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Ansible 281, December 2010

Cartoon: Brad W. Foster

From David Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berks, RG1 5AU, UK. Web ISSN 0265-9816 (print); 1740-942X (e). Logo: Dan Steffan. Cartoon: Brad W. Foster. Available for SAE, wassail, or Tlon Rtlo Long Ongr Ngrt.

Novacon 40 saw many past guests of honour emerge from the woodwork, lured by the magical round number plus free membership. Iain M. Banks guested, Brian Aldiss special-guested and Harry Harrison, too frail to travel to Nottingham, made a co-special-guest appearance by video. Your editor deafly lurked in the bar while Ansible correspondent Nelson Cunnington jotted down these quotes....
Aldiss: 'If you don't like your book, no-one else will.' To a producer of a possible Helliconia film, long ago: 'I've just hired the Yugoslavian Army. Can you get them costumed as Phagors?' On a trip to Japan, in the midst of a con party, Arthur C. Clarke stood up and announced that he had a golden rule: 'I always retire at 10 pm.' To which someone said, 'Piss off, then!' And: 'Life is extraordinarily marvellous. Much better than when I was a kid. You get all sorts of pills to keep you alive.'
Banks: 'I don't do hill-walking, I do glen-walking. It's much easier.' 'It never occurred to me to be a great poet. Maybe under a different name. [At a suggestion from the audience:] Iain P. Banks? I.P. Banks? No, I don't think so.' Four rules for a better society: '1. Never vote for right-wing bastards. 2. Never [note illegible, but the last word might be "wanker"]. 3. Get rid of public limited companies. 4. Stop being so bloody selfish.'
Geoff Ryman (in the bar): 'How come I can remember the phrase "nominative aphasia" but I can't remember anybody's name?'
Kari Sperring, 40 Best SF Books Since 1971 panel: 'We all have our own SFs.' [...] 'I am a China Miéville-denier.' [...] 'Disguising an author's gender is pointless, there's only two to choose from.'
Ian Stewart at his and Jack Cohen's panel on extrasolar planets as habitats for life: 'I'll represent the orthodox scientific view, and Jack ... will be Jack.'
• Hard SF panel. Charlie Stross: 'Humans are badly designed for this space travel thing.' [...] Ryman: 'Poor Larry Niven. In A World Out of Time, one of his hardest SF books, nearly every single trope has been disintegrated by later research. Bussard ramscoops, senescence through cells clogging up with chemical garbage ...' Audience member: 'Galactic black holes?' Ryman: 'Well, he had to get lucky eventually.' Banks: 'I could write hard SF, but I wouldn't be writing on all cylinders. I'd have to shut off my stupidity cylinders.' A hardcore digression on spunging nipples led to Mr Culture promising a new initial if he ever moved into porn: 'Iain X. Banks.'

December's Snow May Blow ...

Greg & Astrid Bear challenged Project Gutenberg on copyright law, arguing that US case law contradicts the PG assumption that so many stories published in pulp sf magazines are public domain: '... Project Gutenberg is doing a tremendous service by making available texts that have truly long since fallen out of copyright, but they are clearly overstepping their original mandate. They are not merely exploiting orphan works, but practicing a wholesale kidnapping of works that are under copyright protection. Authors and estates need to aggressively take back what belongs to them.' (, 28 November) [PDF]

Jo Fletcher is moving from Gollancz to Quercus in January 2011, to launch a new sf/fantasy/horror imprint called Jo Fletcher Books.

Diana Wynne Jones 'was Descended On by Archivists from Seven Stories in Newcastle. They came in an official van and carried off as many old typescripts and handwritten first drafts of mine that my agent and I could find. Turns out to be an awful lot. There were clouds of dust. In addition there is our Mysterious Drawer which no one can open. Goodness knows what is in there, but there are certainly more writings. Archivists and agent both looked at it greedily, but it really wouldn't open so they went regretfully away with 8 large cardboard boxes and 6 bulging carrier bags, plus some extras.' (4 November) A Seven Stories archivist gloated that besides drafts of published work, 'The collection also contains some unpublished material, including several early unpublished novels, correspondence and juvenilia.'

Terry Pratchett has ways of keeping his rare form of Alzheimer's at bay: '... brandy is in the British Pharmacopoeia. So are stout and sherry, I believe. I drink enormously. It makes you feel better and feeling better is part of it.' (Telegraph, 12 November) [MPJ] Cheers!

