Ansible logo

Ansible 19, July 1981

Cartoon: D. West

PLEASE NOTE that this old Ansible is a bit of history. Addresses have changed (in particular, the editor's postal address has), prices and agents' credits are invalid, etc. • This issue was produced in my BWP or Before-Word-Processors era and lovingly rekeyed for the archives by Bill Welch – to whom many thanks – and, when he ran out of steam, your humble editor: • Dave Langford, 1996.

ANSIBLE NINETEEN: The July 1981 issue of Britain's sf/fan newsletter of true facts and good taste ('It's a riot!' – FOUNDATION). Editor: Dave Langford, 22 Northumberland Avenue, Reading, Berks, RG2 7PW, UK. Sub rates 6/£1 UK, 5/£1 Europe, 4/£1 elsewhere; US fans may send $ equivalent to Mary & Bill Burns, 48 Lou Ave, Kings Park, NY 11754. Mailing/status labels by Keith 'Computer Crime' Freeman; cartoon by D. West. 9 July 1981.


From time to time people comment on 'trends' in Ansible coverage, as different issues chance to be more or less fannish, more or less SFish, more or less lousy. This time it's all fannish reports as far as the eye can see, because that's what I have to hand. Next issue, who knows?

It might be all too much for the more serious-minded if I also went on about the Brum Group 10th-anniversary party. It was all good fun and more or less what you'd expect, from a surreal signing session where C. Priest did not sign copies of Jackie! (see flyer) but where C. Morgan and I became insupportable after signing our book for H. Harrison ... onward via Peyton auctioneering and Aldiss/Harrison buffoonery to frenzied partying. Good stuff, except that just as your editor was gloating over his lack of hangover next morning he fell down and broke a tooth. This dangled enticingly all day, causing exciting agonies whenever I drank, talked, moved breathed or allowed my heart to beat. In the evening I grappled with some specially thin blancmange, got the spoon tangled with the flapping tooth and (after a few seconds over which we draw a veil) found the tooth and I had parted company. We searched the blancmange but found nothing. Seems I must have swallowed at just the wrong moment.... This is why Ansible is late.

Room for a word about Channelcon (1982 Eastercon, Brighton): following a chance discovery that the Metropole was offering lower room rates to other gatherings, rates were renegotiated to £13.50 single, £12.50/person double/twin (inc breakfast, VAT extra). Better still, Angela Carter has been signed as joint GoH (with John Sladek). Gosh wow.


You read it in the tourist brochures, and you think it's such a cliche that it can't possibly be true; but Australians really are friendly and outgoing and willing to show you around, the fact that you're a Pom notwithstanding; and I was met with unfailing kindness wherever I went during my three (short, too short) week GUFF trip Down Under to attend Advention 81 in Adelaide over the weekend of 6-8 June. And I had a bloody marvellous time, and given a choice I'd rather still be there than back here.

My GUFF report should (assuming nothing goes wrong) be published within the next couple of months, and if nothing else the effort of writing it should impose some coherency on my jumbled memories. I can remember being struck by the relative smallness of Advention, with about 250 attending members and thus the size of a British Eastercon of the early 70s, and in consequence much more accessible and congenial than today's hugecons. And I was struck, too, by the relatively high prices charged at hotel bars, which means that Australian fans tend to reserve their drinking for the evenings, when room parties come into their own and they can walk round to the local bottle shop to pick up 4-litre casks of excellent wine for around 4-5 bucks. And, speaking of wine, I remember the trip up the Barossa Valley before the convention, to sample (for free!) the vintage at selected wineries, where GoH Frank Herbert – who looks and sounds as jovial as your childhood image of Santa Claus, and to whom I took an instant liking – proved astonishingly knowledgeable about wine, praising some of it to the skies on one of his radio interviews the next day and thus surprising the interviewer, who obviously expected him to be a typically parochial American whereas he was in fact a pragmatic and widely-travelled cosmopolitan. And although the Barossa Valley may not have much in the way of scenery, there's the 3000-foot high Mt Lofty range behind Adelaide, from where you can see that wonderfully clean and spacious city spread out along the coast; and also the Blue Mountains inland from Sydney, through which I rode on a train that crawled slowly along the side of some of the sheerest gorges I've ever seen on my way to visit Eric Lindsay and ride on the Katoomba scenic railway, the steepest (70 degrees) elevated line in the world, where I hung on for grim death as it plunged over the lip of the cliff and down into the valley below. And, in complete contrast, there was the 12-hour drive to Melbourne on the day after the convention, across some of the flattest country in the world, with the road just going on and on ahead of us and the parched grasslands stretching out to the horizon on either side: a journey which really brought home to me the sheer size of the country – a size which, with its population of only 15m, accounts for the identifiably distinct regional fan groups centred on the major cities (although, given the distance between them, fanzines are strangely not as important as you might expect; according to Leigh Edmonds, fanzines are in severe decline as the orientation of Australian fandom at large shifts more towards conventions). The cities have characters, too; in addition to Adelaide, there's Melbourne with its quiet parks and clanking old electric trams, and Sydney with its bridge and opera house and harbour ferries (and where it may now be winter, but temperatures are currently higher than they are here); and the pace of life seems easier, less fraught with the angst and paranoia so common to the Ballardian urbania we inhabit, and in comparison with which any other city must seem terminally claustrophobic.

