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Ansible 39, August 1984

Cartoon: Taral

PLEASE NOTE that this old Ansible is a bit of history. Addresses may have changed (though the editor's postal address hasn't), prices and agents' credits are invalid, the Prestel number is no more, etc. • This issue was produced in my BWP or Before-Word-Processors era and lovingly rekeyed for the archives by Tony Smith ... to whom many thanks! • Dave Langford, 1995.

ANSIBLE 39 • ISSN 0265-9816

ANSIBLE 39 is a splendid send-up of a top-secret atomic base, where the zany hero spends his time designing nukes (Daily Mail). This latest (in every sense of the word) semi-annual issue is brought to you by DAVE LANGFORD, 94 LONDON ROAD, READING, BERKSHIRE, RG1 5AU, England. Six issues cost £2: cheques/sterling money orders to ANSIBLE, Girobank transfers to a/c 24 475 4403; Americans may send $3.50 to Mary & Bill Burns, 23 Kensington Ct, Hempstead, NY 11550, and anyone unlucky enough to meet Roelof Goudriaan on a dark night is permitted to give him the equivalent of £2 also (Postbus 1189, 8200 BD Lelystad, Netherlands). By a truly wonderful coincidence, all Ansible agents – including me at HQ – are empowered to accept your eagerly offered £1, $2 or equivalent-of-£1.50-in-Eurocurrency for presupporting membership in BRITAIN IN 87, the Worldcon bid which is more trifficer than any other. Cartoon in celebration of TAFF result by TARAL, mailing labels by KEITH FREEMAN, collation last issue by Chris Hughes (and Jan Huxley? It's such a long time I've forgotten), interior art by MARGARET WELBANK (Bumcon) and D. WEST (TAFF). YOUR MAILING LABEL means you should send money instantly (SUB DUE or *****), by issue XX (LASTISH XX) or hardly ever (TRADE). Mailing list up to 415 people. Thought for Today: 'And when Life's prospects may at times appear dreary to ye, / Remember Alois Senefelder, the discoverer of lithography.' (Wm. McGonagall – honest!) August 1984.


Our silence since Easter was due to a unilateral decision of Barclaycard (with no secret ballot), clearly a politically motivated attempt to topple Ansible's editorial power structure. Thanks for support to Rob Hansen ('About time you handed over to someone else') and Abi Frost ('Let Phil Palmer edit it'). Owing to angst there's no poll form enclosed: to vote, get a bit of paper and try to recall what happened in UK fanzines from Easter 83 to Easter 84. List up to 5 ranked choices in each of the categories Best Fanzine, Fanwriter and Fanartist; up to 3 unranked choices for Best Single Issue, Article/Column, Fanzine Cover and – perennial favourite – Worst Thing of 1983-4. The usual extra issue for all voters. Also: should jaded Langford slink away licking his wounds and let someone else edit the Great British Newsletter? Small prize for least original answer.


Nebula Awards went to David Brin's Startide Rising (novel – 'Tosh, but good fun,' says R. Kaveney), Greg Bear's 'Hardfought' (novella) and 'Blood Music' (novelette), and Gardner Dozois's 'The Peacemaker' (short). The esoteric Buggins' Turn selection system for the Grand Master award gave it to Andre Norton... D. West scored an overwhelming moral victory in TAFF by triumphantly not winning, his cunning misère play thus leaves Rob Hansen doomed to visit LA-Con. Eurovotes: 41 Hansen, 41 West, 1 P. Skelton. USA: 60 Hansen, 19 West, 1 Hold Over Funds. US administrator Avedon 'Impartial' Carol giggled immoderately over (non-first-place) votes for eg. 'Embezzle Funds', and UK administrator Kevin 'Gafia' Smith nearly sent a detailed TAFF Talk report... A Contest For New & Amateur Writers, Sponsored by L. Ron Hubbard, featured on a flyer thrust into my hand by lovable Fred Harris at Seacon, but it is now all too late. This leads to a note by Charles Platt, who was at Disclave (Washington) and felt it had 'successfully wrested from Lunacon the honorary title of Dullest, Stupidest Convention in America. Joe Haldeman was invited to attend, turned up, and found he had been omitted from the programme by mistake. He seemed tired of teaching at MIT and blames that and his word processor for lack of literary output lately. There was a "sock hop", a kind of 1950s style American disco, at which Gardner Dozois was guest DJ, playing Beatles oldies: a truly wretched event. Next day, at the ABA annual book fair, I was so disturbed by the sight of the Del Reys, like a pair of weird gnomic hairy spiders presiding over their little booth of horrendously badly written books, I felt compelled to leave, pausing only to watch a videotape trailer for the Dune movie at the Putnam exhibit. The clips they were showing looked totally anonymous and undistinguished: no grandeur, no sense of place. At a Dune promo party I ran into Algis Budrys, in Washington to supervise the LRH short-story awards handed out a couple of days later (I don't know who won): he was employed as a consultant by Author Services Inc to verify the legitimacy of the awards. Frank Herbert was also at this party, but had shaved off his beard, which was all that anyone seemed capable of talking about.' (C. Platt)... The weird Private Eye correspondence (#580-8) about my forgotten UFO book resulted in Malcolm Edwards telling me I was more boring than Larry Adler; in numerous people questioning my existence; in, ho ho, a plug for the Langford novel of nuclear farce The Leaky Establishment (Frederick Muller £8.95, buy it or make your library buy it now!); and in an earnest enquiry from F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre – a name to conjure with – wishing to Expose my ufological pretences in a future Omni. Help.


