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Ansible 260, March 2009

Cartoon: Alan Hunter

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: Alan Hunter. Available for SAE or the punth of the torange.

Editorial. No urgency about this, but the traditional Langford/Ansible contact email (ansible at cix co uk) is changing: drl at ansible co uk.

A World of Difference

Martin Amis and Howard Jacobson, speaking at Manchester University last month, revealed their unique stature in comedy: '"You see before you the last two comic British novelists," Amis announced. "If I had to pick three pieces of prose to make you laugh," Jacobson said, "one would be by Martin and the other two would be mine."' This 21 February Guardian report (by our very own Nick Royle) provoked a reader's letter published one week later: 'Someone tell them that it's OK, they can relax: Terry Pratchett is still here. In fact, elsewhere in the same week's news, he was at Buckingham Palace, being knighted for services to literature.' (Jean Rogers, 28 February)

Will F. Jenkins is to have his own day in Virginia, whose state legislature passed a resolution commending him for the sf he wrote as Murray Leinster and designating 27 June 2009 as 'Will F. Jenkins Day in Virginia in recognition of the author's creative genius and his numerous literary achievements'. Cited stories in the resolution include 'Exploration Team', 'First Contact', 'A Logic Named Joe' and 'Sidewise in Time'; the Hugo and Sidewise awards both get a mention. [SHS]

Stephen King assessed fellow-writers in a USA Weekend interview. Harry Potter vs. Twilight: 'The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn ... She's not very good.' Dean Koontz is 'sometimes ... just awful.' ( [FL] Meanwhile, a Californian loon known as Steve Lightfoot continues to push his revelation that in 1980 Stephen King killed John Lennon. [BB]

Warren Lapine has been researching 'online complaints that were made about myself and DNA Publications, Inc. just before it went out of business. [... M]any of the complaints that were posted online were flat out not true. At the time, there was nothing I could do about it. Currently, I have an attorney contacting the people who have posted actionable material to have it corrected or removed. The legal term that applies here is Resurrection Of A Lie.' (LiveJournal, February) [JN]

J.K. Rowling was made a knight of the French Legion of Honour by President Nicolas Sarkozy, and profusely thanked France 'for not having held a grudge against me for having given a French name to my evil character', i.e. Lord Voldemort. (AP, 3 February) [AIP]

William Shatner's ambition to be Canada's Prime Minister was picked up as straight news, though humour experts like Martin Amis and Howard Jacobson might just suspect a leg-pull. On receiving a fan letter that urged him to put himself forward as the country's Governor General, Shatner loftily replied: 'My intention is to be Prime Minister of Canada ... I don't have time to be Governor General.' Who does? [DKMK]

Michael Swanwick reports: 'Gardner Dozois, Susan Casper, and I drove to Lincoln Park, New Jersey, recently to sort through Janet Kagan's papers and decide which were to go to the Jack Williamson Collection in Eastern New Mexico University. Among the many finds (and there were some good ones!) were the scripts Janet wrote in her misspent youth for two porn flicks. They had survived a house fire and thus their edges were blackened, making them look, appropriately enough, to be scorched by the flames of Hell.' (8 February)

Vernor Vinge has been quietly airbrushed out of history, as far as the San Francisco Chronicle is concerned: 'Singularity University, which will be housed on the NASA Ames base near Mountain View and begin classes in June, is the brainchild of Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis. [...] At the core of the university's mission is Kurzweil's theory of "Technological Singularity," which theorizes that a number of exponentially growing technologies – such as nanotechnology and biotechnology – will massively increase human intelligence over the next two decades and fundamentally reshape the future of humanity. In his 2005 book, "The Singularity is Near," Kurzweil famously predicted that artificial intelligence would soon allow machines to improve themselves with unforeseeable consequences.' (3 February) [DB] No mere science fiction writer could have conceived such wonders. Especially not in the 1980s.


14 Mar • Into Deepest Space (Fred Hoyle exhibition), Old Library, St John's College, Cambridge, CB2 1TP. 10am-4pm. Exhibit of 'papers and artefacts' open to all; 'hands-on activity' (illustrating Ossian's Ride) sessions must be booked via 01223 766766 or csf at admin cam ac uk.

21 Mar • God in the Lab (skeptics), Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL. 10:30am-4pm £10 at door; students £5.