And I remember, of course, all the fans I met: Keith Curtis, with whom I stayed for the first few days of my trip and who greeted me with the words "Welcome to Australia – have you got a cigarette?"; Perry Middlemiss, in charge of the publicity for Advention, who (despite darker hair) bore a striking resemblance to Roy Kettle; John McPharlin, Advention treasurer, with his magnificently insulting off-the-cuff sense of humour; Terry Dowling, author of a recent thesis on Ballard, who knows more rude songs about sheep than you'd think possible; Sally Underwood, Pom expatriate who forgave me for not recognizing her because she was (she said) only a fringefan back in 1977; Rob McGough, who conscripted me into the Goon-based 'Dune Show' because (he said) I had just the right cultured accent to play Baron Grytepyppe Harkonnen; John Foyster (new shorter-haired model), Advention's Fan GoH, recovering from the recent flooding of his house but as droll and witty as ever; Valma Brown, who told me that we couldn't have GUFF any more if we were going to keep sending out such lovely people as Chris Priest and myself (!); John Bangsund, seemingly embarrassed at being almost a legend in his own lifetime; Bruce Gillespie, struggling away at a freelance career as a full-time director of Norstrilia Press; Marc Ortlieb, apparently typecast as a genial clown but actually more serious than even I'm sometimes wont to be; Leanne Frahm, who can be ruder about First Fandom and Huge Name SF Authors than I; and Judith Hanna, diminutive redhead, in whose lap I fell asleep during the committee room party and who, primed by Dave Langford's piece about me in the Advention Programme Book, promptly decorated the end of my nose with a red felt pen. And more, more... I had a great time, all right, and I fully intend to return as soon as I can, because not to sample what Australia and Australian fandom have to offer is to miss out on some of the finer things of life.

Which brings me, more or less, to the hard sell part of this, GUFF, the administrators (John Foyster and I) have decided, will be running the other way in 1982, bringing an Australian fan to sample the joys of British fandom at Channelcon next year – which means, of course, that nominations are now open, and you are all instructed to write to the Australian fan of your choice, persuading them to stand, offering to be their nominators, campaigning on their behalf, etc etc... the 'etc etc' including donations of material for auction and money for the fund and stuff like that. Right? Right. (Joseph Nicholas, 20-7-81)

Editorial note: I am to add that Joe inherited £618.50 GUFF money from pro-tem administrator Rob Jackson: his Apex ticket cost £606. Yorcon auctions brought in £86.48 and Roger Earnshaw donated £7, so the total at the UK end is currently £105.98 towards the next UK->Oz trip (the 1982 trip mentioned above being largely paid for at the Australian end). Support GUFF, folks – and TAFF too. (DRL)


Let other pens dwell on the magnificent traditions embodied in the One Tun; the mingling of aloof giants of First Fandom (whatever that is) with wide-eyed Whoies (whatever they are). I think the reason I go is that in some small way the Tun satisfies my pathetic fantasies about being really a wartime Fitzrovia groupie; it isn't easy in this day and age to walk into a pub, not knowing exactly who you will find there, but certain of meeting a number of people you know quite well on a drinking and conversation level, and probably extending the circle a bit too. But in the couple of years I've been going there, in spite of the transition from unknown girlfriend of littleknown critic to regular London fan, I have never quite lost the impression that really all sorts of exciting deals, feuds, plots and events in general are taking place somehow, without my being let in on it.

