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Ansible 251, June 2008

Cartoon: Sue Mason

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: Sue Mason. Available for SAE or a six-ounce sheet of fluorine 80+.

A Torrent of Faces

Lisa de Moraes, a Washington Post tv reviewer, must have suffered some past fan-related trauma: her 14 May column nervously addresses 'you scary sci-fi fans', while on 19 May she has not only 'scary sci-fi-people fans' but (next paragraph) a 'scary-sci-fi-people fan base'. [AL] Your editor has tried hard to look scary but without visible success.

Doris Lessing looked back on her 2007 Nobel Prize win and judged it 'a bloody disaster', giving her too much media attention and not enough time for work: 'All I do is give interviews and spend time being photographed.' And the writing? 'It has stopped, I don't have any energy any more.' She told the BBC that she'd probably give up writing novels altogether. (Interview, BBC Radio 4 Front Row, 12 May) [DVB]

Steven Moffatt became lead writer and executive producer of Doctor Who, following Russell T. Davies's recent step-down. (BBC)

Jane Palmer returns to the science fiction fold, in a revisionist mood: 'I've just come back to SF after being diagnosed as a coeliac and realising how dreadful all the books I had written were. Now I'm rewriting everything, including the published work.' (email, April)

Christopher Priest was a GoH at Aelita in Russia last month and reports overwhelming hospitality, vodka-swilling and paintballing. 'In one of the most seriously sensawunda moments, I did a televised interview with TASS. Thoughts of the Cold War were never far away. Grim memories of announcements like: "The official Soviet news agency, TASS, said today ..." The ordinary Russians I went with said, "Nothing has changed! Same gloomy lobby, same crap elevator, same terrifying lavatory. Just no more armed goons on the door." In the director's office were many photos of honoured guests. One was Khrushchev, one was the poet Yevtushenko, another was the cellist Rostropovich. Posing with the director. Wow! But who's this? Bob Sheckley, posing with the director! "Mr Priest, please stand here and pose with the director." Flash! flash! flash! Now I'm on the same wall. Blimey.' (email, May)

J.K. Rowling is giving this month's commencement day address at Harvard. One writer in the student paper The Harvard Crimson reacted by calling her 'a flash in the pan [...] a petty pop culture personality [who] tricked parents into letting their kids read books filled with sex, murder, and homosexual role models'. This led to a strange Guardian column, 'When Harry met sexism', arguing that the biased critical establishment marginalizes female fantasists while praising the likes of Pullman and Tolkien in accordance with 'the dominant man-worshipping default mode.' The acclaim given to such women writers as Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. Le Guin doesn't count, since – the article explains – they merely occupy 'a few token high-priestess places for the ladies.' (Bidisha, Guardian, 22 May) [AO/JY] Farah Mendlesohn considers the Bidisha thesis 'Plain bonkers' and, concerning some victims of the alleged conspiracy, adds: 'I've been driven mad all week by this, having to point out stuff like "Tolkien – eighty years of rep; Mary Gentle – thirty" and other basic bits of info. As I have noted more than once, Marge Piercy has won a Clarke Award, is standard teaching on all utopias courses and can hardly be considered ignored unless the only people you are talking to are people who barely know fantasy in the first place. Oh yes, and we can add, four books on Diana Wynne Jones. Only one that I know of on Pullman.' (email, 27 May)

Salman Rushdie risks being declared Fair Game: 'I have an early novel by L. Ron Hubbard called Death's Deputy. You cannot believe the badness, it's almost physically unreadable because the man was functionally illiterate. The idea of him being a founder of a great world religion is just hilarious. I don't want to claim Hubbard as any type of influence as the horror that would bring my way would be a fate worse than death – there's Tom Cruise for a start! But I grew up on science fiction. At boarding school and at college I revelled in the books and weird magazines called things like Amazing and F&SF. There's a lot of allegory, unusual worlds shed light on our world, and it has always been a very good forum for ideas. But one day I woke up and I was over it, all these terrible novels full of bad sentences and appalling characters. Not one single interesting woman! But then I fell in love with Star Wars. That changed everything. I remember sitting in this huge movie theatre watching this enormous spaceship coming over my head on the screen. The incredible elongation of that scene just blew me away. You could imagine that this was going to be the whole film! It was a wonderful way of telling you you were somewhere startling.' (Interview, Word Magazine, June 2008). [GS]

Jo Walton announces: 'Emmet and Sasha and I are now Canadian – we've just officially become Landed Immigrants. [...] It's lovely here, you should all come. No COA, we were here already.' (email, 19 May)


4 Jun • Future Visions (discussing sf influence on science), Dana Centre, 165 Queen's Gate, S Kensington, London, SW7 5HD. 7-8:30pm. Free? Bookings 020 7942 4040 or tickets at danacentre org uk.

