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Ansible 99, October 1995

Cartoon: D. West

From Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU, UK. Fax 01734 669914. ISSN 0265-9816. E-mail ansible[at] Logo: Dan Steffan. Cartoon: D. West. Available for SAE or lyrics of the song the Sirens sang.

CLUTE LIFT-OFF. One day a frighteningly authoritative cost-benefit analysis of publishers' launch parties will (I fear) lead to the industry-wide directive: 'Stop giving these bastards free drinks. Especially Langford.' Meanwhile, in between worried discussion of the Net Book Agreement's collapse, the 3 Oct party for John Clute's nifty SF: The Illustrated Encyclopaedia (Dorling Kindersley, £25) offered the usual riotous fun to a wide cross-section of the usual suspects at the Museum of the Moving Image. Multiple movie/TV screens pulsated with space footage (launch, geddit?), King Kong and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Kong-sized models of the great tome were dotted around like cardboard bollards. Wine flowed copiously, into and out of glasses and over Roz Kaveney; foodstuffs included cheesy canapés closely resembling miniature Sir Alexander Fleming culture dishes, and honey-drenched sausages which spread a terrible legacy of sticky smears ('I wouldn't,' someone sighed, 'mind seeing her entirely coated in honey if only it were somewhere more private....'). Only Nick Austin was tactless enough to make cracks about the photograph captioned as 'Bob Guccione' (see A98). Steve Baxter appeared to be trying to challenge David Hartwell's pre-eminence in the World's Most, Er, Striking Necktie stakes. Kim Newman austerely corrected last issue's Hugo coverage; apparently he had not been simulating a 'demented Muppet' but accurately reproducing a scene from The Mask, so there. David Pringle babbled of getting a new computer so he could review the SF Encyclopaedia CD-ROM. Hilary Bailey, Robert Irwin, Leigh Priest (the book's indexer) and others cunningly bribed me to forget whatever it was they did. GoH John Clute himself, though ashen-faced from the merciless forensic rigours of an earlier SFX interview, said a few modestly euphoric words. And then, suddenly and predictably, we all found ourselves in the pub.

The Woods Decay and Fall

Pat Cadigan remembers her home from home: 'In the NYC branch of Penthouse/Omni, there was – or there used to be – a larger than lifesize photograph of Bob Guccione with a naked woman on his lap. I had no idea, of course, that it was you, you dog. Obviously there's been more airbrushing on that photo than I realized. • Congratulations again. It's refreshing to see the Brits kick butt.' Who, us?

Phyllis Eisenstein passes on a query about the new Clute masterwork. 'Leafing through the book, [Alex] came to the photo labelled Bob Shaw (p181) and he says it looks suspiciously like Eddie Jones to him. Can you clarify?' (It looks suspiciously like Eddie Jones to a lot of other people too....)

David Pringle will be restoring the fortunes of Interzone still further with a 'benefit anthology' of stories from the magazine's last five years, whose authors will receive, er, very great fame indeed. (Publishers: HarperCollins UK, St Martins's US.)

Bob Shaw was crushed by the insight of a fan who accosted him after one of his celebrated humorous talks: 'I listened to you carefully and realized that most of the things you said were not funny; you only made people think they were funny.' (Thus Bob in Critical Wave #42.) The cunning, double-crossing fiend!

Whitley Strieber was defended on the net against accusations of crankdom ('I believe that he is an honest and inquiring man, who seems to have a clear perception of his own feelings and is as reliable an interpreter of Their ways as one could reasonably wish for.') ... provoking this interesting literary reminiscence: 'A friend of mine, a writer of gothic fiction, unknowingly purchased a house in the immediate vicinity of Whitley Strieber's upstate NY home. • My friend was later told that Strieber was convinced that my friend was sneaking up to his windows in order to steal his ideas.' [spotted by JMcN]

Ian Watson's tie-in novels based on the Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000 game have overwhelmingly outsold all other GW spinoff books. Constant readers will recall that GW's reaction to this terrifying success was to strictly limit (or ban) the presence of the Watson books in their own shops, for fear that the pimply audience might buy them instead of games. But even this was not enough, and top-seller Watson has effectively been sacked: henceforth all GW spinoff authors will be closely vetted for signs of dangerous saleability or literary merit. The extent to which the books' actual publishers (Boxtree) are delighted by this new development remains uncertain.

Kirsty Watt of Ringpull brags: 'You may also like to know and let people know that we are the first publishers to accept unsolicited submissions over the Internet. The idea is to speed up the whole process of submissions and make publishing rather more open than it may appear at the moment.' (Shown this, a visiting Tor editor commented 'WHAT?!?', fell to the ground, lay there trembling for some minutes, and later joined Ansible in speculation as to how many terabytes of disk storage were available on the computer ''.)