This impression of the Tun as an sf agora must be that held by the outside world, as witness the regular appearance of people offering flyers about sfish events. This time it was John Joyce, drumming up custom for Ken Campbell's latest at the Riverside – a valuable service in the continued absence of Time Out. I once had a memorable argument with him about his vulgar belief that there was a fortune to be made selling badges to fans; but I suppose he was right – circumspice if you need confirmation that there's more than one kind of fan. Us snooty non-sf-reading lady literature graduates are a bit thin on the ground.

What made the July Tun truly remarkable, I suppose, was that there was a fanzine about other than Ansible (which appeared to have withered away at the first breath of competition). Moreover, it was not bad, judging by a flick through on the bus home; most surprising of all it was edited by Malcolm Edwards, and contained articles by people whose typing fingers had long been assumed to have tragically dropped off. A renaissance of London fandom? Coo ur gosh. An infernally malicious voice (with a brand-new Australian twang, perhaps?) told me that serious critic Malcolm had delayed handing it out until award-winning fan-writer John Clute (who regards fanzines rather as Oliver Cromwell might have regarded the New Romantics) had left. (I had arrived after his departure, having been engaged till 8 in keeping the author and designer of a book on pottery from each others' throats.) Another event was that I and three others sat down at one of the tables, and consequently declared ourselves to be the Manchester, Poplar, Oakhampton and Sidcup Star Trek Criticism Group. Why is there this taboo on realfans sitting down? The fringies are all half our age.

So, another Tun without being admitted to the arcane level on which it all really happens. No doubt the Trekkies, Whoies, Blakies and – er – Hitchies got a lot of constructive conspiring done. What I'd really like to see is a Tun report from one of them. (Abi Frost)

(The Tun gatherings continue, in case anyone actually doesn't know, on the first Thursday of each month – turn right out of Farringdon tube station. Ken Campbell's latest is a dramatized WAR WITH THE NEWTS (Capek): 8 July – 2 August, Hammersmith, 01-748-3354. We choose not to describe the strangled cries of John Clute on seeing A18 with details of his fannish fame....)


On June 19th at Leeds Registry Office a further instalment in the US conquest of British Fandom was marked by the marriage of Graham Charles James and Linda Ann Strickler. All those members of the Leeds Group who wanted an excuse for not working were in attendance, some of them wearing whole suits of matching clothes for the first time in living memory. Plans to sprinkle the happy couple with confetti made from torn-up BSFA publications had to be abandoned when no-one could lay hands on a recent mailing, but otherwise all went well. After a reception at the James residence (during which several people developed a tendency to stagger but in honour of the occasion no one actually fell over) the party regathered at the West Riding for the usual Friday night Serious Science Fiction Seminar and that's all I remember.

End of Press Release. Change mood. Change style. Change tense.

Feeling rather senile one night so switch on the TV. An unctuous voice makes a remark about Adams. Aha, I think, this must be that thing about evolution or whatever – Dawn of Man, the first oyster, home life in a cave and so on. Sure enough, the strings lay into a few bars of throbbing, Dawn of Man music. The voice rolls out a remark about new clayer gases. (New Clayer gases? Primitive cave latrines?) Then, inexplicably, it switches to blood clods. (Blood clods? Rural BSFA members? David V. Lewis clones?) The picture finally comes on (it's an old TV) and there's this guy standing in the middle of a field mouthing something oracular about trees (trees?) and the new clayer gases (again?) Lightning flashes, and Wagnerian music thunders forth. "In the labraturry..." intones the voice, as if from the depths of a treacle pudding. In the labraturry this wildeyed character in a white coat is glaring at flasks bubbling with vapour. Another blast of Wagner, suggesting that the very first protofan is about to be created. More lightning, and switch to Disney orchestra doing twiddly bits signifying the Birth of Bambi's First Cell. The voice, now positively flobbering with sincerity, makes a reference to the kuzmoss. Suddenly I realize that verily it is none other than ace scientific popularizer (or publicist, as they used to say) Carl Sagan attempting to explain (or maybe even justify) the existence of Isaac Astral. Decide there are some things man was not meant to know, and switch off. (D. West)