"Arthur C. Clarke was recently in town, making his cinematic debut as "a wine-sucking bum" in 2010: The Sequel. Clarke's ascent to bumdom was reportedly not a success: attempts to film him feeding breadcrumbs to pigeons were interrupted by a marathon, a walkathon, Pres. Reagan's helicopter and the unnerving tendency of Roy Scheider to parade in tight black shorts between takes. As a result, the scene was cut from the film. "If you can't be a successful bum," Clarke says, "the next best thing is a writer".... Ultra-hot news concerns a perennial favourite, Carl Sagan's novel Contact, which Simon & Schuster has announced as a February 85 title. This "long-awaited major literary not science fiction. It is an engrossing, believable novel, rich in detail and peopled with characters about whose lives we care." The plot concerns a "Dr Rebecca Blake, a distinguished astrophysicist, young, beautiful" (never trust your grungy workaday astrophysicists, right?) who receives a Mysterious Message from billions and billions of miles away, containing "instructions for building a vast and complex machine which nobody on earth can understand, and which many consider a Trojan Horse" – a passage eerily similar to Worldcon business meetings. (Oh, was A For Andromeda all about Worldcon business meetings? – Ed.) Spies report that Sagan's MS has not, however, been delivered: S&S haven't even prepared a jacket, relying instead on a toothy picture of Carl Cosmos to fill the gap. The saga continues..." (MMW)


'A Chicago-style "knock-over" bid was carried out in a Glasgow street on the night of 26 April. A group of skiffy fans had just left a local hostelry when a scream of tyres alerted them to a vehicle bearing down on them. Women screamed and men leapt aside, expecting a fusillade of bullets from the minivan. Fortunately the driver's "Chicago piano" had evidently jammed, but relief was shortlived: the van mounted the pavement and sped through the crowd, apparently aiming for one individual, a notorious Shavian booklegger. He was saved by Mr Barney Carlin (55), who quickwittedly kicked the van as it passed him, deflecting it onto the road... The driver of the minivan, identified as M. Molloy (recently charged with attempting to organize a Glasgow convention but released for lack of evidence), then leapt out and apologized profusely to his intended victim, but had to retreat to his van when threatened by the pedestrians who had had to jump aside....' (Sandy Brown) Repercussions continue....


A. Bertram Chandler of 'Rim Worlds' series fame, d. 6 June following a heart attack two days before (F770); Charles G. Finney, author of the 1935 Circus of Dr Lao, d. 16 April (SFC); Halls of Horror magazine, killed at issue 30 owing to persistent rejection by the Smiths/Menzies distribution monopoly in the UK, and the planned Video Fantasy, stillborn for the same reason (BFN). Word is that Smenzies are displaying proleptic cowardice in fear of the 'anti-video-nasty backlash'. (NB: the Old Bailey censorship case – A38 – went against the police, who at once held sportingly onto the disputed '6,300 copies of 47 assorted titles', planning to have them burnt by magistrates' order anyway.)


... in the recent Folio Soc. Worst First Sentence contest, with his Naked to the Stars: 'The voice, speaking out of the ancient blackness of the night on the third planet of Arcturus – under an alien tree, bent and crippled by the remorseless wind – paused, and cleared its throat: "Ahem," it said. "Gentlemen..."' (Now read on – )

Margaret Welbank

{short description of image}

The Horrors of TAFF
D. West

THIS IS CACTUS COUNTRY • Abi Frost at Mexicon

'You realize,' I said to the Southern Fuhrer some time after the con, 'that if anyone else had put on a con with bloody great papier-mache cactuses all over the place, we'd be groaning about this being the ultimate degeneracy of fandom...'

'You could be right, at that,' said Gregory.

Degenerate it may have been, reactionary it probably was, but the Mexicon seemed – to these somewhat biased eyes – to deliver the goods as promised. (Much to our relief; I for one spent 12 of my first 24 hours in Newcastle in excruciating pain from Anxiety Stomach, which I tried to cure by spending longish periods in my room reading D. West's Great Big Yellow Thing and J. Ruskin's On The Nature of Gothic. Hungover on a Monday morning panel, I was quite unable to remember which of them had written some snappy quote about rules and standards I wanted to use. Ruskin's fanzine criticism much overrated, in my view.)

Well, glory be. It was a con of heroes, anti-heroes, and Amazing Sights Never Before Witnessed. Greatest hero of the lot was Chairman Kevin Williams, without whom etc etc; some larger conventions might be put to shame by his sheer professionalism as an organizer. Surprise hero by acclamation was Alasdair Gray, a shambling figure in a greenish jersey, with a trufan's attitude to the demon drink (even Pickersgill Punch when the bar closed), who won everyone's heart by falling asleep on the con hall steps during the disco. (Nobody drew on him, but he drew pictures of people in the bar on Monday.)

Collective heroes were Riverside, the punk PA crew, who provided a panellist for Phil Palmer's punk-and-comics-fanzines show, turned up the volume during nuclear blasts in Atomic Cafe, and drank their Pickersgill Punch in pints. They also turned up on time every day, even when they'd been up later than I had. Heroine, for me, was Kate Davies, who completed her trufannish metamorphosis at Mexicon, wearing an astonishing selection of most un-Trekkish clothes (everything from grape-coloured Victoriana to 1984 prole-garb). Arch anti-hero was The Mysterious Kilted Scotsman, who appears causing trouble and devastation in pretty well all the accounts of the con. No space for full details, but you must hear how a certain TWP administrator found him asleep on a landing, made the traditional examination, and dashed away, face curdled with disgust. To some extent he atoned on Monday, paying some exorbitant sum for the larger of the cacti, egged on by a stream of gross personal abuse from auctioneer G. Pickersgill.

Our Gregory was the surprise anti-hero. Pickersgillian Black Moods scarcely come under the rubric 'never before witnessed', but his Mexicon downer was a lulu. 'Shabby, shabby,' he snarled on Saturday night, presiding like a malevolent spirit over what most thought was the best con disco in history. On Sunday he perked up, had a Real Good Time at the fanroom party, and by Monday's auction he was everyone's favourite wicked uncle. 'You can't wear it, Katie,' he told Ms Davies of the backdrop she was bidding for. ('Yer wanna bet?' said her expression); 'Jewish comics fans don't want them,' (failing to sell some fanzines to Lilian Edwards) 'so they must be good!' What he said of Phil Palmer has been recorded elsewhere and is in any case obscene.

Collective anti-heroes were Newcastle U SF Society; on Friday night one of them started objecting to a panel on Current Burning Issues (mostly a good old row about Seacon), then announced his intention of walking out during the next item, discussion of Knockabout Comics and censorship in general. Not enough to do with written SF, he reckoned, and no amount of reference to Philip K. Dick would change his mind. The Society walked out en masse despite the suggestion that one of them come and put their case to the audience. Linda Pickersgill later seems to have calmed the man down; but they never quite got into the spirit of the con; once I found the whole lot in the continuation room, silently reading skiffy books.

