Ansible 151, February 2000
From Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU, UK. Fax 0705 080 1534. ISSN 0265-9816. E-mail ansible[at]cix.co.uk. Logo: Dan Steffan. Cartoon: Sue Mason. Available for SAE or economy-size packets of Filboid Studge.
ANNIVERSARY! ALMOST! MAYBE! After intricate calculations based on insufficient data from the years of pre-war and post-war weekly meetings that led up to 40 years of monthly ones, Rob Hansen and Pat McMurray are practically certain that this month's London Circle gathering will be number 1,300 (plus or minus 10) and should therefore be celebrated in some extraordinary fashion, i.e. alcohol. Voice of Arthur C. Clarke: 'Fools! I'm not celebrating until meeting 1,301.'
The Pen and the Dark
Steve Baxter boosts this issue's 'All Knowledge Is Contained In Fanzines' quotient: 'Any Simpsons fans caught in this winter's NHS hell will surely be comforted by the fact that the Department of Health's official website is, inevitably, www.doh.gov.uk.'
Arthur C. Clarke's breathing difficulties (owing to post-polio syndrome) inspired tasteful sf imagery in a 2 Feb Washington Post piece by Pamela Constable: 'But after every few breaths, Sir Arthur C. Clarke makes a slow whooshing sound as if he were cruising through space, a bit like those fantastic structures that waltzed among the stars in one of the greatest science fiction films.' [cj] The Blue Danube Whoosh?
Mary Gentle, asked about Gollancz's paradoxical press pack which calls her Ash the biggest fantasy ever published in a single volume but encloses proof volume 1 (of 2) only, snickered and muttered darkly that 'One day there really should be a companion volume: The Making of ASH. In which many paradoxes would be explained....'
A.E.van Vogt (1912-2000) died on 26 January, after years of fading health and Alzheimer's. He was 87. His Campbellian Golden Age fame was founded on a burst of popular, hugely influential magazine work from 1939 ('Black Destroyer') to the end of the 40s, most of it eventually reworked at novel length. Idiosyncratic theories of writing, like his new concept or plot turn every 800 words, led to high-speed, dreamlike narratives that had almost hypnotic force despite not always making sense. Slan, his first novel and the archetypal sf persecuted-minority story, was widely adopted as a metaphor for fandom. Van Vogt continued to write with diminishing energy into the 1980s, and received the SFWA Grand Master accolade far too late, in 1996. 'There,' as his own aliens would surely say, 'went the author who ruled the sevagram.'
Kurt Vonnegut had a nasty fright at the end of January, when a fire at his house led to hospital treatment for smoke inhalation: it's said that he fannishly tried to rescue papers rather than running for it, until extricated by a more sensible neighbour. Despite some early 'critical but stable' reports, he's apparently in good shape.
4 Feb BFS Open Night, upstairs bar, Princess Louise pub, 208 High Holborn, London. 6:30pm on. With Dark Detectives anthology signing.
4-6 Feb Didgeri-12 (filk), Forte Posthouse, Milton Keynes. £22 reg, £11 unwaged. Contact 119 Whitehill Lane, Gravesend, DA12 5LU.
11-13 Feb Millennium Starfleet Ball (media), Carrington House Hotel, Bournemouth. £65 reg inc food; £9/day (no food or Ball). Contact 6 The Street, Sutton Waldron, nr Blandford, Dorset, DT11 8PF.
19 Feb Picocon 17, Imperial College Union, Prince Consort Rd, London, SW7 2BB. GoHs Brian Stableford, Garry Kilworth, Ian Watson, Juliet McKenna. £8 reg; £5 concessions; £2 ICSF members. Contact ICSF c/o 3 Salisbury Pavement, Dawes Rd, Fulham, London, SW6 7HT.
23 Feb BSFA Open Meeting, Florence Nightingale, on York Rd/Westminster Bridge Rd roundabout. 7pm on; fans around from 5pm.
corrected date: 26-27 Feb Memorabilia (sf, film, cult, collectors' etc fair), Hall 9, NEC, Birmingham. Contact 01899 221622. Bookings 0121 767 4555.
