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Ansible 300, July 2012

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 or the last line of the Saaamaaa Ritual.

Editorial. Top number theorists confirm that, as was widely speculated after the appearance of Ansible 299, this issue is indeed the 300th.

One in Three Hundred

Gerry Anderson revealed in late June that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 18 months previously. ( [GD]

Dr Joanne Benford, the Open University creative writing tutor exposed as having plagiarized a Dylan Thomas story and taken similar liberties with Aleister Crowley and many others (Telegraph, 22 June), has also published genre-related nonfiction. According to Alex Keegan, who's been on the case since learning Benford had appropriated his story 'Postcards From BalloonLand', her Sing of the City Electric – on postmodern architecture with extensive references to Blade Runner – and Living Doll: The Seduction of the Cyborg both contain much plagiarism, 100% in the latter case: see his dossier at Furthermore, Benford's Postmodern Feminist Fantasy overlaps or is included in her Fanning the Flames, in which researchers are reporting more and more pirated work, and whose content in turn overlaps that of Living Doll. One Keegan correspondent asserts that the first chapter of Benford's PhD thesis is 'largely stitched together' from nine articles by others (one from Wired), mostly about cyberspace, cyborgs or sf: 'It's an unsophisticated copy and paste job.' [JS] Oh dearie me.

Mitchell Gross, whose novels as by Mitchell Graham include a fantasy trilogy, pleaded guilty to fraud (see A292). He's been sentenced to over 12 years in a US prison and ordered to pay $5.8 million to his victims. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 28 June; AthensPatch, 30 June)

Susan Hill, author of many supernatural and psychological suspense novels (including the recently filmed The Woman in Black) was made a Commander of the British Empire in the Queen's birthday honours, for services to literature.

Grant Morrison, comics writer and playwright, was honoured with the MBE for services to film and literature.

Michael Swanwick wrote about the passing of Hope Mirrlees's nephew Prince Robin Ian Evelyn Milne Stuart de La Lanne Mirrlees – 'almost certainly the highest-ranking noble ever to be published in NYRSF [New York Review of SF]' – and repeated a favourite family story: 'Robin Mirrlees' mother, Hope's sister-in-law Frances de La Lanne Mirrlees, was a strikingly beautiful and of course aristocratic woman. One of her many friends was Ian Fleming. Who one day told her that he was writing a novel. / "Oh, Ian," she said. "Don't write a novel. You haven't the brains for it."'. (Flogging Babel, 26 June)

Jeff Vandermeer was grumpy about New Yorker coverage of the BookExpo America sf panel. Despite legendary NY fact-checking, quotes were misattributed and Jeff was transmogrified into James VanderMeer.

F. Paul Wilson plunged Facebook into war by linking to a website about the coming tv series The Fixer – based on Jon F. Merz's urban fantasies – with the comment 'Let's rip off Jack, shall we?' Merz disliked the insinuation that his 'Fixer' vampire hunter was stolen from Wilson's 'Repairman Jack', and asked for a retraction and apology, causing a loyal Wilson fan to denounce Merz as a pirate.... And so on, and on.


Click here for longlist with linksLondonOverseas

Until 16 Sep • Tea with Alice/Storyloom (exhibitions), Story Museum, Rochester House, 42 Pembroke St, Oxford, OX1 1BP. Each £5, £3 concessions.; enquiries 01865 790050.

14 Jul • Edge-Lit (sf/fantasy/horror), QUAD centre, Market Place, Derby, DE22 3PN. 10am-midnight. £25 reg. Box office 01332 290 606.

