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Ansible 80, March 1994

Cartoon: Ian Gunn

From Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU. Fax 0734 669914. ISSN 0265-9816. Logo by Dan Steffan. E-mail ansible[at] 'Spirit of Plagiarism' cartoon by Ian Gunn. Ansible is or is not available.

FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. Does your small-press magazine review horror books or movies? Just watch it. Paul Barnett explains: 'In mid-February John Gullidge, editor of Samhain, was stitched up in the Western Morning News and Exeter Express & Echo in the wake of the seizure elsewhere in the country of whole stacks of video nasties; according to these papers, Samhain was little more than a trading ground for such stuff and the police were about to swoop. The E&E also made a jolly link-by-proximity (as a tag-on piece) between John's activities and the Jamie Bulger memorial service, with a good plug about how the judge had said it was all caused by Child's Play 3 – but nothing, of course, about the police refutation of that claim. • In fact Samhain rarely even mentions video nasties (as opposed to legit horror movies) except in passing, and enjoys excellent relations with the trading standards people, who feel that John's conduct of the magazine is – so far as their interests are concerned – exemplary. The E&E knew this but didn't bother to mention it; the WMN did not know it because they'd omitted to do any in-depth research such as ringing John up (a failing which they pathetically described as "no one was available for comment"). With the true instinct for integrity in journalism, neither paper deigned to print a letter from him correcting these and other errors of fact; and John doesn't feel he can either sue or go to the Press Complaints Commission because some of his other activities rely on reasonable relations with these formerly sycophantic slime-buckets. • The net result is that as far as the local population is concerned, there is a Monster in our Midst. John is getting ill treatment in the streets to the extent that he goes out as little as possible; several parents have withdrawn their kids from the Woodcraft Folk group of which he is play-leader, and he's been summoned to an extraordinary meeting to be confronted by them; etc. The whole thing makes me see red. Grrr!'

The above was faxed to both papers for comment. None as yet. But see A81.

Monsters in Orbit

Cecelia Holland has finally read William James's Sunfall trilogy, noted here last year as bearing a Curious Resemblance to her 1969 historical novel Until the Sun Falls. Ms Holland seems to agree, in an incandescent letter which we may publish after she's taken legal advice. Latest rumour: devotees of her mediaeval novels The Earl (in UK, A Hammer for Princes) and Great Maria may also find happy memories in the pages of Sunfall.

John Holm, Harry Harrison's collaborator on The Hammer and the Cross, is (unsecretly) Tom Shippey. His minor billing may not reflect his share of the novel: one pundit reckons it's '90% Shippey'. Yet the US Tor edition omits 'Holm' entirely....

Jack Kirby died on 6 Feb. Rob Hansen writes: 'Born Jacob Kurtzberg, Kirby was one of the true giants of the US comics industry. Starting in 1935 with newspaper strips, he developed a repertoire of techniques that by the time of his Marvel Comics work in the 1960s had given his artwork unparalleled power and dynamics. For better or worse, Kirby established the visual grammar of superhero storytelling; his influence was immense. He created Captain America with Joe Simon in 1941, but will be most widely remembered for his ground-breaking 1960s work on Fantastic Four, Thor, Incredible Hulk, X-Men, etc.'

Pat Murphy, whose car crash in Nepal was reported in A78, is now 'fine, except for what sounds like a whiplash injury. Apparently the Nepalese vehicle which rolled didn't have seatbelts, hence the injuries.' [LS]

Greg Pickersgill proves that Genteel Conversation is not dead: 'Colonic irrigation – it's amazing what you can learn from daytime television! This is a REALLY BIG DEAL. It's not just an enema, they have these two tubes, a big one and a little one, and they stick yards and yards of them up you and pump water up the small tube. And all this stuff comes SPURTING down the big one, shit and worms and bits of meat you ate three years ago....' Eileen Weston: 'Not three years! It couldn't, er, because, er....' [sudden thoughtful silence]. GP: 'It's very popular with people like ... like ... who's that stupid woman Prince Charles married?'

Terry Pratchett, in an astonishing reversal of expectations, won the BCA Fantasy & SF Author of the Year Award (latest addition to the commercially oriented British Book Awards).

Carl Sagan disliked Apple's use of 'Carl Sagan' as internal nickname for a planned computer (A79). Insider sources now add that he chiefly objected to the company of sister projects named Tesla, Piltdown Man and Cold Fusion. Thus the machine briefly became the BHA, for 'Butt-Head Astronomer' ... only to be renamed, in short order, the LAW: 'Lawyers Are Wimps'.

Helen Sharman, Astro-OBE, will present the Arthur C. Clarke Award on 20 April: Kennedy Room, Irish Centre, Murray St, Camden. 6pm for 7:30. MC: Geoff Ryman. More data: David V. Barrett.

Bruce Sterling heard from a Brit who got a job in telecomms after reciting large chunks of The Hacker Crackdown at his interview: 'Suggested promotional line for the sf audience of the 90s: "Read Bruce Sterling and actually get a job".'


4-6 Mar • Masque III (costume con), Stakis Victoria Hotel, Nottingham. £25 reg. Bring a bottle of Red Death.

