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Ansible 301, August 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, Granek's Equation, Whitewick or Persholt.

Big Locog Is Watching. With current UK restrictions on free speech, Ansible dares not refer to the author Jack London, the sf stories After London and London's Peril, or the prophetic BBC comedy Twenty Twelve. It could be fatal to cite Jack Vance's The Five Gold Bands or to juxtapose Isaac Asimov's 'Gold' with Justina Robson's Silver Screen and Stephen Baxter's Bronze Summer. Above all, don't mention Nigel Kneale:

The Year of the Sex Olympics

Brian Aldiss revealed his infallible 1970s pickup technique. Having sat in a train opposite a young woman reading his raunchy The Hand-Reared Boy: '"You're reading a book I wrote. Do you like it? ... Let's go and have a coffee, or go to your place?" A generous offer, I thought! But she was pretty snooty about it, or shy.' (Independent, 28 July)

Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld fame had a heart attack while setting up his dealer's table at Readercon on 12 July, and spent the rest of the convention in a hospital next door. He recovered well, with two stents, but on getting home had new trouble with a kidney stone. Ouch. [F]

Emanuel Cleaver exhorted fellow US Congress members in his weekly letter: 'I am protesting these new Twilight vampire movies. They are disgusting. After all, everyone knows that real vampires and werewolves don't date the same girl. This is a travesty that must be addressed by the horror scholars of this generation, otherwise millions of young kids will grow to adulthood thinking that Twilight movies are as accurate as Bram Stoker's Dracula.' (An actual political point follows.) Everyone's a critic these days. (Politico, 23 July) [MMW]

Gareth Edwards, director of the new Godzilla, reassures those who doubt the plausibility of a huge city-smashing reptile: 'There's nothing scifi about this movie. It's very grounded, very realistic.' (io9) [cj]

Terry Goodkind took revenge on a fan who'd openly pirated the latest fantasy in his Sword of Interminability series (a self-published ebook), by posting the offender's details and photo on Facebook after private contact efforts were ignored. 'How ironic you claim to be a fan of books that uphold truth and honour above all else. We hope the price of fame is worth the cost of your infamy.' The pirate's Web page(s) and Twitter account soon vanished; onlookers debated whether this was praiseworthy rough justice – after all, 'information wants to be free' – or regrettable vigilantism. (Guardian, 11 July) [AIP]

Peter Jackson's and Warner Bros' plan to expand the Hobbit project from two films to three – using spare Lord of the Rings material since 'There's so much good stuff in the appendices that we haven't been able to squeeze into these movies' (Telegraph, 26 July) – was thoughtfully described by The Independent's John Walsh as 'stretching an ant's arse over a rain barrel.' (Independent, 26 July) [MPJ]

Ursula K. Le Guin said in a July interview that in recent years the publishing industry – specifically, Harcourt – has been trying to tinker with the basics of her novels: 'There was an increasing pressure to make them more like Harry Potter.' (Wired, 25 July) Imagine that: a Le Guin YA story about a young hero growing up in a school for wizards!

Barry N. Malzberg had successful knee replacement surgery on 24 July and has since been savouring the pangs of rehab therapy. [PDF]

Patrick Stewart carried some kind of torch through Croydon on 23 July. A long, witty report from Croydon fandom is awaited. [F770]


Click here for longlist with linksLondonOverseas

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.

18-19 Aug • Caption (small-press comics), East Oxford Community Centre, 44B Princes St, Iffley. Starts 10am. £10 or £5/day at door.

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

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

28 Aug • BSFA Open Meeting, Melton Mowbray, 18 Holborn, London, EC1N 2LE. 5/6pm for 7pm. With Shaun Tan. NB Tue, not Wed.

30 Aug - 3 Sep • Chicon 7 (70th Worldcon), Hyatt Regency, Chicago. Now $230 reg (both in advance and at the door), $560 family, $100 YA (17-21), $75 child (5-16), accompanied under-5s free. Day rates: Thu $50; Fri, Sat, Sun $70; Mon $40. More at Hugo voting has now closed and the main Worldcon hotel is full.

1-2 Sep • SF Weekend in Weaver Words festival (29 Aug-9 Sep), Frodsham, Cheshire. See; 0845 557 7469.

