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Ansible 92, March 1995

Cartoon: Ian Gunn

From Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU, UK. Fax 01734 669914. ISSN 0265-9816. E-mail ansible[at] Logo: Dan Steffan (for TAFF!). Cartoon: Ian Gunn. Available for SAE, haecceity or whim.

ONE SMALL STEP! I did it. I really did it. I filled in a hotel booking form for The Scottish Convention. I feel all weak....

The Cerebrative Psittacoid

John Gribbin has known all along about our anonymous sf hoaxer (see A91): 'I also get ill-typed letters from "Rachel Oliver" at New Scientist, asking questions about scientific topics. My usual ploy is to write a hand-written recommendation on the letter referring "her" to one of my own books....'

Peter Nicholls remains secluded but happy in Australia ... 'The acclaim I receive here is pretty muted, not to say inaudible, and you may have heard how tacky I found it last year that I wasn't even nominated for the Atheling Award, let alone winning it. The winner was nominated with the grand total of two votes, it later emerged, but I think he got four in the final voting. For this sort of reason, Australian awards, Ditmars included, are pretty meaningless, not even statistically meaningful as a personal popularity vote (which is how Bruce Gillespie describes them).'

Charles Platt moans, 'When the police arrest you, they warn you that anything you say may be taken down as evidence and used against you. When I correspond with Dave Langford, this warning is omitted but the end result is sometimes the same. I suppose I'm old enough to know better; yet there's still that moment of shock and disbelief when I see my personal correspondence faithfully transcribed into print. For what it's worth (not much) I'd like to apologize to David Pringle, Piers Anthony, and the Church of Scientology for some of the things I was [accurately – Ed] quoted as saying in Ansible 91. • And now a press release: Perverts around the world may be excited to hear that a new US edition of Charles Platt's venerable novel The Gas will be appearing from the legendary Loompanics mail-order company, whose motto is "We know who we are. We are the lunatic fringe of libertarianism." The Savoy edition was distributed in the US by another mail-order company who described it in their catalogue as "possibly the most disgusting novel ever written." Platt will be writing a new introduction explaining that this misogynistic filth has nothing to do with his current, socially acceptable work and is being published as an historical document only. He says, "I no longer have bad thoughts, I'm kind to animals, and some of my best friends are women."' Ansible asked Charles whether he'd read a certain Richard Calder book which had, er, struck your editor forcibly; he replied, 'Dead Boys? Hah. Child's play (so to speak). The Gas stands secure at its low-water mark of unredeemable filth.'

Chris Priest made a ghastly discovery: 'The sliding metal shutters on floppy disks are sharp! HORROR HONKER!! While trying to peel off an old label my hand slipped, and my thumb raised the edge of the shutter. Result: gallons of blood everywhere, a hurried and dangerous drive to hospital with blood pouring on to the car carpet, and a neat row of stitches holding a substantial chunk of my thumb back together, preventing it from flapping about the way it was. HORROR ALL-CLEAR!!' Was there a sinister symbolism in the fact that the fatal disk held a copy of Chris's recently delivered new novel The Prestige?

Andy Sawyer is practising Sarcasm: 'The U of Liverpool's student newspaper covered the Arthur C. Clarke degree conferment somewhat more extensively than Ansible, if with less than Langfordian attention to accuracy: the book of which ACC said "no other ... had a greater influence on my life" is cited as Last and First Nun. I look forward to appropriate plot summaries.'

Joyce Slater died of a heart attack on Mon 27 Feb, reports Caroline Mullan. 'She was at home with Ken, having been discharged last Friday from hospital, where they discovered she had had a previous heart attack which no one had suspected. The private funeral is at 2pm Thursday.... Ken Slater says he is well, asks for no fuss and no phone calls please. Please can we let people know why Fantast Medway orders are not being met for the time being.' Joyce's cheery presence in UK convention book rooms will be much missed.


1 Mar - 17 May, From Literature to Launch Day, 'books that inspired the Space Age': exhibition at British Museum, King's Library, Gt Russell St, WC1. Admission free. [AJF]

to 5 Mar • Ken Campbell, Mystery Bruises, King's Head, Upper St, Islington, N1. 0171 226 1916

3-5 Mar • AKFT Convention (Trek), Angel Hotel, Northampton. £20 reg, rooms £21/person/night. Over-18s only.