Anti-heroine, if I'd been making the list beforehand, might have been Joy Hibbert, foremost in the silly 'Mexicon is elitist' campaign which annoyed the shit out of us during the run-up to the con: once she arrived she seemed to enjoy herself, though, and even to have recanted. Amazing Sights... well, it depends what you think amazing, and there are some sights better left unrecorded. But there were unforgettable moments of madness and pure magic. Ah, John Jarrold's birthday cake! Presented to him by three Chiquitas in pink plastic Mexi-jackets, it hung round on the fanroom table looking embarrassed for much of the con. In the end it was auctioned: Rog Peyton couldn't get any takers for the whole cake, and not enough for a slice-by-slice sale, so ordered a collection for Jarrold to eat it whole. (Raised about £40, which proves some people's appetite for disgusting sights hadn't been sated by Pink Flamingoes.) By this time JJ had started cutting it up and it had begun to collapse into fragments of sponge and hard baby-blue icing; furtively, one eye on the collection bucket, he began eating the bits. The bucket returned: on a count-down he hurled the wretched thing into his face and sucked quite a lot of it down. Pickersgill, who ate a bit that fell on the floor, said it wasn't bad really.

Unlike Gray, who took the con straight to his heart and liver, Russell Hoban sometimes seemed a little withdrawn; like a man with a secret. We found out what it was during Paul Kincaid's interview with Hoban: suddenly he drew out (from where? His shoulderbag?) a little automaton. This, he announced, was the original Mouse and his Child – and then he set the two figures dancing. The hall was bewitched, silent and breathless; then at once alive with clapping... More applause for Geoff Ryman's dramatization of The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. A play at a con? we'd wondered. In the rehearsal time available? Could it really work? It did. Bloody hell, it did, uniting everyone there for the whole evening. Another something I've never seen before is the spirit in the con hall during the panels I put on. During the first few items I – and I would guess Chris Evans and Paul Kincaid, skiffy supremos – felt a little alarmed at the smallness of the audience. It only gradually dawned on me that, though we were putting on a programme that might be comparable to an Eastercon's main programme, the con itself was maybe a quarter the size, in terms of people actually present. And when discussion got going – you were magnificent, Mexipeople. This really was the con where everyone participated. I was particularly grateful for this on Monday morning (future committees – no more 10am starts, please), when Anne Warren decided she'd better add some sense to the hungover ramblings of me and my fellow panellists. (That was one hell of a fanroom party...) Oh? The serious written SF stuff? The boundary-breaking film programme? The special convention bar prices? Bloody hell, Langford, do you want me to write about that as well?

Footnote: I'm trying to get together as large a collection as possible of Mexiconreps, in order to synthesize them into the ultimate conreport of all time for the next Mexicon programme book. I'd be grateful if anyone who's writing a report, or just has a few memories they think would add to the thing, would send them to me ASAP. I'm after raw data rather than fine writing – the more the merrier – and am already learning strange things from Margaret Welbank's version... such as what ants taste like. (Abi Frost, 69 Robin Hood Gdns, London, E.14.)


Mexicon was fun... but the thing about the special con bar prices was that they were, across the board, several p. more than in the ordinary boring downstairs bar. There are secrets of the Universe with which fan should not meddle? I remember A. Gray proving in conversation to know vast tracts of G. K. Chesterton; R. Hoban running all the way to W. H. Smith to find what I'd said about Pilgermann in my review column; M. Edwards chillingly declaring that of an entire hardback printing in Gollancz SF, 'if 100 end up in private hands I'd be quite pleasantly surprised'; punk fanzine person Alan (mentioned by Abi above) looking most eerily like erstwhile fan Peter Roberts in appearance and gesture; Lisa Tuttle, stumped for a Most Pretentious SF Author in 'Pro SF Fortunes', saying hopefully 'Chris Priest?'; all the BOF survivors of Tynecon I, myself included, agreeing with strange unanimity that the Royal Station Hotel's stairwells had shrunk no end since 1974; and, to quote that M. Edwards's last DT, 'one classic moment came on Saturday evening when the hotel decided to shut the bar at 2.30am instead of 3.00 as agreed, and I stood at the bar listening to Kev Williams and another committee member try to argue the hotel manager out of this. The other committee member was so persuasive that the bar closed at 2.00 instead!' (Hint: initials G.P.) OK con, and it's happening again in Bristol next year.


Sue Williams has again leaked the results of the polling for the SF Fortunes game (in deference to her tactful wishes I omit the results in the category Most Obnoxious SF Writer) – she also wishes to thank everyone for the auction's £260 which just got the con into the black after an injudiciously low registration fee (£5): Kate Davies got her backdrop after all, for £32 (look for it at the next Fancy Dress), and technical wizard A. Akien raised 50p by furtively stealing a bit from the film Celine & Julie Go Boating. Now, the results you've all been waiting for, in descending order of score:

Best SF Writer: Wolfe & Aldiss (tie), Priest & Dick (tie).
Worst: Asimov & Heinlein & Brunner & Hubbard & Fanthorpe.
Most Pretentious: Brunner, Watson, Delany, Ellison & Donaldson.
Most Fitted To Rule The World: Shaw, LeGuin, 'none of them'.
Most Sexist: Heinlein, Norman, Cooper & Russ, Pournelle.
Funniest: Shaw & Harrison, Vance & Russell (wot, no Sladek?).
Strangest: Lafferty, Dick, Hubbard & Brunner.
Whose Characters Are Most Cardboard? Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Fanthorpe.
Most Believable? Priest, Aldiss & LeGuin, Dick & Shaw & Wolfe.
The High Standard Of Which SF Writer Has Fallen Lowest? Zelazny, Heinlein, Silverberg, Asimov.
Name A Famous Robot In SF: Robbie, R. Daneel Olivaw, Roderick, R2D2 & Gort & Isaac Asimov.
If Abandoned On A Desert Island Which SF Novel Would You Take? Lord of the Rings & Battlefield ('for firewood') Earth, Book of the New Sun, The Left Hand of Darkness.
Name A Famous Race Of Aliens: Martians, Kzinti, Daleks.
Who Wrote The First SF Novel You Read? Capt. W. E. Johns, Isaac Asimov & H. G. Wells, Robert Heinlein.
Best SF Novel of 80s? Book of the New Sun & The Affirmation, Timescape, Helliconia Spring.
Name a Famous Spaceship: Enterprise, Discovery & Space Beagle, Heart of Gold & Anastasia.
Best SF Novel By A Non-SF Writer? 1984, The Alteration, Lanark.
You Are A Space Traveller Setting Foot On A New Planet; What One Thing Would You Take With You? Oxygen mask/cylinders, A Spaceship, Boots, Spacesuit & Another Foot. (Minority suggestion: Margaret Welbank.)
What Would You Do If You Met An Alien? Run away; Say hello; Offer him a drink. (Minority: Ask him if he played dominoes.)
Best SF Movie? 2001, Star Wars, Bladerunner, Dark Star & Forbidden Planet.
Most Important Element In An SF Novel? Writing & Plot, Characterization, Readability & Sensawonder. (Minority: Hydrogen.)


