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Ansible 262, May 2009

Cartoon: Brad W. Foster

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: Brad Foster. Available for SAE or shirts woven from crel filaments.

A Swarm in May

Erik Arthur of London's Fantasy Centre bookshop broke the bad news: 'Be the first to know that Ted [Ball] and Erik have decided that once our lease expires in June, we shall not renew it and Fantasy Centre will close down after nearly forty years of trading.' (2 April)

Margaret Atwood returns to a strangely familiar position while chatting to the New York Times: 'Her nightmarish, futuristic scenarios have caused some of her books to be tagged as science fiction, though she thinks that genre doesn't quite fit – "since there aren't aliens and spaceships and the other usual things," she said.' [MF] Tut, Ms Atwood, you forgot to mention the talking squid in outer space.

J.G. Ballard coverage (see R.I.P. below, alas) has been rightly extensive. On 25 April The Guardian published his last short story 'The Dying Fall' as though it were hot news straight from the deathbed, without bothering to cite its appearance in the April 1996 Interzone. A Guardian correction, with Interzone credit, appeared on 1 May. [DP]

Terry Bisson notes how the world sees sf. 'News opinionator Keith Olberman on the US torture memos: "Today, Mr. President, in acknowledging these science-fiction-like documents, you said that ..." etc.'

Tessa B. Dick, Philip K. Dick's widow, is suing the estate's production company Electric Shepherd and various others (including the literary agency and Dick's daughter Laura Leslie), alleging she has been evilly deprived of proceeds from Ubik and A Scanner Darkly. [cj]

L. Ron Hubbard fans who recall bitter disputes and lawsuits over the carefully documented biographical revelations in Russell Miller's Bare-Faced Messiah will be surprised to learn that 'the basic outline of L. Ron Hubbard's life is not contested.' All negativity – including many a judicial condemnation – has seemingly been excluded from Scientology ed. James R. Lewis, published by the Oxford! University! Press!

Terry Pratchett unveiled street signs on a new housing estate in Wincanton, Somerset, which by popular local vote had been named for streets in his Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork: Treacle Mine Road and Peach Pie Street. 'Personally I'd pay good money to live somewhere called Treacle Mine Road.' (Telegraph and Metro, 5 and 6 April) [JB]

Brian Stableford, despite a crippling attack of the third person, feels quietly smug: 'Thanks to sudden clearance of the revived Borgo Press's backlog, Brian Stableford published eight books in the month of March (plus one in January, one in February and one in April), which is probably not a record but must be a trifle unusual. The eleven titles published so far this year include three novels, three short story collections, one non-fiction book, three essay collections and an anthology of translations from the French. He has only delivered one volume so far this year but will deliver another five before the end of April, in the hope of maintaining the flow while he is still able to work.'

Bryan Talbot outed himself as an artistic cross-dresser – confessing that the 'new' 'French' artist Veronique Tanaka, creator of last year's stylistically weird comic Metronome, is in fact Bryan Talbot. [JG]


Click here for longlist with links.

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

18-21 May • SF & Fantasy Writing (writers' course), Kingston University London, Penrhyn Road Campus, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, KT1 2EE. 6pm-9pm. With Paul McAuley. £180; students £120. Contact 020 8417 7790 or fassshortcourse-info at kingston ac uk.

23-25 May • plokta.con 4.0, Sunningdale Park, Berks. £30 reg (also at the door), under-17s £15, under-12s free. Rooms £80/night twin/double, £60 single. Cheques to Plokta c/o 13 Collette Court, Eleanor Close, London, SE16 6PW; PayPal to mike at plokta dot com.

27 May • BSFA Open Meeting, The Antelope, 22 Eaton Terrace, London, SW1W 8EZ. 5/6pm onward. With Jaine Fenn.

31 Jul - 2 Aug • Constitution (sf/f/RPG and Unicon) hosting HarmUni 4 (filk), Murray Edwards College (formerly known as New Hall), Cambridge. Now £25 reg, rising to £30 on 1 July. Contact 207 Campkin Rd, Cambridge, CB4 2LE.