6-9 Sep • The Asylum (steampunk), Lincoln. £22 basic reg (plus £1.20 booking fee) with many discounts and extras. Online booking only: Contact majortinker at aol dot com.

15 Sep • Bristol Beer & Blake's 7, Knight's Templar, Unit 1 Temple Square, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6DG. 12:15 to 7pm-ish.

21 Sep • The Hobbit at 75, British Library, 6:30pm-8pm. £7.50, £5 unwaged. Details and bookings at

21-23 Sep • Oxonmoot (Tolkien Soc), Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Now £47 reg (members £38); see for various child discounts. Cheques to Tolkien Society, 149/4 Morrison St, Edinburgh, EH3 8AG. Registration deadline is 3 September.

22-23 Sep • H.G. Wells Festival, The Grand, The Leas, Folkestone, CT20 2XL. Comprises £40 dinner 7:30pm Sat; £15 lunch noon Sun with speech. Contact 01 303 222 222;

22 Sep • Titancon, Europa Hotel, Belfast. £18 reg, rising to £20 on 1 September. Also GoH reading on previous evening in McHughs pub as part of Belfast's free Culture Night. See for more.

4-7 Oct • Grimmfest 2012 (horror/cult film festival), Manchester. £45, to rise soon, plus £2 booking fee. Gory details at

25-27 Feb 2013 • Redemption '13 (multimedia sf), Britannia Hotel, Fairfax St, Coventry, CV1 5RP. GoH Virginia Hey, Kim Newman; more TBA. £65 reg, rising to £70 on 1 September; unwaged etc £20 less; £75 at door. £15 supp and under-18s; under-3s free. Contact 61 Chaucer Road, Farnborough, Hampshire, GU14 8SP.

29 Mar - 1 Apr 2013 • EightSquaredCon (Eastercon), Bradford. Now £60 reg, rising to £70 on 1 February; £25 supp/junior (12-17); £10 child (5-11); £1 infant. Online booking

25-28 Jul 2014 • Continuum 2014 (RPG), John Foster Hall, Leicester University. Details TBA. See

Rumblings. London in 2014 (unstoppable Worldcon bid) issued its Progress Report -1 in digital form only – see – and I was deeply relieved to find I'm not on the committee.

Infinitely Improbable

As Others See Comic-Con. 'For those unwilling to carry a warlock's staff, wear spandex superhero tights, or daub themselves in green body paint to create the appearance of a slightly less Incredible Hulk, the Comic-Con convention in San Diego may look like an anomalous gathering of geeks, social recluses, and science fiction obsessives.' (Matthew Garrahan, Financial Times, 14 July) [MMW]

Awards. Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery: Fredric Brown.
Prometheus (libertarian): Delia Sherman, The Freedom Maze, and Ernest Cline, Ready Player One (tie). CLASSIC E.M. Forster, 'The Machine Stops' (1909).
Eaton (sf life achievement): Ray Harryhausen, Stan Lee, Ursula K. Le Guin. [L]
Pulitzer: the 2012 poetry winner, Tracy K. Smith's collection Life on Mars, has much science and sf content. [SS]
Rhysling (poetry). LONG Megan Arkenberg, 'The Curator Speaks in the Department of Dead Languages' (Strange Horizons 6/11). SHORT Shira Lipkin, 'The Library, After' (Mythic Delirium 6/11)
Seiun (Japan) foreign categories: NOVEL Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl, trans Kazue Tanaka & Hiroshi Kaneko. SHORT Ted Chiang, 'The Lifecycle of Software Objects', trans Nozomi Ohmori.
Shirley Jackson (suspense/horror), novel category: Sheri Holman, Witches on the Road Tonight.
World Fantasy, Life Achievement: Alan Garner, George R.R. Martin.
Emmy Awards: genre favourites are American Horror Story, nominated in 17 categories, and Game of Thrones, 12 categories.
Booker Prize longlisted titles of alleged genre interest: Ned Beauman, The Teleportation Accident; Will Self, Umbrella; Sam Thompson, Communion Town. [L]

