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Ansible 161, December 2000

Cartoon: Joe Mayhew

From Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU, UK. Fax 0705 080 1534. ISSN 0265-9816. E-mail ansible[at] Logo: Dan Steffan. Cartoon: Joe Mayhew. Available for SAE, wassail, or the true significance of 'stobor'.

THE BUTTERFLY BALL. Ansible brings you an exclusive reproduction of that controversial TAFF voting ballot from Palm Beach, Florida:

     Victor Gonzalez [__] Tom Springer
     Hold Over Funds [__] No Preference

'Only fakefans could find this confusing,' stated the Administrators.

Twitching and Shattered

Ellen Datlow rushed me award news of staggering import: 'The World Fantasy Awards neglected to give the winning titles on the metal plaques superglued to the Howard. Presumably, we'll all have new plaques mailed to us that we can superglue over the old ones.'

David Eddings chilled our blood in a Del Rey newsletter interview: 'The first thing a fantasist needs to do is to invent a world and draw a map. Do the map first.' Silly old Tolkien, starting with languages!

John M. Ford had his long-awaited kidney transplant in November. The op was successful, and the patient was heard to say: 'I am more than before.' Neil Gaiman arranged delivery of a special British meal to the hospital – steak and kidney pie. 'No original parts are removed,' marvelled Mr Ford: 'the new one goes in the front, marsupial-fashion (there is a filk in that, but not at this hour of the night). So now when Teresa and I are together in a room, the count comes out right.'

Stephen King suspended publication of his 'download free, pay on the honour system' serial The Plant as of 9 November. His assistant Marsah DeFilippo first said this was because only 46% of readers paid up (success beyond the wildest dreams of anyone else publishing in that way); in a later statement she insisted that reader response had nothing to do with it. Some think King grew tired of a project that in his terms never generated more than small change, supposedly around $375,000.

Terry Pratchett had a sobering moment while on his latest tour. 'I was signing in Weston-super-Mare when a lady in the queue, after proffering a book, said with a sigh: "My father was an sf writer. But no-one's ever heard of him." I cautiously ventured: "Who was he?" She said "Edmund Cooper." • We have heard the chimes at midnight....'

Ian Watson is all excited: 'The Israeli ArmageddonCon, climaxing with me as Toastmaster hosting a countdown to Midnight at Megiddo on the final day of this year to usher in the true next millennium, has mutated into a serious conference in Jerusalem about the End of the World. The Israeli government is issuing commemorative SF postage stamps, so now the opening ceremony will feature me introducing the Minister of Communications to launch first day covers depicting aliens investigating a giant monolith inscribed with SCIENCE FICTION IN ISRAEL in Hebrew, English, Arabic, Klingon, and Elvish. The high profile has moved the British Council to tell me and others to ignore Foreign Office warnings about not going near Jerusalem.' STOP PRESS! Armageddoncon is now postponed to – probably – Autumn 2001 since, as Ian says, 'most of the foreign guests have chickened out. Pathetic bunch of cowards.'


9 Dec • Chris Priest talks about The Midwich Cuckoos at Midhurst Grammar School, North St, Midhurst (supposed original of Midwich), W. Sussex. 4:30pm. £5 admission. Follows 'SF afternoon of walking, talking, and book browsing': phone 01273 607910 for more details.

16 Dec • BFS Christmas Open Night, upstairs bar, Princess Louise pub, 208 High Holborn, London. 6:30pm on.

21 Dec • London Circle Xmas Open Meeting at Florence Nightingale, York Rd/Westminster Bridge Rd roundabout. 5pm on. Landlord Kevin is vague about upstairs room availability but says 'Come anyway.'

27 Dec • BSFA Open Meeting CANCELLED as usual in Dec. 24 Jan: Cherith Baldry. 28 Feb: Ben Jeapes/Big Engine. BSFA meetings may move to a new venue early in 2001 – watch this space for updates.

29 Dec - 1 Jan • Hogmanaycon, Glasgow. Reminder: CANCELLED.

6 Jan 01 • Avengers Day, National Film Theatre, South Bank, London. With Brian Clemens? £7.50/session, NFT members £1 less.