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: anyway it was a bloody big convention of 1700+ fans and there is no convenient place to start. 'One of the most enjoyable cons for some years,' enthused Chris (GoH) Priest in a letter gleefully passed on by John (co-Chair) Brunner. 'Many people described Seacon to me as the best con they had ever been to, and everyone else was appreciative...' Evidently Seacon was all things to all fans, written reportage having been overwhelmingly negative... you get the usual cross-eyed view with 'veterans' of one or more previous cons saying 'I had a good time because I could chat with friends, but this shambles would have really put off a newcomer' – while simultaneously the committee say defensively, 'Oh yes, those elitist fannish fans probably wouldn't have liked it but we really appealed to the Silent Majority of newcomers.' Take your pick.

Items noted as major highlights/successes were usually individual efforts or programme items: the cheap rail deal organized by one committee member (A. Akien), the first ever working creche at a big UK con (R. Dorey), a scatter of room-parties and programme items like the Helliconia panel (into which B. Aldiss imported a naked lady hired at colossal expense through the Brighton civic authorities), the Hawkwind / Oppenheimer / Sorensen musical bits, 'Dave Langford's brilliant talk' (thanks, Roelof), Bob Shaw's hypercrowded speech and a couple of the GoH speeches... Conversely, just about everything requiring lots of on-the-spot group organization seemed to go badly, perhaps the last spasm of Seacon's chronic committee problems (an initial, democratic policy of letting any willing fan aboard resulted in masses of deadwood – people wishing glory but not to do any work – which even by Easter hadn't been wholly pruned away: cf. cursing committee members complaining that 'B— S— [or other name] hasn't done an effing stroke of work yet this weekend!') Thus Chris Donaldson struggled heroically against the belated discovery that the master Programme Schedule bore little resemblance to the version that had got into the convenient, 'almost a book in itself' pocket programme: happily this confusion led to Battlefield Earth publicist Fred 'I contemplated sueing you but you haven't any money' Harris missing your editor's tactful talk 'The Dragonhiker's Guide to Battlefield Covenant at Dune's Edge: Odyssey Two'. Several panels were cancelled altogether, and just about every item I wanted to attend suffered hiccups in one form or another: one of 'my' panels got shifted a whole day by mysterious committee fiat after being saved from cancellation only by loud protest, while both R. Goudriaan's carefully prepared panels vanished altogether. This was fallout from the Great Fan Room Disaster: absurdly sited miles from anywhere (reportedly at the hotel's insistence), it was vast, hollow and inhospitable, qualities which might have been overcome by dynamic organization. No organization whatever was visible and even the bar closed after a bit, never to return. It seems that overall, in trying to provide a programme which would have served a Worldcon of four times the size, the committee got over-ambitious.

Other niggles: security was handed over to certain persons calling themselves the 42nd Squadron, who amused themselves by treating con members as morons with criminal tendencies, and helped enliven conversation by shouting at the tops of their voices into the walkie-talkies (christened 'wallyphones' by Chris Hughes) which an earlier committee decision had determined would be issued only to selected, responsible members of the committee proper. (I enjoyed seeing security overseer H. Mascetti demonstrate the power of the communications network. 'Seacon 4 to ops, Seacon 4 to ops,' he said in clipped, professional tones. 'When Colin Fine calls in can you please ask him to go to room 506 at once.' Efficiently, across the intervening ether, came the clipped, professional reply: 'Fuck off, we've got enough troubles of our own without worrying about yours.') To be fair, there were Problems of Security all right: somewhere out in Brighton a gang of badge-forgers was at work, and sixty or so were seized in a pub – it was fascinating to hear John Brunner, smooth and impossible to disbelieve, explain exactly how the wholly false rumour of forged badges had sprouted: a triumph of Keeping One's Cool in the face of the fact that Martin Hoare (co-Chair) had five minutes previously told me all about the sixty forgeries nabbed... The famous 42nd were however mysteriously invisible for the most serious incident, an invasion of three drunken and badgeless wallies looking for a fun punch-up (one kept explaining how many times he'd been done for GBH): a mighty, spontaneous wave of 100+ ordinary fans-in-the-street edged the disturbance out of the foyer into the night without casualties (Bob Jewett, hero of the hour, got knocked over and your editor had his face tweaked, but by and large it made you Proud To Be A Fan). To do justice to the 42nd, though, they were firm to the point of brutality when it came to smallish persons whose clearly displayed badges they didn't happen to notice: ask committee member Martin Tudor to show you his bruises. (Lengthy letter of complaint from Lisanne Norman omitted here.)

To happier things and my notebook: in no particular order, the spoils of Seacon. Josephine Saxton had flogged a collection of shorts to Roz Kaveney at Chatto & Windus, and is completing the novel begun with James Blish... Nick Webb of NEL extended his hegemony by becoming editorial director at Coronet as well... the fake Bob Shaw, said an unattributable source, had been slung out of both the Strathclyde Space & SF Soc and Glasgow U's space group 'Io' owing to the tedious number of his lawsuits outstanding against the societies' committee members... The rumour of Chris Priest's $82,000 Doubleday advance for The Glamour whizzed round the con so fast, he had to tear up his talk on Being A Poor SF Author and write another: in the middle of the actual speech I encountered Peter Nicholls storming ostentatiously out and crying, 'Priest is fighting old battles! His drivel has made me genuinely angry!' CP later explained: 'Well, the latter half of my speech was a long fulmination against the cult of the sf 'expert' or 'consultant', proving beyond any doubt how sf 'expertise' and 'consultancy' has led directly to trilogies, fantasy sagas, elderly prolixity by the likes of Asimov and Heinlein, sequels, and, of course, Star Wars. We name the guilty men etc etc. One line referred to the fact that even the BBC had seen fit to send its sf expert to cover Seacon that weekend. Sitting in the front row, two black eyebrows beetled mightily over an Australian pot-belly... Mind you, I did get fifteen quid from the BBC for talking to P. Nicholls. What is it? Danger money?' (C. Priest)

