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Ansible 242, September 2007

Cartoon: Joe Mayhew

From Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berks, RG1 5AU. Web Fax 0705 080 1534. ISSN 0265-9816 (print) 1740-942X (e). Logo: Dan Steffan. Cartoon: Joe Mayhew reprint. Available for SAE or the deadly Specium Ray.

Nippon 2007. The Japanese Worldcon didn't seem all that far away, thanks to extensive online coverage. A major presence at the Hugos was Ultraman, that iconic tv superhero of 1960s vintage, who not only defeated various rubber-clad monsters to begin the ceremony (and reappeared for the drama presentations) but is commemorated in the Hugo trophy itself. Gosh wow!
Those Hugos: Novel: Vernor Vinge, Rainbows End. Novella: Robert Reed, 'A Billion Eves' (Asimov's). Novelette: Ian McDonald, 'The Djinn's Wife' (Asimov's). Short: Tim Pratt, 'Impossible Dreams' (Asimov's). Related Book: Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon. Dramatic (Long): Pan's Labyrinth. Dramatic (Short): Doctor Who, 'The Girl in the Fireplace'. Pro Editor (Long): Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Pro Editor (Short): Gordon Van Gelder. Pro Artist: Donato Giancola. Semiprozine: Locus. Fanzine: Science-Fiction Five-Yearly. Fan Writer: Dave Langford (though by only one vote; sorry, Mr Scalzi). Fan Artist: Frank Wu. Campbell Award (not etc.): Naomi Novik.
2009 Worldcon Site Selection. Montréal defeated Kansas City by a clear majority, 507 votes to 341. More below.
Business Meeting. The rule preventing artists from being nominated in both pro and fan Hugo categories was repealed; ratification is needed at next year's Worldcon. A proposal for a permanent website Hugo was referred to some WSFS committee for endless deliberations.

The Gernsback Continuum

Pat Barker's latest novel Life Class contains a prophetic sf moment when, in a scene set in 1914/15, her protagonist muses: 'There's something machine-like about a lot of the professional nurses here. Even Sister Byrd, whom he admires, he looks at her sometimes and sees a robot.' A word which was to be coined by Karel apek in 1920.... [MA]

Arthur C. Clarke gets short shrift in Crunch Time: How Everyday Life is Killing the Future (2007) by Mike Hanley and Adrian Monck. 'Here in spades is the incurable optimism of the science fiction writer,' they write, and then quote 'Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Technology', including 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.' Our reporter John Bark wonders whether Professor Monck (Head of the Faculty of Journalism and Publishing at City University, London) teaches his students that 'Any sufficiently famous Science Fiction writer is indistinguishable from any other.'

Dennis Guiot, French editor whose publisher overrode his acceptance of a YA novel attacking paedophilia in the Church (see A237), has won his fight: Nathalie Le Gendre's Les Orphelins de Naja will appear next year with minimal alterations. But 'one doesn't stay unscathed after a conflict of several months, which brought to light irreconciliable differences about publishing': Guiot has resigned from Editions Mango and will launch a new French YA sf line elsewhere in 2008. [J-DB]

Diana Wynne Jones enjoys the perks of fame: 'Very much As Others See Us, I have just been interviewed about Fantasy (for a BBC programme on same) in a small damp cave in Cheddar. The rock formations were spectacular: I was very much conscious that behind me – and behind the seven-branched candelabra with which the producer had strewn the available space – there was a weird stalagmite that looked like a gnomelike being in a three-cornered hat, perched with folded arms on a pillar. Also equally conscious of five damp individuals crammed into a small coign in front of me with lots of large equipment and snakes of cables. I kept thinking that none of this had really much to do with fantasy as we know it and it was hard to talk sense. They told me proudly that they had done this to Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett and others in different settings, and I thought, "If they did this to me, I shudder to think where they put Terry." They said the programme comes on some time this autumn on BBC 4. I shall watch eagerly to see what they did to the rest of us.' (12 August)

