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Ansible 253, August 2008

Amanda Kear cartoon

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. Art: Amanda Kear above, Brad Foster below. Available for SAE, Snibbo or Bloggo.

A Plague of Masters

Brian Aldiss accepted his honorary doctorate from Liverpool U on 1 July. His speech recalled 'how, during an era when drunkenness and prostitution were absolutely not to be found in the wonderful new Soviet Union, he embarrassed someone who clearly was his KGB "minder" on the way back to his hotel by talking to someone who was standing around under a bridge in rather provocative mode. The next day, said "minder" saved the face of the Soviet Utopia by casually mentioning that the woman they saw last night, well she was the wife of the Japanese Ambassador who was out to take the air. / What the Japanese Ambassador had to say about this is not recorded....' [via AS]

Ray Bradbury is this year's SF Poetry Association Grand Master. Other nominees included Joe Haldeman and UK sf poet Steve Sneyd.

Alan Dean Foster was announced as a Grand Master of (wait for it) the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. [L]

Harry Harrison has been named as the 2009 SFWA Grand Master ('Damon Knight Grand Master') for life achievement.

Doris Lessing was interviewed yet again. Q: 'For the last two decades, most of your fiction has veered toward science fiction, which has disappointed literary critics like Harold Bloom.' A: 'I can't be bothered with Bloom. A lot of people think some of my best writing is in science fiction, and they are just as significant as bloody Bloom.' Q: 'When you won the Nobel Prize in Literature last year, he described the choice as "pure political correctness", presumably because you are female.' A: 'Yes, I remember. It was a very malicious thing. If he gets the Nobel Prize, believe me, I won't be as bitchy.' (NY Times magazine, 27 July) [MF]

Stephenie Meyer on her latest: 'It's science fiction because it's about aliens, so there's no other way to categorize it. And I like science fiction. But this doesn't feel to me like science fiction; once you get past the basic premise, it's just about being human.' (Kansas City Star, 1 Aug) [MM]

Terry Pratchett is one of only 12 authors who have been permanent fixtures in the Nielsen BookScan top 5,000 UK sellers ever since the list began in 1995. Each of the other 11 in this "evergreen" list is represented by just one title. Terry has three: The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, and Mort. [B]

Salman Rushdie's fantasy Midnight's Children was voted as the best of all the Booker Prize winners on the award's 40th anniversary – repeating his 25th-anniversary 'Booker of Bookers' win. [PL]

Peter Straub is this year's International Horror Guild 'Living Legend', the IHG's life achievement award.


6-10 Aug • Denvention 3 (66th Worldcon), Colorado Convention Center, Denver, USA. Advance booking is now closed. At the door: $225, child $50, 'kid-in-tow' free. Day: Wed $55, Thu $75, Fri $85, Sat $85, Sun $35. Contact Denvention, PO Box 1349, Denver, CO 80201, USA.

8-10 Aug • Wolf Galactica (BSG), Thistle Hotel, Heathrow. Tickets £85, children £35. Bookings (not 24-hour) 01327 878550.

9-10 Aug • Caption (small-press comics), East Oxford Community Centre, Princes St, Oxford. £10 at the door or £5/day.

21-25 Aug • Frightfest (film festival), Odeon West End, London. Bookings: or 0871 224 4007.

22-25 Aug • Discworld Convention 2008, Hilton Metropole, Birmingham (NEC). 'Membership applications are now closed.' Contact PO Box 4101, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, BA4 5XD, or

27 Aug • BSFA Open Meeting, Antelope, 22 Eaton Tce, London, SW1W 8EZ. 6pm on; fans present from 5pm. With Gwyneth Jones.

29-31 Aug • Mecon 11/Unicon 22, Queen's University Belfast Student's Union. £15/€22 reg; £10/€15 concessions; £5 supp. Cheques to 'QUB Sci-Fi Society'. Contact 115 Malone Road, Belfast, BT9 6SP.

29-31 Aug • Wadfest (Discworld), Trentfield Farm Camp Site, Church Laneham, Retford, Notts, DN22 0NJ. Adult campers £15 (2 nights), accompanied children 1p each. See

5 Sep • British Fantasy Society Open Night, Ye Olde Cock Tavern, 22 Fleet St, London, EC4 1AA. From 6pm. All welcome.

5-7 Sep • ZombieCon (Brainnnnnns!), Quality Hotel, Bentley, Walsall. £45 reg until 31 August; £50 at the door. Contact 54 Bridge Rd, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 2QP; info at zombiecon co uk.