BNF comes out in 'bombshell' edition

Herewith a few snippets [above header included] from the vast Ansible Clipping Service, brought in by our intrepid researchers from the furthermost shores of space and time. We do not offer any comment whatever on the Texan newsflash below ... how could we? (DRL)

It's still Clute
Town decides it likes its odd name

CLUTE (AP) – After several humorous and some not-so-humorous suggestions, citizens once again have decided to leave the name of this Southeast Texas community alone.

Some folks had thought the name just didn't have the right ring, and a few even suggested the sound was so abrasive it kept businesses from moving to this town of 9,500.

'Some have made light of the name and didn't really believe a city could be called Clute. They thought it was a hick town or something,' said City Councilman Gene McDaniel. 'I just can't put my finger on it. Maybe "Clute" just sounds backward.'

But voters disagreed 577 to 76 Saturday and rejected a proposal that would have changed the name to Brazoswood, as suggested late last year by a City Charter review committee. The name was also voted down in 1970.

Clute was incorporated in 1957 and named after a big landowner.

'It's a single-syllable word and it seems to have some sort of evil connotations to it that I don't understand myself,' said Eugene Bright Jr., chairman of the review committee.

News stories provoked a flurry of suggestions from coast to coast. Among them were Cute, Clout, Ameslan, Sweet, Honey Bun and John Wayne City.

The review committee said it appreciated the suggestions but considered Brazoswood the only alternative.

A family named Clute wrote from Hingnam, Mass., and told Mayor Bobby Jacobs they had been planning to visit the town for six years but canceled because of the election.

Jacobs said he is uncertain whether the family will reconsider, now that the proposal lost.

Meanwhile, City Manager Bill Pennington breathed a sigh of relief. He would have had to change the city limit signs, city stationary [sic] and other things.

Paranoia is linked with deafness
From Clive Cookson of 'The Times Higher Education Supplement', Washington ...

... 'If you can't hear people following you, it probably means they are.' (Leroy Kettle, Astral Master of something of other and Non-Contributing Editor of True Rat.)


Joseph in Australia

Marc Ortlieb: 'We are pleased to report that Joseph Nicholas, GUFF winner, was indeed the perfect gentleman that we in Her Majesty's southern dominions have come to expect of Englishmen. Indeed, the impression he created here in the Antipodes was perhaps best summed up by Mrs Christine Ashby, who said "Joseph is such a nice boy." Mr Nicholas did his best to assure us that he was not the beer-swilling, anti-American lecher that certain US fanzine have painted him, and made constructive but generally approving comments on the works of his favourite author Mr Robert A Heinlein. Indeed, so mild was his temperament that he maintained his composure even when his best suit was soiled by a herd of flying pigs, a common feature of the Adelaide skyline.'

Paul Stevens: 'Well, there I was, an innocent boy fan at [Advention], when I found there was something tugging at my socks. I looked down and I saw this thing ... bleary-eyed, bheer-sodden and obviously in the final stages of decay (both moral and physical). It lay on what was left of the carpet and in its withered claw it held a fanzine. "I pass this to you with a curse," it muttered, pausing only to drink deeply from a can of Fosters lager. "Read the contents and beware ..." It then turned and made its way unsteadily back into the gloom of the convention activities, the only evidence of its passing a trail of empty beer cans and some stained carpet. I believe this apparition was in fact one Joseph Nicholls [sic], a visiting GUFF fan from the nether regions of British fandom. What he had thrust upon me was in fact Twll-Ddu, a fanzine of ill repute and low morals. He had judged his audience wisely.' Mr Stevens claims to have his DUFF report scheduled for August/September: enquiries to DUFF c/o Space Age Books, 305 Swanston St, Melbourne, Vic 3000, Australia. Meanwhile ...