10-12 Mar AKFT V, Kyance Hotel, The Hoe, Plymouth. GoH Michael Sheard, Mat Irvine. £35 reg, £40 at door. 'Adult only.' Contact 12 MacGregor House, Thornton Rd, Clapham Park, London, SW12 0LE.
11 Mar BFS Open Night, as 4 Feb above. With China Miéville. Future BFS open nights are scheduled for 10 Jun, 2 Sep, and 16 Dec.
11-12 Mar Mecon 2000, Queen's U of Belfast. GoH Harry Harrison, Ian McDonald. £12 ref to 10 Mar, £14 at door (£7/day). Contact 24 Malton Ct, Upper Malone Rd, Belfast, N. Ireland.
21-24 Apr 2Kon (51st Eastercon), Central Hotel, Glasgow. GoH £30/$55 reg, £20 unwaged, £15 supp/junior (8-15), infants (0-7) free. Contact 30 Woodburn Terrace, St Andrews, KY16 8BA.
22-23 Apr Comics 2000, Watershed Media Centre, Bristol. Tickets £3 'browser' (dealer/exhibits access only), £6 'fanboy' (same, plus programme, with various 'individually ticketed' exceptions), £25 'superpass' (all events except Eagle Awards meal, which is extra) ... Contact (SAE) PO Box 48, Clevedon, Bristol BS21 7LQ; 0117 924 4655.
21 May Fantasy Fair (10th anniversary), Cresset Exhibition Centre, Bretton, Peterborough. 10:30am-4pm. Contact 5 Arran Close, Holmes Chapel, Cheshire. CW4 7QP. 01477 534626.
27-8 May Silver Arrow (Robin of Sherwood), Bristol Jarvis Hotel (name changed from Hilton). £52 reg inc. banquet. Contact (SAE) 4 Stitchman House, Byfield Rd, St James, Northampton, NN5 5GH.
Rumblings Boston in 2004 is a Worldcon bid from New England's MCFI, who ran Noreascons 2 and 3. Presupp membership $12, 'friends' $75. Contact PO Box 1010, Framingham, MA 01701, USA. Chicon 2000 Hugo nomination forms are out; deadline 31 March. Ansible failed to be outraged when the ballot cover art 'endorsed' – that is, almost invisibly featured – such likely nominees as A Civil Campaign and Locus. But wouldn't it be nice to celebrate the New Year's First Digit with some fresh, vibrant names in boring old categories like fanwriter?
Publishers and Sinners. Dorling Kindersley embarrassedly confessed a likely £25 million loss for the second half of 1999, thanks to over-optimistic investment in the UK Phantom Menace book franchise: 13 million printed but only 3 million sold. [PB/TC] 'They didn't lose money on my book!' cried John Clute. SFX subscribers assumed the February cover was a rare and perhaps immensely valuable misprint, lacking all the usual teaser headlines. Deputy editor Guy Haley explains: 'Nah, this is our new look for subscription copies only – all subscribers get a lovely SFX cover picture unadulterated by our wibble. Only we forgot to announce it anywhere. Oops!' Editor Dave Golder gloated uncontrollably: 'They're already changing hands for a fiver in specialist shops.'
Awards. Philip K. Dick Award shortlist, for best US paperback-original sf: Code of Conduct by Kristine Smith, Not of Woman Born ed Constance Ash, Tower of Dreams by Jamil Nasir, Typhon's Children by Toni Anzetti, Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter, and When We Were Real by William Barton. Winner announced 21 April. [GVG] Whitbread Award: after hot debate this went to Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf, with J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban winning the children's division. [JR] It emerged that the jury was split 4-5 on making the latter the overall winner, whereupon Anthony Holden threatened to 'publicly dissent' if a children's book were honoured, and Anne Widdecombe chimed in to say that such a shocking choice would bring contempt and ridicule to the entire nation. On the other side, A.N. Wilson grumbled that Beowulf was 'a boring book about dragons.' BSFA Awards shortlist: NOVEL ThigMOO by Eugene Byrne, Silver Screen by Justina Robson, Children of God by Mary Doria Russell, Headlong by Simon Ings, The Sky Road by Ken MacLeod. SHORT (all Interzone) 'Gorillagram' by Tony Ballantyne (#139), 'Hunting the Slarque' by Eric Brown (#141), 'Malignos' by Richard Calder (#144), 'The Lady MacBeth Blues' by Stephen Dedman (#148), 'White Dog' by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff (#142). ARTWORK The Dream Archipelago by Jim Burns, Darwinia by Jim Burns, Interzone 142 by Dominic Harman, Silver Screen by Steve Stone. Dreaming Down Under/Interzone 146 by Nick Stathopoulos. [CH] Winners to be announced at 2Kon, 23 April.