Jeanette Winterson's The Stone Gods is not sf, because: 'I hate science fiction. But good writers about science, such as Jim Crace and Margaret Atwood, are great. They take on science because it's crucial to our world, and they use language to give energy to ideas. Others just borrow from science and it ends up like the emperor's new clothes, with no understanding of the material. But you shouldn't fake it because science is too important, it's the basis for our lives. I expect a lot more science in fiction because science is so rich.' (New Scientist, 25 August) What is so particularly non-sciencefictional about this science novel? From The Bookseller: 'Billie Crusoe flees an authoritarian society in the company of a highly evolved robot of the species Robo sapiens, to join the perilous voyage to a new Blue Planet, a pristine place of apparently infinite possibilities. [...] Another part of the book is set in Wreck City, a no-go zone peopled by outcasts and casualties post 3-War, a conflict which has ravaged the world.' Winterson explains: 'This part of the book is far from fantasy [...] Everything in that part of the book has been written about scientifically already, it's very near.' [MKS via CB] Her next book will be equally unsciencefictional: 'It's called Robot Love and it's for kids. A girl builds a multi-gendered robot, which then kills her parents because it sees them mistreat her, so they both go on the run. I'm fascinated by artificial intelligence and where it will lead. These robots couldn't build anything as bad as us – so why would they keep us?' [YH] What sf author could have imagined such novel concepts?


13 Sep • Brian Aldiss talks to John Clute at Waterstone's, Gower St, London. 6:30pm-8pm. Tickets are free: call 0207 636 1577 to book.

14-16 Sep • Oxonmoot (Tolkien Soc), Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Advance registration closed in August. Please ask by email for availability of day membership: bookings at tolkiensociety dot org.

15-22 Sep • Milford Writers' Conference, Trigonos Centre, Snowdonia. Published authors only. Contact Liz Williams, Homeway House, 40 Westhay Rd, Meare, Glastonbury, Somerset, BA6 9TL.

21-23 Sep • Eurocon 2007, Valby Medborgerhus, Copenhagen, Denmark. Advance booking closed in August; DKK 200 at the door on Friday, or DKK 100 per day. More information at

21-23 Sep • FantasyCon 2007, Britannia Hotel, Nottingham. £55 reg; British Fantasy Society members and students £45; day £25. Contact 3 Tamworth Close, Lower Earley, Reading, Berks, RG6 4EQ.

26 Sep • BSFA Open Meeting, The Star pub, West Halkin Mews, London, SW1. 6pm on; fans present from 5pm. With Juliet McKenna.

6 Oct • Satellite 1 (50th anniversary of first artificial satellite), Campanile Hotel, Tunnel St, Glasgow. £20 reg, £5 supp or child (5-15), £1 infant (0-4). Contact Flat 3/2, 132 W Princes St, Glasgow, G4 9DB.

29-30 Mar 08 • P-Con V, Central Hotel, Dublin. €25/£15 reg (to rise in mid-October), €15 supporting. Address correction for sterling cheques: 'Dave Lally #2 a/c', 64 Richbourne Tce, London, SW8 1AX.

20-22 Jun 08 • SF Foundation Masterclass, University College, Dublin. £190 reg; single rooms €55/night. Applicants to be approved by committee. Ask Farah Mendlesohn, farah dot sf at gmail dot com.

20-22 Feb 09 • Redemption 09 (multimedia sf) – Britannia Hotel, Fairfax St, Coventry, CV1 5RP. Now £50 reg. Under-18s and supp: £15. Contact 26 Kings Meadow View, Wetherby, LS22 7FX.

6-10 Aug 09 • Anticipation (67th Worldcon), Palais des congrès de Montréal, Montréal, Canada. GoH Neil Gaiman, Elisabeth Vonarburg, Taral Wayne, David Hartwell, Tom Doherty. Contact C.P. 105, Succursale NDG, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H4A 3P4. Further details awaited.

Infinitely Improbable

As Others See Us. More lordly condescension: 'Phasers or lightsabers? Solo or Sulu? If you couldn't care less, or don't know what on earth we're on about, you're probably not one of that pale, clammy species: the sci-fi fan. If you are, you may be interested that all this week on Sky Movies ... the eternal question will be debated: which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek? [...] But if you think a Tie Fighter is some kind of martial artist specialising in neckwear combat, then it's probably not for you. For the rest of us, it's just another reason not to go out for some fresh air.' (Adam Smith, Radio Times, August) [JY]

More Awards. World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement: Betty Ballantine and Diana Wynne Jones.
James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction: Cormac McCarthy, The Road.
Tähtifantasia for best fantasy translation into Finnish: Jeff VanderMeer, Pyhimysten ja mielipuolten kaupunki (City of Saints and Madmen) – first year of presentation.
Prometheus: Charles Stross, Glasshouse. Hall of Fame: Sinclair Lewis, It Can't Happen Here; Vernor Vinge, 'True Names'. Special: V for Vendetta (film).
Seiun (Japanese) for translated book: Phillip Reeve, Mortal Engines (trans Rei Anno).
Sense of Gender ('the Japanese Tiptree') for translated book: Eileen Gunn, Stable Strategies and Others.