14-15 Oct • Octocon (Irish national event), Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire, nr Dublin. Too late for advance booking; £16 at door. Accommodation: call 0171 493 3201.

25 Oct • BSFA, Jubilee pub, York Rd, London (nr Waterloo). Upstairs room, 7pm. Guest: famous but still unconfirmed.

27-30 Oct • Cult TV weekend, Haven All-Action Centre, Caister, Gt Yarmouth. With Chris (X-Files) Carter et al. £39 reg. Contact (SAE) PO Box 1701, Peterborough, PE1 1EX.

27-31 Oct • Welcome to my Nightmare (horror part of UK Year of Literature Festival), Swansea. £15 reg. Contact 14 Cae Eithin, Llangyfelach, Swansea, SA6 6EZ. British Fantasy Awards & BFS AGM moved here owing to collapse of Fantasycon.

3-5 Nov • Novacon 25, Chamberlain Hotel, Birmingham. Now £30 reg (ditto at door); main-hotel rooms may be scarce. Contact 14 Park St, Lye, Stourbridge, W. Midlands, DY9 8SS. Open party 9:30-10:30pm Sat for 'past, present and future members' of The Women's Periodical APA, now celebrating 100+ issues – no chaps admitted before 10:30 unless, presumably, they promise to undergo future surgery or happen to be famous TWP cover artist D. West.... [PW]

3-5 Nov • ReCONTaniméTed, Grand Hotel, Birmingham, £21 reg to 31 Oct, then £26. Contact (SAE) 13 Prescott Close, Banbury, Oxon, OX16 0RD. 01295 256284.

4 Feb 96 • Picocon 13, Imperial College, London. GoH Rob Holdstock, Chris Priest. £8 reg, students £3. Contact 13 Lindfield Gdns, Hampstead, London, NW3 6PX.

'Late' Feb 96 • Disection [sic], Scottish Convention post-mortem event. 'Relax, reflect, refresh and get ready to do it again.' £2 supp. Contact 379 Myrtle Road, Sheffield, S2 3HQ.

28-30 Jun 96 • First International Discworld Convention, Britannia Sachas Hotel, Manchester. GoHs: guess which author, artist, play adaptor? £17.50 reg until 31 Dec. Contact (SAE) P.O. Box 3086, Chelmsford, CM1 6LD.

24-6 Dec 96 • Yulecon, Grand Hotel, Northampton. £20 reg. Contact 56 York Rd, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL11 2LG.

28-31 Mar 97 • Intervention (Eastercon), Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool. £20 reg; £25 from 30 Nov; cheques to 'Wincon'. Contact 12 Crowsbury Close, Emsworth, Hants, PO10 7TS.

5-9 Aug 98 • Bucconeer (Worldcon), Baltimore, MD, USA. £58 reg, rising to £71 on 1 Jan 96; £22 supp. Labyrinthine discounts for pre-supporters, site voters, wooden legs, parrots, etc: ask piratical UK agent John Dallman for details (see COA).

RumblingsRichard Brandt reminisces: 'At last year's Westercon, one of the "Bucconeer" crowd strayed into our party suite, esconced himself in a chair by our memberships table, and proceeded to delight us by singing bawdy chanteys, spilling copious volumes of red wine on the carpeting, and at one point drawing his flintlock and pointing it at a guest. A personage from Baltimore has since let it be known they will expect me to labour for them in 1998. Yo ho ho.' •

Infinitely Improbable

Law Reports. 'The case of David A. Hardy (and other space artists) v. Starlog magazine, for breach of copyright, is due to go to Court in the USA very soon now.' [DAH] More in our next. • Meanwhile ever-lovable Games Workshop are reportedly in court again, this time in the USA, their favourite trick of bypassing distributors and dealing directly with non-GW retail outlets having led to a writ from massed major US distributors, alleging restraint of trade; also, an injunction now prevents GW from distributing anything except to their own shops.... [AS]

Spot the Ball. 'Who in this world ... would write a novel about a football team that falls victim to a group of wily elves?' asks a US HarperPrism ad in SFC. Who indeed? A small prize is offered to the first fan to locate a football team in the book concerned, Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies.