7 Jun • BSFA/SF Foundation AGM Event, Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL. GoH Geoff Ryman for SFF, Peter Weston for BSFA (50th-anniversary theme). 10:30am-5pm (then to pub), with SFF AGM 12:30-1pm, BSFA AGM 2-2:30pm. Admission free.

14 Jun • PKD-Day 2, celebrating Philip K. Dick: Lecture Theatre GE089, Clifton Campus, Clifton Lane, Nottingham. 10am-5pm. Free admission (buffet lunch available at cost), but please notify if you're attending: John dot Goodridge at ntu dot ac dot uk; 0115 848 3375.

25 Jun • BSFA Open Meeting, The Antelope, 22 Eaton Terrace, London, SW1W 8EZ (closest tube, Sloane Square). 6pm on; fans present in the bar from 5pm. With Terrance Dicks.

28 Jun • Tolkien Society Seminar, Parkstead House, Whitelands College, Roehampton University, London. 9am-5pm. £34; members £30. Booking closes 7 June. Contact seminar at tolkiensociety dot org.

28-29 Jun • ConRunner 2008 (conrunning), Britannia Hotel, Wolverhampton. £35 reg to 21 Jun; £45 at door. Day rate £25. Contact 56 Jackmans Place, Letchworth G.C., Herts, SG6 1RH.

6-10 Aug • Denvention 3 (66th Worldcon), Denver, USA. $200 reg, $50 child or supporting. Advance booking closes 10 July. At-door rates TBA. Contact Denvention, PO Box 1349, Denver, CO 80201, USA.

5-7 Sep • ZombieCon, Quality Hotel, Bentley, Walsall. GoH Charlie Adlard, Stuart Conran, David Devereux, John McCrea, Robert Rankin. £45 reg until 31 August; £50 at the door (but numbers are limited). Parent/guardian consent required for under-18s. Contact 54 Bridge Rd, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 2QP; info at zombiecon co uk.

19-21 Sep • Fantasycon 2008, Britannia Hotel, 1 St James St, Nottingham. £60 reg (BFS members/students £50), rising to £70 (£60) on 1 July. Contact 5 Greenbank, Barnt Green, Birmingham, B45 8DH.

20-22 Feb 09 • Redemption 09 (multimedia sf), Britannia Hotel, Fairfax St, Coventry, CV1 5RP. Added GoH: Paul Cornell. £50 reg, rising to £55 on 1 September. Under-18s and supp: £15. Contact 26 Kings Meadow View, Wetherby, LS22 7FX.

26-29 Mar 09 • Eurocon 2009 (with Deepcon 10, Italcon 35), Fiuggi, Italy. GoH Robert Silverberg, Sergey Lukyanenko, Kate Mulgrew. Membership rates TBA. Contact eurocon at euroconsf2009 dot it.

27-29 Mar 09 • P-Con VI, Central Hotel, Dublin. GoH Paul Cornell. €30/£20 reg, €35 at door. Students €15. €10 supp. Euro cheques to Frank Darcy, 253 Sundrive Rd, Crumlin, Dublin 12, Ireland. Sterling to 'Dave Lally #2 a/c', 64 Richbourne Terrace, London, SW8 1AX.

6-10 Aug 09 • Anticipation (67th Worldcon), Palais des congrès de Montréal, Montréal, Canada. Artist GoH announced: Ralph Bakshi. $Can190/$US190/£95/€130 reg to 31 July; $Can55/$US55/£30/€35 supp; discounts for site selection voters, presupporters, etc. Contact PO Box 105, Station NDG, Montréal, QC, H4A 3P4, Canada.

2-5 Apr 10 • Odyssey 2010 (Eastercon), Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Heathrow, London. £45 reg, £35 unwaged, £20 supp. Junior (<17) £20, child (<11) £5, infant (<5) £1. Contact: 5 Langhaul Rd, Crookston, Glasgow, G53 7SE. Odyssey's Eurocon bid failed – see below.

26-29 Aug 10 • Eurocon 2010, Cziesyn/Cesky Tesin, Poland/Slovakia. No further details have reached me as yet.