R.I.P. Clive Exton (1930-2007), UK scriptwriter who adapted sf for Out of This World ('The Cold Equations') and Out of the Unknown, and scripted an episode of Doomwatch, died on 16 August; he was 77. [JY]
John Gardner (1926-2007), UK author of many thrillers – some of them sf – died on 3 August; he was 80. [IC] His best-known spy creation Boysie Oakes goes into space in Founder Member (1969). Gardner produced 14 official James Bond continuations and two Bond film novelizations, including the sf GoldenEye (1995); he also wrote Holmesian novels centred on Professor Moriarty.
Joe L. Hensley (1926-2007), US lawyer, judge and sf/crime author who was active in fandom from the 1930s, died on 27 August. He was 81. His first published sf was in Planet Stories, 1953; his sf novel was The Black Roads (1976). [TM]
Peter Graham Scott (1923-2007), UK producer whose tv work included Danger Man, The Prisoner and The Avengers, died on 26 August aged 83. [KF]
Aida Young (1920-2007), UK producer/director who worked on the original The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and produced three Christopher Lee Dracula films, died on 12 August. [GW]

Thog's Science Masterclass. 'Metals are slow-moving liquids, but you have to heat them thousands of degrees before they change states.'
• 'Though more than two miles above sea level, the surrounding land was littered with fossilised sea-shells suggesting that at one time the altiplano had been forced upwards from a seabed. During this geologic change, great quantities of ocean water could have been suspended throughout the Andean ranges and become landlocked. Though hundreds of miles from the ocean, many of the animals dwelling in the lake were oceanic rather than freshwater types.'
Why the high Andes are subject to periodic flooding: 'Twice every season the tidal pull of the moon joins the constant gravitational pull of the sun, resulting in an especially high tide. That tide was now attempting to bury them in a liquid grave. The effects of a strong spring tide would raise the level of the water table.' (all Walt Becker, Link, 1998) [AK]

SFWA vs As briefly as I can: Scribd is a document-sharing website (like Flickr for photos) whose users don't all respect copyright. Noting illicit posts of work by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, SFWA VP Andrew Burt asked Scribd to remove many texts, later claiming that – despite not meeting the legal requirements – this was a formal takedown notice under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But the Burt List of offending material was based on a too-simplistic search for keywords like 'Asimov': resulting Scribd deletions included a recommended reading list, legitimate archives of an on-line magazine, public domain text freely available from Project Gutenberg, and work by authors whom SFWA has no right to represent in copyright matters. Cory Doctorow's angry reaction (boingboing, 30 August) to the removal of his Creative-Commons-licensed Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom caused – to understate hugely – some comment online, almost drowning out news of the Japanese Worldcon. On 3 September, SFWA announced that the activities of its ePiracy committee were suspended and the committee disbanded; a considerable rethink is promised. Meanwhile the people can expect interesting times, since this affair gave publicity to their naughty users' upload of work by such authors as Jerry Pournelle and Harlan Ellison.... (Yes, I searched for my own name and found portions of The Necronomicon [1978] by George Hay, myself, Robert Turner and Colin Wilson. Watch this space.)

As Others See Our Academics. A traditional Taxpayers' Alliance grumble about UK '"non-degrees" of little or no academic merit' listed 'Science: fiction and culture, at the University of Glamorgan' in its top five alleged wastes of money. (BBC News, 21 August) [JO] Perhaps this course will be hotly defended by science novelist Jeanette Winterson.