20-23 Jul • Continuum 2012 (RPG), John Foster Hall, Leicester University. £35 reg (day: Fri £10, Sat or Sun £15) or £30+room charges. Room booking deadline: 2 July. See

25 Jul • BSFA Open Meeting, Melton Mowbray, 18 Holborn, London, EC1N 2LE. 5/6pm for 7pm. With Roz Kaveney.

10-12 Aug • Congenial (Unicon/RPG), Murray Edwards College, Cambridge. £30 reg (under-16s £15). Contact Congenial, 19 Uphall Road, Cambridge, CB1 3HX. See also

16-20 Aug • Return of the Ring (Tolkien Society), Loughborough University. £90 reg; £75 child/concessions; £20 supp; £1 under-5s, to 20 York Rd, Stony Stratford, Bucks, MK11 1BJ; or register online at Day rate £35; £30 child/concessions.

23-27 Aug • Frightfest (horror film festival), Empire Cinema, Leicester Square, London. Booking: see

24-27 Aug • Discworld Convention, Birmingham. Sold out.

30 Aug - 3 Sep • Chicon 7 (70th Worldcon), Hyatt Regency, Chicago. Rates until 31 July: $215 reg, $540 family, $100 YA (17-21), $75 child (5-16), accompanied under-5s free. Contact PO Box 13, Skokie, IL 60076, USA. Hugo final-ballot voting closes on 31 July.

16-18 Nov • Armadacon 24, Future Inns, Plymouth. Date change from 9-11 Nov. GoH Pat Harkin, Ian Edginton. £30 (£25 concessions) to 18 Wadham Rd, Liskeard, Cornwall, PL14 3BD. £35/£30 at the door.

29 Mar - 1 Apr 2013 • EightSquaredCon (Eastercon), Bradford. Rates held to 31 July: £50 reg; £25 supp/junior (12-17); £10 child (5-11); £1 infant. Online booking details at

Infinitely Improbable

As Others See GRRM. Here's how to say you like Game of Thrones without being overly uncool: 'To anyone who wasn't Hobbit-friendly previously, this genre – fantasy medieval – is as sexy as pubic dandruff. Viewers like me, non-Dr Who types, vehement Hobbit-knockers, fell for Game of Thrones sheerly by accident and then fretted for their identity ever after. No sane person intends to go down a path where Saturdays are spent changing from jeans to a Dothraki pelt-skin costume in the back of a Ford Focus in a Milton Keynes conference centre car-park before meeting their friend Nige (him of the egg-box dragon costume and blow-torch mouth o' fire effect) but cosplay has to start somewhere. Game of Thrones, and its ilk, have made fancy-dress fools of wiser folk than us.' (Grace Dent, Independent, 2 June) [MPJ]

Awards. Campbell Memorial (tie): Christopher Priest, The Islanders and Joan Slonczewski, The Highest Frontier.
David Gemmell Legend (fantasy): NOVEL Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man's Fear. DEBUT Helen Lowe, Heir of Night. COVER ART Raymond Swanland for Blood of Aenarion.
Ditmar (Australia) novel: Kim Westwood, The Courier's New Bicycle.
Lambda (LGBT sf/f/horror): Lee Thomas, The German.
Locus: SF NOVEL China Miéville, Embassytown. FANTASY NOVEL George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons. FIRST NOVEL Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus. YA Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. NOVELLA Catherynne M. Valente, 'Silently and Very Fast' (Clarkesworld) NOVELETTE Catherynne M. Valente, 'White Lines on a Green Field' (Subterranean). SHORT Neil Gaiman, 'The Case of Death and Honey' (A Study in Sherlock). ANTHOLOGY Gardner Dozois, ed., The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-eighth Annual Collection. NONFICTION Gary K. Wolfe, Evaporating Genres: Essays on Fantastic Literature. ART BOOK Cathy Fenner & Arnie Fenner, eds., Spectrum 18: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art. ARTIST Shaun Tan. EDITOR Ellen Datlow. MAGAZINE Asimov's. PUBLISHER Tor.
Theodore Sturgeon (short story): Paul McAuley, 'The Choice' (Asimov's 2/11).