4-5 Mar • Microcon 15, Exeter University. GoH Ramsey Campbell. Phone 01392 73780, fax 74524. The pre-convention signing and party planned for Fri evening is now cancelled: the bookshop venue was the local branch of doomed Dillons....

12 Mar (Sunday) • Picocon 12, Imperial College Union, Prince Consort Rd, London, SW7 2BB. 10am-late. GoH Iain Banks, Simon Ings. £8 reg (£3 to students with ID, £1 to ICSF). Everyone is urged to bring tons of priceless first editions for the Friends of Foundation bring-and-buy sale....

17 Mar • The Scottish Convention, Jubilee pub meeting (as BSFA, below). Special seminar on how to send other committee members 3Mb database files with no software to read them.

17-19 Mar • Trek Dwarf, Holiday Inn, Leicester. £35 reg. Contact 47 Marsham, Orton Goldhay, Peterborough, PE2 0RB.

18 Mar • Star Winds, Queen's Hotel, Portsmouth. 11am to 'late'. GoH Steve Baxter, Gwyneth Jones, Ian Watson, 'H.G. Wells' et al. £7.50 reg, £10 at door. Contact 38 Outram Rd, Southsea, Portsmouth, Hants, PO5 1QZ.

22 Mar • BSFA, Jubilee pub, York Rd, London (nr Waterloo). Upstairs room, 7pm. Guest speaker: Hilary Bailey.

26 Mar • BFS mini-con in Dillons, Sydney St, Cambridge, 2pm on. Dillons? Oo-er. Better check first.... (See Microcon.)

14-17 Apr • Confabulation (Eastercon), Britannia International Hotel, London Docklands. GoH Lois McMaster Bujold, Bob Shaw, Roger Robinson. £25 reg to 31 Mar, then much increased memberships at the door (panic now). PR4 now out. Contact 3 York St, Altrincham, Cheshire, WA15 9QH.

29-30 Apr • Babcom 95 (Babylon 5), NEC. Birmingham. Huge big event, expected to be Significantly Non-Cheap. Contact 22 Reindeer Court, City Centre, Worcester, WR1 2DS.

30-31 Jul • Broomcon, 'The Pagan Convention', University of Essex, Colchester. £15 reg. 39 Henniker Rd, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 5HF. Bring your own flying ointment.

24-8 Aug • The Scottish Convention (53rd Worldcon and Eurocon), SECC, Glasgow. Legendary hotel booking (and Hugo nomination) forms finally sighted in the UK circa 22 Feb. Contact Intersection, Admail 336, Glasgow, G2 1BR.

? Oct • Fantasycon? No venue, date or committee as yet, but planning has reached the 'will hopefully be organized' stage. Contact The Bungalow, The Shades, Banbury, OX16 9RS.

13-15 Oct • Octocon (Irish national event), Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire, nr Dublin. GoH Mary Gentle. Rates to follow. Contact (2xIRC) 30 S Circular Rd, Dublin 8, Ireland.

RumblingsMisconstrued: Alsion Wetson, secret mistress of typos, complains that custard takes too long to wash out of one's hair. Otherwise: 'I am pleased to say that the women acquitted themselves well by winning the silly games. Dad says it's because there was no real skill or logic involved – but what sort of an idiot, when told to push a water-filled condom around a slalom course with a knitting needle, uses the pointy end? A man, of course. What sort of a team loses even when they cheat?! • I've always been afraid of Pickersgill, but on close inspection I have decided that it is impossible to be afraid of one who looks (and sounds!) so much like an Ewok. He has shamed me into attempting to reply to some of those 'zines I keep receiving, so watch out.' Also at Misconstrued, Greg Pickersgill was canonized by a lavishly costumed papal court, but nevertheless continued to fight the good fight with the stern vigour of Savonarola: pacing slowly from the back of an over-large room, he opened his sermon with 'Behind me is a great and empty void ... very like The Scottish Convention.' Among the ecclesiastical notables uttering Gregorian chants were Helena 'Wimple' Bowles of the Order of the Little Sisters of de Sade ('Torture the witness some more!'), and thrusting Mike Siddall, who learned too late that the rôle of advocatus diaboli required a tight red outfit and horns: to this he added an improvised codpiece of more than optimistic proportions, which may possibly explain why Maureen Speller found herself invited to inspect the Siddall genitals and duly called for a powerful magnifying glass. Ann Green presented a live fanzine, Ormolu, including a 'letter column' of audience answers to compulsory questions (Ann: 'Langford – what is your favourite body odour?' Me: 'Er ... We Also Heard From: Dave Langford.'). Traditional out-of-context remark from Eileen Weston: 'It's only a pound a week and it gives me a thrill!'