Joss Whedon had 'strong, mixed emotions' on hearing that Warner Bros plans a Buffy film 'reboot' not involving him: 'I always hoped that Buffy would live on even after my death. But, you know, AFTER. I don't love the idea of my creation in other hands, but I'm also well aware that many more hands than mine went into making that show what it was. And there is no legal grounds for doing anything other than sighing audibly. I can't wish people who are passionate about my little myth ill. I can, however, take this time to announce that I'm making a Batman movie. Because there's a franchise that truly needs updating. So look for The Dark Knight Rises Way Earlier Than That Other One And Also More Cheaply And In Toronto, rebooting into a theater near you. / Leave me to my pain!' (E!online, 22 November) [DKMK]


Click here for longlist with linksLondonOverseas

Until mid-Jan • Alien Invasion (exhibition), City Museum and Records Office, Portsmouth. Related free lectures from 2pm on 4 Dec and 11 Dec: see

3 Dec • British Fantasy Society Open Night, Truckles, off Bury Place, Bloomsbury, London. 6pm onward. Free.

4 Dec • Weird Winter Tales (H.P. Lovecraft event), Reading Central Library, noon-6pm. £3 (members £2). With Call of Cthulhu showing. Contact info at readinglibraries org uk.

5 Dec • British Fantasy Society Open Night, Lass O'Gowrie, pub, 36 Charles Street, Manchester, M1 7DB. 6pm onward. Free.

16 Dec • London Xmas Meeting, Melton Mowbray, 18 Holborn, London. Additional to First Thursdays. All evening; all welcome; free.

26 Jan 2011 • BSFA Open Meeting, Antelope, 22 Eaton Terrace, London, SW1W 8EZ. 5pm for 6pm. Free. With Frances Hardinge. Please note that, as usual, there's no BSFA London meeting in December.

26 Feb 2011 • Cardiff International Comic Expo, Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel, 24-26 Newport Road, CF24 0DD. Day ticket £5 via PayPal only at

12 Mar 2011 • ConJour, Leeds Park Plaza Hotel, Boar Lane City Square, LS1 5NS. £30 reg via PayPal at

23 Apr - 2 May 2011 • Sci-Fi London (film), Apollo, Piccadilly Circus, London. Enquiries or 020 3239 9277.

9-11 Sep 2011 • The Asylum (steampunk), Lincoln. Online booking only: see for insanely many options.

16-18 Oct 2011 • Festival of Fantastic Films, Days Hotel, Sackville St, Manchester. Rates TBA. Contact 95 Meadowgate Rd, Salford, Manchester, M6 8EN; Gil at manchesterfantasticfilms dot co dot uk.

11-13 Nov 2011 • Novacon 41, Park Inn, Mansfield Road, Nottingham. GoH John Meaney. £40 reg – rates to be reviewed at Easter 2011. Contact 379 Myrtle Road, Sheffield, S2 3HQ.

6-9 Apr 2012 • Olympus 2012 (Eastercon), Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Heathrow, London. £45 reg, £35 unwaged, rising on 4 January 2011 to £55 and £45. Contact 4 Evesham Green, Aylesbury, Bucks, HP19 9RX, or (email) enquiries at olympus2012 dot org. Quoted hotel prices include VAT at 20%: £64/room single, £84 double or twin.

30 Aug - 3 Sep 2012 • Chicon 7 (70th Worldcon), Hyatt Regency, Chicago. $155 reg, $100 YA (17-21), $50 child (5-16), accompanied under-5s free. These rates apply until 31 December 2010 and may then rise: announcement awaited. Contact PO Box 13, Skokie, IL 60076, USA.

Infinitely Improbable

As Others See Us. Sarah Baskerville, the UK civil servant in trouble for uninhibited political comments on Twitter, became the subject of a typical Daily Mail witch-hunt that was surprisingly picked up by The Independent – where political hack Matt Chorley drove the knife home by calling her 'The self-confessed Doctor Who fan ...' (14 November)

Awards. Galaxy National Book Awards for 'unrivalled contribution to the [UK] publishing industry', i.e. selling shedloads of books: Martin Amis, Terry Pratchett.
Novas (fanzine activity): FANZINE Journey Planet ed. James Bacon, Claire Brialey, Chris Garcia; guest ed. Pete Young. FANWRITER Mark Plummer. ARTIST Arthur Thomson ('Atom') – the first posthumous Nova.
Rotsler Award for life achievement in fanzine art: Stu Shiffman. [AIP]
Royal TV Society Craft and Design Awards winners included Misfits for sound in drama and special effects, and Doctor Who for digital effects [MPJ]
Ultimate TV Actress (so presumably there can never be another one) at the Cosmopolitan Woman of the Year Awards: Karen Gillan, for playing Amy Pond in Doctor Who. [MPJ]