25-28 Sep • Oxonmoot (Tolkien Society), Christchurch, Oxford. Now £49.50 reg (members £42.50). Contact 29 Tockley Rd, Burham, Bucks, SL1 7DQ; bookings at tolkiensociety org.

1-2 Nov • UnCon 2008 (Forteana), University of Westminster, 309 Regent St, London, W1B 2UW. £36 advance reg, £20 day. Booking on-line only, it seems:

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

31 Jul - 2 Aug 09 • Constitution (sf, fantasy, RPG), New Hall, Cambridge. GoH: Steph Swainston, Henry Gee, others TBA. £20 reg; reductions for children; rates will rise before the con. Contact 207 Campkin Rd, Cambridge, CB4 2LE; info at constitution-con org uk.

6-10 Aug 09 • Anticipation (67th Worldcon), Palais des congrès de Montréal, Montréal, Canada. Now $Can215/$US215/£110/€135 reg; supp $Can55/$US55/£25/€35; discounts for presupporters. Contact PO Box 105, Station NDG, Montréal, QC, H4A 3P4, Canada.

Rumblings • James Bacon at Conrunner (June): 'One highlight of the weekend was a presentation by ACC Liverpool, SECC Glasgow and Excel London about potential venues for a future UK worldcon. All three sent people and presentations, eager to engage with fandom.' With added news of three possible Netherlands sites, this led to discussion of a UK or Dutch bid for maybe 2014 or 2015: 'Vince Docherty and Colin Harris setting pace with Steve Cooper doing groundwork. Not a dissenting voice was heard. Could one imagine same in 1998?'

Infinitely Improbable

As Others See Us. Traditional opening to a UFO news story: 'If you still live with your parents, wear a zip-up cardigan over your collar and tie, have enamel badges in your lapel and don't get out much because you're too busy curating your collection of Star Trek memorabilia, it has been quite a week. While the rest of the country has been fussing over such trivia as Zimbabwe, you've been tabulating the latest activities of forces beyond our galaxy.' (David Randall, Independent, 29 June)

Awards. Campbell Memorial: Kathleen Ann Goonan, In War Times.
Cordwainer Smith (out-of-print rediscovery): Stanley G. Weinbaum.
Prometheus (libertarian): Harry Turtledove, The Gladiator, and Jo Walton, Ha'penny (tie). HALL OF FAME Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange.
Rhysling (poetry): SHORT F.J. Bergmann, 'Eating Light' (Mythic Delirium). LONG Catherynne M. Valente, 'The Seven Devils of Central California' (Farrago's Wainscot).
Shirley Jackson (suspense/horror/dark fantasy). Among the winners: NOVEL Elizabeth Hand, Generation Loss. ANTHOLOGY Inferno ed. Ellen Datlow.
Sturgeon (short): David R. Moles, 'Finisterra' and Elizabeth Bear, 'Tideline' (tie).
International Horror Guild novel shortlist: Ramsey Campbell, Grin of the Dark; Elizabeth Hand, Generation Loss; Sarah Langan, The Missing; Natasha Mostert, Season of the Witch; Dan Simmons, The Terror.

Astronomy Masterclass. 'In 2006, Pluto was classed as a minor planet. Unlike the planets, it has an elliptical orbit.' (Helpful factoid from HarperCollins at the end of Diana Wynne Jones's The Game, 2007)