RumblingsReno in 2011 is a new bid to hold the 69th Worldcon in Reno, Nevada, on 17-21 August 2011. $20 (or more if you like) to presupport. Details at This challenges the existing Seattle in 2011 bid: $25 to presupport, with more details at

Infinitely Improbable

As Others Sniff At Us. 'If you've been in any bookstore in your lifetime, you're probably familiar with that most peculiar of book retail locales: the Fantasy & Science Fiction section. This strange and sweaty place is kept separate from the rest of the bookstore so that its residents, the soap-averse fans of Fantasy & Science Fiction novels, can go about their plots and dark rituals without disturbing any of the normal-smelling clientele.' (Chris Bucholz, [cj]

R.I.P. Robert Asprin (1946-2008), US author whose first novel was The Cold Cash War (1977), died on 22 May; he was 61. Asprin is best known for creating (with Lynn Abbey) the 'Thieves' World' fantasy shared world, and for his 'Phule' sf comedies (latterly written with Peter J. Heck) and 'MythAdventures' comic fantasies (later with Jody Lynn Nye). [MR]
Danton Burroughs (1944-2008), Edgar Rice Burroughs's grandson and promoter – recently announced as chairman of the board of ERB Inc. – died on 1 May; he was 63. [WCW]
Alexander (Sandy) Courage (1919-2008), Emmy-winning composer of the USS Enterprise fanfare in Star Trek (reprised in ST:TNG and all the films), died on 15 May at the age of 88. [DKMK]
Michael de Larrabeiti (1934-2008), UK novelist and travel writer most noted in genre circles for the exhilaratingly uninhibited violence and language of his Borribles trilogy of children's books, died on 18 April after long illness. He was 73. [PA]
Julie Ege (1943-2008), Norwegian model and actress who played sex-symbol parts in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Creatures the World Forgot (1971), The Final Programme (1973), Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974), The Mutations (1974) and others, died on 29 April aged 64.
Harvey Korman (1927-2008), US comic actor who took part in many genre productions including The Flintstones (10 episodes 1966-1966; various one-offs) and the disastrous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, died on 29 May; he was 81. [LP]
John Phillip Law (1937-2008), US actor best remembered as the blind 'angel' in Barbarella (1968), died on 13 May aged 70. He also starred in Danger: Diabolik (1968) and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974). [GW]
Joseph Pevney (1911-2008), US director of 14 episodes of the original tv Star Trek and 11 of The Munsters, died on 18 May; he was 96. [GW]

Futurology Masterclass: Big Numbers Dept. 'The first thousand primes, expressed in the binary scale that had been used for all arithmetical operations since electronic computers were invented, marched in order before him. Endless ranks of 1's and 0's paraded past ...' (Arthur C. Clarke, The City and the Stars, 1956).
• 'The speed trend curve alone predicts that manned vehicles will be able to achieve near-infinite speeds by 1982 ...' 'By 1981, this [energy] trend curve shows that a single man will have available under his control the amount of energy equivalent to that generated by the entire sun.' (G. Harry Stine, 'Science Fiction Is Too Conservative', Analog, May 1961) [via GP]

Fanfundery. TAFF: Velma deSelby Bowen (Vijay Bowen), who owed money to TAFF after some complications during her time as administrator, paid off the outstanding $1,050 in May. Good for her.

Court Circular. Christopher Tolkien continues to litigate, with 'one last crusade' to 'terminate' rights to The Hobbit and block the planned films unless Warner/New Line cough up the claimed £80 million owed to the Tolkien estate from a deal that gave it 7.5% of profits. The hearing begins in California on 6 June. (Sunday Times et al) [GW]

Awards. Compton Crook for first novel: Mark L. Van Name, One Jump Ahead.
European SF Society Awards (at the Moscow Eurocon) include a special 'Contribution to SF Fandom' recognition of the late Ken Slater; Russell T. Davies was named as Best Promoter. [BJW]
Max und Moritz (German comics awards) include a Lebenswerk or life achievement honour for Alan Moore. [JG]

Outraged Letters. Paul Barnett (John Grant) makes my flesh creep: 'I'm going into hospital early Monday morning for a triple bypass operation, plus – Free! Bargain! Buy One Get One Free! – a reaming out of both carotid arteries. If all goes according to plan, I'll be in the Jug for about a week; thereafter I'll of course be taking things a bit easy (well, sort of) for a few weeks longer ... until well enough to face minor operations to put stents in a renal artery and some leg arteries. At the end of a further recovery period I will change my name to Steve Austin and get a tv series.' (31 May)
Moshe Feder listens in: 'I heard an interview on our local public radio station's "Leonard Lopate" talk show with a guy named Toby Barlow who's written a new novel about werewolves in LA, called Sharp Teeth. [...] I was immediately wondering how the heck Harper's publicist managed to book him with Lopate, who usually interviews authors of literary fiction and serious nonfiction. Then Leonard comes on and starts saying that the guy has written a novel "unlike anything we've seen before" and I'm practically sputtering at the radio that there are dozens of novels about werewolves around these days. I'm assuming, of course, that it's another case of mainstream media being ignorant of SF and fantasy, as when all the reviewers praised The Truman Show for its "original" concept. But then he adds the kicker: the novel is written in free verse; it's an epic poem. At that point, all I could do was shut up, listen, and crank my jaw back into position.'
Bill Higgins gloats: 'At the Web site of Scientific American, an article on rocket belts and jetpacks was illustrated by a photo of yours truly, wearing an original Bell Rocket Belt. (This picture is a bit misleading; a fully-fueled rocket belt would not lift someone as heavy as me, at least not until most of the hydrogen peroxide was burned off, after which a flight of extremely limited duration would ensue.)'