11-13 Sep • The Asylum (steampunk), Lincoln. Now £35 reg. Online booking (£1 surcharge):

10-11 Oct • Octocon 2009, Camden Court Hotel, Camden St, Dublin 2 (new venue as predicted). GoH Mike Carey, Dave Lally. Rates still awaited. Contact octocon2009 at gmail com.

19-21 March 10 • Corflu Cobalt, Winchester Hotel, Winchester. £40/$55 reg or £10/$15 supp to 31 May 09. Rooms £80/night twin/double. Sterling to 45 Kimberley Gardens, London, N4 1LD. US$: Robert Lichtman, 11037 Broadway Tce, Oakland, CA 94611-1948, USA.

2-5 Apr 10 • Odyssey 2010 (Eastercon), Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Heathrow, London. Now £55 reg. See the website for unwaged, junior, child and infant concessions. Contact: 5 Langhaul Rd, Crookston, Glasgow, G53 7SE.

25-27 Feb 11 • Redemption '11 (multimedia sf), Britannia Hotel, Fairfax St, Coventry, CV1 5RP. Now £50 reg. Contact 61 Chaucer Road, Farnborough, Hampshire, GU14 8SP.

RumblingsEuro-Worldcon 2014 bid: still considering Glasgow, London and (a smaller option) the Hague. Constitutional stuff now in progress: Mike Scott and Steve Cooper are standing as co-chairs. [JB]

Infinitely Improbable

As Others See Some Of Us. Vanity Fair on the NY Times publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr: 'While clearly smart, Arthur is not especially intellectual. For what it's worth, he is a Star Trek fan.' [GS]
• The Daily Telegraph reckons Trek fandom is utterly changed by the new film: 'We all know what your typical Trekkie looks like: he wears a rancid, bulging T-shirt over his enormous Comic-Book-Guy-style belly, reeks of Pot Noodles, lives alone, communicates in fluent Klingon and never tires of explaining that proper Star Trek fans call themselves Trekkers – never Trekkies. / Not any more.' (James Delingpole, 22 April) [MPJ]

Awards. Arthur C. Clarke: Ian R. MacLeod, Song of Time.
BSFA. Novel: Ken MacLeod, The Night Sessions. Short: Ted Chiang, 'Exhalation' (Eclipse 2). Nonfiction: Farah Mendlesohn, Rhetorics of Fantasy. Artwork: Andy Bigwood, cover of Subterfuge ed. Ian Whates.
Philip K. Dick: Adam-Troy Castro, Emissaries from the Dead, and David Walton, Terminal Mind (tie).
David Gemmell Legend (heroic fantasy) shortlist: Joe Abercrombie, Last Argument of Kings; Juliet Marillier, Heir to Sevenwaters; Brandon Sanderson, The Hero of Ages; Andrzej Sapkowski, Blood of Elves; Brent Weeks, The Way of Shadows.
LA Times Book Prizes: Terry Pratchett's Nation won the YA category.
Nebulas. Novel: Ursula K. Le Guin, Powers. Novella: Catherine Asaro, 'The Spacetime Pool' (Analog 3/08). Novelette: John Kessel, 'Pride and Prometheus' (F&SF 1/08). Short: Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 'Trophy Wives' (Fellowship Fantastic). Script: WALL-E. Andre Norton (YA): Ysabeau S. Wilce, Flora's Dare [inordinately long subtitle omitted]. New Nebula rules now come into effect, removing 'rolling eligibility' so the Nebulas are given for work published in the USA in the previous calendar year only. One oddity of the old system was that the Nebulas presented in 2007, notionally for 2006, went without exception to work published in 2005.
SF Hall of Fame inductees for 2009: Edward L. Ferman, Frank R. Paul, Michael Whelan, Connie Willis.
Tiptree: Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and Nisi Shawl, Filter House (collection). [PM]