On Thursday evening there was a civic piss-up for a select several score, courtesy of the rate-payers of Brighton: the only one visibly present, Peter Garratt, appeared to be single-handedly attempting to make sure the people of Brighton got their money's worth of free booze. Chris Donaldson said: 'Organized? This con isn't organized! It's a mess!' Charles N. Brown of Locus fame warned me paternally that I was getting too big: I compared our waistlines in alarm for a long moment, before he went on to explain that Ansible's Hugo nomination and swelling circulation meant I'd have to become respectable and not say these dreadful scandalous things any more. I agreed and went round in a glow of conscious virtue which lasted several seconds before Rob Hansen told me about how Ted White was being sued for a Comics Journal (?) review which made accusations of plagiarism, and gleefully I wrote it down...

Earlier there'd been a World SF meeting at which all the usual extraordinary awards had been presented: I suppose one has to record these things. Karel Awards for translation went to Marcial Souto (Uruguay), George Balanos (Greece), Vasili Zakharchenko (USSR) and Maxim Jakubowski (France). WSF Awards took the form of perspex slabs and went to AnneMarie van Ewyck (orange, for Dedication), Takumi Shibano and Don Wollheim (blue, for Independence of Thought in SF, the former having independently translated the SF Encyclopaedia), and Ion Hobana and John Bush (green, the Harrison Awards for Improving the Status of Skiffy). The peculiar Long Distance Award, normally given to someone who's come ever such a long way to the meeting, was not presented despite a couple of delegates from Japan. Sunday saw a vast, poorly attended Seacon awards thingy whose dogged presentation of no fewer than 26 European awards so exhausted the con newsletter that it didn't retain strength to mention the BSFA Awards as well: John Sladek's Tik Tok (novel), Malcolm Edward's 'After-Images' (short), Android (media) and Bruce Pennington (artist). As for the Euro-Awards, oh dear. The normal seeking for Political Balance by making each presentation in Eastern and Western European categories was taken further by adding a UK category which was neither East nor West. The basis on which the awards were selected remains obscure since – as John Brunner bitterly complained while accepting his – various ballot forms for use at the convention failed, along with Jean-Paul 'Unreliable' Cronimus, to turn up. So, in the order UK-West-East in each category, here we go, exactly as released:-

Special Award The Science in SF (Nicholls / Langford / Stableford), International Centre for Documentation about Literature of the Strange (B), J. Parnov (SU). Novelist John Brunner, Z. Guddas (I), J. Zajdel (PL). Short Story Writer J.G. Ballard, A. de Ceglie (I), R. Wojtynski (PL). Best Publisher Gollancz, Fleuve Noir (F), Izdatielstvo 'Mir' (SU). Prozine: Foundation (!), Fiction (F), Syrius (YU). Fanzine: Epsilon, Andromeda Nachrichten (D), Helion (R). Screenwriter: no award, R. Erler (D), C. Ajmatov (SU). Film Director: no award, no award, P. Szulkin (PL) & M. Jankovits (H). Special Special Award: Seacon 84 Committee. After which it seems almost anticlimactic to note that the revamped Doc Weir Award went to lovable Joyce Slater. A fun Site Selection Meeting gave the '85 Eastercon to Leeds: a slightly hamhanded 'this is the only bid you've got so stop asking questions' attitude on the part of certain Yorcon III committeefolk didn't really justify the determination of a large section of the (small) audience to hate and heckle Leeds on general principles despite having had ages in which to put together an alternative bid if they thought it was so awful... Main focus of dissent: the spreading of Yorcon III over two hotels. Voting: 17 for the hoax Falklands bid, 49 for Yorcon III, 70 'registered abstentions', in an atmosphere so vitriolic that several quite sane people said 'even the fake Bob Shaw could have staged a winning bid against Yorcon.' With luck the committee will react by running a spiffing con: GoH is Greg Benford (who visited London recently and went sheet-white when I told him Joseph Nicholas had written the article about him for PR1. 'Tell me it isn't so,' he whimpered...) and membership is £4 supp £8 att to 45 Harold Mount, Leeds, LS6 1PW – or to US agents, same as Ansible. Hotels are the dear old Dragonara (main programme, fan room, the implied place to be) and the Queens (books, art, film & video, implied 'fringe' events). But those worrying that Yorcon might be over-fannish can take heart from Pete Lyon:

'Faaaannnnishly Yorcon struggles from strength to strength, Graham [James] being determined to make the programming as rigid and as much like a cross between an encounter session, a company think tank and a 'knowledge acquisition situation session' as possible. Grandiose themes are to be addressed by the combined intellectual forces of the attending membership in long elaborate cross-referenced items dominating whole afternoons... themes not unlike those hobby-horsical notions permanently trotting round his cranium. I represent a somewhat disorganized opposition to all this as G uses all his negotiating skills to persuade one and all that they agree with him, thus turning the main programme into an unwieldy variation of those stifling seminars so beloved of the middle management mentality... So you thought Seacon was sercon?' (PL) What a reassurance!

But we were talking about Seacon 84, where Ron Salomon wished to thank the BBC as 'the first national organization that had the guts to put me on the air', where Terry Hill kept rumouring things about a couple thrown into outer darkness for incidents of wanton public copulation ('I believe that they were from Birmingham and owned a VW'), and where D. West scrawled TERRY HILL FUCKS POODLES on lavatory doors as part of his obscure campaign of revenge. Julian May's glittery costumes were regarded with austerity by Authentic Mediaevalist Helen McCarthy, who merely observed with a tight smile, 'we don't have as many rhinestones on ours.' Bob Jewett sent 9 people to hospital during Seacon, chiefly People Who Slipped On The Deadly Metropole Stairs and Gophers Who Hurt Their Hands Shifting Things (eg. Gerry Webb's pesky missile nose-cones, still cluttering the Hoare Home weeks after). Julian May – again – raged about being ripped off by famous games mag White Dwarf, eagerly encouraged by Pete Tamlyn of famous other games mag Imagine (PT subsequently got the boot): she threatened all manner of lawsuits. Later she was seen organizing her own impromptu signing session, sitting forlorn amid vast heaps of books, one of which she got to sign. (At that she apparently did better business than the Battlefield Earth table, where a doleful lady remarked on Sunday that she'd so far sold one poster.) Also in the chilly bookroom, Chris Atkinson was horrified when after she'd sold a book to some small innocuous fan, he was picked up by two thugs and brought back to her table – 'Did he just steal this book?' Speaking of the bookroom's frequently complained-of chill, Katie 'Not a Committee Member' Hoare (mastermind behind the I PRUFREAD ANAL DOREY'S PROGRIS REPORTS badges) explained: 'If anyone had asked, we could have warmed the whole room to sub-tropical levels in 10 minutes.' Speaking of the security arrangements, famous co-Chair M. Hoare later said: 'Indefensible.' Speaking of said co-Chair, enigmatic Keith Oborn said: 'Inside every Martin Hoare there's a Hugh Mascetti trying to get out.'