Random Fandom. Karen Babich & Nigel Rowe had to move (see below) after a fire caused by an arson attack on the gay bar adjoining their apartment; their belongings suffered smoke damage only, but co-inhabitant Doug Winkler lost most of his. • Mike Glyer, perennial fan Hugo nominee and chair of LAcon (1996 Worldcon), has joined LAcon's Hugo subcommittee, thus classily making himself and File 770 ineligible. Why is everyone looking at me like that? • Cheryl Morgan beams pinkly: 'On departing Intersection I chanced through a small Berwickshire village where I spied a car with the number plate VAL1S. Is there a secret Dickian coterie in the Borders?' • Ian Sorensen corrects my A98 homework, specifically the phrase 'Ian Sorensen's play Dune or The Sand of Music': 'It was jointly written and performed by Phil Raines, Jackie McRobert and myself. Phil did the bulk of the writing and should get lots of praise for the result.' Also: 'After 3 years Jackie and I have decided not to be a couple any more. We remain the best and closest of friends, but are single again.' The queue forms on the left.

C.o.A. Karen Babich & Nigel Rowe, PO Box 607072, Chicago, IL 60640, USA (NR begs for separate copies of fanzines). John Dallman (for 6-12 months), 18 Kimberley Road, Cambridge, CB4 1HH. Colin Hinz, 148 Howland Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5R 3B5. Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn, 22 Addington Rd, Reading, RG1 5PT. Charles Stross, 89 Brunswick Street, Edinburgh, EH7 5HS.

More Awards for 1994 stuff: STURGEON (short sf) to Ursula Le Guin's 'Forgiveness Day' (Asimov's, Nov); BRAM STOKER (horror novel) to Nancy Holder's Dead in the Water.

Fanfundery. TAFF nominations are now called for: who in Europe hankers to travel to LAcon next year (or whom, conversely, can the Americans face meeting?). Candidates need to find 3 Euro and 2 NA nominators by 2 Dec; more details from 95 Wilmot St, London, E2 0BP. Meanwhile Steve Stiles may publish a final instalment of his 1968 TAFF report 'Harrison Country' in 1996 – appalling details shrouded in hideous confidentiality. • GUFF's recent delegates gave us a paranoia-inducing new fan tradition: the 'Plastic Spaceman Conspiracy', whereby those visited by GUFF are still hunting doggedly for the last of 'at least ten' small plastic figures hidden about their households....

Spung! Issue 3 of 'the deeply peculiar arts magazine Rapid Eye, after an awful lot of arse about how L. Ron Hubbard came to get kicked out of the OTO (or was it the Golden Dawn?)' [JMcN], offers the following: '[Heinlein] designed Stranger in a Strange Land to be a magickal seed containing the spiritual and intellectual DNA of Thelema, which he placed into the fertile loam of his times, sowing a crop which includes the neo-pagan, eosophical, sexual and consciousness movements.... And he included enough clues so that, some day, as a healthy, race of magickal women and men prepared to take to the stars, they'd come to know that the man who continued the sacred lineage of Valentinus, the Gnostics and the Templars, and who nursed it through the 20th century, the "man who sold the stars", was none other than the "father of us all", Robert Anson Heinlein.' Well, I never.

Magazines. 'Yes, New Worlds will be back!' chortles David Garnett (but 'no MSS yet, please'). • Beyond is having a bad time, according to a circular from editor David Riley, who blames a trade war between wholesale distributors. Contributors who signed up at £30/thousand words are being asked to accept £10/thou during the crisis. • Arcane, a planned new RPG magazine from Future, allegedly has a firm policy of refusing submissions from any past contributor to any other gaming mag. 'We don' need no steenkin' experienced pros!' [AS]

Plugs. Timebytes: Intersection's utterly spiffy twin fanthologies now available at £3.00 a volume (1: Fandom; 2: General Life) in the UK ... £10/$15 for both volumes overseas. Orders and money to Christina Lake, 12 Hatherley Road, Bishopston, Bristol, BS7 8QA. Deservedly praised. Proceeds to fan funds. • War of the Words: A Sampler of SF Fanzine Pomes ed. Steve Sneyd is available from him at £1.55/$3 post free: 4 Nowell Place, Almondbury, Huddersfield, W. Yorks, HD5 8PD.

Publishers & Sinners. This Ansible nearly had a lead story denouncing the UK publisher (new to these pages) which – having commissioned some work, agreed a fee, and approved what I sent in – decided some months later that I had wickedly hypnotized the editor into offering too much and should instantly reduce my invoice by one-third. After a week of intense stroppiness and legal threats, virtue (well, Langford anyway) was triumphant; but a hangover of stressed twitchiness persists, perhaps to the detriment of Ansible.... • Meanwhile Quarto, famous for paying little and late, now require authors' invoices to include one's national insurance number, tax office reference number, contact name, book title and 'book code' as well as the usual info – and invoices must be on A4 or foolscap paper (i.e. Not Quarto). [PB] 'Tough shit, mate, you invoiced on 8½" x 11" printer paper – no money for you!' • It isn't just me: at least one major UK sf publisher's publicity department also complains of extreme difficulty in getting hold of the Guardian's new-ish literary editor Liz Jobey to ask what's happened to the former enlightened policy of publishing sf reviews.... • End of the NBA: how will it affect you? Formerly Ansible has been available for one pint of beer in the Wellington pub. In the new free market, our list price will be £19.99 per issue – but discounted at all major outlets (the Wellington) to one pint of beer! You save: over £17.00.