We Are Everywhere. Following reports of racist intimidation by Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party: 'Mr. Kasidiaris, the Golden Dawn spokesman, denied accusations of vigilantism, including charges of beatings and extremism. "This is not serious stuff," he said. "It's science fiction, a screenplay and an urban legend."' (NY Times, 10 July) [JB]

R.I.P. William Asher (1921-2012), US director of The 27th Day (1957) and Bewitched (1964-1972), died on 16 July; he was 90. [F]
Ernest Borgnine (1917-2012), Oscar-winning US actor, died on 8 July aged 95. Genre credits include The Devil's Rain (1975), The Ghost of Flight 401 (1978), The Black Hole (1979), Escape From New York (1981), Deadly Blessing (1981), and Alice in Wonderland (1985); also the tv Captain Video (1951) and Future Cop (1976-1977, famously sued by Harlan Ellison). [SG]
Cathy Ball, Oklahoma fan active and popular in UK fandom while stationed here in the late 70s/early 80s, died on 5 July; she was 59. [KC]
Tage Eskestad (1920-2012), Danish author of several sf novels 1967-1981 – notably Flygninge fra Himlen (1973), an sf interpretation of The Book of Enoch, and Matriarkatet (1975), a post-apocalyptic dystopia – has died at age 92. [KAM]
Norman Felton (1913-2012), UK-born producer of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1964-1968) and its spinoffs, died on 25 June; he was 99. [MPJ]
James Grout (1927-2012), UK actor whose genre credits include The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio), The Box of Delights (1984 tv), Man and Superman (1984 tvm) and Old Harry's Game (1995-2010 radio), died on 24 June aged 84. [AW]
Margaret Mahy (1936-2012), NZ author of 160 children's and YA books including many supernatural fantasies, died on 23 July; she was 76. Her numerous awards include two Carnegie Medals – she was the first Carnegie winner from outside Britain – and the Hans Christian Andersen Award. [JF]
Chris Marker (1921-2012), French writer, artist and film-maker whose time-travel classic La Jetée (1962, composed almost entirely of stills) was the acknowledged inspiration for Twelve Monkeys (1995), died on 29 July, the day of his 91st birthday. [MJE]
Eric Sykes (1923-2012), noted UK comic actor and writer whose genre credits range from 1950s Goon Show script contributions to parts in Alice in Wonderland (1985 tv), Gormenghast (2000 tv), The Others (2001) and Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (2005), died on 4 July. He was 89. [AW]
Mary Tamm (1950-2012), UK actress best known as Tom Baker's Time Lady companion Romana in Doctor Who 1978-1979, died on 26 July aged 62. Another genre role was in Tales that Witness Madness (1973). [AW]
Ginny Tyler (1925-2012), US voice actress heard in many genre animations including The Sword in the Stone (1963), Mary Poppins (1964), Space Ghost (tv 1966-1968) and The Fantastic Four (tv 1978), died on 13 July aged 86. [SFS]
Gore Vidal (1925-2012), major US author and polemicist who made regular use of sf and fantasy devices, died on 31 July; he was 86. Works of genre importance include Messiah (1954), Visit to a Small Planet (1957 play), Kalki (1978), Duluth (1983), Live From Golgotha (1992), The Smithsonian Institution (1998) and various critical essays. [F]
Simon Ward (1941-2012), UK actor seen in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Holocaust 2000 (1977), The Monster Club (1981) and Supergirl (1984), died on 20 July aged 70. [MMW]
Richard D. Zanuck (1934-2012), US film producer of Jaws (1975) fame, died on 13 July aged 77. Films include Cocoon (1985), Chain Reaction (1996), Deep Impact (1998), Planet of the Apes (2001 remake), Reign of Fire (2002), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Alice in Wonderland (2010), Dark Shadows (2012) and Hidden (due 2013). [SG]

As Others Appreciate Us. 'Iain M Banks's novel Use of Weapons has a narrative structure that, if it were not a work of science fiction, would qualify it as the most "literary" of literary fiction.' (John Mullan, Guardian Book Club, 20 July) [DH]