5-6 Mar • Microcon 14, Devonshire House, Exeter University, 10am-6pm. GoH Geoff Ryman and many more. £5 reg.

12-13 Mar • Seduced and Abandoned: The Body in The Virtual World, ICA. Pat Cadigan ('Still too good for you') and Bruce Sterling – who promises a 'virtual reality lecture gig. Also Viking Penguin Ninja Turtle are twisting me arm to do promo for the British Hacker Crackdown. Cadigan gets to actually promote sf novels and sign at sf bookstores but I have to play pundit and journalist for mundanes.' ICA: 071 930 3647.

25-7 Mar • Trek Dwarf II, Holiday Inn, Leicester. £35 reg. Contact 47 Marsham, Orton, Coldhay, Peterborough, PE2 5RN.

1-4 Apr • Sou'Wester (Eastercon), Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool. £27 reg. No postal memberships after 14 Mar. Contact 3 West Shrubbery, Redland, Bristol, BS6 6SZ. Chris Bell advises 'that membership costs £27 NOT £25, £23 or £30; that I shall probably assault anyone else who writes on the FRONT of the hotel form that their reason for really really wanting a single in the Adelphi is "so my boyfriend doesn't have to pay for a bed", and I have to tippex it out before photocopying the form for the hotel; that our bank won't take cheques to "Eastercon '94" instead of "Sou'Wester" (and CERTAINLY not "Albacon '94"!!), nor yet dated Jan/Feb 1993; and no, we don't take Amex NOR BOOK TOKENS. As for PUBLISHERS....' [Expletives deleted]. • A Local UK SF Groups Listing is planned as a Sou'Wester newsletter spinoff – date, time and place info to me before Easter Sunday, please.

1-4 Apr • T'Kon (Trek), Norfolk Gardens Hotel, Bradford. £25 reg. Contact 167 Kingshurst Rd, Northfield, Birmingham, B31 2LL (SAE advised).

27-30 May • Inconceivable (humour/sf), Tudor Court Hotel, Draycott, near Derby. £20 reg, £25 after Easter. Contact 12 Crich Ave, Littleover, Derby, DE23 6ES. Tee-hee!

1-2 Oct • Octocon 94, Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire, Co.Dublin. £12 reg to 1 May, then £16. Contact 14 Ardagh Pk, Blackrock, Co.Dublin, Ireland. A 5th Anniversary Special.

3-5 Feb 95 • Transept (7th UK filk con), Cambridge. £18 reg. Contact 2 Westbrook Pk Rd, Woodston, Peterborough.

RumblingsMisdemeanour (Feb) was a jolly little convention in the old Silicon mode, held in a Somerset hotel-cum-real-ale-pub which will be visited again. Advertised highlight was the Trial and Execution of Steve Green (court reporter Dave Wood likened defending counsel Pam Wells to Perry Mason and prosecutor Katie McAulay to Rumpole) ... amateur conjurer Ray 'The Other' Bradbury carried out sentence with an electric saw but a disappointing lack of blood capsules. The true highlight was a Greg Pickersgill rant – with audience participation – about the public image of The Scottish Convention: 'Is it our fault or is it just a natural disaster that has fallen on us?' This had the general effect of tossing a grenade into a murky pond; strange and revealing flotsam came to the surface. Not much can be done with plaints like '79 chair Peter Weston's 'They've got the wrong location, the wrong site! They are DOOMED!', nor wild hopes that the event might somehow be moved bodily to Brighton ... but perceptions of the '95 committee as having been simultaneously disorganized, over-bureaucratic and uncommunicative were taken to heart: co-chair Martin Easterbrook later vowed improvements, beginning with the rapid return of his Small Mammal as a Worldcon news forum. Some rumours faded when exposed to light: Julian Headlong, globetrotter and business conventioneer, insisted that the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre closed at 7pm with a possible extension to 9pm for major items like the Hugos, but Mr Easterbrook corrects this to a rather more cheering 1am. • James Steel has since launched The Digest, an informal one-sheeter about 'the "Creative" bits of Intersection': 15 Maldon Close, Camberwell, SE5 8DD. • Pickersgill: 'When they played God Save The Queen at the end of Seacon '79, I cried ... I felt this great surge of patriotism that British fandom had done this thing.' Ansible: 'Greg, what did you do at the end of Conspiracy?' GP: 'I got fucking drunk of course.'

Infinitely Improbable

The Dead Past. Almost remembered US fan Tom Perry has a squib on Heinlein in Damon Knight's Monad #3 which may outrage the easily outraged. Tracking down the 30s political activity which RAH kept so dark, Tom finds it was (by US standards) left-wing: erstwhile socialist Upton Sinclair's 'End Poverty In California' platform. The 'moderate Democrat' story told to and published by Jerry Pournelle seems untrue in numerous details. Tom wonders if RAH suppressed this innocuous-seeming data in fear of Nixon and McCarthy (whose investigations he ironically 'saw little wrong with'), since EPIC links could be taken as evidence of 'un-American activities'. Was this why Heinlein was touchy until death about his 1941 Worldcon speech, threatening legal action in 1973 when the text – arguably in the public domain – was reprinted through the well-meaning efforts of Forrest J. Ackerman? Its second paragraph approvingly mentions Sinclair-as-politician, you see....