As Others Research Us. Everyone knows that K.W. Jeter coined the word 'steampunk' back in 1987, except the New York Times: '... Paul Di Filippo, the author of "The Steampunk Trilogy," [1995] the historical science fiction novellas that lent the culture its name.' (Ruth La Ferla, 'Steampunk Moves Between 2 Worlds', 8 May) [MW]

C.o.A. Australia in 2010: US agent now Mark Linneman, PO Box 221878, Sacramento, CA 95822, USA. William Breiding, 445 Elysian Ave, Morgantown, WV 26501, USA. Mog Decarnin is no longer in LA. Sarah Mooring, 8 Sandmoor Court, Harrogate Rd, Leeds, LS17 7JY.

Recession: Latest. Publishers Weekly announced in May that its master plan to 'continue to be the gold standard in book reviewing' included the cutting of fees from $35-$50 to just $25 per review. [ED]

The Dead Past. 30 Years Ago: Tyneside 'Futureworlds' conference. 'Dr Chris Evans and John Brunner spoke about "the future" [on 27 June 1978]. Rather to my surprise, they were both optimistic: everything was about the Hampstead-California axis, with plenty of good hotels and credit cards on the way. Some members of the (occasionally annoyingly talkative) audience pointed out that only 5% of the world's population lived that sort of carefree middle-class existence ...' (Ritchie Smith reporting in Peter Roberts's Checkpoint 90, July 1978)

Group Gropes. FORTH (Edinburgh) has moved owing to 'extreme over-pricing in The Doric.' Currently 9pm Tuesdays in The Standing Order, George Street, 'until we find somewhere that is not a mega-J.D. Wetherspoons outlet.' Contact jdspec-forth at yahoo co uk. [JD]

A250 Addenda. David Bratman on Margaret Howes: 'she also wrote an early Tolkien Journal article with the splendid title "The Elder Ages and the Later Glaciations of the Pleistocene Epoch", as a consequence of which she was often cited in bemused journalistic accounts of the 60s Tolkien boom.'
James H. Burns: 'It's interesting that Patrick Stewart's so vociferous in his defence of Trek fans, because a few years ago, during one of his other Broadway outings, he told a publicist friend of mine, "The trick is: Never look them directly in the eyes...."'

Thog's Masterclass. Fowl Play Dept. 'Ross Duval choked back an emotional swallow.' (Clark Howard, 'Cruel and Unusual', Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, 2008) [TM]
Dept of Sinister Sibilance. '"Edward," I hissed.' (Stephenie Meyer, Twilight, 2005) [BC/TM] ... And Colourful Speech. '... he said. His tone was livid.' (Ibid)
Alternate Tissue Dept. 'One of those old-fashioned protonic guns ... they kill without damaging tissue, by destroying brain cells.' (Gardner F. Fox, Escape Across the Cosmos, 1964) [AR]
Dept of Misadventure. '... they were on the verge of being sucked under a lake of molten magnetic lava when, by sheer theoretical knowledge, they pulled out and made off into space once more. / A barrage of cosmic rays, turned on them by inhabitants of a queer, elongated planet, had almost spelled disaster, but radio beams saved them. / Once, in mid inter-planetary flight, they were brought to a dead stop. The cause? They had entered the "no-man's land" between two planets, where, opposed to all normal theory, the two worlds, acting in complete unison, were poised on the same plane, although millions of miles apart.' (Terence Haile, Galaxies Ahead, 1963)