R.I.P. Suzanne Allés (Sue) Blom (1948-2012), long-time Milwaukee sf fan and author of the alternate-history novel Inca: The Scarlet Fringe (2000) plus unpublished sequels, died on 23 June. [MJL]
Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), who for Ansible readers needs no introduction, died on 6 June at the age of 91 and was widely mourned by everyone from the usual sf suspects through media pundits to President Obama. Besides the landmark books The Martian Chronicles (1950) and Fahrenheit 451 (1953, a 2004 Retro Hugo winner), his legacy included a great many magical and/or macabre short stories and a much-appreciated 1960s commercial for prunes. Bradbury received the World Fantasy Award for life achievement in 1977, the SFWA Grand Master Award in 1989, and entered the SF Hall of Fame in 1999. One proposed memorial is the introduction of web error 451, analogous to '404 Page Not Found' but denoting censored content.
Nora Ephron (1941-2012), US writer, screenwriter and film-maker who wrote and directed the fantasy films Michael (1996) and Bewitched (2005, reinventing the tv series), died on 26 June; she was 71. [SFS]
Caroline John (1940-2012) UK actress fondly remembered as Doctor Who companion Liz Shaw in the Jon Pertwee era (reappearing in The Five Doctors and other specials), died on 5 June aged 71. [O] 'I met Caroline at a Dimensions convention in Newcastle a few years back, where she revealed she used to refer to the short skirts Liz Shaw wore as "pussy pelmets".' [MPJ]
Richard Lynch (1936-2012), US actor whose many genre credits (usually as villains) included the tv Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Star Trek: TNG, plus the films Deathsport, Trancers II, Merlin, The Mummy's Kiss, Halloween and (forthcoming) The Lords of Salem, died on 18 June. He was 76. [SG]
Anthony J. Wiener (1930-2012), US futurist who with Herman Kahn wrote The Year 2000: A Framework for Speculation on the Next Thirty-Three Years (1967), died on 19 June aged 81. [PDF]
Peter Wragg (1948-2012), UK visual effects designer who created the Red Dwarf spaceship (also Starbug and Kryten's head), died on 15 April aged 65. Other sf work included Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Doctor Who. [MPJ]
Jim Young (1951-2012), US fan (once very active in Minneapolis fandom), former diplomat and author of the sf novels The Face of the Deep (1979) and Armed Memory (1995), died on 12 June. He'd recently been focusing on his acting career, and played Hitler in Nazis at the Center of the Earth (2012).
Matt Yuricich (1923-2012) Croatian-born US visual effects artist who won an Oscar for work on Logan's Run and was shortlisted for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Blade Runner, died on 28 May aged 89. His many film credits also included Young Frankenstein, Planet of the Apes and Ghostbusters. [MPJ]
Late notice: J.T. McIntosh (James Murdoch MacGregor, 1925-2008), Scots author – very popular in his day – whose first sf novel was World Out of Mind (1953), died in 2008. [IC] He ceased publishing after A Planet Called Utopia (1979).

As Others Lump Us. 'But as Amazon's six other publishing imprints [...] have discovered, in certain genres (romance, science fiction and fantasy) formerly relegated to the moribund mass-market paperback, readers care not a whit about cover design or even good writing, and have no attachment at all to the book as object. Like addicts, they just want their fix at the lowest possible price, and Amazon is happy to be their online dealer.' (The Nation, 18 June) [JC]

Sidewise Award Shortlist, for alternate-history fiction: SHORT Michael F. Flynn, 'The Iron Shirts' (; Lisa Goldstein, 'Paradise Is a Walled Garden' (Asimov's 8/11); Jason Stoddard, 'Orion Rising' (Panverse 3); Harry Turtledove, 'Lee at the Alamo' ( LONG Robert Conroy, Castro's Bomb; Robert Conroy, Himmler's War; Jeff Greenfield, Then Everything Changed; Ian R. MacLeod, Wake Up and Dream; Ian McDonald, Planesrunner; Ekaterina Sedia, Heart of Iron; Lavie Tidhar, Camera Obscura.