Science Fact Masterclass. 'As a reporter – not an environmentalist – I came to this subject from a very peculiar angle. It began with a collaboration with Dr Paul Epstein, of Harvard Medical School, on a 1995 article on climate change and the spread of infectious disease in the Washington Post.' (Ross Gelbspan, Boiling Point, 2004) [PB]
• 'The space elevator is a very simple idea first [sic] suggested by one of the world's great futurists, science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. In his 1953 [sic] novel The Fountains of Paradise, Clarke's hero wants to build a space elevator.' (Ira Flatow, Present at the Future, 2007) [AL]

R.I.P. Bernard Davies (1923-2010), noted UK Sherlockologist and founding president in 1973 of the Dracula Society, died on 21 September aged 86. [MPJ]
Dino De Laurentiis (1919-2010), famed Italian producer of more than 500 films, died on 10 November aged 91. His genre work included Barbarella (1968), the dire King Kong remake (1976), Flash Gordon (1980), Halloween II (1981), Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Dune (1984) with David Lynch. [GW]
Paul 'Gamma' Gamble (1949-2010), UK book dealer (for some years with Forbidden Planet), barfly, sf promoter (especially of Dick and Barrington J. Bayley), inhabitant of the late Troy Club and other weird spaces, high priest of Dave Fandom, sometime literary agent, and general fan-about-London, died on 15 November at the age of 61. [SN]
Glen GoodKnight (1941-2010), US founder of the Mythopoeic Society and long-time editor of its journal Mythlore (78 issues 1970-1998), died on 3 November; he was 69. [F770]
Mervyn Haisman (1928-2010), UK tv/film scriptwriter who with Henry Lincoln wrote the 1960s Doctor Who storylines 'The Abominable Snowmen', 'The Web of Fear' (introducing that highly popular character the Brigadier) and 'The Dominators', died on 29 October. He also wrote for The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2008. [BB]
Umanosuke Iida (1961-2010), Japanese animator, anime writer and director – here best known for Hellsing (2001) – died on 26 November; he was 49. [JonC]
Irvin Kershner (1923-2010), US director of The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Never Say Never Again (1983) and Robocop 2 (1990), died on 29 November aged 87. [PDF]
Len Moffatt (1923-2010), US fan and author who was among the founders of Bouchercon and (with his wife June) a 1973 TAFF winner, died on 30 November aged 87. [DL]
Maurice Murphy (1935-2010), principal trumpeter of the London Symphony Orchestra 1977-2007, whose playing can be heard in all six Star Wars films, died on 28 October. [GS]
Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010), Canadian-born actor who played Commander J.J. Adams in Forbidden Planet (1956) but became better known for comedy with Airplane! and The Naked Gun, died on 28 November aged 84. Genre spoof credits include Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), 2001: A Space Travesty (2000), Scary Movie 3 & 4 (2003, 2006), Superhero Movie (2008) and Stan Helsing (2009). [SG/DKMK]
Yoshinobu Nishizaki (1934-2010), a controversial figure of Japanese anime who was best known for co-creating the Space Cruiser Yamato series (broadcast abroad as Star Blazers), died on 7 November aged 75. [JonC]
Ingrid Pitt (1937-2010), Polish-born actress fondly remembered for Hammer's sexy-vampire productions The Vampire Lovers (1970) and Countess Dracula (1971), died on 23 November; she was 73. Other films included The House That Dripped Blood (1971), Doctor Who (1972, 1984) and The Wicker Man (1973). [SG]
William Self (1921-2010), US tv producer who was executive i/c production for several 1960s genre series – The Green Hornet, The Time Tunnel, Lost in Space, Batman, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Ghost and Mrs Muir and Land of the Giants – died on 15 November aged 89. [SG]
John Steakley (1951-2010), US sf/horror author of Armor (1984) and Vampire$ (1990, filmed by John Carpenter as Vampires), died on 27 November aged 59. [LP]
Brian Williams (?1956-2010), UK illustrator of many Lone Wolf and other gamebooks by Joe Dever, and of LW spinoff novels by John Grant, died unexpectedly on 4 October; he was 54. [PB]