Leigh Edmonds: 'During the convention Joseph was ... followed around by a host of excitable femmefans equipped with the latest in high technology texta [felt] pens.... The fear of attack seems to have forced sobriety on the poor fellow and I, myself, saw him drinking orange juice at one party. On the other hand, later in the convention I noticed that Joseph had overcome the lack of a decent bar by travelling through the halls and rooms of the event with a glass in one hand and a cask of white wine in the other. And he was still standing, with a more or less vertical inclination, which just goes to show the impressive results of all that prior training at British cons. He also seems to have been keen to sign up unsuspecting Australian fans in the BSFA, whatever that might be....' Joe replies next issue!

Ansible Poll Bias Horror?

Roger Weddall: 'Have you done any basic stats, or heard of the phrase "sample population"?' (Yes. Yes.) 'The way the Ansible poll is run is that you send out the voting forms to all the people you can think of, more or less – is that correct?' (No. Just Ansible subscribers/recipients, plus wads for distribution in some of the more active fan groups.) 'Has it occurred to you that, because you are responsible for sending out the voting forms, that there is an automatic bias towards Twll-Ddu and anything else you publish? ... The obvious solution is for there to be an addendum attached to the voting form, suggested that it can and should be as widely circulated and reproduced as possible ... if voters think they may be unknown to the supervisor(s) of the poll they should include a reference to the sf/fandom group they are known to...' Oh dear. (1) This is supposed to be an informal poll, not a meticulous and infallible system as used for the (coff coff) Hugos. (2) I can say that a very high percentage of active Britfans (the 'sample population') get Ansible and a form; the TD mailing list is rather different. (3) Circulation of ballots in any fanzine produces votes for that zine – unfair [arguably] to zines not circulating ballots. At least A's ineligible.

COA [suppressed as outdated]