R.I.P. Chris Cooper (1959-2008), well-known and famously tall UK fan sometimes known as Jolly Green Giant, died on 4 July after falling into a coma in mid-June; he was 49. [BS]
Frank Darcy (1959-2008), Irish fan who ran P-Con IV and V (he was also working on the next two) and co-organized the New Irish SF Association, died from cancer on 2 July. He was 49. [POM]
Don S. Davis (1942-2008), former US Army captain who played Major General Hammond in Stargate SG-1, died on 29 June aged 65. [DKMK]
Thomas M. Disch (1940-2008), US author and poet who began publishing sf in 1962 and gave us many darkly brilliant short stories and novels, committed suicide on 4 July; he was 68. His finest novels were Camp Concentration (1968), 334 (1972) and On Wings of Song (1979); the latter won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Brian Aldiss hailed Disch's early work thus: 'A genuine pessimist of a new writer has come along, to delight us with an unadulterated shot of pure bracing gloom.' John Clute's SF Encyclopedia entry called him 'the most respected, least trusted, most envied and least read of all modern first-rank sf writers.' His solitary Hugo was for the entertainingly contentious The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World (1998); 'The Brave Little Toaster' (1980 F&SF) won a BSFA award and was filmed. I admire his work very much indeed.
Ann Green (1961-2008), well-known UK fan, publisher of the 1990s fanzine Ormolu and wife of Steve Green, died on 29 July. [LK/SG] She was 46. All sympathy to Steve, who is devastated.
Lloyd Lamble (1914-2008), last surviving actor to have played The Shadow in the golden days of radio, died on 9 April aged 94. He also appeared in The Avengers, The Prisoner and Doctor Who. [AIP]
Bruce Purchase (1938-2008), New Zealand-born actor whose best-known sf role was the cyborg villain in Doctor Who's 'The Pirate Planet', died on 5 June aged 69. [SR]

Brad Foster cartoon

Thog's Maths Masterclass. Dept of the Easily Amazed: '... an inconceivable fraction that can be written out as 1/10 preceded by 32 zeros ...' (Deepak Chopra, Quantum Healing, 1989) [PB]

Outraged Letters. Richard E. Geis: 'It appears that sci-fi is now a put-down word, no longer of any use to us. What can we use to describe ourselves? I haven't a clue. Create a contest to find a respectful alternate. Non-muggles?'
Martin Morse Wooster is full of hollow popcorn: 'At the beginning of Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D, Brendan Fraser holds a copy of the Jules Verne novel. "This isn't just science fiction," he says, "it's inspiration!" / By the way, the words "Jules Verne" are never mentioned in the film. And at the end, Fraser holds a copy of Ignatius Donnelly's book on Atlantis....'

Another Book Poll. The Disinformation Company's 'alternative' survey of all-time favourite books produced a very genre-oriented top ten: 1 George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four; 2 Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; 3 Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; 4 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings; 5 Aldous Huxley, Brave New World; 6 Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five; 7 J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye; 8 Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching; 9 Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson, The Illuminatus! Trilogy; 10 Daniel Quinn, Ishmael. [DVB] I didn't think anyone but John Clute even remembered the last, winner of the one-off $500,000 Turner Tomorrow Award for sf back in 1991.

Happy Birthday. Rob Holdstock celebrated his 60th in July, while Chris Priest turned 65 and began to receive the long-awaited state pension: 'At last I am the old rope for which there is money.'

As Others Analyse Us. 'The Frankenstein problem of technology run amok is beloved by science fiction writers. The world may be taken over by man-made objects, like robots, or mutations, like triffids. It may be submerged in grey goo from nanotechnology. The fiction genre survives because no one can say categorically that any of these things are impossible.' (John Kay, Financial Times, 9 July) [MMW]

Metropolis Extended. The discovery of an uncut 16mm print of the classic sf film in a Buenos Aires archive attracted lots of media coverage. One scene remains lost, at the end of a damaged reel. [JHB]

Romance Masterclass. 'Though I find this the greatest ecstasy ever offered in life, I beg that you not bring your hips so hard against me, nor torture so my flesh with the stirring beauty of rosebuds and cream mounds, else I shall not leave, but drown again my lover's sword in the velvet cloak of your body.' (Shannon Drake, Ondine, 1997) [via JG]

Random Fandom. Terry Jeeves updates his A252 note: 'Am delighted to say that Val's [cancer] operation was a success and she is now walking and eating. [...] Not so good is the fact that I have been fitted with a catheter because of prostate trouble.' [via MP/PW] Ouch.
Elliot Shorter, 1970 US TAFF delegate, is in the Providence VA hospital (ward 6a) and unlikely to be released; it may still be possible to visit him. [AIP]
Barbara Stewart on Chris Cooper: 'He was part of fireworks fandom, a computer geek, and advised many conventions and their hotels about liquid supplies and how to order, look after and correctly serve real ale. He helped design the art board system now used at British conventions and regularly helped build it; worked as steward and tech; and was a regular panel member for "So This Is Your First Convention". He could weird out mundanes or fandom whilst sitting down being ordinary, let alone in one of his "silly moods".... As one of his annoying little sisters I know better than most that he will be a hard act to follow. The family thanks fandom for all their kind thoughts.'