Outraged Letters. Stephen Baxter: 'Well done Dave – 300 not out! Essential reading as ever.' Thanks for all similar messages in the wake of the big 300.
Brad Foster replies to email from your editor: '"Stand in the dock together?" Heck, you mean I might get a free trip to London out of this, too? Sounds like a deal to me. Besides, I have no idea what you are talking about, is it something to do with my cartoonist homage to the artistic field of cubism? Any other view is surely in mind of the beholder only, and in no way remotely the intention of the artist.'
Henry Wessells invites me to join his John Sladek Society. 'The chief or only aim is to put a blue plaque on 221B [Camden High St]: "SLADEK – DISCH – ZOLINE / in a squalor worthy of today's Mozambique / 1968".'
Phil Stephensen-Payne on alleged tiddliness in HIGNFY (Claire M. Jordan, A300): 'This is utter nonsense. Shatner makes a career these days of this sort of character (just watch any series of Boston Legal) and while he was probably a little out of his depth, the suggestion that he was drunk is just plain silly.' (Claire is prepared to accept that despite appearances it was all part of the act, but wonders: 'Is he a good enough actor to act drunk? It's quite a difficult thing to do.')

Magazine Scene. With issue 23 (June-July), Black Static has shrunk from 20x27.5cm to 17x24cm and grown from 64pp to 96pp. Its sister magazine Interzone may do the same if readers don't object to the discontinuity in their neat rows of back issues. Feedback is requested.

A Far, Far Batter Thing. Allegedly The Dark Knight Rises is 'loosely based' on A Tale of Two Cities (Independent, 15 July) [MPJ]

Random Fandom. Readercon's stated 'zero tolerance' policy, whereby sexual harassment brings 'permanent suspension of membership', led to controversy when the convention board chose to ban a (serial, as it turned out, and persistent though told repeatedly to stop) offender for two years. The facts are undisputed; the last such ban was for life; what had changed, since the policy hadn't? The former offender was an outsider but this time it's a well-known fan who conveyed that he was 'sincerely regretful'. Complaints that some are more equal than others soon followed, and a vast protest petition is growing online. [Later: a public statement from Readercon.]

As Others Try to Love Us. 'Lethem's ambition to marry the crime novel with science fiction tripped the sanctimonious alarm bells my newly-minted MFA had wired into my aesthetic sense, and I read Gun (With Occasional Music) without feeling like I understood it and made for Amnesia Moon, another dystopia that plainly read to me like science fiction (although I had never read science fiction). More alarm bells, precipitating an incipient loathing for genre.' (Jaime Clarke, introducing Conversations with Jonathan Lethem ed. Clarke, 2011) [MMW]

The Dead Past. 70 Years Ago, the world war had a chilling side-effect: 'Doc Smith's new [Lensman] book was slowed down for a while for he has gone to work for a big munitions firm as a Chemical Engineer, and since his work for the past twenty years or so has been Cereal Chemistry, and he had to do a little "boning up" on his explosives at first. But he expected to get at it soon the last time I saw him. so perhaps he is already working again in his spare time.' (E. Everett Evans, Futurian War Digest 22, August 1942) A critical insight from the same piece: 'Doc really writes TWO stories in ONE; the "bang-bang" story for the casual reader, and the deeply-plotted, carefully worked out psychological story for the deeper reader and thinker.'
30 Years Ago: 'Brain Of Britain (radio) lately featured strange questions – e.g. about "Reindeers of the Lost Ark" – and strange answers also. "Billion Year Spree. New Maps of Hell. What do these books have in common?" "Er ... Drug addiction."' (Ansible 28, August/September 1982)

C.o.A. Lilian Edwards, 36 Gillespie Crescent, Edinburgh, EH10 4HX.

Fanfundery. Despite the lack of a North American DUFF winner to grace this year's Australian NatCon, I gather DUFF was represented by 'a small dazed looking stuffed teddybear called "Hold Over Funds"'. [YR]