25-7 May 01 • Seccond (Seccon 2): De Vere Hotel, Swindon. Now £25 reg. Cheques to Seccon, 19 Hill Court, Cheltenham, Glos, GL52 3JJ.

24-6 Aug 01 • HarmUni (filk) joins Eboracon (Unicon: see A158) with the same York site and dates: two cons in one, so that signing up for either makes you a member of both. £25 reg (students £20) to Eboracon, 68 Crichton Ave, Burton Stone Lane, York, YO30 6EE.

7-9 Dec 01 • Smofcon 19 (secret mastery), Monkbar Hotel, York. £25/$40 reg. Contact KIM Campbell, 69 Lincoln St, Leeman Rd, York, YO26 4YP, or Ben Yalow, 3242 Tibbett Ave, Bronx, NY 10463, USA.

4-6 Oct 02 • Conquest (media), Essex County Hotel, Southend-on-Sea. £50 reg, £20/day, £32 two days. Contact 73 Bournemouth Park Rd, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS2 5JJ. Phone (01702) 469093.

Infinitely Improbable

Pierre Menard Lives! You read it here last: Loves of Shepherds 2000, a huge skiffy painting by Turner Prize nominee Glenn Brown, became front-page news for its close resemblance (in outline and composition) to Tony Roberts's 1974 Pan UK cover for Heinlein's Double Star. Laudable 'appropriation' of sf imagery, as the Tate Britain curator would have it, or old-fashioned plagiarism? Brown failed to win the £20,000 Turner Prize (Roberts had planned to invoice him for a substantial cut). In fact Brown pinches images regularly and openly – the Tate fuelled this fuss by omitting his tiny credit to Roberts – but, outside the art establishment, not everyone agrees that Real Artists needn't bother about copyright or permissions when 'appropriating' from lesser breeds.

Factoids. Simo reports from the cutting edge of H.G. Wells research: 'According to the trade mag Broadcast, the new US TV series The Invisible Man is "based on the H.G. Wells book about a thief who opts for a pardon through scientific experiment which allows him to turn invisible." Hmmm, don't recall that one....' • Andrew Seaman liked the Independent’s listing of that Horizon documentary: '... supermassive black holes or unimaginably destructive gravitational fields that apparently exist in every solar system, including our own Milky Way.'

Cyberbullies. 'Fandom Inc', owners of US commercial sf website, seem to believe they own the word 'fandom' and have sent threatening cease-and-desist mail to the site. These threats imply that Fandom Inc have trademarked the word; not so. OED cites for 'fandom' go back to 1903; sf fans have used it since the 1930s. Annoyed (mostly media) fans want a boycott of Others quickly bagged unregistered 'fandom' domain names: Michael J. Lowrey now owns and, and would like these auctioned to good Britfannish homes with proceeds to TAFF. Meanwhile in Britain, it seems that our own Chris O'Shea was the first to register, but was then made an offer he couldn't refuse....

R.I.P. L. Sprague de Camp (1907-2000) died on 6 November aged 92. Parris McBride writes: 'He was preceded in death by Catherine Crook de Camp, his wife of 60 years, in April of this year. The author of over 120 sf and fantasy books and several hundred short stories, Sprague also wrote many non-fiction works in history, science, and biography. He received many awards, among them the Nebula, Hugo, First Fandom, Pilgrim, Grand Master Award for Lifetime Achievement in Fantasy, and SFWA Grand Master Award. • If you love reading sf/f, de Camp enriched your reading life in ways you may never be aware of, his influence subtle but strong upon younger writers as the field grew. If you are an active fan, attending conventions and reading 'zines, wearing a costume to the Masquerade, the de Camps helped to create the culture you now enjoy. So, take a moment, and thank them both, Catherine and Sprague, who gave so many people great joy and pleasure.' • Bill Donaho, long-time US fan and publisher of the excellent fanzine Habakkuk (1960s; revived 1993-4), died on 22 November.

Still With Us. Net rumours of Poul Anderson's death are false, confirms Karen Anderson. He had to miss Philcon in November owing to pain from cracked ribs, and this news somehow got distorted....