Courage, my friends! We're nearing the end of my notes. The Beccon committee got all uptight when A. Dorey described Beccon 83 as 'disappointing' in the programme book despite not having attended same: they wish me to publish a long boring correction but ho-hum, water under the bridge, etc. Neil Gaiman gloated over how he'd aroused the wrath of Arrow's Faith Brooker (for revealing Very Confidential Book Plans in the last Ansible) and of Tanith Lee (by tactfully describing her in an interview as 'obviously once attractive'). Finally, back in the real-ale bars of Seacon itself (so triumphantly successful that several barrels of said beer were poured away unsold when all was over), Harry Harrison demanded that I take dictation and print his words:

'I've got a bone to pick with Charlie Brown. Two years ago this Locus reviewer guy, Dan Chow, reviewed three or four of my books – he hates me, hates my stuff, gets the plot summaries wrong – so I wrote and said Charlie, please don't give this fucker my books any more – if he's the only choice just don't review my books. Charlie swears he didn't get that letter, but I've got a carbon. Now this year a whole lot of proof copies went out – West of Eden – 25 authors say it's the best thing I've written – ask Shaw, Zelazny, Haldeman, van Vogt, Harlan – so Charlie got a proof copy and published a review by Dan Chow, three months before publication – "one more bad Harrison book written in the 50s, bad Analog prose," stuff like that – You put that in Ansible, you could head it IS THIS THE END OF LOCUS? Will Bantam – they've printed 50,000 copies – sue Locus to bankruptcy? See next issue. Oh, and put down how Anne McCaffrey's now decided she's the best SF writer in the whole world – doesn't call herself a hack any more – ripped Kingsley Amis to shreds as a bad writer and a bad reviewer when he called her the Barbara Cartland of SF... Oh, and I've got an epigram for you. Write it down. This is my epigram. "When Ian Watson grows up he wants to be John Brunner."'

Mr Harrison also made a number of gestures during this speech, which are not convenient to describe. As you can imagine (and even omitting all the bits in the notebook marked DNQ or hastily torn out), I myself had a good time at Seacon.


ALYSON ABRAMOWITZ, 10 Pine Ridge Terrace, Arlington, MA 02174, USA • JONATHAN COLECLOUGH, 'The Cottage', High St, Ellington, Huntington, Cambs, PE18 0AB • JEREMY CRAMPTON, Office of Internatnl. Student Affairs, 111 Kern Bldg, University Pk, 16802, USA • COLIN FINE (temp. to November, usual Cambridge address works with 0-4 week delay) c/o R. Peterhoff, Werk 3, Hewlett-Packard GmbH, Herrenbergstr, Boeblingen, W. Germany • WILLIAM T. GOODALL & ALISON HASTON, Flat 2, 172 Castle Hill, Reading, RG1 7RP • PHILIPPA GROVE-STEPHENSEN, 18 Poplar Pl, Gosforth, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE3 1DR • MIKE HAMILTON, 11 Cranbourne Gr, Cullercoats, North Shields, Tyne & Wear • PAUL HESKETT (winner of our 'On The Run' award for most COA notices 1983-84), Venables, Constitution Hill, Woking, Surrey, GU22 7RT • STEVE & LEAH HIGGINS, 62 Connaught Rd, Reading, RG3 2UP • LUCY HUNTZINGER (who with Avedon Carol was tearfully parted from Britfandom and flew back on 24 July – Phil Palmer escapes rumoured marriage by skin of teeth) c/o P&TNH, 75 Fairview Ave #2B, New York, NY 10040, USA • ANDY LUSIS, 23 Marshall St, Sherwood, Nottingham, NG5 4AF •MARC ORTLIEB (whose COA last issue was a figment of Roger Weddall, he says), GPO Box 2708X, Melbourne, Vic 3001, Australia • DAVE & JENNY RAGGETT, 21 St Peter's Rd, Earley, Reading, RG6 1NT • KEVIN K RATTAN, 21 The Sq, Scorton, nr Preston, Lancs • DAVID ROW, 15 Lymington Ave, Yateley, Surrey • JOYCE SCRIVNER, 4629 Columbus Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55407, USA • TOM TAYLOR, 22 Kingston Ave, Tonge Pk, Bolton, BL2 2OY • JOHN WILKES, 110 Crossloan Rd, Glasgow, G51 3NP • 29-7-84 •


Albacon 84 (Glasgow 20-23 July) duly happened, heartened by the late cancellation of the fake Bob Shaw's rival con Faircon 84 – 'Sidney Jordan (Faircon 84 GoH) will be relieved,' wrote tactful Ian Sorensen: 'he thought Bob was the Bob Shaw when first approached and has been regretting it ever since his pal Duncan Lunan put him in the picture.' Ian goes on to deplore vile – and hintedly Shavian – rumours that much-confirmed GoH Harlan Ellison would not in fact appear. Alas, he did not in fact appear, reportedly because he needed to do some rush work on The Last Dangerous Visions (you know, that zippy little anthology he's been working on since 1971): Norman Spinrad got given the tickets by his pal Harlan and came over instead as a surprise GoH. The con was enough of a success that a £1500 profit has been whispered... but at Albacon appeared flyers from the fake Bob Shaw himself, alleging inter alia that the impending lack of Ellison was known to Albacon 84's committee not since the week before the con, as announced, but since February. Bob goes merrily on to announce a new Eastercon bid, Albacon 86, a Glasgow bid opposing not only the Midlands (?) Contravention but also Albacon III, a Glasgow bid. We live in interesting times...