Better Than Food Pills. The C.C.W. Flask (Chemically Combined Water Flask) is not only light and portable, but 'practically inexhaustible'. Thus: 'Strongly made in two compartments, opening by a pinhole aperture into a common tube near the neck, and filled respectively with pure compressed oxygen and hydrogen, all that was needed was gently to press a brass stud which, allowing the gases to combine as they issued from their apertures, formed at once H20, or pure water. The flask was said to hold the equivalent of 1,000 gallons of water.' ('Luke Courteney', Travels in the Interior, 1887) And it's very handy for making tea or coffee: '... by simply pressing the stud harder, and thus allowing the gases to combine more rapidly, I can produce any temperature of water up to boiling.' [AR]

Magazine Scene. M.J. Simpson reports: 'Visual Imagination appears to be no more. There has been no sign of a new Starburst, Shivers, TV Zone or Cult Times since before Christmas and the company has several outstanding court judgements, some of them very large. They still owe me twenty quid but I've written that off. Perhaps Visimag will be reborn but it seems unlikely. / Somewhat more startling is that Starlog seems to have ceased publication although the website continues as an adjunct to the still successful Fangoria. [...] Both Starburst and Starlog have been published continually for more than thirty years.' Starlog describes the suspension of its print edition after issue #374 as 'temporary cessation'.
• At Wildside Press, H.P. Lovecraft's Magazine of Horror has merged with Weird Tales. [DL]
Apex Magazine is suspending publication after its May issue, says publisher Jason Sizemore.

In Spellcheck Veritas. From the Philadelphia Inquirer's feature on Samuel R. Delany: '"His range of characters was unprecedented," said Philadelphia sci-fi and fantasy writer Michael Swankier, author of The Dragons of Babel.' (5 April) Later the piece quotes a curator at the SF Hall of Fame saying that SRD was 'writing in opposition to the golden age of science fiction, with its brassy broads and manly dudes with ray guns' – an era which, as PI staffer Tirdad Derakhshani helpfully adds, was 'ushered in by Asimov and Heinlein'. Ushered in? H'mm.

As Others See Us. On Red Dwarf and coolth: 'For all his veniality and selfishness, Cat was a cool, smart dresser, unlike most Red Dwarf fans, who smelt of piss.' (Patrick West, spiked, 3 April) [KMcL]

R.I.P. Dave Arneson (1947-2009), co-creator with the late Gary Gygax of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game, died from cancer on 7 April; he was 61. [MR]
Bea(trice) Arthur (1922-2009), US actress who appeared in the dire Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) and did voice work for Futurama, died on 22 April aged 86. [LP]
J.G. Ballard (1930-2009), another author who needs no introduction, died from cancer on 19 April; he was 78. His remarkable short stories of the late 1950s and through the 1960s, infused with surrealism and offbeat psychology, rearranged the spectrum of sf possibilities. Memorable novels followed, moving from the poetic sf of The Drowned World (1962) and The Crystal World (1966) to such near-mainstream fictions as the controversial Crash (1973). His haunting fictionalization of his own childhood in wartime Shanghai, Empire of the Sun (1984), was a bestseller and was filmed. At his best he depth-charged our minds with unforgettable imagery. Who could forget 'The Voices of Time'?
Jack Cardiff (1914-2009), UK cinematographer who worked on Things to Come and The Man Who Could Work Miracles in 1936 and photographed A Matter of Life and Death (1946), died on 22 April aged 94. [BB] Later work included Ghost Story (1981) Conan the Destroyer (1984), Call from Space (1989) and Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart (2004) – a long career indeed.
Tom Deitz (1952-2009), US fan and author of some 20 fantasy novels beginning with Windmaster's Bane (1986) and including the 1991-1993 Soulsmith trilogy, died on 27 April.
John Fairfax (1930-2009), UK poet, editor and co-founder of the Arvon Foundation, whose Frontier of Going (1969) was an important early anthology of sf poetry, died on 14 January; he was 78. [SS]
Hans Holzer (1920-2009), Austrian-born paranormal pundit and prolific nonfiction author who studied the 'Amityville Horror' case and wrote two novels about it (plus other supernatural fictions including the Randy Knowles: Psychic Detective series), died on 26 April. He was 89. [PDF]
Larry Maddock (Jack Jardine, 1931-2009), US author of the 1960s 'Agent of T.E.R.R.A.' series whose 4 volumes began with The Flying Saucer Gambit (1966), died on 14 April aged 77. [DP] He also wrote as Arthur Farmer and, with his wife Julie Ann Jardine, as Howard L Cory.
Ken Rand (1946-2009), US author of Phoenix (2004), several subsequent genre novels and many short stories, died on 21 April; he was 62. [L]
Frank Springer (1929-2009), US comics artist who worked on The Phantom, Nick Fury, Spider-Man and Batman (among others), and also drew comics parodies for National Lampoon, died on 2 April aged 79. [DKMK]