Serious & Constructive. The (US) SF Book Club, with other clubs owned by Bertelsmann's North American Direct Group, is being sold off to the investment firm Najafi Companies (Phoenix, AZ). [PL/DG]
• Wizards of the Coast is cancelling its 'Discovery' line of original (that is, non-game-spinoff) genre novels, which will cease after 2008.

As Others Remember Fanzines. 'Originally published in hand-stapled mimeographed pages called fanzines, collections of these fan fiction stories were distributed in the early days as a kind of pop-cultural samizdat – undercover publications handed out from boxes under tables at fan conventions or stuffed into envelopes and mailed to fan community members from volunteers' basements. But fan fiction migrated to the Net in the mid-1990s, where it has since exploded in size and scope.' (Grace Westcott, Literary Review of Canada, July) [MMW]

The Dead Past. 25 Years Ago, Worldcon 1983: 'Highlight of the fan program was the "Fans Are Slans" panel, wherein Steve Stiles extemporised a remarkable account of Claude Degler's insanitary habits, John Shirley exposed parts of his body nobody (except representatives of the French media) wanted to see, and Charles Platt developed his "I love fandom" act with glutinous sincerity.' (Malcolm Edwards, Ansible 35)

C.o.A. Eclectic Games, Thames Tower, Station Rd, Reading, RG1 1LX. Gary Farber, 1416 Greenside Drive, Raleigh, NC 27609-9503, USA. Terry Jeeves (temporary), 101 Prospect Rd, Scarborough, YO12 7JX.

Magazine Uproar. Short version of controversy: a writer with an insecure grasp of net etiquette made public his rejection letter from co-editor William Sanders, which seemingly categorized Muslims as 'sheet heads'. Debate ensued. A few Helix authors withdrew their work: the irritated Sanders variously said they couldn't, asked $40 per removal, replaced pages with 'Story deleted at author's pantiwadulous request' and informed protesting contributor Yoon Ha Lee that hers was a story 'that never did make any sense and that I only accepted because I thought it might please those who admire your work, and also because (notorious bigot that I am) I was trying to get more work by non-Caucasian writers.' Oh dear. Various Helix writers and ex-writers began a new on-line magazine for their refugee works:

Group Gropes. FORTH, the Edinburgh sf fan group, has now 'found a new home after a few unsavoury experiences in dodgy pubs – The Oxford Bar, 8 Young St, from around 8:30pm each Tuesday.' [JD]

A252 Addenda. Michael Capobianco on that 'SFWA' fraud: 'The perpetrator of the contest has been reported to both the US Postal Inspector and the Office of the California District Attorney. You should know that in the US, at least, it's quite difficult to get the authorities to take this kind of scam seriously. SFWA's Writer Beware has made intensive efforts to get much more egregious literary scammers arrested, and has had a few notable successes, but, in general, if the amounts scammed are only $10 a pop, as with this scam contest, the authorities don't have time for it.' Later, 31 July: 'I just heard from the San Diego branch of the US Postal Inspection Service. They're going to follow up on the complaint.'
Jack Speer obituary clarification: he was the last surviving founder member of FAPA who was still a member.

Thog's Masterclass. Morning After Ray Bradbury Dept. 'The green feather of nausea blew through his intestines as if, during the night, he had polished off a keg of dandelion wine.' (Jeffrey Ford, The Cosmology of the Wider World, 2005) [MM]
Dept of Dynamic Cartography. 'The meridian drifted at a thousand miles an hour across the Pacific ...' (Bill Napier, Nemesis, 1998) [CM]
Planetary Colony Disaster Dept. 'We found that all the planets were being drawn quickly towards the sun, and the effect this extra-sudden dash had on Mars was catastrophic. All the oxygen, we learned from the one lucky space-ship crew who got back safely, was absorbed into space by the action of a violent earthquake ...' (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
6-10 Aug 2008, Denvention 3 (Worldcon), Denver, USA
8-10 Aug 2008, Wolf Galactica 4 (BSG), Heathrow
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
1-2 Nov 2008, UnCon 2008 (Forteana), London
7-9 Nov 2008, ArmadaCon XX, Plymouth
11 Nov 2008 - 4 Jan 2009, Science Fact & Science Fiction exhibition, National Space Centre, Leicester
14-16 Nov 2008, Novacon 38, Bentley, Walsall
5-7 Dec 2008, Battlestar Starfury (BSG), Heathrow
20-24 Jan 2009, Wyrd Sisters: The Directors' Cut (play), Abingdon
6-8 Feb 2009, AXXIdental (filk), Grantham
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
19-21 Jun 2009, Aetherica (fantasy), Chester
CANCELLED: 26-29 Jun 2009, Sectus 2009 (Harry Potter), North Wales
25-26 Jul 2009, Satellite 2, Glasgow
31 July - 2 August 2009, Constitution (sf, fantasy, RPG), Cambridge
6-10 Aug 2009, Anticipation (67th Worldcon), Montréal, Canada
2-5 Apr 2010, Odyssey 2010 (Eastercon), Heathrow