Thog's Masterclass. Silence is Golden Dept. '"Don't talk." Her words were soundless. "Just come with me."' (Jack Williamson, 'The Humanoid Universe', June 1980 Analog) [CG]
Eyeballs in the Sky. 'Her eyes were rocking with water.' (Sarah Hall, Daughters of the North, 2007) [PB]
• 'The solid steel was back in those watery eyes.' (Julie Hyzy, 'Five Sorrowful Mysteries' in At the Scene of the Crime, 2008, ed. Dana Stabenow) [PB]
Dept of Early Rising. 'Liam gave up trying to scrub his brain awake through his scalp.' (Dana Stabenow, 'On the Evidence', in At the Scene of the Crime as above)
Self-Introduction Dept. 'As she peered up at him, Jupiter suddenly realized she was a Gypsy. Her first words confirmed this. "I am Zelda, the Gypsy," she said.' (Robert Arthur, The Mystery of the Talking Skull, 1969) [PL]
Neat Tricks Dept. 'It was an appropriate start to a night during which my heart rarely left my mouth except to sink to my boots.' (Eric Ambler, The Dark Frontier, 1936) [PB]
• 'Her mind boiled coldly.' (Felicity Savage, Humility Garden, 1995) [BA]
• 'And energy that she could never access any other time, not even when she needed it, welled up like clotted urgent speech in her fingers.' (Ibid)
Dept of Can This Be Euphemism? 'Jimmy looked over Nadine's head at Annabeth and Sara, felt all three of them blow through his chest, fill him up, and turn him to dust at the same time.' (Dennis Lehane, Mystic River, 2001) [PB]

Geeks' Corner

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• 1 August 2012: Iain M. Banks in conversation (Guardian Book Club), 7:30pm, Hall One, Kings Place, Kings Cross, London. 7:30pm. £9.50. Probably too late to book, but just in case:
• 10 August 2012, Brum Group: Summer Social restaurant meal at the Black Eagle pub – advance booking essential, £5 deposit. Normal venue is the 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: September, Simon R. Green; October tba; November, Eric Brown; December, Christmas Social.

Outraged Letters II. Simon R. Green: 'I can't believe we've lost three Doctor Who companions, in such a short space of time. Sarah Jane, Liz Shaw, and Romana. Of course, it's three marvellous and talented actresses who've died, but I never knew them. I do feel that I knew the characters they played. Fictional characters from beloved shows are like extended family. They matter to us. I like to think that Liz Sladen, Caroline John and Mary Tamm are travelling through the real Outer Realms now, reunited with the Doctor, going places even the Tardis could never take them. Travel on, sweet ladies. / I swear I'm getting more sentimental as I get older. It's probably time I killed you in a book again.' – As a bitter, twisted novelist said to Nero Wolfe on a similar occasion: 'You will die, sir, in the most abhorrent manner conceivable to an appalling infantile imagination. I promise you.' (Rex Stout, The League of Frightened Men, 1935)

Cold Trail. US fan J.B. Post is trying to trace a 1960s airletter sent to him by Arthur C. Clarke, regretting that Clarke couldn't be principal speaker at the Philadelphia SF Society's Philcon owing to current work on Stanley Kubrick's 2001. The letter subsequently vanished from a PSFS meeting and, if not destroyed, may have found its way to some institutional archive. If so: 'I don't think PSFS would want it back, merely a note that it is on loan ...' [AIP]

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

Thog's Second Helping. Sleepy Simile Special. 'Then he knew nothing until he was awaked in the early morning by what sounded exactly like the crack of doom. [New chapter:] It was not, however, the crack of doom.' (Murray Leinster, Space Platform, 1953) [KM]
• 'The sound [of the electronic doorbell] circulated round the dark room like a cat on the prowl, and padded onto the face of the sleeping man.' (Gordon Walters, 'Zelerinda' in Amazing Stories, August 1964) [CG]
• 'The man stirred in his sleep. Lines, like cracks in the hyperspace barrier, spread over his face.' (Ibid)

Ansible 301 Copyright © David Langford, 2012. Thanks to Brian Ameringen, Paul Barnett, John Boston, Kent Cordray, Paul Di Filippo, Malcolm Edwards, File 770, Jo Fletcher, Carl Glover, Steve Green, FictionMags, David Haddock, Martyn P. Jackson, carl juarez, Locus, Pamela Love, Kyle McAbee, Klaus Æ. Mogensen, Andrew I. Porter, Yvonne Rousseau, SF Site, Steve Sneyd, Andrew Wells, Martin Morse Wooster, and our Hero Distributors: Dave Corby (BSFG), SCIS/Prophecy, Alan Stewart (Australia). 1 August 2012.