As Others See Us II. Sam Parker (who?) of Celebrity Channel/Eleven (what?) has views on fandom: 'Eleven have never attended a sci-fi convention (honest), but if we ever did, we'd imagine it to be a rather tame affair. / You know – lots of geeks dressed as Wookies and Dr. Who, mingling around quietly with one hand on their inhaler and the other in their Mum or Dad's palm. / So imagine our surprise when we read that Twilight star Bronson Pelletier was attacked at just such a convention in Birmingham! Honestly, talk about Broken Britain – even the nerds are getting rowdy!' (20 November) It emerges rather later in the story that the villains were drunken gatecrashers from a wedding party in the same hotel. Perhaps it was a geeky nerd wedding. [JL]

Magazine Scene. Realms of Fantasy had a last-minute reprieve from the death sentence reported in A280: it's been bought by Damnation Books and is again open for submissions (see C.o.A). Some misgivings were expressed owing to Damnation's allegedly less than spotless record of author satisfaction; better news is that editors Shawna McCarthy and Douglas Cohen remain in charge as before.

C.o.A. Realms of Fantasy, PO Box 1208, Santa Rosa, CA 95402, USA.

Outraged Letters. David Redd on A280: 'Thog's discovery of "a rectangular-sized hole" reminds me of Henry J. Kostkos's "Black Death" in Astounding, March 1934 ... Kostkos describes a pre-Fantastic-Voyage kind of Bloodstream Microbiology: "thousands of wriggling, red-shaped creatures."' Let's ignore Thog's suggestion that they were Redd-shaped.

Clinching Argument. Jonathan Myerson, best known for denouncing adult readers of the Harry Potter saga, discussed his hard-line position with children's novelist and Hollywood screenwriter Charlie Fletcher. JM: 'There's a truth which fiction can portray which non-fiction can't reach. It's a different form of truth.' CF: 'That doesn't argue against Harry Potter. That, in fact, reinforces the reason why people should read Harry Potter.' JM: 'No it doesn't, because there aren't wizards!' (Richard Bacon show, BBC Radio 5Live, 15 November) [MPJ]

Random Fandom. Martyn P. Jackson mixes his genres: 'I was at a murder-mystery fundraising event in Newcastle last night [17 November] – Who Murdered Lucinda Parr? The story was written by crime novelist Ann Cleeves and two of the suspects were fantasy author Chaz Brenchley and Dracula Society stalwart, Gail-Nina Anderson, the latter wearing a silver bat wing broach and a skull choker for the occasion. Turned out neither did the dirty deed, and my guess, that an alien replicant had replaced the librarian, Caroline, in order to kill Lucinda, who was about to reveal that alien replicants had taken control of Newcastle City Council, staggeringly proved wide of the mark too!'

As Others See Us III. Fears that the upcoming HBO tv series A Game of Thrones (based on George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire novels) might be a bit genre-ish have been dispelled: 'Michelle Fairley, who plays Catelyn Stark, says of the epic series, "It's not so much fantasy. It's really gutsy and glorious. We just happen to be wearing costumes and armor."' (Entertainment Weekly, 18 November) [AS]

The Dead Past. 30 Years Ago, an eligible British fan was in the news: 'Our very own Gerry Webb has reached fame (Daily Express, 18-11-80): he's been "selected" by Dateline's computer as an ideal mate for Lady Diana Spencer, the lady who is currently not going to marry Prince Charles. "Lady Diana might soon forget Charles if she met Gerald Webb, a 34-Year-old former trainee astronaut and Government space research scientist ... What he lacks in high breeding, he surely makes up for in brain power."' (Ansible 14, December 1980)

The Brown Lands. More uproar from NZ Hobbit filming after a small woman of Pakistani ancestry was rejected as a bit-part player: 'We are looking for light-skinned people. I'm not trying to be ... whatever. It's just the brief. You've got to look like a hobbit.' Canonically, some hobbits are browner than others, but the above-quoted casting agent – who's been fired – had his own ideas. (Independent, 30 November) [MPJ]

Fanfundery. Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund nominations for the 2011 race (Europe to N. America) close 18 December. Voting deadline 12 March; the winner attends the Reno Worldcon in August. Contact stevegreen at livejournal dot com. One known candidate: John Coxon.