As Others See Us. More merry litcrit snobbery was heard on BBC Radio 4's A Good Read (11 Jan), as Frederick Raphael and others struggled to define Ronald Wright's A Scientific Romance as non-sf. No matter that its protagonist uses the Wellsian time machine to seek a future remedy for incurable disease, encountering long-term effects of global warming: the panel decreed that this couldn't be sf, because they liked the book and – Raphael's clincher – it wasn't written in the future tense.
Random Fandom. Paul Beardsley is commended by Big Chief I-Spy: 'This week in Havant, Hampshire, I spotted a car (big and white, possibly a Mercedes) with the personalized number plate "5LAN". I can't imagine it wasn't a reference to Mr van Vogt's famed creation.' Robbie Bourget invites submissions for the annual Ken McIntyre award for art in British fanzines. Artists/editors not attending 2Kon can send original art plus the relevant fanzine (or a copy of the page, with title/date/editor details) to her: 8 Warren Close, Langley, Slough, Berks, SL3 7UA. Artists wanting to exhibit at 2Kon should tell Robbie as early as possible. Other unattributable but irate sources reckon that 'the numbskull committee' has allocated far too little art show space and that Robbie 'needs all the ammunition she can get to fight for a bigger room(s).' Current usable space, already mostly booked, is barely larger than tiny Novacon's art show. Harry Payne professes bafflement at Anne McCaffrey's blurb for Ricardo Pinto's The Chosen: '"Pinto writes with an almost Donaldsonian/Feistian grip." How, pray, does one acquire an almost Donaldsonian/Feistian grip? Is it to be found on the shelves of B&Q, or is it a free gift when one subscribes to the Gaiman/Pratchett Idea of the Month Club?' (A Donaldsonian grip is of course a clench. Dunno about a Feistian one.) Simo contends that NASA press releases are spellchecked by the same people who build their Mars probes: 'Following over a year of training, astronaut candidates can become full-fledged astronuts ...' He relentlessly continues with 'my favourite cock-up from a movie positively stuffed with vertical male chickens, Supernova (finally released after a year on the shelf). The crew of a spaceship receive a distress call from "3,300 light years away." Audience (but not, apparently, film-makers) think, "Well, it's a bit too late to do anything about it now...."' I am reminded of Colin Kapp's The Patterns of Chaos, featuring a succession of planet-busting hellbombs which have been travelling between galaxies for six hundred million years and are aimed with some precision at the hero.
Spectrum SF is a new quarterly paperback magazine whose launch issue (Feb 2000) features Keith Brooke, Eric Brown, Garry Kilworth, Alastair Reynolds and Keith Roberts as supporting cast for megastar Charles Stross. £3.99 (4-issue sub £14, 8 for £24) from Spectrum Publishing, PO Box 10308, Aberdeen, AB11 6ZR. At present, editor Paul Fraser doesn't want any unsolicited submissions. He deserves success for his daring innovation of not including another bloody Langford column.
