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Ansible 197, December 2003

Cartoon: Joe Mayhew

From Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU. Net: ansible[at], ISSN 0265-9816. Logo: Dan Steffan. Cartoon: Joe Mayhew. Available for tubs with two lugs, or quantities of wirtiglugs.

As Others See Us. Here's some interesting advice from AuthorsMarket ('a service of PublishAmerica') which may come as a surprise to Ansible readers: 'Are all fiction books difficult to market? [...] science-fiction and fantasy writers have it easier. It's unfair, but such is life. As a rule of thumb, the quality bar for sci-fi and fantasy is a lot lower than for all other fiction. Therefore, beware of published authors who are self-crowned writing experts. When they tell you what to do and not to do in getting your book published, always first ask them what genre they write. If it's sci-fi or fantasy, run. They have no clue about what it is to write real-life stories, and how to find them a home. Unless you are a sci-fi or fantasy author yourself.' [JH]

Can this nonsense possibly be linked to the fact that members of the sf community have vigorously criticized operations like PublishAmerica? Though not technically a vanity press – it pays a tasty $1 advance – this outfit does not appear to copyedit its highly-priced POD books, has a gruesome standard contract, and allegedly confines its marketing efforts to authors' friends and family members (providing an extensive list is mandatory). See links below.


Neal Asher insists that his alien 'tors' and 'torbeasts' (in Cowl, forthcoming) were invented long before he'd heard of his present UK and US publishers, the ones so many people thought Torcon was named after.

Shaun Jeffrey, interviewed in SF Crowsnest, indicates that his appeal is to slow readers: 'So far, the reaction to Evilution has been pretty good. Most people have said they read it from cover to cover in a few days because they couldn't put it down.' [SG]

Sharyn McCrumb, who so endeared herself to sf fans with her crime/fandom novels Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool, has moved well away from all that genre stuff. According to her press kit, she 'is an award winning Appalachian novelist. She is forbidden by her publishers to appear anywhere billed as a mystery/crime fiction author, or to sign in any store shelving her work in the crime/mystery section.' So concerned is McCrumb to avoid such contamination that legal threats from her agent caused her entry to be dropped from Mike Ashley's The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Modern Crime Fiction. We mustn't even mention that Bimbos won an Edgar (m*st*ry) award....

A.R.R.R.R. Roberts, the impenetrable pseudonym under which Gollancz published their Tolkien parody The Soddit, is apparently not unrelated to the author or authors of the similarly packaged Matrix spoof: Robertski Brothers. But when The Soddit peaked at #8 on the Independent's hardback fiction bestseller list (7 Nov), the credit went to 'Robert Adams'. Has the late author of the Horseclans sf series risen from the grave? 'Nope; that was a spontaneous typo by the Indie, bless 'em,' writes our special parody correspondent Adam Roberts.

Neal Stephenson received an approving thumbs-up from Word magazine (December 2003): 'Neal Stephenson doesn't deal in science fiction – what he writes is fiction with science in it.' [MC]


18 Dec • London pre-Xmas fan meeting, Barley Mow, Long Lane.

18 Dec • Skeptics in the Pub, Old Kings Head, London Bridge, 7pm for 7:30. Speaker TBA. £2 admission; 'free' sandwiches/chips.

24 Dec • BSFA Meeting CANCELLED as usual in Dec; back in Jan.

8 Jan • London fan meeting, Barley Mow, displaced from 1 Jan.

29 Jan - 1 Feb • Sci-Fi London 3 film festival, split between the Curzon Soho, 99 Shaftesbury Ave (box office 0871 871 0022) and The Other Cinema, 11 Rupert St (box office 0207 734 1506). Contact 22 Hanbury St, London, E1 6QR, or 077537 46621.

7 Feb 04 • Picocon 21, Imperial College Union Building, London. GoH Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Peter F. Hamilton, more? Contact ICSF, Beit Quad, Prince Consort Road, London, SW7 2BB.

5-7 Mar 04 • Mecon 7, Senior Staff Common Rooms, Queen's University, Belfast. Now £18/Euro28 reg; £20/Euro30 at door; £7/Euro11 supp. Contact 12 Hopefield Ave, Belfast, BT15 5AP, Northern Ireland.

6-7 Mar 04 • Microcon, Exeter University campus. Contact Daniel Bond, 100 Magdalen Rd, Exeter, Devon, EX2 4TU.

9-12 Apr 04 • Concourse (Eastercon), Blackpool Winter Gardens. Now £45 reg until 21 March 2004; £25 for the unwaged. New contact address: 4 Cody Rd, Waterbeach, Cambridge, CB5 9LS.