As Others See Us: The Last Resort. A sales pitch from The Writing School at Oxford Open Learning: 'There are many different kinds of novel and part of the challenge is to find the kind of novel which you will enjoy writing and your audience will enjoy reading. Whether it is a thriller, a romance, conmedy [sic], historical fiction, a whodunit or even science fiction, we will give you the technical skills to express your vision effectively ...' ( [TE]

Magazine Scene. The revived Amazing Stories has a 'Relaunch Prelaunch' issue online at (1 July).

Outraged Letters. Claire M. Jordan on Simon R. Green's A299 letter: 'Shatner didn't just show up on Have I Got News for You – he was, or certainly appeared to be, as drunk as a skunk. The funniest bit was when he made some racy joke about Angela Merkel being a lesbian and then waved his hand expansively and said it would be cut out before the show went to air, and one of the others said "You haven't watched this show, have you?" ... He wasn't incapable, you understand – but sort of fuzzy and slurred, and suspiciously red in the face.' Later he issued an apology for his mysterious impromptu quip about Ilfracombe, Devon: 'The place is laced with prostitution.' (BBC, 20 June) [JD]

MTV Awards (film). Twilight: Breaking Dawn 1 was overall winner; The Hunger Games won for best male and female performances, fight scene and 'transformation' (four wins in all); Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2 collected two awards, for best hero and cast. [MPJ]

Astronomical Scale Masterclass. An IEEE Spectrum piece on e-money conveys how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big space is: 'Science-fiction writers once imagined a galactic currency that would grease the wheels of commerce from here to Alpha Centauri.' (June 2012) [AT]

That Old-Time Religion. 2011 Australian census results reveal that the Lucky Country's self-confessed Jedis now hugely outnumber its admitted Scientologists, by 65,000 to 2,163. (ABC, 29 June) [AIP]

As Others See Ray Bradbury. He 'wrote modern myths, not science fiction [...] Bradbury was not that popular among science fiction fans. He was not geeky enough.' (Telegraph, 6 June) [MPJ]
• 'Bradbury wasn't so much a major science fiction writer. He was a major writer who specialized in science fiction.' (Boston Globe, 1 July) [DK]

Random Fandom. Ted Ball of the late lamented Fantasy Centre is recovering from a recentish heart attack.
Stu Shiffman, ace fanartist, had a stroke on 16 June. After two brain operations and one on his kneecap (broken in a hospital fall) he's doing well. All good wishes to Stu and his partner Andi Shechter, who's issuing regular bulletins.

The Dead Past. 50 Years Ago, we became respectable: 'Gone, it appears, are the days when fans tore off prozine covers so that they could read their purchases in the tube, when convention reports in newspapers began "If you see an alien monster walking down the street next Saturday," when your colleagues told you they had once read Jules Verne at school. For SF has now attained the ultimate status symbol. TV, after delving condescendingly with the genre for so many years, has finally gone overboard for science fiction. My, I bet you're proud.' Thus Ron Bennett on the BBC serials The Big Pull (gosh, I remember that) and Andromeda Breakthrough, plus ITV's Out of This World anthology series: 'Well, it makes a change from Z Cars.' (Skyrack 44, 2 July 1962)

As Others ... 'The usual move in science fiction is to remain vague about the dates, so as to render "the future" a zone of pure fantasy, no different than Middle Earth or Narnia, or like Star Wars "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away." As a result, our science fiction future is, most often, not a future at all, but more like an alternative America, a dream-time, a technological Elsewhere, existing in days to come the same way elves and dragon-slayers existed in the past – another screen for the displacement of moral dramas and mythic fantasies in to the dead ends of consumer pleasure.' (The Baffler, December 2011) [MMW]

Fanfundery. DUFF: 'Hold Over Funds' was a clear first-round winner with 57 votes (38 NA+19 Australasia) to 25 (24+1) for Juanita Coulson and 13 (11+2) for Murray Moore. This wasn't a vote against the candidates but against the scheduling which made it impossible for a US winner to attend New Zealand's national con (already in progress during the count) and nearly so for Australia's on the next weekend.