Outraged Letters. Simon R. Green tried to make my flesh creep: 'Did you get the warning e-mail from SFWA, about the dangers of being a fan in Japan, and attending the Worldcon? Apparently you have to carry your passport with you at all times, because the Japanese police can demand to see it, and if you haven't got it, can cart you off to chokey until someone comes to reclaim you. There followed many other dire warnings, including that the trains can break down and leave you stranded for days. So unlike our own dear British Rail.'
Steve Green on Sarah Hall's non-sciencefictional The Carhullan Army (see A241): 'To be fair to Sarah Hall, she immediately stated her preference for the label "speculative fiction", although the concept of an entire Government resigning because it failed the voters strikes me as outright fantasy.'
Martin Hoare sent politically incorrect email from Japan: 'Rangfold san wins fanliter Hugo by one vote.' Many thanks as always for the famous Hoare Hugo Pickup Service ... and to all who sent congratulations, notably the magnanimous John Scalzi.
Roger Robinson saw The Weakest Link on 14 August: 'Ms Red-Haired Welsh Hater: "The writer of the graphic novels Watchmen and V for Vendetta is Alan who?" Contestant: "Er ... Ginsberg." Now THERE is a graphic novel I'd read!'
Gordon Van Gelder (and other correspondents) corrected Michael Swanwick's 'alas notes' terminology: 'Actually, the term I've heard applied to my rejection letters is "alas-o-grams". At the 2001 Worldcon I said that I'd been toying with the idea of simply printing up little cards that read "Alas" and the room broke out in cheers and laughter.' I like to imagine that Gordon's Hugo accepter said that he'd really have loved to be at Nippon 2007 in person, but alas ...

C.o.A. Sandra Bond & Simon Amos, 40 Cleveland Park Ave, London E17 7BS. Dave Hicks & Cat Coast, 23 Dorset Ave, Glenfield, Leicester, LE3 8BD. Duncan MacGregor, 207 Campkin Rd, Cambridge, CB4 2LE. Jim Young's Minneapolis move is delayed: his house sale fell through.

Small Press. Marking its anniversary in August, was updated with masses of new material. But the man in charge writes: 'Keith Brooke has decided that ten years is enough. The tenth anniversary update will be the site's last; after that, the site will remain publicly available as a major genre fiction archive, but will no longer be updated. This decision has partly been forced due to ill health, but it is partly simply that Keith hopes to get his life back after all this time!'

Random Fandom. Janet Carrington & Jim Caughran married themselves in a Quaker ceremony on 28 July.
Pat McMurray & Julie Rigby were married on 18 August and honeymooned in Japan. 'We are going to call ourselves Mr and Mrs Rigby-McMurray.'
Harry Turner writes (via Sue Jones): 'My stroke has left my right hand with three un-cooperative fingers and useless for drawing any more! And my memory has suffered about the past!! (Though I'm catching up with some things.)'
Ken Slater's misadventure at the recent Warsaw convention was less alarming than initially reported: he fell, spent the night on a tiled floor through inability to get up, and returned home early, but is communicating again: 'I am shaken but not stirred – perturbed, perhaps. [...] Put the black armbands back in the mothproof boxes.'
Jean Weber had a hip replacement on 27 August. [ASFB]

Doctor Who is taking a year off in 2009: the fourth current series is to be in 2008, and the fifth not until 2010. (BBC News, 3 Sep)

Unattributable. Notes from London: 'Blackwells did a Bill Gibson event on 28 August at which he read in his usual lethargic manner, and was "interviewed" in equally laid back fashion by Prof John Sutherland. Questions from the "cool" rather than SF audience – a full house of perhaps 400 souls at £7 a head – were by and large mundane and/or stupid ... Blackwells had Spook Country, of course, and a range of pb titles which inexplicably excluded Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive ... presumably because these were not available through Penguin/Viking. I queried the Blackwells folk, who said that nearly all the punters had asked about copies of Neuromancer, and that they did not really know why they did not have it available.... Is this undue restraint of trade by Penguin/Viking or what??' More likely a cock-up.

Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Dry Eyes. 'She was a poor swimmer – and if Jack hadn't already known that, her eyes would have told him.' (Walt Becker, Link, 1998) [AK]
High-Energy Lepidoptera Dept. 'Jack wondered if she felt the same thing he did – butterflies emerging from cocoons within deep reaches of his stomach. The tactile connection sparked kinetic energy that flowed between them.' (Ibid)
Dept of Air Physics. 'The energy field vanished – as quickly as it came – replaced by a whoosh as a vacuum of air escaped from beneath the two sections, now divided. The air vaporised in the colder temperatures, creating wisps of steam that curled towards the sky before dissipating in the atmosphere.' (Ibid)
Simile Dept. 'Steam rose from the five wet bodies in the room, as if each person were percolating.' (Ibid)
Eyeballs in the Sky: 'She watched as his eyes bounced around in his head, in perfect unison with the butt of the little courtesan in front of them.' (Ibid)