25 Mar • BSFA Open Meeting, The Antelope, 22 Eaton Terrace, London, SW1W 8EZ. 5/6pm onward.

26-29 Mar • Eurocon 2009 (with Deepcon 10, Italcon 35), Fiuggi, Italy. Advance booking closed. €95 at door; students (<26) €35; children (<6) free. Contact eurocon at euroconsf2009 dot it.

27-29 Mar • P-Con VI, Central Hotel, Dublin. €30/£20 reg; €35 at door. Students €15. €10 supp. Contact c/o 6 Weston Ave,Lucan, Co Dublin, Ireland. Euro cheques to Peter McClean; sterling to 'Dave Lally #2 a/c', 64 Richbourne Terrace, London, SW8 1AX.

31 Mar - 1 Apr • Middlesex University Literary Festival. Iain Banks speaks 4:15-6:15pm on 1 April. Contact Middlesex U, Trent Park Campus, Bramley Rd, London, N14 4YZ; mdxlitfest at googlemail com.

29 Apr • Clarke Award presentation, London. By invitation.

29 Apr - 4 May • Sci-Fi London (film), Apollo Piccadilly Cinema, 19 Regent St, London, SW1Y 4LY. Box office 020 7451 9944.

21 Jun • SF, Fantasy and Horror Conference, University of Glamorgan, Treforest Campus, CF37 1DL. 10am-4:30pm. With Jasper Fforde and others. £5; £3 concessions. Bookings 029 2047 2266.

18-20 Sep • Fantasycon, Britannia Hotel, 1 St James St, Nottingham. GoH Brian Clemens, Jasper Fforde. £50 reg (BFS members £40), rising to £60 (£50) on 1 April. Contact Beech House, Chapel Lane, Moulton, Cheshire, CW9 8PQ.

26-27 Sep • NewCon 5, The Fishmarket, Northampton. POSTPONED until 2010 because the future of the Fishmarket venue is now in doubt. Contact 41 Wheatsheaf Rd, Alconbury Weston, Cambs, PE28 4LF.

5-7 Mar 10 • P-Con VII, Central Hotel, Dublin (probably). GoH and other details to be announced at this year's P-Con VI – see above.

25-28 Mar 10 • World Horror Convention, Brighton. GoH announced: Tanith Lee. £60 reg. Contact PO Box 64317, London, NW6 9LL.

25-27 Feb 11 • Redemption '11 (multimedia sf), Britannia Hotel, Fairfax St, Coventry, CV1 5RP. £40 reg until 20 April 09; £50 to 31 August 10; £60 to 11 February 11 (when advance bookings close); £65 at door. Under-18s and supp £15; under 3 free. Contact 61 Chaucer Road, Farnborough, Hampshire, GU14 8SP.

Rumblings. Reno in 2011, as speculated in A259, has no opposition for its Worldcon bid. The Seattle bid couldn't secure a facilities contract by the 6 February 2009 paperwork deadline, and withdrew on that day. • Europe Worldcon Plans. 2014 is the preferred bid year, and UK/Netherlands research has found two front-runner venues: ExCel London and (ah, nostalgia) the Glasgow SECC. If the site and year can be confirmed this year as hoped, expect a bid launch at Eastercon 2010. [JB]

Infinitely Improbable

As Others See Us. From Metro's article on a Kentucky phenomenon: 'The Creation Museum, like Hollywood, doesn't let science get in the way of a good story and has enlisted a small band of "creationist scientists", who give talks and present papers. They look like scientists, sound like scientists and even smell like scientists but in my mind at least – if not those of the other visitors here – their beliefs have more in common with science fiction ...' (6 February) [BA]

Product Placement. Stephen King was persuaded by Amazon to write a Kindle-exclusive story which features a Kindle ('I thought I had a chance to say something about reading on the computer'). [PL] Ansible will be most disappointed if this fictional Kindle fails to be a malevolent device imbued with the soul of a serial killer, which like the Necronomicon or The King in Yellow brings terror and madness to its readers.

Clarke Award. The 'longlist' of all 46 submitted novels appeared on 11 February at Torque Control (the ACCA's own site had been hacked and wasn't then available). Stephen Hunt's The Kingdom Beyond the Waves was agreed to be ineligible, since his SFCrowsnest team supplied one of the judges. Shortlist announcement expected mid-March.