Thog's Masterclass. Literal Dept. 'She literally flowed with stories and spunk.' (Brad Torgersen, 'Outbound', Analog 11/2010) [NW]
Eyeballs in the Sky. 'Her eyes felt lost and confused ...' (James Rollins, Sandstorm, 2004) [MCN]
• 'Her eyes were like a condor's, or some worse star-spawned bird of prey, crimson edged and bleeding into blank holes at the center that seemed to be pinpoint windows into her diseased soul. Kullervo thought he saw things crawling around behind those windows.' (Emil Petaja, Tramontane, 1967)
Special 300th-Issue Technothriller Bons Mots Dept. 'He knew that he ought to have prepared his speech better ... but the tension within his intestine had proved too much.'
• 'In the two weeks since Helena's note had arrived he had stopped sleeping and begun waking in dreams.'
• '... the door opened to find their quarry at his elbows on the desk, his face enveloping his hands.'
• 'Hartmann too smiled but it was not a creature of grace; it skitted, like a new-born faun and, in similar fashion, fell down completely before another second had died.'
• 'He swallowed and smiled at the same time; perhaps, he at once realized, a mistake.'
• 'The smell of cigarette smoke suffused directly into his stomach lining and into his strobing brain.'
• '... the telephone call from the Coroner had also caused a distinct rise in his anal sphincter tone ...'
• 'That Eisenmenger found the look on her face odd would be untrue; he found it worrying. She looked as if she had appendicitis.'
• 'Which made the slap when it came all the more unexpected and all the more painful. It rang in his ears and made the mast cells in his skin explode with unpleasant substances.'
• 'Eisenmenger could feel the atmosphere [between the two women] beginning to reek with noxious gases.'
• 'Through the pain she tried to ignore the nihilism of the thought, finding it seditionist.'
• 'Where do you put a virus?'
• 'She knew more about the inside of a Turkish wrestler's underpants than she did about virology ...'
• 'She bent down again, profaned against her back, and pulled.'
• 'He picked up his coat from the back of the sofa and moved to the door, feeling distinctly like an ambulant and green soft fruit.' (all Keith McCarthy, The Silent Sleep of the Dying, 2004) [PB]

Geeks' Corner

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• 7 July 2012: Jaine Fenn talk and reading, Clevedon Community Bookshop, Copse Road, Clevedon, Somerset; 6pm for 6:30pm; £5 inc tapas & wine. Contact: enquiries at clevedoncommunitybookshop coop or 01275 218318.
• 13 July 2012: Jo Fletcher talks to the Brum Group; Briar Rose Hotel, Bennett's Hill, Birmingham city centre, 7:30pm for 8pm; £4 or £3 for members. Contact bhamsfgroup at yahoo co uk or rog.peyton at btinternet com. Further meetings: 10 August, Summer Social meal at the Black Eagle pub; September, Simon R. Green; October tba; November, Eric Brown; December, Christmas Social.

PayPal Tip Jar Thingy. Support Ansible, cover website costs and keep the editor happy! Or just buy his books.

Clarke Award Redux. 'The 2012 winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award [...] is Rhianna White – the first female winner. The monolith trophy, together with a certificate, a copy of an Arthur C. Clarke book, and a cheque from the Foundation, were presented ...' Before the outraged letters pour in from Pat Cadigan, Pat Cadigan and other past Clarke winners of a ladylike persuasion: this is the other Clarke Award, for science achievement at Huish College, Taunton, where ACC studied as a teenager in the 1930s. This, indeed, is the Clarke Award that's still funded by the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation. ( [MT]