Infinitely Improbable

Secrets of Journalism. One can only admire the thoroughly researched piece on Interzone in last month's Punter, Brighton's alternative-reality equivalent of Time Out: '[Interzone]'s editor, Andrew Tidmarsh, has written to praise our recent piece on Dave Garnett and the sci-fi anthology New Worlds. He tells us that the latest issue of Interzone, which has actually been going since 1982, this month celebrates the 100th anniversary of Jules Verne's portentous novel, The War of the Worlds.' [DG]

C.o.A. Vince Docherty, TCD/13, PDO, Box 81, Muscat 113, Oman. Charles Stross (temporarily, while he moves to Edinburgh), c/o 64 Avenue Hill, Leeds, LS8 4EZ.

More Impersonation. In the wake of the false Baxter, Greenland and Langford (see A91), a spurious Terri Windling is now ravaging fandom: 'There is a woman who has apparently been impersonating her at conventions in the US. She discovered this last week, when a friend of Charles Vess's told Charles that the woman he was talking to was not Terri Windling – this friend had met "Terri" at a convention a few months ago, and had a long talk with "her". • The unknown woman is over 5 feet tall (a couple of inches taller than Terri), has dark blonde hair, and looks nothing like Terri Windling (according to the friend who blew the whistle). She appears to know a great deal about Terri's life, but does not know how to pronounce "Devon". • Terri (the real one) will not be at any conventions this year, except World Fantasy. Last year, she attended only World Fantasy, Readercon, and one day of the World Horror Convention in Phoenix. If you saw her anywhere else, it wasn't her.' [BM via EW] Does the home-grown British polymorph 'Rachel Oliver' know how to pronounce 'Devon', we ask?

Nebulas. Novel shortlist: Greg Bear, Moving Mars; Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower; Jonathan Lethem, Gun, With Occasional Music; James Morrow, Towing Jehovah; Rachel Pollack, Temporary Agency; Kim Stanley Robinson, Green Mars; Roger Zelazny, A Night in the Lonesome October. Although the shortlist is nominally of five books, 'there are seven works because of a three-way tie for fourth in the voting' – a situation which implies six and not seven finalists, so one would guess the tie was actually for fifth place.

Untimely. 'Paul Thorley, who entered fandom via the Leeds University group in the very early '80s and has been a regular convention-goer ever since, is terminally ill in hospital in Stoke-on-Trent. He is currently spending a fortune in phone calls to contact as many of his friends as he can, but says he can't possibly reach everyone who may wish to know the news. He gives everyone permission to "blub" for a while, but not to mourn for him. On the contrary, it's quite probable that there will be a riotous wake coming to a convention room party near you soon.' [MF] Footnote: Paul died suddenly on 27 Feb. • Dave Montgomery, whom many UK fans will remember from conventions, died on 2 Feb: he'd seemed to be winning his three-year battle against a brain tumour, but suffered a late relapse. Dave was 37. [via MAH]

Trek Ripoff? Andrew Bartmess, who in the 70s filled a gap in the Trek mythos by publishing rules for the featured Tri-D chess game, was far from gruntled to learn that the US Franklin Mint – the outfit that sells lavishly priced memorabilia, insignia, etc – had pinched his text verbatim as part of their expensive and profitable Trek chess package. Through a quirk of US copyright law this is apparently just about legal. AB urges a polite-ish write-in campaign to explain to the Mint that fandom looks askance at such behaviour ... certainly Ansible at once cancelled its order for several dozen 3D chess sets at $225+ each.