As Others Remember Us. Question from quizmaster Dale Winton on BBC1's In It To Win It: 'Which fictional character was also called Lord Greystoke?' Contestant: 'Lawrence of Arabia.' [PE]

TAFF. Steve Green won the 2009 westbound TransAtlantic Fan Fund race with a first-round majority and will travel to this year's Worldcon in Montréal, Canada. Voting: Steve 150, Tom Womack 15, No Preference 10, Hold Over Funds 0.
• Suzanne Tompkins has published the imaginatively titled Jerry's Suzle's 2005 TAFF Trip Report: $7 from her at PO Box 25075, Seattle, WA 98165, USA. Proceeds to TAFF.

Publishers & Sinners. Sean Wallace is leaving Wildside Press to focus on his own publishing house Prime Books. His last two projects for Wildside's imprint Cosmos Books are both by a shadowy figure called Langford: The Limbo Files (more old magazine columns; already available) and Starcombing (newly collected essays, reviews, columns and oddments, with a deeply learned introduction by Adam Roberts; should be out this month). All Ansible readers are urged to buy both!

Insider Tip., the US film and tv writers' site, revealed what sf movie people really want. Sammy Montana, vice-president of Trancas International Films, spills the beans: 'We had trouble finding unoriginal ideas told in an original way for Sci-Fi pilots. This all changed when we found Jeff Reese's "Jake in Flux" on InkTip.' [AS]

More on Singularity U. A Google spokesman reassures us about this new US university (see A260): 'Some of the stuff feels very science fiction to me. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's an idealism that speaks well of the university. When you try to work on the future, you're going to be wrong sometimes. A little zaniness goes a long way.' Journalist David Gelles likewise calms our natural fears: 'For all of the sci-fi overtones, the projects that come out of Singularity university will be well-intentioned, and it seems unlikely that any malicious artificial intelligence will be designed in the halls of Ames Research Centre – or at least in SU's corner.' Oh good! (Financial Times, 25 April) [MMW]

Outraged Letters. Simon R. Green: 'I feel like I've been neglecting you of late, so I thought you'd like to know a certain character called Langford will be horribly killed, in the fourth Secret Histories book, From Hell with Love. Remember when you could pay to be written in as a character in the Perry Rhodan books? Maybe you could bribe me not to....'
Lloyd Wood on A261: '1. My local Waterstone's has a big sign up at the back of the shop saying "Si-Fi". The shape of things to come? 2. Michael Swanwick must have gone to the Tate Modern early in the installation's life. I went late, and all that was left of the trade paperbacks were a few limp foreign-language copies lying, scattered sparsely, on empty metal bunk frames. All the English books had been nicked. When I try to imagine a shelter from an endless rain accompanied by bad SF paperbacks, the South Bank Book Market just along the Thames under Waterloo bridge springs immediately to mind. Isn't commerce supposed to imitate art, not the other way around?'