1-3 May 04 • plokta.con 3.0, Chequers Hotel, Newbury. GoH Charles Stross. £25 reg; may rise in 2004. Cheques to Plokta c/o Mike Scott, 39 Fitzroy Court, Croydon, CR0 2AX.

4-6 Jun 04 • SFX: The Event (media), Hilton Metropole Hotel, Edgware Rd, London. £75 (child £45) plus SAE to London Expo (SFX1), PO Box 38727, London, E10 7YH. Bookings 020 8523 1074.

16-17 Oct 04 • Octocon 2004 (Irish national con), Chief O'Neill's Hotel, Smithfield Village, Dublin 7. GoH Tanith Lee. Now £20 reg to Easter, £30 thereafter; sterling payments to Dave Lally no.2 a/c, 64 Ritchbourne Tce, London, SW8 1AX.

5-7 Nov 04 • Novacon 34, Quality Hotel, Walsall. GoH Ian Watson. £33 reg to end of Eastercon 04, then £36 to 26 Oct; £40 at door. Contact 379 Myrtle Road, Sheffield, S2 3HQ; 0114 281 1572.

4-8 Aug 05 • Interaction (63rd Worldcon), SECC, Glasgow. Now £95/$155/Euro145 reg. Contact 379 Myrtle Road, Sheffield, S2 3HQ; or PO Box 58009, Louisville, Kentucky, KY 40268-0009, USA.

Infinitely Improbable

As Others See Us II. Jonathon Keats reviews McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales: '[The editor, Michael Chabon] is mistaken about genre fiction. Even given an opportunity to succeed, genre is, and has always been, antithetical to creativity. It is one thing to romanticise it, quite another to read it, and to be reminded that it is what it says it is – a formula. The failure of genre writing generally is that it makes a worthy literary technique, such as suspense or horror, the sole purpose of a story.' Conversely, if it's good it's not genre: 'Edgar Allan Poe and Henry James may have written stories full of mystery, or situated in the future, or haunted by spectres, but to read The Turn of The Screw as a ghost story makes as much sense as situating Homer's Odyssey in travel fiction.' And so on, and so on. (Prospect magazine, November) [TF]

British Fantasy Awards announced at Fantasycon on 23 Nov: NOVEL (August Derleth Award) China Miéville, The Scar. ANTHOLOGY Stephen Jones, ed., Keep Out the Night. COLLECTION Ramsey Campbell, Ramsey Campbell, Probably: On Horror and Sundry Fantasies. SHORT Mark Chadbourn, The Fairy-Feller's Master Stroke. SMALL PRESS PS Publishing (Peter Crowther). ARTIST Les Edwards (aka Edward Miller). SPECIAL (Karl Edward Wagner Award) Alan Garner.


True Facts Dept. 'The latest Orion list includes a new Asterix book – under the heading "Orion Non Fiction",' reports Mat Coward with breathless excitement: 'I knew it! And to think, people used to laugh at me when I said Asterix was non-fiction....'

Random Fandom. Lilian Edwards appeared in 47th place on a Scotland on Sunday list of the 100 most eligible people in Scotland. [AS] • Guy Haley is leaving SFX: 'I'm off to work on White Dwarf as a managing editor after Xmas and make it into a proper magazine.' Promises, promises. • Roy Johnson has rediscovered fandom after a slight gap since the time when he 'at the ripe old age of sixteen in 1943, organized a convention in Leicester, the so-called Midvention.' • Mike (Simo) & Hillary Simpson announced the birth of Thomas Ford Simpson on 2 December. 'Regarding the slightly unusual middle name: the minimal research we have done suggests that it will be nicely inconspicuous.' • Jim Young, peripatetic fan, has retired from his globetrotting career with the US Foreign Service and settled down: see C.o.A.

As Others See Us III. Doctor Who books editor Justin Richards made it all clear in an Amazon interview: 'Doctor Who is not science fiction, or at least it isn't "just" science fiction. It's broader and more interesting than that. We're in the business of telling stories, we're after plot as a major ingredient alongside situation and character.' [RH] Far-out literary notions that could never have occurred to mere sf writers.

Nova Awards for fan activity, presented at Novacon 33: FANZINE Zoo Nation ed. Pete Young. FAN WRITER Claire Brialey (with a special commendation of Jae Leslie Adams for committing calligraphy on people throughout the convention; unfortunately 'this category means writing by fans, not on them'). FAN ARTIST Sue Mason. BEST FAN (an occasional extra Nova) presented by Harry Harrison to Ina Shorrock in honour of her 50 years in fandom.