Geeks' Corner

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Conventions/Events Longlist
Details at
London meetings/events –
Overseas –
Until 25 Oct 2008, Dan Dare and the Birth of Hi-Tech Britain, Science Museum, London
4 Jun 2008, Future Visions, London
7 Jun 2008, BSFA/SF Foundation AGM Event, London
14 Jun 2008, PKD-Day 2, Nottingham
20-22 Jun 2008, SF Masterclass, London
RELOCATED TO USA: 24-27 Jun 2008, SF Research Association conference, Dublin
28 Jun 2008, Tolkien Society Seminar, London
28-29 Jun 2008, ConRunner 2008 (conrunning), Wolverhampton
6-10 Aug 2008, Denvention 3 (Worldcon), Denver, USA
21-25 Aug 2008, Frightfest film festival, London
22-25 Aug 2008, Discworld Convention 2008, Birmingham
29-31 Aug 2008, Mecon, Belfast
5-7 Sep 2008, ZombieCon, Bentley, Walsall
12-14 Sep 2008, Reunion5 (media), Coventry
19-21 Sep 2008, Fantasycon 2008, Nottingham
25-28 Sep 2008, Oxonmoot (Tolkien), Oxford
4-5 Oct 2008, Birmingham International Comics Show, Birmingham
11-12 Oct 2008, NewCon 4, Northampton
17-19 Oct 2008, Festival of Fantastic Films, Manchester
18-19 Oct 2008, Octocon, Ireland
7-9 Nov 2008, ArmadaCon XX, Plymouth
14-16 Nov 2008, Novacon 38, Bentley, Walsall
20-22 Feb 2009, Redemption 09 (multimedia sf), Coventry
26-29 Mar 2009, Eurocon 2009, Fiuggi, Italy
27-29 Mar 2009, P-Con VI, Dublin.
10-13 Apr 2009, LXcon (Eastercon), Bradford
CANCELLED: 26-29 Jun 2009, Sectus 2009 (Harry Potter), North Wales
25-26 Jul 2009, Satellite 2, Glasgow
6-10 Aug 2009, Anticipation (67th Worldcon), Montréal, Canada
2-5 Apr 2010, Odyssey 2010 (Eastercon), Heathrow


• 7 June 2008: Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons & Sean Philips signing, Forbidden Planet, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR. 1-2pm. Duncan Fegredo was also scheduled but had to cancel.
• 13 June 2008: Brum Group, Briar Rose, Bennett Hill, Birmingham city centre. 7.45pm. With Eric Brown. £4; members £3. Contact 07845 897760 or 4bhamsfgroup at yahoo co uk. Further meetings: 11 July TBA; 8 August 'Summer Social' meal at Black Eagle pub.
• 14 June 2008: Steve Dillon & Bryan Talbot, Waterstone's, Oxford
Street, London. 2pm.
• 14 June 2008: Terry Pratchett signing, Foyles, South Bank (i.e. not Charing Cross Rd), London. 12-2:30pm.
• 18th Jun 2008: Sarah Ash & Jessica Rydill, Beckenham Library (Bromley Literary Festival event). 6:30pm-8pm. Free: book through library.
• 25th June 2008: Sarah Ash, Chaz Brenchley, & Juliet E. McKenna, Kensington Central Library. 6pm-8pm. Contact library for details.
• 1 Jul 2008: Hannah Berry, Paul Gravett & Bryan Talbot, Ipswich
Literary Festival.
• 5 Jul 2008: Steven Erikson signing, Forbidden Planet, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR. 1-2pm.
• 22 Aug 2008: Alan Grant & Bryan Talbot, Edinburgh
Literary Festival. 8:30pm.

Random Links. See the latest additions here:

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

A Brief Introduction to Fantasy. Farah Mendlesohn is looking for suggestions for essential post-1920s authors to be cited in this planned book's introductory fantasy timeline ... see link for more.

On Hold. The UK SF Book News site entered 'hibernation' on 8 May. Legend says it will return when British sf reporting faces some great peril, though sceptics shake their heads ...

Stop Press. Lambda Awards (gay, lesbian etc): the sf/fantasy horror category was won by Lee Thomas for The Dust of Wonderland. Other sf names in there are Nicola Griffith with And Now We Are Going to Have a Party (Women's Memoir/Biography), and Richard Labonte and Lawrence Schimel, co-editors of the Anthology winner First Person Queer. (Locus)

Ansible 251 Copyright © Dave Langford, 2008. Thanks to Paul Annis, David V. Barrett, Bill Crider, Jim Darroch, Ellen Datlow, Joe Gordon, carl juarez, David K.M. Klaus, Andy Love, Todd Mason, Andrew Osmond, Lawrence Person, Greg Pickersgill, Adam Roberts, Marcus Rowland, Graham Sleight, William C. Wagner, Michael Ward, Gary Wilkinson, Jessica Yates, and our Hero Distributors: Vernon Brown (BSFG), Janice Murray (NA), SCIS, and Alan Stewart (Oz). 1 Jun 08.