As Others See Fanzines. 'They were invented by fans of trashy science fiction novels in the 1930s before their hand-written Xeroxed pages chronicled the birth of punk.' (Stuart Nicholson, BBC, 25 Feb)

R.I.P. Robert C. Broughton (1917-2009), US camera effects specialist who worked on virtually every Disney film from Snow White (1937) to The Black Hole (1979), died on 19 January aged 91. [PDF]
Hortense Calisher (1911-2009) US mainstream writer whose work includes horror, alternate history (Journal from Ellipsia, 1965) and even spacegoing sf (Mysteries of Motion, 1983), died on 13 January; she was 97. [JC]
Chuck Crayne (1938-2009), US fan who was a founder of the NASFiC and Bouchercon, died on 16 February – his 71st birthday. [AIP]
Philip José Farmer (1918-2009), long-time US sf author who needs no introduction, died on 25 February; he had celebrated his 91st birthday on 26 January. He won Hugos as Most Promising New Author in 1953, following his pioneering alien-sex stories 'The Lovers' (1952); for 'Riders of the Purple Wage' in Dangerous Visions (1967); and for To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971), opening the popular Riverworld series. He was perhaps best loved for the exuberant science-fantasies of his World of Tiers, beginning with The Maker of Universes (1965). The elaborately recursive Wold Newton saga cheekily assumes that a single extended family of mutant supermen includes Tarzan, Doc Savage, Sherlock Homes, Fu Manchu, and so on to Nero Wolfe and James Bond. His sense of fun was irrepressible. Writing – with Kurt Vonnegut's permission – as Kilgore Trout, Farmer unwittingly created a lasting embarrassment to Vonnegut in Venus on the Half Shell (1975). In 2001, SFWA honoured him as a Grand Master.
Stuart Gordon (Richard A.S. Gordon, 1947-2009), Scots-born writer whose 1965 sf debut was in New Worlds and whose early novels included Time Story (1972) and the Eyes trilogy beginning with One-Eye (1973), died on 7 February. He was 61. [DP]
Robert Quarry (1925-2009), US actor in various sf films who played the title role in Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) and its sequel, died on 20 February aged 83. [SFS]
Edward Upward (1903-2009), UK writer whose work (including the Mortmere stories, with Christopher Isherwood) was often touched with surreal fantasy, died on 13 February. [PDF] At 105 he was thought to be Britain's oldest living author.

Astronomy Masterclass. 'A New York City apartment is like a home on the moon. For all intents and purposes there isn't anybody else around for a million miles.' (Donald E. Westlake, The Mercenaries aka The Smashers, 1960) [BT]

Outraged Letters. Jim Meadows reminisces: 'The Patrick McGoohan movie that left an impression with me for some reason was the 1960s Disney fantasy The Three Lives of Tomasina, based on a Paul Gallico book about a cat that literally has multiple lives. I think a witch was involved somewhere. Patrick McGoohan played the mandatory normal person who discovered all the supernatural goings-on.'

As Others See Us. Literary agent Julie Barer marvels: 'This is going to sound crazy, but I read a novel this summer that blew me away, and it's science fiction. I'm not usually drawn to science fiction, but it was so inventive and original and smart, and it took me somewhere I'd never been.' (Poets & Writers, January/February 2009) [RF]

C.o.A. Jay Kinney (not a real move; former PO box closed), 3165-A 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103-3334, USA.
Howard Waldrop, 2202 East 22 St, Austin, TX 78722, USA.

As Others See Some Of Us. The third week of February was reportedly a good one for 'GUYS WHO GO TO STAR TREK CONVENTIONS, after two Chicago women launched a niche dating service called Nerds at Heart. "The people are better looking than you'd expect," says co-founder Bathsheba Birman.' (The Week, 20 February) [MMW]

