Aniara, for its skiffy use of 'silly made-up terms [...], a habit now practised in only the very worst magazine stories.' One of KA's execrated examples: loxodrome. Oops. (And it's the title of the BSFA committee/council newsletter, too....)

Motes and Beams. Fannish hearts, and bowels, will be stirred by this new breed of press release: 'Beaming Down. Stardate: 11-20 March 1999. Lincolnshire County Council is offering science buffs a close encounter with many of the country's biggest names in science fact and fiction when they beam down in Lincolnshire next March for Elements, a new breed of literary festival. To go on the mailing list, write to Maria Lyon, Elements Festival Co-ordinator, c/o Cultural Services, Lincs County Council, County Offices, Newland, Lincoln, LN1 1YL. Make a date ... and you too can go where no festival has gone before!' [AMB] Press Officer: 'But we failed to achieve a 100% score, Captain ... we didn't mention sci-fi or anoraks.' Festival Co-ordinator: 'Make it so!'

Fabulous Fanzine Sale. Irwin Hirsh is selling off a 15-metre stack of undistributed fanzines by John Bangsund, one of Australia's finest fanwriters, who's in financial difficulties again. Details from Irwin, 26 Jessamine Ave, Prahran East, Vic 3181, Australia; or Robert Lichtman (US$ payments), PO Box 30, Glen Ellen, CA 95442, USA; or Ansible (sterling ... catalogue e-mailed on request). Any surplus over the needed $A1500 bail-out goes to Aussie fannish causes like GUFF and DUFF. [Link to catalogue.]

Five Years Ago: Ansible gulped at Scientological plans to preserve L. Ron Hubbard's writings through any possible holocaust, in 10,500 titanium time capsules enshrined in nuke-proof vaults. There were also to be 'large, indestructible obelisks around the world covered with pictographs explaining Scientology "so that even a wandering savage will be able to understand and apply these principles."' (A78, Jan 94) Somehow I never got around to writing A Canticle for Lafayette.

Outraged Letters ... Steve Baxter muses topically: 'Clinton, Mandelson and now Sawyer; evidently Nemesis & Hubris don't take time off for Xmas.' • Sam J. Lundwall likes Ansible but deplores 'Arvid Engholm's moronic notice on me in Ansible 136. A typical example of fannish Engholm asshole journalism, a half-truth that ends up as a full lie.' [Ahrvid was puzzled and upset by this response. 'What I can say is that Sam J Lundwall in a story in Dagens Nyheter (the biggest morning paper) said October 14th: "One day I woke up and realised I couldn't any more publish books. The losses were too big." This was, according to Dagens Nyheter, in a message following his last book saying that his "book publishing has now ceased." The paper noted, though, "he promises to continue with the long-lived sf magazine Jules Verne Magasinet" and "on the other side it isn't the first time Sam J Lundwall publishes his last book". That's about it. I did not invent anything or lie or so.']Keith Oborn reported an omission from the Fantasy Encyclopedia entry on RIDDLES: 'What do you get when you cross Lee Iacocca with Count Dracula? ... AUTOEXEC.BAT.' • Karen Pender-Gunn notes that her A137 report of Ian Gunn's death was misdated owing to e-mail/dateline confusion: 'Ian passed away on the evening of Sunday 8 Nov. We were married on 7 Nov at 10.30am.... After the ceremony Ian was able to say what he'd wanted to say for a long time, "On behalf of me and the missus ..." and then told me to walk 10 paces behind. Cheeky sod. He had his humour most of the day.' Mrs KPG will publish Ian's collected Space-Time Buccaneers very soon, and hopes fans will remember his fine cartoons at Hugo time. • Lloyd Penney heard more about the hotelier who single-handedly killed the 2002 Seattle Worldcon bid by refusing room bookings: 'Yogi Hudson is rumoured to be a Born-Again Christian who thinks that fans are devil worshippers. Another victory for God's Own as the Spawn of Satan are thwarted yet again!'

Millennial Thought. The first series of Ansible began in 1979 and ended in 1987. Eight years. The second series began in 1991....

Improving Movies. Bob Devney mentions that at least one Asian country 'screened the dreadful Batman and Robin under a title that must have been the most entertaining aspect of the entire showing: Come To My Cave And Wear This Rubber Codpiece, Cute Boy.'

[Oops. The title is from a joke list of purported translations originating at the Top Five website and circulated by some unknown as news. My thanks, through gritted teeth, to the 5,271,009 readers who pointed this out....]