Thog's Masterclass. Untimely Dept. 'By Set, the enemy knew not the hour when he might awake at midnight to feel the taloned fingers ...' (Robert E. Howard, 'The Phoenix on the Sword', Weird Tales, December 1932) [PC]
Dept of Impossible Feats. '"Mmmmmm," said Maginty. It was an unwriteable, unpronounceable burble.' ('John E. Muller', Dark Continuum, 1964)
Back-Story Dept. Chronicler to action hero, on the latter's previous adventures: 'People believe I wrote them cynically for one reason or another – but we know that I did not, that you are real, that your exploits actually happened. One day they will realize this, when governments are prepared to release the information that confirms what you have told me. They will realize that you are no liar and that I am no crackpot – or worse, a commercial writer trying to write a science fiction novel.' ('Edward P. Bradbury', Barbarians of Mars, 1965)

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• 3 December 2010: Brum Group Christmas Social, special venue, by prepaid ticket only. Normal service resumes with the 14 January 2011 AGM/Auction at the Briar Rose Hotel, Bennett's Hill, Birmingham city centre: 7:30pm for 8pm. £4; members £3. Contact 07845 897760 or bhamsfgroup at yahoo co uk. Future meetings: 11 February, Quiz; 11 March, Frances Hardinge; 8 April, Robert Rankin; 13 May, John Meaney; 10 June, BSFG 40th anniversary party; 8 July, Ian Stewart; 12 August, Summer Social at different venue (Black Eagle); 9 September, Liz Williams TBC.

Editorial. It's time to wish all Ansible readers the traditional Merry Christmas (or other seasonal festival of your choice) and Happy New Year. Have fun; avoid Chun; don't lesnerize!

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

Outraged Letters II. Nelson Cunnington picks up a theme aired earlier this year in Journey Planet: 'One female fan was somewhat surprised at a recent con in the UK, when the elderly and respected SF luminary* she was chatting with reached out and cupped her breast without missing a beat in what he was saying. He also missed a beating as she wondered whether giving him a slap might break something. / Surprise was no longer adequate when later that day at the same venue she was chatting with another grey old man of SF and his hand drifted from the small of her back down to her posterior. Again, only age saved her molester from a dislocated finger. "It's just so tacky," the woman later said, "You'd think [redacted] would have more style than to cop a quick feel."'

* Not Harlan Ellison [Ed.].

The Dead Past II. 5 Years Ago: Robert Newman on London First Thursday meetings. '[On] the 5th Anniversary of moving to the Melton Mowbray, it is worth noting that The Florence Nightingale is still standing, after we were told it was being closed to be demolished within a month. Although they have actually boarded up the windows now, so that it actually looks closed and we can no longer see the "Hire This Room for Xmas" poster in the upper window.' Melton Mowbray drinks prices are high even for London, he adds, and attendance (while always variable) is on the whole going down. See the London meetings page.

Notes & Queries. All fandom was plunged into war by last issue's wildly controversial statement that the World Fantasy life achievement award had 'an unprecedented three winners'. The actual press release read: 'The World Fantasy Awards Administration is proud to announce that for the first time, three Life Achievement Awards will be presented this year.' Skilled nitpickers have pointed out that since there were five winners in 1984, that record number must necessarily have included three winners, making 2010's three both precedented and not for the first time. I stand, or rather slump, corrected.

Goodbye, Gamma. Jonathan Cowie was there on 30 November: 'Well, that was Gamma's send-off. A non-religious event with tributes from family and friends, including a live music contribution and a recorded "winos don't march" – Frank Zappa of course. Heavy, travel-disrupting snow did not prevent a fairly full house (all the rows were about 3/4s full) though some clearly could not make it, and a couple from France were delayed. (Had it been fine and especially had news had more time to spread it would no doubt have been overflowing.) The wake was held at one of Gamma's Kentish Town watering holes, The Abbey Tavern. Many of Gamma's local friends and a few fellow Frank Zappa fans (including a Zappa biographical writer) were there. The SF community seemed to be represented mainly by early Forbidden Planet and Titan Distributor staff and SF&DA types. There are plans for a memorial summer party next year.'

Ansible 281 Copyright © David Langford, 2010. Thanks to Paul Barnett, Barbara Barrett, Jonathan Clements, Paul Cornell, Nelson Cunnington, Paul Di Filippo, File 770, Steve Green, Martyn P. Jackson, David K.M. Klaus, Jim Linwood, Dave Locke, Andy Love, Stan Nicholls, Andrew I. Porter, Aaron Singleton, Graham Sleight, Gary Wilkinson, and our Hero Distributors: Dave Corby (Birmingham SF Group), SCIS/Prophecy, Alan Stewart (Australia). 1 Dec 2010.