R.I.P. Marc Davis, one of the 'nine old men' of classic Disney animation, died on 12 January at age 86. [PB] Sybil DeVore, wife of long-time fan, book dealer and awards chronicler Howard DeVore, died on 8 January after long illness. [CP] Peter Kuczka (1923-1999), influential Hungarian sf critic and publisher, died on 3 December. [AN] Gil Kane (1926-2000), still-active comics artist best known for 50s/60s 'Silver Age' work on Green Lantern and Atom, died of cancer on 31 January. He was 73. [TG] Don Martin, who came to fame as a zany cartoonist in Mad magazine's heyday, died of cancer on 6 January at age 68. [PB] He illustrated several sf stories for Galaxy in the 50s; after falling out with Mad in 1987, he worked for its rival Cracked. Patrick O'Brian (1914-2000), whose bestselling Aubrey/Maturin sea stories caught the imaginations of sf fans and were much discussed in fandom, died on 2 January aged 85. (One of Walt Willis's 1950s Nebula columns had discussed the similar fannish appeal of C.S. Forester.) Mae Strelkov, long-time fan celebrated for creating much treasurable artwork with the old fannish technology of coloured hecto inks, died on 27 January in Argentina. [NB] She had suffered a stroke last September.
Thog's Transitive Masterclass. 'Without transition, his body passed from movement to poised stillness ...' 'Without transition, he shifted into his emergency mode – the state of whetted creative concentration on which his reputation rested ...' 'Almost without transition, however, his scars had gone as pale as his face ...' (all Stephen R. Donaldson, The Gap into Vision: Forbidden Knowledge, 1991) [TW]
Fanfundery. Ron Bennett has an attic stash of his 1958 TAFF trip report Colonial Excursion (1961; 93pp with many Atom cartoons): £5 to him or $7.50 US to Andrew R. Bennett. 36 Harlow Park Cres, Harrogate, N Yorks, HG2 0AW. New Routes in America, the newly published report of Peter Roberts's 1977 TAFF trip, is still available from Ansible at a mere £6. 'Made me laugh so much my glasses steamed up ... highly recommended' – Chris Priest. All proceeds to TAFF. A parcel of copies is currently travelling by slow boat to Aussie distributor Irwin Hirsh.
Hazel's Language Lessons. As they say among the Pintupi Aborigines of the Western Australian Desert: nginyiwarrarringu, n., a sudden fear that leads one to stand up to see what caused it. [TB]
C.o.A. Jane Carnall was burgled on 11 Jan and fled her insecure Reading flat. Now (to end Apr at least): [house number and street removed in 2004 at urgent behest of current occupant, God knows why], Reading, RG1 5QS. Bernard M. Earp (from 1 Mar), 44 Lord Stile Lane, Bromley Cross, Bolton. Bob Rickard, 104 Windsor Rd, Forest Gate, London, E7 0RB.
Fastsellers. The Bookseller's top 100 fast-selling UK paperbacks for 1999 had unusually few genre items: Terry Pratchett's Carpe Jugulum at #20 (395,583 copies) and The Last Continent at #25 (337,768), Star Wars Episode 1 at #45 (223,644) and ... er, that's it. [JC]
Dept of Urology ... this being what John Grant's spellchecker keeps suggesting for 'ufology'. David Hines reports: 'Long-time Langford fan Whitley Strieber was roundly humiliated on the January 18th "Kirk, Mark, and Lopez Morning Show" on 97.9 FM in Baltimore, MD. Strieber called in to promote his new book, The Coming Global Superstorm (co-authored with conspiracy maven Art Bell), the thesis of which is that "Earth's climate works like a rubber band being stretched and suddenly released" (yes, really), and that said rubber band is getting ready to snap back with enough force to blow off a finger or two. A highlight: when one disk jockey read off a list of Strieber's wildly alarmist and (need this be said?) unsubstantiated claims, Strieber snapped back, accusing the DJs of being deliberately inflammatory, and trying to make him look foolish by taking him out of context. On the contrary, they replied – they were reading directly from Strieber's own press kit.'
FAAns. Fanzine Activity Achievement Awards votes for 1999 work need no ballot form: send your top three choices for Fanzine, Fanwriter, Fan Artist, Letterhack, and New Fanzine Fan (first fanzine activity after 1 Jan 95), to 4228 Francis Ave N #103, Seattle, WA 98103, USA. Final deadline is midnight 4 March. Include your own name and address.