Clarke Award Submissions. To date: Patricia Anthony, Brother Termite, Cold Allies, Happy Policeman; John Barnes, Kaleidoscope Century; Stephen Baxter, The Time Ships; Greg Bear, Legacy; Gene Brewer, K-PAX; Ronald Campbell-Butler, Fadar; Mark Canter, Ember from the Sun; C.J. Cherryh, Rider at the Gate, Tripoint; Richard Dreyfuss & Harry Turtledove, The Two Georges; J.R. Dunn, This Side of Judgement; Colin Greenland, Sequels of Plenty; W.A. Harbinson, Phoenix; Simon Ings, Hotwire; K.W. Jeter, Blade Runner 2; Jonathan Lethem, Amnesia Moon, Gun with Occasional Music; Ken MacLeod, The Star Fraction; Jeff Noon, Pollen; Robert J. Sawyer, Far-Seer, The Terminal Experiment; William Moy Russell, The Barber of Aldebaran; Alison Sinclair, Legacies; Brian Stableford, Serpent's Blood; Harry Turtledove, Worldwar: Tilting the Balance; Steve Walker, 21st Century Blues; Walter Jon Williams, Metropolitan; Robert Charles Wilson, Mysterium; David Zindell, The Wild. Also expected: Christopher Priest, The Prestige. Most voluminous submitter: NEL. Deadly silence so far from: Gollancz, Little Brown, Macmillan.

Thog's Masterclass. 'That was during a supposed archaeological expedition to the region of Sarnath the Doomed in what was once the Land of Mnar, Saudi Arabia to you.' (Brian Lumley, The Transition of Titus Crow, 1975) [PB] • 'The basic idea is that due to mass flow and back reaction, one end of a natural wormhole will become Greg Benford....' (Intersection pocket programme) • 'Katrina, to her credit, gives a creditable performance.' (Paul J. McAuley, Fairyland) [CF] • Thog has joined the editorial team at SFX: a Langford aside on paradoxes and how in the book reviewed the Sphinx 'falls for one 24 centuries old' was painstakingly corrected to read 'falls for one that are 24 centuries old'.

Centennial! Forget numerology; our 100th issue was Ansible 97 1/2 .

Geeks' Corner

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Back issues available:
[obsolete FTP/Gopher links removed]
(Thanks as always to Naveed Khan for all this.)

Mad H@ters
British SF Association (general enquiries),
John Dallman (Bucconeer UK agent),
Discworld convention,
Evolution (Eastercon 1996),
Intervention (Eastercon 1997),
Intuition (Eastercon 1998 bid),
Christina Lake (Timebytes enquiries),
Janice Murray (Ansible US agent),
Alan Stewart (Ansible Aussie agent; DUFF), s_alanjs@eduserv.its.unimelb.EDU.AU

Evolution (Eastercon 1996),
Intuition bid,
Laurie Mann's interesting sf/fan links,
New Scientist,
Science Fiction Foundation Collection,
Worldcons list by Chaz Baden,

Lies, Damned Lies and Copy Counts. At the 5 October London meeting in the Wellington pub (which didn't seem notably crowded), approximately 150 copies of Ansible were snatched from my nerveless fingers. This proves it.

Another statistic: visiting John Clute earlier in the day, I found the great man collapsed on a couch after the hideous, cumulative mental impact of 15 countem 15 media interviews about the Illustrated Encyclopaedia that morning. 'No,' he was still babbling mechanically, 'I did not first come to science fiction through The X-Files....' And as he spoke, a huge roll of paper belched from the fax machine, listing a roughly transfinite number of Clute interviews and media appearances arranged by Dorling Kindersley for his imminent US tour. Ah, the cruel price of fame.

Ansible 99 Copyright © Dave Langford, 1995. Thanks to Paul Barnett, John Clute, Chris Fowler, David A. Hardy, Joe McNally, Simo, Alex Stewart, Pam Wells and Hero Distributors: Janice Murray (NA), SCIS, Alan Stewart (Oz), Martin Tudor, Bridget Wilkinson (FATW). 5 Oct 95.