Beccon 85 has announced Richard Cowper as GoH (26-28 July, £8 to 191 The Heights, Northolt, Middlesex)...

Space-Ex 84 (6-11 Aug, Central Hall, Westminster) looms close as we go to press. Among the things which continue not to bode well are flyers seemingly typeset by a million monkeys; sole visible organizer Mike Parry whingeing about personal problems in the supposed PR; 'VIP' members' startled discovery that their vast payments had not bought them actual membership, merely the right to half-price admission; ill-drawn ads offering (as Space-Ex's chief delights) 'teleport boarding system', 'traders cabins', 'food & refreshments', 'fully posted corridors throughout' and nothing else... I forgive them everything for the felicitous phrase 'there will be celebrities from TV/Films and Radio wondering around to sign autographs'. Exactly the right word.

1St European Star Trek Con: 'We will organsie a conventie on 2-4 Nov 84 in Antwerp, place of happening still under negotiation,' says Alfons J. Maes of Ruggeveldlaan 519, 2100 Deurne, Belgium, and asks me to publiscie his conventie in my club-fanzine. GoHs G. Roddenberry, P. Khambatta, H. Harrison...

Swecon 85 (15-18 Aug, Sweden): GoHs Chris Priest & Lisa Tuttle, £1 supp ~£13 att: A. Engholm, Maskinistgatan 9 oeb, S-117 47 Stockholm. CP's first swedish appearance this autumn: En droem om Wessex.


This truly triffic Worldcon bid has been cheered to learn that Hugh Mascetti plans to emigrate to Zimbabwe one of the opposing US bids, San Diego, has officially folded, with its erstwhile chair Sean McCoy now a Britain in 87 presupporter. (San Diego, we gather, will instead bid for America's substitute event the NASFiC, provided Britain triumphs over the residual '87 opposition: Phoenix, AZ). John Steward, virtuoso financial juggler of Seacon 79, is now the British bid's treasurer, and would like you all to send him money – further funds are needed for the US/Australian advertising campaign. Venue decision: as usual there proves to be a wide choice of Brighton (nowhere else has the needed concentration of facilities plus accommodation for 5000, despite a search ranging as far as Harrogate – where we were weirdly informed that of course dealers' rooms would have to be closed on Sundays, and where they think a bar extension is a job for a carpenter): the vast Brighton Centre is booked for our very own. Next issue: thrilling eye-witness accounts of LA-Con campaigning by Edwards/Atkinson/Fine.


Bob Shaw: 'I was GoH at Interessef 84, a con held in Amsterdam on May 26-7. There was a German contingent and during the awards ceremony the Deutscher SF Club presented me with the Clark Darlton prize for the best foreign novel published in Germany in 1983. It was for The Ceres Solution. During the same trip I discovered a bar in The Hague where, with just a little bit of insistence, you can be served beer in real pint glasses. Not your ½-litre pseudo pints, but actual pints! I'm beginning to think there is a future for the EEC, after all.' (Hey, why haven't we named a prize after R. L. Fanthorpe?)

Ian Watson: 'Pamela Sargent & I, in collaboration, have sold the anthology of 1985 to Vintage Books (USA). It's called Afterlives, will feature startling stories set in any kind of afterlife, and will be required reading from the Vatican to Salt Lake City. Silverberg, Disch and Wolfe have already promised enthusiastically to write for it. An advance against pro-rata share of revenue, of 5¢ a word. Deadline Autumn 84. UK/European submissions to me, Bay House, Banbury Rd, Moreton Pinkney, nr Daventry, Northants, NN11 6SQ... Ever been insured for 2½ million dollars? I am now, Pam S. likewise, under a policy paid for by Vintage and included as part of the Afterlives contract. This isn't, I hasten to add, in case the editors fall under a bus before completing the anthology – thus reflecting how much Vintage expect the book to earn. It's as protection against lawsuits for libel, invasion of privacy, and whatever. No doubt this is more reassuring than just signing a contract where the author/editor swears to indemnify the publisher in the event of any successful lawsuits against the book: but I see it as a sinister development. With medical insurance burgeoning in the States (in the wake of skyrocketing medical malpractice suits) here we have the same phenomenon in the literary world; and where litigation looms, can censorship of contents (just in case) be far behind...

'Meanwhile, Krsto Mazuranic proposes that the 1986 Nebula shindig should be held in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, to coincide with the Eurocon there in June 86 – and advances some compelling reasons why, including the fact that East European book deals could render the trip free to American SFWAns attending. This plan deserves support, a lot of support.

'BSFA FIC-MAG SCANDAL! And lo, Bernard Smith and Dave Clements of Northants founded Cassandra, a quarterly anthology of original SF stories. Soon quite a few members of the BSFA, such as Sue Thomason and Simon Ings, belonged to the Cassandra group. Taking note of the BSFA's long-running debate about having a fiction magazine, Bernard Smith suggested that Cassandra should be it. And the BSFA high command ignored his letter. So Ian Watson sallied forth unto the AGM of the BSFA at Brighton and voiced Bernard Smith's offer aloud. Whereupon after debate it was promised faithfully from the chair by supremo Alan Dorey that, if BS wrote a full proposal, detailing cost/production/distribution options etc, this would be printed in the June Matrix. August's would contain membership feedback and October's would ballot the membership asking them to say yea or nay.

'So BS wrote. Imagine his surprise when the June Matrix appeared with his proposal nowhere to be seen. Imagine his shock & horror when he scanned the lettercol to find various members chewing the fat about a ficzine, with editorial comments by supremo Dorey generally putting the boot into this sort of notion – without a whisper of what had been agreed at the AGM. Imagine Bernard Smith's sentiments when depth interrogation by phone of Mr Dorey elicited the info that personally he and the BSFA committee thought the ficzine idea was a heap of chickenshit. Imagine even that Bernard Smith's proposal did get lost en route from AD to the Harveys – and that AD totally forgot to mention its existence in the hassle of getting Matrix out, even whilst penning words of scornful import re fiction mags for the lettercol....' (Subsequently AD explained that The Letter got lost en route from unfrocked M editor S. Polley, while BS in a fit of pique withdrew the proposal and sent a tactful letter from which latest M editor Chris 'I'm only doing this for one issue' Hughes claims to have excised the most actionable bits, for M54 publication...)