It Pays To Decrease Your Word Power. Millions of Ansible readers demand that Thog do something terrible and terminal about the description of the DVD set of four Alien films as a 'quadrilogy'. Unfortunately, Thog has gone into hiding rather than count that far.

Outraged Letters. Phyllis Gotlieb has bad news for J.G. Ballard (see A196). 'A National Geographic expedition found the source of the Amazon in December, 2000. It flows out of the Andes in southern Peru, from a mountain 18,363 feet high, called Nevado Mismi. (Information courtesy of Google.) You needn't tell J.G. Ballard if it will destroy his dream.' • David K.M. Klaus joins the campaign to prolong the Eye of Argon correspondence until we have all kissed the fleeting stead of death: 'Unless Jim Theis moved to the other side of the state of Missouri in the last few years, Darrell Schweitzer has it wrong. Jim Theis wasn't a Kansas City fan, he was a St. Louis fan: the Ozark SF Association, in the clubzine of which, OSFAn, "The Eye of Argon" was first published in 1970, was the group which put on St. Louiscon in 1969.' • Adam Roberts was bemused by a recent NASA 'astronomy picture of the day': ( 'Today (03 Dec 2003), under the nice piccy of the moon rising through Mauna Lea's shadow, they say that that the mountain produces (quote) "spectacular photographs since it is arguably the premier observing location on planet Earth". Every word is a link to another site, and not in a conventional explanatory way. "The", for instance, is explained or glossed by a picture of "an Unusual Globule in IC 1396". This isn't the traditional understanding of the word "the", surely. I'm wondering if we need to rewrite our dictionaries: "the, article, Unusual Globule in IC 1396" and so on. Perhaps nasa know something we don't.' This is the attention to detail which in sf circles has earned him the nickname Adam Link. • Steve Sneyd remembers: 'Very sorry to hear of death of Beryl Mercer – we had an intermittent correspondence for years, that began when I was getting info on her poems in 60s fanzines & poems by others she & Archie M. published in their titles. A "Christ of Other Worlds" theme poem of hers won an SF Book Society prize competition way back when, though as a humanist she clearly had cognitive dissonance with this success.'

Fanfundery. GUFF: 'Pat McMurray wins in one of the tightest races imaginable,' writes European administrator Paul Kincaid: 'At one point, we actually thought we had a dead heat on our hands.' Full figures: Doug Bell: UK 25 + Australia 8 = 33. Pat McMurray: 22 + 13 = 35. No Preference: 6 + 2 = 8. Paul is grateful for mighty fund-raising efforts at Novacon, especially by Nic Farey, bringing in over £400 including £100 from the auction. 'It was a great weekend for GUFF.' • TAFF: nominations are open for the westbound TransAtlantic Fan Fund race to Worldcon 2004 – Noreascon 4 in Boston. Candidates should provide 3 European and 2 NA nominations, a 100-word platform and £10 bond, to Tobes Valois, 20 Bakers Lane, Peterborough, PE3 9QW. Deadline 28 Feb. Interest so far declared by James Bacon: 'can't really lose anything really so it might be worth it just for the laugh.'

'Amazon Is So Helpful,' Damien Broderick exults after finding that Slaves of the Death Spiders: Essays on Fantastic Literature by Brian M. Stableford is usefully annotated: 'Customers interested in this title may also be interested in: Spiders / Expert & Affordable Solutions to Spider Problems – Learn More Here ...'

C.o.A. Doug Bell & Christina Lake ('strictly temporary'), 13 Florence Rd, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 3NJ. Concourse: see event list. Tom & Anita Feller, PO Box 140937, Nashville, TN 37214-0937, USA. Jonathan 'Jonjo' Jones & Sharon Lewis, 4 Cody Road, Waterbeach, Cambridge, CB5 9LS. Jim Young, 2435 E Balfour Ave, Fullerton, CA 92831, USA.