SFWA Awards. Nebula shortlist: NOVEL Cory Doctorow, Little Brother; Ursula K. Le Guin, Powers; Jack McDevitt, Cauldron; Ian McDonald, Brasyl; Terry Pratchett, Making Money; David J. Schwartz, Superpowers.
NOVELLA Catherine Asaro, 'The Spacetime Pool' (Analog 3/08); Gregory Benford, 'Dark Heaven' (Alien Crimes); Kelley Eskridge, 'Dangerous Space' (Dangerous Space); Charles Coleman Finlay, 'The Political Prisoner' (F&SF 8/08); Vera Nazarian, The Duke in His Castle.
NOVELETTE Richard Bowes, 'If Angels Fight' (F&SF 2/08); James Alan Gardner, 'The Ray Gun: A Love Story' (Asimov's 2/08); Lisa Goldstein, 'Dark Rooms' (Asimov's 10/07); John Kessel, 'Pride and Prometheus' (F&SF 1/08); Mary Rosenblum, 'Night Wind' (Lace and Blade); Johanna Sinisalo, 'Baby Doll' (SFWA European Hall of Fame); K.D. Wentworth, 'Kaleidoscope' (F&SF 5/07).
SHORT Mike Allen, 'The Button Bin' (Helix 10/07); Jeffrey Ford, 'The Dreaming Wind' (The Coyote Road); Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 'Trophy Wives' (Fellowship Fantastic); Kij Johnson, '26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss' (Asimov's 7/08); Gwyneth Jones, 'The Tomb Wife' (F&SF 8/07); James Patrick Kelly, 'Don't Stop' (Asimov's 6/07); Ruth Nestvold, 'Mars: A Traveler's Guide' (Asimov's 1/08).
SCRIPT The Dark Knight, The Shrine, WALL-E.
NORTON (YA) Kristin Cashore, Graceling; D.M. Cornish, Lamplighter; Ingrid Law, Savvy; Mary E. Pearson, The Adoration of Jenna Fox; Ysabeau S. Wilce, Flora's Dare.
• The new Solstice awards are life achievement honours which differ from Grandmaster and Author Emeritus in that winners need not be writers and are allowed to be dead. 2009 winners are Kate Wilhelm, Martin H. Greenberg and the late Algis Budrys. The Bradbury award for genre drama went to Joss Whedon. Both these are presidential awards, not voted on by the SFWA membership at large, though the Solstices need majority approval from the board of directors.

Random Fandom. The UK SF Fandom Archive at Glasgow U, set up by Naveed Khan in the early 1990s, was deleted without warning or explanation this February. Ansible moved to my own webspace in 2005 (see A219 for the sordid details) and I've restored most of the other material, but there are a lot of now-broken links out there....
Steven H. Silver seeks Murray Leinster reminiscences, appreciations and photos for a memory book to be presented to the family on ML Day (see above). Send by 31 May to murrayleinsterday at gmail com.

A259 Updates. 5,271,009 readers told me important things about Robbie the Robot and Lost in Space which I have already forgotten.
Ellen Datlow escaped her London hospital ordeal and on 9 February posted (from New York) that 'I'm home and happy as a clam.'

More Film Awards. Oscars: Heath Ledger as supporting actor in The Dark Knight, which also won for sound editing. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button got art direction, makeup and visual effects, and WALL-E won as animated feature.
• Mark Leeper on the On-line Film Critic Society awards for 2008: 'For what is probably the first time, the majority of awards went to fantasy films.' WALL-E: best picture, original screenplay, animated feature. The Dark Knight: director (Christopher Nolan), supporting actor (Heath Ledger), cinematography, score. Let the Right One In: adapted screenplay, foreign language film, breakthrough performance (Lina Leandersson) and film-maker (Tomas Alfredson).

The Dead Past. Fifty Years Ago there was Brumcon 59, when Easter fell in March: 'Last weekend, the first British convention to be held under the auspices of the British Science Fiction Association took place at the Imperial Hotel Birmingham. [...] Guest of Honour was Kenneth F. Slater who spent a small fortune buying coffee for late and all-night revellers!' (Skyrack 1, ed Ron Bennett, April 1959)