Sue Thomason had several hour-long phone-calls on the subject, from Bernard (for it is he) Smith... 'I gather that (a) he hates Matrix, (b) he hates fans and fandom, (c) he hates Alan Dorey, (d) the sun rises out of Ian Watson's back garden and (e) this looks like being the most boring and longwinded controversy in the BSFA for a long, long time... The BSFA committee are understandably cautious about welcoming another Tangent, to rumbles of "Vanity publishing" and "if you're subsidizing one non-BSFA zine, why don't you subsidize mine as well?" Cassandra are misguided fanatics. The zine is towards the more literate end of the ficzines I've seen; this is not to say that the stories in it (including the two of mine that they've published) are of professional quality, but it's a shame that etc. etc.' (Sue is now Focus co-editor. Budding authors can contact Cassandra at 8 Wansford Walk, Thorplands Brook, Northants, NN3 4YF; it is, though, Too Late to apply for the 25/26 Aug 'Cassandra Workshop' and have your stuff criticized by Ian W.)

D. West sold hordes of copies of his Fanzines In Theory & Practice to moneyed Swedes – in particular – at Seacon: "Fred Harris bought a copy too, on the strength of lots of promised libellings of Langford. He also asked for a receipt so that he could claim it 'as a necessary business expense'. The thought of FTP being paid for (ultimately) by L. Ron Hubbard is kind of soothing... Price is now £6 ($25 USA). Over a hundred copies sold, and there sure as hell ain't gonna be no more. I'm not going through that business again." (48 Norman St, Bingley, W. Yorks, BD16 4JT)


Simon Ounsley wishes to thank the millions of fans who sent 'Get Well Soon' and 'Congrats On Your Glandular Fever' cards: "The doctor tells me War & Peace and the Covenant books are a little on the short side as convalescent reading matter"...

Booker Prize: Bookseller rumours of possible shortlisted authors this year include names not unknown to Ansible readers – Ballard (Empire of the Sun), Carter (Nights at the Circus), Moorcock (Laughter of Carthage), Priest (The Glamour) and Thomas (Swallow)...

'I Want To Live In A Space Colony' – bumper stickers with this legend offered by loyal Ansible subscriber R. Capes ($1.00 to PO Box 383, Princeton Jct, NJ 08550, USA). Speaking of which, help Langford become a capitalist by purchasing rare authentic hardback firsts of my works: War in 2080: The Future of Military Technology £3.25, Facts & Fallacies: Definitive Mistakes & Misguided Predictions £2.95, Account of a Meeting with Denizens of Another World 1871 (the UFO book) £2.25, all post free...

Joseph Nicholas, now awesome fiction reviewer for CND mag Sanity (in whose current issue he appears to have unilaterally abandoned his half-page sentences – only one semicolon in two columns!), asks for GUFF nominations by 30 Nov. Desiderata for fans wishing a trip to Melbourne's 1985 Worldcon: 3 Euro & 2 Aussie nominations, 100-word platform, £5 'bond' and promise to attend Aussiecon if elected (barring act of god or gods) – all to Joseph...

Eleanor Smith is the latest collaboration between Pieria authors Kevin & Diana Smith (publication date 28 July)...

Larceny! We do not reveal which Gollancz editor swiped a Stephen King film poster from the BFS meeting (unable to resist the slogan Christine: She's a killer)...

Prodom: Arthur C. Clarke is waiting for Galileo-probe data on the Jovian moons (late 80s) before being persuaded to accept $1.25M+ for another 2001 sequel, while less fortunate Frank Herbert has had a surprise Washington State tax bill for $70,000 (SFC); Forrest J. Ackerman sends interminable data on his doings, most interestingly editing the revived Weird Tales (August launch); James White 'has retired from editing the Short & Harland magazine on account of his eye trouble; however he has bought a word processor, the screen being easier on his eyes than paper, and hopes to start writing more sf. His last took 2 years to write but sold at once.' (Walt Willis, who enclosed a photo of himself for our hastily postponed colour supplement)...

Fantasycon (14-16 Sept, Royal Angus, Birmingham) has GoH Charles L. Grant, also Ramsey Campbell (as ever) and Tanith Lee: £1.50 supp £8.50 att to 15 Stanley Rd, Morden, Surrey...

Ditmar Awards (Aussie): George Turner's Yesterday's Men won the 'long Australian SF/fantasy' award; amid some controversy (low voting numbers giving a peculiar nomination slate) the International winner was decided to be 'no award'...

What Micro? magazine offers a prize for SF shorts (up to 3000w) with microcomputers as protagonists – rush your entry to 62 Oxford St, London, W1A 2HG by 1 september. The prize... unfortunately it's a computer (Spectrum), but publication at WM rates would be worthwhile... Meanwhile Computing devoted a page to wonderful, interactive computer stuff being designed for a 'Toronto fun-fair' offering tours of the universe, based on the works of 'a team of UK science fiction writers, Malcolm Edwards & Robert Holdstock'...

SEFF candidates fighting for a free trip to Swecon are currently Steve Green and Hans-Jurgen Mader (Germany): nominations close 1 Dec...

Sex Scandals! Linda Pickersgill's 'Venn Diagram' (it isn't really) of relationships past and present in UK fandom is being passed fascinatedly from hand to hand. How come Harry Bell is one of the major, er, foci?...

R. I. Barycz's thousands of pages of medianews won't fit: his rumour that Koo Stark was to appear in Dr Who was swiftly followed by the news that she wasn't. 'Trouble on the 1984 set: they started filming without a script and the Virgin crowd are having to raise money in the City/USA to finish it off in time for it to still be trendy. Trouble is if they get American money it will have the usual strings attached viz: no rats, and we want a happy ending... Mad Max III to begin shooting in Oz in Sept... Why The UFOs Steal Our Lettuce is a German colour skiffy film supposed to be almost as good as Plan Nine... Support first UK Star Wars zine, SAE to Roz Wheadon, Springfield, Coldharbour, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 4AB...' (RIB) Help.

Thanks to John Harvey for electrostencils, Ron Salomon, Lee Smoire & Margaret Welbank for Britain In 87 heroisms, and David Wood for photographing my Seacon nosebleed.

Hazel's Language Lessons #30: Marathi

baccedha: the bother, fuss & vexation attendant upon the bringing up of children. (Congrats, Diana & Kevin...)


Dave Langford
94 London Road