Worthy Causes. GHETTO: certain folk of good will, realizing that fan chatter on the Net was insufficiently filthy and depraved, devised a one-off fund to wire up the legendary Chuck Harris – famous stone-deaf co-editor of Hyphen when I was but a tot. The Get Harris Equipped To Talk On-line fund (as it is generally not known) has now virtually reached its goal, but kitty-holders P. Nielsen Hayden and D. Langford could stand being showered with a few more contributions. • Brian Burgess had a horrific though far from fatal crisis of health at the end of Novacon, which (in short) led to his having to cough up £591 to be taken home in a private ambulance. He is not a rich man. Martin Tudor suggests that fans might help defray the cost; Brian lives at 20 St Albans Cres, Bournemouth, BH8 9EW.

Only in Fandom ... An Anthropomorphic Bibliography, compiled by Fred Patten and published by Yarf! The Journal of Applied Anthropomorphics, lists and annotates 250+ sf/fantasy titles featuring talking animals, 'animalized humans', etc. John Clute, you need this for the Fantasy Encyclopaedia's 'Furry Fandom' entry! $5 from PO Box 1299, Cupertino, CA 95015-1299, USA.

High Weirdness. All Uri Geller's sheaf of lawsuits against his sceptics and detractors (beginning in 1989) have now been lost, dismissed, unprofitably settled or withdrawn. Chief victim James Randi adds: 'Mr. G. said quite positively a few years ago on a major TV show here, that he could predict, via his marvellous powers of prophecy, that he'd win the case against me. So much for prophecy and his fine control of it.' • Meanwhile the Scientology horror continues and ramifies, probably to the alarm of the British fan who's doing a book on cults and asked on the net for personal horror stories – using the hitherto safe anonymous-remailing service in Finland, which within days was compromised by an unholy alliance of police and scientologists. Oops!

Thog's Masterclass. 'He loosened the lacings that held his braes, stepped out of them, and stood before me as naked as I. Only then did he bend to lift back my veil. I felt my eyes widen, realizing that there was more than one reason they called Marc'h the Horse King.' (Diana L. Paxson, The White Raven) • 'His mouth, for a moment, ran liquid and then it slid, almost of its own accord, down his throat.' (Isaac Asimov, Prelude to Foundation) [JME] • Rob Hansen submits a sentence from his own TAFF report: 'We got there before 10pm but not before Avedon, who turned up later.' ('Did I really write that?')

Fifteen Years Ago. Harlan Ellison spoke out in Comics Journal: 'Two years from now, I will be on the top of the best-seller list ... the novel that I'm writing ... will be the number 1 fiction best-seller in the nation. I promise you ... a natural best-seller idea. It's got to be a runaway. I mean, it's such a simple, terrific idea you say "Oh Christ, why didn't I think of that? Why didn't anyone think of that?" I thought of it. And I'm going to write it.' (Ansible 7, March 1980)

Geeks' Corner

The Ansible electronic supplement. To receive Ansible via e-mail, send a message with the single word SUBSCRIBE to Please send a corresponding UNSUBSCRIBE to resign from this list if you weary of it or are about to change e-addresses; don't send such requests to me, as I don't maintain the list. I am compiling a list of people who plague me personally with SUBSCRIBEs and UNSUBSCRIBEs, and what I will do with this list does not bear thinking about.

Back issues are available as follows....
[obsolete FTP/Gopher links removed]
* Web:
(Thanks as always to Naveed Khan for these services.)

The E-Mail Man
British SF Association (general enquiries),
British SF Association (Matrix newsletter) – COA,
Fantasycon (?),
Janice Murray (Ansible US agent),
The Scottish Convention,
Alan Stewart (Ansible Aussie agent), s#alanjs@eduserv.its.unimelb.EDU.AU
Charles Stross (for now),

Kiss of the Web Woman
Ansible ... as above
ICSF and Picocon,
Laurie Mann's interesting sf/fan links,
The Scottish Convention, [obsolete link removed]

Imminent Death of the Net Predicted! 'Please could you tell me how to get on to "Internet"?' writes the Rev.Lionel Fanthorpe.

Ansible 92 Copyright © Dave Langford, 1995. Thanks to Janice M. Eisen, Mike Ford, Abigail Frost, Dave 'Sci Fi' Garnett, Wendy Grossman, Rob Hansen, Martin Hoare, Beth Meacham, Elizabeth Willey, Martin Morse Wooster and our Hero Distributors: Janice Murray (NA), SCIS, Alan Stewart (Oz), Martin Tudor and Bridget Wilkinson (FATW). 2 Mar 95.