Isaac Asimov (as I forgot to mention last issue) has flogged a fourth (unwritten) 'Foundation' book to Doubleday for $50,000+.... Lawsuit Time: crime reporter Martin Morse Wooster strikes again – 'The lawsuit of the month comes from the fringes of sf ... a suit filed by R. Reginald of Borgo Press against one Kevin Hancer. Reginald published a Complete Paperback Index, 1939-1959 some years back. Hancer was compiling a pb price guide ... apparently stole much information from Reginald ... Reginald cleverly inserted a number of fake entries throughout his text ... claims that 59 of these showed up in Hancer's text and is suing Hancer for $2,000,000.' ... Dark They Were & Golden Eyed bookshop was selling off all stock at half price for cash early this month: rumours of £100,000 debts and incipient closure have come to my ears.... Babelcon (Birmingham Hitcher convention) has collapsed despite a palace coup ousting 'incompetent' Joy Hibbert as Chairman: thanks to the committee's 'total inability to publicize their plans' (Steve Green), membership was too low for the con to continue. Anyone desperate about this sort of thing can send SAE for details of 'Slartibartday' (London, 8 Aug).... David V. Lewis says please don't anyone send him more fanzines.... New SF Market: top-quality shorts with hard-sf leanings required by M.S. Rohan c/o Eaglemoss Ltd, 7 Cromwell Rd, London, SW7 2HR (more details to follow).... Silicon 5 is still trundling along: 28-31 Aug, Grosvenor Hotel, Newcastle, membership £3, rooms £9.50 sngl £15.50 dbl/twin – 9 Whitton Ave, Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, NE25 0BJ.... Robert Conquest says 'he learned all his skills at understanding the Russian mind from his vast knowledge of alien psychology gleaned from 40s issues of Astounding' (MMW) ... Dungeons & Starships, Lawrence Miller's Brum D&D emporium, has also gone bust.... Finland Fandom: 'TURUN SF-SEURA is living well with 150 members ... Spin is still Finland's only fanzine ... in September Finland will get its second, Aikakone (Time Machine) ... both very sercon. Real SF fandom is not discovered in general in Finland yet.' (Tom Olander – addresses provided on request if you want to try reading Finnish.) ... Ditmar Awards (Australian SF/fandom), courtesy of Joseph: Long SF The Dreaming Dragons/Damien Broderick; Short SF 'Deus Ex Corporus'/'Passage To Earth'/Leanne Frahm; International SF Timescape/Benford; Fanzine Q36/Marc Ortlieb; Fanwriter Ortlieb; Artist Marilyn Pride; William Atheling Award (SF criticism) George Turner.... Virgin Purging: Maxim Jakubowski (following rumours in such places as NME about contention in the book department) has resigned as Virgin Books managing director owing to 'irreconciliable differences'. Various projects like the SF Book of Lists (with ubiquitous Malcolm Edwards) have left with him; the fate of others like his SF/music anthology is as yet slightly uncertain.... SF Quiz Probe: while psychoanalysing his TV recently, Rob Jackson noted that Mastermind International was won by a David Harvey who knew a lot about Tolkien. 'Eureka!' cried Dr J: 'This is the famous NZ fan and Noumenon contributor!' Meanwhile Andrew Stephenson discloses that Brain of Britain 1981 (BBC Radio) could not match this standard: asked who wrote Voyage of the Space Beagle, the 3 contestants said (respectively) Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein.... RIP: old-time US fans Ed Cagle and Lou Tabakow.... Worldcon Package Tour: Seaforths Travel abandoned plans to arrange one for Denvention (having started too late), but are now interested in doing it for Chicon next year: what do you people think? ... Anglicon 4-6 Sept, U of East Anglia (Norwich); membership £24 inc B&B, £10 without; GoHs Ian Watson & John Sladek; 32 Gage Rd, Sprowston, Norwich, Norfolk, NR7 8BN.... 1983 Eastercon bids appear to be Albacon II (I know nothing of this bar its existence), Yorcon III (Graham James has revealed that any criticism of Yorcon II is merely an attempt to discredit this in advance) and The Southerly Con With No Name (with such dubious leaders as me).... Jim Barker has had surgeons rummaging inside him looking for hernias; he merely has 'varicose veins in the groin' and has shaved off his beard. So has Kev Smith, but Avedon Carol doesn't mind: 'He isn't the least pretty to begin with, so it doesn't matter about the beard.' ... July 4th saw Alan Dorey's and Rochelle Reynolds's (not to mention Graham James's and Linda Strickler's – see p2) wedding reception, held in a tasteful temperance hall in Harrow after they'd recovered from their furtive marriage on 4 Feb.... Marion Dimmer Bradley has flogged an extremely long unwritten Arthurian fantasy to Ballantine for $60,000.... Gerry Webb, famous eligible bachelor, will be 40 in October (says Jenny Summerfield, who thinks we should be told).... Jan Howard Finder's Alien Encounters anthology, scheduled for July and containing sf from famous fans (like ... ahem), has been furtively postponed until autumn by the publishers (Taplinger, US).... SF Novels is a forthcoming (August) US mag devoted to serializing (wait for it) sf novels.... Extro magazine (the Other British Prozine) is alive and well and even now distributing the November 1980 issue, reports editor Robert Allen (now at 29 Navarre Gdns, Collier Row, Romford, Essex).... I Have Seen The Future And – results from that Delphi future-weaponry study are now to hand. Predicted dates: 1995 first routinely used anti-aircraft energy weapon; 2001 UK ditto; 2007 planes with 90% reduction of current IR, radar & visual signatures; 2014 energy weapon deployment reaches 10% of all AA weaponry; 2048 (as 2007 but 99%); 2099 energy weapons become routine in fanzine reviewing (all right, I'm lying there).... Late Australian News: Judith Hanna sends rumours linking Joyce Scrivner with a wombat, denies those linking Joseph with her, and says of Joe: 'The erudite syntax he delivered to the end of his microphone absolutely wowed Advention audiences. What was he talking about?' ... Hype Dept: Karl Hansen's War Games (Playboy) just arrived with instructions to vote it a Nebula. Random look: 'Even through two layers of combat armour, I felt her nipples brush against my back ...' Gawd. Orson Scott Card thinks it's wonderful. Nuff said. 13/7/81

Hazel's Language Lessons
#11: Finnish For Reviewers

ANSIBLE on pieni englantilainen fanzine, joka ilmestyy luotettavan säännöllisesti.
(SPIN 1/81)

ANSIBLE 19: 22 Northumberland Ave
Reading, Berkshire, RG2 7PW, UK.