As Others Liken Us. SF is like collateralized debt obligations of asset-backed securities, according to Gillian Tett of the Financial Times when asked about such alarming entities: 'Well essentially, that is part of this rich vein of what we call alphabet soup, all these products with weird names that frankly sound like something out of science fiction or some branch of the pharmaceutical industry.' (NPR interview) [DH]

C.o.A. Eric Lindsay and Jean Weber, 544 Carlyle Gardens, Beck Drive North, Condon, Qld 4815, Australia. SFX moved offices; postal address unchanged. Pete Young, 22 Tippings Lane, Woodley, Berks, RG5 4RX.

As Others See JGB: 'The prescience of Mr. Ballard's work and its harsh conflation of the present and the future often resulted in comparisons to writers like Huxley and Orwell. "His fabulistic style led people to review his work as science fiction," said Robert Weil, Mr. Ballard's American editor at Norton. "But that's like calling 'Brave New World' science fiction, or '1984.'"' (Bruce Weber, New York Times, 21 April) [MF] And of course no one would ever do that.

Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Raging Metaphor and Awesome Climax. 'Penny was a raincloud. Lightning flashed over her office desk as she rained all over her paperwork. As Ross drew closer, he could make out her features, hidden within the swirling cumulonimbus. Obviously, he had come on a bad day. He stopped in front of Penny's desk and cleared his throat. The clouds roiled about darkly as she looked up. "Oh, hi. He's expecting you." Said flatly, from somewhere within the thunderstorm.' (Nicholas Yermakov, Clique, 1982) [LM]
Gyropygia Dept. 'The [aircraft] carrier shuddered. Men sagged, spun on their bottoms.' (Philip Wylie, The Answer, 1955) [PB]
Dept of In Space No One Can ... 'Tom [Corbett] looked up and saw the deep blackness that was space. "It's like looking into a mirror, Roger," he breathed in awe. "Only there isn't any other side – no reflection."' (Carey Rockwell, Stand By For Mars!, 1952) [AR]
Unseen but Evocative Aliens Dept. 'The alien voices were now a continuous scream of fear without perceptible inter-modulation, but rapidly becoming thinner as though the members of that unholy choir were sinking one by one and drowning in their terrible pool of treacle.' (Colin Kapp, The Patterns of Chaos, 1972)

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• 8 May 2009: Brum Group, Briar Rose, Bennett Hill, Birmingham city centre. With John Jarrold. 7:30pm for 8pm. £4; members £3. Contact 07845 897760 or bhamsfgroup at yahoo co uk. Future speakers include Jo Fletcher on 10 July.

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R.I.P. continued. Peter Rogers (1914-2009), UK producer of the raucous Carry On film farces, died on 14 April; he was 95. Carry on Screaming! (1966) spoofs the Dracula/Frankenstein movie horror genre, Carry on Up the Jungle (1970) tackles the Tarzan legend, and prehistoric adventures are mocked in 'Carry on Caveman' (1973, not a full-length film but part of a Carry on Christmas tv special).

Late News. SF/fantasy author Aaron Allston had a heart attack on 29 March, followed by a quadruple bypass operation. His recovery looks promising. Updates posted here, along with info about where to send any donations towards his massive hospital bills. [NR]

Ansible 262 Copyright © David Langford, 2009. Thanks to James Bacon, Paul Barnett, Barbara Barrett, John Birchby, Paul Di Filippo, Moshe Feder, Joe Gordon, Dan Hoey, Martyn P. Jackson, carl juarez, David K.M. Klaus, Denny Lien, Locus, Ken MacLeod, Linda Marques, Lawrence Person, David Pringle, Private Eye, Nonie Rider, Adam Roberts, Marcus Rowland, Graham Sleight, Steve Sneyd, Alex Stewart, Martin Morse Wooster and Hero Distributors: Dave Corby (BSFG), Janice Murray (NA), SCIS/Prophecy, Alan Stewart (Australia). 1 May 09.