Outraged Letters. Neil Gaiman on people allegedly saying things 'apartmently' in the Neverwhere MS: '"Bollocks," I thought. "I did the Americanisation of the book myself, very carefully, and left in terms like flat when I did, intentionally." So I grabbed a copy of the US edition, and looked at the mss of the US edition, and was more than a little surprised to find that all the flats have indeed become apartments.' • Kevin J. Maroney commends Gordon Van Gelder for modesty in announcing in A160 that he is now working full-time for F&SF, while not saying he'd actually bought the magazine from its long-time publisher Ed Ferman. As a result, John Foyster rushed in an E.J. Thribb contribution: 'So / Gordon Van Gelder / You've bought a magazine. / I do hope others do / Too.'

Nova Awards were presented at Novacon 30: FANZINE Plokta, FANWRITER Yvonne Rowse, FANARTIST Sue Mason. Just 42 fans voted. Tony Berry, still psephologized as a newt, confides: 'In a frightening imitation of the US election farce, the Novas caused a stir. No problem with Fanzine or Artist, but Best Writer was a different matter: after 2 recounts there was a 3-way tie with Rowse, Plummer and Farey all on 29 points. The Rules were invoked, teams of lawyers appointed, and beer drunk. Yvonne clinched it with 4 first-place votes, while the others had 3 each.'

C.o.A. Malcolm Edwards (Jan-Mar 01 only), 57 Roaring Brook Rd, Chappaqua, NY 10514, USA. Georgina Hawtrey-Woore & Paul McAuley, 118B Offord Rd, London, N1 1PF. Helen & Simon Kershaw, Fox Lodge, The Green, Biddestone, Wilts, SN14 7DG. Kevin McVeigh, 30 William St, Millhead, Carnforth, Lancs, LA5 9HE. Marion Pitman, 5a Church Road, Teddington, Middlesex, TW11 8PF (postcode correction). N. Lee Wood, c/o Norman Spinrad, 1 rue Frederik Sauton, 75005, Paris, France: 'due to a violent ex-boyfriend still threatening me, I'd rather be contacted through Norman for the time being.' Lucy Zinkiewicz, 21/777 South Dowling St, Redfern, NSW 2016, Australia.

Poets Cornered. The Times Literary Supplement (7 Nov) giggled at Small Press Guide 2001 listings of poetry magazines 'whose titles bear no relation to anything at all ... Abraxas, Alphard, Ansible, Aswellas ...' The writer might have identified actual poetry mags with better than this 25% accuracy if he'd bothered to read the SPG entries.

Fanfundery. GUFF: the trip from Australia to Paragon, Eastercon 2001, was won by Eric Lindsay & Jean Weber with 49 votes (17 UK, 22 Aus, 10 other) to Damien Warman's & Juliette Woods's 34 (19/12/3); No Preference scored 4 (3/0/1). • TAFF: the eastbound race to Paragon is under way, with candidates Victor Gonzalez and Tom Springer. Voting closes 31 Jan. Ballots from Velma J. Bowen, PO Box 156, Village Station, New York, NY 10014-0156, USA; or Maureen Kincaid Speller, 60 Bournemouth Rd, Folkestone, Kent, CT19 5AZ; or on request from Ansible. • DUFF: 2001 voting deadline extended to 20 Jan.

Small Press. Ben Jeapes at Big Engine is unhappy that Parcelforce is rejecting MSS on his behalf, returning them without comment to the sender. 'The reason is that Parcelforce apparently don't deliver to PO box numbers, though they are quite happy to take your money and not actually tell you so.' With high-pressure salesmanship, Parcelforce advised afflicted author Tanya Brown, 'Use a different carrier.'

Keith Roberts, RIP. Last issue's farewells provoked response. Bruce Sterling: 'Ha ha ha! These are great! They rank with the greatest sci-fi obituaries ever! We could all hope to inspire tributes of this level. Jules Verne: "He wasted his talents as a French city councilman." H.P. Lovecraft: "I told him to get a day job and knock it off with that canned spaghetti."' • Charles Platt: 'Keith Roberts suffered disappointments throughout his writing career which scarred him and made him reluctant to trust his colleagues and editors. Ironically, some of his recent obituaries have been so malicious, they merely affirm Keith's perception of human nature. He was right to expect the worst of people. • It's even more ironic that Keith should be denigrated by those who are notorious for exhibiting the same defects themselves. ("Self-destructive", for instance, and "quarrelsome".) • When I was too young to understand that I could hurt people by making flippant remarks, I wounded Keith. Years later, after he forgave me, I found that he was a warm, decent, loyal man who was unusually idealistic and sensitive, and wanted nothing more than honest appreciation and kindness. To deprive him of this, after his death, is amazingly mean spirited.'