Thog's Masterclass. Novel Fantasy Scenarios Dept. 'It was hinted that the mythical sorceress, Aslewzia, had returned from her ice cave tomb where she had long been interred by heroes and wizards of eld, sealed with the Seven Abominable Signs of Umdrilkesh. Fear was in the land, in the snow, in the icy air, in the whispers of grand dames and grand sires, in the squealings of children and in the murmurings in the courts of kings. It was always the same: "Aslewzia the Eight-Armed, the Weaver of the Web of Death, the Spider Witch, the Long-Interred Sorceress, the Sorceress of Bale, is coming and will once again be among us to reestablish her Ice Throne of Topaz and Carnelian."' (Michael J. Fantina, 'Return of the Spider Witch', Strange Tales 4:2, 2005) [DL]
Dept of Possible Influences. 'The city slept. Men slept. Women slept. Children slept. Dogs and cats slept.' (Leo Brett [Lionel Fanthorpe], March of the Robots, 1961)
Astrogation Dept. 'I was wondering if we could find some cloud of dust to anchor to ...' (Clive Trent [Victor Rousseau], 'Human Pyramid', Spicy-Adventure Stories, April 1941) [DL]
Dept of Emotional Diagnosis. 'My face drew back from my skull as if I were vomiting and tears ran from my eyes like blood from gashes. I was sad –' (Neal Stephenson, Anathem, 2008) [AR]
Stony Expressions Dept. 'Her face seemed to have been stripped from a Mt. Rushmore of condescension.' (Katherine Neville, The Fire, 2008) [MMW]
House of Flying Digits Dept. 'He hurled his pointing finger at Gizamon, then pounded his fist on his chest.' (Laura Joh Rowland, The Snow Empress, 2007) [TAG]
Dept of Too Much Vindaloo. 'She was a human arrow, burning flames at both ends, fired toward a single purpose.' (Ibid)

Geeks' Corner

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Conventions/Events Links
Editorial Shirking Alert! I'm tired of maintaining the former 'longlist' here, which was simply a plain-text duplicate of the listing at 'Active links' below. Go on, follow the link instead.
• Active links at
• London meetings/events –
• Overseas –


• 13 Mar 2009: Brum Group, Briar Rose, Bennett Hill, Birmingham city centre. With Tony Ballantyne. 7:30pm for 8pm. £4; members £3. Contact 07845 897760 or bhamsfgroup at yahoo co uk. Future speakers include Bob Blackham on 8 May; John Jarrold on 12 June; Jo Fletcher on 10 July.
• 2 Apr 2009: Juliet E McKenna talks at The Corner Club, Oxford. 7-8 pm. Tickets £5.00. Oxfringe event:
• 4 Apr 2009: Sarah Ash, Chaz Brenchley, Mark Chadbourn, Juliet E McKenna, Ben Jeapes talk at Borders Bookshop, Oxford. 6pm-7:30pm. Free. Oxfringe event, as above.

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

Fanfundery. DUFF 2009 runs from Australasia to Anticipation, the 2009 Montréal Worldcon. Nominations are open, closing 15 March; voting should then continue until 17 May. More here:
TAFF reminder: European candidates for the TAFF trip to Anticipation are Steve Green and Tom Womack. Voting continues to mid-April.

Outraged Letters II. Andrew I. Porter on the fatal flaw of A259: 'Another good issue, marred by all those lies Andy Porter sent you.'

John Scalzi urged the readers of his hugely popular blog to nominate or suggest the nomination of any candidate for this year's Best Fan Writer Hugo category 'who has not won the award in, oh, let's say, the last 20 years'. I couldn't possibly comment.

2011 Worldcon Site Selection. Vote for Reno, or Reno!

As The Book Trade Sees Us. Robert Day sent The Bookseller's coverage of 'a fascinating evening of tomgeekery known as the Great Gollancz Quiz. In a misleading understatement, the invite warned of "tough questions" but luckily there were numerous employees of sci-fi and cult retailer Forbidden Planet on hand, providing a greater help in answering than the plethora of Gollancz authors present, I might add.' Especially thrilling was the final 'Plug-a-minute' round, a contest of naked hype between the 11 authors: 'Given 60 seconds to hype their latest novel, most chose to use the 60 seconds to lambaste [sic] a delightfully game Joe Abercrombie, who began proceedings with the statement that his forthcoming Best served cold contained "tongue-chewing action". Adam Roberts, meanwhile, confessed to the audience: "I love you all ... because I've had a lot of free beer."' (27 February) Alex Bell, author and glutton, takes up the tale here:

Ansible 260 Copyright © Dave Langford, 2009. Thanks to Brian Ameringen, James Bacon, Barbara Barrett, Damien Broderick, John Clute, Paul Di Filippo, Rose Fox, Terry A. Garey, David K.M. Klaus, Denny Lien, Frank Lunney, James Nicoll, Andrew I. Porter, Chris Priest, David Pringle, Publishers Lunch, Adam Roberts, SF Site, Steven H Silver, Bruce Townley, Martin Morse Wooster, and our Hero Distributors: Vernon Brown (BSFG), Janice Murray (North America), SCIS/Prophecy, Alan Stewart (Australia). 2 Mar 09.