Outraged Letters II. Relaxing the stern Ansible rule of omitting mere egoboo, here's a selection from the 'Gosh, isn't 300 a shiny round number' postbag.
R.I. Barycz, as is his wont, sends a longish handwritten letter of which parts elude my still-dodgy eyesight. After a round-up of comparable 2012 events like the Titanic centenary, the Queen's Jubilee, the London Olympics and the end of the world: 'I look forward to A300 (and even more to A301, 302, 303 ... to infinity and beyond!). Even though there is a certain melancholia to your R.I.P. section. Not so much that people die in alphabetical order, but now I notice more and more of them are younger than what I am. Oh my. Fans die both young and fair / Brightness falls from the air / I must write that novel, now or nevair ...'
Bob Blanchett: 'Delighted you've hit 300! I hope Thog's Jubilee barge (with operating replica Roman Catapult) was an accurate success.'
John Dallman: 'Throughout its run, it has been essential reading. The rows of Hugos do convey some of this, but by no means all.'
Margaret Hoyt hoped, in vain, 'that Ansible 300 will be an all-singing, all-dancing, all-Technicolor (or something like that) issue.'
Meccarello [at] gmail: 'I'm not the first I imagine. 300 issues are quite the achievement. Congratulations.'
Murray MacLachlan: 'Congrats on 300! You have always been a gracious and hospitable correspondent, and I've always felt that the fan lounge that is Ansible is dressed in the colours and style of the Langford's reception room. Thank you for inviting so many people in.'
Lloyd Penney: 'Whether or not the 300th issue is a bumper e-pub or not, congratulations on hitting that impressive number. Few zines of any kind can brag about that number.' (Ah, but The Drink Tank passed that particular hurdle in 2011 despite having started 26 years later.)
Andrew Stephenson: 'I'm waiting for A380: biggest ever; amazing range; engines that occasionally catch fire; and more levels than you can shake an innuendo at. [Regarding Terry Pratchett's renamed Gloucester Old Spot:] Considering what eventually happens to your average domesticated pig, I'd say "Snuff" is a smartly apt name. / I've just figured out these awards you keep mentioning. All one has to do is, write a story/novel/collection or maybe a blog and they give you money (maybe) and a chunk of ugly art. Sometimes they name an animal. Over the years I have named several cats, which is okay, but the other stuff sounds really cool. Would a note to the milkman be enough, you think?'
Alexander Yudenitsch shows arcane powers of precognition: 'Well, I'd really like having a "special bumper #300 issue", but something tells me it won't really happen (and NOT because I haven't prepared any contribution – besides, past efforts have proved that such things are usually met with a resounding silence, so I doubt anyone will miss it), but I'd like to at least let you know, once more, how important Ansible has been (and is) for me, and wish you both the best, now and forever!'
• Many thanks to all. For the sake of sanity I'm not even thinking about numbers like 400.

Thog Gets Fan Mail. Margaret Hoyt put in a request for 'a pinup of dear Thog sometime in the future.' The only known likeness of Thog the Mighty is Peter Andrew Jones's cover painting for The Book of the Magnakai (1992) by Joe Dever and John Grant. Although Ansible doesn't have a centrefold, Mr Grant kindly obliged with a scan – now added to for your viewing pleasure:


Bonus artwork by Sue Mason – possibly the girl of Thog's horny and horned-helmeted dreams? – that unfortunately doesn't fit our square masthead slot.

Ansible 300 Copyright © David Langford, 2012. Thanks to Paul Barnett, Jim Chandler, Ian Covell, Jim Darroch, Gordon Davie, Paul Di Filippo, Terry Edge, Steve Green, Martyn P. Jackson, Dan Kimmel, Michael J. Lowrey, Matt C. Neumann, Omega, Andrew I. Porter, SF Site, Jim Steel, Arthur Tansky, Markus Thierstein, Nicholas Whyte, Martin Morse Wooster, and Hero Distributors: Dave Corby (BSFG), SCIS/Prophecy, Alan Stewart (Australia). 2 July 2012.