Antecedents. Recent research into the catchphrase of Discworld's Librarian led to a possible literary source. James Joyce, Ulysses, 1922, p424 of Penguin MC edition: 'Ook.' Terry Pratchett comments: 'Dunno. Never read more than a few pages of Joyce – thought he was a berk.'

Group Gropes. NW Cheshire SF Group (was Warrington Group) meets Village Hall, Appleton Thorn, Warrington, 1st & 3rd Thur each month for informal conversation and real ale. Phone 01928 724576.

Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Cruel and Unusual Geography: 'Columbus never set foot on the continent that bore his name.' (Gregory Benford, The Martian Race, 1999) [JHM] '[Arthur Conan] Doyle, ever the English gentleman, looked away bashfully.' (Jean-Claude Dunyach, 'Orchids in the Night', Interzone 160) [KN] 'She [J.K. Rowling] has sold forty million copies in as many countries.' (Sue Lawley, Radio 4) [PE] • Dept of Weights and Measures: '... reduced to Earthly terms, Professor Jameson learned that a borg measured 7.193 feet and some few inches' (Neil R. Jones, Twin Worlds, 1967) [DM]

On the Circuit

TROPICON/FANHISTORICON in Florida overwhelmed your editor with hospitality and opportunities to sprawl beside a swimming pool in 85° November sunshine, shaded by palm trees, sipping piña colada and surrounded by scantily clad women (Joyce Scrivner). Chairman Joe Siclari took me and GoH Vernor Vinge on a daring airboat expedition to confront wild alligators in the Everglades, and insisted on photographing me covered in parrots. Indeed I had close encounters with just about all the local exotic fauna except manatees and the rare dimpled chad. Am reduced to inarticulate 'Gosh wow' noises. Thanks to all....

NOVACON 30 greatly exercised Martin Sketchley: 'The fact that Novacon was spread over seven floors of the Britannia Hotel caused much huffing and puffing, as with only one lift working the only way to get anywhere relatively quickly was via the stairs. Indeed, GoH Chris Priest complained that it took him half an hour to get from one bar to the other using the lift, having gone to the wrong place in search of friends. As special guest Rog Peyton pointed out to hotel staff, the amount (and size) of traffic forced to use the stairs resulted in the carpet between the first and second floors coming away, and presented a hazard to fandom in general. A member of staff grimly entered the stairwell, and the sound of much hammering issued forth as makeshift repairs were effected. • Overall the hotel was shabby, the drinks expensive, and the food poor. However, staff more than made up for the physical shortcomings of the establishment with their courteous, friendly manner and eagerness to please. • The GoH speech was highly entertaining, with CP thoughtfully pausing to allow the audience a "coughing break", and the revelation that someone within the publishing world – who remained nameless – is actually aware that H.G. Wells is dead. Rog Peyton's interview revealed an allegiance to the porn industry in the early days. The Q&A session that followed yielded the revelation that Andromeda may soon be forced to revert to mail-order-only distribution, as the owners of the premises propose to increase the rent considerably....' • Chris Priest adds 'I still had a good con, though!' and explains: 'Some way into my GoH speech I became aware of many intrusive noises: voices in the bar next door, a baby yelling and several people (including Leigh) coughing. I downed tools and gently suggested a coughing break. Much to my amazement, just about everyone in the con hall let rip with amazing coughing noises, followed by a burst of laughter. Talk about a new way of getting a cheap laugh!'