• 7 Aug 2008: Richard Morgan signing, Forbidden Planet, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR. 6-7pm.
• 8 Aug 2008: Brum Group. Summer Social meal at Black Eagle pub (advance booking only).
• 9 Aug 2008: Raymond Briggs & Bryan Talbot, ICA, London. 2:30pm. £10, £9 concessions, £8 members. Box office 020 7930 3647. [Originally announced for 2 Aug and postponed.]
• 22 Aug 2008: Alan Grant & Bryan Talbot, Edinburgh
Literary Festival. 8:30pm.
• 6 Sep 2008: Sarah Ash, Chaz Brenchley, Deborah J. Miller & Jessica Rydill Saunders at the West London Literary Festival, Main Tent, Walpole Park, Ealing, London W5. 1pm-2pm.
• 12 Sep 2008: Brum Group, Briar Rose, Bennett Hill, Birmingham city centre. With James Barclay. 7.45pm. £4; members £3. Contact 07845 897760 or 4bhamsfgroup at yahoo co uk.

Random Links. See the latest additions here:

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

Orson Scott Card sees 'the end of democracy in America' and very nearly urges the overthrow of the US government and the country's 'insane Constitution', for reasons not all of us may share:

Random Fandom II. Moshe Feder has started an email list for fannish cat-lovers, subtly named The Bastion. 'Any reader of Ansible interested in joining may write to me at moshe at feder dot name.'
David A. Hardy reports stunning upheavals at the ASFA (Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists): 'I am the new Vice President – the first time this has been a European, or Brit even.'
Marcia Illingworth (and Tim) have the wanderlust: 'Bell House, the home of the annual Illingworth barbie for the last ten years, is for sale, and we would love to see it stay in fandom. The asking price at the moment is £350,000. Drop us a line if interested, to marcia at bellhouse org uk. Our plans are to return to the States by the end of the year, for a variety of reasons.' That's Coveney, Ely, Cambs.
Terry Martin sends a late plug: 'Low Energy Day (30 August) is a really laid back grass roots comic and graphic strips "convention". A mixture of garage publishers and slick productions. No-one gets to have their own table like at a proper convention (four dealers to a table!) ... but best of all you don't have to pay as a visitor – it's totally free! Plus you get the attractions of the rest of Camden Lock Market (the "original" Camden market) with its bars and eating places, and in a great location.'

Editorial. Envious best wishes to all of you who'll be at the Denver Worldcon (which I can't afford) and the Discworld Convention (which I ... um, it's complicated). As usual, Martin Hoare will be the official Langford-surrogate at Worldcon, with full power to refuse drinks on my behalf. Try offering him one, and see for yourself.

Ansible 253 Copyright © Dave Langford, 2008. Thanks to Paul Barnett, David V Barrett, The Bookseller, James H. Burns, Jim Darroch, Janice Gelb, Dan Goodman, Steve Green, David K.M. Klaus, Linda Krawecke, Locus, Chris Moore, Murray Moore, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Marti McKenna, Mark Plummer, Andrew I. Porter, Publishers Lunch, Steve Rogerson, Andy Sawyer, Barbara Stewart, Peter Weston, Martin Morse Wooster and Hero Distributors: Vernon Brown (Brum Group), Janice Murray (NA), SCIS/Prophecy, and Alan Stewart (Australia). 2 Aug 08.