Outraged Letters. Simon R. Green's cold-turkey cure failed, as usual: 'I know I promised to Never Ever write another Deathstalker novel again, but ... my publishers found my weak spot. They offered me money. Quite a lot of money, actually.' The bastards! Perry Middlemiss conveys Aussiecon's response to a certain author's 'Swanwicik' Hugo-inscription grumble: 'Michael Swanwick is getting a new award (in exchange for his old one) at Boskone. Stephen Boucher will be hand-delivering it. Mr Swanwick is aware of this fact.' Michael Swanwick was busy brooding on too many death notices in Ansible, which 'reminded me of SF back when I made my first sale in 1980 and Locus didn't have an obituary page because nobody ever died. It was like the village in Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, which was so small and obscure that Death couldn't find it. Then one person died, and everybody took it as permission to follow. Alas.'
Twenty Years Ago. Bob Shaw implausibly confessed to Ansible: 'I have been writing to fan editors for many years, but this is the first time I have ever read a fanzine....' Leigh Edmonds and Valma Brown rejoiced: 'We've only been married a week and it seems like years.' A French Ufologist rumbled me, with help from Ian Watson: 'Unless you prove me the contrary, I consider your book is a Hoax.' (all Ansible 6, Feb 1980)
Group Gropes. Peterborough SF Club meets each Wed. Venues vary (1st Wed is Bluebell Inn, Dogsthorpe): contact 58 Pennington, Orton Goldhay, Peterborough, PE2 0RB. London horror/f/sf writers meet 2-7pm, last Sat each month, at the Princess Louise – see BFS meeting info.
Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Paws for Thought: 'Only Lily could tell there was more to it, because whatever was haunting the back of his eyes made a trail of uneasy paw prints up her own spine.' (Charles de Lint, Someplace to be Flying, 1998) [PB] '"Are either of you aware of the fact that there's nothing between us and the pole to break the wind but an occasional stray reindeer?"' (David Eddings, Castle of Wizardry, 1984) [RP] Dept of Sound Effects: 'From out of the surrounding hills came a ringing silence that was only deepened by the plodding of the pack-ponies' hooves on the turf and the flirting of their tails against their sides.' (Susan Price, The Sterkarm Handshake, 1998) [BA] 'The horse's fall had the sound of a bag filled with rocks and lamp oil, landing beside him and rolling over his legs.' (Steven Erikson, Gardens of the Moon, 1999) [GW] Dept of Non-Euclidean Geometry: 'She wore a thin metal necklet of some sort, as well, and he scrutinised it with almost equal curiosity. It supported a plastic cube a half-inch square and a quarter-inch thick.' (David Weber, The Apocalypse Troll, 1998) [MR] 'Although the project would ultimately be aborted, this represented the moment that Star Trek: Phase II was born.' (Ed Gross, SFX #61) [AO]
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FTP? People, though not many of them, said they'd like the plain ASCII text archive of Ansible and its FTP availability to be continued. Oh, all right then. A special and reverential thumbing of the nose to Bob Devney: 'Mark me down as one who needs not FTP – I get instead the CORRECTLY SPELLED edition of Joseph Nicholas's zine.'
NESFA voted to secure the domain name nesfa.com to add to its existing nesfa.org, but grumpily had to pay $200 to a 'cybersquatter' who'd registered the name in hope of profitable resale. (Instant Message 658)
Ansible 151 Copyright © Dave Langford, 2000. Thanks to Brian Ameringen, Paul Barnett, Tim Bartel, Chris Bell, Ned Brooks, David Carlile, Jonathan Cowie, Tony Cullen, Tom Galloway, John Grant, Chris Hill, carl juarez, Stewart Lloyd, Matrix, Attila Nemeth, Andrew Osmond, The Paper Snarl, Curt Phillips, Prism, Ray Proven, John Richards, Marcus Rowland, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Gordon Van Gelder, Tanaqui Weaver, Gary Wilkinson and our Hero Distributors: Janice Murray (NA), SCIS, Alan Stewart (Oz), Brum Group News. 3 Feb 00.