'ZZ9 PLURAL Z ALPHA, the Hitchhiker Appreciation Society, celebrated its 20th anniversary in the Florence Nightingale on 18 Nov 2000 in the company of several dozen past and present members and other fans. The AGM earlier in the day had failed to overturn the rule that requires the Society's secretary to wear a skirt at official events; the current post-holder, Robert Newman, coped manfully. The membership secretary had also revealed that the average age of the membership had risen by four years in the previous twelve months, but this has not led to an onset of respectability, as demonstrated by the frantic "mattress racing" in which victims were towed around the pub at high speed, seated on a tin tray inside a sleeping bag. The stairs added that extra bit of excitement. Stefan Lancaster, the current President, was declared the winner whilst Jim de Liscard won an honorary mention for most horrific injuries, his prize being an object which barely recognizably had once been a tin tray. FN landlord Kevin came fourth.' (Mark Plummer)

UTOPIA, NANTES, FRANCE: Andy Sawyer notes an omission from the A160 coverage, 'the moving bars after the Awards ceremony. Not only was the ceremony a cut above the "Turn the disco down – we've just remembered that we've some awards to present" standard we know and love, but once we streamed out into the next hall we discovered small circular tables piloted by futuristically-dressed bar staff zipping from group to group distributing drinks. It was oddly dislocating to pick up a drink, wander over to a group of people on the other side of the room, and discover ten minutes later that the bar is now at your elbow and someone dressed in brightly-coloured foil is waving another glass of champagne at you. But you rather miss it when it stops.'

Geeks' Corner

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Ansible's Links,
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Ansible Agents
Steve Jeffery & Vikki Lee France (SCIS),
Janice Murray (NA),
Alan Stewart (Aus),
Martin Tudor (Brum),

Dublin fan meetings information,
Maire McQueeney (Midhurst sf afternoon, 9 Dec),
Henry Newton (NW Cheshire SF Group info),
Peter Weston (for it is he),

Convention E-Mail
* 2001
Conthirteena (filk, Eastbourne, Feb),
Redemption (B7/B5, Ashford, Feb),
Microcon (Exeter U, Mar),
Paragon (Eastercon, Hinckley),
Seccond (Swindon, May),
Eclectic 21 (multimedia, Leicester, May),
2001 Conference (Liverpool U, Jun-Jul),
Eboracon (Unicon, York),
HarmUni (filk, held with Eboracon),
Millennium Philcon (Worldcon, Philadelphia, Aug-Sep),
Supernova-Retribution (Trek, Heathrow, Oct),
Smofcon 19 (secret mastery, York, Dec),
* 2002
Helicon 2 (Eastercon, Jersey, Mar-Apr),
Discworld Con 3 (Hinckley, Leics, Aug),
ConJosé (Worldcon, San José, California, Aug-Sep),, UK
Conquest (Southend, media, Oct),
* 2003
Toronto in '03 (Worldcon),

Convention Bid E-Mail
* 2004
Boston in 2004 (US Worldcon),
Charlotte in 2004 (US Worldcon),
* 2005
Britain in 2005 (Worldcon),


The John M. Ford Trust was set up by his friends some while ago: 'All donations go exclusively to paying his medical expenses,' which tend to be horrific (see above). Contributions can be sent c/o Lynn Litterer, 3645 Bloomington Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55407, USA.

Andy Croft wants fannish websites to pay more attention to disabled access, and recommends these URLs: [dead]

Dublin fan meetings are being revived: 1st Tue each month, Bowes Pub, Fleet St, Dublin.

Jon Langford will place the family curse upon me unless I mention his exhibition of 'New Blue Paintings', 8 Dec - 31 Jan at the Old Town School of Folk Music Gallery, 4544 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60625, USA.

Nature magazine gave a slap-up Christmas lunch on 6 Dec for the 50-odd sf authors who'd contributed to their millennial 'Futures' columns of non-fact speculation. Not everyone could make it, so the actual turnout of Brian Aldiss, Steve Baxter, Jack Cohen, Gwyneth Jones, Paul McAuley, Brian Stableford and me (plus column editor Henry Gee and Nature staff) found there was plenty to go around.

Ansible 161 Copyright © Dave Langford, 2000. Thanks to Andrew M. Butler, Steve Jeffery, David McKinlay, Justin Harwood Moss, Kim Newman, Joyce Scrivner, Joe D. Siclari, Edie Stern, Tropicon/Fanhistoricon, and our Hero Distributors: Tanya Brown (Dead Nurse), Janice Murray (NA), SCIS, Alan Stewart (Oz), Martin Tudor (Brum Group News). 7 Dec 00.