Hazel's Language Lessons. As a Christmas treat, Greer Gilman offers seasonal words of Shetland dialect. [EG] wirtiglugs, brose made with wirt. sukkaleg, a stocking without a foot, or with a very ragged foot. warbak, an insect that breeds under the skin in cattle. hwini, a hermaphrodite sheep. hwirkabus, water in the throat; a disease of sheep. hwamp, a quirk; the hollow of the inside of the human foot. hustak, a big fat woman. brimfuster, sea-froth. brimskud, the vapoury, smoke-like haze which rises from the shore-bretsh. barfljug, to separate ears of corn from their stalks without crushing the corn. kilpik, a little basket made of dokkens. kist, a word used to scare a cat. pirl, a single particle of sheep's dung. pirr, a light breath of wind, such as will make a cat's paw on the water. sae, a tub with two lugs. sig, a hardened part of the skin of the hand caused by pressure of a tool in working. sangster, a bruni made of sillik livers and bere bursten [if you stuff that in a cod's liver, it's hakkamuggi, the local form of haggis]. sanveelter, a disease of horses caused by their eating sand along with their food. krug, to crook or crouch in taking shelter from the weather under some high or overhanging thing. krugset, to beset in a corner. manket, worn out with work. norraleg, a needle with a broken eye. feevi, snow falling in large flakes. snud, the twisting movement of the head of a refractory cow. limmer, a bad woman. limmerik, the bog asphodel. pilli, the penis. tairm, a string made of sheep's gut, used for fiddle-strings. tamtier, to cause delay by frivolous pretenses. breekbridder, when two men court the same woman, each is breekbridder to the other. brennik, a parhelion, a mock sun. essi, defiled with ess. faan upon, beginning to show signs of decay, as fish or flesh. jap, a short, choppy sea. kirkasukken, the buried dead as distinguished from those who have a watery grave. ogarhunsh, any frightful or loathsome creature.

Group Gropes. London Beer/B7 Meetings, Shakespeare's Head pub, Kingsway, near Holborn tube: NB first 2004 meeting is 9 Jan, not 2 Jan.

Thog's Masterclass. Sound Effects Dept. 'The girl squawked and sputtered. Exactly, Peel noted, like a decapitated hen.' (Alfred Bester, 'Hell is Forever', 1942) [TM] • Deep Thoughts Dept. '[P]ain, in Owen Atchison's philosophy, was weakness, but death was strength.' (Jeffery Deaver, Praying for Sleep, 1994) [PB] • Eyeballs in the Sky. 'His eyes were hungrily fixed to the can of Maxwell House.' (Ibid) • Life in Ancient Mu Dept. 'Enormous birds as large as modern air liners were worshipped as symbols of the Old Ones. [...] Elephants and mastodons grew to a size that rivalled that of the dinosaurs of an earlier age. And in the sky hung an enormous moon, bluey white in colour, that counteracted the earth's gravity and caused the tremendous growth of all the living creatures of Mu.' (Colin Wilson, The Philosopher's Stone, 1969)

Geeks' Corner

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

Convention E-Mail
• 2004
7 Feb 04, Picocon 21, London,
5-7 Mar 04, Mecon 7, Belfast,
5-7 Mar 04, Oktokon/AKFT 8 (Trek), Bournemouth,
9-12 Apr 04, Concourse (Eastercon), Blackpool,
20-23 Aug 04, Discworld Convention IV, Hinckley, Leics,
2-6 Sep 04, Noreascon 4, Boston (Worldcon),
16-17 Oct 04, Octocon 2004, Dublin,
5-7 Nov 04, Novacon 34, Walsall,
13-14 Nov 04, P-Con, Dublin,
• 2005
25-27 Feb 05, Redemption (B5/B7), Hinckley, Leics,
25-28 Mar 05, Paragon2 (Eastercon), Hinckley, Leics,
4-8 Aug 05, Interaction (Worldcon), Glasgow,
11-15 Aug 05, The Ring Goes Ever On (Tolkien Soc), Aston U,
• 2006
23-27 Aug 06, L.A.con IV (Worldcon), Anaheim, California,

Convention Bid E-Mail
• 2007
Columbus OH Worldcon,
Japan Worldcon,


Vanity of Vanities. Some links relevant to the first item above: AuthorsMarket itself, an illuminating on-line discussion, a LiveJournal entry, and Teresa Nielsen Hayden's weblog.

The Immortal Teacup. I couldn't possibly comment on recent upheavals in the Prisoner fan club, 'Six of One', but there is a certain grisly fascination in this partisan web site: .

('Which side are you on?' 'That would be telling ...')

Ansible 197 Copyright © Dave Langford, 2003. Thanks to Paul Barnett, Mat Coward, Margaret Campbell, William Contento, Paul Di Filippo, Tony Finch, Steve Green, Eileen Gunn, Jed Hartman, Richard Hayden, Dave Lally, Denny Lien, Locus, Todd Mason, Jim Meadows, Alison Scott, Gordon Van Gelder, Pete Young, and Hero Distributors: Rog Peyton (Brum Group News), Janice Murray (N America), SCIS, and Alan Stewart (Thyme). Merry Xmas! 5 Dec 03.