Group Gropes. Croydon SF Group: 2nd Tue monthly at Dog & Bull pub, Surrey St, Croydon; 7:30pm onward. Tomorrow, the world.

Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Seriously Hard SF: 'It was calibrated so that a level of zero equaled the mean solar gamma flux with a quiet sun. The current level – sixty-three – only meant something if you knew that the readout scale was the base-e log of the gamma intensity. That was easy to deal with if you knew, as Celine did, that e3 is about equal to twenty. So an increase in three in readout value was equivalent to a factor of twenty multiplier in actual gamma-ray level. Readout level sixty-three then meant that the current gamma flux was 2063/3 of the usual value. 2021 was rather more than 1027. Space outside the shielded compartment of the Schiaparelli was hot, hell-hot, with the gamma-ray burst from Supernova Alpha.' (Charles Sheffield, Aftermath, 1998) [JB/GF] • 'David saw him nod imperceptibly.' (Tom Deitz, Windmaster's Bane, 1986) [TNH] • '"Yrch!" said Legolas, falling into his own tongue.' (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, 1954-5) [DB] • 'Adrenaline pounds at her heart with rubber mallets.' (Walter Jon Williams, Metropolitan, 1995) [AC] • 'Dr Vlad sat back with his large ears poised like sinister microphones of flesh. ('John E. Muller', Return of Zeus, 1962) [BH] • 'He was hauled into the air like a sack of miscellaneous helplessness.' (Stephen Donaldson, Lord Foul's Bane, 1977) [BH]

Geeks' Corner

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Back issues etc:
[obsolete FTP link removed]
Ansible's Links,
Langford's Ego,

Ansible Agents
Naveed Khan (net/web maestro),
Steve Jeffery & Vikki Lee France (SCIS),
Janice Murray (NA),
Alan Stewart (Aus),
Martin Tudor (Brum),

Velma 'Vijay' Bowen (for UK fans wanting to offer TAFF trip hospitality),
Irwin Hirsh (Bangsund Fanzine Sale – list available by e-mail),
Eric Lindsay,
Shelby Vick and Corflu Sunsplash,

Convention E-Mail
* 1999
Return of the Triffids (Liverpool, Jan/Feb),
Redemption (B5/B7, Ashford, Feb),
Mecon 2 (Belfast, Mar),
Reconvene (Eastercon, Liverpool, Apr),
Trinity (Eurocon, Germany, May),
Seccon (Stevenage, May),
Incense & Insensibility (academia, Liverpool, Jun),
Avalon (Trek, Burton upon Trent, Jun),
Telefantastique 2 (media, Heathrow, Jul),
Wincon (Unicon, Winchester, Aug),
Festival of Fantastic Films (Manchester, Sep,
Nocturnal (media?, Manchester, Sep),
Aussiecon Three (Worldcon, Melbourne, Sep), ... UK
* 2000
Discworld Convention 3 (?),
2Kon (Eastercon, Glasgow, Apr),
AD 2000 (Trek, Manchester, Apr-May),
ConStruction (conrunning, UK, summer),
Chicon 2000 (Worldcon, Chicago, Aug),
Eurocon 2000 (Poland, Aug), Europe ... US
Hogmanaycon (Glasgow, Dec-Jan),
* 2001
Millennium Philcon (Worldcon, Philadelphia, Aug-Sep),
* General
London (Media) Group,

Convention Bid E-Mail
* 2001
Paragon (Eastercon),
* 2002
San Francisco (Worldcon), (UK
* 2003
ConCancún (Mexico Worldcon),
Toronto in '03 (Canada Worldcon),


That Sale of John Bangsund Fanzines ... view the catalogue and prices at

Simo Update. At the Jubilee, Robert Newman handed me a special issue of his Fermat on the Beach, whose headline trumps Random Fandom's 'moonlighting' snippet about our erstwhile SFX editor with 'SIMO SACKED!' Farewell, a long farewell, to mail-order clothes catalogue design. It is perhaps a trifle heartless of Mr Newman to add, 'Sources close to Mr Simpson said "Ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha...."' (And so on for several lines.)

Ansible 138 Copyright © Dave Langford, 1999. Thanks to Judith Berman, David Bratman, Andy Butler, Arthur Chance, John Clute, Bob Devney, Dop, Greg Frost, Steve Green, Steve Holland, Brian Hunt, Robert Lichtman, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Brett Hodges, Lawrence Person, Prism, Skink, Chuq von Rospach, Bob Wayne, and our Hero Distributors: Janice Murray (NA), SCIS, Alan Stewart (Oz), and Brum Group News. 7 Jan 99.