Geeks' Corner

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Convention Longlist
Details via
London meetings/events –
Overseas –
Until 31 Sep 2007, Josh Kirby exhibition, Liverpool
Until 5 Nov 2007, Doctor Who exhibition, Manchester
7-9 Sep 2007, Reunion5 (media), Coventry
15-22 Sep 2007, Milford Writers' Conference, Snowdonia
14-16 Sep 2006, Oxonmoot (Tolkien Society), Oxford
21-23 Sep 2007, Eurocon 2007, Copenhagen, Denmark
21-23 Sep 2007, Fantasycon 2007, Nottingham
6 Oct 2007, Satellite 1, Glasgow
13-14 Oct 2007, Birmingham International Comics Show, Birmingham
13-14 Oct 2007, Octocon (Irish national con), Maynooth, Ireland
19-22 Oct 2007, Cult TV 2007, Chipping Norton
2-4 Nov 2007, Novacon 37, Walsall
9-11 Nov 2007, Armadacon, Plymouth
8-10 Feb 2008, SF Ball (media), Bournemouth
21-24 Mar 2008, Orbital (Eastercon), Heathrow
Spring 2008, Distraction, Newbury
3-7 May 2008, Roscon or Euroscon (Eurocon), Moscow
24-27 Jun 2008, SF Research Association conference, Dublin
26-29 Jun 2008, ConRunner 2008 (conrunning), Wolverhampton
6-10 Aug 2008, Denvention 3 (Worldcon), Denver, USA
22-25 Aug 2008, Discworld Convention 2008, Birmingham
20-22 Feb 2009, Redemption 09 (multimedia sf), Coventry
10-13 April 2009, LXcon (Eastercon), Bradford
6-10 Aug 2009, Anticipation (67th Worldcon), Montréal, Canada


• 14 September: Brum Group, Britannia Hotel, New St, Birmingham. With 'The Write Fantastic' group. 7.45pm. £3 members, £4 non-members. Contact 07845 897760 or bhamsfgroup at yahoo co uk.
• 17 September: Terry Brooks signing, Forbidden Planet, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR. 1-2pm.
• 13 October: Terry Pratchett signing, Forbidden Planet, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR. 1-2pm.
• 13 October: British Fantasy Society Open Night in York Brewery (5min walk from York central station). 7pm. Free, but extra charge for 6:30pm brewery tour. Attendees are asked to register:
• 27 October: Stephen R Donaldson signing, Forbidden Planet (as above). 1-2pm.

Random Links. Rather than save them up for Ansible each month, I now add topical links to a sidebar column on the links page. Note the new (2007) shorter URL:

PayPal Donation. Support Ansible and keep the editor happy! Or just buy his books....

Charity Work. Tony Bailey of Concatenation tried his best to swim the English Channel for charity, but (writes Jonathan Cowie) 'After 11 hours 45 minutes, and with just 6 miles to go, the old warp drive packed up.' • Keith Brooke is taking part in the Great North Run half-marathon and seeks fannish sponsors:

Those Hugos Again. JETS delegate Chris O'Shea relentlessly photographed the entire ceremony:

Ellison/Fantagraphics Lawsuit Settlement. Ansible received a courtesy copy of this mighty document from C.E. Petit. Brief summary according to my puny terrestrial understanding: no payments involved, except for parties covering their own legal costs; no future "ad hominem, personal attacks" by either side; Fantagraphics (Gary Groth & Kim Thompson) to remove two specified passages from Comics As Art before publication, and to drop the Ellison interview and cover credit from any future printings/editions of The Writers; Fantagraphics to be allowed to post a rebuttal on Ellison's website (500 words maximum, visible for 30 days) to various Ellisonian statements about Gary Groth ("embezzling funds ... false pretences ... likened Mr. Groth to a child molester"); no further soliciting of contributions to the Fantagraphics defence fund; general cosmic peace and harmony to reign henceforth; further legal boilerplate, but I think these are the important bits.

Things I Forgot To Mention. Ursula Le Guin's "On Serious Literature" was reprinted in Harper's magazine with her permission and (which tickled me) a credit to Ansible. And numerologists may wish to know that owing to past quirks of numbering, this is "really" the 250th issue of Ansible.

Ansible 242 Copyright © Dave Langford, 2007. Thanks to Mike Alexander, Australian SF Bullsheet, Chaz Brenchley, Ian Covell, Jean-Daniel Brèque, Keith Freeman, Yvonne Hewett, Amanda Kear, Todd Mason, Jonathan Oliver,, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Gary Wilkinson, Jessica Yates, and our Hero Distributors: Janice Murray (North America), SCIS, and Alan Stewart (Oz). My thanks again to many kindly Hugo voters. 4 Sep 07.