C.o.A. Etc. Linda Krawecke/Dave Carson, 1a Mountney Rd, Old Town, Eastbourne, E. Sussex, BN21 1RJ. Tom Perry, 1702 West Camelback Rd #285, Phoenix, AZ 85015, USA. Bob Shaw, 98 London Rd, Stockton Heath, Warrington, Cheshire, WA4 6LE. Lucy Sussex/Julian Warner, 13 Frederick St, Brunswick, VIC 3056, Australia. 'GUFF administrator Roman Orszanski and Sue Peukert have a baby boy – Dylan Peukert Orszanski – born 23 Feb at Adelaide's Calvary Hospital.' [MO]

Strange Relations. Having interviewed 'William Burroughs, Shamen, Kurt Vonnegut, Led Zeppelin, M. John Harrison, Deep Purple, E.C. Tubb, Storm Constantine etc,' Andy Darlington continued this crescendo of fame by tackling 'Leeds' finest band THE MEKONS. Jon Langford claimed he was your brother, and Bonnie Langford your mutual sister. The former I'm prepared to accept....' Really?

In the Mail. Tom Digby Along Fantasy Way is a TD anthology fanzine from ConFrancisco, still available at $5 post free from 712 Bancroft Suite 1993, Walnut Creek, CA 94598, USA. Verses and clever prose snippets from arcane APAs. • Savoy Wars – a world first! Savoy Books have chosen your deaf editor, whose record collection has been static at 11 items since 1974, to review their CD of P.J. Proby et al! • Invasion of the Liberty Snatchers is a subtly titled booklet of FOREST's anti-anti-smoking-propaganda sf competition winners. Awful, plonking stuff: no message is helped by delivery as bad as this. (28pp A5, £3.99).

Correction. A79: Los Angeles SF Societoids note that Harry Andruschak's claim to be nominated as 'LASFS Nigger of the Year' misrepresents their 'Fugghead of the Year' fundraiser contest, lately changed for political correctness to 'Most Memorable Fan/Fanac'....

Hazel's Language Lessons: Icelandic for DSS workers. atvinnuleysistryggingasjodur, Unemployment Insurance Fund.

1993 World Fantasy Con – Again

Unprecedented storm and fury were unleashed by Steve Jones's A77 allegation of lousy WFC programming ('storm' and 'fury' are traditional newspaper terms signifying 'a few people wrote and we had space to fill'). Patrick Nielsen Hayden (A78) and Chip Hitchcock disagreed, the latter saying: 'I find most convention programs (including the only other WFC I've been to) uninteresting, and would rate the latest WFC substantially above all of them. Brust put himself on more panels than modesty might dictate, but I found him interesting.' This might explain Lloyd Penney's retort: 'your membership got you charter membership in the Steve Brust Self-Promotion and Autograph Line Marching Society.'

David Drake thought: 'The topics were deadly dull [...] and so far as I could tell they were meant to be dull – if they were interesting, that meant they were insufficiently serious for a matter of such gravity as fantasy.' But he liked the panel 'in which David Hartwell and Charlie Brown proved that the reviews in Locus are worthless to the general reader by Charlie's intent rather than his ineptitude. I suppose watching someone burn himself alive could be interesting in the same fashion.' DD has a cock-up theory of the WFC: (a) past organizers ('the second Providence committee in particular') were snotty to programme volunteers; (b) rather than be insulted in '93, many waited to be asked; (c) S. Brust, conversely, waited for volunteers; (d) local fantasy pals climbed aboard while the non-local horror crowd didn't and felt left out. QED.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden had some 'excessively lively panels. I got into a live-fire fight with Harlan Ellison on a couple of 'em at World Fantasy Con (three panels in a row in the same room, without a break, and he was on the first and third), and so have finally come to be in his TLDV-size black books. As with Pickersgill, it's bound to happen sooner or later. • The first [panel], on the influence of good and bad critics, started with Harlan denouncing Gregory Feeley, for a startling list of faults and misdeeds that ran about 90% inaccurate. I coughed discreetly and said, "I am Greg's editor. And his friend." This hint passed unheeded, as did several further attempts to head off Harlan's stampede. Eventually I said, more severely, "Harlan, I don't let Greg go on at me about you, either." (A lie.) He let it go for a while. • Late in the panel, someone asked whether there weren't any good critics. I nominated you without thinking through the possible consequences, and Harlan promptly denounced you as "a worthless asshole". "He is not!" I shot back wittily, followed by enough other people signifying instant disagreement to make clear that Harlan's was a minority opinion. • He's getting to be a mean old son of a bitch. Boring, too.'

I knew being a pal of Chris Priest's would catch up with me one day.

Ansible 80 Copyright © Dave Langford, 1994. Thanks to David V. Barrett, Dave Clark, John Clute, Mike Glyer, Joseph Nicholas, Marc Ortlieb, Bruce Pelz, Tom Perry, Lucy Sussex, Peter Weston, Dave Wood, other fans credited in the text and our Hero Distributors. 3 Mar 94.